Archive for November 21st, 2014

CRAZY MOUNTAINS – Part 3

From: Meridian, ID:

(This post is the third in a series. If you wish to read the story in proper chronological order, start with the post for November 19, 2014.)

(Carl with McMuffin.)

(Carl with McMuffin.)

Tuesday morning, and George’s home-made (from a secret family recipe dating back perhaps hundreds of years) Egg McMuffins to start the day off right. If he weren’t already married, Geo would make a wonderful “significant other” to some lazy, hungry deer hunter!

The plans for the morning were essentially the same as those used the previous morning. (And why not? They had worked pretty well, then.)

(Greg is working on his own McMuffin.)

(Greg is working on his own McMuffin.)

So Greg, Jason, and Carl drove to the same section where they had seen elk previously, while Erik, Jerry, and I stalled for a few minutes and headed out in the truck for the lower coulees. As we drove towards the farthest section where we have permission to hunt, we spotted a small group of does hanging out in the corner of a large field of “volunteer” winter wheat sprouts and other new growth vegetation. We pulled over to watch them for a minute or two, and were startled to realize a buck was with the group, contentedly lying in the tall, fencerow grass. Although I’m sure he could care less about a pickup driving on the road (something he has seen every day since he was a spotted baby), he sensed that a pickup stopped on the road was probably not as harmless. He stood up, gave the does some sort of “high sign” and they all jumped the fence westward into a field rampant with sagebrush.

(Two mule deer ladies, enjoying the view.)

(Two mule deer ladies, enjoying the view.)

Jerry thought the buck was definitely worthy of a closer look, so he alighted from the truck and walked over to the sagebrush. If the deer had thought the vehicle worrisome, they certainly didn’t feel any better when they saw a two-legs coming towards them, but they were far from panic-stricken at that point…they simply picked up their slow walk a bit.

Evidently, Jerry liked his “closer look” at the buck, because the next thing Erik and I knew was Jerry taking a shot. And then we were amazed because the animal…didn’t…fall…down! Well, sure, the buck had been moving…but, honestly, not very fast. And the distance was no more than 100 yards. That’s a shot that Jerry can make blindfolded, and with one arm tied behind his back. That is, on most days he can make that shot. Just not on Election Day, 2014.

The buck and his harem picked up their speed significantly, but they did not break into the full-speed, bounding run that indicates a serious desire to put some distance between them and the thing that goes “Boom.” Jerry has plenty of time for another shot…or even two, if needed. But we don’t hear it. And we don’t hear it. And we still don’t hear it. Jerry’s rifle has jammed! He can’t open the bolt, and he can’t close it. Aaarrgghh!

(Greg, preparing the mule tape to pull Carl's deer to the lane.)

(Greg, preparing the mule tape to pull Carl’s deer to the lane.)

As he walked back towards the truck, I asked Erik to move to the driver’s seat as I grabbed my 7mm and headed into the field where we could still see the deer moving away. I followed them for a ways, never getting quite close enough to take a shot that had a good chance of success. Before too many minutes, Jerry joined me. He had, with no small effort, cleared the jam (the cause of which I won’t bother with, here) and hustled after me. We trailed the deer for several hundred yards as they dropped down a bluff and paused a moment or two on the flat below. At some point, the buck had parted ways with the doe (all but one, it turned out), and Jerry elected to keep following them once he got sight of the pair again. I went back to the pickup.

(Jerry and Erik, supervising the mule tape operation.)

(Jerry and Erik, supervising the mule tape operation.)

Jerry put a good sneak on that buck, and at one point it looked like he might get another shot at him, but it was not to be. After a time, he made his way out of the sagebrush and back to the truck, where we started working on Plan “B.”

Soon, just as had happened the day before, we heard our hand-held radios come to life as our other party was coordinating the retrieval of a buck Carl had dropped a couple of miles away. We were there in just a few minutes, in time to help out with the “snatch block” operation we had used with the two pickups for hauling Greg’s buck out of a coulee.

(Carl with his dandy mule deer buck.)

