Thursday, November 26, 2020

Bob hunt part 4: Meat on the pole

Daily Inter Lake | October 22, 2020 12:00 AM

“Boom!” A rifle shot broke the silence of the day just after noon on the third day of the hunt.

It also woke Ashton and I from semi-comatose states we were in as temperatures soared into the mid 80s. It didn’t seem like it was going to be a day to bag an elk, but one never knows.

Certainly the hope was someone had connected with a bull. It was time to hang meat on the pole!

The plan the guides put together the previous night was for all three groups to be in the vicinity of where Bob and Mickey played cat-and-mouse with a bull elk the previous day.

Ashton and I watched a burned draw where it was very open. “Butch,” Toby and Tyler rode to the top of the draw while Bob and Mickey were on the opposite side from Ashton and I.

But at 11 a.m., Ashton was asleep and I was fighting to stay awake. The only sounds originated from squirrels scampering about and horse flies buzzing my location.

If I had brought a fly swatter I would have killed something!

A combination of factors kept the elk quiet and inactive. The heat as well as the presence of wolves and a small gang of hunters masquerading as elk weren’t conducive to the real thing being active.

A bit after the lunch hour, Ashton and I moved inside the edge of the timber to catch some shade. He called infrequently, but nothing was answering.

Later in the afternoon we saw Mickey and Bob riding toward camp. We guessed the shot we heard was Bob connecting on a bull.

It turned out we were correct.

They had been near an elk wallow, which was a pretty good spot for the big animals to be when temperatures are so high. They had actually decided to move when the bull came in to Mickey’s calls.

The bull never bugled and came in quiet. It’s been an all-too familiar story many elk hunters share when in wolf and grizzly country.

Bob missed twice before hitting the bull twice with his last two shots. After a bit of searching, they found the 6x6, quartered and hid it under some brush to keep scavengers from the prized meat.

Those two heard wolves. The trio which had made it high above our location heard them as well while encountering some pretty gnarly terrain.

Ashton and I made it back after Bob and Mickey and got to hear details of their success.

It certainly improved everyone’s mood. The four quarters of the bull and his antlers were on the pole the next day.

Friday, Sept. 18, was the fourth day hunting. It was cool as Tyler and I rode north along the South Fork. He found a slight path up a steep hill into an area they called the “Camel Humps.”

The area was a series of small, but steep inclines which quickly plunged into some very deep draws. With a mixture of cover, shade and grass, it was a place where elk spent a lot of time.

It was here where the horses really impressed me with just how strong they are.

Up and down we went and those horses just kept going. We stopped and called a few times, but the elk were still quiet. We eventually got up to Barnett Mountain where the views were exceptional in spite of the smoke coming off those wildfires burning far from us.

For Butch, Toby and Ashton, their story was the same as ours: all quiet. Tyler and I found some shade and ate lunch. Toby came over to report a grizzly sighting!

We walked up and watched him make his way down the mountain before disappearing.

After more dozing in the afternoon heat, we rode across the burn, stopping to call. The quiet continued.

We rode back to camp and I had enough time to rinse off in Bartlett Creek’s cold water. Man, it felt good!

Ron’s dinner was a concoction of ground beef, onion and mashed potatoes and it hit the spot.

Saturday morning was the warmest morning, but the forecast from AM radio in Polson indicated a change was coming later in the day.

Tyler and I rode back near where I had missed the wolf. I wasn’t very awake until a bull answered his calls. After playing the waiting game for awhile, we rode to the top of the mountain. Flair was my horse for the day and she was being unusually stubborn as we negotiated the numerous blowdowns on the trail. She wasn’t responding to my boots and at one point, Tyler took her lead and made sure I got to where we wanted to be.

After eating lunch, we rode and walked back down returning to where we’d heard the bull. The wind had really picked up and I kept nodding off as we waited for a bull to answer.

But the wind from the cold front moving through was a good sign, bringing rain and colder temperatures. Maybe now the elk would liven up.

Next week: Bull in the scope and me on my back.