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Archive for the ‘hunting guide’ Category

It’s the Quebec Ultimate Destination 2013 Giveaway!  Enter for a chance to win:

The Ultimate Fishing Trip

or

The Ultimate Hunting Trip

Enter both!

And… win a $750 gift certificate to Cabela’s.

Good luck and Happy Hunting (and Fishing)!

– Marci

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Article by Keith McCafferty. Uploaded on August 12, 2009

Mark Seacat likens hunting on public lands to a game of chess—not one you play with the wapiti so much as with other hunters.

“Elk pattern off pressure,” the Montana hunter and former elk guide explains. “You have to know where the elk will go Sunday after being pressured on Saturday. By Tuesday they’ll start to settle down. I want to make a move to be in position to hunt them then.”

Seacat shot his first elk when he was 12. Several years ago, he set a goal to take a mature bull off each of the half dozen mountain ranges visible from his hometown in western Montana. His game plan began by unfolding a map. “I would draw a circle around the public land in the mountain range. Then I’d start by checking out the middle of that circle in the middle of the week.”

This “mountaineering approach to elk hunting,” as Seacat terms it, often has the 30-year-old hunter crossing the spine of a range to work down to elk that have taken refuge on the more inaccessible side. In bow season, he’ll locate herds by running the ridgelines, glassing the basins, and listening for bulls bugling. Once he finds a herd, he’ll follow it, often for days while living out of his backpack. Because public-land bulls become call-shy compared with elk on lightly hunted private lands, he patterns the bull’s movements and ambushes or stalks it to get close enough for a shot.

When it’s time to trade broadheads for bullets, Seacat seeks out the toughest country he can find.

“Some pretty crazy bulls hang out in some pretty crazy places. They have to or they don’t get old,” he says.

For Seacat, the strategy of hunting areas where elk escape pressure has paid off with bulls from all but one of the ranges visible from town. Last season’s 6-point, which he arrowed after spotting 30 or more public-land bulls, is in the 370-class. He is already studying maps, hiking trails, and talking to taxidermists and hunting friends as he sets his sights on the public ranges just over the horizon.

My own approach is a variation of the same game, just one that is played on a smaller chessboard and with considerably older legs. I’ll map out the public trailheads on one front of a range, then link the access points with straight lines. The midpoints along these lines, between any two accesses, may not be too far back into the range, but the country will be tough to reach. What I am looking for are forested ridges that finger sharply down onto private ranches in the valleys. Hunting pressure from the ranches often creates a daily migration pattern, with the elk feeding on the ranchlands at night, then climbing back into thick timber on the public lands to bed during the day.

The downside of our hunting strategies? The first word out of our mouths after the elk goes down is uh-oh. Meat trips can require miles of up-and-down hiking under heavily loaded packs. The big 5-point my nephew shot last year took three of us two trips each to pack out, with round trips beginning at dawn and ending in moonlight.

“Fortunately and unfortunately, that’s the case,” Seacat agrees. “Most hunters limit themselves. They want an easy fix. But wild public lands give hunters who are willing to put their foot to the trail and work hard a great opportunity.”

Best public lands: National forests, wilderness areas.

Best opportunities: Limited-draw archery or rifle hunts that require years of applying to accumulate bonus points before a tag arrives in the mail. These hunts take place in areas that receive relatively light hunting pressure and have a deeper pool of mature bulls.

Look for: Security cover. Ranges that contain hard-to-reach, unroaded tracts of black timber will reward you with a better chance at larger bulls than heavily logged, easily accessible terrain, where opening-day harvest is high and elk don’t have much chance to grow up. Hunting is also likely to stay good longer into the season where there’s security cover.

Watch out for: Elk sanctuaries. On some ranges, elk have become so fine-tuned to hunting pressure that they migrate miles to (relatively) safe havens on private lands before the rifle season starts. Contact game managers to see if this is a concern and invest in a computer mapping program, so that you can preprogram your GPS with waypoints marking property boundaries.

