Ollin Magnetic Digiscoping System

Idaho Elk trip

Jamen

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North Dakota
Last week me and one of my employees left North Dakota and headed to southern Idaho. After 920 miles and 15.5 hours of driving we found ourselves in Pocatello Id Sunday evening. Roads were not ideal part of the trek, but we made decent time. We met up with our friend that morning to gather the last of the remaining items on our list then we headed south to his uncle's farm. Once we got there, we were greeted by a very kindhearted man in his 80's. We unloaded our gear and went to talk with him a bit. We insisted that we help with some farm chores, but he was hard to get us to help. His typical response was " You boys are here to hunt not work". Finally, we convinced him to let us help trim some branches he couldn't reach and some other odds and ends. We got done helping him and we were off to check rifles.

The previous night the neighbor had seen some elk up the mountain but didn't go after them so that is where we would start Monday night. These tags were not typical unit tags, 3 of them were cow depredation tags and one was unit wide. We loaded up our packs and went out behind the farm and hiked up to some knobs and started to glass. I picked a knob and made camp for the evening the other two guys went a few knobs over. Still tired from the drive and getting use to the higher elevation it was a nice little sit for the first day. Out popped some doe mule deer, i found 4 moose a mile or so away coming down out of some draws. Two bulls and two cows. The last bull i wish i had not packed my spotter away, but it was at last light and i didn't want to dig it out before the hike out. He looked really big from the binoculars.

Unsure what to really expect on this hunt going into it. The elk will come down out of the mountains feed in the ag fields and grab a drink from the springs typically. But how most things in life work they never work out how you plan. Which made for a more memorable hunt in my opinion as the story will unfold.

This was the view the first evening.
 

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We get back to the cabin that evening and come up with a game plan for day 2. Two weeks prior a herd of 40 was spotted several miles from where we were on day one. We got into a spot just as the light was coming up and began to glass. No movement was seen for some time. We eventually spotted a few more moose. We glassed some more but decided to pack up camp and drive further into the mountains to see what we could turn up. None of us like road hunting but given the short duration of the hunt we wanted to maximize our time so we drove back into the mountains and would pick tall peaks to hike to and glass. This would continue most of the day. We did break up the day by trying to find a few grouse but never did turn any up in our walks. We eventually picked a spot a way off the roads and sat for the evening. Nothing but some does and more moose. That evening a former employee who took a job in Boise met up with us at the farm. We decided to make the game plan for the morning. This country was unlike anything i have ever experienced. They get very very little rainfall but this year they were over double what they typically get. There was so much green grass up high in the mountains that we felt that was why the elk were not in their normal spots. They had no need to be down lower for food or water.
 

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It sounds like you'll have two choices: set up on the water sources or spot and stalk. Figure out where they are bedded and catch them moving to and from. If the bulls separate from the cows then you may need to separate from your partner and decide your tactics. Good opportunity, sounds like a great hunt in front of you guys. Watch the wind out there. Keep HT posted and good luck. Stay persistent and patient!!
 
Day 3 or Wednesday if you will. We decided to drive far back into the mountains as we could and frequently get out and hike out to good glassing spots in hope to catch something moving. 5 moose that morning and some mule deer. We spent the whole day glassing and hiking until a bit after lunch. We decided to go back to where the elk were last seen and see what we could find. This time from the back side. When we got to the base of the mountain, we would have to climb us 3 flat landers looked at each other and we all had the same thought. How the heck will we get to the top of that. I believe it was a bit over 1,300 in elevation change and the summit was around 7,300 if i remember correctly. Which isn't a lot to most western hunters. This being my real firsthand hunt out west i don't count the badlands it was a true test and eye opening for us 3. Our friend whose uncle we stayed with was like a gazelle going up and down the mountains. My legs were fine for the most part it was my breathing that was the issue. But we took off our layers and grabbed our packs knowing it would be the rest of the day to get where we needed to go and off, we went. There was a nice trail for part of the way but then we had to make the climb. We got part way, and my feet were feeling it. I could tell i had blisters forming on my heels, but we kept going. We got 2/3 of the way up and us 3 were shot. We needed a 10-minute break to regain our energy. So, we set up i took off my boots tended to my feet and bandaged up the heels. Grabbed some quick snacks and water and off we went back up.

Almost to the summit we made a plan two of us would go one way the other two the other. Trying to side hill on this steep mountain through sage, chokecherry and a host of other brush made it slow going but we eventually made it. Exhausted we made our camp for the evening. We got to see the farm off in the distance and we would be right where the elk were on Sunday evening and could see in every direction. We felt really good about the location. Glassed up a few more moose and some does. Stayed til dark and grabbed our headlamps and headed down the mountain.

Once we got back to the farm, we went to meet his aunt who was there for the evening. After chatting with her for a bit the uncle told us to go try a spot in the morning where the neighbor has seen some semi fresh sign. This was in the semi same area as Tuesday and where the 40 were two weeks ago. Thursday was make it or break it day. We all had to leave friday and we all knew it would be a very fast hunt with the limited days.
 

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Day 4 Thursday. We went to where his uncle had said to go. Two of us went one way the other a different way. WE were in some very tall sage chest or better trying to glass. We spotted 3 very nice mule deer bucks. We could almost see the spring a mile down the field and the draw they would use to get back to the mountain. I was glassing up the mule deer down by the spring when trevor says there are 3 of them! As soon as I turned around they were gone over a small ridge. We texted the other two guys to stop and get down. We knew the general location of where they were but were not sure how far they had made it in. Again trevor saw them but only their heads at 450 yards. I never did see them. The other two guys got to a spot and started glassing. Soon they texted us they saw them, there were 4 of them feeding. We had not been busted. We backed out and headed toward the truck. The other two waited til they had them bedded up in an aspen draw.

