2021 Southeast Idaho Elk

Lilhowie83

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I have been trying to find a few minutes to start writing a summary of mine and my families 2021 elk hunts. Much like @Duck-Slayer, our house has deemed this year the year of the elk.

Background

I have been looking forward to this hunt for the last 20 + years. My mom died 32 years ago when I was 6 and the following fall, when my older brother was 12 I was 7 and my younger brother was 6, my dad started dragging us along on his hunting trips with his brothers, my uncles, and my older cousins. The first few years we mostly just hunted mule deer in the area that my dad an his brothers had been hunting for the last 30 years, and now I hunt with my sons another 30 years later.

Fast forward a few years and it seemed like either my dad, one of my uncles or one of my cousins drew an elk tag in a pretty desirable elk controlled hunt in Southeast Idaho. So the next few years my little brother and I would spend every fall following my dad, uncles and cousins walking around the elk woods. I remember falling in love with this part of the world and falling in love with hunting. All year long I would forward to returning to hunting camp and hearing the stories my dad and uncles shared from the last 30 years and then getting back to chasing deer and elk.

After about 5 years, so when I was 15 or 16 my dad quit hunting because of health reasons and just being to busy with work. I continued to hunt deer and elk in the units close to home but never made it back to this area that I fell in love with during the previous hunting seasons.

20 years ago when, I was 18, and started becoming more self sufficient, I started applying for elk every year in that same area that I had fallen in love with a few years earlier. Over the last 20 years I have applied to hunt elk in that same unit 16 times with no success. The only 4 years that I didn't apply were 4 years that we spent in North Dakota working in the oilfield. After 15 years of unsuccessful attempts, I wondered if I was ever going to get to hunt elk in this area. Throughout the years of applying, I constantly picked my dad's brain for information about the unit and areas that he liked to hunt. And sharing stories from his years of hunting. In 2009 my dad was diagnosed with Demintia and in May of this year he passed away from the effects of Demintia. So at that point I decided even if I didn't draw an elk tag, I was going to hunt the general deer season in that unit, to try and rekindle some of those memories from my childhood.

As application season approached I sent in my application for elk for the same unit and same hunt that I had 15 times previously. My oldest son was going to be busy with football, so I didn't have him apply for any elk hunts, I just bought him an otc tag for a late cow hunt that he would have time to do after football ended and before wrestling started. My oldest daughter doesn't love hunting as much but mostly wants to get out and spend time with dad, so I also bought her an otc late cow elk tag that we could do after we had wrapped up all of our other hunts for the year. This was going to be my 11 year old first year hunting elk, he shot a deer last year. So I decided to swing for the fences for him and put him in for the same unit as me, but for the hunt that started the day after mine ended, that way I would hopefully have a good handle on the area and the elk if I drew my tag.

I can still remember very vividly where I was and what I was doing on July 1st. As my coworkers and I were waiting on our boss to show up with some parts so we could finish replacing an old 2"galvanized water line, I decided to log on and check the Idaho draw results. Holy [email protected]#$, I drew. That's has to be a mistake. Log out and check again, Holy [email protected]#! Sure enough I drew. I log out and log into my 11 year Olds account. Holy [email protected]#$, he drew too. My boss showed back up with parts and the first thing I said to him was, "I'll be off the entire month of October." He said "OK" and we were set to go.
 

Lilhowie83

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Pre Season Scouting

I decided to put as much as I could into this tag. Two weeks after I drew I started my scouting process. Actually I have been scouting this area for quite a few years by talking to my dad and uncles, by pouring over old maps my dad had and b scouring Google Earth and ONX. My first scouting trip I put on 15 miles, saw some amazing country, checked out several drainages that I wanted to and found plenty of elk sign and alot of resources that makes this area hold such a good population of elk. One thing that surprised me the most was that on such a dry year, there was still so much water pouring out of all of these springs and seeps. Finding water was not going to be a problem on this hunt. 20210723_061238.jpg 20210723_074551.jpg 20210723_120606.jpg

I came across this old bull that you could tell made it through the winter and died after he shed his antlers, because his pedicils had grown back about 8 inches from his skull, but his teeth were pretty much gone.
20210723_081223.jpg

I went scouting every other weekend for the next two months. I put on a lot of miles, covered a lot of country and saw a lot of elk. As the scouting progressed I started to formulate a good solid game plan for how I wanted to approach things on opening day. 20210918_064713.jpg 20210918_070640.jpg

You can't tell in this picture, but below the elk in this picture, there is a very big bull staying right above the tree in in that clearing.
20210918_070640.jpg 20210918_083010.jpg
20210918_104925.jpg

