The Middle Fork Chronicle 2011
Berend and his son Derek rode up to Grouse Camp with me to start the season off. We only had three days to hunt; I hate it when work gets in the way of hunting. We saw elk sign but no elk till the third day when I spotted a five-point bull with five cows in a skillet spot. We watched him for a while before we said, “he’ll be bigger next year.” The mules had quit our camp the day before we left and headed down to Tappan Cabin so we gathered them up and rode on to Simplot Ranch.
Tyrell guided Pattie Mims on a bow hunt. The hunt started at Simplot Ranch where they saw a rag horn but passed on taking it. Tyrell packed up and headed to Falconberry Camp hoping to find a bigger bull. The weather had been warmer than normal and the elk were hanging tight in the green timber. Tyrell and Pattie found a five-point bull, but the wind was really blowing and it took some good cow calling to get his attention. The bull ended up at less than twenty yards, but bow hunting and wind don’t go good together. Pattie had a couple of shots, but the wind played hell on her arrows and they headed back to Simplot Ranch for the last couple of days of the hunt. I had seen some good sign in a honey hole that always holds elk and Tyrell headed that way. They spotted a five point but the wind cobbed them again. Tyrell and Pattie road twenty-seven miles the last day looking to fill her tag. Now that’s some dedicated elk hunting.
Tyrell and Preston joined the second hunt, with John and Paul at Grouse Camp. John and Paul hunted at Grouse last year. Paul killed a six point and Jon missed a big six point that scored 318 when we killed him later on in the season. The first day of the hunt, we went up high and found a small bull with a group of cows. We put a good stalk on and John made a good shot on the five-point bull. It was a beautiful day in the high country with the sun shining and the wind blowing. We made quick work of the field dressing and were back in camp about dark.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the hill, Tyrell and Preston were hunting a herd bull. There were two rag horns with this herd and, after some good cow calling, Preston made a good shot. Well he may have made more than one shot. We heard the shooting while we were field dressing John’s bull. Preston’s bull was a six by six and scored 284 points. Not a bad first day for the second hunt of the season.
John took over the head cook job while Paul and I kept elk hunting. The next day, we hunted a different area to give the honey hole a day’s rest. Tyrell and Preston were backpacking out his bull and found a 290-point bull. They took photos of him at 20 yards to show us what we had missed. Paul and I knew where we were hunting the next day.
We rode up the hill before first light and had to wait twenty minutes for shooting light. Leading the horses down hill while bugling, a bull answered way off in the bottom of a steep drainage. After tying up the horses, we took off on foot. We were working our way to the bull when a dust cloud engulfed us. There were six cows and a big 6 by 2??? came charging into our call. With the sun in our face Paul’s riflescope was just a blur so he didn’t have a chance at a shot. The bull knew something was up, and into the next drainage they went with Paul and I hot on their trail.
The cows led the bull downhill through a big burn. Paul and I put on a stealthy downhill stalk until we saw the bull at seventy-five yards facing away. Paul waited for the right shot and then dropped him, which was great because below the bull was straight down. Paul had a won himself a unique bull. It was a 6 by 2 because the bull had injured his right side. He only had 2 horns, but one was 32 inches long. If his horns had been even on each side, he would have scored 307 points.
Because of the burn and how steep the hill was, I knew this was going to be a fun pack out. I had found an old hunting trail a few years back that would put us close to the bull. I enlisted Tyrell and Preston to help us clear the trail full of downed timber. We left at daylight and spent seven hours of hard cutting with a crosscut saw clearing trail, no chains saws allowed here in the Frank Church. By the time we were done it was well after dark but we had a good stock trail cleared and were riding back to camp with the Paul’s bull. We rode down to the Tappan Cabin for the night. The next day Paul and I rode back to the B-C Ranch while Tyrell and Preston rode back to Simplot Ranch so Preston could catch his flight out. This was great wilderness adventure in some of the most rugged country you can hunt in.
