This scouting trip was a bit of a benchmark for me. First, I finally made the trip into a basin I have been checking out on Google earth for a few years now. Second, 7-10 mile hikes one way, with 3000 feet of elevation gain are becoming the norm. It’s one thing to backpack in this far with a couple days worth of gear, but getting meat and gear back out by yourself is going to be the real challenge.
I started down the trail at about 9AM again on August 16, 2014 and it was a lot cooler in the mornings finally. There was a hint of that hunting season breeze in the air. It didn’t last very long however before it heated up and reminded me it was still summer time. Around 10:30 AM the air gets still and stagnant this time of year. This seems like the hottest part of the day sometimes.
The recent rain storm had washed out large sections of the trail and created massive landslides in some areas. I was starting to get concerned if any goats had possibly bit the dust because they tend to like inhabiting landslide prone areas. It was encouraging to see this Garter snake had survived all this.
On my last trip I had thought I found a very large mushroom, well this one topped that by a lot. It was as big as my head and looked very out of place in the forest.
Since I knew the trail now, I was making better time. Even with the washouts along the trail I got to my turn off point earlier in the afternoon this time. I found a game trail and followed it up to the first bench. It was a great looking spot for Deer but lacked fresh sign. Farther up the mountain above the bench I spooked a Doe. She was not too concerned and walked off.
In my opinion seeing a Doe is almost as good as seeing a Buck. This indicated that there is in fact a family of Deer living in this immediate area. The older Bucks will usually be in the adjacent more rugged terrain, and higher on the mountain. Hunting this bench later in the season when the high elevations get a lot of snow could probably be very productive.
I had a little trouble finding the lake that was on the uppermost bench. It was really tucked into the landscape.
I loaded up on water when I found it and kept going up. There was a saddle that I wanted to set camp on. Another hour of hiking from the lake got me to a good spot on the saddle.
From there I could climb the rest of the way to the top of the mountain that evening and glass in all directions. My focus however was the Goat country. After setting camp I climbed the rest of the way up, this took another hour and by then it was time for the end of the day glassing. Even with these long summer days, they go by fast doing these longer expeditions.
It didn’t take long until I found a goat. It was in one of the places that you would expect to find a Goat or big old Buck. I watched the Goat feed for a while until it disappeared in the rugged landscape.
It was definitely a young Goat, and I suspect it was a young Billy that had dispersed from the core area near the trailhead. This was the only thing I saw the rest of the evening. I could have easily spent 2 days on top of that mountain glassing the surrounding area for Bucks and Bulls, but that wasn’t on the agenda. It had taken a long time to get all the way up to that spot and the next morning I had to get an early start to get out. I heard an Elk bugle at first light down in the basin. It was getting to be that time of year already. There was some great looking mountain goat habitat in that area, but it just lacked goats.
About half way through the 2013 general deer season I made a trip out to hunt the Hell Hole for The Bucks I had seen while scouting. This was going to be a tricky hunt because I also planned on Elk hunting this area about two weeks later for the rifle Bull season and I didn’t want to spook Elk while Deer hunting. It had been a dry fall so far and the last significant snowfall had been at the end of September. The high country was mostly snow free and so I decided to try a different route and go into the upper end of the Hell Hole basin. I was thinking the Bucks would be all the way up this time of year with these weather conditions. I began hiking at about 9AM and the route I had chosen was not too difficult, after about 2 hours I was where I wanted to drop camp. I chose to take my bivy on this trip because I had planned on moving every day and covering a lot of ground along the main ridge if possible.
With camp set up, I scrambled up the scree slope to a knife edge ridge where I could see the upper end of the Hell Hole Basin. As always this was a lot more difficult than it looked on Google Earth. I found a tree and some shade that would allow me to peer over the top without sky lining myself and set up to glass for the afternoon.
It wasn’t long before I spotted a nice six point Bull Bedded at the far side of the basin. He was not a huge 300+ bull, but bigger than anything I had seen on the hoof in this unit yet. I did have a tag for this unit but the hunt didn’t start for another twelve days. This immediately ruined the Deer hunt, as now I was focused on Elk. This is about how it goes each season for me in Idaho. I spend the majority of my time scouting and hunting for mature deer and end up finding nice Elk. This Bull was bedded in a good stockable location and had the season been open it would have been a slam dunk. A short scramble around the ridge I was on would have put me about two hundred yards above him and to his left. I played that scenario out in my head for a week after that trip!
It was later in October and this Bull was bedded off by himself indicating he might have been the herd Bull. I still question this though because he was not as big as the shed I found during my spring scouting trip in that area. There just may be a huge Bull that swoops in and breeds that herd and then disappears for the season.
After getting some pics and video, I continued to scan the basin and found the rest of the herd scattered around and closer to my glassing position. There were 3 other decent Bulls, some spikes, and some cows and calves. There was a dirty five point next to a spike amongst the cows and calves.
As I was watching the dirty five point, I heard antlers clanking and saw two nice five point Bulls sparing.
While I was intently focused on the Elk, I heard footsteps on the ridge to my left. When I finally turned my head to look, I caught a glimpse of a goat heading my way. I slowly turned and got my camera ready when he wasn’t looking. He walked right up to me and I snapped a pic, the sound spooked him and he busted along the ridge in the direction he was headed. This happens to me about once a year, I tend to end up glassing from way up high on a steep ridge, sometimes looking down on Goats.
I was really hoping the Elk were used to seeing this goat and didn’t get spooked as I watched him effortlessly move across the roughest terrain in the lower 48.
Fortunately they didn’t get spooked and I was able to continue watching them. The two five points stopped sparing and the dirty five point headed over towards them. It wasn’t long before the the dirty five point and the next smallest five point began sparing. This time it was out in the open and I was able to get a good sparring video of it.
All this sparring action seemed to have got the attention of the six point that was off bedded by himself. He got up and fed his way over to the herd.
I was able to get some video and a better look at him as he walked over to the herd. He didn’t look like he would hit 300, but for an OTC public land Idaho Bull he was a trophy. If the weather would hold up for the next 12 days, the Elk would likely be in this same spot and I would have a good chance at this Bull. I watched the Elk for a little while longer and then pulled back off the ridge a little so I could continue to traverse it without being detected. It was getting later in the afternoon now and I wanted to glass over some new country.
After a short hike along the ridge I made it to the top of a peak where 3 main ridges came to together. There were some tracks in the snow that looked like human, however the route they had taken to get to the peak was such that they would have never seen the Basin the Elk were in. The snow was deep up on the very top and the sunny warm weather made it slushy and difficult. I moved off the peak and along the main ridge for about a half mile glassing over the country and watching for tracks. My head wasn’t really in the Deer hunt game at this point. I didn’t want to risk spooking the Elk so I headed back to camp after a short evening glassing session. My plan was to hike out the next morning and come in from below to glass the slope where I had seen Deer while scouting in the spring.
