Caribou Gear Tarp

A Booner for me....

Horn Seeker

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Dec 21, 2000
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2,695
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Billings, MT, USA
Well, my bull has finally been officially dried and scored.... I knew he was big...I had scored him myself and come up with 374 2/8 net. The B&C measurer says different, he came in with a Final Net Score of 375 0/8. He is the smallest bull that Boone and Crockett will allow in their All Time Records Book! The smallest bull... that is sort of funny... but I guess there has to be a line somewhere.

Anyhow, after I killed him I wrote up the story for another website I frequent and recently I adapted it more into an article type story. I have not decided to send the story anywhere, just sort of had fun writing it... I'll post it here for you guys to critique... I'll throw a few more pics in too....

This Pic has been my screen saver for the last 4 months.....
BullFirers.jpg


Before 1991, a buck was a buck and a bull was a bull. I hunted to hunt and was blissfully unaware that it mattered how big a critters rack was! Spike and forked horn blacktail were my primary bounty and I couldn’t have been happier! Then, one day in the fall of 91, a good friend from college rolled into my driveway and pulled out a 33 inch wide, massive, black-horned mule deer rack that he had bowkilled in the backcountry of north-central Washington a few days earlier! This single event changed my outlook on antlers and hunting forever. I was awestruck over this beast. I had seen plenty of big critters mounted on the walls of sporting goods stores and in Outdoor Life and Sports Afield, but it had honestly never occurred to me that myself or someone I knew might actually find one of these old “mosshorns” walking around in the woods!

From then on I paid much closer attention to the antlers my quarry packed around. I never became a true trophy hunter and disagree with the motivation of a lot of trophy hunters, but I DID put more effort into my hunts and tried for all I was worth to pit my abilities against the older, mature bucks and bulls. I figured if I would just put out the effort, hike that extra mile, stay out that extra hour, I too would be repaid with a buck or bull sporting extra-ordinary headgear. Well, there is more to it than just being tough and putting the time in, I am a testament to that fact. From 1991 to 2009, I have spent many hundreds of days afield with the majority of them on foot, 3-10 miles from the truck, across rocky ridges and through deadfall jungles. And you should see the stacks of trophy class racks I have to show for it. It would take an aircraft hangar to display them all. Oh wait, that was the way it was supposed to be. The reality: in all those years, I did not take one buck or bull that I considered “big” or “mature”. Now don’t get me wrong, I killed a few critters and am very proud of them and thankful for the opportunity to hunt them and fill my freezer with CHOICE grade A, Organic meat AND put some nice looking racks on the wall. But alas, they were not the old monarchs of the mountains, they were his sons and grandsons. 3-4 year old animals that were on the verge of becoming old and wise and maybe a little mosshorned, but not the seasoned veterans I dreamed of packing out of those canyons. Nineteen years. I watched friends take a couple fantastic specimens. I watched magazines like Trophy Hunter, Eastmans Journal, Big Buck, Hunting Fool and Muley Crazy grow into a stand alone industry, publicizing the killing of these antlered giants. I watched as the all mighty dollar made its mark, by making these animals available to anyone that could afford it. Bucks and Bulls were bringing $10,000 to $25,000 and you barely had to leave the truck to shoot one. I watched as “Bubba” sat in his tree stand over an electric feeder and shot 180 inch bucks, and hugged and fist pumped with his buddies after his “hardcore hunt”. I watched as Polaris and Arctic Cat became a hunter’s tool, every bit as much as the 30-06 used to be a hunter’s tool.

Well, none of that phased me. I enjoyed the feeling of my legs burning from climbing 1500 feet to the top of a ridge so I could see into the next basin. I loved reinforcing my tarp with branches and logs before the blizzard hit and blew 12 inches of snow into our September archery hunt. I lived for leaving the truck at 3 am to make it the 10 miles to No-Tellum Ridge by first light, opening morning. Killing a big bull or buck off a food plot or on some private place where the elk feed behind the ranch house all night, well, it would fill my freezer and the horns would be impressive and all, but it sure wouldn’t make much of a memory. One more time, don’t get me wrong, I have taken a few animals right from the road. As a true hunter, one who is out to find something to the fill the freezer, you learn that passing up opportunities early on can come back to haunt you later. That is one reason I likely didn’t put that giant rack on the wall in all those years. When Mr. 5 Point bull walked by or that 3 year old buck came out of the timber, I didn’t wait very long to see if anything bigger was following! Especially with elk, I didn’t let many “little guys” get much older.