We weren’t hunting the 3rd hunt, but we still had a lot to do, there’s no such thing as wasted time in the Frank Church. Tyrell and I had two camps to set up and feed to pack in. Dano, who was guiding on the next couple of hunts, came in early and helped set up camps while Tyrell and I took a day off for our mandatory wolf trapping class. I was skeptical, but we really learned a lot about wolf tactics.
Setting a “pack in” elk camp up takes about three days, twenty mule loads of camp gear, and twenty or so loads of hay and grain to feed the riding stock while hunting. Tyrell and I set up camp while Dano packed the rest of the gear and feed in. I had horses and mules to shoe so I left Dano and Tyrell to cut firewood and finish perfecting the camp. Butch, my dog, and I left at dusk with ten head of pack stock. About half way down Dry Gulch we ran into a pack of wolves. There were six on our left at about fifty yards, and seven on our right at about seventy-five yards. It was too dark to shoot and I didn’t think my mules were going to put up with much shooting anyway. We just rode on through them with Butch growling the whole time.
The next camp to get set up was Duck Point. Before they could set up camp, Dano and Tyrell cleared fifteen miles of trail. After two days of work cutting trees that were a result of the 2000 fire, we were ready start our opening hunt in unit 28 with hunt four of the season.
4th Hunt Buckhorn
We headed to Buckhorn Camp with Brad, David S, Jon, David B., and Simone guided by Tyrell, Dano, and myself with Kathy in charge of the cooking. On most guided hunts, a guide and hunter hunt together for the whole week. On this hunt we had two 2 on 1’s and one 1 on1 hunter and guide combos. The boys elected to switch off everyday so that each would get to be able to hunt a 1 on 1. It worked out great and we were able to get to know all the guys better.
The deer were just starting to rut and we killed four average bucks during the span of the hunt. It was everyone’s first mule deer. The elk were in the deep holes, which made finding bulls tough. Simone and Tyrell were so close you could smell the elk. Simone is from Italy and a bull elk is a little bigger than the white tails he is used to hunting in Texas. Simone told the tale that night at dinner about the herd of horses he saw that turned out to be elk. We of course had to have a few drinks that evening to accompany some good story telling and lots of laughs.
Towards the end of the hunt, I rode over to the honey hole with Brad and David B. These boys had been Army Rangers and new how to go deep and stay late. I was bugling on the way down the trail. We were leading our horses and looking down into the basin when fifty yards ahead, a five-point bull comes running up to us out of the honey hole. The bull stands there for a few seconds and it was a scramble to get the rifles out and look over the edge the bull had headed over. I bugled a few times and the bull stopped about seventy-five yards away. Jon pulled up and the bull took off, but Jon managed to get off a tough shot although it was a miss. We all had smiles on our faces. That was quite an adrenalin rush, to have a bull come in like that on the fight!
Dano teamed up with Simone one day he took the brunt of our philosophy of going deep and staying late. Dano is a great hunter for being a young buck and he has the patience of us old farts. They glassed quite a scope of country and were late for cocktails that night.
Everyone in this group had wolf tags, so we all had our eyes peeled for the big buggers. Wolves are worthy adversaries and we guides love the challenge of hunting them. One evening a pack started howling a mile away I howled back to them for around thirty minutes or so. When they shut up, I figured they were on the move so we took off. We made it to the wood cutting saddle before we heard them in a different place. I was pretty sure it was Tyrell working the pack. They had skirted a hill and we couldn’t hear them. I let lose a few howls, which Tyrell answered. Then the wolf pack responded behind and below us. They had split up. Tyrell worked his way down from where he was at to meet up with us. We called till we ran out of daylight and had to head back to camp. If you have never heard a pack of wolves sounding off, it’s something that always stays with you. We had a great hunt with the Texas boys and look forward to seeing them on the trail again.
4th Hunt Duck Point
We had the boys from New Jersey back at our Duck Point camp. Harry and X2 are old friends that have hunted with us for years. They had their requested guide Ted and cook Tina to take care of them. I was guiding at Buckhorn and asked Harry if he would write about their hunt for our yearly chronicles. Thanks for your help Harry.
