On my way back to Minnesota this week one thing was for sure—it’s hard to leave the mountains. Although we only came home with another mule deer, the trip, I feel, was still a success. Especially for my first year on a self-guided hunt on public land.
We were quite shocked when we arrived in Deer Lodge to find the snow had melted a few days before we got there. I was really hoping for snow so the elk would be coming down to lower elevations, but … oh well. We were there, so we made the best of it.
On the first day hunting, my partner on the hunt, Cobi Hood, had his 8-point mule deer right away so we just needed a couple of bull elk to come our way. Over the next few days, we came across some sign and checked out some new areas higher up in the timber. On the third day, we decided to go way back to a new spot that looked promising on the map. At 5 a.m. that morning, we were hiking in and we came across a ton of sign. We were feeling pretty excited.
After finding a spot to sit with a good view, I realized one thing, I did not bring enough clothes. Right away I had a cow elk come out at 80 yards and graze around for a while. Then around noon I could not take the cold anymore and was shaking a little too much, so we met for lunch. As we were starting to get our freeze dried food out Cobi caught a glimpse of something in the trees above us. We both found good rests and within seconds had elk in our sights. The first few were cows and spikes, then finally a legal bull at 150 yards. As we both were trying to get a clean shot, they turned and disappeared and again my dreams were shattered.
On the last day we didn’t see much until we were headed to the truck. We spotted a herd about a mile away and with daylight fading we took off toward them, we got to around 400 yards from the herd and got ready. With the scope dialed in and lying down while using our packs as rests, all I could think was, this is it … a last minute success story.
Well of course not, there were at least three legal bulls on the skyline and one of them was pretty nice, but the cows and calfs surrounding them never allowed for a clear shot. So how would anyone consider this a success? Well, I feel like I learned a lot more about how elk act and how to hunt them. I found out buying new mountain boots was the best decision ever. And I was pretty impressed that I could hike through the mountains and put on over 13 miles a day, although I did lose close to 20 pounds over the two trips. I am already planning next year’s trip, after all, it’s only 11 months away.