Caribou Gear

Things happen- a story

diamond hitch

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Feb 9, 2020
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751
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Western Montana
I'll try not to make this too long but hang on. In 1978, hunting season had been long, dry and miserable. I had crawled through every north side thicket I knew - twice, with no luck. Finally on the day before thanksgiving, we got a skiff of snow and I went to the far reaches of my normal hunting range and picked up the tracks of three bulls. As usual, going up. I followed them to a place my father had camped while on trail crew in the 30s. He said it was an exciting place where during a lightning storm the lightning bolts alternated between the two knobs on either side of the tent. Kind of made your hair stand on end with each strike.

As I approached his camp site the bulls stood briefly then jumped off the 6 ft cliff off the backside into a clearcut. By the time I got up there they were gone. It was about 3:30 and I had to go home for Thanksgiving. I was out about 5 miles and I started for home as it was a 300 mile trip.

Knowing where the elk were made the holiday drag on. As soon as my wife released me I headed back to pick up where I left off. Saturday morning found me in a foot of snow, tracking a small herd through a peckerpole thicket. At about 10 ft a bull stood up and took off. It was so thick you had to hold your rifle verticle to turn. I tracked him back toward camp. He dropped over the north side of the ridge and every little thicket he seemed to pick up 5-6 elk. About 3 miles later, I broke out of the jungle into the regen of a clearcut below where I had jumped them initially before thanksgiving. The trees were about 6 ft high and a solid blanket. Suddenly I could see legs at about 10 ft but no bodies. Next to me was a big larch stump about 4 ft wide. I figured if I crawled up on the stump maybe I could see them from above. As I stood up I turned and was staring eye to eye at the bull at about 10ft. I think there was a little shock for both of us giving a couple second delay. Then he bolted and I got a running shot at nearly point blank range but through the mass of young fir trees. By the grace of god, I drew blood. With a steady blood trail he ran down a rocky hogback, crossed a road and continued toward the bottom. I followed closely about a mile and jumped him again at a small cliff. He jumped off the ledge and ran down the face of a boulder field I couldn't have crawled down. I ran to the edge and took a bead on the back of his neck. At the shot, he rolled the last 30 ft into the bottom.

Twenty minutes later I found a way through the rocks to gut him out. The next task was gaining 1000ft of elevation back to the ridge top to the horses about 3 miles away. About 3hrs later as I approached the trail a nice mulie jumped up and bounced down the path I had just crawled up. I took a pretty good lead and as he jumped the second road I squeezed the trigger and down he went.

I found my partner and the horses and we headed back down the clearcut to the buck. As we neared the second road we hit a patch of ice and horses fell down and slid under me and I rode a halr toboggen to the road and the deer. I got the deer dressed out and loaded on my horse but was too exhausted to go up to the ridge again. We walked out the road to the top and then worked our way back to camp about 4 miles. It sure was nice to be young.

We spent a little time in camp and then decided to pull camp that night since we would have to get the bull from the bottom tomorrow. We made it to my fathers house about 3:00 am. It's amazing just how tough we were in our twenties.
 

diamond hitch

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Joined
Feb 9, 2020
Messages
751
Location
Western Montana
Half the story is the killing but often the retrieval is even a bigger story. We got out about 9:00 and started up the drainage to the bull. There had been a washout that spring and the road was really a creek bottom. We bounced up the dry creek a sizable distance and stopped when the road smoothed out to check the horses. When I got to the back of the trailer I discovered the doors had fallen off. I had to walk back down the drainage and retrieve them before continuing on. At the upper end , we unloaded and got the gear on and packs set. There was a abandoned skid road that took us most of the way to the elk.

We got off the road and worked our way into the gulch bottom and up the other side. It's always amazing where horses can go.

We got the elk skinned, quartered, wrapped in sheets and mannyed up. We put the front quarters on the mare and the hind quarters on the gelding.

The mare was a little short but steady. The gelding was indestructable but had a couple of bad habits. As we started to cross a log, he decided he would rather jump it. Instead of going up he flipped over backwards. As I was madly stripping the ropes and meat off of him he kept Jerking. Finally I looked down and saw that he was feeding on the grouse whortleberry bushes while I was in a panic.

I got him up and reloaded him and continued on. The bank was steep on the side of the road and as we started up he flipped over just like before. Once again I stripped everything off and started over.

This time I hooked the lead rope around a tree and urged him on. When he pulled back at the same spot, the tree held and he pulled himself up with the muscles in his neck. The mare followed suit and we had the bull back to the house by about 7:00 pm.

We were a little beat around the edges but nothing that wouldn't heal and scar over by the next season. It's a miracle that I survived my youth. I never had another horse that had that problem.

For the point counters - the bull was a 6x6, 50 inches high and 48 inches wide. About 340 bull. The buck was a young 4x4 mulie. Nothing exciting but good eating for my family.
 

OntarioHunter

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Sep 11, 2020
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3,512
I had a pack mare that would pull that going over backward stunt ... but only when I was in the saddle and we had a disagreement about what to do. She never tried to dump a load. Quite the opposite. I could always rely on her to give 110% when it came to that work or any work for that matter. It's the reason I kept her. She had awful conformation so I rarely rode her anyway. Quite the cow horse too but half a day in the saddle running down calves was about all I could take.

And yes, thanks for that story. Conjurs up special memories.
 
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Akcabin

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Jul 11, 2021
Messages
307
Great story. And yes thinking about the hunts of the past n the things that happened along the trail in life. Makes me smile but also makes me shudder a bit.
Also, when you're out there getting it done with what you got. Then try writing about it. I can read back on some of the stories n stuff I've done. I think to myself, like wtf was I thinking.
Must have enjoyed it because I keep trying to do it
 

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