The hunt was on! We slept at Middle Fork Outfitters’ ranch the night before leaving for the backcountry with high hopes of bagging a grand ole Bull Elk. We weren't on our horses more than an hour from the ranch when we heard the loud bugle of a bull in the distance. We were too close to civilization to do a stalk, so we figured we'd play with this grand ole guy. Ted bugled back and was quickly answered. This went on for quite a while and Harry decided to give a simple whistle that was to mimic a pretty and hot cow. Well, you guessed it, the big guy answered and we all got a good laugh!!
We arrived camp a few hrs later and were greeted by our wonderful cook and friend, Tina and her companion-----------. ? We unleashed all of our gear and got into some comfy clothing. We had terrific camaraderie and a great meal. X2, won the toss and was first to hunt on opening day. We had a good day, saw two small mule deer and while walking down hill to give our ponies a rest, a nice bull jumped up to our left. X2 couldn't get his gun up fast enough and the bull was gone. The second day, it rained hard with a mix of snow here and there. No luck that day.
The 3rd day it was sunny and cool with temps in the high 30's. Ted planned to take us to a different spot, but we never made it to that destination. We got real lucky on the way. Ted was cow calling every few hundred yards as we rode down the trail. We stopped as the boys heard an answer. Ted gave another call and received another answer. The fun was yet to begin. Ted played like a real hot cow and the bull was on his way to greet what he believed to be his honey. Instead, at 70 yards away from us, Ted grabbed X2's shoulders and pointed him toward a nice bull. X2 shot twice. We searched for blood, hair, and the good ole elk himself, but to no avail. After two plus hours, we realized X2 must have been shooting blanks; a clean miss. We went back to camp to have some nice hot soup with Tina. The pm hunt was exciting as we saw some deer and elk, but no real opportunities to stalk or shoot.
The next day would prove to be very challenging and exciting. We got into a herd of 20 elk that harbored a real nice bull. Ted estimated him to be in the 300 plus class. The herd was approximately one mile away and onwards we went on horseback. Harry's stalk began. We tied up our stock roughly 400 yards from the herd, which had now bedded down. We began our up hill walk, toe to toe. We got within 90 yards of the timberline where the herd was bedded, when a good ole cow busted us. The rest was history. While stalking, and before we reached where these elk had bedded, we saw another small herd about 900 yards away moving down a steep draw. They too were getting ready to bed down.
Before moving in on the other bunch, we decided to grab a bite about 400 yards away from where we were busted. On our way to eat, Ted spotted the original herd moving down another steep draw, and moving fast. They were about a half-mile from us and sure enough, there was the big bull following cows into some real nice country loaded with heavy timber. Ted knew where they were heading. After lunch and a brief nap, we headed south to regain a beat on that herd. Sure enough, Ted called them in and three cows came within 30 yards of the three of us. Barking like dogs, whining like children, spitting like you've never seen, these cows overstayed their welcome. For the next 15 minutes we had to stay immobilized like stone creatures. Finally they left, but the big guy never showed his face. Ted decided to get back on horseback and head this herd off for the second time. It worked, and at 576 yards away, straight up hill, X2 had his sites on this big bull. But he wasn’t steady and a hot cow was too close to the bull, so no shot was possible. Back to camp we went.
The next day we stalked to where we thought the herd would be and sure enough, there they were. We got within 350 yards of them and spotted two other branched bulls and a spike along with the big guy. X2 passed on the smaller bulls, which were 458 yards away according to Harry's range finder, to get an opportunity at the big guy. Well, at 348 yards down hill, X2 had a bead on this guy. But could only see half of him along with that hot cow we spoke about earlier. The half X2 saw was the back end and no shot was possible. The herd disbursed into the lower timber and we never saw them again.
