NEW SITKA Ambient 75

New guy here and here is my Elk story 2004


Aug 19, 2004
Hello all. Newbie here from Wyoming. 29 years old, live in SW corner of the state and been hunting and fishing my entire life. Fellow poster Funter pointed me to the sight right before I left for my hunt. Anyways I thought what a better way to start out here than by sharing my story for this years Elk hunt. A quick FYI, I am the forth generation in my family to hunt the area you are about to read about. Kinda long but I hope you enjoy.

Elk Hunt 2004

I left late Tuesday night (oct 12th) for the big mighty elk hunt. I arived to camp at about 10 P.M.. Awoke the next morning and got my camp trailer all setup and then my Dad and I started prepping the horse area. The horses arrived about 2 P.M. which spoiled our plans for an early scouting trip that day. They were to be delivered earlier in the day but oh well that’s the way things go sometimes. My brother arrived that night.

On Thursday we sat out for a good preseason scouting ride. Our main goal was to mainly look for sign to get an idea of where the Elk were. The day was a very nice day with lots of sunshine and warmth with a wind that came up that afternoon and getting rather strong by the night. Didn’t see any critters and didn’t see much sign either. We figure we put in about 25-30 miles in the saddle that day. Not a good start.

Friday the 15th was opening day!!! We got up at a very early 3 A.M.. Saddled up the horses and hit the trail by 4 A.M. We headed to our favorite ridge to watch the movements and hopefully catch some busting through the many saddles that line the ridge top. It was windy and very very cold. I went to the highest saddle and set up. Waited for daylight and watched till about 9 or so. Didn’t see a thing accept the outfitter for the area coming up through the bottoms with his dudes.

I decided to head back down to the saddle that my dad was watching as it was in a better spot for warmth as I was about frozen from the wind at that point. I was at a little over 11,000 feet in the upper saddle and just under it in the lower saddle. Once there, we pretty well sat and watched and glassed for most of the day. I have shot 2 Elk in this fashion in years past.

My hip had been out for about 2 weeks prior to the hunt but I was just living with the pain. For whatever reason when we went on the ride Thursday, my hip popped back in. I felt better after riding 30 miles on a horse than I had felt the previous 2 weeks or so. It caught up with me Friday though. After sitting in the freezing wind my back muscles started to cramp and spasm. This is due to the pulled muscles you get from a hip being out of place with your spine. By about 3 P.M. I could barely stand. I opted at that time to slowly start working my way back to camp. It is about an 8 mile ride from that spot back to camp. I got almost to the bottom when I heard 5 shots from where I had just came. I hoped it was my dad and brother shooting and I was right.

They had spotted a cow, calf and a spike bull. My dad gave my brother first shot and he missed. Dad then shot as the Elk had started to run. They missed all five shots but the following day I ranged the shots and I think due to fading daylight they had misjudged the distance. They guessed it at 375 yards, it was closer to 700!!!

The following day was an interesting one. I opted to not head up onto the mountain. My back was still in a lot of pain and I wasn’t able to even climb onto the horse when I tried. My Dad and Bro headed out and went to where they had shot the day before. At about 10:33 A.M. a call came from my Dad on the 2-ways. My Brother had had a seizure! He was standing and warming himself in the sun when all of a sudden he fell down hill face first in a gran-mall seizure. He had a history of Epilepsy when he was young but hadn’t had an episode in over 8 years. I sprang from bed and started getting dressed when my Mom came over from their trailer. She was going to walk to where they were and I said B.S. you can take the horse. I then noticed some friends in the next camp hadn’t left yet either. So went and asked them if they would be willing to escort her to where Dad and my Bro were. They were glad to oblige.

Soon the word was spreading like wild fire that he was down with the seizure and help was abundant. I had several guys come to camp asking if we needed anything and some offered their four wheelers to go get him out (even though illegal to have past the gate). Mom got to where They were and found he was doing well. The seizure was a mild one and he was conscious again and was warming by a fire resting till he had gathered his head enough to ride out. He had a nasty shiner on his left eye and had bit a good slice into his tongue but other than that had faired well. That night he rested as did I and the next morning (Sunday) both of us were still in a lot pain and he was still very tired.

