2014 Archery Elk Hunt #1

This year I was fortunate enough to be able to make a few trips during September to Archery Elk hunt in my home turf of Idaho. This was my first season archery hunting and the beginning of archery shooting for me in general. For years I was under the impression that I needed about a thousand dollars worth of Compound bow and respective gadgets to do these Archery hunts. While it would be more advantageous it isn’t necessarily the case. Generally speaking a $9 hickory board, some basic woodworking, and patience will result in a longbow adequate for ethically hunting with. I built a 45# longbow in the garage over the winter and that’s what I used for these hunts. By the time the season started I was comfortable taking a shot out to about 15 yards with it. This was some what limiting, but for sure doable, especially with the advantage of the rut.

Mollegabet style longbow I built out of Hickory

I had numerous encounters with Elk over the course of the season and I opted to pass on the cows and spikes, but maybe next season when I’m out of Elk meat I’ll reconsider. It was just hard for me to conjure up the motivation to take a Spike or a cow when a Herd Bull was bugling back at me. Overall I had more opportunity to potentially harvest an Elk on these archery hunts than I usually have on Rifle hunts. The “Any Elk” status of the tag goes a long way in this sense.

The hunts where so busy that I didn’t have time to take many pictures. I was into Elk or on the move constantly. I will for sure be back at it again next year without hesitation unless I draw a better hunt with conflicting dates. The constant action, great weather, and simplicity of traditional archery is hard to beat. It was so nice to carry a sub 1 pound bow around rather than a 7 pound rifle for a change. The advantage of the Rut is huge and Elk hunting is at it’s best during this time of year.

The first hunt started on September 4th. I made the climb to a bench that I have spent time glassing from many times before and wrote about in previous entry’s. I stocked up on water at a seep about 2/3rds the way to camp. There was a fresh wallow here so I made mental note and prepared a makeshift blind for future use. This seep was in a deep gully, with almost no cover, and the wind was not right to sit there for the afternoon. I moved on and set up camp at the head of the bench. The days are still pretty long this time of year and so I headed up the mountain to the main ridge to hunt for the rest of the day. About 200 yards from camp I came across a fresh Elk trail and rake.

Fresh rake!

I continued to follow the main Elk trail up the mountain from the bench and came across 2 more fresh rakes along the way. The area was definitely holding Bulls.

Once on top I was able to bugle down into 2 basins. I let out a location bugle and got an answer almost immediately from the basin to my left. It was about 2:00PM and so these Elk were probably bedded. I exchanged a few Bugles with a few different bulls out of that basin for the next 15 minutes. There was a herd Bull and at least 2 satellites that were playing along. At this point I had wished I still had camp on  my back. It would have possibly given me some extra flexibility. I hadn’t been up into that basin from the bottom in a few years and from what I remembered there were terrain issues. This would make getting out in the dark risky, especially with meat. If I didn’t find anything else on the other side of this ridge, I could hike in from the bottom tomorrow and figure it out.

I followed the ridge another 100 yards to a low saddle and bugled again. This time I got an answer from the right side of the ridge about 300 yards below me. This is the side my camp was on and I was overall more familiar with. The wind, both the thermals and the prevailing wind, were steady and in my favor so I started dropping down towards the Bull. I slowly made my way down through the timber and ran out of cover about halfway. I could now see that there was only one thin patch of timber to my left that went almost all the way down to the basin the Bull was in. There was no way I would be able to drop through that opening without being seen. With no other good options, I hiked back up and made my way over to the timber patch to sneak back down. When I got to the bottom and ran out of cover I sat and glassed the timber below me.

There was a cow straight below me on the bench and 2 spikes to my right. It was after 3 PM now and some of them were starting to get up and feed around a little. The cow fed over a rise and out of sight. The 2 spikes started feeding uphill about 100 yards to my right. I would have to cross an opening in the sun before I could get out of sight of the spikes. I waited until they were facing away from me and slowly crawled, only moving when both their heads were down feeding and facing straight away. This took some time, but I got away with it and hit the treeline. I then slowly made my way towards where the bull had bugled from, glassing as I went. It wasn’t long before I heard an Elk spook and looked ahead to see the cow trotting off. She must have came back over the rise while I wasn’t paying attention over there. Soon after she spooked the Bull did also and I got my first glimpse of him. I couldn’t make out much but he was defiantly a nice Bull.

I let out a scream so the bull would think that I was another bull harassing this cow. The wind was still in my favor so this could work. I positioned myself so I could just see over the rise and started a Bull harassing a cow sequence. The Bull didn’t seem to be falling for it and so I  started doing some regathering cow sounds. This worked, but the problem was the cows and spikes were coming in first instead of the Bull. The Bull got concerned and finally came out about 60 yards away and screamed at me while throwing a small dead tree around with his antlers. The cows and spikes were pacing back and forth at 40 yards trying to decide what to do and wondering why they didn’t see an Elk making these Elk sounds. The Bull hung up for about a minute and then gave me a nervous grunt followed by a grunt with a scream. It was game over at this point as I didn’t know what to do. A nervous grunt is an Elk’s way of asking for a visual immediately. If they don’t see an Elk then they know something is up. I was pinned down, he was hung up, and the cows/spikes were getting really nervous. I gave him a grunt and a scream right back while raking, but within 30 seconds he had his herd back and was taking them away. This was a respectable herd Bull and I was sold on the Rut hunt after that first encounter. I will do a lot of things different next time though.

I started heading back to camp to maybe check out that wallow before dark. There was a well used trail that came off the bottom of the basin and went towards the bench I was camped on. When I got about halfway I bugled and surprisingly got an answer in front of me fairly close. The only problem now was that I was in a relatively open area of the timber. I was not expecting the Bull to be so close. I froze and looked around for movement and a thick spot to hide myself, but didn’t see either so I chanced it and moved down the trail to a tree. The Bull materialized as he spooked. I could just see his head and neck over a small rise right before he disappeared. I ducked, froze and gave out a cow call. This satellite Bull was a Raghorn and should be interested in a cow. If I didn’t spook him too bad it might work. I waited about 5 minutes and didn’t hear or see anything so I crept forward a little and scanned the horizon. There he was just over the rise on the other side of a clearing about 60 yards away. He saw me good this time and got out of there quick. That encounter was a valuable lesson in patience.

The next morning I made another setup in between where I busted that Raghorn and camp. This time I found a nice patch of stunted pines that would offer good cover. I did the Bull harassing a cow sequence as this had partly worked the previous day. This time I exercised more patience and waited for about 35 minutes. After not seeing or hearing anything, I gave up on it and decided to move on. This result wasn’t surprising to me after all of the education me and the Bulls of that area gave each other the prior day. When I got about 200 yards from my setup, I saw an Elk blast through the trees towards camp. He must have came in silent and hung up…….oh well another lesson learned. Time to try my tricks in another spot with fresh Bulls.