The next morning I packed up camp and climbed up on the ridge to see if the Elk were still there. The sun was at my back so I opted to not setup and glass. I peered over a rock pile and saw a couple Elk through my binoculars, heard a bugle, and was satisfied. I dropped back down a little and still hunted my way back to the truck. This made the hike out a little longer and by the time I drove around to the access point that gets me in from the bottom it was almost dark. I slept in the back of the truck instead of hiking in that night. I carry a spare sleep system that I leave in the truck just for this purpose. This way I can eliminate packing and unpacking my backpack.
I figured it would take 2 hours to get into a good glassing position the next morning and got an early start on the hike in. I got into position at first lite and spotted a little fork horn and a cow Elk. This basin was both full of Elk and surrounded by Elk. The cow was at the top of the mountain and fed her way over the top pretty fast as it got light. The forky bedded about the same time on a southeast exposure. I didn’t see the bigger Bucks, it seemed that the Elk had taken over the area they were in. This is not uncommon, I see this scenario pretty consistently. Mature Bucks don’t like the noise and activity that a herd of Elk brings.
I decided that my Deer season was over for the year and it was time to fully concentrate on next weeks Elk hunt. I decided to use the rest of the day to get familiar with the trail that goes in and out of the basin for the anticipated Elk harvest. I hiked up the lower end of the ridge adjacent to the basin to the rendezvous point. This is about half way up the mountain where 3 main trails converge including the one that was coming up from the bottom I was on. From there I decided not to go into the basin and risk spooking the Elk. All it would take is one little group of Elk running scared through the basin to ruin the hunting for next weeks season opener. I instead hiked the other way on the trail where I had originally seen the Bucks from for a short distance. They were not there but I did see a nice fresh scrape from one of the Bulls.
It was time to sneak out of there before I got busted by an Elk. I did a mock up meat pack out as I hiked out. I identified the trees where I would hang the meat and prepared them for it. This was going to be an epic pack out over rough steep terrain for 1.5 miles and then 4.5 miles of trail. I figured it would take probably 2 days and this would need to be factored into the hunt.
The weather for the next 10 days would dictate whether I go in high again or go in from below. If it snows enough the Elk will probably get pushed down and going in from below would be the thing to do. Going in high would give me the height advantage and the distance is less, however I would have to pack meat uphill and through a little bit of Goat country. I pondered this the whole hike out and all the way home!
This may be my last scouting trip of the summer, the season is changing from summer to fall and the hunting seasons are starting to open. Although I don’t archery hunt yet, I do plan to rifle hunt in one of the early September rifle hunts when it opens in a few weeks.
I was able to leave my house on Tuesday August 27, 2013 at about 6AM. I was heading into a new area to scout for 4 days and didn’t see the need to try and get there at first lite. Also I like to be able to look over the country as I’m driving in to a new area. I saw a nice Buck in the road on the way in at about 10AM, go figure! He had a big forky type of frame with some tripod points and small sticker type of stuff going on. Not a real big Buck, but great character and a great start to the scouting trip. About a 100 yards down the road I saw 2 Does.
Another 1/4 mile down the road I came across a freshly fallen tree across the road. I forgot to bring my saw, so 45 minutes later and with my machete I was able to clear the road and continue on. The other 2 trees I encountered after that, I was able to just drag out of the way.
I finally made it to the trailhead at about noon and the hike in was uneventful and hot. When I got to the location for the first nights camp I had picked out, it was not as I expected based on maps and google earth. This is usually the case and I overcame this by just simply stocking up on water and heading for the easily accessible high ground.
I could then glass what I could see, but mostly just look over the area and get a lay of the land. Not only do I spend time glassing for animals on these scouting trips, but I spend time glassing for habitat. I found a little pocket about a mile out that looked good and glassed that until dark that evening with no results.
The next morning It rained violently and fog rolled in and out. I was able to glass in between the fog banks from my shelter.
After the storm cleared I looked over the terrain and found the next vantage point I wanted to camp at and glass from. It was about 2 miles away and a little higher in elevation, and would allow me to check out some new area as well as the good looking pocket I was already glassing that morning.
As I hiked up the ridge I started seeing some Deer and Elk sign, but more deer sign. The area in general didn’t hold a lot of animals and I didn’t see much sign at all up til this point. It was apparent that an Elk had traveled this ridge probably a month ago, and Deer had been on the ridge within a week. I even found some permanent beds that get used year after year. With high hopes I set up camp on a nice little bench just below the ridgeline and hiked to the top of a rocky peak to glass until dark.
From this peak I was able to see a lot of good looking country and it was almost overwhelming glassing from it. There was a lot more Deer tracks and sign around that peak and some nice beds right on top where I was sitting. Once again however, I glassed until dark without seeing anything. This is just how it goes sometimes when your in a new area.
The next morning I glassed from the same spot but focused more on the sunny southerly slope on the other side of the canyon. About 9:45 I spotted 2 deer heading up slope to bed for the day. They where over a mile away and on the move so I was unable to get a real good look, let alone a picture. One of them was for sure a Doe and the other was a small Buck following the Doe. At one point I saw a third Deer but couldn’t make out what it was before they all disappeared into their beds. Big Bucks don’t usually travel with Does this time of year so I didn’t have high hopes, but I was glad to have finally seen some animals. I contemplated staying in that location for another day, but decided to move on and see some more country. If I was hunting I would probably take it slow and stay, but since I’m scouting a new area I want to cover more ground so I can size up the area better. I glassed the rest of the mountain that the deer where on and found a good way to get up to a vantage point about a mile above them further up the ridge. This way I could glass the next canyon over and glass back to the other parts of the mountain I was on as well. This was about a 2.5 mile hike with a quarter mile section across a boulder slide. Even with the cloud cover hiking across this wide open rock pile is less than ideal but it was the most efficient route. I would have to go all the way down to the bottom of the canyon to go around it, so I took the gamble and hiked out in the open.
When I got to the tree line I followed it up towards a low saddle that would get me on the main ridge. I was now on the same mountain as the Deer from that morning, but about a mile up the ridge. I didn’t see much sign, but the terrain looked Bucky. Especially the dirt, it was that white sandy type of soil that Bucks like to bed in. As soon as I completed that though, and was within 60 yards of the top of the ridge, I looked up to see a nice Buck jumping out of his bed. In 5 steps he was on the top and broadside having a staring contest with me. I knew as soon as I went for my camera he would bail, so I sized him up first, then went for my camera. He walked over the crest of the ridge without little care. I quartered away from him slowly and casually in a submissive manner. I got about 30 yards and looked up to see him checking me out from behind cover. He must have came back to look. I was able to zoom in and get some pics at that point. I don’t think this Buck has seen any hunters or humans in his life thus far, he didn’t spook that bad at all.
