Idaho Recap

MarvB

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Well finally have the time for a write up of my Idaho elk hunt from a few weeks ago. As I had originally posted prior to the hunt, I was undecided on just what I was going to take with; I knew my bow was going and at first the backup was to be the .300 Win but after asking the thoughts of some of the group here, I did in fact decide to take the .350 Rem Mag to use should archery tackle not bear out.

https://www.hunttalk.com/threads/voices-from-the-safe.308664/

Even with the screwed up shoulder, I got the bow grouping well out to 40-45 yds but with the poundage cranked down a bit. Was a PIA to reposition all the pins to account for the drop in speed from 70# down draw to the current 58# but all ended up good to go in the end and I could both pull back and hold comfortably enough to give the bow a whirl should the opportunity present.

The ammo FINALLY arrived and the .350 got pulled out for some long awaited shooting. Getting things set up and my gear laid out I got hit with a little case of melancholy. I realized the last time I had shot my dad’s gun was when he was still alive. Since he passed in February of 2003, the .350 had been sitting in its silicone sock for the better part of two decades…no wonder finding ammo for it was like searching the bar at 2am for one that you could introduce to your mom.

I had originally pulled the trigger on some overpriced rounds I finally located on Gunbroker but the seller later contacted me and said he was having some “shipping issues”. About that same time I got a DM from a buddy that an outfit in Montana (Black Dog Ammo) had two boxes available for HALF the price I was gonna get nicked for on Gbroker. I emailed the seller back, wished him luck in his shipping situation, and cancelled my order. I called to the owner of Black Dog on a Wed, he sent me a shipping label the next morning and the two boxes were at my door the following Mon afternoon- nice guy (George) and great service!


Fresh from Black Dog in Scobey, MT
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Speaking of that I want to thank @Jbotto , @Mica Man , @Addicting , and @fishing4sanity for their advice, tips, and offers of help in my ammo search. Much appreciated the comments from all the other HuntTalkers in helping me decide to actually take the 350 along!

Since the rifle hadn’t had a bullet down the tube in 20 years I put the target up for an initial 50yd verification and, MUCH to my surprise, it was pretty much centered horizontally and about 6” high. As worked it down towards the bull the wind started howling. Three shots at 50 got me where I felt I wanted to be and three more at 100 with the gusty wind, ammo scarcity, and my shoulder told me it was “good enough”. I had forgotten how much that little 5.5 pound bastard popped your shoulder, 200grainers and an 18.5”bbl all don’t help with “shooting comfort”. At about 1-1/2” high at 100 I felt good out a max PBR of about 250yds and I was not going to shoot past that with an unfamiliar rifle and a fixed 4x scope.

Set up at my range
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Shots 1-3 at 50yds, shots 4-6 at 100yds in a howling wind

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Gear together for the trip

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So it was off to Idaho for my wife’s doctors apt (she’s been battling Lyme for years but her specialist in CDA has really helped her to turn things around). This was to be a bit of an odd trip for me; I was the only one with a tag and was going to meet a friend up there and we’d be hunting while my wife stayed/visited friends about an hour away. My buddy had tagged out already during archery season and since he still had leave he needed to burn and knowing that I would be battling my recently replaced knee, he offered to meet me there as provide an extra set of eyes, legs, and back. He was going to get in a few days ahead of me while I was shuttling the Mrs and see if anything was still around where he had hunted a month prior. I couldn’t wait to meet up in the morning…
 

MarvB

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We began that morning up in an area where Chris had seen a handful of elk including one good bull two days prior. He told me nothing was talking the last two days and the one bull was already appearing to lose interest in his small harem. With that news, and the thick understory, I began to think the outing with the bow may prove to be short lived. It was mid 20’s at daybreak but looking to warm to close to 70 before the day was over and Chris’s scouting had revealed everything to be pretty dang dry and little water left around.