I hiked back out to the Truck to drop off my tripod and spotting scope. I hadn’t even touched either of them and didn’t see the need to continue carrying them around. This early Rut hunt is a game of calling and still hunting, not the typical spot and stalk I’m used too with rifle hunts. It was more like Coyote and Turkey hunting. Upon reaching the truck, I picked up a fresh apple and Elknut’s playbook. My lighter pack felt good as I headed down the trail again.

I planned on hiking into the basin I had got responses out of the day before. I hadn’t been in there in a few years and had forgot what the access was like. From what I remembered, there was major terrain issues that would make a packout difficult at best. But the more I thought about it, the more I was interested in conquering those terrain issues because it is almost always worth it. This mentality is a curse that lives in the grey area between stubborn and motivation. It gets me into some interesting predicaments at times and meat in my pack other times. So I followed the game trail as far as I could and then it got way to thick with brush to make any progress without pruning shears. I would have to put it on hold for now and come back with tools to break a trail in order to get meat out of there. There was still another good spot that I could hike to from that same location. It was one of my core areas where I had a trailcam still out that I needed to collect anyways.

It was midday and really hot, the hike to the next spot took me probably twice as long as it usually does, but I toughed it out and made the elevation. I typically camp in a certain spot on this ridge when I’m scouting. From camp I hike towards the meadow to get water and/or hunt. This time I decided to go in closer to the meadow to save time in the morning and be closer to water.

I got about to where on the ridge I wanted to drop camp about 4 PM and Bugled just to test the waters. I got an answer about 200 yards to my right. These Elk where just slightly lower in elevation than me at the head of the canyon to the right of the ridge I was on. This is where I feel I made my first mistake. I opted to go ahead and set up camp “real quick” and then go after the Bull. That way if I got him down at last light, I would already have a camp to come back to late that night. I was being as quiet as possible and kneeling down while unloading my pack and setting up my tent. I still managed to clank my tent poles a few times though and even got a picture of camp.

The commotion of setting up camp can and will call in Elk!
The commotion of setting up camp can and will call in Elk!

Suddenly I caught a glimpse of movement. A cow came in to 40 yards and I just froze. Then I heard some faint raking about 30 yards past her. The wind stayed in my favor somehow, but the cow got nervous and walked off. My movement getting to my bow and getting it ready was more than she could handle. My big green tent sitting there probably didn’t help either. I tried to salvage the situation with a lip bawl type scream as she trotted off. I still hadn’t seen the Bull and he probably hadn’t seen me either.

I slowly headed in the direction the cow headed and found a suitable location to make a set up. The plan was to do another Bull harassing a cow scenario. This was mistake number two as raking and stomping would probably have been the better way to go, obviously that’s what the Elk where interested in at that time. Needless to say , I didn’t hear or see anything with that setup and eventually stalked my way into the meadow to collect my trail cameras and make a set up for the evening.

I had both of my trail cameras on video mode so I was not able to check the footage while in the field, but there was a lot of files on both of them. After collecting the cameras I made a setup around that meadow for the evening. I sat tight for a little over an hour and then headed back towards camp. My plan was to try a regathering call where they had spooked from.

As I was heading along the ridge, all of a sudden I heard an Elk bust to my left. I saw movement through the trees at about 70 yards. I froze and as I was scanning the area down there, I caught movement right in front of me out of the corner of my eye. There was a rag horned 6×5 at less then 20 yards behind a tree. This guy was in my comfort zone. I slowly brought my bow up and went to full draw. As soon as he stepped out from behind the tree, I would have about 10 feet of clear for a shot. He trotted out from behind that tree and I couldn’t think fast enough to give him a nervous grunt to get him stopped in the clear. When I grunted he stopped but it was behind another tree now. He had covered that ten feet in about two steps. I stopped him again when he trotted off with another nervous grunt and this time in the clear. He was now close to 30 yards away and that was just to far for my skill with that homemade 45 pound longbow at the time, so I let him go.

I was making the nervous grunts with my mouth and boy do they work good at stopping an Elk for the shot, I was impressed! This all happened about 100 yards from my camp and it sure would have been nice to drop that Bull right there at camp. I have a Trail Cam Video of him from a few days prior to the hunt.

I slowly still hunted my way through camp and got to where I had heard the raking while setting up camp. The other Elk I had just jumped headed this way also and maybe I still had a chance. About when I got to a good set up location where it was somewhat thicker I heard and saw a Bull blast through the trees at about 80 yards. He was moving like he got a good look at me, but I gave him a scream anyways. I caught a glimpse of him and I could see he had a big body and a lot more antler than the Raghorn I just drew on. Later, after checking the trail cams at home, I would find out that this was most likely the herd Bull of the area. A nice big 6 point pushing 300″ that had been in the area since July.

The next day was the end of my first hunt and for the first time I got no action that morning on the way out. I did come across the fresh smell of Elk at the end of the ridge and made a set but nothing happened. Despite the rookie mistakes, I was extremely satisfied with the hunt and already planning the next one. It was early in September and I still had some time left in the season for another hunt or two.

One Little Goat

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.

Garter snake up in the mountains.

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.

Biggest Mushroom I’ve ever seen!

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.

Mule deer Doe

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.

High country lake

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.

Camp for the night

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.

Mountain Goat Habitat! Notice the permanent snow banks again.

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.

Young Billy or Nanny.

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.

Looks good for Goats.


Billy Atlantis

I got a fairly early start on Saturday August 2 for my second Goat scouting trip, which put me at the trailhead around 9 AM. I was going in on a trail I’ve never been on before and really didn’t know what to expect. The trail was well used and there was fresh horse manure along the way to keep me company for the first half of the journey. On the way in I came across some Sask berry bush’s that had the biggest Sask berries on them I had ever seen. This can suggest that the soil in that particular area is better than the surrounding areas. If it’s good enough to grow bigger berries then it is probably good enough to grow bigger antlers too. I will be revisiting this area in the future.

Big Sask Berries!

The rest of the hike in was mostly uneventful, it was hot and consisted of mile after mile of trail hiking. I eventually came to a water crossing and lost the trail momentarily. The water wasn’t all that deep, but I still like to cross on logs when I get the chance. I’m still young and ignorant enough for this to be fun.

Crossing the creek

Eventually finding my way back to the trail on the other side of the creek, I forged on. I reached my turn off point by mid afternoon and started the hike up into a basin. The hike up started out pretty good, then quickly got vertical. I stopped to take a break and have a late lunch.

Eating Lunch

I continued climbing higher and higher towards the bottom of the basin. I found sections of well used Elk trail and it made it a little bit easier. On the benches there was fresh evidence of heavy browsing and also some of the biggest mushrooms I’ve seen in a while.

