Caribou Gear Tarp

An elk tale on the Big Three? Yes because it fits in with my 2020 goat and sheep story. Chapter 2: Help gets rewarded.

sacountry

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Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
399
Location
NW Montana
For those that haven't heard about this very unusual hunting season for me, back in March I put my stepson together with 4 other youth hunter buddies on a limited draw bull tag. I also put the 4 dads (plus one other guy) on the adult draw in the same district. In April, I learned we all drew. For the adults, this is a every 3-5 year type tag so we're not talking the Breaks or the Elkhorns or anything like that. In May, my name was drawn for a MT goat tag and an MT sheep tag. Two once in a life time tags plus this group of dads and their boys hunting in a limited draw bull elk district was incomprehensible for me. The other dads said, you gotta focus on that goat and sheep, but I wasn't about to let this unique elk hunt go to waste. With the goat tag punched and the sheep rut about a week away, I was dead set on 5 days of hunting the elk opener with some of the best dad's I know and their sons....

Friday: Nice snow storm just before the start the season with forecasted bitter cold temps to follow. Glad I stashed the camper at hunting camp the weekend before. It was surrounded by a foot of snow by the time we pulled into camp. I was super encouraged by the snow for hunting purposes, but didn't know how well the kids would take to hiking in it. Certainly didn't think they'd want to be out in zero degree temps. Another dad beat us to camp, the third dad had to bail, and the 4th dad (father of 9 kids) found out that his wife's car starter broke. He needed to replace it before he felt ok leaving her at home with the 7 younger kids. With the unexpected snow, he also wanted to get his rear duallys swapped out.

Saturday, the opener: Dad #4 wasn't able to leave home until 12:30am. He definitely did NOT want to miss the opener. Driving through the heart of the blizzard, he rolled into town at 5:30am but still needed to get to camp. Not knowing where he was and no cell coverage to be had, the four of us in camp headed out bright and early. Of course it was too soon for the elk to start laying tracks, but we were hopeful. After a couple of hours up high looking for this guy (photo credit to my wife last weekend)
IMG_20201018_095408.jpg

my stepson and I decided to check out the elk that we heard were down on private. On our way, we bumped into Dad #4 at about 10:30am. Pulling an enclosed dual axle trailer, complete with a snowmobile inside, he got stuck on an incline on the road to camp. My stepson and I hopped out and proceeded to help. Chains went on all 4 tires and the snowmobile was unloaded. With a couple of charges at the incline, he made it up to a flat spot in the road. I told him, if it were me I would turn around and camp closer to town. He decided to take the sled up the road to camp to determine if he could make it. The two youngest wanted to go for a ride on the sled so off they went. 45 minutes later he was back having left the two young buddies in my camper. His 16 year old hopped on the sled to drive it to camp while Dad #4 and I drove our trucks. After some adjustments to the chains, we were off, 10 minutes or so behind his 16 year old. About halfway up the road to camp, we see the 16 year old in the driveway of a ranch house talking to some people. Turns out the landowners saw him on the sled, waved him in, then asked if he'd be willing to help their neighbor retrieve a bull off an upper area of their section. With Dad #4 and I caught up on the happenings, Dad #4 said sure we can help. We followed the landowners in their side-by-side ATV back down the road to the same flat spot we had just been...albeit we left the truck and trailer up at the ranch house. With some instructions from the landowner on how to best navigate his land, Dad #4 and the 16 year old quickly headed up on the snowmobile to where the hunter and bull where reported to be. I invited the landowners to get warm in my truck. We enjoyed watching the process unfold while chatting about their history with the land they purchased back in 1972. They were super kind and had some incredible stories to tell. About 45 minutes later the sled appears from the timber with a bull tied to it. The hunter and 16 year old followed on foot. Here's the private land bull still attached to the sled.

sled elk.jpg

A beautiful, fully symmetrical, 7x7 bull....taken out whole. It has to be about 2:00 by now. Dad #4 hasn't slept in 30 some plus hours. The hunter offers him $100 for his help. Dad #4 won't take it. In fact to give you an idea of the kind of character he has, the reason he's pulling his enclosed trailer and not his camper/toy hauler.....he and his wife are allowing a homeless person to stay in their camper for awhile.
 
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sacountry

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Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
399
Location
NW Montana
Continuing the story...