Bull Chris glassed up two days before I got there
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It was just starting to break dawn as we went straight at the hill, him with the spotter and me with my gear and bow, to a nearby knob we’d planned to glass from. I quickly found out that my knee (replaced earlier this spring) did NOT like the frost covered loose rock and by the time we got up to our spot we were already nearly an hour later than I had planned.

Chris pointed out the tree line in the distance that dropped down to wallow/spring that he had found. He said that was the only area that he had saw any other fresh sign in both days of his scouting. We continued to glass from our ridge, tried an occasional call, but nothing turned up nor answered . We started picking our way downhill through the reprod and rock outcroppings and I was to find that my knee would soon be even more pissed at me for the downhill go. Hunting this year just might have not been the brightest idea I’ve had.

We worked slowly through the draws and up to the glassing points throughout the day but no elk were spotted and none heard. We made our way over the wallow, trying our best to keep the constantly shifting wind in our face and that’s when things began to change. Though the water in the seep of the wallow was still clear (nothing had been in it of late) you could still smell the elk around it, the crap was still pretty fresh, and the brush and ground nearby had been raked and torn to hell. This was looking more promising! The one thing that did stand out though was just how thick the area was grown with the reprod and underbrush. Not too far off the wallow we were walking down a rub line and hear a bull raking a tree almost on top of us. We crept closer to about 40 yards and could make out the movement in the understory but there was absolutely no way to get any closer nor a hole for an arrow to get through. It kinda reminded me of hunting rosies as a kid back on the coast, and how frustrating it had been trying to get a bow shot back then. As we were going to start to lose light we decided to back out and hunt our way back to the trailhead and then regroup our thoughts for tomorrow…

Bull (circled) would not respond to calls nor offer a shot (too thick) with the bow
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MarvB

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The next day was colder yet but again expected to heat up in the afternoon. We’d decided to park at a different closed gate we found e-scouting that gave us a longer walk in but more side hill than the up/down that my knee was objecting to. On the top of the ridge the ground was completely frosted over but I could make out the melted circular beds of where elk had been earlier. Fresh crap was also scattered throughout and the trail off the top looked like it was headed towards the small meadow/wallow we’d planned to hit up later. We hiked, glassed, and occasionally called but again didn’t hear of see a thing.

A little frosty on top this morn
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Elk beds
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Fresh rubs
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Taking a quick break I asked Chris what he thought of us backing out the way we came (the wind wasn’t in our favor to continue along the trail) and then heading to the other side and over the next ridge where we could watch the wallow and the waterhole. There was supposed to be decent rain coming in the next two days and I thought that sitting the ONLY water NOW rather than waiting and loosing that opportunity once the storm hit might be the way to go. I also grudgingly shared with him that I think I might had bit off a bit much with the knee situation. Chris laughed and replied “your hunt your knee, I’m the mule remember?” So off we went.

We worked our way back over and across the ridge and once we got the wind right in our face, we started down to a vantage point over the meadow. We’d already hiked over three miles that morning and I said I felt like I was letting us both down a bit being an indecisive ass about what I wanted to do. Chris gave me the same hunt/knee reply and said just hunt the way I would have if I was alone, that “I wasn’t there to please him.” That sunk in a bit better and we pushed on and finally came out on a small rise across and about 100 or so yards from the wallow. Since we were in the shade, had a little elevation, and had the wind blowing to us we called it good and set up right there to watch.

The day so far
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Ridge we came over and then went back down to circle below to the wallow (arrow)
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Chris glassing back to the wallow from the knob across the meadow
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Edge of the wallow
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MarvB