Big Bolette (pretty sure), but not 100% so I didn’t eat it!

I finally hit the bottom end of the basin and there was a great bench for a camp setup, but I decided to go a little higher. I ran out of water hiking up to the next bench, so I headed down to the creek and refilled. The creek was a mess with downed trees everywhere from this years snow slides.

Looks like a big snowslide happened this past spring. The Elk love this kind of stuff.

I decided not to camp anywhere around there, things were just to unstable and the mosquitoes were worse. I hiked up even higher on a bare rocky knob and set camp.

Camp is finally set.

After setting camp for the night, I headed uphill to glass. I quickly realized that I was on the wrong side of the canyon. The shade was nice on this side, but I needed to be on the other side where I would be able to glass into the shady side of the basin. So back down and across I went to the other side of the basin. This side was mostly talus, wide open, and sunny. I didn’t like the idea of walking and sitting out in the open, but I was looking for Goats up high, not Deer in the basin. I got set up and the sun disappeared behind the mountain about 20 minutes later. Nearly the whole basin was in the shade now and I heard a funny noise in the bottom below me. It finally occurred to me that it was a calf Elk calling. They appeared in the meadow about 100 yards below me shortly after.

Cow with twin calves are the first of the herd to come out and feed for the afternoon.

I scanned the scree slope below the cliffs at the head of the basin and immediately spotted a big bodied Goat. My first thought was mature Billy, but I second guessed myself after seeing his horns. They lacked mass and there was a noticeable gap between the bases.  However there was no doubt he was a Billy when he lifted his rear leg to scratch his head. Male Goats have a scrotum the size of an infants head, you can’t miss it this time of year when the fur is short. I scanned around to see if there were more Goats and didn’t spot any. So far it looked like he was by himself in this basin, which is a good sign. Goats have a hierarchy and the dominant Goats get the best bedding, feeding, and dusting locations. I originally picked out this basin because it looked  like it would provide the best feed and thermal regulation, and thing were starting to add up. There were still a few snow drifts present and a lot of shade, some shrubs, trees, and cliffs. Everything a Goat needs for the summer. I was confident he was 8+” and maybe even close to 9″. The Goats in the area don’t get much bigger than 9″ due to the soil quality so this was a big Goat for this unit.

He was in a great location for a stalk and recovery, which is a big bonus when Goat hunting. He was feeding on a scree slope below the cliffs and there was a spine that would allow me to get pretty close. I was relieved to have finally found a bigger mature Billy, which was my goal up to this point. There’s a lot that could happen in the next 2 months though, so I don’t want to get to confident. I watched him feed down then back up and disappear behind the spine. I never did see any other Goats in the basin the rest of the evening. The rest of the Elk herd came out to feed and I got to listen to that for a while. Eventually my movement and camera noises pushed them back into the trees.

The next morning I started to glass the head of the basin from near camp. It immediately started raining hard when I got set up. I hadn’t seen anything yet so I tried to pack up camp before my shelter got to wet and heavy. It didn’t work and it seemed like my shelter gained about 3 pounds of water. My new plan was to cross over into the next basin and check it out while I still had a little time. I had a long hike ahead of me to get out and so I needed to be on my way out by about 9:30 AM. The hike over was easier than I had though it would be. I only had to cross through scree and cliffs for about 200 yards, before I hit the trees again on the bottom end of the basin. This is great to already know when it comes time to hunt. I can effectively hunt 2 basins from the same camp.

As soon as I got my rain gear on it stopped raining for the day.

A short climb up had me in this really tight meadow surrounded by scree slopes and huge cliffs.

Nice little meadow in a tight Basin.

I got up a little above the meadow and glassed, but I couldn’t see much. The terrain was really broken and steep. By this time it was getting closer to 10 AM and I really needed to start heading out.

The descent out of this basin was longer than I thought it would be and I hit a wall of alders towards the bottom. This is also good to know ahead of time as I would hate discovering  this for the first time with a full load of meat, especially in the dark. I didn’t have time to find a better way so I busted brush for about the last 500 yards to the trail. I hate doing this because it is really tiring and annoying, but sometimes it’s the quickest way to make progress.

No season is complete without busting brush on at least one trip.

I survived it, found the trail, and made the long hike out. I didn’t end up getting home until about 9PM that night. These trips deep into the wilderness and then up to Goat country are hard to make in two days, and would be best for a 3 day trip.

Rolling Stone Buck Year 3

I headed out of the house the morning of July 19th for an overnight scouting trip into one of my favorite areas. Although I have a once in a lifetime Idaho mountain Goat tag, I will still be hunting this area at some point this season for Elk and Deer. It was time to set out some trail cams and scout the Elk area and see how big the Bucks are for this year. Despite the extra weight of the trail cams I still made it to my camp location in just a few hours. I jumped a Forky and a Doe on the end of the ridge heading to the camp spot, so things were looking good so far.

Camp was set up in the same spot I have been using for three seasons now. It’s a dry camp on a low saddle along a main ridge and about half a mile from water. This really cuts down on any issues with bugs.

IMG_1743After camp was set it was time to go set out the trail cams in the high park. I saw about the same amount of Elk sign as I saw last year during the summer. The Elk seem to move through here in early summer and then come back in August after the first frost hits the highest elevations. I set one camera out in the same location as last year and one on the far side of the park in some timber, both in video mode this time. By having two seasons worth of footage on the same park I can draw some more concise conclusions about the area. I’m hoping to get some rutting action and see what the herd bull quality is like in this area. I know there are some nice bulls based on last years footage, but I am not sure if they are rutting in the area or just passing through. I will also be archery hunting the area during the rut this season and so that hunt combined with trail cam footage will shed some light on the subject. The Archery hunt will probably be the first time I get to check the cams. The rest of the scouting trips for this season will be dedicated to Goats.

After setting up the cams, I explored the area a little more looking for fresh Elk sign and potential wallows. No fresh Elk sign was found but I did find this fairly fresh tore up mouse which is probably the handy work of a Pine Marten.

Pine Marten sign.


Next I hiked up to a basin I had never been to before. There was a nice little bench on the way up that had a small creek going through it. This might be where I camp during the Archery season when there is less bugs. It’s in a good strategic location to both hunt the park and glass the basin above it.

Nice little bench for a future camp spot.

The basin above this little bench looked better than it did on topo maps and Google earth. It was huge and mostly timbered. I will be watching this place for sure. I did see fresh Deer tracks going up along the side of it in the timber in the same direction I was going to glass from. This was encouraging, even if it was a Doe. Despite it being the middle of the afternoon, I still sat and glassed for a couple hours. I was interested in learning the nuances of the basin and surrounding terrain and not expecting to see any animals.