After Dad #4 and his 16 year old broke for camp, I hung around to help get the 7x7 loaded up on the landowner's trailer. We weren't in this for access to private rather I just enjoyed being a part of this hunters story as it was becoming part of my story. It also never hurts to know people living in your district. For sure, this neighbor/hunter had one lucky day. Huge bull, out whole, and loaded on a trailer all before 3:00pm on opening day. Much to his credit, he was super kind and changed his offer from cash to sharing half the elk with Dad #4 after it was processed. Dad #4 accepted that offer thinking about the big family at home and how far the meat would go.

I eventually made my way back up to camp to rally the kids. The two thirteen year olds, stuck in the camper for several hours, ate all the good snacks and found the stash of capri sun (if you've never stuck one in your day pack, I recommend it). Disappointingly I found Skipbo playing cards laying around on the floor of the camper. Also struen through out....wrappers from various snacks and some capri sun pouches that never found their way to the garbage can. Looked like what could have been a bachelor party for a couple of Al Anon attendees. When asked about the cards, they said they got bored and starting throwing them at each other. Makes sense. Why tell this here? Because eventually I would witness small samples of the conversion from childhood to manhood from these two.

Dad #4 and I rounded up the crew around 4:00 to head to a spot where I had seen elk before when the snow was deep. The temps were frigid cold and we were getting short on time so we made a relatively tight looped hike to see if any tracks had been laid down. Nothing. We stopped a few times to glass, nothing. We needed to keep moving to keep the kids warm so our glassing efforts were marginal at best. We wrapped the day by heading back to camp to help Dad #4 get his wall tent and enclosed trailer set up. He just bought the wall tent used from a guy. The stove was unproven. I introduced Dad #1 to Dad #4 and then the kids. We shared information on where the elk were and were not. All were tired, especially Dad #4 who had now been up for a solid 40 hours. With the stove not properly drawing air and the temps dropping to -10F, we elected to pile 2 adults and 2 kids into my tiny 17' camper to sleep for the night.

Sunday:
Dad #1 and his son got up before the crack of dawn to start the second day. They took the 16 year old with them since he slept in their camper for the night. It's next to impossible for me to sleep in any time, let alone when hunting. I laid awake in bed for a couple of hours while the 3 others slept. Eventually it got to me, I started flipping on the lights and heating water for coffee and cocoa....plus I knew how much Dad #4 wanted to hunt with his boys. We managed to make a call to Dad #1. He was stuck in a drift not far from camp. Yet another interruption to the hunt, but this one would prove to be a game changer.
 
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sacountry

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Joined
Dec 29, 2011
Messages
399
Location
NW Montana
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25 (happened to be the verse of the day on my phone on this particular Sunday)

So we headed out to help Dad #1 get unstuck. It was a beautiful, clear, and frigid Montana morning. It was encouraging to see that lots of elk tracks had been laid overnight between us and where Dad #1 was. Better still, they were headed in his direction. We locate Dad #1 to discover someone had just helped him out of the drift. While stuck the two older kids went for a walk and chased some bulls but weren't presented a shot. Dad #1 sat in his truck glassing the area while waiting for someone to drive by. During this downtime, Dad #1 located 5 bulls up high and another solo bull down low. Our plan was to split up. He'd take the older, longer legged kids for a hike from down low then hike up while Dad #4 and I would take the two 13 year olds back around in the truck to hike in from up high downwardly towards Dad #1. A pretty typical squeeze play.

Dad #4 and I filled the kids with food and water at camp before continuing up the road to the entry point for this stalk on National Forest and Block Mgmt. About a half mile in, we split up to increase odds. My stepson and I walked about 30 minutes to a glassing spot. He was hungry and wanted a break. What does a 13 year old want to eat on a zero degree day? A freeze dried ice cream sandwich... PXL_20201025_203237264.jpg

Having cell coverage, I text the Dad's to let them know where we are at. Dad #4 replies "Bull down". I responded as if he left a question mark off his text. "No I don't have a bull down, just letting you know where we are". He calls me. "We have a bull down".....he's huffing pretty loudly....<waiting for him to speak and regain his breath>..... "oh my gosh, we have two bulls down". It was about 2:45pm.

Now what I haven't said thus far is that this dad moved to Montana two years ago. Our kids became friends at school last year. This is his second season elk hunting, but he was an avid deer hunter back east. He's not an experienced / grizzled old trophy elk hunter. He's a meat hunter that wants to feed his family and he's been that way his whole hunting life. His oldest son managed to shoot a cow in his first season last year with help from a friend from church so they've tasted the meat and want lots more of it. 2 bulls down meant that my stepson and I needed to give up the remainder of our hunt to go help. He wasn't super excited about stopping the hunt, but it was good lesson in unselfishness.....and he'd soon fully comprehend why. We came upon them and low and behold the 13 year old shot a stud.....

