An Outdoorsman's Journal

An Outdoorsman's Journal

                                                                    Eight Nights on a Montana Mountain/The Slog called Life


Hello friends,

       This is the 3rd and last column that I will be writing on my elk hunt, and it will have a lot to do with the day-to-day existence of a solo elk hunter living in mountains where a heavy snow has fallen. A large elk and gear have to be returned just shy of two miles down a mountain in a whatever it takes method. I also was still hunting and trying to fill my mule deer tag in southern Montana near Bozeman.

Monday, October 24th
High 25, low 14

       Yesterday I packed/hauled two Otter Sled loads of meat and antlers to my base camp and last night I began the process which would cover the next four days and that was drying out, clothes, my gun and gear.  My 300 BAR took such a beating that I retired it for my BAR 30:06. My lodging is my 13x8 Eskimo ice shack with a 20x30 tarp over the top of it and between my Mr. Heater and two propane lights, life is much more comfortable than my spike camp.

       The weather has turned into hard winter for now and last night I cooked inner loins from my 6x6 bull inside of my tent.  My theory is it's too nasty for Mr.Griz to mess with me.

       Seven days ago, I left my home near Necedah and today is the first day where I have to honestly say that I am wearing down. Just as much as moving weight and climbing or descending is the simple fact that for several days I have been wet and living on squirrel food due to the fact that I should not cook due to bear issues.

      As space is always an issue, here is a condensed version of a great day. I woke up at 4:00, I did not want to do the 2.5 hour trek up the mountain to where I had harvested my elk. I was hoping to see a mule deer though. The blizzard had just stopped, there was 16-inches and in some places, it was waist high.

      Here is my reality, a max of two minutes climbing, 15 second break etc. Spike camp was at the two-hour point and that's where I had my 300, as I had not switched guns yet. It is still dark; I had left my 300 in my sleeping bag and it is frozen. I thawed it and made the final trek to the top of the mountain. There was not a track, every tree was dropping snow on a constant basis as it was almost entirely spruce, and they really catch the snow.

      As usual, I am soaked, from sweat and snow. I hunted for two hours and decided to break my spike camp and haul meat and gear. More importantly, I decided to explore. I am my breaking spike camp, everything is much larger and stiffer than when it was 70-degrees, four days ago.

      I am folding my tent and feel I am being stared at. Not 40-yards away in the timber is a large, bodied elk observing me. I cannot see its head and just like that it is gone. Camp is broken and I will have three trips of meat and gear, in other words, I will finish tomorrow. I might add, this is day three of the hunting season, I have yet to see another hunter.

     The death slog. I am going down the mountain and as usual I fall a lot. On several occasions when I fell (which was almost always forward on my face) I was 100-percent covered by snow, don't panic, it's not deep.

     I am watching the Rocky Mountains, my water is frozen, the wind is harsh and down in the valley I can hear cow elk talking. I just can't see them because of the snow that has created a wall on every tree branch. As I always do, I listened and picked openings. The cow elk appeared in two openings, 300-yards a part followed by calves and each group had a spike which my guess is they were the cows 1.5-year-old calves.

     Though I wanted a mule deer, I saw so little sign, I did not have realistic hopes. At dark, I made my way down the mountain to my stash and hauled as much as I could.  I left camp at 5:00 and returned at 7:30, it was the dark to dark shift.

     For the next two days I repeated this process, and it was very interesting to observe my body literally losing its steam, but I never lost hope.

     On the last day of my hunt, I met two Montana, lifelong elk hunters and it was cool to talk to birds of a feather.

     I lost too much weight, but it will come back. I harvested a beautiful bull and met my goal of doing a solo elk hunt in a go for it way.

     Push yourself, Sunset