Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sun River Winter Elk Range

On Friday my wife, Wende, and I took a short trip to the Sun River Game Range. The goal was to photograph some elk. Cold temps, lots of snow and clear sky indicated there would be lots to see, but high wind kept the herds tucked in along the east faces of the ridges. Elk were there just not very visible.

Saturday morning we repeated the trip. Amazingly, for this part of the country, there was no wind. Elk were all over. Being Saturday there were three other vehicles filled with bundled people who were searching winter wapiti. As we returned home, I wondered how many of the others were hunters, and how many were not hunters, but just people who enjoyed Montana’s abundant elk and wildlife.

On the way up on Saturday Wende had made the comment that we take our beautiful spot for granted. I am guilty. I do. Hunters and non-hunters alike probably take the Sun River Game Range for granted. Most hunters, and I would guess, most non-hunters don’t appreciate the history surrounding formation of the Game Range.

For most of history, Montana has had plentiful wildlife. Our first game warden, Bruce Neal, had a set of mastodon tusks in his cabin museum at the entrance to Sun River Canyon. About 50 miles from here, on 14 June 1805, Captain Lewis shot a bison, forgot to reload his rifle and had to elude a grizzly bear by running into the Missouri River. On 8 July 1806, Captain Lewis’ party traveled close to, if not through, the present location of Augusta, Montana—my home. While there he recorded, “We saw a great number of deer, antelope, wolves and some barking squirrels, and for the first time caught a distant prospect of two buffaloes.” After the 1988 fire near my hunting camp, 20 miles into the Bob Marshall Wilderness I found a partially buried bison. I still have the skull. That bison had to have died about 100 years ago.

With the appearance of man abundant game diminished. Forest Service records indicate that in 1901 there were at least 2,295 cattle and 140 grazing on the North Fork of the Sun River for 6.5 months each year. Grazing of traditional elk habitat and “pot” hunters, those hunters who killed game to sell, depleted game levels. Elk that could not find food in their normal areas moved to ranges that normally served only bighorn sheep, which reduced sheep numbers.

Elk estimates in the area for 1910 ranged from 300 to 1,500. This was just after the conservationist movement that had been popularized by Theodore Roosevelt. Some people could recall, and regret how bison herds had been eliminated. In 1913, the Sun River Game Preserve was created. Biologists then and today believe that the preserve was and is bad science. Regardless, it has remained.

In 1934 there were between 2,500 and 3,000 elk in the Sun River area. The Preserve created summering areas for elk, but there was no public land outside the mountains for the elk to winter. As the summer elk herd grew, there needed to be wintering place for the elk. Many found feed on cattle ranches.

Most cattle ranchers will allow some, but not many elk grazing on their land. On of the most effected ranches was the Circle H, owned by C. R. Rathbone. The Sun River Game range includes land that was the Circle H. On 21 October 1938, Rathbone placed a three-column ad in the Great Falls Tribune. It said he had fed over 500 elk on his property for the past five years. The ad also requested people with machine guns and other means to help kill 1,000 elk. He promised no prosecution by law enforcement.

In 1947, the original purchase of land was made. Since then more land has been added. Today the Game Range includes 20,000 acres of state owned and state leased land.

Saturday morning Wende and I saw more than 600 elk on the Game Range. We took a few photos, watched the sun rise and marveled at how man’s purchase of some land has created hunting and non-hunting enjoyment for people from all over the world.

Maybe now, I don’t take it quite so much for granted.


PS. This post was partly inspired by Deer Passion's post (here).

Friday, February 27, 2009

An Update

A few days ago, our friend from Alaska (his blog is here) highlighted a blog by David Cronenwett.  Turns out he lives less than 50 miles from me.  His blog is "A View from Aerie Mountain."

In an odd coincidence, our local newspaper, The Choteau Acantha (link here) did an article on Cronenwett this past week.  (link here.)

Check it out.



Saturday! The weekend is here and it’s time for fun.

And for fun, the mini-sniper is great. I didn’t invent it. I first saw it in a Beeman’s Airgun catalog in the mid-1980s. That’s right. The mini-sniper is designed for air rifles—an essential part of training the Elk Hunter.

If you shoot in competition, dry-firing and air rifle shooting are important elements in training the eyes, hands, fingers, body and mind to shoot a good shot. Without recoil and a loud report, your eyes have a chance to SEE EXACTLY WHERE YOUR SHOT IS GOING. (future link here).

The word “training” may have a negative connotation, but that is where the mini-sniper comes in. Not only is it “training,” it is also fun, fun, fun, and can be done anywhere you have 35 yards of open space.

Mini-sniper is shot from the prone position. The targets consist of five-9mm shell casings (expended). Some people say the shell casings should be seated in modeling clay—I just set them on a two-by-four.

You can make up rules as you see fit. It’s challenging. If you miss your target, there is no paper to tell you were that missed shot went.

The reason it is called mini-sniper, and the theory behind it, is (supposedly) a 9mm shell casing at 35 yards is equivalent to a man-sized target at 900 to 1000 yards shot with a highpower sniping rifle.