I caught glimpses of him as he slowly walked away over the crest of the ridge. I went ahead and continued on with the original plan and hiked a little farther down the ridge away from the Buck to make camp. There was not much more I could do at that point, I found the ridge the deer like and I found the Buck. I also found one of his previous beds and it was a fortress. There is no way he could have ever been seen in this bed.
I glassed as much as I could that evening putting emphasis in the direction I though Frank might of went as well as glassing new area. Again I glassed til dark and didn’t see anything that evening. The next morning I glassed some new country and glassed the direction Frank went and still didn’t see anything. I had to wrap it up by 9:30AM so I would have enough time to hike out. I heard a few wolves howling in the next canyon over. It sounded like they had come up empty for their morning hunt and where relocating each other. It doesn’t surprise me, that area was fairly desolate of Deer and especially Elk based on the sign I saw. I opted to descend the slope in a manner that would conceal me from the Buck in the off chance that he was back in the same spot. This meant 1000 feet of cross country down to the bottom and an extra 1000 feet back up on one trail to another. The trail was in bad shape and not being used, this was worth knowing and encouraging. I didn’t see very many animals on this trip, but what I saw I liked and I will be going back to hunt and be carrying a Wolf tag in my pocket as well. I now know what kind of terrain and what mountain the deer like in this area and once again the time spent scouting pays off.
On August 20th 2013 I got up at 3AM and headed out for an overnight scouting trip to the lower elevation canyon I had scouted in the Medium Effort Maximum Gain trip. I probably should have known better than to name a trip like that and in perfect irony this trip was the exact opposite. It was in the 90s this time and the 2000 foot elevation gain was a hot sweaty one, even in the early morning. Between the heat and the full moon there was not much activity during daylight and I didn’t see much in the 2 days I was there.
On the way in I found a trail up on the slope about 150 yards above the creek with lots of Deer tracks on it. This was a good find and eliminated a lot of the brush busting that occurs by traveling along the bottom of the canyon next to the creek. When I arrived at the base of the ridge I planned to hike up, as usual I stocked up on water. This was another one of those dry ridges where I have to pack in all my water for the duration of my trip.
A little ways up I found a nice 5 point Elk shed that was old and in bad shape. I left it there and planned to grab it on the way out. This is the second shed I have found here and plays more into the transition range theory, at least for Elk. The Deer seem to really like this canyon, there was lot’s of fresh tracks on all the game trails and some really heavily used beds.
About half way up I jumped a lone Doe that was bedded on a northwesterly slope.
I set up camp for the night in the same place as before, on a nice little flat spot that sits on a finger ridge. The finger ridge drops off fast and offers a great view down the canyon. This campsite is in a neat location, but the ridge itself is timbered and is hard to glass from. I have to hike another 40 minutes up the main ridgeline to get to a decent vantage point. In most of my other spots I can basically glass from my shelter, which I think is more efficient. I get more sleep and have less stumbling around in the dark with a headlamp. A head lamp floating around on a ridge or hillside is a beacon that advertises your presence like no other.
I am in between quality shelters on this trip and brought my 2 man bivy. This is actually a great little shelter for fair weather and only cost about $25.
A Deer femur makes a great hammer for pounding stakes into the ground! After camp was setup it was time to hike up the main ridge for the evening glassing session.
The only thing I saw that evening was 2 Dusky Grouse and an interesting cloud formation.
The next morning I hiked up the main ridge again, glassing along the way where I could see between the trees. I saw some glimpses of a Black Bear down in the bottom before he got into some deep dark timber to bed down for the day and that was it. I wanted to keep going along the main ridge and see some new country, but I was about out of water. It would be about a 1500 foot drop in elevation to get water, which would use up a good part of the day and then I would be down in the bottom where everything in the canyon could spot my movement. I go through about 4.5 liters of water in a 24 hour period during the hot summer scouting trips. This includes enough water to cook 2 meals, so if I bring food that doesn’t need to be cooked and/or more water then I can last longer. Water weighs a lot and packing an extra 4 liters up this mountain would be getting into the point of diminishing returns for me. There is no trail, it is a straight up constant climb and I’m in good shape, but not beastmode shape, so the extra 8 pounds or so of water starts to take it’s toll on my overall pack weight for the initial elevation gain. On this trip I could have continued hiking the ridge for the morning if I had not used water to cook food. These are the kind of logistical problems that you are able to figure out while scouting and then when the hunting season rolls around you can make the most of your time.
Before I trekked back down the ridge, I had a light meal of juicy Sask berries.
I’m not quite ready to give up on this spot yet. It’s logistically difficult; water is an issue, there is no real good glassing points, and I didn’t see any Bucks. But I know the area for sure holds a lot of Deer. This was evidenced by the amount of fresh tracks and beds everywhere. They looked to be mostly from Does, but in my experience the Bucks are not far. Usually within a mile or so and higher on the mountain or main ridge. Also when I came in here in early spring I saw a few Bucks, one of which was older in the face. so It’s time to go back to the maps and modify my approach. Adaptability will usually get you more results than perseverance.
I got up and left my house around 3AM with high hopes of getting up on the bench and into glassing position at first light. It always takes a little longer in the morning to get going and get into position than you’d like to think and I didn’t get started glassing until around 8:30 AM that morning. In my head I can visualize me making that steep accent a lot quicker than It actually takes on the mountain. It is now August 5, 2013 and a cold front had come in and cooled things down a little the last couple days. The smell and morning chill of early fall was temporarily in the air, with the Golden Currant and Sask Berries already ripe. I had 4 days worth of food and big plans to glass all the way around that mountain if need be in order to find those Bucks I had seen in early summer and last year.
I started glassing at about 8:30 AM and caught a glimpse of a Buck as he fed behind a tree towards the top of the mountain about 1000 yards away from where I had spotted the Rolling Stone Buck last September. I knew he was headed up hill to bed down soon so I hustled up the rest of the slope to a high point where I could see better. It was now about 9:00 AM but the morning air was still cool and I spotted 2 Bucks up higher feeding out in the open about to crest the ridge to get out of the sun. They were both large 4×4 Bucks and I was able to recognize the bigger bodied one as the “Rolling Stone Buck” from last year by his weak backs. He had grown some mass, a few inches of tines, and lost the little sticker on his left side, but had the same definitive antler configuration. Wide fronts with deep forks and weaker but taller backs. The smaller bodied one had a smaller overall rack but deeper stronger forks and was taller all around. He was going to be a great Buck in a few years with that kind of frame already. I wasn’t able to get real good footage of either one of them before they crested the mountain and disappeared out of sight for the day.
