Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Elk Hunt Success, Garner's take.

Garner's take on the elk hunt....

We camped at "Possible Camp 2"

We got one, and this is how it all went down.

We left Vegas at 5pm on Friday evening after a long work week at school .  The weather forecast said that there would be significant thunderstorms in the area north of town.  We headed out anyway with a fully loaded truck and our hearts set on a successful elk hunt.  This would be our last weekend up in Ely for elk, as the tag would expire in 2 days.

The drive up was full of excitement.  Luckily, we got out of town without too much delay.  Once we hit the open road north of town, a lurking storm cloud hung in the distance.  For the rest of the drive to Ely we had a rainstorm combined with a lighting show that followed us the whole way.  At times, the lighting was so intense we could see the surroundings like it was daylight.  Off the left side of the car I even caught a glimpse of a bolt hitting the ground and casting off a bright orange fiery light.

We heard from Alan and Garth  that they were about 20-30 minutes ahead of us and we planned to meet in Ely at the supermarket.  Little did we know, they got caught in a police road stop due to flash flooding and were held back.  Unknowingly, we ended up passing them and kept driving to Ely as they were in a gas station.  Oops. 

The supermarket stop was quick and simple; just ice and lunch sandwiches were added to the cooler.  Alan’s Jeep wasn’t in the lot, so we assumed  they had already continued on to the camp.  We decided to head out towards McGill, Nevada, just north of Ely, without waiting around any longer as it was still raining and the temps were dropping. 

Our  pre-arranged camp location was in the north section of the permitted area, just north of the last irrigation pivot.  We took the county line road for about a mile and then headed north on East Goshute Lake trail.  The entire area was flat with many puddles forming from the rain.  We set up in the first area that was cleared with spaces for tents.  To our benefit, the rain stopped for just a moment and we set up the tent, got in, and secured ourselves for the next big dump of rain.  It was all good until a monster storm came over with lightning strikes next to us.  We decided to jump into the truck to ride out the storm.  For 45 minutes we watched the lighting hit around the truck.  Once back in the tent, we slept in until 6:30am.  With the heavy cloud cover the desert was still dark at this time.

Waking up was a little difficult since we only got a couple hours of sleep.  When it finally stopped raining, we donned the rain gear and headed out.  It was beautiful!  There was a clear view down the entire Steptoe Valley with a low lying cloud in the foreground.  

The rain looked like it was letting up for awhile, so we prepped the hunting gear in the truck and I went to the back to get the rifle ready.  As I was getting the rifle ready, I hear Katherine say, “There are elk coming right at us!”  No way, I thought, and sure enough, there was a cow elk running right for the camp.  It was being chased by a bull and traveling at a full sprint.  I took the rifle to the front of the H3 and plopped it on the hood and said, “Katherine, what’s the distance?”  She had the binoculars with the rangefinder, but couldn’t get a good reading since they were sprinting.  By now they were close, but running from my right to left making a difficult shot, especially since the sagebrush was so high.  I shouted, “I’m going to put one out in the dirt to startle them so they stop.” I did, and it did nothing.  They just kept running and then headed over the berm, out of sight.  They ended up getting about 150 yards from us, and I didn’t take a shot.  This was the closest we had been to them in the entire hunt, if you don’t count almost running them over with the truck on the highway early one morning.

After the excitement, we headed out in the H3 in the general direction the two elk were running: a north on the East Goshute Lake Trail. We never saw them again, as they probably crossed the highway to the elk resort.  Whatever is across the street must be nice since every elk we see pretty much bee lines there out of our hunting zone.  There is probably free ice cream for them or something!

At this point, we headed to the connection with the highway, went north to the intersection with the Nevada Northern Railway, and came back to the county line road.  We were doing some spotting along the pivots and saw Alan and Garth in the white Jeep, so we headed back to camp.  We talked about the crazy drive up from Las Vegas and how we missed each other.  Oh well, now the group was together and we headed out in pursuit of elk.

There had been no rain for hours and we could see up and down the valley.  Nothing.  We decided to take what we call the “diagonal road” across the lake bed.  I thought this was a bad idea since the place was dumped with rain for hours on end.  It was a sloppy mess.  We made it across, but only after thinking we were going to get stuck 50 times.   It made for some good pictures once we made it.  After driving around for a couple hours and seeing no elk, we decided to go back to camp.

Back at camp, we planned the next morning.  Wake up would be at 5am, putting us in location a few minutes before the legal sunrise time.   After some great chicken chili that Tammy made for us, and a pasta dish Garth brought, we turned in for the night.  The next day was Sunday and it was to be our last effort for elk in the area.  Awesome things were about to happen.