One of my favorite things about my preseason scouting, was the nostalgia and the memories that came flooding back. One of my favorite scouting days I spent just riding the 4 wheeler around a good portion of the unit just checking different trailheads and access points. As I was riding around I decided to see if I could find the little basin where we used to camp. I had a pretty good idea where it was and how to get there, but it had been a long time since I was there last. As I rode the 4 wheeler down the hill and made a hard right to drop into this small basin, I was overcome with emotion as I could see the exact spot where we used to camp. I rode the 4 wheeler down the rest of the way and quietly reflected on the memories made and the stories that were shared around the campfire in that exact spot. It had been 20+ years since I had been in that spot, but it was like I was there just yesterday.
 

Lilhowie83

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Jun 19, 2020
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241
Brother- I'm very excited about this thread. I'm a North Idaho guy who lost his hunting mentor father a couple of years ago. I seem to be overcome by allergies every time I think about it, and I'm afraid I may end up being allergic to your story, too.
Those dang allergies have been getting to me a lot this year too. They seem to have really started in May this year.
 

Lilhowie83

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Jun 19, 2020
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I am blessed with a good job where I can build up a lot of comp time in the winter through pushing snow, to allow me a lot of free time in the fall to hunt and during the rest of the year to do other things with the family. I wrapped up my scouting on the last weekend in September, satisfied with the quantity and quality of elk that I had been seeing. I came home and finished fine tuning my gear, backpack and food. My hunt started October 1st, so I took off on September 28th to set up camp and do a few more days of scouting before the season started.

I wanted to be as far away from the main roads and trailheads as possible, so I followed Idaho's motorized travel restriction and went 5 miles in with the 4 wheeler to set up camp. This put me within about 3 miles of most of the drainages and basins that I wanted to hunt.
Home for the foreseeable future.
20210929_131157.jpg
View of the front yard. 20210929_124535.jpg
View of the side yard.

I was very disappointed in some of the hunters who had camped in this spot before me. Some of the recent archery hunters had left some grouse breasts in a ziploc bag hanging from a tree. I ended up filling an entire 13 gallon garbage bag with other peoples crap. This is one of my biggest pet peeves! If you can pack it in full, you can sure as he'll pack it out empty! Everytime I go hiking I come out probably 5 pounds heavier than I went in because I am cleaning up other people's garbage. I am grateful to see my boys picking up this habit too though. They are quick to pick up garbage that they see, and then they come put it in my backpack instead of theirs. 20210929_153528.jpg 20210929_153014.jpg 20210930_104840.jpg 20210930_105830.jpg

That night and the next two days I had alot of good luck scouting. I was seeing a ton of elk including some really good bulls and they were bugling like crazy. I have never archery hunted so I have not been around bugling elk that much. I could not believe that I finally had the opportunity to hunt rutting elk with a rifle. After these last 2.5 days of scouting, I was confident that I would be done hunting shortly after shooting light on opening morning.
 

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Lilhowie83

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It doesn't get better, but it gets easier. He'd be happy to hear about his trip, I imagine.
I'm confident that he was watching from above as the whole thing played out from scouting until the hunts ended. I definitely felt reconnected to him through this hunt especially after we haven't been able to really verbally communicate with him these last couple of years as he suffered from Demintia.
 

Lilhowie83

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Opening morning came and just like @Big Fin always says, "the elk didn't read the script. I was at my #1 glassing spot, where I had seen elk the last two mornings, right before light. As the sun started to shine a little light, and the clock struck legal shooting light, I heard one really good bugle from the timber below and one bugle above me quite a ways. I thought this is going to work perfect, they are going to keep bugling back and forth and then these elk below me will feed out into this clearing below me just like they have the last two mornings. But that didn't turn out to be the case. The bull below me let out a few more half hearted, lazy bugles and the bull above me shut up completely. As the sun rose up over the mountain both sets of elk stopped talking altogether, and I never saw or heard anything from them the rest of the day. I spent the rest of the day hunting the few drainages in that general area, but I couldn't find any elk. This was the first time that I had been out here, including all my scouting that I didn't see any elk. To say I was discouraged was an understatement. After the sun had set and legal shooting light had passed I made the two mile walk back to camp, made dinner and got ready to get back after things in the morning.

As I look back on opening day I think a few things factored into play.

1. The weather was completely different than it had been the two previous days. This led to a very different prevailing wind that I think interfered with the morning thermals that I had planned on and I think the elk winded me and probably slipped out the bottom of that main drainage through the dark timber.

2. With the change in weather there was no cloud cover throughout the night and early morning which led to a lot more moonlight, which I feel made the elk feed earlier in the morning than they had the last two mornings, they had already gone to the dark timber well before shooting light.