I set up camp in the usual spot, ate, and kicked back for a bit before I headed up to the high park to check my trail cam that I had set out on the “Sow and Cubs” trip.
I noticed that there were a few Deer tracks along the ridge on the way to the park, whereas last year there were more Elk tracks. The park showed the same thing, the Elk were not using the area as heavily as last year. My trail cam was about to run out of batteries, as I had expected, so I changed the batteries and the SD card. I was able to view the SD card using my camera and it had a few nice pics on it. A bachelor group of Bulls had moved through the area with the biggest looking like he was going to be a 5 point or small 6 point when he finished growing. Aside from the Bulls, I got pictures of a Bear, Does, Cows, and a Female Moose. The Moose was a surprise, that was the first I knew of Moose being in the area. After I refilled my water and ate, I headed back to camp to take a nap before the much anticipated evening glassing session.
I intently glassed the slope that I had seen the Bucks on that morning from top to bottom from about 6 PM til dark. I never saw the big Bucks from that morning, but I spotted a small 3 point at last light at the top of the mountain in the same area the Bucks had been in.
It had been a satisfying day and I slept great that night. The birds woke me up at daybreak and I got into position and glassed the same slope again to find those Bucks. I figured they would have fed out into the open again at night and I should be able to locate them again. After an hour I still hadn’t seen anything and I was starting to lose confidence. I relocated down the ridge a little where I could see the bottom third of the mountain and part of the adjoining slope. After 10 minutes or so I decided to look down towards the bottom where the Does usually hang out. I immediately saw the smaller 4 point feeding his way up hill where he bedded out in the open. I then saw the small 3 point bedded above him, and eventually the Rolling Stone Buck in the trees to his left.
I watched them all morning, taking notes on wind directions again, and I got some video and a bunch of pics as well. The small 4 point has a really nice frame and strong forks, he will most likely be a 180 buck in a couple of years if he survives.
I will call him Sleepy for future reference. After bedding down he put his head in the dirt and went to sleep in the morning sun.
The Rolling Stone Buck has strong fronts, decent mass, good brow tines, but weak backs, especially on his right side.
He didn’t seem to grow a whole lot more this year, due to either regression or a marginal growth year due to a dry spring. After a conversation with the area Biologist I found out it was probably the latter. Just not a great year for antler growth this year.
Regardless of score, the Rolling Stone Buck is my first candidate for the upcoming season thus far. They bedded in that spot til about 10:00 AM and then got up, and headed over to the left about 100 yards to some thicker cover that provided more shade. I lost sight of them, and didn’t see exactly were they bedded at that point. Based on my notes from the previous morning, a strong breeze was going to pick up and carry my scent over their way anyways and so I got out of there when they changed beds. I was probably only about 500 yards away across the canyon, but it seemed like about 800 or so. Well within range of their noses either way.
I packed up camp and headed back to the park to get water and then hike over into the next drainage into some new area where I had never been before. Halfway up the mountain there was a trail that came from another direction and went through a low saddle providing great access into the next drainage. I intersected it and noticed a lot of horse tracks on the trail but continued on up anyways. At the top of the saddle I was able to get cell service and check in with my wife.
The trail dropped down into the drainage and went through a series of lakes so I left the trail and side hilled to a small basin with a little lake in it to refill water. I wanted to keep my elevation and get some distance from the trail as much as possible. After stocking up on water I continued on along the same contour increasing my distance from the trail. I spotted a narrow finger ridge that projected out from the main mountain ,this would allow me to glass into two basins and I set up camp in the trees below it.
That evening I spotted 2 Does in one basin and a small 3×3 in the other. The small 3×3 headed from his bedding area down lower into the timber without stopping and I wasn’t able to get a pic. He was young and small anyway and I wouldn’t be coming back this season to go after him. If he is still there next season then I will probably start paying attention. It was becoming apparent that the trail offers good access to the area and the older Buck or Bucks that he was most likely following last year had probably got harvested.
The next morning was the same with nothing new spotted by sunup, so I packed up early and headed for the top of the main mountain. I wanted to get to the top of the mountain and see if I could glass some new country before everything bedded down for the day. I made it to the very top only to find it was timbered all the way to the top and on the connecting ridges as well. I simply didn’t have any vantage points through the trees where I could see any new country. I could only see the areas I had already glassed. I hung out on top for a while and surveyed the surrounding area. I could see that this drainage had some trails and a lot of access, too much for my liking, and so I decided to head out of there.
I was already satisfied with finding the Rolling Stone Buck and Sleepy and I got to see what the other drainage looked like as well. I have found that if your looking for older age class Bucks it isn’t usually worth your time in the long run to spend too much of your scouting time in an area that gets a fair amount of pressure. Sure you might get lucky every decade and harvest a big one that has been avoiding hunters, but for the most part they just don’t live long enough to get old in pressured areas. If they do they become almost unhuntable in their habits. Most of us backcountry hunters are going to take the biggest buck we see on our hunt. So when I see Bucky areas that only hold smaller 3 or 4 point bucks I assume some one hunted the area recently. This doesn’t always hold true but it’s a safe and efficient assumption. Most of the 160+ class Bucks I have seen or harvested were with younger bucks. These younger Bucks also tend to stand out in the open more and give away the location making the group easier to spot.
I made it back to the truck in the late afternoon, it is always quite a bit faster going downhill. I had considered staying another night on the bench and trying to glass up the Bucks again, but opted to steer clear of the area until the season opens. I didn’t want to chance the Bucks detecting me as they would probably disappear until the following year again. Between the summer Wildfires, the Wolves and the unlimited OTC tags, it’s good to have more than one option going into the season. My next trip will be to a different area to hopefully find another candidate.
On July 17, 2013 I left for a 2 day scouting trip to the area I previously called “The Bench”. This was a follow up trip to ” A Sow with Cubs” and I was hoping to see some of those Bucks that I had seen on that trip while on my way out. By July the high country is at its hottest and the bugs are at their worst. It’s actually my least favorite time of the year to go, its usually buggy even up on the ridges and the Bucks don’t spend as much time out in the open during daylight. But cabin fever takes over and I’m out in the heat and bugs, at least for the first part of the hike. On a drier year like this one, once you get out of the canyon bottoms and up on tops of the ridges you can mostly escape the bugs and enjoy the breezes. This is exactly what the Deer and Elk do too and mostly for the same reasons.
