It was the second morning of our 5 day elk hunt and John was looking much worse than the night before. He wasn't having any fun and looked to be quite miserable. He was quiet (certainly not typical) achy, plugged up and most likely running a low grade fever. I resisted poking fun at him knowing it may be me in his shoes at any time. We opted to do some driving, hoping to find fresh tracks to go on and eventually ease our way to a nearby town. I was wishing I had a dust mask from my shop so I was able to keep from getting his bug. I urged him to keep drinking fluids and that we'd get him some over the counter meds when we hit Bly. We never did cut any tracks while on our way to Bly, although we did see a dandy Mule deer buck just behind a very well posted fence line. He stood long enough for us to get a good look then he trotted off into the scrub landscape. We eventually made it to Bly and got what we needed, then made our way back towards camp coming full circle.
Getting on into early afternoon and John was finally starting to feel better. His moans eventually turn into words and then full sentences as he was coming back to life. We opted to make it a short day and not push our luck with John feeling better. So an early dinner and a few games of cribbage before we hit the hay around 10. It seemed John had made a 98% recovery in just about 24 hours time. Whatever it was he had, we were both relieved and thankful that it left with just about the same speed at which it came.
I awoke at 3 in the morning to stoke the wood stove and heard the soft serenade of snowfall on the nylon tent fly. I peeked outside and yes indeed it was certainly coming down. Had about 2 inches when we got up and started getting ready for the days hunt. Optimism bloomed again and we headed to Green Mt. in hopes of finding fresh elk sign. Parked at the end of a spur road, we set a time for a radio check and then took off. The weather was cloudy, foggy and everything was very wet as the temps warmed and the snow melted from the trees. The walking was quiet with the recent precipitation and now all we needed was elk. After several hours we checked in and neither of us had good news to report. I had seen some fresh deer sign and several piles of bear scat, yet no elk sign. John had seen some older elk tracks but nothing to really get excited about. We met back at the rig and continued our search for fresh elk sign. We did cut some tracks that were a few days old that we decided to investigate. We never did find where the tracks crossed a road out, so we figured they still had to be in the area, somewhere. I dropped John off and he set his compass bearing to meet me back at the main road. After a couple hours he re emerged from the woods with no fresh elk sign to report. With darkness approaching fast we headed back to camp.
We were running out of ideas and the conversations were waning as neither of us had any new ideas. Sometimes I just wish I knew what I didn't know. We had come across several other rigs and hunters. No one had any positive news or had even seen an elk in the area. The weather was breaking and it was going to be a chilly night. We ate the last of the BBQ grouse with some spaghetti and a small green salad. We were fast losing our inspiration and motivation.
Next to last day and we set out for Green Mt. as that was where we'd found the best sign. I was beginning to be more hopeful of seeing the bear if not any elk. The scat I had found was chucked full of Salal berries and the pile was a foot wide by 2 feet long if not more. Quite fresh too as it was still holding its shape. I was guessing that the bear was at least 5 to 6 foot square if not larger by the size of his scat. The diameter was that of a Mag Lite with D batteries or bigger. There were numerous rock outcroppings that may have a den in them, but I wasn't going looking for that specifically. Quite the contrary. There were also many areas of re prod that were very dense and not wanting to surprise the bear I kept a safe margin from the edges. We again met up after several hours and sat together eating our lunches. John had found some elk tracks but still not super fresh, at best maybe few days. I never did find Mr.Bear although I was certainly hoping so. I did come across a few more scat piles and I really wanted to catch a glimpse of him. He would have to have been at least pushing 7 square for me to harvest him as that is my standard that was set with my first and only bear to date. (Read story here Pt.1 & 2) I certainly would have enjoyed some bear thuringer for the holidays. After we finished lunch and munched on some homemade cookies we opted to go find the Blue Grouse and lay down our rifles for awhile.
The clouds were moving in and it was looking like it did the day we drove in nearly 6 days ago. The only difference was that the wind wasn't blowing the trees down across the road. We eventually found our way back to Blue Grouse headquarters only to find 2 well educated souls who flushed fast with a strong tailwind. So we walked around for awhile hoping to find more Grouse that were a bit less educated but we never did. We began the 20 mile drive back to camp and opted to call it a hunt and begin breaking camp the following morning. We just weren't able to find any decent sign to convince us it was worth our efforts to keep hunting. Not an easy conclusion to come to and frankly, it just felt lousy.
We had a fun time and John made a full recovery while I never did get sick. John won the cribbage tourney (so far) and there will be a re match next fall if not this duck hunting season. Ultimately it was a successful hunt regardless of nothing to put in our freezers. We learned the harvest ratio for that particular unit is 1 to 2 % and the quota was actually met on opening morning on Strawberry Mt. about 60 to 70 miles S.S.E. of where we hunted. That doesn't mean we may not have increased the percentage by harvesting an elk, only that the odds weren't in our favor. Better to be out there trying than sitting at home.
This was our second time getting leftover controlled tags and I am now done doing so. Just not worth the time, money and boot leather. There are other ways to go camping that are more affordable and just as enjoyable. It may take me years to draw a tag for an area with high numbers of elk, but the wait will be worth it. To date I have 4 points or in other words, 4 years that I haven't drawn a tag in a higher percentage unit. Until then I will hunt either hunt the bow or rifle general season. Now for a couple weeks of waterfowl hunting and then my last chance for elk as the second season archery opens Nov. 28 thru Dec. 13th. 2009. This will be on the W. side of the Cascades and cow elk only. Gonna be a wet one for sure!
Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt