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Abndoc

Tic Toc- I'm Ready To Leave

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In about 8 hours, my friend, my son, and I will be headed to southwestern Montana chasing elk and mule deer for the rest of the month.  It's my 15 yr old first hunt out west.  To say we are jacked is an understatement!!  We went up to our friends house on Sunday and loaded all our equipment in the trailer we are bringing out.  The last 3 days have slowed way down, trying to get everything at worked wrapped up, my son getting all his homework together and rehashing our plans over and over. Did we forget anything, do we need anything new?

We went out last year as rookies and had unbelievable success, yes we are rifle hunting- but for 5 rookies to go 4 for 5 on elk with one very nice 6x6 being taken all on public land with no guides our pride and confidence was running high all year.  The scenery and hanging out with a great group of people by far exceeded the success we had.  This year we plan on learning much more about the area- I will say the locals in our area were so helpful.  Giving us tips, and areas to check out definitely put us ahead of our experience.  I have been looking over maps for the last month, but with some fires in the area earlier this year- we wont have a good idea of exactly where we will start until our first scouting session tomorrow afternoon.

I ran into a sow and cub grizzly last year on opening morning and then had a brief encounter with a big boar a few days later. With all of the maulings and sightings being reported this year- Bears have been on my mind all fall.  I've talked repeatedly about this with my son and what we will do if any encounter would happen.  Hopefully if we see any, it will be at a great distance and we can sit back and admire those beautiful beasts of the mountain.

Success is judged in many different ways to each of us, knowing I get to spend 14 days with my son in the mountains, I believe we already succeeded this trip, and the rest of it will just be gravy on top. He worked his tail off this summer saving money for the trip and keeping his grades to talk and As all fall.  We made a deal with him that he needs to be invested in both school and work to be able to go.  He's definitely learned over the last few months the value of hard work. He was so proud of himself saving his money being able to buy anything he wanted for the trip. He asked me last night how much money he needed to bring. I told him your done spending your money and he said- Dad I'm happy to chip in, you do everything for me. I can help out where need be.  Can you guess how that made me react? 

7 1/2 hours to go! Montana 2018- Here we come!

 

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Good luck out there, the weather forecast looks good!  What unit are you hunting?  I was in 314 a month ago with B tags.  If the weather is nice in November I might consider a late run out with a rifle.   

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We are going to start in 323,324- Gravelly Range.  Weather looks great- maybe even alittle warmer then I would like, but it can definitely change in an instant out there.  Our plan is to scout tomorrow afternoon and all day Friday.  We met some locals last year we are going to touch base with and see if they have any ideas.  I found a spot last year that was absolutely loaded with elk and based of the sign, they are definitely in there year after year.  2 decent sized fires in August make me alittle concerned about what we are going to find though. We are going to stay very mobile, and keep searching. It will be all part of the experience!

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Don't forget that MT sells OTC Whitetail B tags.  Zone 3 is one per hunter, plus more depending on the unit you are in.  The drainage bottoms and major valleys tend to hold quite a few whitetail.  Bring a shotgun too in case you get into some grouse. 

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I know the Gravelly range, hunted there a few years back, truck broke down up on top near Black Butte and we had to get towed out after spending the night in the truck in a storm...  That was fun...  

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Yes sir, we have the shotguns packed.  We plan on carrying them scouting- funny thing we did that last year and never saw a grouse. First day with the rifle and no shotgun I saw grouse everywhere!

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We left our truck last year just below the switch back headed up from Cameron and rode atv's in to the trailheads.  We were more concerned about the roads getting blown over with snow then a break down, but its definitely country you need to be prepared for.  A game warden told us a guy got his truck stuck up there until spring due to a snow storm making it impassible a few years ago.  We kept getting told we were wasting our time up there because of all the hunters. After opening weekend, we didn't hardly see a person or a truck. Hopefully we have that kind of luck again.

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Sent you a PM with some coordinates to check out.   I remember seeing quite a few grouse up top along the road, shot one, missed a couple.   We had the same situation when bow hunting up there, obviously lots of hunters hit it in early season, but later season hardly anyone around. 

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Good luck!  Bring bear spray, make sure it's always accessible, and know how to use it. No shortage of grizz in that area. Seems practically every year someone is attacked in the Gravelies. 

 

Have fun and report back!

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Thanks Scoot!  Yes, we have our bear spray, brought a couple extra cans to keep in our packs besides what we have our on hips.   Hopefully it remains there the whole trip. Going to try and keep this updated during our trip. My son is taking video production class in school, hopefully he can put something together when we get back.

Signing off for now, going to have lunch with the wife before I head home, grab the last cooler and pick my son up from school!

 

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20 hours ago, Abndoc said:

Thanks Scoot!  Yes, we have our bear spray, brought a couple extra cans to keep in our packs besides what we have our on hips.   

 

That's smart IMO.  I donated a soon to expire can of bear spray to a guy who was hunting that range about 5 years ago and he sprayed it in a bear's face from 8' away!   He swears to this day that I saved his life because he wasn't going to bother bringing bear spray.