I arrived to my parking spot around 8:30 AM and hiked up onto the ridge that overlooks the slope where I had seen the bucks in prior trips. I have been up on this ridge a lot and it offers great glassing but there is no water easily accessible so I have to carry enough for the rest of the day and the night. The next morning I then either have to drop back down to fill up at a seep, or hike another mile and a half with about a 2000 foot elevation gain farther up the ridge to a snow drift. The peak just above the snowdrift is one of the best vantage points in the area and I had initially planned on making the hike up there on day 2.
As I approached the flat area on the ridge I wanted to camp, I saw movement ahead of me, and then identified it as a black bear. I froze and observed, looking to my right there was a brown phase black bear standing up out of it’s bed at about 100 yards. It was looking at the black one in front of me and didn’t see me. I quickly realized that these were probably the sow and two cubs that I had seen on the last trip into this area. I cautiously proceeded forward a few steps and the black one popped out from behind a bush, looked me over probably thinking I was the brown one, and then ran when it realized I wasn’t. I was glad this happened because if this was a young cub and it headed up a tree, I would then be in a completely different situation. I would be in between the sow and her cub, and she would eventually figure out that I wasn’t her cub. I immediately looked over to my right to keep track of the brown one, and could see it behind the trees heading along a trail towards me and where the black one had been. The bear didn’t look very concerned and was lazily going down the trail right towards me. Bears don’t have the best eyesight, but make up for it with their excellent sense of smell and although there was no breeze, the wind must have really been in my favor because I was undetected or ignored at this point. I could smell my own swamp ass where I stood, why couldn’t the bear? I decided to let the bear get about 50 yards, get a picture, and then say Hi. Any closer and the bear might feel threatened and feel like it can’t escape. Then it would think it had to fight and as usual during scouting I was unarmed. I snapped a pick at under 50 yards, said Hi, and the bear did a 180 and bolted back down the trail and up to the base of the incline that was to my left like I expected.
The bear went up the incline about 50 yards and slowed way down to a labored walk. It was mid day now, sunny and hot. I could see the bear panting from just that short run and there was no way it was going to keep going up that steep incline. The bear started to loop back around and head back towards my direction again but staying on the hillside ahead of me and to my left. I slowly moved towards the hillside and the bear to try and get another pic. We ended up parallel with each other about 100 yards apart and slowly moving along for a while checking each other out and I got one decent pic. Then the bear got ahead of me and slowly disappeared in the direction the other bear(s) had gone. I’m still not sure how many bears I had originally seen, but most likely it was the Sow and 2 Cubs I had seen the last time I was in the area. Same colors on the sow and cub and about a mile away from where I had seen them feeding on a hillside in the “Sow and Cubs” entry.
I went ahead and set up camp and ate in the nice flat area near where the bears had been bedded, it was a good spot and where I had originally planned on camping that night anyways.
The evening glassing session was rather disappointing, I saw a Doe and a Doe with young fawns and that was it. Both of which started feeding at last light, the Bucks must have been out of that area already and up higher on the mountain or just completely nocturnal due to the heat. I ran out of water by dark, but I had been well hydrated up to that point so I wasn’t to worried and I slept great. The next morning I opened my water bladder, drank the last ounce of water, and glassed for about 2 hours. I saw the same Deer and nothing new, so I packed up and headed down to get water. I knew there was water down a little lower but I wasn’t sure exactly where and I was reluctant to drop that far down and look the night before. I really wanted to go higher up the ridge to the snowdrift site that morning, but that wasn’t going to happen. It was to far to go without water in that kind of heat and I wasn’t 100% sure there is a snow drift there on a dry year like this anyways.
I figured since I’m going back down the mountain I might as well hike across the canyon and try a new spot. I got a drink at the seep on my way down and then filled up at the bottom of the canyon in the main creek, ate, and forged on.
I made it to the feeder creek I wanted to get to by mid day and kicked back, ate again, and drank more water in the shade. My plan was to follow an Elk trail up out of the canyon onto a bench. I had never been up there before, but I had seen a small herd of Elk go up there last year and the topo map showed a great looking bench that offered great vantage points on 3 sides. I assumed there would be no water so I filled everything I had to get me through the night and next morning and started up the trail.
It was a well used trail and very steep, clearly being used to get back and forth from the bench down to the creek. It was the heat of the day now so I took my time to minimize sweating and luckily there was a decent breeze to help cool me down. This mountain was steep and when I made it to the bench and had flat ground to compare the slope to it really hit home what I had just crawled up. This is where being in shape comes into play. Had I not been in decent shape, I would have probably not been able to make the accent and camped in the bottom with all the bugs.
The game trail entered the bench in a great place to set up camp, but I wanted to do a little recon first and possibly find a better camp spot and/or water, so I walked along the edge of the bench to where it ended and then glassed a little bit. It was still a little early for any activity, but I spotted a couple Does bedded on the hillside getting harassed by flies. One of them was flicking her ears like crazy and then jumped up and bolted about 50 feet to get away from the bugs. It must suck not to have bug spray available for the summer.
I got camp setup and did my normal eat/rest routine to pass the heat of the day. It was still hot, and not even the birds or chipmunks where not active.
Latter as it cooled off the birds started becoming active and I knew everything else would start their evening movements as well. Birds have a fast metabolism and will be the first ones in the Forrest to become active as the afternoon turns into the evening because they really need to eat. I wanted to start glassing but the conditions where terrible. The smoke from wildfires moved in and eliminated visibility. The previous night I had to wait til the sun went down to see across the canyon and the Deer didn’t start feeding til almost dark anyways. So I kicked back as long as I could stand it and then got up and glassed anyways. I glassed til dark moving along the ridge and didn’t see anything to note. About 10:30 that night when I was almost asleep I heard what sounded like an Elk, based on trot cadence, go right through my camp.
The next morning I headed out to the other end of the bench to glass a tight canyon for the morning. I had been into the canyon a few times 2 seasons ago and had seen Does and Goats. I had always come in from above and would be glassing down the canyon. Now I was somewhat below and glassing up the canyon. The reason I never came in from below was due to the ruggedness of the mouth of the canyon, it is mostly cliffed out and that’s where the goats liked to hang out.
Around 8:30 AM I saw goats making their way out of the bottom of the canyon, heading up the cliffs feeding along the way. I ended up spending the whole morning watching the goats as they made their way up the cliffs about 3-400 yards across from me. I had seen 2 adults on that slope and 1 adult in the next basin over 2 seasons ago. This time there were 4 adults, 1 adolescent, and twin kids on that slope. They really took hold in this area and it was neat to see the population growth.
On the way out I followed the same game trail down the slope that I had come in on. It didn’t take long going down hill and before I knew it I was at the creek getting water. I found an early crop of Golden Currant in the main canyon on the way out. Fresh fruit like that is a delicious bonus, but don’t eat too many of them, you will not be able to get your pants down fast enough.
