It is warm. I notice the mornings are way above freezing and the mid-day temperatures nearly 70 degrees.
Where is our normally crappy, rainy, and some first-season late-October, elk rifle-snow that makes this time of year magic?! This feels like it should be September, archery season, but it was cold with snow.
The mountainsides are absolutely beautiful and aglow with a patch work of yellow--the Larix Occidentalis (Western Larch), or the Tamarack--a commonly referred to nickname for this deciduous "evergreen" (?), in the west. This being the only constant that makes the days beautiful and the only sign that tells me this is the third week in October.
Bulls still with cows and bugling...We've had a few seasons like this, and never know exactly what to expect for the animal's behavior, but the heat is crazy.
Cutting firewood and not using it seemed practical since it was warm at our base camp at middle elevations. The stuff below and above us much colder.
With the client's wall tents stocked with split-and-stacked firewood it was time to get on with the hunt.
Now with six guides and eleven clients, we can get on with it. This year is the first year ever without an animal taken the first day, even though ALL of us report bugling activity, as if it's still archery season.
In late October rifle seasons it can be challenging especially with cold weather and hard noisy ground. The heat, on the other hand, just keeps the animals a bit nocturnal, but enough moisture is present to make walking fairly quiet.
I'm wearing an Oregon Pack Works Orion, with Range-finder Bro(RF-Bro) and BinoBro ProHunter, in Open Range, going out the door the first morning.
Day two is quite warm and we get activity late in the evening and our first animal is down. The meat wagon is off to get our first bull. We skin and clean by the headlights of a truck and with headlamps.
This becomes the norm for four more nights as the warm days prove to keep the animals moving in the evenings and early mornings. Activity levels remain low due to the heat.
Some of the clients have hunted longer than I've been alive! And, some wonderful stories around the camp fire.
Others, love the hunt and the camaraderie at this special place.
Friday night, Randy and I try something few guides had done, we decided on a hunt just a half-mile behind the base camp. It pays off with a fine 330 class bull at eighty yards, but never presents the shot we wanted. His cows busted us at just seventy yards and the game is over for the night.
My first client to kill, Randy, scores his bull when we have a cool-down Saturday, day four, as more elk have moved onto the ranch. As we worked our way into a spot slowly, a group of elk crossed in front of us at 175 yards, but getting set-up on shooting sticks took just a moment too long and the herd disappeared.
We finally settled in to a spot that we had almost a 360 degree view advantage, when four bulls moved into an opening from the north at about 150 yards.
My second client, also goes late-in-the-game and had to wait until the last hour, of the last day to take his animal. A herd of over fifty with a bugling herd bull and lots of cows and satellite bulls came into our morning set-up and our set-up gets blown without a shot.
So, we return to where we hunted hours before, but a bit to the south as the herd exited that direction in the morning. We got into elk and finally a six-point exited a water hole ahead of his cows and presented us with a 100 yard broadside shot.
In the evening of the final day we ended up with all but one bull for our clients--a non-recovered bull counts as a bull taken. A first again in the last ten years here is that we weren't a 100% success rate for client's, but 97% is O.K..
The last time I guided here was 2015 and we were 100% on animals by day four, of our five day season. This year it went to the wire to go 100%, with one bull not recovered.
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