My father came to join us for the hunt this time. He is not hunting this year as he doesn't have residency yet, but he wanted to get out there and see what it was like. We left Friday afternoon destined for a different trailhead into the same area we hunted last time, hoping to find fresh elk sign instead of only the old stuff we found last time ... and of course some elk, too. The Labor Day traffic was fun, adding another hour to our drive, but we still got to the new spot before dark. I was very surprised at the LACK of other hunters at this area. It is a more difficult to access point, and I guess that made all the difference. We also saw three moose and a few deer just off the road a few miles from camp.
We headed out a little later than normal Saturday morning as we had no idea where to find the most likely spots. We came across some grouse sitting in the trail, and Forrest cursed not yet having bought her small game license ... for the rest of the trip! Eventually, we came to an awesome looking draw, and set up there for a couple hours with some occasional calling. My Dad was watching the upper area of the draw and us the lower. Between us we could cover about 700 yards, which for this area is a damn lot. No results this morning, however.
Heading out we came to a ridge where some aspens started over a steep drop off of about 50 feet. We decided to hike up along that ridge and eventually we hit another trail that took us back to camp at about noon. Oh yeah, forgot to mention we saw a porcupine in a tree. Haven't seen one of them in "daylight" until this one.
We did a little fishing after lunch at a little nearby lake and caught a couple of cutthroats. Did not see any fresh sign on the hike up there, but we did come across two mulies. Headed back out in the evening to watch that draw again, and this time my Dad saw two mulies playing above us. That night I awoke to a funny scratching sound. The porcupine was chewing on my car. He didn't want to leave it either. I made a joke about not touching him with a 10 foot pole.
Up earlier the next morning and headed to the draw again. This time there were a couple bugles down low, a couple miles at least. I spotted some elk in a far off field, probably 2.5 to 3 miles as the crow flies, at around 8:00am, but by my calculations; 1.) I could never get there before they moved on and 2.) It was outside the national forest boundary. Being new to this I decided to just watch them for a little while, noting to myself that elk are way down there. Dad watched the mule deer play above us again. I heard one this time but never saw them.
Evening hunt resulted in Dad taking up his position at the draw again but Forrest and I worked another half mile farther and found a cool looking meadow surrounded by aspens which were then surrounded by pines. Immediately Forrest found a set of well used game trails, although still no fresh elk sign. This time I managed to call in something ... however, it wasn't and elk. A black bear headed straight up the hill toward us. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we lost sight of him soon after, until about half an hour later I saw him head out the same way he came in.
Monday morning I decided something had to change. We weren't seeing elk, and the sign wasn't fresh, which was telling me I am probably wasting my time in this specific area. I dropped my Dad off at the draw and decided to just hike until I found something fresh or ran out of time. About an hour later I came across some fresher tracks and caught sight of a doe off to my left. After she bounded off, I went up a little hill to see where she was feeding, and looked out across another pretty meadow. This was the largest meadow I had found so far, about 500 yards long and 60 yards wide. Very green and border by pines on one side and aspen on the other. I found a little place to get hidden. Set up my gear and pack so I could lean back and just watch.
Less than ten minutes later there was crashing just behind and to my right. Now, I was all comfortable and just turned my head to see what the commotion was. Had I been thinking, I would have been at the ready here, but it being the fifth day of hunting and not seen an elk yet, I wasn't expecting what happened. Ten seconds later a cow elk stepped out less than ten yards from me, on the only side I was not hidden by pines. All I could do was watch as her, another cow and a calf walked down into the meadow below me. About 35 yards away they stopped, giving me a chance to draw ... but I had not knocked an arrow. FAIL. They just walked away. Well, its elk right, so maybe there will be a few more coming? Not this time. I gave some calls and they didn't care one bit (every other report I read says they listen :/). Another 50 yards later and they were gone. Well, at least I have an idea where to start next weekend.
I sat there for another hour before working my way uphill. Eventually I came out above the draw my Dad had been sitting in and spotted him walking about through my binoculars. When I got to him, he said he had found a rub line. We don't have deer tags this year, but good to know for the future.
That pretty much wraps up this outing. If anyone has advice or suggestions on what I should have done in any certain situation, PLEASE help me out here. We're all learning about elk hunting and just going on what we've read and know from general hunting situations in the past, mostly whitetails. The biggest thing I've been having trouble with is finding the elk in the first place. I know they are in the area we are hunting, but I don't know how far down they are in the morning / up they go in the day, and when they make the transition from feeding to moving to bedding.
One other thing, I found tons of beds in the middle of meadows. These can't be used during the middle of the day, would be way too hot for elk. Any idea what these beds are from?