Here we go Again

VTHunter08

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Time for the yearly hunting trip. Dad and I decided to team up this year and check one off of his bucket list, and play in the Rockies looking for elk. We been working our tails off for the last 10-12mo getting in the best shape we can, building arrows, shooting, acquiring gear, and scouting. We first were looking at Wyoming, but preference points or the lack there of was going to be our killer. Then we tried the Montana option, and a quirky draw scenario left me with a tag and not my father, so sent that tag back in for a refund. We then settled on OTC Idaho. August 31st my dad pointed his truck west, checked out some scenery along the drive, and arrived at our hunting area sept. 3rd.

I have heard from him about every 4ish days and sounds like he's had a bit of a rough time finding animals but sounds like he has finally got into them. I spoke to him on saturday and said he checked an area we had looked at, hiked in, and camped out near a pond 3ish miles in. 3 days later he hiked out to spend a night in a hotel just so he could get a good nights sleep b/c of all the bugling! He had one good opportunity at a 300"+ herd bull at 40 yards corralling his cows but just could get a shot off.

I fly out of Burlington tomorrow morning at 6:30, and should be in Boise by 12:30, hopefully at the trail head by 5! Should be quite an adventure!!

I'll update when we get back!
 

Mainewoods

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Good luck out there with a bow! Headed to CO for 3rd rifle elk at the end of October, and can't wait!
 

Big D

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Good luck on your adventure. Can't wait to hear how it goes.
 

VTHunter08

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It was good and ehh all at the sametime haha. haven't had a chance to download pictures yet, and get a report written up. Hoping to do that sometime this week
 

VTHunter08

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Finally trying to get back to this and get our story and a few pictures up. Work, kids soccer, and in the process of possibly buying a new house, and selling our current house has kept me crazy busy. Busy to the point we're 11 days into our archery season here in Vermont and I've been in a stand for a total of 5 hours. I'm hoping between jobs today I can get something together.
 

VTHunter08

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So this whole trip really started a couple years ago with my hunting buddy that I go on most of my trips with started dropping hints that we should head west here at some point. We were both gung-ho on it since at the time both of us were newly married, and I was the only one with any children (at the time 6yo step daughter), so should be easy right? The next year we both ended up being blessed with a boy, then 1.5 years later he had another one. Our wives were always very positive and encouraging with our hunting adventures, but with him having two kids under the age of 3 his wife was a little uneasy about him heading 2500 miles west for a couple weeks. So after a few years of "yes lets go next year!", "sorry can't go b/c (insert one of our wives names) is pregnant", I was starting to get frustrated. Excited and happy both our family's were healthy and growing but frustrated in the I'm almost 40, feel like I'm in my prime, and ready for the next step in my hunting career.

After discussing this with my dad probably a year or so ago over a few pints of Queen City he goes "I'll go with you! We've been going on crazy hunting adventures for years, this would be the ultimate adventure!" And that's how it all started! Various west states start selling their OTC tags in december, with alot of the application deadlines for the lottery's being April'ish so we quickly started to do our homework on where we wanted to go. We first wanted to do Wyoming but quickly learned that point creep is a real thing and unless you have 2 points (which we both had zero) your basically sh** out of luck. Next was Montana. I purchased a subscription to go hunt (highly recommend) and we found 3 units that had pretty good harvest odds, and bull/cow ratio, and basically had a 50/50 shot of drawing a tag with zero points. So our plan was we'd apply as a "group" thinking with a 50/50 chance of pulling a tag being in a group then both of us would get tags. So we started a group, and both submitted applications through that (mine being an elk combination tag, and his being a elk/deer combination tag). Probably 3 weeks after the application deadline when tags were to be drawn my wife and I were on a cruise with very limited internet. As soon as we arrived back in the US I checked my e-mail and I had an e-mail from my dad saying "well I was refunded my application price, so looks like we weren't drawn" I checked my account and I hadn't been refunded yet, but I figured it was a matter of time, So onto plan B. Now that lottery's were done we knew we were in the OTC category now, and started doing more research. A month or so went by and I still hadn't received my Montana refund so I gave them a call. Finally got in touch with someone, told them everything that happened, and the gentleman on the phone goes "well you didn't get a refund b/c you drew a tag!" I was flabbergasted! What?! How is that possible? He said the groups with differing tag combos only work on the first draw. When allotted tags come back we put everyone that didn't draw back in the "pot" and split the groups that have differing combos and have another draw. That's when I drew and unfortunately my dad did not. Well to keep a long story from going longer, knowing this was a bucket list hunt for my dad who is now in his mid 60's I wasn't about to go west with a bull tag, and him empty handed. So the day after I received my tag in the mail I sent it back in to took my 80% refund.

By the time I received my refund check from Montana we had decided we were going to take our chances in Idaho. Alot less elk then a place like Colorado, but also alot less hunters, and that was more important to me. So we found a unit with decent odds, good bull/cow ratio and basically said "what the hell lets do it" and tags were purchased over a few more pints.
 

VTHunter08

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Now that tags were purchased it was time to concentrate on gear, conditioning, scouting, and frankly learning about an animal we had literally zero knowledge about. My side of the gear thing was pretty easy. I had been accumulating backpacking gear for the last couple years, and had purchased a new bow a year earlier. The only thing I wanted to do was build up a good "elk arrow". The gear thing for dad was a different story. He had zero backpacking stuff or experience. So he bought it all that first year. Bow wise he had a 20 year old boy, and a cheap crossbow, but he hadn't shot a compound in a few years so he figured it was time for something new. So he picked up a new bowtech carbon icon, and I built him some new arrows. The long and short of it I dropped a bit of cash on this trip, he dropped a bunch in a short amount of time haha

Conditioning wise this wasn't tough for either of us. We both are pretty active and in pretty good shape. Although I will say starting January 1st when I made the commitment that it starts now I had my "winter weight" and weighed close to the most I've ever weighed and dad was in the same boat. We're both 5-10ish, and we were both around the 193lbs mark. Our dieting strategy was different, he's retired and has 4000 maple taps so his initial exercise was working the woods. I on the other side have a desk job so I went full paleo, mtnops products & workout regiment (and eventually became a brand ambassador for them), and working out 6-10 times a week. Once spring finally hit a lot of weighted pack walks/hikes, ski resort liftline hikes, and the annual spartan races. Dad was even doing daily 4-5mi runs with a 40lbs weighted pack. Once august hit we were both in some of the best shape of our lives and had both cut around 25lbs.

Scouting wise this was the hardest part for a couple reasons. Neither of us had ever been west so we had no idea what the terrain was truly like, what really is a feed source, and we just didn't know anything about elk. So I picked up OnX (which also highly recommended!) and watched a TTOOONNN of youtube videos. Also did the Elk University program that corey jacobsen does (also highly recommend if you a newbie like me) We internet scouted as much as we could, and tried to absorb as much online information as possible before we figured it was time to step into the fire and learn on the fly.

By this time it was end of August. So August 31st we packed dads truck up, he pointed it west and off he went planning on being out there the majority of September. With limited vacation time I had to pick and chose my dates, so after a bunch of reading about best dates, and studying the lunar calendar I settled on Sept 17-28th. The most unsettling about this set-up is all my gear went with my dad (including my bow). So after shooting every day for the last 2 months I had to go 2.5 weeks right before an archery hunt and not shoot at all! I didn't like that knowing I'd go 2.5 weeks, get to a trail head and finally get to shoot immediately before trekking into the wilderness. But what can you do?
 

VTHunter08

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The 17th finally came. Woke up at 4, kissed the kids bye as they slept and my wife at me at the airport by 5:30 for my flight. Its always such a weird feeling leaving for a trip. So much excitement for the upcoming adventure, but also guilt, and sadness leaving the family behind. I give my wife credit she handles it well getting our 11yo to daily soccer practices/games, drop off and pick ups at pre-k, and still working 40 hours a week while I'm gone. Shes a stronger woman then I ever imagined she'd be, and without her traveling all around the country for my guilty pleasures wouldn't be possible.

So my flight out of Burlington was at 6:30, one quick layover in Chicago, and I was landing in Boise at 12:45. Here is my first view of Idaho from 10,000'


I didn't check any bags on my flight so literally off the plane, through security, dad was waiting right there and to the truck for the 4 hour drive to our trail head. It was a very neat drive. Very windy roads, and sage as far as you can see. We didn't see any forests until we got toward Stanley, and started to get into the sawtooths. It was very apparent very quick though how Idaho really focuses on their recreation, and outdoors lifestyle. Almost every river crossing they had these pull offs with free government created campsites. Just pull in and set up camp. I couldn't even try to keep track of how many campers and trailers with atv's and off road motorcycles we saw. It was refreshing being in a state that glorifies outdoor activities and creates economy with it vs demonize it and regulate it to almost a non-existence.