3. Continuing on with complaining about the weather, opening day was about 15 degrees warmer than the previous two days, which I feel caused the elk to be a lot less vocal and stay holed up in their beds all day.

On the morning of day two I headed North instead of South to hunt one big drainage that I had seen a lot of elk in throughout my scouting days. On day two I did see elk at least but it was mostly cows as well as some raghorns and spikes, so day 2 ended much like opening day.

Day three was Sunday and I had some church and family commitments, so I left my camp and rode out after shooting light on Saturday night. After I finished with my commitments on Sunday afternoon, I drove back to the unit rode into camp and got ready to get back after thingson Monday morning.
 

nick87

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I ended up filling an entire 13 gallon garbage bag with other peoples crap. This is one of my biggest pet peeves
Wouldnt you love to dump it in there yard. Can't stand that shit. Somebody just dumped off a recliner in the ditch h in front of my grandma's farm the other day. You know the garbage company allows you one large item per week for free. I don't get it.
 

Lilhowie83

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Wouldnt you love to dump it in there yard. Can't stand that shit. Somebody just dumped off a recliner in the ditch h in front of my grandma's farm the other day. You know the garbage company allows you one large item per week for free. I don't get it.
I would absolutely love to dump it in their yard. It is something I will never understand. I guess it is all part of my upbringing, but I guarantee that the people who leave their garbage behind don't trash their yards and houses like they do our public lands, so why do they find it acceptable to trash our precious public lands?
 

Lilhowie83

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Damn there’s been some quality threads on here the past week, and I can tell this is another one that I’ll be constantly checking for updates. Very awesome, excited to see how this turns out for you!
I'll try to not let you down. I don't know if I can live up to the other threads that have been shared but I'll do my best.
 

TRS_Montana

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I'll try to not let you down. I don't know if I can live up to the other threads that have been shared but I'll do my best.
Dude, the only way you’re going to let us down is by not finishing this fantastic story! Can’t wait for the rest
 

Lilhowie83

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Day 4 of the season day 3 of hunting.

While I was home on Sunday I got wondering if I had over committed to these couple of drainages that were close to where I had set up my camp. I kind of felt like that since I had gone to the hassle of packing a camp in 5 miles on a crappy, rough 4 wheeler trail that I needed to invest a lot of time in this area, but the other side of me was saying, "this unit is huge and you need to see more of it." So I decided to hunt Monday morning in the one drainage where I had seen most if the elk in my preseason scouting, and if I didn't see anything by noon I was going to pack up camp and set up a camp down low closer to the roads where I could be more mobile and cover more country.

I hunted hard all Monday morning but much like opening morning I couldn't turn up any elk. So at about 11:30 I started hiking back to camp. I got everything packed up and loaded on the 4 wheeler and made the long, slow, rough ride back to the truck. I got back to the truck, got everything loaded up and started to drive to a different area that I had been scouting on google earth. As I pulled out of the parking area and onto the forest service road, my truck didn't seem to be running quite right. I stopped and checked everything out and couldn't find anything, but it just seemed to be lacking a little power and missing a little bit, the missing would almost come and go. It was late afternoon by this time so I decided to make the 2.5 hour drive home and switch vehicles and get back after things in the morning. I got home, unloaded everything and ran my truck over to the local mechanic who did a compression test on all my trucks cylinders, sure enough, one cylinder had really low compression so I decided that I would just park the truck for now and use one of our other vehicles, which made my choice easy that I would be base camping close to roads and trailheads. I went back home to talk to my wife to see if I could use take her Toyota Sequoia, but she had a bunch of things going on and had to run kids around to soccer, football and volleyball over the next few days so that was out of the question. I decided I was going to have to go full @wllm1313 and drive my 2000 Chevy Prizm, that I commute to work in, for the rest of the hunt. I loaded up the trunck and the backseat and at this point it was late enough in the day that I decided I would sleep in my bed tonight and head back out in the morning.
 

cahunter805

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I would absolutely love to dump it in their yard. It is something I will never understand. I guess it is all part of my upbringing, but I guarantee that the people who leave their garbage behind don't trash their yards and houses like they do our public lands, so why do they find it acceptable to trash our precious public lands?

The other amazing thing about that trash is most of it looks very old. Those coors cans are pull tops. How many other hunters used that area and never picked it up!!
I always pickup any trash I see when I’m out. Usually find a few Mylar balloons every season also.
 

TheTone

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Good on you for the trash pick up. It’s a rare day that I park anywhere and don’t end up picking up some trash at the spot
 

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