Potential Buck country

It was a challenge to not walk around through the bottom and the adjoining timbered benches and look for tracks and sign on the way out. That spine in the middle is a great place for a Buck to bed! It would also be a great place to glass from, and I just might opt to risk it in the future. I halfway wanted to watch that basin til dark, but the slope next to camp is where I know there are some Bucks to watch. I’ll come back to this basin when I have more time and can glass it in the morning. Mornings are a lot more productive, especially when it’s hot.

After stocking up on water I hiked back to my glassing spot next to camp for the evening. As usual this time of year the deer don’t come out to feed for the evening until it’s almost to dark to glass on this slope. I watched a Doe and a fawn on the upper third of the mountain feed for about five minutes before it was to dark to see.

The next morning I glassed the usual spot and didn’t see anything all morning. Finally at about 9:30 AM with the sun high in the sky, I headed back to camp to pack up and head out. On the way back to camp I saw the orange hue of either a fresh log or a velvet buck across the canyon. I quickly checked with my binos and it was a Buck! I set up and watched this Buck feed by himself and mess around for about an hour. He would get frustrated with the bugs and bolt downhill every once in a while, then continue feeding. Typical young Buck behavior. He for sure wasn’t the Rolling Stone Buck,  but he was one of the other two that were with him last July. This Buck made his way downhill and eventually disappeared in the timber in the bottom of the canyon. Odd behavior for a Buck, they are usually known to head uphill in the morning to bed for the day. Maybe he was thirsty or was going across the canyon to bed on the cool north slope.

Nice 150 class Idaho Buck.

I can’t really tell for sure which Buck this was. He seems kind of small to be “Sleepy”, but the tall antler configuration is similar. The forks are not deep so it could be the 3 point from last year who would now be a young 4 point.

On the way back to the trailhead I took the same Elk trail I had took on the way up, stopping along the way to snack on some currant berries that where ripe. I then decided to pick up the pace in the steep loose sections and do some foot sliding. I wasn’t being very sneaky at this point and I was almost to the bottom when I slowed down and hit another section of Elk trail. As I took a rest in the shade of a tree I saw the white face of a Buck at about 40 yards starring at me through the trees. I slowly brought up my binoculars and could see pieces of decent sized antler. He was a mature Buck, but I couldn’t tell which one.

Buck staring back at me from his bed. He is the red blotch with the white face in the left center of the pic.

I slowly traded my binos for my camera and got a picture. The stare off lasted another 30 seconds and he turned around. When he did, I got a glimpse of another Buck trotting away behind him that could only have been the Rolling Stone Buck. The body was very large and  the parts of antler I saw had mass. I hustled to my left maintaining my elevation hoping to get a good look at them, but all I saw was dust when I got to where it opened up 50 yards to my left. I didn’t expect this at all, especially being near the bottom of the mountain. This was a new area for me to see Bucks in as well. I hope they stay on this ridge because I’ve been up and down this ridge every which way and know it well. Also it’s half the size of the mountain they are usually on, so it will not take me 6 hours to get to them after I spot them.

The empty bed of a big buck.

This encounter for sure changes my Elk hunting plans for the area. Now I will probably glass that ridge first during the Archery season, then go for Elk in the park.

Bull Moose

I was able to get away for a 2 day scouting trip on the weekend of June 28th, 2014. This was the first Mountain Goat scouting trip and I was going into an area I had lightly penetrated a couple years prior. This time I was planning on going twice as far and focusing more on distance for this trip rather than elevation gain. I wanted to get familiar with the trail and the terrain. I’m not going to give mileage, but I will say I got a lot further than I thought I would. I now have a good idea of what spots I can reasonably scout and hunt in a given amount of time. One thing about Goat scouting in this area is that you can be effective by just hiking up the bottom of the drainage and glassing the cliffy areas. However I will still be making some hikes into the more remote and inaccessible areas when I get a chance, it’s just in my nature!


I started out of the trailhead late morning and it was sunny with patches of cloud cover. The sun was hot, but I still jumped a Doe out of a meadow a couple miles in despite the Wolf tracks in the trail. About a mile after that I took a break and glassed some likely looking Goat habitat. The parts of the mountain I had visible to me were fairly exposed and sunny and it didn’t surprise me to not see Goats this late in the morning. Several miles down the trail, I came over a rise and saw the back end of a what looked like a bear about 20 yards away.


When it took a step forward, I saw a hump on it’s back, which momentarily froze me in my tracks. I then saw that it was a Moose and not a Grizzly! I don’t see many Moose in this part of Idaho, so this was a treat.




This explained the monster Elk tracks I had seen earlier, it was really a young Bull Moose.

Another mile down the trail, I saw a glimpse of dark fur across the river. This turned out to indeed be a nice big Black bear. I couldn’t get very good footage of it before it disappeared into thick brush, but I did get a few pics and video.








Another mile or so after the Bear, I came across a nice sized Buck track in a the trail.









It was in a very Bucky location. The ground was moist, the forbs were waist high and the shrubs where thick. Notice the difference in flora between this pic and the Bear/Moose pics. I will be giving this place a closer look when I Deer hunt this area.









Another mile or so after this, I was finally where I initially wanted to climb out of the canyon to check out some cliffs. It was late in the day but I headed uphill along a creek anyway. I came across another set of nice Buck tracks on a timbered bench and continued up the drainage. When I got to the next bench I was still in heavy timber and started to encounter more and more snow drifts. It was getting late and there were no flat places to set camp, nor was there anywhere I could easily glass from. I had already missed some glassing time and I still had another 1000 feet to climb to get into the basin. Even then I still didn’t know what the visibility would be like. I didn’t want to risk missing any more glassing time with such a short trip so I opted to hike back down where it opened up and glass across the canyon for a while. Then hike the rest of the way down and drop camp in the bottom for the night where I could glass both sides of the canyon in the morning.

I set up and almost immediately saw a lone goat across and down the canyon about a mile away. It was on the move and I never got a good look at it. I decided to head over that direction and get into a good position to glass that area the next morning. I set up camp on a small bench in the bottom of the canyon where I could see the slope he was on the next morning. I was basically on a flat rock where stakes wouldn’t work so I had to tie off my shelter.

IMG_1704It worked and the next morning I sat against that rock my pack is on and glassed for a while. I didn’t see anything so I packed up and glassed my out of the canyon.

IMG_1707As soon as the sun hit the bottom of the canyon it heated up quick. I stopped and glassed the few remaining areas that were in the shade as I headed back, but didn’t spot anything. Next time I will focus more on high elevation north slopes if it’s still really hot weather. I now feel I know the area good enough to effectively hunt it for both Deer and Goats, so progress was made despite only seeing one Goat. The fact that the Goat was alone suggests it was a billy, but it’s body size just didn’t strike me as big. It still has my curiosity though, so we will see what happens in the next few months.

Trail Camera Collection and a Goat Tag!