The whole ride dad caught me up on where he's been and what he's been up to. He took our list of areas to check with him and slowly checked them off to try and get us in the best situation possible when I got out there. He arrived in our "area" sept 3rd. He went on several 2-3 day hike in's, exploring, scouting, camping with very little success. He called me about a week before I was heading out telling me about his frustrations. At that point he had been out there 10 days or so, had yet to see an elk, hadn't even heard a bugle yet. Hadn't even really stumbled onto any sign yet. I told him to check out this area I called red ridge. It looked very wooded, several drainages, and random ponds miles in the woods, with some decent "fields" for feeding. While driving out he told me about the red ridge area. When he first got there he quickly found out the trail head is actually open to hiking and off road motorcycles. Just so happen the day he first arrived there and started hiking in he was passed by 11 off road bikes! Only one of them looked like hunters but he was becoming very discouraged with all the activity. The one biker that was a hunter stopped and chatted with him, real friendly guy. After a 30min chat he took off. Dad hiked in 6 miles before his frustration was at a boiling point and turned back for the truck. On the way down he bumped into the same biker again, it must have been pretty apparent dad was frustrated b/c the new friend started to open up. He goes "Ok Randy, I know your frustrated, your doing it all the right way, your working hard I'll throw you a bone. I've hunted this area for the last 20 years, shot a lot of elk in here. I have a biologist friend I call every year before coming out, and he said this year on their fly overs to gauge herd densities they saw 6 bulls that were 350+", and while hiking out there he bumped into a bachelor group, one bull was easily a 360" 6x7. Randy you want to hear a bugle go up this side trail another mile, theres a small pond, camp out on the side of the pond and there will be so many bugles you wont be able to sleep at night!" Well with this new information off to the pond he went. He set up camp, made dinner, and just waited for the bugles to start. Nothing, not a single bugle all night! At 6am he started to break his camp down all while spitting and sputters about how he believed some ding bat. At 7am he had camp almost picked up when a bull finally opened up not far from camp, then another, and another, and another. Within 15min he had 6 different bulls from 6 different directions hammering. Dad went off after one not far from camp, got screwed up in the wind, and that one was done. By this time there was only one bull still going strong but it was in the direction of the main trail so he figured it was another hunter, until across the pond from camp he saw cows filtering off the side hill with a massive body trailing them screaming his head off. He ran up on the side hill to try and cut them off but they got out in front of him before he could get there! Ever since that day he was literally getting 2 hours of sleep a night with all the bugles and cows mewing all night. So you can probably imagine my excitement hearing this story!

We arrived at the trail head at 5:30, shot our bows quick (which consist of 4 shots at 60 yards all hitting the size of an apple, that took alot of anxiety away! haha). Changed into our camo, packed our bag for a 4 day stay, and off up the trail we went. We ended up finishing our 4-5mile hike in the dark and arrived at our camping spot at 8:30. Quickly set up camp, made dinner, and into the sleeping bags anticipating little sleep and a night full of bugles.

Elevation change for the day. Burlington Vt 330', Boise 2800', Trailhead 6500, camp site 8800!

The hike in
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VTHunter08

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That first night was lets say anticlimactic, it was very very quite. not a bugle, not a mew nothing. We woke up the 1st morning to blue skies but some wind. We decided to go for a little hike around to get me oriented with our surroundings. It was nice to see everything in the daylight. We got up on a few ridges, did some calling but about the only thing that came out of the first day was main sight seeing. Every time we got up on a ridge I'd tell me dad "everything is like a postcard, and it truly was. I'd take pictures, and then immediately look at the picture and it just never did the view any justice. We were back at camp at lunch, and while we were eating we thought we heard a bugle up on the ridge behind camp, so after lunch was done we ventured up there. It was so windy it was really hard to say we heard anything. We got into a spot up behind camp that looked really elky (don't know if thats a thing or not) but there was a bunch of rubs and tracks, most definitely the most sign we had seen that day so far. As the evening went on the wind continued, clouds started to roll in, and snow started to spit. We figured we could be in for some interesting weather, and maybe thats why things were so quite. Back to camp for dinner and bed.

view from camp. Pond was loaded with rainbows. I brought a backpacking fishing pole and had a 14 day license. easily caught 3 dozen rainbows. Biggest was probably 17-18"


 
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