Monday, December 06, 2021

Elk produce a real jolt of adrenaline

| November 18, 2021 12:00 AM

Isn’t it amazing the amount of adrenaline that is produced when seeing elk during hunting season?

I’d nearly forgotten the feeling, but seeing the group moving in front of me was like being on cloud nine.

The morning began at 4 and Paul and I were on the road by 5:30. We had a longer-than-normal trip to Saturday’s chosen hunting grounds.

The first spot wasn’t a complete bust, but I was pretty lethargic as we sat in the truck and ate lunch.

We were moving parallel to each other, Paul on the ridge and me on the old road below him. We hoped one of us would push a buck deer toward the other.

I saw fresh wolf scat, a few discarded aluminum cans and a bit of deer sign. The red squirrels, not surprisingly, were common as they scolded me for my intrusion.

A nearby gun shot a few minutes into my walk forced me to stop, wait and watch. But no buck showed up and I continued on the quiet path.

When I hit the boundary a hunter on an ATV zipped back and forth in front of me before disappearing. I was pretty sure no one should be driving there, but I truly didn't know.

When we rejoined at the truck, I learned Paul had encountered quite a bit more.

The nearly entire skeletal remains of an elk were probably the most interesting discovery he made. Paul thought the remains had been there a few years.

There weren’t obvious signs of how it had died, but the chances a pack of wolves had killed it were pretty high.

He also found a somewhat fresh hide of a white-tailed deer. There weren’t any other nearby remains, but the hide appeared as if it had been peeled from the carcass.

We pondered the possibility of wolves holding the rear legs while others peeled the hide from its body.

We headed to the next spot, parked and ate lunch while discussing how to approach the next chunk of land. It wasn’t any different than what we did in the morning. Paul headed up the ridge and I stayed on the road.

One big difference was this byway was gated so it seemed to hold more promise. The larch needles blanketed the ground, making walking so quiet I couldn’t hear my steps.

I really wasn’t feeling too energetic or even hopeful. A lack of sleep and sitting in the warm truck left me pretty lethargic.

The strategy was similar - one of us hoping the other might push a deer or elk toward the other. I peeked up every old, skid trail where logs had been pulled out by tree cutters many years ago. We were going to meet where the road I was on intersected with another.

But that meeting never happened.

Another gun shot below and to my left put me on high alert.

As I moved higher, a natural opening in the timber appeared. Once again, I looked up and lo-and-behold, there was something standing about three-quarters of the way up the hill.

“That’s not a deer,” I said to myself. “That’s an elk!!”

The cow was broadside to me, about 150 yards from where I stood. There were other elk there, too. I quickly got the gun up to see if I could spot antlers.

The few cows I first saw were standing still, but they didn’t remain that way for long. There was no breeze and the elk were not aware of me. But they moved with purpose. I lost track of how many elk were in the group and while they didn’t run, they were motivated to get into denser cover.

I thought I glimpsed a spike but I really wasn’t sure. I needed to see one with ANTLERS!

But, wow, the lethargy was gone! I felt like I had floated up the hill.

I hoped Paul would encounter the elk and if he did, he had a much better chance of getting a good look at one with brow tines.

After I was sure the last animal of the group was out of sight, I started up the hill. It was easy to see where they had passed. I went to the top to see if I could see any crossing over the ridge. But the cover was thick and they had stayed below the ridge to get into dense cover.

In a few minutes I saw Paul moving toward me. Despite the realization neither one of us had fired a shot, we both had big smiles on our faces. We sat on a log to compare notes.

“How many did you see?” he asked me.

I figured at least a dozen, maybe more.

“How about 35 or 40,” Paul said.

It was really hard to imagine that many in one group. I clearly hadn’t seen the majority of them, but Paul was in a spot to see likely every elk in the group.

He saw a spike and the antler tips of another bull. But the raghorn didn’t have those coveted brow tines and it moved off while Paul desperately tried to see the extra head gear that would allow him to pull the trigger on his 30-06.

I think we were both still shaking while we shared what we’d seen. He first saw two cows, then two more, then four and then he quit counting.

Paul tried cow calling with his mouth to get the elk to slow their deliberate pace, but I hadn’t even thought of it in all the excitement.

We picked up their trail. They had moved through the brush, crossed another connecting road to the one I had walked up and then through a bit more open area before crossing the road we both walked up and into the bottom.

One puts a ton of miles on a pair of boots while in chase of elk so getting to see so many in one place was nearly unbelievable.

“If I added up the elk I’ve seen hunting over the years, I don’t think they’d add up to how many I saw today,” Paul said.

For me and Paul, it was another reminder of why getting out of the truck and putting boots on the ground is always a better choice.