The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 2
If you haven’t read part 1, you can check it out here.
By the end of our second day of hunting, we had seen dozens of antelope and mule deer, whitetail deer, several moose, bighorn sheep, and several herds of elk. This was enough to make for a great trip in itself.
On day 3 I was exhausted from our big hike the day before, so we decided drive to another area (what was originally our plan A) to glass for elk and get an idea of what roads and trails were accessible in the snow. After turning off of the main road, we pulled over to have a look at a new area on our way into “plan A”. From there, we spotted a huge herd of elk that was on the other side of a private ranch. There were several bulls with the group, so we started to formulate a plan to get closer to them.
Using the ONX app on my phone I was able to determine that we could get to the elk by walking around the private property, keeping us on public land. This is one of the main reasons I use ONX for hunting. The app is great for showing property layers and it really helps to keep us on public land where we won’t be bothering anyone. It has come in handy in past years when our animals have died on or near private land as well.
We parked in a spot where we knew we wouldn’t spook the elk and started walking. Our plan was to use a small finger ridge to gain elevation while we stayed hidden from the elk. Once we got as high as the elk, we could side-hill across on a small bench towards them, all the while staying hidden below the taller hill they were on.
As we started up the ridge, we heard an ATV coming down the road. The driver stopped briefly where my truck was parked, probably debating whether or not to continue on. At this point we hoped they would respect our hunt and turn around, but they decided to drive past my truck towards us, presumably to get as close as possible to the elk before having to get out and walk. When they finally got close enough to where we made eye contact and I waved, they respectfully turned their vehicle around and left. At this point we couldn’t see the elk anymore so it was a guessing game as to whether or not the elk had spooked and left the area. We decided to continue up the ridge in the hopes that they were still near enough for our plan to work.
From this point on, we were following wolf tracks.
The interesting thing we noted about the wolf tracks was that the wolf had decided to take the exact same route we were taking. It knew how to stay hidden from the elk while it got closer, and here we were doing the exact same thing.
After a long, slow stalk through the snow and across the mountain, I could see the herd of elk across a small drainage and ranged them at 400 yards. For some people 400 yards is a very doable shot with a rifle, but I wanted to be closer, and I couldn’t see any bulls.
Unfortunately, as I started to get closer, the elk were acting spooky and they were looking downhill at something. I looked down and realized that the two guys in the ATV had driven out and around and back in on a road that was closed to motorized use. The other hunters had tried to beat us to the elk and now the elk were looking down at them and running up the mountain to get away.
This isn’t the first time I have had a hunt spoiled by someone using motorized vehicles where they aren’t allowed. It’s a real bummer. Anyway, the elk were gone so we started our way back down the mountain on foot.
It was late in the afternoon when we got back to our camp. From there we spotted another group of elk. It was debatable whether they were within reach before dark, but Scott and I seemed to be on the same page – may as well go after the elk even if it’s just for some good old exercise.
As it started to get dark, we got closer than I thought we would. The elk were 600 yards away but I couldn’t spot any with antlers and it got too dark to shoot before we could get any closer.
As we hiked out in the dark, we were re-vamped with enthusiasm. In just a few days we had seen elk often enough to have lots of excitement, and the next day wouldn’t disappoint. The next day was the day of the mountain lion.
For those of you who hunt and are looking for pointers, here are a few things we learned on day 2:
- Just because wolves are around doesn’t mean you should be discouraged and abandon a hunt. In this case they were definitely around and we still got close to the elk.
- Don’t force yourself to stick to any plan. This was the third time that we decided to abandon “plan A” and go to where the elk were, even though they were behind private property and up a huge mountain. If you see elk, go for it.