This hunt, although there was no harvest, was a thrilling and fun time for the four of us. Tina does a fine job with camp chores and fabulous meals. Ron and Karla always provide the best accommodations and food along with good stock and tough hunting terrain. We booked 2012 hunts with Middle Fork Outfitters for the 12th yr straight and will head to “Duck Point” next year once again. Our goal is to outsmart that big ole bull that eluded us for three days and have more fun with Ron, Karla, Ted and Tina. We saw one set of wolf tracks but no howling, thank god. We also saw some young mule deer, two of which gave us a “sparring” exhibition for five minutes.
Exurbs of the hunt, by Harry
5th Hunt Tappan Cabin
Tom, Ben, Joe and Santo rode to Tappan Cabin with Tyrell and Dano. This was one of our no-cook hunts were the hunters get to do the cooking. Tyrell and Dano told me these guys were great cooks and had a great time. They spiked out in the high country but there was more game lower down. Tom wrote about their hunt for the chronicles. We sincerely thank him.
Ron, It was a thrilling hunt from the start. The thought of heading out into the wilderness on the back of a horse, Robert, to hunt was a dream come true. Every time we came around another bend in the trail, the vista was more beautiful than the one before. Our eyes and backsides were sore by the time we pulled up to Tappan Cabin. Thank you for sending the “young bucks” with us as they did all the work tending the stock and unpacking the gear. We offered to help but they wanted us to feel like guests I guess. They certainly worked their butts off during the course of the week. The least we could do was cook for them, and they even lent a hand with that. Thank you Karla for the wonderful menu and the great food! Even with all of the walking and hiking I think I may have gained a pound or two during the week.
Since I was the only one of the four hunters who had never shot an elk, I was chosen to get the “first shot.” I was hunting with my business partner Joe Spena and his two longtime buddies Benny Marino and Santo Maccherone. The weather all week was unseasonably warm. The first morning we started out about sunrise and proceeded up Kill Hill. At that point we split up, two hunters per guide, and went our separate ways. Joe, Tyrell and I headed east towards Cove Creek and the others headed south towards Grouse Camp. At about 9:30, Joe thought he spotted some elk up the hill from us, and possibly a bull, so we dismounted and Tyrell said to us “let's go!” Joe decided to stay behind and up the hill we went. Sure enough, there were some elk up the hill, but after about a two-hour stalk we did not see any bulls. Just then the weather started to turn ugly and a snow squall was headed our way. We took cover and built a fire. After lunch the weather cleared and we started downhill to meet up with Joe.
We stopped at a point and were glassing back up the hill and saw some more elk, maybe eight cows. While we were enjoying the view suddenly a mature bull stepped out of the timber! Tyrell turned and said, “let's go get him.” The bull was at least 1000 feet above us and probably half-a-mile away. After an exhausting two-hour walk uphill, we finally were above the spot and decided to go for it. We entered the woods and started out across the hill on a quiet stalk. The slower pace and cross grade walk was a welcome relief to the climb we had just endured. My legs were cramping up and the altitude was definitely having its way with me. As we got close to the spot where the elk had been Tyrell ordered me to sit and get ready to shoot. As I sat down my leg muscles all cramped up at once so I had to stand.
Tyrell bugled and, to our surprise, the bull answered back! Now I was getting nervous! We hadn’t actually seen any elk yet, but we knew they were close. We moved down the hill twice and Tyrell continued to bugle, the bull answering each time. Suddenly, we saw elk! Cow after cow running through the woods, about five or six to a group. I believe there were at least 30 cows, possibly more. Tyrell told me to get ready, that the bull was coming last. In case you don't know, Tyrell gets a little excited as the moment of truth gets near. Sure enough, the bull is trotting along with two cows and then they stop, perfect shot broadside at 70 yards, except for the two trees that are covering his vitals. Of course, Tyrell is several feet away and he has a perfect shot. And he is letting me know that in no uncertain terms. I will not repeat what he said!. So the bull takes off running through the burn and I am trying to get on him, but the trees are giving me fits. Tyrell tells me that it is now or never. I pick an opening in the trees about a foot across and as the bull runs through it, I pull the trigger.
