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