Elk/Deer Hunting Trip
North Fork - John Day Wilderness
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
Elevation 6,300' (give or take 1,000' depending on the day)
9/15/07 - 9/23/07
|Our trucks and Dad's trailers sitting in front of an out of business gas station on Highway 99 while we get hay bags situated for our 14 hour drive.|
|I saw a great spot under this overpass to try and water the horses. Who knew it was a trap!? Sucking mud about took Elmer under before we got everybody out of there. We wound up watering the horses out of a bucket with water we brought from home.|
After finally getting horses saddled and loaded (and reloaded when Elmer decided he didn't really want to carry Michelle's bow), we set off into the John Day Wilderness. This bottom picture is the overgrown area where we got to hear a kitty on the way out which inspired Opie, the packhorse I was leading, to ride the next hundred yards on my saddle horse with me. She was not amused. Nice kitty!!
|Michelle spotted the skeleton of an elk down in the creek. We tied the horses up and made our way down into the creek to check it out. It appeared to be a post shed bull that died of natural causes.|
Crossing The John Day
|We stopped and let the horses get a drink when we crossed the John Day River.|
The View From Above
|This is a shot of the John Day River from half way up one of our climbs.|
|After several hours of trying to get to some mythical location the natives want to call "China Meadows" we decided to get back down near the river and throw a "cheater camp" to get us through the night. There was barely enough feed along the river for our horses and nothing to sustain elk. We decided it might be best to ride out, load up and go to a location we usually hunt near Chicken Hill.|
Ok, so I gotta throw this little story in here...
Our habit is to pull into where ever we're going to set up camp, pull the gear off the horses, tie a couple up and start grazing the rest. When we found a good spot for camp near Chicken Hill, we pulled the gear, tied the geldings up, Kaleigh put a bell on Michelle's mare Katie and we turned the mares loose and started setting up. It wasn't 15 minutes and Katie dropped her head and attempted a very good "sneaky elk" impression. The next thing we hear is three sets of pounding hoof beats and a ringing bell headed out at top speed. Gone. See ya. Way, way gone. And three girls looking back and forth at each other. Thinking we'd give them a little time to come back, we continued to set up camp. They didn't return so Kaleigh and Michelle rode out bareback to see if they could bring the mares back while I finished setting up high lines and dragging gear in under our tarp. An hour later and the girls came back...no mares. Michelle said that the mares had made it back to the trailer, milled around a while then headed South. We decided to eat dinner then get some sleep and saddle up in the morning and go looking for them. Keep in mind that we've been in Oregon now for three days and have yet to get to hunt. We found the mares nearly three miles from camp. Thank GOD for the bell or we never would have found Katie the Battle Axe and Her Merry Band of Misfits.
|So, a couple nights ago, my air mattress got a nasty tear in it and I fixed it the way that rednecks fix everything....with duct tape. It only holds air for a couple hours then I'm sleeping on the ground again. I was bitching about it and Michelle says, "Put some duct tape on it." I said, "I did." And she says, "MOOOORE duct tape." There was so much duct tape in that flipping camp after two days, I named it "Silver City".|
|This is a little pine tree immediately East of our camp. It's hard to see but the bark is all rubbed off from bulls rubbing their antlers on it. It's rubbed off a good 12 to 18 inches above Michelle's hand.|
Grazing In Crane Creek Flat
|We FINALLY got to hunt Chicken Hill Tuesday night. We hunted it Wednesday morning and threw our hands up. No sign, no track, NOTHING! We broke camp and came back down to Crane Creek Flat. We decided that, if we weren't seeing any animals, at least we could sit at the truck and drink beer. The horses much preferred grazing in this meadow anyhow.|
Desolation Butte Fire Lookout
|We drove out to the fire lookout at Desolation Butte to check messages on our cell phones. It's the only place in these parts you can get a cell phone to work. Kaleigh climbed to the top of the lookout and took these shots. That's Michelle and I standing not far from my truck.|
|After three more days of hunting and three more days of NOTHING, we were starting to get pretty bored. We met another despondent hunter named Dave at the Granite store. He had an arrow in a spike bull, had been searching for him for two days and couldn't find him. I told Dave if he happened to find the bull to come and get us and I'd help him pack him out. Lord knew we weren't doing anything else! Dave showed up in camp with lots of beer and an archery target. We swapped hunting stories and Dave helped Kaleigh get her bow dialed in. He gave her a couple of arrows as well. Dave and I used a tailgate but Michelle and Kaleigh had to get creative with the seating.|
|Further boredom inspires "tarp jousting".|
9/22/07 - Happy 15th Birthday Kaleigh!!
|With one more shot at trying to get an animal down, we took Dave up on his offer to take us over to his "secret spot" where he and his hunting buddies had been seeing elk all week. Michelle and Kaleigh hiked up along a ridge and I went with Dave down along another ridge South of where they were. Just when prime hunting time rolled around, I had a coughing fit like never before. I tried like hell to hold it back but had to choose between coughing or puking. I chose coughing. It didn't bring any elk in but it brought Dave back, rolling his eyes in a "thanks retard!" look that I've seen often in my lifetime. We started walking out and ran into a doe that was still coming our way. We kicked along and chatted and Dave continued to call now and then. About half way out, we heard two bugles. One was on a ridge Southeast of us and the other was in the bottom of the ravine below us. We had a pretty good idea that the one across the way was probably a hunter because we'd heard it before and it hadn't moved. The one below us was a different story though. When Dave bugled, it moved quickly across the bottom of the ravine. Dave cow called a bit more then bugled again. All of a sudden, all hell broke loose. I said, "He's coming up Dave!!" Actually, it was more like "HE'S COMING UP DAVE!!!" while I was hopping up and down. With a little more speed on the flapping, I might have taken off. Dave was able to get the bull in about 100 yards below us but the wind changed and blew our scent down into the ravine. The bull got quiet shortly after that and we didn't hear him again. Tooooo fun!!|
|We drove home by way of Riley, Oregon to pick up Beulah the mule that Kaleigh had purchased on dreamhorse.com. It took us nearly 16 hours to get home but Kaleigh and I laughed and sang at the top of our lungs and called everyone we could think of (when we had cell reception) and joked around. I had a great time with her and Michelle and am already looking forward to next year.|