The animals have all run away and the woods get quiet. Tyrell asks me how I felt about the shot and I tell him that it was very iffy at best, but I think I had fur in the scope when I shot. He said, “let's go!” and off we went running through the woods. About 100 yards later he says, “There he is, shoot him. And keep shooting until he is on the ground.” He was standing broadside at 70 yards and had his head behind a tree. He had obviously been hit. I told Tyrell that I couldn't see horns and he said "that's him, shoot him. And keep shooting until he is on the ground." I shot three more times, and he never moved. I was reloading when the bull slowly went down, rolling down the hill. As we went down to get him, I saw his rack for the first time. It was huge! To a fellow that has never shot an elk, it looked like the biggest rack ever.
Of course it wasn't, but he did have a unique third horn coming out of his skull. It was a nice 5 by 6 with an extra horn. The rest of the day was spent gutting the animal and preparing him for spending the night on the mountain. As I filled out my tag neither Tyrell nor myself could remember the date. I had to fill that in later. The walk down was almost as bad as the walk up. We got back to Joe and the horses about dusk. It was good to get back on the horse but that didn't last long. We dismounted and led the horses down the hill back to the cabin, arriving well after dark. I don't think I was ever that tired, but obviously excited and proud of the elk I got. I have to say that I would never have been able to make that trek without Tyrell's “encouragement.” He was very patient with me going up that mountain, he looks like he could walk forever and not get tired. And of course I never would have even seen the bull unless Tyrell thought to bring out his bugle in late October. Later, I took some readings and we had started our stalk at 5400 ft. and shot the bull about 7500 ft.
The next day I was moving slowly. We took some mules with us and went back up to retrieve the elk. It took us all day to butcher and pack the animal but we were able to ride uphill the whole way so it was not as taxing. Joe got two shots at some wolves but they were out about 600 to 700 yards and running. We saw a few small mule deer and some cows, but no one else shot at anything.
The third day was a travel day to Grouse Camp, with an afternoon hunt to Horse Cock rock. We spent three days at Grouse Camp, hunting Martin Mountain and surrounding area. We saw a 5 by 5 twice that Benny passed on. We saw a bunch of cows on different hillsides. The last day we hunted back up Martin Mountain and back down through the area that I shot my bull. It was a long day and we were tired. We got back to Tappan Cabin about dark. We feasted on elk tenderloin grilled over the fire and relived the hunt until we couldn't stay awake any longer.
The final day the “boys” packed up as we cleaned the cabin and stowed our personal gear. The weather was beautiful and the temperature was close to 50 when we pulled out. Along the way back we saw some sheep and a few bald eagles. We were hoping for a last minute elk or mule deer, but that was not in the cards. It was a fun but tiring ride back to Mickey’s.
It was a shame we couldn't stop to thank you and Karla personally, but apparently you were still out in the bush and Karla wasn't home. I know that this accounting was not exactly what you wanted but as I started to type I got excited all over again and couldn't stop myself. I even pulled out all my topograph maps to refresh my memory. Thanks again for everything you did for us. Thank Tyrell and Dano also, they really worked hard to make us feel comfortable and to get us in front of some game. And most of all thank Karla for the great food. I think she thought of everything. Here's hoping that I will get to hunt with y'all again.
PS: I'm really hoping that I could come out and cook for you sometime on one of your hunts. That would be cool! I'm also thinking of bringing my wife out for a summer trip. Maybe someday...
5th Hunt Simplot Ranch
Jim Sugden “Sudsy” flew in to Simplot Ranch a few days a head of the hunt. He figured the ranch could probably need some cleaning. Tyrell and I had been batching it there most of the summer. It wasn’t too bad because Karla had been in for almost two weeks during September.
