Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rifle Elk Hunt Part 1: Discouragement!

No doubt if you have been following our blog, you will know I have been pretty spooled up for the 2012 limited entry any-weapon elk hunt for quite some time now.  I have several friends with tags, and find myself privileged to be able to hunt with my 85 year old cousin, Vergean Porter of Escalante.  I wanted to share with you some of our experiences of the last few days, as well as some photography (and video) from the adventures of our hunt. 

As I begin, I want to point out that this hunt has not been what I expected.  I am hesitant to share some of my feelings of the hunt, but I have hopes that maybe other hunters can see that they are not the only ones that find themselves who go through these certain motions, and I also hope to highlight things that have made the entire experience more enjoyable.  I also want to point out that this is not my first big bull elk hunt.  Far from!  However I find myself going through these ups and downs with every hunt.

Let's start off with the pre-season.  I learned my cousin Vergean had this tag back in late June.  I also learned of 2 friends that had tags, and quickly became exited of the thought of hunting elk with someone, or all of them maybe.  Vergean's son Clint talked to me about looking for a bull for his dad, as he lives 2 hours away, and even living in Escalante, at 85, there's not a lot of scouting you can do on your own.  I found myself being pulled into the thrill of scouting for the hunt.  This however was short lived as I roamed the western US from June through early September on wildfire assignments.  When I returned home, I returned to scouting, covering not even half of the areas I wished to look, while trying to find bucks for myself for my upcoming hunts as well.  This is a similar pattern for me each year.  Still, I had high hopes of elk and deer success.  Calling was not working, as everyone was talking about how elk would just turn and run at the sound of any cow call, but I was still sure we could find a bull.

One of my favorite wallows

Two days before the hunt I happened across a great bull, which I judged to score roughly 370-375.  I was sure I had found a good thing, in a little hole where nobody had been, or would likely look.  The day before the hunt the bulls were screaming across the mountain, and we found another good bull with cows.  I had a good streak going, this hunt would surely be a good one!

Day 1:  We the area where I had spotted the first bull well before daylight.  In the dark we only heard 1 faint bugle well up canyon from us.  At daylight, we spooked a couple of lone cows, still no more bugles.  Nothing.  Checking a wallow I did find this crazy looking buck that brightened our spirits anyway.  Check him out on this short video.  Would you shoot it?

During the day we split up to check other areas.  To our surprise, a bull 360 bull had easily been killed in the area of our second bull.  Scouting during the day turned up little, although Clint, Vergean, Kevin, and Kasen Porter did jump a few cows.  Evening returned us to the wallows in the area of the first bull, no bugles, no cows, nothing.  For me, disappointment is starting to set in as my sure thing obviously fizzled.  

A buck taken from my i-phone, less than 20 yards!
Day 2:  The morning started a bit more relaxed as we cruised the high country just trying to hear the sounds of bugles to figure out where we should be.  My spirits lifted as we told stories, especially listening to Clint's jokes and Vergean's stories of the old days.  Of course, there was time to help Kasen get some ribbing in on his dad Clint now and then.  The morning ride yielded nothing, but plans to hit an evening honey hole kept me optimistic.  We lost Kasen and Kevin, who had to return home, and the remaining 3 of us took a side trip into some low country to enjoy a fun ATV ride in one of our favorite areas.  Then it was back to the high country, with a short walk into one of my favorite places for elk.

We sat up for what would be a nearly 4 hour wait for evening.  We were fortunate to have a few deer passing by for water, along with this fairly good 3 point that strolled in for a drink.  As the air cooled off, the elk began to sing in the trees above us, and I was sure tonight was money!  However, the elk would not budge!  The bugles remained in place until nearly dark.  In desperation we called for the last 20 minutes, and nothing came remotely close to us.

Cows that trailed about 30' in front of me
Day 3:  The morning started off great as we heard a bull and worked our way in to where he was.  This was the highlight of the week!  We had no trouble closing the distance to the bull, just a short distance from the screaming giant!  Working in we often had to hold up as cows passed within 30 feet of us.  Soon, we were getting glimpses of the bull and realized he was worth the bullet!  Moving several times to keep up with the feeding bull, we finally found a pocket that offered a shot.  The shot missed it's mark, the bull tore off with his cows to live another day.  The let down was tough for us all, but the experience added thrill to the hunt, and determination to continue.  We returned to ambush the bull that night, but found nothing but the satellite bull.

Day 4: My Breaking Point:  This is about typical for me.  I realize the hunt is halfway down, and we haven't done what many have.  The morning provided very few bugles, and nothing but the small bull again.  I was completely in the dumps and felt like a failure as I felt like with my scouting we should have had a bull by now.  Clint and I had to return to work, so it would be a short break mid week, then back at it for the weekend.  This adds pressure for me, as days not hunting is opportunity missed in my book.  My wife had been hearing my frustrations, and promises that maybe it's time to give up hunting as all I am doing is wasting time and money.  I am so thankful for her reassurance and uplifting words as I struggle so hard to achieve my hunting dreams.  What a woman as she is usually the recipient of my venting.  It was clear I was getting burnt out, just like last year, when I basically gave up for my last few days of deer hunting; something I did not want to repeat again.

I took a short fishing trip to a nearby favorite lake where I was able to clear my head.  I found myself laughing at the memories we had made over a few short days, and realizing that this had been on of the best trips if my life with family that I haven't spent a lot of time with.  I came home with a much better attitude.

Today I didn't make it to work.  I took the day off to be with my family.  We went for a load of wood, and had a great birthday party for my little girl.  Check out these pine hens (Forest Grouse) that my grandpa, Marvin Porter was able to take down on our wood cutting trip!

Marvin, Jackson, and Ashlynn posing with the pine hens.  By the faces I would say grandpa was telling a good story!

The rest was just what I needed.  I find myself again recharged and stoked to get out and finish our hunt on a good note.  We will get a bull, it will work out!  I have to thank great friends that will be helping with scouting tomorrow, Zach and Spenser Owens, as well as Justin Christensen.  Thanks for hearing my frustrations and pleas for help guys.  It's so awesome to see people so willing to help Vergean find a bull.  I can't wait to get back in the hills.

I look back and realize I go through this pattern of frustration with almost every hunt.  If you find yourself in this pattern, I urge you to take a short break, even if but for a few short hours, to gather yourself and reflect on what it's all about.  I will never forget the time spent with such great family and friends, the beautiful county we've been in, and the things I've learned about myself.  Truth is, not every hunt is going to be as easy as the pros make it look.  Most of us don't have that kind of time to scout, or that kind of money and connections to spend on guides and premium tags.  And that's OK!  Look at these pictures, these memories!  What a great time!  Do the best you can, give it your all, and be satisfied in your efforts.  There's always more to learn, but try not to compare yourself to other hunters you know as I often do.  They were all in a learning stage at one time too, and things will get better if you keep at it. 

Stay tuned for part 2, I hope I have success to report to you all next week!  We have been receiving a few emails and messages of some great bulls, and should have more to share from our viewers as well.  Stay tuned!