I made two trips in May of 2014 to collect my three trail cameras that have been out since last year. My first trip was to a location that is just above 7000 feet on a bench that Elk like to hang out on. The snow was still deep, but firm enough to stay afloat in the morning.


I finally made it to the trailcam, if I had decided to try this a week earlier I probably wouldn’t have found it.


The second trailcam in this area was down closer to the road on what I suspected to be a minor migration trail. I was hoping to get some pics of the Rolling Stone Buck and whatever herd Bulls were in the area as they headed for the wintering ground. I did get some Elk migration action, but no Bucks.



I made the second trip in late May to the hell hole where I harvested my 2013 Bull. This camera was about 7 miles in so I picked up a Bear tag and stretched the trip out into 2 days. Maybe the Bear I saw last season would be there again. It was a hot hike with a lot of Ticks again, but seemed easier this season. On the way in along a narrow rocky section of the trail was evidence of a recent Mountain Lion kill. Mountain Lions pluck the fur off the deer they kill and it leaves a big pile of fur. I could even make out remnants of fur from the carcass being drug up the mountain. I wanted to follow the trail and possibly see if the carcass was a buck or doe, but I just didn’t have the time to spend on it this trip. When I got into the hell hole I set up camp in the same spot as last year, this time using my 2 man enclosed bivy. Flat spots are hard to find in here and a hammock would work perfect for this type of trip.


I wouldn’t trust this shelter in a heavy storm, but for summer scouting it’s just fine and has enough room.

IMG_1595After getting my shelter setup and stocking up on water I decided to do some recon. I headed up the feeder creek that goes up the canyon I was in to look for Bear sign.


All I found was last years droppings, nothing fresh from this year, so I decided to go up the ridge to get the trailcam with the last few hours of light that was left. When I got up on the ridge I glassed back to the other side a little bit mainly just checking out the terrain.


In the other direction, the Elk where in the same place on the slope as they had been the previous year and just below where I harvested my Bull in 2013. The recruitment was decent, but not as good as last year. I carefully continued climbing up the ridge so as to not spook the Elk. The camera had been knocked out of position and was facing directly across the trail and up in the air, but had a lot of video on it still. I later found out this had been done by a cow Elk about 20 days after I set it out. On the way back down the ridge I got busted by a Cow across the canyon and was serenaded with barks most of the way back. The next morning I crawled out of the shelter and saw a doe with 2 fawns on the hillside across the creek from my camp.


That morning I hiked up the canyon even farther doing some more recon. I don’t plan to hunt Elk in this location this season, but I would like to make a trip for Deer. I know there is some decent Bucks in there somewhere. The upper end of the canyon looked great for Deer, there was some open sage covered southerly slopes, quakies, timber pockets, water, and rocks. It looked so good I didn’t want to go any farther up and risk spooking a deer, so I crossed the creek to get out of the prime areas and set up on a snowbank to glass for a while. It was too late in the day to really see any Bucks, but I got familiar with the potential pockets and made a plan for next time.

IMG_1613    On the way back to camp I came across a nice blocky Deer track that was probably made by a decent 3 or 4 year old Buck. For reference my headlight is 2.25″ wide. This track is not wide or long enough to have come from a monster Buck, but he might be a shooter.


It was a hot hike out and so I strapped my gun to the back of my pack and took my time, enjoying every bit of it.




 Mountain Goat Tag!

A couple days after returning from this trip, I found out that I drew the unit 39 Mountain Goat tag that was available for the 2014 season. This is a once in a lifetime tag here in the lower 48 and I will probably be dedicating most all of my scouting time to Goats this season, so stay tuned!

2013 Idaho Elk Hunt

It started snowing in the high country about a week before my Elk hunt. Since I had never hunted this area in these conditions, I didn’t know if the snow would push the Elk I had located during the Basin of Bulls scouting trip. There was only about a foot of snow in that part of the high country and so the big decision was still whether to go in high or go in low. After much deliberation I decided to go in high. The forecast was mostly clear for opening day but a little more snow was expected the day before and the day after. It was early November and the winter weather was here to stay.

The day before the opener I arrived to my takeoff point about mid morning and started hiking in. It was slow going with the snow on the ground this time, but it wasn’t nearly as deep as I thought it would be. I was gaining confidence with every step that going in high was a good decision. I made it to a suitable camp site and set up my shelter in the late afternoon just as it started snowing.


I then started collecting firewood for my homemade stove that I fashioned out of a mailbox. This was difficult in these conditions and it took the rest of the day to get a good stockpile. The only dry wood in wet conditions is usually the dead branches that are up off the ground, still attached to the bottom of the trees, and covered by the tree canopy. However, even a lot of this squaw wood as it’s called, had a layer of frost on it from the wind combined with the moist air.


Since I was in a fog bank  I didn’t bother glassing that night, instead I headed up to the lake to resupply on water. Half the lake was covered in ice and the water was really cold. These are good conditions to use a pump in order to keep your hands out of the water, but I was using Aqua Mira type tablets in order to cut pack weight so my glove came off and my hand got wet to dip the bladder.


Upon returning to camp, I got a fire going in my home made stove and prepared my gear for the next day. A stove in your floorless shelter in these conditions is keystone to making these late high elevation snowy hunts comfortable and productive. It’s the difference between “surviving” and “living” on these hunts. It really pumped out the heat, and it wasn’t long before I was down to my base layer and unzipping the doors part way on my shelter.


Due to the expected conditions and nighttime temperature I had packed in two sleeping bags to combat the cold temperatures. Although heavy, it worked out great and I slept plenty warm. A good nights sleep is one of the most crucial steps to a successful backpack hunt in any season. I have learned the hard way that I sleep cold and to take whatever steps necessary to stay warm, no matter what the weight penalty is.

It snowed most of the night and the next morning I was up before daylight and headed to my glassing point. It was clear and crisp as the sun came up and I could feel the temperature dropping as I started the last scramble to the top. The talus slope was covered with snow this time actually making parts of the scramble a little easier.


I got to my glassing spot and set up just in time to see the herd of Elk across the basin about a mile and a half below. They were heading up to the top of the ridge that runs along the bottom of the basin and perpendicular to my glassing location. The main hiking trail runs just on the other side of this long ridge in the bottom of the canyon. I could see one of the five point Bulls among the cows and as I was glassing the rest of the hillside, I heard a shot. The Elk spooked and headed single file up the ridge for a couple hundred yards and disappeared over the top to the trail side. Some other hunters had come in from the bottom and the Elk where way down low on the ridge that is adjacent to the main hiking trail. They hunted it just right for those conditions! I waited and glassed for another 45 minutes to see if the herd was going to follow the ridge all the way up closer to where I was, but I never saw them come back over.