(Carl with his dandy mule deer buck.)

Carl’s deer, too, had fallen (after a 400 yard shot had connected on the running animal) in a small coulee, two or three hundred yards from a fence-line lane. Before we had arrived on scene, Greg had set up to use a fence post as the pivot point so that he could drive the truck straight ahead on the lane, but when we arrived, the “dead deer transport committee” opted to use the two-pickup method, considering it to be much stronger than the old, dead-wood post. Once again, the deer came snaking out of the sagebrush without a hitch. When/if you try this operation, though, keep in mind that it helps a lot if one or two guys can walk along with the deer being dragged, one or either side of his head and holding his antlers off the ground a few inches. That will keep those antlers from snagging on every sagebrush bush or dead log they encounter along the way.

(Carl's buck, about to be transformed into hanging meat.)

(Carl’s buck, about to be transformed into hanging meat.)

By the way, in the picture of Jerry and Erik above, note the coulee in the background. Before Carl’s buck was pulled up to the fence, Greg’s truck was out of sight where the lane crests the top of the coulee on the far side.

Time to get this third buck back to the camp and cut to pieces.

(Looking over part of the fishpond.)

(Looking over part of the fishpond.)

There is a fishpond downstream from the cabin…oh, a hundred yards or perhaps a little more. I must hasten to explain, though, that the pond is not the result of a dam on Little Rock Creek. Such an obstruction to the stream might be legal for beavers to construct, but it definitely is illegal for persons to do the same. The pond is, rather, a spring-fed body of water, and it is home to three or four generations of Cutthroat Trout. The boys and I found some fishing poles around the place and decided to see if brother Ron was telling the truth about having some 11 and 12 inchers in the pond. Our findings? Not so much. What I mean to say is that we didn’t happen to catch any of them. We did catch quite a few fish, but the unofficial record for the outing was claimed by Erik, with his 7-inch monster.

(The biggest fish of the day. Congrats, Erik!)

(The biggest fish of the day. Congrats, Erik!)

We didn’t have a whole lot of choices for bait. I found a small lure already hooked up to one of the poles, and it caught a couple; we opened a can of yellow corn and, sure enough, a couple of the small fry went for that; Greg used one of the fly rods stashed in the cabin, and that rig was the champion. (What’s more, Greg actually knows how to use a fly rod. I don’t, and I’m pretty sure Erik doesn’t. I can’t really say about Carl and/or Jason, but my guess would be “no.”)

But, honestly, who cares if we didn’t catch huge fish? Spending an hour or two throwing hooks at beautiful fish in a beautiful pond in the prettiest spot in Montana is just plain fun. Add the very real possibility that a record book bull elk might give you the opportunity for an easy shot and any moment…well, it just don’t get any better than that, Jim.

(Erik, Greg, and Carl, flogging the water for cutthroat trout.)

(Erik, Greg, and Carl, flogging the water for cutthroat trout.)

So halfway through our time in Montana, we have three nice bucks hanging on the meat pole. I’ll admit that there was some disappointment wafting through the shadows, sure…we would all like to see some elk quarters mixed in with the deer bags. None of us could help remembering the fantastic hunt of the year before, when Greg and the “boys” each got a near-trophy bull, plus Jason’s nice four-point mule deer buck. But then, we’ve still got plenty of time. And now, with Greg, Carl, and Jason all having their deer tags filled, they can concentrate on finding more elk. I was still thinking primarily of deer, although I, too, had an elk tag. Jerry had opted only for a deer tag, this year, so of course he was still thinking of finding a nice buck. I should add, however, that he was far from desperate…he had already shot a buck in Washington State, so it was not as if he needed a second deer in the freezer. Still, when we had been seeing as many nice bucks – in areas where we didn’t have permission to hunt, more’s the pity – it stands to reason it creates a strong urge to get one for one’s self.

Perhaps I should change the name of this series of stories? Change from “Crazy Mountains,” to “The Hunting Trip That Never Ended,” eh?

There will be at least one more installment.

Bud