Bull down in Jarbidge NV

LopeHunter

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I drew one of the 10 or so non-resident early September muzzleloader bull tags for the zone that includes the Jarbidge Wilderness area. I had hunted there in 2012 on an early November mule deer buck tag. The Jarbidge is a special place and while I could hunt the tag solo without ever stepping into the wilderness, I wanted to return miles deep into the wilderness. I would need horses in order to get a few hundred pounds of gear in and then get that gear plus a few hundred pounds of tasty elk meat out.

I hired the same outfitter which my brother and I used in 2012. My hunt would begin opening morning of the season. We would ride a few miles into the wilderness the morning before.

I had practiced with my muzzleloader for dozens of rounds a couple of months before the hunt. Initially used Powerbelts but soon switched to 290 grain T-EZ FB Barnes bullets. I used 140 grains of Blackhorn 209 with a CCI Magnum 209 primer. Thompson Omega 50 caliber muzzleloader with a peep sight modification. I could shoot tight groups at 100 yards. I could hit the target at 200 yards but the front bead covered more than the vitals zone so decided to limit my shots to 125 yards.

Loaded up rental truck as depart for the adventure. 11 hours of driving later and 590 miles I get to where the dirt road ends.

Packed rental truck.jpg
 
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LopeHunter

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Met up with one of the junior guides/horse wranglers/packers/college graduates that were part of the operation. Another of the outfitter's team arrived the next morning. We rode up to camp and both those guys had two pack horses. The archery hunters were finishing up their season that day on on their way back down. I would be the only hunter for the first couple of days of the season so was living the life of a pampered king at first. Had my own wall tent which could sleep five. The latrine did not have a line after breakfast. If I would have had someone to peel my grapes then would have not been surprised.

Rode up to a higher spot to glass until sunset. Saw minimal elk. Was over 80F and the elk were a long way from rut, which I expected. The heat kept the elk deep in the darkness of the pine stands until last light. No bugles heard.

Breakfast was 3 hours before sunset then rode four miles. We never hunted the same area twice which was my decision as was in no hurry to punch the tag and was getting better each day.

Day 1: There are 8 mountain peaks in Jarbidge over 10K' and we were at the base of one as the sun rose. Bulls were out and about for less than two hours of light. Heard 5 bugles that morning. The best bull I glassed was atypical with 20 or so cows. I love freaky-antlered critters but no way to make a play with all those cows and not much terrain to help me get to 125 yards. And, you know, Day 1 of the season. Stayed out all day but rode to another drainage for the afternoon then sunset. The bulls never came out that evening where we were. Hard to complain with a sunset like this and by time got to camp had been dark 45 minutes so got to enjoy the night sky and a couple of shooting stars.

Sunset.jpg
 
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LopeHunter

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Day 2: Seems we got a late start. A shorter ride than Day 1 but we bumped 4 bulls along the ride through trees. Saw three of the bulls and each time we were held up about 15 minutes as did not want to chase them completely out of the drainage we were passing through. One of the bulls, a very nice 5x5 with about 10 cows was within archery range then went over the ridge then popped up again even closer for another look. Every tine was over 18" and nice mass but I did my best Barney Fife and kept the primer in my pocket.

When got to the destination, the bulls were not to be seen and soon the cow elk went into the pines. Had heard several bugles on the ride there and a couple once there. Was getting warm again and sky had very few clouds. Appeared would be another long wait until sunset without much to be seen now the elk were in the pines.

We shifted to a slightly different spot in the drainage and could get a bull to bugle. Worked our way about 1000 feet down and then the bull went silent. Worked back up to the horses and the high altitude had me sucking air like the old, fat flatlander I am. I did complete 30 workout sessions on the elliptical leading up to hunt which was helpful with my core strength and recovery time but I really like pastries so, eh, huff and puff was my breathing cadence by the time I got back to the top. About 15 minutes later my breathing was back to normal and I never got a headache or any other altitude sickness symptoms.

Clouds began to build about 2pm and the temperature dropped. The elk loved that and were streaming out of various stands of pine and bugling over an hour prior to sunset. A huge 6x6, easily 350 and maybe 370, was in an avalanche chute clearing but had over 30 cows. None of this made sense this early in the rut cycle. Small bulls are supposed to have the cows making early in this tag's season the easiest time to sneak close to a solo, mature bull who is focused on saving his energy until estrus is underway. The largest bulls we glassed all had cows.