The Salmon Forrest was on fire and we had to evacuate the B-C Ranch for a few weeks. Karla caught a flight in with her cat and housedogs along for the ride. Tyrell and I had all the hound dogs and stock going down the trail about thirty miles to Simplot Ranch. The Middle Fork was full of boaters and there were plenty of pictures taken of the 10 dogs and 20 head of horses and mules heading down the trail. It was a bit of a circus but we all made it in good shape.
Grant was flying in for his third hunt with us. Grant is a hoot to hunt with, No spring chicken, but has a butt load of heart! We rode and glassed for several days seeing elk everyday. They just weren’t in the right spot to do some killing. One afternoon, I spotted a heard moving through the timber. They were on an elk trail I use to pack game out on. I knew were they would come out to feed so we gathered up the stock and went hunting. Down the hill we went. When we were as close as we could take the horses we just dropped the lead ropes. It pays to have good stock. We went on foot another few hundred yards. I peeked over the ridge. There was a four point 130 yards below. I moved back and told Grant to stand up and bust that bull quick cause he isn’t going to be staying around long. Grant stood up and dropped him with one shot. Now that was a good stalk. He was a rag horn bull and we were satisfied. A great hunt in wild country it just doesn’t get any better.
Brian was back for another hunt at Buckhorn with his buddy Steve. Jim Sugden “Sudsy” was in for the cooking and I was doing the guiding. The weather was warm with no snow at the lower elevations. We decided to head up to the high country to scout for sign. The elk were definitely in the area although we didn’t find any bulls this day. The next day Steve was pretty sore and decided to hang out in camp with Sudsy.
Brian and myself headed back up to the high country again. We rode for about three hours when we found a herd with a good bull in it. They were on an open ridge with no way to cut the distance. Brian had hunted with me the year before. He shoots a 300 ultra mag. and I knew he was a good shot. We were at 416 yards with no way to get closer. Brian made a perfect one-shot kill, dropping the bull in his tracks. I had to laugh at him when he did the high five. Brian had a nice bloody half moon around his eye from the scope kissing him.
The next day Steve was back to his old self and went to pack the bull back to camp. It had snowed the night before, always good for moving the elk out of the dark timber and rocky holes. It snowed again that night and we headed out for Nipple Knob the next morning. We spotted a herd with a good bull out in the open. We glassed them till they went over the ridge and off we went on the hunt. Sneaking down a ridge opposite the herd, we were able to get within 300 yards. When we peeked over the ridge the cows busted us. Steve made a good shot. The bull separated from the cows and dropped below our line of sight. Steve and I took off while Brian hiked up to bring the stock down to us. When we reached the ridge above the bull, I could see he was down for the count. We had two good mature bulls in three days of hunting. Brain and Steve are booked for this coming year and I’m looking forward to another successful hunt with them.
7th Hunt Falconberry Camp
We were back out of the Simplot Ranch for the last hunt. Heading to Falconberry Camp with Berend, Don and Tom. Along to hunt, Trent and Gretchen were in charge of camp cooking. This group has been our last hunt for many years and it is always a good way to end the season. Karla and I, along with our daughter Kaitlin, have done many hunts from Falconberry Camp. We have many stories and fond memories from this camp during the late 90’s when Karla home schooled Kaitlin. I was the principle and whenever one of my hunters killed an elk I would call a “principle day” and take Kaitlin along to pack meat and horns out with me.
The weather for this hunt was cold but not much snow was on the ground. The first day we spotted both elk and deer not to far from camp. Tyrell took Tom and Don down to the meadow the next day and spotted a good bull. They went on a long stalk in open country. I never really heard the whole story I do know there might have been a little bit of shooting and a little blood shot meat as a result. The end was Tom had a 5 by 6 bull hanging on the meat pole. Berend and I rode up to one of my old hunting spots. The trail was full of downed trees. Tyrell and I had cleared the trails in August, but strong winds and old burns make for tough going sometimes. We tied up our stock and hunted on foot up to the ridge as we topped out there was a 4 by 4 buck looking at us from 50 yards away. Berend made a quick shot and we had a 150-point dark horned 4 by 4 buck down. We were a long way from camp, so I loaded the buck on Carson my six-year-old riding horse and walked back to camp. Having good stock can save a day of meat packing and losing a day of hunting. We hunted one more day, but with the weather turning bad, the boys decided to head out early in order to fly out before the storm hit. Last year on the same hunt, we were stuck at the Simplot Ranch for several days before everyone decided to ride out the 30 miles to the B-C RANCH instead of waiting for the weather to clear in order to fly.