A 245" bull that I will never let walk on a general tag!
250elkbackrs-1.jpg



This all leads to my 2010 season, which stands apart from all the rest. For those that dont know, in Montana we are lucky enough to be able to hunt deer and elk for about 10 weeks! This year I was fortunate enough to spend six great days bowhunting SW Montana with some good friends and another 4 days hunting a little north of there with another good friend. These trips had quite a few very close calls with big and little bulls, but I could not connect. But oh the country I saw and the fresh air. It was ALWAYS worth it.

After bow season, I got to spend another 10 days rifle hunting in Central Montana. This time was spent pounding some “not so backcountry” but we always pushed it into the darkest and most remote ridges we could. My eleven year old daughter tracked a bull with me through a blowing snowstorm for about 3 hours. Oh to have killed that bull with her along! Matter fact, there were several close calls this season that would have all made fantastic memories, but the old saying about things happening for a reason, well, it sure seemed to be true this year. None of those close calls turned bloody; so that I could leave my house at 2:30 AM, the day after Thanksgiving and drive through a ground blizzard to a trailhead with 12 inches of snow in the parking lot.
 

Horn Seeker

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Dec 21, 2000
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Billings, MT, USA
I slipped on my empty backpack (knife, food, water, firestarter of course) and shouldered my rifle, leaving the only truck at the trailhead 1 ½ hours before shooting light. With a tip from a good friend lining me out, I made my way up a gated road for a mile, then cut up the steep slope into deeper, drifted snow towards the ridgeline 2000 feet above. ½ hour before light I could see elk shapes a thousand feet above me. The snow got deeper, 16-18 inches of powder in most places with 25-30” inch drifts if I chose the wrong path. The previous 3 months of hunting had put me in pretty good shape, but pushing that deep of snow up-hill wasn’t going to last too long. Lucky for me, at first light a shot rang out above me. My binoculars revealed two horseback hunters hidden in the aspens above, surrounded by about 60 elk. Bummed that I was beaten up the mountain and relieved I didn’t have to push UP any longer, I started to side-hill climb to the east, heading for the timber where most elk would go to find security. The timbered slope was north facing, 4 miles long, a mile wide and steep. The timber was a mosaic of open, healthy forest with 100 yard shooting lanes mixed with choked, deadfall patches that could dissolve an elk in 10 yards. Sign was abundant and every so often I’d catch a glimpse of tan or a flicker of movement. Over several hours time I covered a ½ mile and saw 60 cows and a few spikes. I drank a few drops of water and smiled at the knot-headed decision to push further up the canyon with cramping legs in knee deep snow and a pack full of frozen water bottles. With a young family at home, I wasn’t taking any real risk, I could start a fire and thaw water bottles or eat snow if I needed to. I just knew I wasn’t turning back yet. It was only noon and it was my last day of elk hunting for the season.

Shortly after noon I crossed a steep draw and after climbing out the other side being careful to hold my legs just right or a cramp would set in, I made the decision to start angling down hill. I hadn’t seen any good sign in an hours time and had to make a change in direction to get back into the animals. As I started down the ridgeline I cut a single set of elk tracks in the powdery snow. It was impossible to tell if it was a bull or cow and nearly impossible to tell which direction it was heading. One thing I did know, was that following the tracks up hill was not an option, so I continued down the ridge, along the tracks for another half hour. The conditions were perfect. The timber was open enough to see 75-100 yards and the snow was dead quiet. Several times I walked up on mulie does that didn’t turn their heads to look at me until I was 30 yards away. The elk tracks met up with another group of elk tracks and they all headed off to the west. I had it stuck in my mind that the big old bulls were going to be further up the canyon, so I left the tracks, continuing to angle down and to the east.

By 1:15 I had come to the realization that my last day of elk hunting in 2010 was rapidly coming to an end. A hint of discouragement crept into my mind. After pondering this for a moment, I pushed it away and remembered many times when I’d figured it was all over, only to have a bull stand up and surprise me. So, I kept pluggin away, knowing that my chances of finding a bull were as good then as they were at 8 am in the morning!

At 1:30 I broke out of a thicker patch of timber into a small park, noticing a lot of elk sign, but it was all snowed in, at least 24 hours old. I said, I think maybe out loud..."well, there were elk here, but they aren't here now"... then I took about 4 steps and saw tan down the hill about 100 yards. I pulled up my binoculars and saw it was a bull (you can see from the pics it wasn’t hard to tell!).
MeBullSideSmileRSmorelight.jpg

He was bedded and did not appear to be “alert”. The deep snow and topography did not allow for me to sit and get a good rest on my knees and fatigue and excitement did not allow me to take the shot off hand. About 10-15 yards ahead of me, and directly between us, there was a big fir tree that I could brace my rifle against. I side stepped and shuffled quietly through the snow to the tree; agonizing whether he would still be bedded or if he had used the famous 6th sense and bailed out of there while I was behind the tree.