I didn’t find any Bucks or Bulls on this outing, but that’s not uncommon for me in July. I seem to start seeing Bucks and Bulls after the first frost sometime in August when the Huckleberries are ripe or in early August when it cools down a little at night. In July the Bucks and Bulls are usually as high on the mountain as they can get taking advantage of that last flush of growth before it dries out and the coolest weather available. On the next trip I will probably go all the way up and maybe confirm that, or at least have better luck.
I made this two day trip starting on June 21 of 2013. This is the first follow up trip to the previous post “300 inch Bull” and the sole purpose of this expedition was to find a better passage into that Hell Hole of a basin. I didn’t do a whole lot of glassing or see a wide variety of animals on this trip, but I did get into the basin and it was in deed full of Elk.
I left the trail head mid morning at about 10:30 AM. It is now late spring with only a slight chance of rain in the forecast. The cool cloud covered hikes are mostly over now and the stagnant lower elevation heat has taken hold. The trail is in full use at this point, with the deer and elk tracks being replaced by hikers and bike riders. Had I not scouted this area early in the year before all the human activity started, I probably would have had very little confidence in it.
I brought a hand held pair of pruning shears with me on this trip, and started cleaning up the trail after getting in a couple of miles. With the animals up higher now, the ticks this time were not nearly as bad. I crossed the creek at the same spot and noticed the water level was kind of low for this time of year.
Upon arriving at the feeder creek I planned to hike up, I ate and replenished my water. I usually start my hike with a full water bladder even when I’m hiking along a creek like this. This is partly out of convenience and partly out of preparedness, but mostly out of habit. Since the water level was lower I decided to try and see if I could break trail along the feeder creek that comes out of the basin. After an hour of custom landscaping along the creek, I had only gotten a little further than last time and gave up. I was just going to have to suck it up and hike up the steep hillside then side hill it into the basin. So I hoofed it up the steep slope a couple hundred feet and traversed up the canyon above the feeder creek. It was a difficult and frustrating section that lasted a couple hours.
I finally arrived to where two creeks came together to form the feeder creek I had been following. The ridge in between these two creeks is where I had seen the Elk last time and seemed like a good place to set up camp. I found an old beer can from the late 70s in one of the flatter spots. Could it have been a celebration after harvesting a big Bull? Or maybe the hunting sucks in that basin and the only thing fun to do is get drunk. Either way, I doubt these guys are able to make this hike any more so I will probably have the place to myself if I come back during the hunting season.
After searching around for about an hour I had to settle for a less than ideal (and flat) camp location. After setting and resetting my Supertarp a few times I was able to get a decent set up; the Supertarp is flexible in that way. It was a tight area and I had to get the orientation just right in order to be able to lay in the flattest spot. This is pretty much the norm in some of these back country areas that hold animals around here, it’s just not flat.
After setting up camp and eating I headed up the ridge to explore and do some glassing. Calling this area a “basin” is really not that accurate, it’s more like 2 parallel canyons and I’m camped at the foot of the middle ridge. On a larger scale it will pass for a basin though. I had brought a trail camera with me and decided that I would set it out way up on that ridge and hopefully get an idea of whats really in that area.
I spotted Elk bedded down across the canyon from my first glassing spot, so I moved up the ridge a little farther to where I was directly across from them and watched for a while. There were about 20 spread out across that hillside bedded down. Within that herd there was about 5 calves and 4 spikes, a fairly decent ratio of ages and genders but could be better. It would take a big Bull to run all those cows though and I will do my best to get back in there during the rut to watch.
As I crept up the ridge farther doing my best to stay out of sight from the bedded Elk, I noticed fresh Elk tracks and scat in the trail. The further along I got the more there was and I knew something was going to happen soon. When I got to a bench in the ridge I heard the bark and looked below me. There were 4 cows, 1 spike, and 7 spotted fawns coming out of a mellow coulee and trotting away. Great recruitment in that little herd and really reassuring to see. I watched them quarter away and follow the contour of the mountain to the other side of the canyon, which was a lot wider this far up. They settled down on the hillside across the canyon about a mile farther up the ridge than the other herd. I was really glad they didn’t head over towards the other herd and blow them out of there.
I kept going up the ridge until I found a good pinch point in the trail and set out the trail camera. This camera is way in there at this point and realistically I may not get back to it this year. I then glassed my way back down the ridge and didn’t see any deer, just the Elk. This is not uncommon, the Elk seem to push the Deer out of the better areas in some places, especially in the summer range where there are lots of places to go. Bucks especially just don’t seem to like the herd activity of the Elk. I think it may be due to the fact that a herd of Elk attract both Wolf and Man, are noisy, and smell.
The next morning I headed up the ridge again to do some more glassing, this time focusing on the other side of the canyon. I heard the nervous grunt from an Elk and saw a lone Cow that was below me and about 500 yards away from my camp. I answered her with a chirp and she shortly went back to feeding. I spent the rest of the morning glassing and didn’t spot anything new so I packed up and headed out. I potentially had a long hike out ahead of me and wanted to get an earlier start.
I exited the basin a little higher on the hillside and found the main game trail, this was an iconic moment and exactly what I made the trip for. I knew these animals were getting in and out of this basin somehow, and this was it. It was a well used trail for the most part and fairly flat following a steady contour along the mountain but way above the feeder creek. I trimmed the overhanging brush and trees in some spots and really opened it up for both me and the animals that use it. Clearing and knowing the trail really helps for the pack out, it could save you days. It led right out of there, around the mountain, and to a northerly slope feeding area. I took mental note of that and then started the descent down to the main trail. I was a bit farther up the mountain then I would have liked to have been, but the ease of which that trail traversed about a mile of steep slope made it worth it. Besides, if it was easy to get in there then the spot wouldn’t be so good. I made it down and then started to clean up the main trail again on the hike out.
It was a long hot hike out and I was again reminded of how far in I had been. This round trip would best be made in 3 days instead of 2. All the pruning I did along the way made it take a lot longer as well. While I didn’t find any big bucks or bulls on this trip it was super successful in knowing the area and learning the best access. This is a prime example of the benefit that scouting gives. I can now go back at any time and know right where to go and how best to get my meat out.