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We arrived to camp around noon. Got my first mulie buck around 2am just east miles city. Will need 2 new doors and a new service door on the trailer. We survived with minimal damage and continued on after getting the buck off the freeway. We dropped our gear and headed right out to start scouting! Made it to the first area I wanted to check and found a 5x5 with 18 cows and a spike. We backed out quickly and hopefully they will remain close for Saturday morning. We are headed back out in the morning to check a few other spots and then come back into town to enjoy a wonderful wild game feed put on by the city. My son is having the time of his life. Can’t believe the amount of wildlife he’s seen so far. Heading to bed after a long night and day of driving. Hopefully tomorrow brings more areas of opportunity.

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Bummer on the deer- that's a major hazard on these trips. I've been very lucky after several close calls (knock on wood) going out west. 

 

Sounds great so far otherwise. Good luck and have a blast!

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It wouldn't be an elk hunting trip if something didn't break.  At least you got the vehicle damage out of the way early and made it to your hunting area.  Should be smooth sailing from here.  

 

Don't forget to let your insurance company know of the accident.  

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Near that same area, I watched a guy from Pennsyvania hit a huge muley buck totally demolishing his truck.  His hunt was definetly ruined.  Consider yourself lucky.

Good luck on the rest of your trip and continue keeping us up to date. 

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Day 1. We got back into my favorite spot around 615am...waited on the trail until sun up, plenty of bear sign around we didn’t want to push it. Legal shooting was about 715. Not very many hunters out here this year. One local told us it’s due to the bears...anyways we sat til about 10 then starting moving ridge to ridge. Didn’t see anything. I may have taken a small nap after lunch for a few mins according to my son. Around 1pm we moved to cliff edge where we could see out around 300 yards and sat until dark. About 430pm mulie does moved past us...probably 20 of them. Then all was quiet until 530 when I thought I heard a cow. My son then says ELK!! 3 cows were 40 yards from us but with the timber he couldn’t get a shot off. They then bolted back to where they came from which was a big clearing. Cole looked at me and said can I go look...I said ya... you crest the top and I will call and see if we can get them to stop. He disappeared from sight and i let off a small cow call and the woods erupted with cows making all kinds of noise and half hearted bugle.  I was waiting with anticipation for what comes next. I hear his rifle bark and then a flash of orange on the cliff above me....huge grin and I nailed hear. He waited for about 5 mins never saw the bull come out, there was 30 cows in the field and he got a dandy. Elk down on day 1 of his first elk trip. We gave each other a huge hug and some high fives! Then the work began. Finally made it back to camp around 10pm. We are worn out and ready to get back out in the morning to find that bull! Stay tuned it’s been everything we could ask for and it’s just beginning! 

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Well Day 2 was a complete bust. Warm temps and high winds along with a full moon kept any daytime movement to a minimum at best. Onto the next.

 

Day 3 we got plenty of rest the night before and we’re ready to hit hard. We started off on the bluff where Cole had got his cow and before we could even sit down we had 3 cows at 600 yards heading at us. We lost sight around 500 and figured they would move right up the draw around 200 yards away. They didn’t follow our plan and disappeared forever. Around 10am we had some animals above us. We could hear hooves on the bluffs but never saw them. We had lunch around noon and then started still hunt ridge to ridge. Around 130pm we were on a sharp drop of when son says ELK! We immediately hit the ground as they were only 100 yards almost straight below us on steep bluff. We belly crawled to the edge and looked into the timber. We could then only see one standing looking straight away from into the wind. I slide my rifle up in front of me and placed the cross hairs behind the shoulder. My first opportunity at a Bull ever. Cole had him in the binos when I pulled the trigger. Not needed. He dropped right in his tracks. Cole tackled me and both erupted in laughter. Both of us total rookies had filled our elk tags 3 days into the season. Not sure if we are good or just plain lucky but either way it’s been an unbelievable experience.  Now we had some serious work ahead of us.  We literally had to pack him out an almost straight up vertical cliff. I have one really bad knee...all those years of jumping out of airplanes in the military have taken a toll on my knees. We each grab a rear quarter and made the first trek out. When we got back I was hurting. Cole said sit down Dad. I got this!! He then hauled out both fronts and loins in one haul. Went back down for the head and did that too. As I sat and watched him I was overcome with emotion. How did I get so lucky in raising such a grateful and helpful young man!  He got back up to me and we both broke down in tears and hugged for about 15 mins. What an experience we’ve had. The effort and hard work you go through on these hunts is like nothing else. It’s been the best we could of asked for and then some. We took the morning off while my buddy went back out. We did some scouting this afternoon and think we found a herd for tomorrow to go after with him along with trying to fill our deer tags. More to come

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Thanks Guys!

 

We made it home yesterday.  My son did fill out his deer tag on a mule doe Friday evening.  We spent the last few days scouting for next year and meeting some ranchers.  My buddy unfortunately was never able to close the deal on an elk, but 2 out of 3 is pretty dang good.  The weather was warmer then we would of like, but also beautiful every day.  Now its time to start focusing on whitetails.  My son was out last night already bowhunting and saw a few younger bucks on their feet during the afternoon, but the big boys in our area seem to be still traveling at night. Good Luck to everyone over the next couple of weeks.

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