It was cold, freezing cold as a matter of fact. I was cold. The wind was blowing a steady 20 mph and pushing right over the ridge we were spiked out on. Any chance at hearing any bugle was out the window. I'll have to rethink some of my gear, a night shivering... Is not a pleasant one. This is how day 5 transitioned into day 6, at the top of the world.
The alarm went off, I was already awake. Dreading leaving what little warmth I had, to open myself to the elements. The wind was still blowing pretty strong, I navigated to my backpack in the dark and grabbed my headlamp. First order of business was to get some water heated up for some coffee. I fired up the jetboil and placed my hands around the flame, trying to thaw my fingers out. The coffee cup was warm to the touch, but no match for the wind. I layered up, with everything I had... Merino wool base layers, kuiu 1/4 zip wool top, kuiu attack pants, kuiu guide jacket, kuiu chinook rain pants and jacket, kuiu guide gloves, kuiu hat and a kuiu beanie. That seemed to do the trick. We headed out in the dark...
To give you guys a little bit of a preface, because I am not sure I have shared this yet... Since we have arrived in Idaho, since we have arrived to our hunting area. Each evening has been filled with the sound of sheep, thousands of them and I mean thousands, several different herds spread throughout the entire area. So you hear the sheep, and then right when the sun is setting, you hear several packs of coyotes, and then after the coyotes, you hear the dogs that are ordered to protect the sheep. It's obvious that the coyotes are planning their attack, and the sheep dogs are well aware of it. Several times the sheep dogs have ran the coyotes off, in fact they have chased them for quite aways... Right through the areas that we have been trying to chase elk. I don't think the elk like the sheep, and I am certain that they do not like the sheep dogs... So through a series of deduction, we have been able to make the assumption that, where there are sheep, there are no elk or deer either. This is why we headed up high, to escape the sheep and the smell they leave behind.
Anyway, so we're hunkered down on top of the ridge and we're looking at a side of the mountain where we were hoping to see the elk. The sun is just coming up and we can start to pick out rocks and bushes with our glass. It was only about 5 minutes of glassing when my dad said, "I see the herd! Cresting the top of the mountain... No wait, is that sheep?" Sure enough, the sheep were up there too... I think my heart sank. We ended up dropping down into the bowl off the other side. We got down into the bowl quite aways and we started to see beds, tracks and sign of elk. It looked good. We figured we would call into the bottom from there to see if anything would answer... Something did that's for sure, or rather somethings. Two different packs of coyotes. One from the bottom where we were hoping the elk would be and the other across the ridge from us... Hope began to dwindle... We ended up dropping off into the tree line on our left, it was part of a finger of the ridge... There was sign everywhere! Like a herd of elk had just walked through there a day or two ago... Massive trails winding throughout the entire thicket of trees. We set up in there for about two hours calling ever so often, hoping the elk would come up with the sun. A coyote came in and circled us, I never had a clean shot. No elk, we found much needed water here, and off we went. Steepest country I have ever been in, it takes it toll. We glassed and listened, nothing. Nothing for as far as we could see, not even a deer. Just sheep and coyotes. We packed up our spike camp and headed west on the ridge. Where we ran into more sheep making their way up from there... Frustrated, we decided to come down off the mountain. Probably hiked about 7 miles today to get back to base camp. Exhausted. We took the evening off, I made a phone call home. We ate dinner and now we are licking our wounds. All in all, I believe we have at least hiked 20 miles in total since the opener. Elk are scarce... We've gone everywhere the elk have been, but the elk have not traveled anywhere we have... And so it goes.