The last few days in May of 2013 had me back out scouting one of my core hunting areas. This is the same general area that I had made my first scouting trip to in mid April and we will go ahead and call it “The Bench” for future reference. This is a summer range area that goes from about 7-9 thousand feet depending on where I go. The hills are tall and I park at about 6000 feet. I have seen deer, elk, bear, and goats all from this one parking spot. The steepness of the terrain keeps the pressure very low, it takes about a 1000 foot gain per mile hiking ability. The first 1000 feet get you started, the next 2000 feet are where the hunting is. You also have to carry enough water for the first day and night. These are some of the ingredients that lead to a great hunting area where Bucks can grow to old age. Elk on the other hand, have a tougher time here because there is an Archery Rut hunt. This opens the door to calling, which in my opinion, combined with rut crazed bulls makes harvesting big Bulls comparatively easier than harvesting big Bucks in this area. The best I’ve seen in 2 consecutive years is a 5 point Bull running the herds. This may change however, as I’m bringing a trail camera to set up in one of the high elevation large parks on this trip. Maybe I will learn something new about the Elk quality in this area.
I arrived at the parking area, threw on my pack and headed down the trail. The trail is unofficial, but from what I can gather it used to be maintained and went somewhere. Now it just goes about 2 miles and is mainly used by day hunters and migrating game. It ends abruptly at a half mile long glacial boulder slide. I got frisky and hiked it one time, it goes into a basin that holds a 1 acre lake with cutthroat trout so tame you can hand feed them. I have since found the best access is via the opposite ridge, it’s another “Hell Hole” and not worth a 5 point Elk to me. I still glass it from the ridge every year though, because you never know, and I’d most definitely pack a 180 buck up and out of there! Towards the end of the trail I started my cross country trek up a mountain to get on a finger ridge that’s reminiscent of a long bench, hence “The Bench”. Its a steep accent if you go straight up, so I usually switchback along various game trails to make it a little easier. During the hunting season when there is a chance that other hunters might be on the main trail I bonsai straight up to get out of sight as fast as possible so no one sees where I’m going. This is a common OTC Public Land tactic, that and not using a light when hiking at night is good practice in some areas.
I got to the bench around 1 PM and started glassing over to where I saw the 170ish Buck last year. I called this Buck the “Rolling Stone Buck” because it was so steep and loose on that hillside that he couldn’t walk without sending rocks rolling down the slope. This is mainly what led to a failed stalk on him last season and I still don’t know how I’m going to get to him if I have another chance this year. I spotted a Doe and her fawn below the rolling stone buck’s haunt near the bottom of the slope. Both the Deer and Elk spend a lot of time feeding this time of year and are out in the open a lot more. Its not uncommon to see them feeding in the middle of the day like this, especially when there is cloud cover.
Farther up the ridge and towards the top I spotted a Sow with 2 Cubs feeding on the hillside. Bears are mostly vegetarian this time of year and are constantly eating to restore body fat and keep up with their energy requirements. The brown cub is easy to see, the black one is just above in the bushes.
I then moved along the ridge a little ways and got a different angle on the bears.
After watching the bears for a while I continued on along the ridge to my predetermined camp spot. There is a nice flat spot in about the middle of the ridge that makes a great centrally located camp. From this ridge I can glass 3 different directions and correspondingly 3 different slopes, it’s an efficient area and one of my favorite ridges.
After setting up camp I hung out in the Supertarp and ate pouched tuna with some other random goodies. Some dense dark clouds rolled in and it started to heavily rain, hail, then snow. After about an hour and a half the sky cracked open and the evening sunlight dried things out a little. It was time to start glassing again!
I ended the evening by watching the same deer and bears until dark with no new animals spotted.
The next morning I packed up camp and headed further along the ridge glassing along the way. It wasn’t long before I hit the snow line.
I didn’t see anything this far up the ridge and so I headed up higher into the park to set out my trail camera. I found a spot, set it up, and took a look around the park. There where some big Elk tracks in the snow from a few traveling Elk, a possible Wolf track, and a definite Bobcat or Lynx track. I hung out for a while, replenished my water, ate, and then started heading back. There wasn’t a whole lot to see up here yet being that the animals were down lower where the spring growth was. I was ahead of them again.
The hike back took most of the day and I got to the bottom of the main canyon around 3 PM. I stopped at a creek crossing and made some cup noodles. While eating I saw a Doe at about 200 yards away come out and start feeding in a small timbered meadow. I have noticed that both the Deer and Elk in this area like to feed at about 3 PM. I finished eating and headed down the trail only to find a group of Does and Fawns, then 2 bucks. The Buck in the back was big bodied and possibly the Rolling Stone Buck. He just seemed to be lacking a little on antler growth.
Another half mile down the trail, I jumped another 2 Bucks close to the trail. It quickly became apparent that the deer were just now showing up to the area and still in the bottom of the main canyon. I was probably the first one in there to see them. Both of these Bucks looked pretty decent with the one behind the log being a little more spooky and having more antler growth. It’s almost like he recognized me, he trotted off purposefully and without hesitation, maybe HE was the Rolling Stone Buck!
Either way this area looks like it is going to hold some Bucks again this year and I will be back later in the summer when they get more growth to try and find them. It also looks like there was good recruitment this year. I saw more deer altogether and more fawns than last year.
On this scouting trip I opted to once again scout a new area that I have never been in before. We are now in mid May of 2013 and spring is in full force, especially at the 6000 to 7000 foot level. There is however still a snow base about 8500+ and the animals are still migrating somewhat. I normally don’t go in on established trails but this time I did and where I was planning on going was in pretty deep. So why not, lets give it a shot. I didn’t see any sign indicating that someone had been down the trail yet this year and the Elk I saw along the trail on two occasions confirmed that.
It quickly became apparent how far most hikers get by the condition of the trail. When I got a couple miles in the trail was mostly overgrown and hard to follow in some spots. The Ticks where thick and I was flicking them off my pants constantly. I busted brush and waded through ticks for another mile and a half until I came too a decent tree that had fallen across the creek. I could see evidence of fox using this for a crossing and decided to follow suit. This put me onto a nice section of trail for about a quarter mile until I came to the feeder creek I wanted to hike up.
After refiling my water and eating, I started heading up the feeder creek. I got about 100 yards before it got so steep it was impassable. I got a glimpse of a nice black bear that was feeding about 100 yards away along the hillside. The wind and terrain was in my favor so it never detected me. It was getting late in the day so I hiked uphill a little onto a bench and made camp. My plan was to hike up on the ridge adjacent to the feeder creek and survey the area for the best access the next morning.
That evening I glassed up two deer and a cow elk. The cow was coming out of the basin I wanted to go in and I saw her going along the feeder creek, then lost sight of her. Ten minutes later she was heading back the same way she came with sort of confused body gesture, I guess it was to steep for her too! This basin is just getting more and more appealing to me. As for the deer I only got a glimpse of it through my binoculars.
The next morning I skipped hiking up the hillside to glass and just packed up camp. My plan was to glass as I hiked up the ridge to get a look at the basin that the feeder creek came out of. It was a steep climb and I went ahead and took it slow. When I got to one of the main game trails about half way up, I followed it a ways glassing ahead as I went. It wasn’t long before I saw a buck, so I stopped and quietly got my spotter and camera out. I was pretty close but the wind was in my favor and my movements where minimal.
