Caribou Gear Tarp

Father, Son and the lucky cartridge.

dcopas78

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To adequately tell this story, I feel that I need to backtrack a few years to the first western hunt my dad and I shared together, and a little about our family history.

My dad is a lifetime hunter, who started out subsistence hunting and trapping for a family which included eight siblings, and a father that spent 12-hour days in a fire tower for the state forestry service. Growing up in the foothills of Appalachia, in the poorest county in the state, was a tough proposition at best. Dad's "chore" however grew into a passion. Providing for his family became a connection to the outdoors that he passed on to my brother and I. My dad started doing his own taxidermy, since he couldn't afford to pay for someone to do it for him. This, too, became a passion and a career.

Since I first started hunting at age 9, we have talked about going "west" and hunting all the western species. We did manage to go on a few Canadian bear hunts and Dad managed to go on a caribou hunt after a couple years saving, but the western hunt never materialized. Years became decades and we felt the opportunity slipping from us with each passing season. No one had ever told us about on your own, do-it-yourself hunting on public land. We were under the impression that you had to have a guide if you even stepped out of the truck to look at western game. Too many "real" tree videos were the guide tells them to shoot lead us to this conclusion.

Fast forward to the January 2013. A few of our friends who own a sporting goods store asked me and dad to join them on a trespass fee hunt for antelope in Wyoming. It was a relatively inexpensive introduction to western hunting, so we jumped at the opportunity to split costs and bag an antelope. Being disillusioned with Ohio whitetail hunting to the point of almost hanging up the bow and gun, I was eager to experience something different and gaze upon all the "public" land that I had began to read about.

I was immediately awestruck by the vastness of it and soon I begin digging into all details great and small about western, DIY, public land hunting. I was mesmerized and my wife soon got tired of my addiction to computer research and calls made to the different agencies. Dad and I started building points for Wyoming, with the target "date" being Fall 2015 for our first elk hunt on a public land with a general license.

Again, fast forward to January 2015. Imagine my excitement at getting mine and dads names in on the draw for a "sure bet" draw. I was positive we would draw a general tag, second choice on the "special" draw with the opportunity to still build points for a limited draw area in the future. Darn my bad luck, as this was the first year, I believe, that not all second choice, special general license got drawn. That rejection was the ultimate let down. I had only dabbled slightly in research for other states like Montana, Idaho, or Colorado. Idaho and Colorado were both fine choices but Montana was really the first choice out of all three because of the leftover combo tags, allowing for a chance to harvest a mule deer if elk weren't found.

Soon the tags were purchased, we picked an area in the Little Belts, even going as far as going the in May to check it out for a week, and the dates were set. We found our "promised land" on the May trip and the excitement began to build. We would be leaving October 18, dividing the trip to Montana and the Belts into three days and making several stops along the way. The ADVENTURE begins.....
 

Gr8bawana

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Nevada
Good luck to you. It's always fun to see some new country and if you get to harvest an animal that's just icing on the cake.
 

dcopas78

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Decatur, OH
PART 2
After a long, but enjoyable drive west, we pulled in to our camp on Tuesday afternoon. Everything was soon unloaded and organized, packs were readied for the next day small scouting excursion.

That evening we drove over to the area were we saw elk and lots of sign in May. We got to a high point and got the spotting scope ready. We soon glassed up two bulls, not trophy sized bulls but FINE trophys for our first elk. I, myself, pictured them as walking T-bones in the spotting scope. Forget the rack that was just a bonus. Saturday couldn't get here fast enough!

The next day we spent on a ridge line that showed plenty of promise for deer in the spring, as there were several rubs, droppings and beds. With the warmer weather this fall, I figured that the deer and elk would likely be high. As we worked our way out the ridge, we found a saddle literally covered with mule deer tracks and droppings.

dad breather.jpg
Dad, at 70 years young, taking a break at the top of the ridge

This appeared to be a spot to try for the mule deer buck if we didn't find the elk. At 7500' and about a 1900' vertical climb over 1.75 miles from the trailhead, off-trail, I figured it would be a spot we would likely have to ourselves unless someone else had spotted the deer sign.

deer saddle.jpg
The ridge, with the saddle at center right of picture

We spent the rest of the week checking out the rest of the units and doing a little fishing and grouse hunting.

We agreed that the elk would be our main focus for opening day
 

dcopas78

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PART 3 - Opening Day
Neither one of us slept much the night before the opener and we were up a 4 AM getting breakfast together. We were on the trail working our way up the the elk by 4:30 AM.

After an uneventful silent climb to the top, we decided to wait until shooting light to approach the meadows and see if the bulls were there. As we sat weighting, a heard the clink of a pack frame hitting tree branch back down the hill. A disheartening sound if there ever was one. We knew then and there that we were definitely not alone and that someone else had their eyes on these elk. They blew past us before we even had a chance to acknowledge our presence and in to the open meadow at full speed ahead. There weren't any obvious signs stealth present, as if they were purposely driving the elk from the area.

I quickly hatched a plan to circle around to an adjacent meadow bordering private land that we had saw the elk cross in May to water from a private pond. I figured this would be a likely escape route from public to private because of the abundant dark timber and water source.

We circled around and Dad took up a position overlooking trails across the meadow we had found in the spring.
dad position.jpg


Unfortunately, more hunters began to materialize and elk/deer season Day 1 was in the books with our quarry never spotted. "Pumpkins" were a plenty, however. And so goes public land hunting I found out. You live, you learn and we both learned that we aren't the only two-legged predators on the mountain.
 

dcopas78

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PART 4: Change of Luck

That evening we decided that we didn't want the same experience we had the first day. We knew that meant going to the ridge top and suffering through the "burn". We left camp a little later Sunday morning so that we could hunt our way slowly to the top and maybe catch a buck or bull off-guard.

