Friday, October 31, 2008

Elk and Antelope hunts 2008

One of my favorite, if not my favorite hunts of the year.....antelope. This year I was able to go, last year I had the ultimate blessing, twins. Our group of five had planned since last October and it showed by the way my truck was absolutely packed to the gills. We weren't able to get on the ranch opening day (1 week prior) as the phone reservation system had proved bullshit. However, it appeared it was blessing in disguise as a foot of snow and muck turned hunting into an impossible affair. Many hunters never got out of their truck opening weekend. Rolling down Hwy 200, we were now looking forward to 55 degrees and sun.

Pulling into our annual camp spot, things looked the same. Same sage and knapweed blowing in the wind, same nothingness. Two wall tents were errected, one large tent to house the 5 cots that we would snore on for the next 4 days. The other tent would be the cook shack and more importantly the debriefing/story/fart/kitchen/beer/lying-tent.

Day 1 - The south end of the 15,000 acre pasture we were hunting only showed 11 animals, none of which we could get close enough to. We all put on about 7 miles that morning and then headed back to the truck. Even though the roads still had some gumbo to them (from the days previous rain) we decided to try one of the ranch roads on the north end.

We were in for a surprise. Just off the highway we ran into straight up grease and gumbo. I put the Tundra into 4Wheel Low and had it revved to get even 5 mph out of it. The steering wheel went from one side all they way to the next to keep it straight. After all was said and done, we had one truck off the road. We only hunted for a half of hour, then black clouds loomed in the distance. We needed to get out of there fast or we might be spending the night out there. Luckily we got out without much issue. But in the mean time I watched the most impressive piece of driving EVER. We had two trucks on the road on a tilted corner. This guy didn't even let off the gas and pitched it sideways, threading the needle, dang. With a busted day we headed into Jordan for some fried chicken at the Hells Creek Bar.

Day 2 - More rain and serious wind came that night, but day 2 morning brought 20 degree temps and frozen ground. We could now get into our area. I hunt to the West, run into them right away but are just on the other side of the fence. This keeps happening all day long, wrong side of the fence. I shoot and miss on a 250 yard doe waiting to cross the fence. I meet up with big Red and check out his doe. Everyone goes back to the trucks for lunch, Wisco Kid gets a nice buck before lunch. I sit on some muddy buttes for 2 hours surveying 5 square miles, only see 3 antelope. On a last hope I walk into the farthest west corner in hopes of something holed up. I see 4 from 1 mile away, sneak across the couleee and drop my pack. Sneak to rock knob, 40 antelope bedded and feeding. Pick the biggest closest buck, guess 250 yds. The first shot is a gut shot, next 3 shots miss, now out of ammo. Run 300 yds back to my pack and grab more bullets. Run back and take the final shot. Dress him out and pack 2 miles back to the truck at the west parking area. Beers.

Day 3 – Three in the party hunt north off the highway. Wisco and I park on a big ridge that has great views. I watch one of our guys pass by some antelope that he can’t see. I walk for 1/3 mile and sneak around a knob, 2 does peak over the rise, one of them falls to the 30-06 - 75 yd clean shot. I check her and continue on to the herd. Now Wisco is in hot pursuit, we plan our sneak over a little knoll. Wisco flanks and comes over the knoll. The herd of 15 now charges the fence and starts to hop it, antelope run in between us. Joel clears me and misses one at 75 feet. I struggle to track the now split herd. One herd that didn’t jump the fence now stops. Clean 225 yard shot that drops a small buck that counts for a doe. Now to quarter up the animals. One more doe antelope falls that day to another hunter in our party.

October 26 2008 Opening day of Elk season

Pulling out the drive at 615 we headed out. After parking we made slow and steady time up the drainage. Forty five minutes later we split up and peeled the eyeballs for day break. Posted up on a saddle we waited and watched. Eventually we wandered about checking the nearby slopes.

I walk the ridge up to the peak and look into another drainage for a while, nothing. Changing my mind for some reason, I break off to the east and down to the road. As I come around the knob I see 10 elk contouring on a hillside across the drainage. They are coming out of a clearing just below the slash pile.