PXL_20201025_213714222.jpg

I looked at Dad #4. He had that glazed look we've all seen before....that look of "what just happened coupled with oh my gosh what just happened". In my mind, I'm thinking....oh my gosh, this is a bull I've dreamed about and at the same time so thrilled for this young man and his dad. The royals were long, the main beam mass was consistent from base through the royals. The whale tales were a huge 20.5" spread (since sheep and goat hunting this year, I've been carrying a small 36" tape in my pack :) ). I asked where the second bull was. It was about 75 yards away. A healthy 5x5. Dad #4 still had that glazed look. I immediately began thinking about the work ahead, looking at the GPS, contemplating the take out, etc. Thankfully, we were only a mile from our truck, but we had some steep uphill ground to cover in the first half mile.

Dad #4 was insistent that my stepson and I should chase the remaining elk. I thanked him for the thought, but knew exactly how much work we had ahead of us. The boys were put on fire duty while Dad #4 and I began breaking down the animals. Dad #1 showed up with his son, checked out the bulls, grabbed a shoulder and began their 3 mile hike back to their truck. With 45 minutes left of shooting light, my stepson, now completely turned on by seeing two dead bulls, asks if he can go sit in the opening to see where the remaining elk are. I proudly obliged. Seeing him get fired up gave me a big smile. 30 or so minutes later, he reported back that he didn't see anything and wanted to get warmed by the fire. When I wasn't looking, he removed his boots to warm his feet while leaving his socks on. He learned a lesson about fire and socks as he melted a hole in the toe of one MY hunting socks that I let him borrow. Lots of experiential learning ahead for this young man.

We broke everything down and hung it for the night. I happened to keep a couple of pulleys in my day pack for hanging meat. Thankful we had them for these two bulls. We were close enough to the truck to leave the bones in, but it was still a head lamp lit walk out in freezing cold temps. These three young men were getting a very authentic elk hunting experience, as was Dad #4. Two shoulders made it out.

PXL_20201026_165214220.jpg

Monday:
No sleeping in today. It was time for work. I inspected packs to make sure they were stripped down with nothing but water and ammo for the my stepson and the 16 year old. We took my pull sled and headed towards the kill sites.
PXL_20201026_161558611.jpg

It took us about 8 hours to get the meat back to the truck. None of the kids ever complained. I watched two 13 year olds haul a hind quarter off the 6x6 up the steep grade pulling on the sled as a team. Of course they would stop to catch their breath, eat some snow, then continue. I then watched as they rode the sled back down to the kill sites hitting stumps and dodging trees, laughing all the way. I was tempted to say something because I didn't want a hole in my sled. But, I wanted them to enjoy some of this in order to keep them in the game....lest Dad #4 and I having to carry out all the meat on our backs. I then watched the two 13 year olds load both heads in the sled and pull on that load, while Dad#4 pushed the sled from behind. Those were some heavy loads. My stepson said it was the hardest thing he's ever done in his life. I saw all I needed to see. He helped a buddy take out meat and he never complained about it. He now fully knows what it means to shoot an elk. He wants to go back as soon as possible and I can't wait to take him.

Here's a shot from near the truck with Dad #4 and his kids. If you don't see smiles its because these are some whipped hunters :) . I measured the 6x6. 343". The 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th tines were all within a 1/2" of the opposing side. The 3rd on one side was a little short than the other. The mass in the main beam only diminished from 7.5" to 6.5" up to the 5ths. As perfect a bull as I have seen on the ground. Happy to see this kind family get rewarded for their good deeds.
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And that completed our opening weekend hunt. Not a full 5 days as planned, but everyone was tired, happy, and ready to head home. I respected that. I respected the effort put forth. I would have stayed though....just sayin :)
 
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Mtnhunter1

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Joined
Mar 11, 2018
Messages
820
Location
Big Sky Country-The Last Best Place
Outstanding! Very well done on an amazing experience that the young hunters will never forget....Congrats to all involved.

I really enjoyed your hunt recap immensely. Now good luck on finding that ram of your dreams.

Mtnhunter1
 

JMG

Active member
Joined
Jul 1, 2011
Messages
782
Location
MONTANA
Now that's what hunting is all about … time spent with good friends … successful hunt … worked hard … but still enjoyed the hunt and eager to go again. Nice! Good things do happen to good folks. Good luck with your Sheep hunt.
 

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