7th Hunt Tappan Cabin
Thank you John for writing about your hunt. I was able to pack John and Mike into the Tappan Cabin the last week of the late season. They reported having a great time, despite some rough weather a few days. They spotted a herd of elk the very first afternoon after I dropped them off at the cabin, with about 30 cows and calves and six bulls. Two of the bulls were sparring on a ridge crest as the sun went down. The elk were too far away to go after that afternoon, so the next morning the guys hiked up the mountain at first light and found the herd just above where they had last seen them the evening before. They worked their way above them and climbed up on some rocks on a ridge to look down into the basin where the herd was holed up.
They immediately spotted three of the bulls moving quickly up the basin through some thick burned timber, which made it impossible to get a clear shot until the bulls had climbed part way up the opposite slope, over 450 yards out. With John calling out ranges Mike wasted no time getting some lead in the air as the biggest bull cleared the timber. The bull showed no sign of being hit and kept climbing, but after the third shot he stopped climbing and side-hilled short distance into a clump of burned pines and stopped. The two smaller bulls stayed with the big bull for a good five minutes, then all at once slipped up the slope and were gone.
Mike and John re-positioned higher on the ridge and got a spotting scope on the bull and saw blood. After finding an opening through the trees and making two more shots, the bull, a nice 5 by 5, was sliding fast down the snowy slope and piled up dead at the bottom. On the hike to the bull they realized that the stiff crosswind on the ridge persisted all the way to the bull, meaning that bullet drift had been significant. After pictures and backslapping, they found that most of Mike's shots had connected, but several had clearly drifted downwind, a tough old bull indeed. After cutting the bull up, the guys packed their gear, the rack and the cape back down to the cabin late that day, then returned the next morning and slid all the boned meat out on a sled made of thick plastic sheeting.
The next day, the guys packed back up the mountain and set up a spike camp near where Mike had had gotten the bull. The stayed there the rest of their hunt and focused strictly on deer. It was a little challenging given the fact that there were still numerous elk in the immediate area and John had an elk tag in his pocket. The rut was on and the bucks were actively chasing does. The guys were looking for big bucks or nothing, and in the end they held their fire on the deer. One morning as the guys were cresting over some rocks, they saw a wolf moving away from them about 300 yards out. Precious seconds were lost determining that it was in fact a wolf rather than a coyote. By the time they had dropped their packs, got a good rest, and ranged the moving wolf, he was way out at 500 yards. Just before Mike could pull the trigger the wolf slipped over a ridge and out of sight. It was a close call and a cool sighting.
On their hike out the guys were thrilled to watch a herd of about 20 bighorn sheep. Two of the rams did a classic head butt, running on their hind legs before they cracked together. The rams were all running around and chasing the ewes. As luck would have it, the biggest buck of their trip was spotted later that afternoon, within rifle range of the river trail on the ride back to Loon Creek. Unfortunately the season had ended the day before.
With the rifle season over, it was time for Tyrell and myself to pull the hunting camps. We had three camps to pull before the snowstorms hit and flattened the tents. We rode up to Grouse Camp first. It’s the highest camp and gets the most snow; we spent one night and had the camp ready to load by the next afternoon for the trip back down to Simplot Ranch. Twelve mules loaded up is a pretty sight to a packer. With one camp down and two to go Falconberry Camp was next on the list. We spent one day putting Grouse Camp away and hanging tents to dry a good long soak in the sheep eater hot spring and we were on our way to Falconberry.