The alarm went off soon enough and we packed up our gear inside the tent.   I was surprised that the night never got that cold.  There was no breeze and only a few clouds.  A group of clouds was directly east, hopefully staying there to prolong the morning blast of sun.  I wanted to get into position quickly and listen for calls.  The other tent woke up quickly form their snoring slumber and got their things together.  We could hear elk bugles in the distance if we were really quiet.  We scanned around the perimeter of the camp for possible elk and saw nothing. Off to the pivots.

We took the East Goshute Lake Trail to the County Line road.  At this point we were at the NW point of the irrigation pivot arms.  Typically, this has been a great place to spot, so we go out and gave it a try.  Engines were off and all binoculars were up.  BOOM!  There they were.  Three elk in the distance to the Southwest and 3 more off to their left.  Now, were they dudes, or chics?  We have experienced this same problem before, following the bulls around looking for antlerless elk.

Garth and I grabbed our field bags, rifles and radios and headed out towards the elk on foot. Katherine and Alan stayed with the trucks. It seemed that the elk were 800 – 1200 yards out as we began, and we would not be able to tell if there were any antlers on them until we got closer.  We walked a few hundred yards from the trucks and started using the calls.  The first one I used was the “cow estrus” call and it worked marvelously.   The bulls started walking straight towards us, and then went into a full run for a moment. They seemed amped for love!  We moved a bit farther into the field, sneaking behind the sagebrush as we went.  We got into a good location, about 200 yards from the animals, and saw only antlers, and they were HUGE!  Two of the bulls came within 100 yards  from us and we got a little spooked.  Too close for me, and Garth agreed.  We started talking at a normal volume and stood up a bit.  Once the elk saw us, it seemed that they got a little embarrassed that we were not their true love, so they bolted to the north, out of here. 

The whole time we were in radio contact with the trucks, and Alan thought he saw some more out in the distance to the Southwest.  Garth and I kept looking for them, but never saw anything, and there was no way we were going to just go for a 2-3 mile stroll.  We crouched down and thought about this for a minute.  I scanned the area again with the binoculars and saw 2 other hunting parties on the perimeter of the irrigation pivots south of our vehicles.  The other hunters had their binoculars up and were looking west into the valley.   As I was talking to Garth, Katherine radioed to me, “Guys there is an elk running right at you!”  No way, I thought.  We slowly stuck our heads above the sage brush, and sure enough, there was a little one running right at us, but kind of far away.  I decided to use the distressed calf call and see what would happen.  The elk stopped, redirected itself to the call, and came right at us.  Cool!  I said to Garth, “You feel good at 300-400 yards?”  He said, “Sure.”  I was to the left of him and a little in front of his rifle’s muzzle.  I tried to scoot to the left and back up a bit, but could only do so much within the tight bushes. The elk came within 100-150 yards, still walking and he took a shot.  He missed.  Now the elk took a turn to our left, putting me in the way of Garth’s rifle.  He said, “You’re in the way, now it’s your turn.”

         I quickly threw the rifle on my knee, put the crosshairs on the elk, saw no antlers, and fired.  It went over on it’s right side to the dirt below.  We both jumped up and ran over to it.  It took another shot to end it quickly and respectfully.  What laid in front of us a was a beautiful young elk that the 5 of us, over the course of 4 weekends, had been trying to hunt.  Now, it was time for a few pictures, moment of respect, and to radio the trucks for more gear.  We just gave the other hunting parties a little show as well.  I felt a bump over my right eye and had blood in my eyebrow.  Ouch!

The shot was made at about 60 yards and I hit it high in the center of the back.  Unfortunately, this is where some of the best meat is.  I’ll take it though.

Alan and Katherine were there soon enough and the field dressing began.  It went by really quick, or at least it seemed to.  The elk was quartered and the four of us loaded it up on our backs to carry to the trucks. From there, we made it to the campsite in just a few minutes and got all the meat on ice and packed up the camp.  We were now heading home.

The day was overloaded with excitement and the hunt finally was at it’s end.  I just wish that the other guys got lucky and we could all have more meat in the freezer.  The drive home was a relaxing five hour drive back to Las Vegas.  We took the meat to the processor and in a week we would have perfectly wrapped and prepared cuts.   I can’t wait to get the hunting party together at my place to cook up a feast.  Those pictures will have to be posted.

I will surely try for elk permits again in the next season.  Our state is a beautiful place to hunt and take advantage of the outdoors.  Deer season is coming up for me in the same area.  Let’s see what happens.   After my October deer tag is up, Jason has a deer tag for the Mesquite area where Alan and I got one a couple of years ago.  Bring it!!!

This is the Sous Vide machine cooking our first sampling of the elk.  

Salt, pepper, and a little rosemary sprig.

This masterpiece was cooked for 2 hours. 

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