An Outdoorsman's Journal
Rocky Mountain Elk Hunt/The Camps
I recently returned from what for myself was an epic adventure that I did by myself and that was, hunting elk and mule deer while living in the mountains in southern Montana for 8-nights. I think you will enjoy this series of columns as each one is very unique. As always, thanks for reading.
Wednesday, October 19th
High 71, low 46
I left my home near Necedah yesterday driving a pickup with 354,000 miles and pulling a trailer. The Chevy Hotel would put on another 2600 miles flawlessly and not use a drop of oil. I took interstate 94 and North Dakota was loaded with ducks and what I also saw was low water in every form and every state. The rivers in Montana are extremely low. I would drive to where I Iast hunted for elk in 2007 with then 19-year-old Ryan Moll. On that hunt
Ryan harvested a rag horn and we both filled our mule deer tags. This would be my fourth elk hunt and all of the past hunts have had major snowstorms on either opening day or the day before. I would arrive on a Wednesday with the season opening on Saturday and I was going to hike the
mountains as much as possible and when I found "elk paradise." I would build a spike camp near my intended hunting area and have a base camp at the base of the mountain in a US Forest Service campsite. I was well aware that on opening weekend a major blizzard was forecast for the area, and I
would use a small tent that was well tarped for my spike camp. My base camp would be made of my pop-up of 13x8 Eskimo ice fishing shack. I put a 20x30 tarp that was heavily roped above the shack and had my usual kitchen, cot, propane lights, heater and cook stove. First failure, I simply cannot find the mountain pass where Ryan and I based and hunted. I am worn down from the drive, pulling a trailer on some difficult mountain roads, “backing up often," and running out of daylight. On three occasions I spoke with Montana mountain men and though all of them tried to help me my
situation was not pretty. Major learning experience, everyone is talking grizzly bear and carrying both bear spray and pistols. There are lots of stories of bear encounters. I had spray, no pistol. After 40-miles, and lots of stress I may have found where I camped/hunted with Ryan. The weather is
perfect, and I saw elk tracks on a short hike. On this night I slept in my trailer and let me tell you bear problems are a constant conversation. There
are a lot of rules pertaining to cooking in tents and how you store food. Foolish moves can cost people, bears, or both their lives.
Thursday, October 20th
High 73, low 42
The first thing that I did this morning was begin to climb the mountain and explore. My goal was to find open grass areas "sometimes referred to as parks" where elk and mule deer feed. I am literally on top of the world both physically and mentally and for the first 2000 feet do not see anything that interests me. I keep exploring and have forgotten my compass. I get physical and stay on the move. I find more sign and keep moving, soon I found an area where it is obvious that elk are nearby, I keep moving. I come to an opening where the trees are torn apart by a bull, there is some
grass and I know I have found home. I had three trail cameras, and a chip, not cellular as they are illegal. I put the cameras on trails and am totally into the game. Cameras can be used for pictures but not hunting, I retired them once the season began.
I do the nearly 3-mile hike down to the base camp that I have yet to build. For three hours I work on the most perfect base camp that in my mind for the last three months I could dream up. In the middle of the afternoon, I strap on my fully loaded backpack, climb the mountain, and build my spike camp which is where I will sleep some nights to avoid the long climb, I feel good about my plan.
Friday, October 21 st
High 68, low 44
Today was physical and also a great day. My plan was to sleep at my spike camp and whack an elk or mule deer the following morning. In the middle of the afternoon I climbed the mountain with a big load, was happy to see that my spike camp had no bear damage and then went the nearly one mile to where I would hunt the next morning and checked my cameras. Two out of three had multiple elk pictures and everything was perfect in my world.
I went back to spike camp ate nuts and food, you do not cook and at dark went into my tent with a loaded 300 BAR. One of the real stories of the trip began that very minute and that was falling rain that would soon change with dropping temperatures.
Live large, Sunset