I wasn’t terribly disappointed, I knew before I left that I had a narrow window of opportunity for this hunt to work. I needed to be on the Elk first thing in the morning and have a Bull down by mid morning in order to have enough time to pack the meat out before the next storm came in and the road I drove in on potentially got impassible. Even if the other hunters hadn’t come in from the bottom, the Elk were still to far away and I still would have been out of luck. I now knew where the Elk lived, and with more snow in the next couple of days, they would get pushed back to that sunny southerly slope. This is also where I had seen them on the Hell Hole scouting trip I made in to the area over the summer. I had a game plan and was already looking forward to the next hunt.

I watched the weather carefully the rest of the week and it snowed every day. It wasn’t until the last day of the season that the forecast was clear and so I headed out the day prior to the last day of the season. This time I was coming in from the bottom and once again I was on a time crunch, only this time it was due to the end of the season approaching. I had a plan and it was going to make for a long day, but with a good probability for success. I would need to hike all the way to end of the canyon and then get up on the ridge in order to stay upwind and hunt my way down to them at the snowline. Also this way I would have a better chance at encountering the Bulls first as they usually bed higher than the cows. This would be a 7 mile hike up the canyon and then a 1200 foot scramble up the side of the mountain to get into position on the ridge and I would split it up in two days.

I was the only one at the trailhead when I arrived mid morning. There was fresh Horse shit on the trail the whole way in, but no evidence of a camp at the foot of the ridge. I dropped camp at the foot of the ridge where the creek came out of the basin.This is where I would end my hunt the next day and at about half way up the canyon. I was much lower in elevation this time and the ground was clear of snow with lot’s of dry wood available. What a difference a few thousand feet make.


I had a little time at the end of the day so I did a little recon and followed the trail up the canyon a little. I saw a few Cows feeding on top of the ridge above camp right where I expected them to be. Things were looking good so far and it was going to be a good hunt.

I had a lot of ground to cover the next morning and so I started hiking a little after 4 AM. I left my spotting scope in the truck and my tripod in camp, I was going to still hunt the ridge and all I needed were my 8X binoculars at this point. I made it up the canyon and a little ways up the mountain by the time it started to get light out.


The snow was getting deeper the farther up I went and it slowed me down considerably, I finally hit the top of the ridge at about 12:30 AM after a tough scramble trudging through the snow up the side of the mountain. It was one of those nice clear sunny days after a snowstorm, great for Elk hunting!


I was a mile or more above where the Elk were going to be, and needed to descend down to the snowline. I glassed my way down the ridge and about an hour latter, started getting to the snowline. I cut a fresh set of Fox tracks and heard the Magpies squawking. It looked like those other hunters were successful and If I didn’t see anything I could always follow the Fox tracks and Magpie squawks to the carcass for fun. As I continued to slowly hunt my way down the ridge I started to see more fresh Fox tracks which got me more interested in following the tracks to the carcass and possibly collecting a nice Cross Fox Pelt. A few more steps later I saw A Bull through some brush bedded out in the open on top of the ridge. I was in a low spot with the bush in front of me, and only my head and shoulders were somewhat visible to him so he wasn’t too concerned yet. He was about 60 yards out and I could easily see through my binoculars that he was the small brown 5 point I had seen while scouting. I scanned around looking for the bigger Bulls, but couldn’t see much from where I was. I know better than to move around to much, so I quickly ended my search and debated on whether or not to take this Bull. This was the smallest Bull out of the four Bulls I had watched while scouting and I was really hoping for a shot on one of the bigger ones. This was the last afternoon of the season, and this was my last opportunity for the year, so I took it. I shot him in his bed at about 50 yards and he got up and stumbled one way, than the other, and I shot him again to anchor him so he didn’t head down the mountain. He was a nice symmetrical 5 point but with a miniature set of antlers, a classic raghorn.

IMG_1494  IMG_1495

Even these small Bulls are huge animals as compared to Deer! I hastily began breaking him down and filling meat sacks. When I’m this far from the truck I like to fillet the meat off the bone. The hillside was mostly open and I had no choice but to hang my meat in the sun for a while as I continued to butcher away. Although sunny, it was still a cool November day so I wasn’t to worried about spoilage for the hour or so the meat was exposed while I finished up. I put the backstraps in one bag, each rear quarter in two bags, and the front quarters and neck in the other.


When I finished up, I had about 2 hours of daylight left and I taxied the meat down the ridge towards camp a little ways. I made it about half way down the mountain by dark and cached it for the night. I shot the Elk right about where I expected too and had the logistics of the pack out planned prior to the hunt, it was just a matter of carrying out the plan from this point forward. I went ahead and hauled camp, backstraps, and the head back to the truck that night. I wanted to take the head home to practice my Elk caping skills with, so I packed it out whole. It was a long heavy hike out that night, but the adrenaline of the harvest got me through it once again. With all the awkward stuff and camp already packed out, all I had to do the next day was pack the meat the 5 miles out.

I started up the trail the next morning at first light and made it to my meat cache about noon. It was going to be a long day, but I felt I could get it all out that day.


To save time and another trip up the mountain, I loaded all three sacks of remaining meat in my pack. This made an awkward load but a good quality rigid framed pack like my Kifaru can handle it while maintaining the best level of comfort a 100 pound plus load can have. These Kifaru packs and frames excel in long distance load hauling.

Kifaru 4800 Highcamp with Bikini Frame full of Elk meat.

This consisted of all four boned out quarters and it was so heavy that I had to put the pack on while sitting down and then roll over to my belly and kind of crawl up to my feet. It was a slow trip down and I made it with only one slip out, luckily it was so steep my ass didn’t have far to fall. When I got to the bottom I was wore out so I did the reaming 4 and a half miles in two loads.The flatness of the trail was a relief.


I would pack a load for about a half hour, hang it, and go back to get the other one carrying it about a half hour past the first one. This method slowly gets the meat closer and closer and by the end of the day, or the next day, you don’t have to hike way back in again. For longer distances I prefer this method and for shorter distances, 3 miles or less, I just go ahead and make two or three whole trips. I did the last mile and a half in the dark and finally left the trailhead at about 9 PM that night. It was a great hunt and a lot of fun, but I was glad to be finally heading home for a warm shower and greasy meal.

I finished trimming and packaging all of the meat a couple days later, and we made some delicious backstrap sandwiches for dinner. We eat Elk at least once a week and each meal brings me closer and closer to the next season.

Backstrap Sandwich
Backstrap Sandwich



Basin of Bulls

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.

Young Billy

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!




The Rolling Stone Buck Hunt

The long awaited for Idaho General Deer season was finally here. On the afternoon of October 9, 2013 prior to opening day, I headed up the highway to my primary hunting spot to hunt The Rolling Stone Buck. This is now the second season I will have been trying to harvest this Buck and I had a good feeling about it this time. I had scouted the area a lot over the past 2 years and had a good grasp on where I would see the Bucks and how to not be detected in the process. The terrain and wind is complicated in this area. The mountains are big and the slope I see the Bucks on is nothing but steep avalanche chutes. The wind this time of year is still variable throughout most of the day with not much consistency. Despite the difficulty’s I had a few strategy’s worked out and another seasons worth of lessons learned to apply to the situation.

