Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Idahoan Red Stag!!!

Bull Elk trail camera pic
Bull Elk I was going after!
 So my brother Dustin got involved with Twitter recently and made friends with Rudy over at Huntography.  Rudy decided that this hunting season he would capitalize on his Deer Tour and create a film featuring elk hunting and call it Elk Tour!  Well with my brother and him talking on Twitter, the next thing we know is that Rudy was planning on coming to South Eastern Idaho to go elk hunting.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was a little nervous to be hiking into our elk hunting area in the dark due to our recent sign of grizzly bears and wolves.  I felt confident that we would be safe, but we all packed our bear spray and our pistols just in case.  We ourselves never encountered a bear or wolf, but it some out of state hunters a few ridges over weren't as lucky! Check out this article about some unlucky out of state hunters! http://www.islandparknews.com/atf.php?sid=12060

Our hunt was full of some good action right from the get go.  We got to the spot we planned to get to and shortly after we made a few cow calls we heard a bull bugle back at us.  From that point on we chased elk for the next few days.  At times we would spot and stalk when other times we would sit by ponds and trails the elk frequented.  I myself had to drive back and forth every day because I am a football coach at our local high school.  I hunted in the mornings and afternoons, but then drove back in time for football practice. 

One evening when I was coaching football my dad told me that he had shot a "spike" right before it got to dark, but said that he did not track it any further than the first sign of blood.  He told me that he wasn't super sure he had made a good shot, and did not want to push the elk if his shot wasn't as good as he had hoped.  We decided that the next morning Dustin and Rudy would take off after the elk they had encountered the day before while my dad and I tracked down his elk.

That morning he and I went to the first sign of blood and started tracking.  While tracking I kept looking around in hopes of spotting another elk or maybe even the elk my dad had shot if it wasn't dead already.  After tracking it for about 50 yards, I spotted a cat like creature jump up onto a fallen log.  I was a bit confused about what this animal was until it walked out into a clearing and this is what I saw.

Pine Martin
After spotting the pine martin, I kept scanning the are for sign of elk and realized that the martin was probably munching on  my dad's elk because it was laying about 10 yards away from where the martin had ran from!   My dad and I were super excited to recover his elk, and glad to know that his shot was perfectly placed.  The elk didn't travel more than 70 yards from where it was hit before it died.  My dad had thought that the elk he shot was a spike which had a few random points coming off one side, but when we walked up to it, this is what we found!
Crazy looking elk... looks more like a red stag...

Right side

Left side
 This elk was one of the most unique elk that I've ever seen.  It would have been interesting to see if his antler growth would have been this crazy when he got a bit older, but with us being meat hunters we are more happy to get our freezer full for the winter.  After we sat in awe for a while then all the work began to clean the elk and pack it out... This made for one good hunting trip and definitely one I will remember with the elk which looked like it could be a cross between an elk and red stag.  Now I just need to get back out there and find his daddy or grandpa to fill my tag!!!

Packing out an Elk
Packin' it out!

Packing out an Elk
Packin it out

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Predators In My Hunting Area

Hunting in Idaho brings an array of adventures.  As it is for all of you in other parts of the world, it is important for me to know what type dangers I way/will be facing when hunting in certain areas.  Idaho has been part of a huge wild life management project involving the reintroduction of wolves and grizzly bears.  In the South Eastern border of Idaho, we are only a few miles away from Yellowstone National Park.  This means that there are larger numbers of wolves and grizzly bears roaming around in our area due to the protection they receive in the area. For a interesting read check out this article from the Yellowstone National Park about wolf management.  The article briefly talks about how the numbers of wolves have stayed relatively the same or even declined in the park due to smaller elk populations.  I know I am not a genus, but I can put two and two together and tell you 1) Wolves eat Elk, 2) Elk will either leave the park or get eaten, and 3) Wolves will follow the leaving elk.  Yellowstone does not have a high fence around it like a zoo keeping the animals in for tourists to see.  These animals are wild... even though many were placed there, they don't always stay in the park.  Not to go on and on about the park or the management of wolves and grizzly bear, but I wanted to set a basis for my next few points.

