When I saw the drawing results and called my brother and told him that we had both drawn bull tags in the breaks and he said, "Oh No", I said what? He was already in Yellowstone living out of his camp trailer working on this season's project. Most of the summer was filled with high stress and very long hours, sometimes as many as 100+/week. My brother is 52 and I'm almost 54, so those hours are a lot rougher on us than they used to be. Needless to say diet suffered as well as exercise. So of course when we finally closed out one of the season's biggest projects only one week before the opening of Montana's general rifle season we were nowhere near ready gear wise, attitude wise, or physically. We loaded up and headed over east on the the 8 hour drive with four horses and the camp trailer. The plan was to pack a little dome tent into a little stock tank about six miles in and pick which bull we wanted opening morning and head home. We had done that two years prior with a couple of cows and it worked perfectly. We pulled into the Campground at 1:30 AM and got settled as quickly as possible without making too much noise on Thurs. night. Friday afternoon we started the ride in to our spike camp. Before we were even 1/2 a mile from the truck I heard a string of choice words from John and he had gotten too close to my old gelding and gotten kicked! He said he'd be okay so on we went. At the bottom of the hill we saw a camp and three trucks. They had a number of youth hunters and were headed in to the same area we were headed for. We talked a little and found out that they had been shooting cows out of my honey-hole for two days prior. That didn't bode well, but on we went. On the ride in we heard a bull bugle and saw the small herd bull with a dozen cows or so. That was a good sign. When we got to our camp spot we found that the stock tank was bone dry! So no water for the horses! Not good. Opening morning we were so tired we were a little late getting going It was 9 AM before we were saddled up and headed the 3/4 mile for my planned glassing perch to spot our bulls. As we got up onto the ridge we saw 3 different groups of hunters much to our surprise. We talked to each group that we met up with. Every person we met was nice and we enjoyed talking with everyone, but it was just a little crowded. By the end of the day we had heard very few shots and counted 12 hunters besides us on our ridge. Because we were camped there we were able to stay until dark to glass and we saw three different groups of cows with "decent" herd bulls maybe 275 - 300 type 6 point bulls. There were quite a few bulls maybe 15 or so, but no shooters that we saw. Sunday morning started with light rain on the tent at about 4 AM. I had neglected to bring any raingear so stayed in until the rain quit about 9 AM, so a late start again. As we arrived up on the popular ridge and introduced ourselves to some new friends and some old ones we had a couple of other horse hunters ride past us. We followed behind them and pretty soon they stopped and one of them grabbed his rifle and went down into the coulee, while his partner held the horses. We stayed back about 10 yards away so we wouldn't spook any game they might be seeing. As it turned out he shot a 6x7 "decent" bull not too awfully far off of the trail. There was a "lot" of shooting Sunday. We watched a herd of close to a hundred run out the bottom. There were a number of bulls in that group, but no shooter bulls that we could see. The rest of the afternoon we saw no more elk, there was just too much action, both from the lake and on top too. We decided to pack back out the next morning to the truck and spend a day at the campground. As John was mounting his horse his little green pack horse got his lead rope under his mount's tail and that lead to him hitting the ground really hard with his elbow in his ribs. So now he had either cracked ribs or at least bruised ribs, not to mention that when he bent over he would get a nose bleed that wasn't very easy to stop! We packed camp up and headed out even though it was raining lightly, but there was no breaks in the clouds and I was a little nervous about pulling a gooseneck trailer with four horses out 6 miles on a wet gumbo road. We made it out with nothing more than a lot of mud on top of my old Dodge, but the rain kept falling. It rained all day and night Monday and stopped early morning Tuesday. Everybody knows the Breaks and rain, stuck in camp. Our next door neighbors in the campground were going home and I asked if they would text us to let us know how the roads were because we were considering taking the two problem horses back to Kalispell. They told us that as they got just West of the campground the roads got drier and actually dusty, so John and I decided maybe it was worth a drive to the west end of our Unit to check the roads and see what we could see. The farther we went the fewer hunters we saw, and more game we saw. Pretty quick we had seen a good sized group of cows with at least one "decent" sized bull that we planned to check out as we made our way closer. I had some places that I had seen bulls in past years that were always overlooked. As we made our way that way and stopped to glass, sure enough there was a group of five bulls totally at ease and up feeding and lounging with no hunters in sight in any direction. As I glassed through the spotter, it was obvious that three of the bulls were pretty good, and one was really good, and best of all they were pretty close to the road! We parked and hiked up the coulee and pretty soon we were laying behind some sagebrush looking at five bull elk who had no idea we were there. Back in the summer I had told John that I wanted him to have first shot. He had only had one Breaks bull tag before, and had taken a good bull, but he was due to have something good happen, of course being who he is, he was laying there trying to talk me into shooting the big bull, but there was no way that was going to happen, so he settled in behind his 300 RUM and settled in to mine. He shot and hit,
I shot and missed, which isn't normal, but it happened, so I shot again, and again, and again. Now one thing we had done was make damn sure that our rifles were on before we left, but I was sure my rifle was off. Surprisingly the four other bulls were not that spooked. When we got to his bull, and made sure he was dead, we made our way the short distance to the top of the ridge and the four other bulls were still there only 200 yards away!. I took a good rest and shot and they didn't even move! I rested and shot again, and again they didn't move! My brother handed me his rifle and down he went!
Those bulls reacted like the Gardiner bulls used to act, like they had never been shot at in their lives. I hope I never forget how beautiful those big blond bulls were in that afternoon sun. Johnny's bull was indeed a really nice bull with a small 8th point on each side. My bull was smaller, a 6x7 with some nice qualities, and easily bigger than any of the other bulls we had seen yet, so all in all a most excellent outcome after a much less than auspicious beginning. It was very cool for both of us to have bulls down within a coupe of hundred yards between them. We gutted both bulls and propped them open, because we had no game bags with us and would have to come back on Wed. morning to skin and quarter both bulls and pack them the 3/4 mile to the truck. The quartering and packing went without a hitch although it did really kick in the carpal tunnel in both hands!
I was glad that I had talked with the biologist before going over so that I could get a good idea of just how big of bulls to expect. In the "good ole days" I would have been tempted to hold out for a bit bigger bull, but I think after talking with some locals who are in-the-know, both bulls are above average. We ran into a real nice "Hunt Talker" in Malta who felt that we had done really well with both of them. It was so funny, he asked if we knew each other and then asked if I was on Hunt Talk!