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I’d like to say the next few hours were exciting but other than Chris, three whitetail does, and a handful of camp robbers nothing was on the meadow. About two that afternoon we finally saw movement along the base of the ridge above the wallow. Two cow elk fed out into the meadow and then made a b-line for the water. I ranged them at 107yards and then got my rifle re-positioned on my trigger stick I’d brought along when I ditched the bow. We watched through the binos for the next half-hour as the cows milled around through the reeds along the wallow and took an occasional drink. Then, as is my typical luck, I felt a gust hit the back of my neck and the wind switched on a dime. I whispered such to Chris and as the wind continued to shift he nodded at me and then at the wallow, both cows were staring right at us! We hadn’t moved, it had to be the wind shift blowing our scent straight to them. Then one cow barked and both began moving to the edge of the clearing and then up the ridge. We watched them slowly pick their way through the timber as they climbed the ridge, hoping that something would move with them but as they disappeared from sight it was still just the two cows. I shook my head and was just about to say something to Chris as he looked back at me when his eyes went wide and he gave me that “look behind” you glance. I slowly turned back around and literally in the exact same place the cows had just ran from stood a bull staring right at us. The cows had been at 107yds and the bull was just a bit past that. I slowly got my rifle turned back around as he continued to stare, fully straight on, with just the front of him sticking out of the reeds and cattails. I just kept saying to myself c’mon man one step EITHER direction, just give me a side. Then from somewhere waaaaaay up on the ridge one of the cows barked again (no idea why) and the bull literally spun to its side and looked up the ridge that direction. At almost the same time I dropped the .350 right past the crease of his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The bull mule-kicked and took off, then tore around (I have never had one do this before) in a tight circle before tipping over probably not 20 feet from where I had shot him! I looked at the old man’s nearly sixty year-old gun, one that I had never even aimed at an animal before, one that hadn’t even been shot in two decades prior to a few weeks ago, and I’ll admit to having got a little choked up. It was kinda like he’d just set that bull down in front of me, at the same yardage I’d sighted in, and said let’s get this done!

We walked over, took some pics (it had been a 6x6 but one tine was recently broken off) and began the work of getting him skinned, quartered, and back to the truck. The bullet had taken out the top third of his heart and he was dead on his feet running that circle around the wallow. It was pretty late by the time we finished getting everything back to the rig so we opted to head into town to treat ourselves to a hotel room with unlimited hot water, a pizza and beer, and watch the baseball playoffs. I spent the night sleeping with the knee elevated and a bag of ice keeping it company. The next day we parted ways, Chris heading home and me to pick up the Mrs. Eight hours after that the wife and I were pulling into Prineville and hunting season (except for maybe ducks and geese) was officially over for 2021.

Hunting season officially over
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Nice to have a bull down on level ground for a change
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Bull’s second tine of his left had been broken off at the main beam, turning him into a 6x5
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Bullet entry
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My “celebration” that night, knee was killing me, beer helped!
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Freezer looking better for winter
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Epilogue: After two days of processing meat my knee still wasn’t thinking too much of me so I went in to my orthopedic surgeon just to make sure I hadn’t f’d something up yet again. He took xrays and wrote me an Rx for another 4 weeks of PT with the advice of continued icing and elevation. It’s settled back down since and I’ve already got myself talked into another trip next year! Sorry for the long-winded recap, guess the quick moral of the story is not to get old…but it beats the shit out of the alternative.

The left knee didn’t enjoy the hunt AT ALL
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But the pics came back clear at the doc’s….only thing damaged was my pride!
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Duck-Slayer

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great state of Idaho....
Holy that's a heck of an Idaho bull! definitely an above average bull! Congrats on the full freezer also... epic adventures always seem to take a toll on the body and getting older doesn't help either :unsure: Great read!
Matt
 

MarvB

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Holy that's a heck of an Idaho bull! definitely an above average bull! Congrats on the full freezer also... epic adventures always seem to take a toll on the body and getting older doesn't help either :unsure: Great read!
Matt

Thanks Matt…without my goat (Chris) getting him out woulda SUCKED!
 

Mica Man

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Job well done on a great bull with a dang cool gun! I was hoping there would be story after seeing your picture on the "As they lay" thread.
 

Sytes

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Pretty darn fine run of the hunt!
Grats Marv and Chris.
Thanks for the write-up and pics! That leg is one swelled mule of a leg!

Grats!
guess the quick moral of the story is not to get old…but it beats the shit out of the alternative.

"I swear to tell the whole truth".
 

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