10 Best Public Lands For Elk

[1 Oregon] Siuslaw National Forest: Roosevelt elk are overlooked by most hunters, but there are plenty of over-the-counter tags available for two seasons in western Oregon. The Siuslaw and Alsea units in the Siuslaw National Forest present good chances for hunters who are willing to do a little legwork and put up with a lot of rain. www.fs.fed.us

[2 Montana] Beaverhead-Deerlodge ­National Forest: Fifty percent of the elk harvest comes from Region 3 in the southwest part of the state. The forest outside Dillon, which encompasses several mountain ranges, affords elk security cover while also providing numerous hunter-­access points. www.fs.fed.us

[3 Colorado] White River National Forest: It’s heavily hunted, but there’s good access and a healthy elk population. Some bigger bulls live in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area of this tract, but it’s all thin air and you can get snow up to your knickers very quickly here. www.fs.fed.us

[4 New Mexico] Cibola National Forest, Santa Fe National Forest: Low-percentage, limited-draw hunts are the rule in New Mexico, but big bulls are the prize. Tags for the Zuni Mountains and Mount Taylor areas in Cibola and in the Jemez area in Santa Fe are a bit easier to draw than the coveted tags in the Gila National Forest to the south. www.fs.fed.us

[5 Idaho] St. Joe National Forest: Historically, this forest in the southern Panhandle region is among the best places in any state to score with a bow, with the adjoining Clear­water National Forest just as good. You’ll need either a GPS or a lot of iron in your brain to keep from getting lost in these deep woods, but you won’t have to worry about trespassing. www.​fs.fed.us

[6 Wyoming] Bridger-Teton National Forest: Near Jackson, the forest allows access to some of the prettiest alpine basin country in the world. And there are elk here, too, lots of them. Good lungs and bear spray are prerequisites. www.fs.fed.us

[7  Wyoming] Shoshone National Forest: Also in the Cowboy State, the Beartooth Mountains offer classic wilderness elk hunting. There are good populations of bulls in big country all along the North Fork of the Shoshone River and Sunlight Basin. www.fs.fed.us

[8 Arizona] Coconino National Forest: All motor traffic is prohibited in the forest’s Pine Grove and Rattlesnake Quiet Areas in 6A, dissuading some hunters from going after what are among the biggest bulls on the planet. www.fs.fed.us

[9 Washington] Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness: After lean years due to unlimited tags, forest fires, and mountain lion predation, bull elk ratios are finally on the upswing in the famous Blue Mountains hunting grounds of southeast Washington. Over-the-counter tags restrict hunters to spikes, but if you draw a coveted any-bull tag, you’ll have a chance for a trophy in the roadless areas in this section of the Umatilla National Forest. www.fs.fed.us

[10 Utah] Ashley National Forest: The new world-record elk was taken last season on public land in Utah. The state vies with Arizona for the best public-land elk hunting, and residents sometimes find a plentiful supply of undrawn tags, including spike-bull permits. The two Uinta Mountains units in this forest are good choices among any bull areas, but no Utah tag is less than superb. www.fs.fed.us

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Glassing the hillsides for elk.

At 3am day 2 of our elk hunting trip arrived.  This wasn’t just going to be day 2.  This was going to be MY day!  My husband, Dave, had already gotten an elk the day before.  That meant that if we saw an elk, it was mine.  Would it be uphill?  Downhill?  Close?  Far?  Everywhere I looked I wondered if I would be able to make the shot if there was an elk standing there.  And that “IF” was the biggest factor.  80% of the hunters in the unit would not fill their tags.  We got lucky the day before.  Would we get lucky again? COULD we get lucky again?  The odds were strongly against it.  This was more nerve-racking than I thought!

We hiked up a long hill and along a ridge looking for elk in every opening we could find.  We glassed hillsides and valleys, tree lines, streams and wallows.  Elk tracks and droppings literally littered the trail we were on.  It looked like an entire herd had moved through either earlier in the day or the night before.  We were so close and yet were not seeing any actual elk.

Hoping to find an elk before the weather turned.

Dark storm clouds were moving in and the wind was picking up to a point where I was thinking it could seriously impact my shot…. IF I got a shot.  My hunt was being threatened by weather.

Todd saw that I was getting tired so he sat us up on the top of a hill and had us glass a couple of tree lines while he went ahead to scout another area up a steep hill.  I sat there for a while propped up against a tree looking through my binoculars for any sign of elk.  Nothing.  The wind grew stronger and began to dry out my eyes, making it hard to see clearly.  A few threatening drops began to fall from the sky and as I bundled up I realized that the last bit of good weather was about to pass.

Todd came back from his scout, but the only significant signs of elk were on the trail behind us and right where we were standing.  Where were they?  The light was going to start fading soon, so we headed back down the trail towards the truck, looking for elk along the way.

When we were almost to the truck, we stopped and took one last look across a valley and along a hill for elk.  I saw a brown spot and picked up my binoculars.  The spot had antlers.  “ELK!” I yell-whispered to Todd as I tapped his shoulder and pointed excitedly.  He saw them too.

“Oh man!  There’s two and they’re big bulls!” he said.

My first elk.

I threw my backpack on the ground and got out my gun.  We stacked up the packs and I laid on my stomach and rested my gun on the packs and waited for my shot.  “200 yards,” my husband said.  I took aim.