I opted to set up camp at the trail head and hike the mile and a half in each morning, so as to minimize the risk of spooking the Deer with my presence in their home range. Even busting a Doe from the bottom of the canyon put’s the Deer on high alert, which pushes the Bucks into the timber where you will never see them. There is a network of trails in this area that the Deer and Elk use exclusively for traveling and escaping. They all keep their eyes and noses on these trails, both to detect incoming danger and to detect fleeing siblings. I still don’t know where the Bucks go when they get spooked off that slope, so this hunt is a one hit wonder for now. I suppose I could push the envelope and foot hunt the timber, but the odds of success are very low when your on the move. All that usually happens is you educate the deer and makes things more difficult for future hunts to that area.

I had a little time in the afternoon after getting camp set up, so I headed up the side of the canyon to glass the hillside I planned to hike up the next morning. This is good practice because if you spook something hiking to your glassing spot, your hunt could be done before it legally starts. When the sun went down I heard a bugle and saw a Raghorn with a small herd of cows and calves feeding on the mountain I wanted to glass from the next morning.  Luckily they were not where I planned on sitting and I could sneak around them such that if I spook them they would go the opposite direction and the Bucks would probably not know. I took pictures and video of the Elk, but never saw any Deer that evening.


I gave myself about 2 hours the next morning to get up, hike in, and get into the first glassing position. This worked out just about right this time. I heard the Raghorn bugle a couple hundred yards behind me at first light as I began to glass for the day and was relieved to know I must have snuck in without being detected. I was on a northerly slope glassing to a southeasterly slope and it was very cold, I had all my layers on to combat the hard freeze but was still getting chilled. I glassed until 11 AM and didn’t see anything that morning. I knew from scouting that those particular Bucks bed by then so I ate a butthole sandwich and headed back to camp for a couple hours to take a nap.


For the 3 PM feeding I glassed a shade pocket on a different part of the slope where I had seen a Buck feeding in the afternoon the prior season. I always seem to see Deer and Elk up and feeding at around 3 PM for 30 or 40 minutes, even on hot days. That time frame has become my most productive evening glassing time in this area as well as others. However nothing was there this evening, not even an Elk.

Opening day came and went. It was pretty slow to say the least, but I know from experience that patience always pays off, especially when your hunting a low density area in October. Or maybe we just tell ourselves that to justify being stubborn. I tentatively decided that evening to give it at least 3 mornings before packing up and giving the area a rest. That’s usually about what it takes in lower density areas. There is only about 3 Bucks in this drainage and I can only effectively glass the one area of their home range so it takes time for them to move through.

The next morning started out the same, then around 8:00 I got to watch a couple Cows and Calves trot up the bottom of the canyon below me. They acted as if they may have been spooked out of the main canyon, but I never saw anyone. I found a little bit better place to glass from that morning, but it was just as cold on that shady north slope as the day before. When the sun gets high enough in the sky to finally hit you, it sure feels good to soak up the heat and thaw out for a while.


Around 11:00 AM I ate and headed back to camp again. This time to change things up instead of napping, I spent the middle of the day prospecting in the creek near camp. I came up empty on that too, but it was a nice change of pace.


I had a great feeling about the third morning. I had not seen any Deer thus far and it was about time for the Bucks to have moved to the part of their home range I was watching. I was a little earlier getting to my spot that morning and it seemed to be even colder. Within the first 5 minutes of glassing I spotted 2 Bucks. Closer inspection showed me it was Sleepy and the small 3 point. Shortly after I spotted them Sleepy bedded out in the open about 8:00 AM, just as he did when I first found him in July. This time they where about a half mile further up the canyon and I could not find The Rolling Stone Buck, he didn’t seem to be with them.

sleepybedded sideview

I knew from scouting in July that these Bucks where going to get up and move in 30 or 40 minutes to more cover for the rest of the day. As I watched him chew his cud, the reality that the Rolling Stone Buck was off by himself in the timber started to set in. He was an older age class Deer now and I gave him a lesson last season on that slope. Initially I didn’t want to go after Sleepy, but I caved in. I’m there to hunt and this was an opportunity at a nice 150 class Idaho public land Buck. At the very least I could educate him too and have two big Bucks to chase next season. At about 9:30 ish they got up and headed for some thicker shade. I marked Sleepy using a dead tree I called toothpicks, due to the trunk splitting into 4 smaller trunks about half way up. This was a very recognizable feature. The 3 point bedded a little bit below Sleepy. I made one last scan across the whole slope, and saw something almost straight across from me and up high on the mountain. It turned out to be 2 Elk feeding. I was going to have to sneak by these Elk in order to get to the Buck. I remembered from before how steep the slope was and figured it would take me 4 or 5 hours to go around, sneak by the Elk or at least flush them uphill, and get on the Buck . The hunt was finally on.

I scrambled up the mountain under the mid day sun and as I got close to the top the wind became steady and from a different direction. Out of all 360 directions the wind can come from it will usually change half way through the stalk and end up coming from behind you. I have yet to find a way around this. I was still about a half mile from the Buck and maybe even a little uphill so I stayed optimistic and forged on.


It was close to 3 PM when I finally got to where I could start to see “toothpicks”. I was going extremely slow and the slope was just as steep as last year making it very difficult to keep solid footing. The biggest issue in this type of terrain is the random rocks rolling down the mountain as you step. There is no way to get in range without causing a little bit of an avalanche, but I managed to do pretty good with careful footing this time. I was able to verify “toothpicks” with a picture I had taken through my spotting scope and positioned myself the best I could before cresting the next high spot. I knew I was close and I scanned with my binoculars constantly. The mountain looked way different now that I was on it and I didn’t know exactly where the Buck was bedded. I wanted to search around for his tracks but this would just cause a lot of racket and movement. When I got to where I could see pretty good over the high spot I was able to see the tree clump that I thought the Buck bedded in. I didn’t see the Buck though. I slowly proceeded scanning the rest of the slope with my binoculars until I got within 50 yards of the tree clump and still nothing. When I finally got to the tree clump there was in fact a deer bed in it, but I really could not tell if the Buck had bedded there that morning. It was for sure not being heavily used. There was a large deep canyon just beyond the tree clump and it is entirely possible that the Buck continued into the canyon to bed somewhere else. I could not see into this canyon from where I was glassing that morning and in hindsight it would have been smarter to move up the ridge when I first spotted the Bucks so as to get more straight across from them and watch them bed more precisely. I was not terribly disappointed, It was still a challenging and fun stalk. In fact in a way I am kind of glad I was unsuccessful, because now next year there will be two even bigger Bucks to hunt!


