Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nervous In The Woods?

I thought I would take some time and tell you a little about last years Elk hunt. This was the same area as we hunted again this year.

My hunting partner John and I had spent a lot of time in the thickets and willow patches. We decided to return to an area we had hunted 2 days before to see if there was any fresh sign of elk in the area. As we crossed a small creek heading for another patch of timber, I noticed a "cantaloupe" rump. Unmistakably an elk, and it was on the ground in between a few small trees. At first I thought that it had been shot and the hunter was unable to recover it, due to the fact it was on private land. As John and I got closer we grew more suspicious of its demise. There were no bullet holes or arrow holes that we could see, nor any sign that the elk had been bleeding. Yet what we did see sent chills down to the tips of my toes. The young cow elks head and throat were covered with pine needles. In fact it was buried in such way that it looked as if the needles had fallen from the trees. There were no scratch or drag marks anywhere that John or I could find. We carefully removed the pine needles and saw the fatal injury to the throat of the elk. The blood was still red and no sign of decomposition (maggots) yet. The elks neck had not been broken, nor had rigor mortise fully set in . So this kill was pretty darn fresh! Well it didn't take much ciphering for us to know what kind of animal had done this. A cougar, (click on link for description) plain and simple.

We could kiss this area good bye as far as trying to find elk. Although, now I was feeling like I needed to grow eyes in the back of my head. Well we're not always the smartest when it comes to hunting, so we actually continued on with our game plan. We knew the elk had crossed the creek there and since the cougar already killed one, we figured that the pressure was off the elk herd. So on we go, this time even more aware of the fact that we were most likely being watched. I was nervous and whenever I heard a twig snap, I looked hard and long in that direction. The one thing about Cougars is that they are stealthy beyond belief. I have no doubt that cat was watching us. Perhaps we were the ones to push it off its kill? May well have been. We never did see the Cougar.

If one was interested in harvesting a Cougar that would have been an excellent place to sit, wait and watch. Waiting for his return to the kill. I was not of that mind, let me tell you. I was of the mind not to stray away from John to far and was looking forward to returning to our rig.

Fast forward to 2008 and my first waterfowl hunt with Jet along this same creek. All the while we had been hunting elk, John and I saw several small flocks of Specs (White Fronted Geese) in the area. So after elk season was over I had permission to spend a day waterfowl hunting. It was a nice day, very pleasant with mild temperatures. Jet and I walked N. along the creek through the willows looking for Specs. The willows had been thrashed and shredded by rutting elk. Eventually we flushed the Specs from a grassy patch and they flew and landed in the creek. I quickly glassed them with my bins (binoculars) to mark their location and Jet and I began our stalk. We used the willows to our advantage and got within about 20 yards and then I stood up. The Specs jumped out of the creek with a froth and we got a double. Jet made nice retrieves and we continued on our way again. As I was walking I noticed Jet had dropped back behind me. I looked back at her and she was sitting and wiggling her nose in the air. Uh Oh! I instantly recall last years elk hunt. I call to Jet to come and she is reluctant at best. Head hanging a bit low and ears down. I do all I can to use my happy voice to try and give her confidence(actually, for both of us). She does come and over the course of travelling another 200 yards repeats her protest to following me. By this time we have jumped the Specs again and had 1 more on my game strap. I looked at her and said, "alright lets go back" and she understood.

We cut through the willows moving away from the creek and headed to a road that is in the timber. Usually when a dog gets to a road they'll follow their nose in the direction your going. Well not this time. I check my GPS and tell her we're a 1/2 mile from the truck. All the while using my upbeat happy voice. For a split second she is comforted and then sits in protest again. Ahh s--t, come on girl lets keep going. We both had our tails tucked and kept our focus, all the while hyper aware that we may have company. I never smelled anything, at least not bear or elk. I am less worried about bears and the only issue with elk is that I don't want Jet chasing them. Don't know if Cougars have much scent that a human can pick up. Yet dogs can sure smell them.

We arrived at the truck in tact and I unloaded my game vest and walked over to the creek to begin plucking and field dressing my birds. I kept my loaded shotgun next to me and Jet was watching my back . . . literally. Jet was gaining her confidence back and an extra scooby (dog biscuit) didn't hurt either. We got our birds cleaned up and headed home, wondering just who else was on our hunt or keeping an eye on us?

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt


bushman said...

I hate cats.

Terry Scoville said...

Bushman, you're not alone!

Tom Sorenson said...

Wow - awesome story - give me the woolies! I'm with you and Bushman here - I do not like cats! Great photos, too, by the way - if a person ever needed evidence that cougar can bring down an elk, there it is.

Here's a story for ya - my uncle was watching a herd of elk last year through his binos when he noticed something crawling through the grass towards the elk. He wasn't thinking anything about it, and then it started raising his suspicions so he started looking and it was a cougar! Next thing he knows, the cougar leaps through the air and onto the back of a cow - they went rolling over the edge of the ridge and my uncle was never sure if that cougar killed the elk or not. I think with these photos, we unfortunately would have to surmise that the elk my uncle saw that day met a similar fate.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Yep, we're definitely not the only predators out there. Good tale!

Anonymous said...

Terry that is one heck of a story. It just goes to show that we are not alone in the woods.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's kind of scary. It would probably be one of those situations where you really want to run but you know you can't do that.

Terry Scoville said...

Well, when I am shotgunning in Cougar country which is just about anywhere in the woods or near, I do carry with me shotgun slugs. Mind you I am not so sure I'd have time to switch our shells. I think bird shot would also alter a cats attitude. At least I hope so!

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