My back had showed some major improvement though and I felt good to go. So Sunday afternoon after resting that morning the three of us decided to head out for the afternoon and see what we could find. We saw nothing and close to dark headed back down to camp. It had turned very cloudy and cold with a flake of snow here and there. We knew a big storm was approaching and our good weather fortune was about to change.

On the way out it had gotten quite cold and the snow was beginning to fall. We saw a man about 3 miles from camp though that was wearing Levi's and a Levi jacket head onto a different trail just in front of us. I thought to myself either that guy is a lot tougher than me or is just plain stupid, that is NOT what you wear hunting the high country!!!

That night my brother had to head on home as he had to be back to work on Monday morning.

Monday the 18th started off about as good as the trip had been going so far. We got up and it was snowing so hard that I couldn’t hardly even see my parents trailer not 50 feet away. No good to hit the mountain in that because you cant see but about 100 ft then its just white. It does get the Elk moving but your chances of seeing them through that thick of white stuff is about zilch.

We waited till about mid afternoon when it started to lighten up. We decided to go ahead and head up to an area we call the burns. They are actually a series of clear cuts done about 35 years ago that follow up a long ridge. Makes for some awesome elk and deer territory. The farthest burn is about 5-6 miles ride. It is actually just above where Dad and my brother had shot at the elk opening day. We rode up and tied the horses up and watched the burns for movement and also were watching for sign as we rode to see how much movement there had been. NOT MUCH. As daylight faded we decided to start riding on down and head back to camp for the night. Didn’t see anything.

****Side Note*****

Monday was a terrible and sad day for hunters everywhere. We met some guys on Sunday night that was coming out on horses as well that we knew. They asked us if we had seen the drunken guy that was walking. This was the guy that I referred to seeing on Sunday. The man was very drunk and could barely make since in his talking they said. They offered to help him get down off the mountain but he refused saying that he was with 2 other guys that he was waiting on. They had separated for whatever reason.

On Monday evening the outfitter for the area was coming out the trail that the man was on. We had headed down about 30 minutes before when he would have been on the same trail as us. When riding down, he found the man leaning up against a tree asleep....or so he thought. The man was dead. 47 years old from Rock Springs Wyoming. The initial autopsy showed dieing from exposure to the elements.

We did not know this until we got home on Friday. Our camp is back off the main road in the timber to shield from wind. We did not see the commotion from the emergency vehicles and what not that was brought in to take the man out.

This is my plea to all of you.........when hunting the high country always be prepared for any kind of weather condition. A freak winter storm can hit in a matter of minutes going from blue skies to blizzard conditions. I have seen this more than once occur. I have even been in one that hit in July, yes July!!! Always carry something on you (not just your horses) that will start a fire in wet conditions and at least a granola bar for some emergency grub. Wear the right clothing (yes that means leave those dang Levi's at home period!!) using the layering system. It is best to have at least one layer that is Gore-Tex or the like for a waterproof barrier. Footwear is also extremely important. I made the mistake on Monday of not wearing a heavy enough boot and when we got to the bottom of the mountain I could not feel my feet and literally fell off my horse trying to dismount as I could not feel the stirrup with my foot. Again a good 10" or close to, insulated boot that is Gore-Tex lined is best. Also I take 2 pairs of gloves with me. A light pair and a heavy pair. Both have Gore-Tex. And most of all DO NOT DRINK AND HUNT.....................EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!! Drinking will fool you into thinking your warmer than you are, dehydrate your body, and impair your judgment and may even cause you to loose your bearings of where you are. We all know as well, a firearm should never be in the hands of anyone drinking. I plead this to all of you with a saddened heart.


On Tuesday the storm had let up and we headed out nice and early. We took the trail where not knowing, they had found the man dead the previous night. If the outfitter hadn’t of found him, we would have. The snow was a good foot deep and had covered all the tracks from the commotion so we still had no idea anything even had occurred. No one had been down the trail that morning before us so we knew we had the mountain and canyon we were headed to to ourselves. We road that day basically the same route we had taken on the scouting ride the previous Thursday.