The hike up wasn't particularly exciting. It was pretty tiring for two southern Ohio people though. Especially the 70 years young one. We reached the ridge top at about 8:45 AM with plans to sit on it all day and catch something coming up over the top to get to the dark timber on the backside.

As I went to sit down, an odd shape in the rocky outcropping caught my eye. It turned out to be a Peters .32 Remington spent casing. Dad could hardly believe it, as he hadn't saw a Peters casing in a very long time and had never saw one in .32 Remington.

I casually remarked to my dad that this spot had brought someone luck many years before and that this was now my "lucky cartridge" casing and it went in the front pocket of my hunting pants.

We got our pads down to sit on and started getting a shooting position ready. Being one of the rare areas where I had cell reception, I decided to call my wife and quietly whisper to her for a few minutes since I or she hadn't heard each others voices in a few days.

As I sat there with the cell in my hand, I caught movement off of the ridge top coming up hill toward the saddle. I quickly realized that it was a mule deer and a quick examination with the binoculars confirmed it was a buck!. Dad had first shot at anything, but he couldn't get it in his scope. Again, we had sat down only seconds before. No bipods were extended, no rests prepared and we had a deer heading for timber at 165 yards out. Dad whispered "he is yours if you can get a clean shot"

As I brought the Savage .300 Win Mag to my cheek, got a clear sight picture, locked by elbow to my ribcage, and whistled, he stopped right in a small opening about 20 feet clear of the dark timber. At the bark of the rifle, I had my first mule deer buck! I could hardly believe what had just happened. My wife sat deafened by the roar of a rifle over the phone 1780 miles away, wondering what had happened.

Elation soon became a quiet hush as I looked at my father, tears in my eyes. I'm not one to be ashamed that I get extremely excited and emotional when hunting. The day I lose that is the day I quit. But these were also tears that I had just shot a buck I meant for my father to have. After all, he was supposed to shoot first. I'm 37 and I would like to think that I have several years of hunting left in me, although the good Lord doesn't guarantee my next breath. At 70, my dad is starting to slow down. He isn't the ironman anymore, who could out-walk or out-work me any day of the week.

buck.jpg
My buck

dad buck.jpg
Dad admiring my deer

He immediately sensed my conundrum and came over, quietly put his hand on my shoulder and said told me that he would rather watch me shoot that deer everyday for the rest of his life rather than shoot it himself. Great parents are easily taken for granted sometime....

Anyways, the tagging, photos, quartering, loading and pack-out began. As we started to walk off, I told dad I had something to do. I walked over to my rocky shooting position and laid my empty cartridge among the stones for the next hunter to find. Maybe that cartridge can bring someone the same luck that the old Peters .32 Remington brought me. It will forever go with me on my future hunting trips.
my pack.jpg
I got the hind quarters, loins, and hamburger

dad pack.jpg
Dad got the shoulders and cape

dad rest.jpg
Taking a load off

We hunted a few days after that but Dad's heart wasn't in it. I think he got all the fulfillment he needed watching me shoot my buck. There is something about the mountains that energizes me in a way I can't describe in words. I will forever remember this hunt and the only thing I can say is thanks Montana! P.S. I will get a picture of the cartridge up tomorrow once I unpack!
 

warmer

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Awesome story! I am 50 and love hunting with my kids. I think I know how your Dad felt. Sometimes you reflect back on how you raised your children, wondering if they turned out OK? I'd say he is very proud of you, I know that's how I would feel! Keep hunting with him, you both deserve it!
 

kansasdad

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That's a great adventure spent with two fine gentlemen. Well done showing and telling the story.
 

1_pointer

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Indiana
Awesome! Glad to hear that double throat patch cape came off the mountain. You would have regretted it if it didn't. I know from experience...

Looking forward to the rest of the story.
 

mtlion

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Hamilton, MT
Awesome! I've spent a fair amount of time in the Little Belts, and while it's been a few years I'd say you took a good buck for up there. Congrats.
 

dcopas78

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Decatur, OH
The lucky spent cartridge:

end cartridge.jpg

side cartridge.jpg

A little wikipedia search showed me that Remington bought out Peters in 1934, although I'm not sure how much longer after that Remington stamped the Peters name on any ammunition. I know dad said that he would sometimes find paper Peters shotgun shells when he was a kid and use them. It is the first shell I have ever saw, either loaded/unloaded for a .32 Remington. I know that some historical firearms buff could have used it just last year up the mountain, but I would prefer to think that it might date back to when my father was just a boy. Maybe another father had his son up there half a century ago harvesting a buck. It is neat to think about. At any rate, my wife will have it in her pocket tomorrow evening when I take her out to try to harvest her first Ohio whitetail archery buck. My dad will have it in his pocket next year when we come back out west. I will always have it around, and when the time is right I will pass it on to my son.
 

belly-deep

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Oct 31, 2009
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Way cool!

My pard found a .30-30 case last weekend. Could have been fired 5 years ago. Also could have been fired a lot longer ago than that.
 

7mm08mo

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Lake of the ozarks Missouri
Cool story. Congrats on the buck looks like a beauty. I know what your saying about your dad. I'm 37 and my dad is 63 with diabetes and told me last fall he wanted to kill a elk and maybe hunt pronghorn again before he gets where he can't. Got antelope in Wyoming this fall. Going for elk in Idaho next fall. Just seems weird that dad isn't invincible like I used to think. Way to go good luck next year.
 

Bwana

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North Dakota
Tough to beat an adventure with dear old Dad. Congrats on the buck but even more so on the shared experience.
 

Festus

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Virginia
Great story. Congrats on an awesome trip and making some great memories!
Thanks for sharing.
 

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