Man, what a hectic six weeks it has been. Retirement is about to kill me! Just returned from the last of a half dozen hunts in three states, didn't know a person could be so busy. I have really been a slacker on the HAC updates, and Preddy took me to task over it. Publicly shaming me in her elk post will make me get off my butt today, and get it up there.
First a picture of a nice trout (that I forgot to include in the last post). Fall and Winter is brown trout heaven to die-hard fishermen.
Next it was back down to AZ to try to hunt my Unit 8 Coues deer. This was the early hunt, with no advantage of the rut, and they were supposed to be extremely spread out in bachelor groups and difficult to locate. We were going to have fun product testing some new gear from ORCA (coolers and insulated cups), so you get some camp pics.
They were great items, and really kept things cold for long periods of time. My first day out, I blew out the sole of my favorite boots, and had to whip out the universal fix (Shoe Goo). Greatest emergency repair in the field you can imagine!
The Coues deer hunting was really hot and hard, and was tough. I saw does every day by both walking, glassing, or sitting on water holes but never saw a buck in eight days of hunting.... This was totally different than our later hunt to follow for elk. No one I talked to had seen them all summer in many scouting trips.
The roads were really rocky, and in terrible condition. I had gotten a set of Falken "WILD PEAK" all-terrain tires to try down there, and I have to admit they were the best I have ever used. Extreme traction for an AT, but I'm afraid the soft rubber compound will not give good tire life. There are always trade-offs. One day of incredible rain really put them to the test on those clay roads!
I ended up having to give up the last couple days of the hunt, and never talked to any of the locals who were doing very good at all. I was mailed this picture a couple days later of an amazing Coues buck taken by a lady hunter, on one of the many tanks that I hunted during that week. Her happy smile says it all. I will try again tho, because of my success last year, and the deer we know live there.
Meanwhile, my son and grand-daughter continued to hunt and do photo shoots in Idaho. The weather was a bit different, and cold! We were going to be using some of the newest Mossy Oak Mountain Break-up camo and Browning boots for the later hunts this season.
Now it was time to clean and re-organize gear and guns, and head over to the area of Dubois Wy for my 128-1 deer hunt. It had been and extremely dry year for them too, and there was very little snow in the high country. Did not seem to deter the deer from their migration tho, and they had piled into the winter range. WYG&F maintains a lot of winter feed in the East Fork of the Wind River, so most people congregate there. This can be as challenging of a hunt as you want to make it. The unit has high mountains, thick river bottoms, lots of private land with difficult access, and easy roads with deer like this, if you want to be relaxed and lazy!
Here's a PhoneSkope pic of a buck I found at about a mile, and many of the ones I passed up daily, looking for the big one. I ran into a 160" whitetail I would have used my tag on in a heartbeat the first day, but he was too quick and we never saw him again for the rest of the season.
I had passed up the buck I ended up taking at least 3 times previously, and enjoyed watching him rut and spread his genes around. He was the most dominant of 10 bucks in the field every day, and was built like a tank! There were usually around 40 does in a half dozen groups, and he courted them all. I waited until the last day, and was happy to be privledged to take this beauty. I know I passed up many better, more attractive or higher scoring bucks, but I never located the 210" monster my friends had seen and showed me pictures of, so this was just icing on a nice hunt. Back at home in the shop, he field dressed 225# on an accurate scale. The unit is great for seeing lots of mature deer, the reduction in tag numbers is helping them make a come-back, and allowing whitetail hunters to shoot them is saving some of the quality mule deer.
I met some new friends, helped drag and load some deer for older hunters, and generally had a great time all around. The whitetail tag holders made a pretty good dent in the WT numbers too.
I had a day to cut and wrap the deer meat, then another to switch from deer to elk equipment and load the truck. Then it was off to Salt Lake to pick up my pretty hunting partner (Predator) and begin the long drive back to Williams AZ (again). This was going to be a really enjoyable hunt, because not only did Paul and Lisa have tags also, my sons were coming down to spend the entire hunt with us. We had a new friend coming to join us, who is another professional photographer, and he was great to be around. They would prove invaluable for scouting, hunting, providing photo and video services, and packing heavy loads out of terrible canyons!!!!!!
The canyon country South and West of the pines has vast vistas where the elk go to rest up after the rut, and these provide some amazing sunrises and sunsets. It is almost like the entire horizon is on fire.
My partner Paul would be the first to see an exceptional elk, and my son and him took off on about an 800 yard dash to close the distance before dark. He got set into a solid rest, took dead aim, and they heard the loudest click ever is the stillness. Turned out he had short-stroked the bolt and it did not pick up the round. The elk freaked out and took off thru the cedars, and by the time they recovered and got back on target the second shot was a clean miss at over 300 yards. They followed up for quite a while to make sure, but finally admitted they had just missed one of the largest bulls we have seen in the unit. Heartbreak!!!!!
We hunted hard every day, put up with rain, snow, three degree temps, and fog which removed all glassing abilities. Lisa got the next opportunity at an awesome bull, and it was soon "grip and grin" time. My son used about an hour and $20K worth of camera gear to make everyone into movie stars, then the recovery began. You'll be able to see more of her other pictures and comments with other threads.
My youngest son is an amazing man. You have heard me brag in the past what an animal he is on his HotShot fire fighting crew, for stamina and physical abilities. He enjoys hunting with us (has two bulls to his own credit), but just always loves to help in any way he can. This time he packed a hind quarter AND front shoulder out on his first trip, then only a hind quarter on the second. Slacker!
We hunted hard for me every day too, but I was the only one who did not see a shooter bull during the trip. Plenty of spikes and rag horns, but that is not what we go down there for. This is our fifth trip down, and the bulls have ranged from 310 to 350 and we have never had a trip without getting at least one bull down. It makes for a fun enjoyable trip, to drive home with big elk racks in the back and getting the thumbs up sign from all the hunters on the highway. All together, we saw elk, mule and Coues deer, bobcat and a mt. lion for an incredible outdoor experience. I rented a house for us and there was plenty of good food and real comraderie.
I heard from Lisa that she finally up a tape to the bull at 335" gross, 315" net so that's another big one for her trophy collection.
I promise not to take so much time before the next update, as there is still plenty of hunting left to do this season.