This day, being Tuesday, was the day that by itself made the time off and money spent worth it. It was so beautiful to see the snow heavy on the trees and the sun peaking through the clouds hear and there. Even the patches of fog that had rolled in were causing some strikingly beautiful scenes. It was peaceful and somewhat surreal to be apart of my church.....the mountains that God created for all of us to enjoy. My hats off to you big man, you did a heck of a great job!!! Amen

We didn’t see any game that day elk wise, just some deer including one rather nice buck. We did see though some good sign of where the elk were headed. This got us excited for the next days hunt. The only bad thing about that day was riding in snow as deep as 2 feet is very tiring on your horses.

Wednesday started early, on the trail by 5 A.M.. It was snowing hard but we were determined to get into our favorite hunting spot for later in the days of the season. Having killed over ten elk there in years past, Dad was excited to get to what we call THE saddle. Not just a saddle on a ridge but, THE saddle. After about an hour and a half ride in heavy heavy snowfall, we reached our destination.

The saddle was covered in a layer of fog and the snow was still falling heavily and was very wet. We dropped into the timber a few feet, tied off the horses, and set out to get warm. We gathered wood and started us a campfire. We sat and watched as the fog would role in and out all day. The snow never let up once. It was cold and wet but the warmth of the fire was just enough to keep us there.

One secret many don’t know is fire doesn’t effect movements of critters much. The smoke from a small fire wont deter them at all. We have killed more elk sitting by a fire than not. By 3 P.M. we had to head off the mountain so we could get my Mom to the bottom of the road to head home in the car.

This was the end to my hunt. I had to be home to finish some things up at work Friday afternoon. My horse was beyond exhausted and just didn’t have anything left. So no hunting on Thursday. My Dads not so good health had also caught up with him Wednesday night and wasn’t feeling up to hunting on Thursday as well. So we spent Thursday getting camp taken down and ready to head out on Friday morning.

We went home empty handed but you know that’s why they call it hunting and not killing. With all the mishaps, injuries, and weather we didnt feel bad at all. Besides this is only the third year in over 30 years of Elk hunting this area that we havent gotten our Elk. Only my second year in 14 years of hunting Elk to not get one. Maybe next year!!!!
Great story and welcome to moosies. You had more snow than we did up Jackson way. On sunday one of the guy's in our camp got a bull and I offered to help pack it out monday. I took the video camera with me and I'm glad I did. When I show it to people they all say "oh,how beautiful" as we go up the trail in the snow cover woods. Then we top the mountian to go down the other side and they say "those poor horses". The only exposed skin was my face and boy did it hurt.don
P.M.M. Yah I think the storm did hit a bit more south than Jackson. It really wasnt that cold either. Monday was the only day I got trully cold and that was due to me being stupid and wearing the wrong boots. The rest of the time the biggest problem was just being wet, with the right clothes though you can be wet but not cold.

Now that the season over for that area, I have only heard of a few critters that came out, deffinatly not what were used to seeing for the area. I understand that there was alot of deer hunters in the area a few weeks prior, I think they may have had the elk treed up before we even got a chance.

WDH, I was born and raised in GR. I now live out in Lyman but am in your area still all the time. My Family is still there and my daughter lives with her Mom in GR as well. Interesting signature you have. I would like to hear whats behind that one, your bout the only person I have seen that thinks that way. Not agreeing or disagreeing just curious is all.
I do not blame wolves for lack of wildlife. I think they belong in the ecosystem along with grizzly bears coyotes and everything else that most hunters seem to hate. I always hear a lot of hunters complain about wolves and I think its just generally BS or just lack of knowledge.

I agree with that. I do think the Wolves have had some effect no doubt but probably not as much as everyone would like to think. I think they have hurt the Moose the most.

I think the 5 year drought hurt us more then anything else. Changed the Elk patterns in our area for sure. If we have another good winter and summer though, I think we will be back to about normal. Since the drought our sucess rate in my family for Elk has gone down for sure.

Talked to the wildlife biologists over the feed grounds for our area and surrounding areas and he said the grounds were over populated last winter due to low sucess rates for hunters. So they are there, I just dont think they are doing the same thing they did years past and its messing us all up LOL.

Thanks for the welcomes guys!

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