Glassing up bedded bulls.jpg

Day 3: Rode the shortest distance yet for the morning ride and the destination was a ridge above a wallow next to a stream. Could hear the stream but not see the wallow from where we tied up the horses. We were about 700 yards above the wallow. We could hear bugles, glunks and chuckles as first light enabled us to glass. Could only see a solo bull on the opposite side of the creek but could hear 4 other bulls. Over the next thirty minutes 2 more bulls emerged from the creek headed up the other side. One was the largest bull had seen on this trip. Well over 350 but with....over 30 cows. One bull was upstream and one down in the wallow still. The wind was goofy as can sometimes be but sunset was a long way off, we had other spots could get to for the evening action though sky was again just about cloudless so might be more like Day 1 than 2 and was up for the challenge of trying to ease down near the wallow. We made a play for the unseen bull in the wallow. He was very responsive to calling and the bull upstream had him worked up as well. He did not have the deepest bugle of the 5 bulls so figured was not what I would want to tag. Beats being in the office so we began to ease down the slope using the mahogany and pines while looking for cow elk we might bump and that would be it for the stalk.

We worked out way to about 200 yards above the wallow. Never bumped a cow elk and the wind was mostly in our favor. The 3 bulls on the hillside were now bedded. The bull in the wallow had moved but perhaps to the hillside or maybe up our way. Sounds from down a steep slope are not always easy to pinpoint. We got set up, cow called softly every 5 minutes or so and then saw movement at 110 yards. Raghorn 5x6 would be what most of us would say was on the move perpendicular to us. I was loving every minute, though, and was often exchanging huge grins with the two guides with each new bugle. When the bull turned our way looking to and from and then headed down the 60 foot deep dry creek bed between the bull and us was when the guide checked if I was going to shoot. He expected I would not shoot based on passing up other, somewhat larger bulls we could have most likely stalked within my range the past two days. I whispered that I was shooting if the bull provided a shot. With the goofy wind the bull could have bolted downhill while still in the creek bed so no guarantee, of course, would get a shot. I could not see how any other bull this hunt would be this interesting of an experience which involved over 2 hours of bugling by up to 5 bulls and us pulling this bull out of the wallow towards us.

About 5 minutes later antler tips emerged as the bull slowly stepped along in search of the cow. We were set up in a clump of trees on a 25 degree slope but the creek bank was 45 degrees or steeper. Then more antler, then the head, then the whole bull which was still looking for the cow. I touched off the primer at 33 yards. The bull crumpled as I got one lung high as also shocked the spine apparently. The bull fell out of view as the smoke cleared. I could hear what you hear with a lung shot. I reloaded and by the time we moved so could see down the creek slope then the bull was done. Had tumbled onto his antlers so a color-muted photo is more appropriate.

As bull fell.jpg
 
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LopeHunter

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I stayed with the bull and they went to get the horses back uphill. About thirty minutes later I could hear the sound of hooves on rocks and rolling rocks dislodged by the horses. We untangled the bull from the antlers and they took this picture after sprinkling dirt on the messier places.

Bull B and W.jpg
 
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LopeHunter

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Was I merely the sniper rather than the hunter? For the most part. I did glass up several of the bulls at first light. I can call but did none of the calling this hunt...I do not guide the guide. I do now have another fantastic adventure in the books and my back, shoulder, elbow and body in general was not sore as would have been if the scenario had been me and a gray-haired buddy backpacking the same elk up that same hill then 5 miles to the truck making a return for another 1 or 2 trips including spike camp. I think I could have filled this tag without being in the wilderness though being in the wilderness is special. The views are spectacular. I never saw another hunter. I saw sparks as the steel horse shoes clanked on rocks when rode horses on the trails when was dark. I lost count of the number of shooting stars I saw on those 5 night rides. The laughter in the cook tent. The huge grins each time the bull bugled as was getting closer to us and more angry. Seeing those antler tips emerge. The punched tag.

I will likely never again set foot in the Jarbidge. There is a 7 year wait once draw the elk tag. I support that wait and prefer that sort of approach over point systems.

Headed back to the truck.

Pack out of the bull.jpg
 
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rtraverdavis

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Sounds like it was a heck of an adventure. I sure would like to explore that country someday. Congratulations!
 

F250

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Great hunt !!! Thank you for the excellent photos and sharing the hunt with us.
 

kansasdad

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You certainly had a fantastic adventure. Congratulations!

I commend you for your mindfulness of the whole experience. I could hear the shoe hit the rock and see the sparks fly as you wrote.
 
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