The weather continued to hold and the camp came down with no problems. We saw several bighorn sheep on the trail coming down for water and a good bunch of cow elk on the way back to Simplot Ranch. Another few days of putting gear away, winterizing Simplot Ranch, and emptying the last jug of whisky, and we were on our way for the 30 mile ride back to the B-C Ranch. Tyrell headed to town for a much needed few days off. I put gear away, shoed a few head with borium for winter riding and started packing the last camp out.
December Archery Hunt
Pattie Mims was coming in for her second hunt of the year with us. This time she was hunting from the B-C Ranch during our December archery hunt. Tyrell was guiding and I was the head cook. Karla was visiting her Mom for a few weeks. Patti and Tyrell were into elk everyday and were in bow range of bulls three times and could have killed multiple cows. Pattie was looking for a big bull trophy and passed on the shots. Pattie is a true trophy hunter and once she sets a goal she see’s it through. We look forward to many more hunting adventures with Pattie.
While this hunt was going on I was making day trips packing out Buckhorn Camp. There had been recent wolf activity and I figured I’d get a chance, which I did. I ran into a pack of 14 wolves and killed a charcoal colored female. The others made it over the hill before I could drop any more.
January Wolf Hunt
Berend and Don made it in to the B-C Ranch the first part of January for a one-day wolf hunt. We rode up the West Fork and saw some fresh wolf sign heading down river. We gave chase and caught up to them a few miles down Camas Creek. Berend and Don made good shots and we had two more wolves, a male and a female.
With the camps pulled, Tyrell and I got ready for the trapping season. Tyrell was working out of Simplot Ranch and I was trapping from the B-C Ranch. This was the first wolf-trapping season in Idaho in our life times and we were looking forward to the winter. Tyrell had a good winter with eight bobcats, a coyote and three wolves. I trapped two foxes including a silver fox, along with one wolf and three beaver so far.
Trapping my first wolf was awesome. She was a 90lb female that was seven years old. I have to tell you it was a thrill seeing her in a trap from five yards away. In her lifetime she had killed approximately 200 elk and who knows how many deer fell to her and the pack she ran with. I finally felt like I was doing my part to help the elk herds recover.
The first part of February Dan and Mike flew into the B-C Ranch for a few days of lion hunting. We have hunted together before and have become good friends. Karla and I always look forward to seeing them, and running around in the mountains. I had been seeing the tracks of a big Tom lion. We had a little bit of snow, but I could never find where that ole tom got off to. We covered a lot of country looking. We ran a bobcat one day into Duck Creek I always seem to end up here sometime during a hound hunt. Rita and Sis chased the bobcat to the other side of Duck creek and we had to follow. This is a #?*#$!? spot. It’s straight down and through the bottom of Duck Creek to get out, doesn’t sound to bad right? Except when it’s frozen. The bobcat had jumped tree onto a bent over fir tree and gave the dogs the slip. Dan and Mike thought I was trying kill them on the way out. I had to stay ahead of them so as not to get caught since they are bigger than I am. Karla and I look forward to seeing them out for another hunting adventure next year.
This year the chronicles are so late because of the trapping I have enjoyed so much. It takes a lot of time checking lines every other day and skinning and preparing hides. Karla’s not to thrilled with the aroma that comes from trapping, making scents and the skinning and fleshing of critters. She’s a good sport about it though and loves to see the hides turned into beautiful furs.
I was able to get in a little hunting myself this year I bagged a 5’6 black colored bear while setting up camps and shot a 183 point buck in the late season. The wolf hunting and trapping season has a couple of more weeks to go and I’m looking to tag out yet. Hunting and learning the habits of these large predators has been a great experience and we are looking forward to sharing the knowledge we have gained from living along side the wolf with our hunters in the future.
Karla and I thank all the folks who hunted with us in 2011 and the guides and cooks who make Middle Fork Outfitters a success. Have a great year and we will see you on the trail.
~~Ron and Karla~~