After watching this buck for a while I got greedy and decided to get closer. He caught my movement and stared. Then a big buck I hadn’t seen that was bedded down to his right got up and purposely trotted off in big buck fashion. The big buck had about twice the antler growth and was forking nicely already. I was able to get a photo of him as he crested the ridge behind the brush.
I decided to pull out of there and head back up the ridge, towards the top. Near the top I saw a fawn and doe in all her glory.
When I got to the top of the slope the ridge flattened out slightly and I knew I was now on the main ridge and at the lower end, the steep accent was over! I didn’t want to keep going along the ridge and spook more game so I found a nice little point that I could set up camp on, and that offered great glassing. I would spot and stalk my way up the ridge to a higher glassing point that evening maybe.
I set up camp, ate, and enjoyed the view.
After a quick nap I went out to the end of the point to glass. I saw the cow from yesterday and another cow down below me at the head of the basin. The basin wasn’t a true textbook high country basin, it was more like two canyons next to each other with the spine ridge being lower than the surrounding ridges that encapsulated the basin. Their was a creek on each side of the spine that came together to form the feeder creek. It’s hard for me to explain, but the point is it’s a rugged “hell hole” and that much more appealing at this point. It’s most defiantly worth coming back and figuring out how to get in there as this is the kind of place bucks and bulls can grow to old age.
After watching the Elk for a while I decided to go up higher on the ridge and see if I could find a good vantage point. There was fresh Deer and Elk sign everywhere, it looked like a corral in some places. The bear I had seen yesterday had just been up there too.
I crossed paths with a Dusky grouse and got the usual booming, show of feathers, and little dance. Great ridge so far!
I finally came to a peak and set up to glass. For the first time since I have been scouting and hunting Idaho, I got one bar of cell phone signal on that peak. I checked in with my wife and then glassed. This could be a nice flat area to set up a future camp but it is fairly exposed and a long hike in.
I had a good view of the adjacent ridge along the original creek I had hiked in on and saw a few Elk. I spotted a cow bedded in a real rocky area while I was looking for goats, this is not the first time I have come across this behavior. Elk go to great lengths to evade wolves and man, including inhabiting less productive areas. You can see her just below the dead tree in the upper middle right.
I glassed til dark and didn’t see any new animals, so I headed back to camp.
The next morning I hiked back to the same vantage point and saw a few deer, the same elk, and the bear. I headed back to camp about mid morning, packed up, and headed out. I was pretty satisfied and ready for a plate of tacos from El Gallo Giro. On my way down the ridge, I detoured a little to grab a shed that I had seen next to the bucks. On my way over I jumped a small herd of elk and a group of deer with one average buck in it. When I got to the shed, I was surprised how big it was. I was expecting a raghorn and it was from a 300+ 6×6. I really didn’t think they got that big in that area, and I spent a lot of time looking for the bottom of it and/or the other one.The brow tine was busted off, but it’s still big. I’m confident he lives in that “hell hole” and now I’m really excited about this area.
What a great trip! A Big Buck and Big Bull in yet another new area to add to the library. I saw about 20 Elk total, about 5 of which were spikes. I saw about a dozen deer, 4 of which were Bucks. The hike out took longer than expected and reminded me of just how far in I had gone. It was well worth it
The second scouting trip of 2013 happened on the last 2 days of April and was very productive. The training and exercise I had been doing up to this point was really starting to be noticeable. It seemed to take almost half the effort to hike up the mountain as compared to the last trip 10 days earlier. I decided to scout out a new area on this trip, a little bit lower in elevation than my last trip. On my last trip I was in the 7-8K range, this trip I was in the 6-7K range. I hit it just right, there were a lot of Deer in the area and I suspect the area is part of the transitional range. This is important to know for later in the hunting season when the higher areas are snowed in. I will have to go back in the summer to confirm if its transitional, but either way this spot holds Deer!
I saw a lot of Elk sign on the way in and a couple of bone piles that were from cows. This could be from winter kill, wolves, or hunters, I can’t really say for sure. I didn’t see any Wolf sign the entire time I was there, nor did I see any Elk.
I followed the creek bottom until I got to the ridge I wanted to hike up, then stopped to eat and top off my water supply. As is the case when scouting new terrain you don’t know if there will be water available up higher on the ridge top; So you want to pack enough water to get you through to the next morning or sometimes even longer.
Camping by the creek and day hiking or hunting up the ridge isn’t nearly as effective and efficient as hiking up on the ridge and camping where you are going to glass from. You will tire yourself out real fast making that hike every day and you simply can’t get as far in. In OTC public land areas the older age class animals have learned what the dayhunt range of a human is and stay beyond that as much as possible. I tend to find that 4-6 hour hikes will get you to where you start consistently seeing quality animals most of the time.
On the way up the ridge I came to a sort of bench and found this little Elk shed. It was fairly fresh and most likely from this year. I was at about 6200 feet which seems kind of high for an Elk to be when they are dropping their antlers. I assume the earlier than usual snow melt this year allowed the elk to get up higher earlier.
I got to the top and spent considerable time looking for a flat enough area to set up camp. It is important that I am laying flat, otherwise its really hard to sleep. I found a great area on the edge of the ridge that also offered a great vantage point for glassing. It was a little tight but I was able to make it work.
I then ate and kicked back for a while before the evening glassing session. I like to eat mid to late afternoon after I set up my shelter and before I glass. If I eat after my evening glassing session then I inevitably have to get up at midnight and pee. I also try not to drink to much the last hour of daylight for the same reason. Macaroni and cheese was on the menu that night.
Evening glassing turned up a few deer on the adjacent hillsides. I was able to get one pic through the spotting scope. I am not set up real well for digiscoping yet so picture quality will be lacking for the next few post If you look hard you can make out a deer feeding to the right of the tree. He had antler nubs starting and was in fact a buck.
The next morning was quite a bit more productive. I always see more deer in the mornings when I’m scouting and hunting. There was a big bodied deer on top of a nasty slope that I got a glimpse of but no picture. This is usually the case with big bucks, they feed aggressively and then get of sight, not posing for pictures very well. The smaller bucks and does are not near as camera shy.
There was 3 bucks in this group. The antler growth has just barley begun, but you can tell by the face that the one Buck is going to be decent. You can see fuzzy nubs if you look hard enough on the second photo.
The same group of deer further down the ridge on the way out.
It turned out to be a great trip. I found another spot to add to my library and it’s not a real tough hike to get in. I saw about a half dozen bucks and a dozen does and fawns all together on this trip. Best of all, I might have a transition area to hunt late this season!