I don't know how many miles, how many ridges or how much dirt I've walked on and over... How many set ups, how many times I have blown an elk call... The highs and the real lows, the excitement and the frustration. It's a number I don't think I even want to know. Idaho is getting the best of us, getting the best of me. I've contemplated sharing on here about how difficult this hunt has been, because I don't want to seem like I feel as if I am owed something or complaining. I just want to be honest. The simple truth is, nothing has been easy... But that was expected, to some degree. It's hunting... Or rather, it's elk hunting, pre rut. We've covered just about every area we could, I've seen fresh tracks, old tracks, beds and feeding areas. In total as a group, we've seen 3 elk, 2 bears, 4-5 deer and some moose. Finding three elk, in this country, is literally like finding a needle in a hay stack. The fact that we have had close calls, is an accomplishment all in itself. There is one bull elk in the area, in this huge area. He bugles every morning, just once or twice, occasionally once in the evening too. He never once has answered to any of our calls. We know the general area he frequents, but the forest is so thick that at most times you can only see about 30 yards in any given direction and sometimes that is even a stretch. It's shocking in one aspect, that here I am in Idaho, the public land/national forest Capitol of the US, and there's very little game to be had. We've watched mountain sides, ridge lines and draws for hours... Still hunted for miles, never once did we bust out a deer or anything for that matter.
So what happened? There was a herd of elk here last year, they are gone, why? The only finger I can point, the only thing I can blame, is the sheep. I stepped foot in the herds tracks up on top of the mountain, they were there before the sheep moved through. The sheep bring forth heavy predation from coyotes and wolfs. I am sure there are cougars in the mix as well. You get anywhere near a sheep dog, and immediately, it's like an alarm is going off and the chase is on. How the department of fish and game allows the Peruvians to run this many sheep over all this country, is beyond me. Especially this time of year. Everywhere the sheep go, the forest looks destroyed and it's rich with stench. It is what is and we continually try to make the best of it.
Anyway, so here I sit around a campfire with three other guys and it's on all of our faces. Early mornings, cold nights, long, really long hikes through some of the most brutal country I have ever stepped in. You feel the mountain in your bones, your feet, legs, shoulders and back. That's elk hunting, I presume.
We went after chuckles again today... Wind was blowing a steady 20 mph with gusts much greater. The area he lives in, the wind changes direction and swirls so much that you cannot predict the angle of attack. He's a smart animal, and he lives in the perfect spot to evade intruders. I can't help but wonder what he'll do in two weeks, when the rut is in full swing. Will he make his mistake then? Or will he continue to shy away from calling, and choose his bugles at only the opportune time? I don't know, but one thing is certain... My time on this mountain is running out. Tomorrow will be my last full day of hunting, and Friday will be a half day as we will be hitting the road and headed back to California in the afternoon. I'm looking forward to starting my deer season at home.
This trip has been an amazing one, regardless if my tag gets punched or not. I'll cherish the memories made up here for quite some time. I believe this trip has made me a better hunter, and the challenges have made me realize that I am capable of a lot more than I had initially thought. We may get beaten, but I am not easily broken. My journey for elk, will continue until I can't hunt anymore. Next year, we may be in Arizona, Wyoming, Oregon or even Colorado. Not sure what the future holds, but if there is a season and opportunity, I'll be packing my bags for another week in the high country.