I slowly peered around the tree. Yep, he was still there and appeared to be lost in slumber. I leaned my rifle hard into the tree to get a steady rest, put the crosshairs about where a guy should, and squeezed. He raised his head and looked like he was trying get to his feet so I put another one in the boiler room, he kicked his front feet a couple times, then laid his head down for the last time.

I knew he was a decent bull, easily my best, I knew he had a long fourth, but didn't spend much time judging him. Hell, I just wanted a "good" bull. I started walking up (80 yards) and about 1/2 way I noticed the 4th was longer than normal. I raised the binos and my heart missed a couple beats. I finished the short walk up to him. His rack grew with each step. When I arrived I leaned my rifle against an old fir tree, knelt down and patted the old boy on the noggin and thanked him for his life. Then I looked at his rack some more, then I looked at his rack some more... then....maybe just a little more! For about 20 minutes I looked at him, took some pictures, notched my tag, started a fire, and organized my gear before starting to disassemble him. My goal was to be heading towards the truck by 4 O’Clock with as heavy a pack as I could bear.
MeBullHeadonFirRSmorelight.jpg

At 4:02 I was walking away from a bony carcass with a 76# pack. I stashed his 4 quarters, rack and cape 100 yards away and buried them in snow. After a short descent I hit the “trail” which was packed down from horses, hunters and elk. The walking wasn’t bad and 2 hours later I was back at my truck. 12 hours door to door. My legs were cramping, my hips were aching, my shoulders were numb....and my cheeks were sore.... from SMILING! It was the perfect day. It could not have been better. And, it had been a LONG time coming.

The next morning, a good friend and I headed in with empty packs and a sled. Five hours later, we were back at the truck with 280# of meat, fur and bone. We both wore big smiles. We’d both killed mature bulls this year and put in over 20 days each. We made a lot of memories, a lot of table fare and some fine wall decor.

19 years after being bitten by the bug, I finally realized the dream of taking a truly rare and outstanding animal in public land wilderness, far from a road, on my own, with a general season elk tag. Now, finally, I can rest, buy a four-wheeler or maybe get a guided hunt on some exclusive ranch where my bull is considered a “raghorn”; or, maybe not.

Couple more shots of his rack....
straightonY.jpg


slightangleright.jpg
 

Goldtip

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Jul 29, 2009
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Truly an awesome bull HS, great read to the story as well. Congrats!
 

Horn Seeker

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Dec 21, 2000
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Billings, MT, USA
383 3/4 Wing... and yes, I am going to have him stuffed... Pedestal style... still at my house for now though...

Drake.... all the mags piss me off...(we need an OYOA mag??? Randy??) so I dont think I will. I have thought of sending it into the Backcountry Journal, which is more of a newsletter.... not sure though...

Thanks all!
 

Drake4

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Jun 8, 2009
Messages
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Location
Churchill, MT
Anyhow, after I killed him I wrote up the story for another website I frequent and recently I adapted it more into an article type story. I have not decided to send the story anywhere, just sort of had fun writing it... I'll post it here for you guys to critique... I'll throw a few more pics in too....

Must have missed that the first time.
How about Bugle? That story would fit well in there.

I hope you've at least got the European hanging up in the meantime!
 

thecrittergitter

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
2,416
Location
Bozeman, MT
Ernie, congrats again on an incredible elk. I'm hoping it won't take me that long to kill a bull like that but when it happens, i'm imagining the wait is worth it:)

Great story too.
 

Lawnboy

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Nov 2, 2008
Messages
3,609
Location
Bozeman, Montana
Ernie great bull. I just went back to your original thread to see what I guessed him at. Low and behold I had 383 gross :D Not to shabby the bull and the guess score.
 

drahthaar

Active member
Joined
Sep 26, 2006
Messages
1,711
Location
Kalispell/Helena, MT
I am amazed at the size of that frame, esp the cow pokers. Then the fact that its the "smallest allowed". I mean really, an inch more on every tine, a little more spread, couple inches of main beam, and a couple bigger mass measurements and you are sitting on someting close to the 400 inch mark. Its a fine line.
 

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