“Wait for him to turn,” Todd said.  “You’ll get a better shot.  Just be patient and wait for it.”  He was right and I did.  Finally the bull turned and my shot opened up.  Todd said, “Now… slowly pull the…”  BOOM!  I assumed the next word was going to be trigger and so I pulled it.  I hit him in the shoulder, the bullet going through both lungs.  He stood there for about 3 seconds and then fell over, tumbling down the hill, taking out trees as he went.

When we got to him he was beautiful!  I had just shot my first elk and I was about as excited as I get.  He was a 5×6 and had a HUGE body!  He was a fighter for sure and had spent an awful lot of time rubbing his antlers.  As for me… I was grinning from ear to ear.

In the end, thanks to Todd, the owner of Grassy Knob Guide and Outfitters, we got two elk in two days.  But we didn’t just get two elk… we got MONSTER elk!  We got once in a lifetime elk.  How cool is that?!  Could I ask for a better story for my first elk hunt?  No.  No I could not.  It was perfect.

Grassy Knob Guide & Outfitters

8D

Happy Hunting!

– Marci

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At 3am the alarm clock went off.  Finally!  Getting up so early was not a problem since I had woken up about 50 times anyway!  Was I a little excited?  That would be a slight understatement.

After a pot of coffee and a high-protein breakfast, we loaded the car and were off to our guide’s house, arriving there just after 5am.  We transferred our gear into his super comfy Dodge Ram pickup truck and we were off to find elk.

The scenery was beautiful.

We arrived at our destination and I finally got to load up with all the awesome hunting gear I had purchased.  I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something truly exhilarating about being fully decked out in camo, masking your scent, blending into the surrounding woods and going hunting.

The scenery was beautiful, but that’s a given being in southwestern Oregon.  But still… it was green, breathtaking and ever so quiet and still since our guide, Todd, managed to take us into areas where nobody else was hunting.  We walked slowly and quietly as Todd showed us tracks from elk, deer, bear and cougar.  Along the way we found rubs from deer and elk, logs demolished by bear while looking for bugs and… a new one for me… elk wallows.  Every single part of the day was amazing.  But it was about to get even better.

Dave and Todd waiting for the shot.

Around 2pm we were hiking up a hill when Todd stopped in his tracks and held out his arm to stop us.  “Elk!” he whispered excitedly.  We all dropped and got out our binoculars as he showed us a massive bull on the next hill over.

“It’s yours” I told my husband.  And as he got out his gun I got out my rangefinder he had gotten me for Christmas and used it in a hunting situation for the first time.

“He’s at 300 yards”, I told him and he dialed it into his scope.  We all took our backpacks off and stacked them up for Dave to use as a gun rest.  The bull had his back to us so we all patiently waited for it to turn and give Dave a good clean shot.  It took a little time, but it was worth it as he finally turned sideways and opened himself up.  Todd gave the okay and Dave shot, hitting him right in the shoulder and sending him tumbling down the hill.

When we got to him, we were in awe of the size of an elk up close.  He was a 6×7 with a beautiful brown symmetrical rack with white tips that was beyond worthy of mounting.  Along the way several people saw him and we heard over and over again about how people hunt their entire lives and never get a shot at an elk that big.  Our butcher said that he had killed 16 elk in his life and none had come even close.

Dave’s amazing elk.

I’m sure that my husband, Dave, smiled for the rest of the day and that night dreamed of his elk.  Of course… I dreamed about his elk too, but wondered what my chances would be of getting one also.

I would find out soon enough…. the very next day.

Happy Hunting!

– Marci

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I’ve done a lot of deer hunting, but never gone out for an elk.  So this year my husband and I decided that it was time to put our names in for the draw.  I was crazy excited when we got letters in the mail that our names were chosen and we were going elk hunting!  That excitement quickly diminished as one friend after another told me that the hunting unit we were hunting was a really tough hunt and over 80% of the hunters would not fill their tags.  The season was only 5 days long.  A bazillion tags were issued and their would be hunters everywhere.  You had to get a 3 point or better.  Dang!  How could I increase my chances of getting an elk?

It ends up that a friend of mine’s husband is a fishing and hunting guide.  I gave him a call, he gave me a deal, and the next thing I know I’m marking my calendar and sighting in my rifle!  But still… I couldn’t help but listen to the little voice in the back of my mind that was saying that I might be throwing away money on a guide… because like everyone said… this was a tough hunt and we might come home without ever even seeing an elk.

It took forever for hunting season to arrive!  But finally… as the alarm clock went off at 3am… the day had come!

Happy Hunting!

– Marci

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