Recently I have been scouting and hunting for elk up in the South Eastern side of Idaho.  All summer long we got pictures of elk, and then the week before hunting season we got a pictures of a wolf on camera.  Even though we know there are wolves in this area, we had some mixed feelings about seeing the wolf.  We were both excited because we can hunt wolves now in Idaho, but also unsettles because we know the elk and deer would be on edge with wolves being in the area.  We were also a little unsettled knowing that we may become the hunted when sneaking through the woods cow calling for elk.  On Saturday I had the opportunity to hunt the area where we had gotten the picture of the wolf.  I sat all day and then I saw two deer heading my way.  Just when they got about 40 yards away they both stopped and stared down hill for a long time.  Their ears were pointing forward and nostrils flared wide open.  They stood there for a while until they turned and hopped back over the hill they had come from.  I was a bit confused because the wind was in my face and I had taken lots of precaution for scent control... About 10 minutes later, I saw something move through the trees to my left.  I slowly turned to look and reached for my bow, I saw glimpses of some darker colored animal moving through the grass then stop behind some fallen trees almost in the same spot the deer had stopped moments before.  A few seconds later it walked out from behind the fallen tree and I was staring eye to eye with a wolf.  I was never able to get a shot on him, nor did I have my camera (last thing on my mind) but seeing it was pretty exciting.  This is a pictures of a wolf I found online that looks similar to the wolf I saw.
This wolf was all by itself and was looking pretty dang hungry.  I thought my heart got going when a deer or elk come into my stand... I don't which makes me more nervous to have in my hunting area, a pack of wolves or one extremely hungry wolf.  An average wolf is about 5 feet long and around 150 pounds (give or take some depending on its age), but either way I would have felt more safe having an arrow in this guy instead of watching him disappear into the trees.

When I got back to the truck later I told my dad about the encounter I had, he showed me this pictures of a grizzly rub next to our other tree stand. 
Grizzly Claw Marks
Claw marks of a grizzly
These two signs have made me and my family take a little more precaution when preparing for hunting.  We always pack bear spray, a pistol for safety, and try to always hunt in pairs whenever possible.  We know that wild animals are often more scared of us then we are of them, but when possibly facing a predator close to 800 pounds with razor sharp claws you always have a need to worry.  I guess this just adds to the excitement.  The Idaho Fish and Game have provided some good information on how to hunt in grizzly country if any of you are planning on coming up this way.  It may be worth the time to read it, playing dead with a grizzly doesn't always work out in the end!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sharing The Outdoors

I often hear guys talking to me about their wife and how she absolutely hates how much they hunt.  I just smile and tell them I feel sorry for them, but that it is almost as hard when you're wife shoots a bigger buck than you!
Mule deer horns
My buck vs her buck...
 I am extremely lucky to have a wife who hunts with me and shares my passion for the outdoors.  A lot of my friends always ask me how I got so lucky to marry a girl who loves to hunt and fish.  My response to them is that I didn't.  When I met my wife, hunting was probably one of the last things on her to do list! I share with my friends my wife's story and always tell them its worth a shot for them to try with their wife.

For me, being outdoors has always been part of my every day life.  Growing up my family spent much of our time outdoors either camping, boating, fishing, hunting, hiking, or anything else we could find to do.  When I was single I often dated "city" girls and "country" girls and thought I had it made up in my mind that there was no way I could ever marry some "city slicker" who wouldn't share my appreciate for the outdoors.  Just my luck, I ended up meeting a beautiful, patient, understanding, city slicker who I fell head over heals for who is now my wife!  For my wedding gift from my father, my wife and I received brand new compound bows! For me I was ecstatic but for my wife she was questioning what in the world she had gotten herself into.  Growing up she had been around guns a few times, but her and her family were just not involved in the same types of things I had grown up with.  When my wife got the bow she told me that she would shoot it with me as a hobby, but she had no intentions of hunting or killing anything with it. 

This was the route my wife took until she started shooting more often... Quickly she realized that she was actually pretty good at shooting a bow.  I took her to a few 3D archery shoots where she was able to show off her skills and even show me up every once and a while.
My wife practicing shooting off our shed

After feeling the excitement and confidence in learning how to shoot her bow, my wife decided she would come and sit in a tree stand with me while I hunted.  I had set up two treestands right next to each other earlier in the year because I was wanting her to come with me at times.  My wife sat with me one particular evening and watched a few deer come into our stand.  Sharing this experience with someone who has never sat in a tree for hours until the animals around them start walking around is an experience hard to capture the feelings behind.  Needless to say, my wife had felt the fire and had a desire to get her hunting license.  Since then she has taken a bull elk, mule deer buck, and a bow kill white tail doe!  She loves to hunt and I consider myself a lucky man!


I always tell my friends that getting their wife into the outdoors (and not always killing something) can be some of the greatest times you have as a couple.  And who knows, maybe they will feel the desire to go with you just to show you up :)  Always remember though, if someone is forced into anything they do not want to do, most of the time all that does is push them further away than they were before.  So when sharing the outdoors with those you love make sure it is what they want to do so that you can help them have a good time!