I jump down off the road behind a tree, one or two seems to have seen me. The elk eventually bed down and I link up with Wisco to range find them. We are at 420 yds from an open cross canyon shot. We sneak around for 1.5 hours getting to about 250 yards. The shot is into the sun, I can't overcome the sun. Plus, it's the first day. I was ready for weeks of nothing. I decided I was going to get closer.

I sneak back to the saddle and find a game trail, the wind is perfectly in my face. The game trail is quiet and I can't believe how close I'm getting. I can see one of the cows, now standing up at 60 yards, so I duck down and crawl closer. I stand and take a offhand shot at 40 yards, broadside. The herd erupts, there were 10 in there, we could only see 3. I watch as some go across, some go down. I find her laying on a stump, perfectly huge. A lung shot, didn’t go more than 50 yards. Two days hanging to cool and age and its butcher time. Yum, the freezer is full.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oil and Water Project

While this isn't new news....Some Missoula boys showing how you can do it right, on many levels. What a great project. Not only did they do something great for science and the earth. They also managed to write their own ticket to one badass roadtrip. Nice work!

Oil & Water Project
: Two kayakers embark on an Endless Summer-style, 35,000 km road trip from Alaska to Argentina in a retro-outfitted Japanese fire truck without a single drop of petroleum. They converted their regular diesel engine to run on everything from pig lard to palm pulp and they traveled for nine months in pursuit of the best whitewater in the Americas. The pair coordinated with schools, local governments, farmers, agricultural research centers and media to conduct demonstrations advocating for the use of alternative energy all along the way. Winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Batten down the hatches, here comes winter

The season has quickly changed from a nice Indian summer to fall that feels like winter. Two days ago I awoke to sub freezing temps, the first of the season. A hard frost hit the valley, signalling the official end to garden season. I had picked the remainder of our vegatables from the garden (cucumbers, tomatoes and green peppers) the night before in anticipation of the cold front.

Its great when change of season comes on strong. The leaves color change seemed to change a lot faster than last years. Leaves literally changed colors overnight a week or so ago, then dropped rapidly in the cold stiff winds. The tree in the backyard lost all its leaves in one windy day.

In the yearly ritual, I removed the screens and put on the storm windows. The plants in the garden were pulled up and taken to the curb. Leaves raked into a pile and bagged.

Snow is falling today in Missoula. No accumlation here yet, but in the mountains there definitetly is. And just a little further to the east the mountain locations got hammered yesterday. The Tobacco Roots have recieved 60" out of this storm, check out the Albro Lake Snotel. Maybe this is a sign for a good winter, who knows but I like what the Farmers Almanac has to say:

Winter will be much colder and drier than normal, on average, with snowfall above normal in the north and below normal in the south. The coldest temperatures will occur in late December; early, mid-, and late January; and early February. The snowiest periods will be in mid-November, early and mid-December, mid- and late January, and late February.

And lastly, just a screen shot of the Montana Highway cameras. Check out all the snow, huzzah.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Redneck weekend

Last weekend we had to take a step back and have a big laugh at ourselves. We joked that wow, that was a redneck weekend. Aw shucks, we sure had a swell time. I think sooner or later I may have to accept the fact that I am on the road to domestication. Here's a breakdown of the fun:

- T picks some green peppers and cucumbers from our garden. Canning them, she makes some very tasty relish.
- Not to be outdone, I bust out the ground mule deer meet from last year and make some tasty deer jerky. We managed to eat up 2 pounds of the last batch in 2 weeks, NEED MORE MEAT!
- I headed out to the Deep Creek Shooting Range to sight in my rifle for the season. She's dead on boys, look out.
- The icing on the cake?: A friend suggests we have a fire down by the river. We met another couple and their 2 kids at the trailhead and mounted up. Pushing a Chariot full of gear (including an ax, saw, hot water for hot chocolate, pack & play, chairs, fire starter, beer, S'mores makings) we wound through the rustling leaves for 1/2 mile and found a white sandy beach on the Clark Fork. We had a perfect night laughing and enjoying the fire with all the kids.

Enjoy the photos and one little stupid clip of me with the trusty rifle.