We met at the truck to come up with a plan. I had the only tag available for the whole unit public and private the other 3 had to be on private. Plan was to loop around and let the two guys off to come down the fence line that separated the public and private me and the other guy would climb the mountain and walk that draw down in hopes i get a shot at one and if not hoping the run to the other people. I do not like drive hunting but it being the last day of the hunt we had to make a play and that was the only one.

We dropped the two guys off and we were going to the top of the field to park. The guy driving said maybe we should stop here and walk the rest. To our demise we did not because we were over a mile away from the 4 elk and wind in our favor. As soon as we park, he was looking at onx to find a route up the mountain i let out a few inaudible sounds as i watch the herd of 40 file out of a draw 8-900 yards away. Not wanting to take a hail Mary shot me being really confident out to 500 we watch them one by one go up and over the mountain. They were not in a major hurry, but they also didn't want to stick around to see what we were doing.

Tanner the friend who took us out here said leave your pack ill bring mine you just start hiking. Not even thinking i grab 5 extra bullets put them in my chest harness and i take off. Filled with adrenaline i make one of the biggest mistakes western hunting you can make and i didn't realize it til it was too late... I gave up all my elevation... I went down where the elk were lost 1,000 feet in elevation.

I started up the other side when tanner finally caught up with me. He said " You took the long route huh" realizing my mistake out of breath i said yes. He gave me a reassuring fist bump and said Well let's go get them.

Off we went trying to close the distance. The other 2 guys a mile away from the elk can see them and are giving us coordinates the best they can a mile away. Elk are now over a mile as a crow fly from us but have slowed their pace way down. Trying to climb to the top and not die from lack of oxeygen we keep plugging along. We get almost to the sumit and i see one way off in the distance glace quick and its the big bull. I back up and tell Tanner the general location of where he is at. We side hill down a bit out of sight and try to close the distance.

The elk finally stopped and were mingling around these aspens. We make our way to them. We are getting semi close and i tell the other two guys we will be there within 10 minutes so be ready.

We are now within 600 yards of where we think they are on the back side of the mountain. We need to crest and they should be all right there. Tanner says dont panick when you see them all since there was over 40 pick a cow and stick with her and not worry about the rest. We slowly creep to the top. Now within 200 or so yards of cresting and coming over the top.
 
We make one final play, i said i believe they are in this first draw tanner said he thought the next. If we went to mine and they busted, we would have one direction to be able to see them. If we go his route, we "SHOULD" be able to see both sides no matter which way they go. Creeping along slow I'm trying not to breath heavy. 150 yds from the top... all of a sudden, a covey of grouse gets up scares the little Debbie's right out of me. Why are there grouse at over 7,000 feet right where I am trying to stalk elk on the last day? that's just the luck i have, i guess. we keep going, another group flushes and then another and another. Finally, 5 groups flushed. We look at each other we know the gig is about up my phone is vibrating it's the other 2 calling me. I ignore the first 2 calls, answer the 3rd could hear them I threw it in my pocket.

Knowing the birds gave away our position we hurry over the top. Finally able to hear the other 2 on the phone they said they all busted and heading south. I try to get to the edge to see what's all going on, then the big herd bull gets up 30 yards to my left scares more zebra cakes out of me. I try to overlook my original draw I thought they would be in and it's so steep i can't see much. I go to the other side, and I start to see them go up the other mountain. What looked to be real far away I glass 3/4 up the mountain above them to see the distance before the top 502.

Game on last day of the hunt over 2 hour and 2.5-mile stalk all blown by grouse everything happening so fast all at once I get to a spot, I sit down range the herd 476. Wait for one to move away from all the rest so i don't shoot into the herd and would be able to pick which one if I hit it for a 2nd shot. Try to regain any composure I have left. Squeeze i knew it was rushed and a clear miss...

Knowing I am more than capable of making that shot i take 2 seconds chamber another round and wait for a cow to move away from the group. One does, i settle the old 30-06 Remington 700 on my knee best i can take a deep breath and squeeze the trigger. BOOM, then i hear the infamous whack of lead hitting an animal. She goes down, she tries to get back up i chamber another and squeeze. Hit her again and she goes down again. She can't get back up but isn't dead so i take an extra second and put one in her neck. After all the bad luck on the day the one good luck was, she did a death kick and rolled down the mountain on to the trail.

I had to take a minute by myself to realize all what happened. I gave a small thanks for the harvest. Over 2 hours of stalking, over 2.5 miles a few thousand feet in elevation change. Chaos right at the end on the last day to be able to harvest an elk. I go over to Tanner we exchange handshakes and smiles all around. I call the other two and tell them elk down and give them a pin location.

Tanner volunteers to go back to the truck almost 3 miles away and come around the other side. She was only .5 mile from the road at this point. We are on a steep side, i questioned if I'd even make it down the mountain to her. He left I took a moment by myself to sit reflect let the adrenaline calm down. I text the family group text elk down. Lots of texts flood in and I start the trip down the mountain.

I call my dad first knowing I had a good hike down and tell him the short story and then I called my mom and did the same.

I made it to the bottom and walked up to her. I sat down said my thanks for the harvest and waited for the guys to show up. Took some pictures and started quartering her out.
 

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What was the longest stalk i had ever done. Unraveled very quickly. I was happy to just see the elk but blessed to have had the opportunity at a chance and then made it happen on public land. We all were able to have some meat. Over 33 miles hiked in 3.5 days, but we made the best of it. They went out that evening but didn't see anything. I stayed back and tended to the meat and started cleaning up the cabin and packing for the drive home. Even though it was a very quick trip we made memories that will last a lifetime. None of us ever hunted together but i have a feeling we will be doing more hunts together in the future.

Southern Idaho sure has some very unique country. I am thankful for the whole experience!
 
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