The Tripod Buck Hunt

On September 14th 2013 I headed out for the first hunt of the season. This was the General Season early rifle hunt in one of the Frank Church Wilderness units. My scouting trip into this area a few weeks earlier yielded very little results. It took 3 days to find a Buck and Elk sign was nonexistent. Based on this scouting trip, I opted to not buy an Elk tag for this area and decided to focus on Deer and Wolf for the hunt. I intended on going back to hunt the Buck called Frank but plan A was quickly foiled by road conditions. Although my truck is capable enough to have crossed this, I decided to play it safe due to the pending rain in the forecast. It could easily wash out to a point that wouldn’t allow me to get back while I was on the hunt and then I’d be screwed!

Time for plan B
Time for plan B

This is a great example of the importance of plan B and sometimes plan C. I had only physically been into the area that was on the other side of this washout, but I had scouted other areas on the map. When I see Deer off the road on the way in to an area I plan to scout, I take note and study the map of that area as an alternative for next time. For this occasion I had actually seen a decent Buck cross the road in another area, so I had no hesitation in where to go next (plan B).

He wasn’t a very big Buck, but he had character and I’m more than happy with that. I will call him the Tripod Buck, for the tripod of points he had on one side and I knew he would be near where I had seen him cross the road because that was part of his home range. I reviewed my map and picked out a location that would give me a good vantage point, especially a good view of the ridge I had seen him head for 2 weeks or so earlier, and started hiking.


It was a slippery initial hike due to the steep loose ground and I had to cross a rock slide again. Crossing these rock slides is starting to equate to seeing Deer on the trip.


When I made it to the top of the ridge I started looking for a flat enough spot to make camp. This was difficult and I ended up having to hike a little farther along the ridge than I really wanted to, but I found a great little bowl that had some flat ground, protection from the wind, and a view.

Camp location is very critical in these burn areas. All the trees are ready to fall down at any time from just the slightest bit of wind. You really want to take into account which way trees are leaning and which way the wind is blowing and set up accordingly. Go ahead and assume they are going to fall down in the middle of the night!

I found a relatively flat area that wasn’t in the path of any widowmakers and set up my BCS2. It was mid afternoon by now and so I took a rest once I got situated. I really like the convenience of the dual doors on the BCS2.

Looking out my backdoor!
Looking out my backdoor!

After an enjoyable rest I headed up the ridge above camp to find a glassing location. Despite the vantage point I was on, I wanted to look over the basin and ridge where the Buck had headed to first. In the last ten minutes of light I spotted 2 Deer heading up hill about half a mile directly across the basin from me. I watched them through the spotting scope as long as I could before it just got to dark to see. I could tell they where Bucks, but couldn’t get a good look at them. The lingering glare from the sun combined with the distance was just a little more than my spotting scope could handle. Despite the darkness, when they skylined themselves on the ridge I was able to briefly get a look at the antlers. One was a forky or small 3 point and the other was the Tripod Buck I had seen crossing the road while scouting. I could make out that he was about 24″ wide and looked like a 3 point on one side with some small stickers on his tines and main beam. On the other side he was a 4 point with his rear forks being a crabby tripod, technically a five point I guess. These Bucks were on the move and combined with the glare, I couldn’t get any pictures, but he had great character and the hunt was on for tomorrow when the season opened.

The next morning I got up on the peak just above camp and glassed a new basin and the slope that held the Bucks the night before. I had hoped that they would come back and bed in the same spot for the day, but it was beginning to look like that wasn’t going to happen. After the first hour and a half of the day I had not seen anything in the basin nor the slope, so I moved off the peak and along the ridge that split the two basins I was interested in to the next glassing spot. There where Buck and a few Bull tracks all along this ridge of varying ages. I was defiantly in an area they use. By the end of the morning I had made it to the last peak on the ridge and had a good view of the slope and ridge that the Bucks where on the night before. I still hadn’t seen anything by about 10:30 AM and I knew that they where probably bedded down by now wherever they where. I could now see that there where some pretty good timber patches in the direction they had headed the night before on the backside of the slope that would be a great place to “hole up” for the season. From the ridge I was on I could hear the ATV’s going up and down the road and I know the Bucks could too. It makes sense that they would move over the hill to a more secluded part of their range. Perhaps that was exactly what they where doing last night when everyone was showing up and also why they didn’t feed much as they went over the hill.

I didn’t want to get any closer to the area, so after my morning glassing sessionI headed down into the basin behind me to get water. There was a lake that looked fairly close, but it ended up being about a 600 foot decent and about a mile away.


I stocked up on water, ate, and loafed around for a while. It would be a good place to camp, but then my scent would be carried by the thermals up to some of the ridges around the basin, and I would have to climb 6 or 7 hundred feet every morning to glass new area. This isn’t always real efficient and will tire you out quickly. There where a lot of fairly fresh Elk sign in the meadows adjacent to the lake and I had kind of wished I had got an Elk tag. They where in the area, but it would be one of the toughest pack outs there is especially for the smaller antlered Elk that the area is known for.

I made it back up on the ridge by about 3:00 PM and began glassing from the peak just above where I had seen the Bucks. A lot of times in Idaho I have seen Bucks get up around 3 to feed around and change beds. Even if they are still in the shade, they seem to like to change the direction they are facing due to the shifting breezes throughout the day. They tend to face downwind so they can see and hear in the direction that they can’t smell.

I had a great view of the area they where in the day before but still didn’t see anything, it was starting to get discouraging. I headed back along the ridge towards camp, with the plan now to be glassing from where I was yesterday and at the same time. I glassed thoroughly after the sun went down until I couldn’t see anymore with no results once again.

It rained a little that night and it made my shelter quite a bit heavier when I packed it up. Today was the last day of the hunt and since this Buck was not a monster, I decided to get aggressive and still hunt through the area he was in and then head back down the mountain. I glassed until about 10 AM from the usual spots with the usual results and then moved in to where they crossed the saddle 2 days prior. I wanted to find their tracks and then track them if possible. I did find a lightly rained on Buck track, but the ground in that area wasn’t very conducive to tracks like the other areas. So I just went ahead and still hunted the thicker timbered areas within a square mile in the traditional fashion for the bulk of the day with no results. This also gives me a good understanding of how the terrain really is rather than what it looks like from half a mile away. Next time I hunt this area I will have an advantage when it comes time to make a stalk.

I usually don’t expect much when hunting areas that I haven’t scouted, but this trip turned out to be another good one. I saw Bucks and learned a new area! I am looking forward to watching this Buck for the next few years, and in hindsight kind of glad I didn’t get him If he survives, he might turn out to be a really spectacular nontypical.