Options with this are limitless. You can compete with yourself, your son, brother, wife, whatever. If 35 yards is too challenging, you can shorten the distance. If it is too easy, you can increase it. Some people find that painting the shell casing dark green or black makes them more visible. Others go to a toy store and purchase packs of the little green army men that are about the size of a 9mm casing.

By combining fun, training and your imagination your skill as an Elk Hunter will improve. I promise.

Have a fun Saturday and Weekend.


Montana Sunrise

Last night I went to the shop around 9 pm.  The week's snow and overcast had been replaced by bright stars.  Temps had dropped to around zero.

I went back to the house and told Wende, my wife, that we would get up early and go to the Game Range.  With the cold, clear conditions elk would be out and about.  

While we readied cameras and batteries, she asked, "Did you plug the truck in?"

I hadn't, but I did.

Morning temps hadn't dropped much, only about minus 2.

We slammed coffee and left.

It's only about ten miles from the house to the Game Range.  

On the way, Wende said, "Aren't the mountains beautiful?  We live in such a wonderful spot and we kinda' take it for granted."

Took some photos. But it was apparent that today wasn't a good day for elk photos.  Wind at the house was only about 10 mph.  The Game Range had wind around 40.   The road was starting to drift in in spots.

There were quite a few elk out, but with the wind, they were tucked in on the east slopes.  Took a few shots with the video camera, but they didn't turn out.

We were hunting elk photos, but instead all we got was some darn good scenery and a wonderful start to another day with each other.

Hope you all enjoy the scenery as much as Wende and I do.

We may try again tomorrow.  It won't be as cold, but might be less windy.  Yeah, right.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Immediate Action

I read a post on Albert Rasch's blog today.  It was about rifle magazines he is reviewing. (link here.)

One of his comments was how many misfires he has had, and it brought back memories of a page in an Army manual I read in the 1970s.

The Army has many manuals they call Soldier's Manuals.  They list tasks that each Military Occupational Specialty (job) has to know to perform correctly.  In the Infantry manual there is a page devoted to Immediate Action.  Immediate Action is the sequence of steps a soldier must follow to reduce a stoppage--handle a misfire.

The following is almost verbatim what is on the page:  (my comments are in parenthesis)

Task #xxx.  Immediate Action

In the event of a misfire, take the following action:

1.  Immediately yell "MISFIRE."*
(the asterisk is important)

2.  Use the key word, "SPORTS."

  • S Slap up on the magazine (to ensure it is seated)
  • P Pull back on the charging handle (to clear the chamber)
  • O Observe the cartridge and the chamber (to ensure it is clear)
  • R Release the charging handle (to chamber another round)
  • T Tap on the forward assist (the forward assist forces the bolt closed on an M-16)
  • S Squeeze the trigger
*In a combat situation do not yell misfire.

That was actually written in a soldier's manual.


Trigger: Heart of the Elk Rifle

More than twice the perfect hunt becomes the perfect learning experience. Deep snow and sub-zero temps force ruminants like deer and elk to keep warm in the only way they can—grazing. That recipe makes hunting easier. More snow, lower temps and more grazing makes simple work for the elk hunter.

An experienced guide takes advantage and moves the hunter into the edge of the herd. We kneel in the snow and wait for the last, the big bulls.

When the drags wander 50 yards away, you whisper, “The third one back is the best. He’s a good 6x6. Take your time. Relax. Place one shot in the front center of his shoulder.”

The guide peers through binoculars and waits to see the shot placement. Seconds drag as if hours. The guide sneaks a sideways glance and notices the hunter looking at the trigger on his rifle.

The guide slowly lowers his glasses, and in a slightly louder tone says, “What’s up?”

“I can’t pull the trigger,” the hunter replies.

”Is the safety on?”


The bulls trail out of sight. The guide motions to move, and leads the hunter on a one-mile forced march that ends with a small campfire. The winter wonderland is transformed into a gunsmith’s shop. The guide removes the barreled receiver with a Leatherman, and gently warms the receiver/trigger until accumulated oil and water flow out. The bolt is disassembled and given the same treatment. After reassembly, the rifle is dry-fired and the two return to the elk tracks at a speedier march.

The sun is up, temps have warmed and the elk have drifted across the river to the Game Preserve.

It’s not just “more than twice,” but usually more than once or twice per year. As rifles have become more technologically advanced, and hunters become less riflemen, the line of occurrence creates a crescendo.

Technologically, the older and simpler triggers found on Mausers, Springfields and Winchester Model 70s (not the “new” “Winchester Model 70s”) have been replaced by smoother, more adjustable and more complex triggers found on today’s rifles. The older triggers were more of a lever that forced (nearly) disengagement of the sear. The newer ones don’t act as directly on the sear.

A simpler-type trigger on a Winchester Model 70 short action (push-feed).

Simpler-type trigger on Springfield M1903A3.

More complex-type trigger on Remington 700. Note the two side plates that totally enclose the mechanism.

Additionally, the older style triggers are open, whereas the newer-style are enclosed in two metal plates. The metal plates discourage people from cleaning them. They also encourage moisture and frost, its sub-zero successor, to form.

Montana elk hunts experience severe swings in temperature and moisture levels. Hunting for bull elk can begin in bitter temperatures in the morning and end in near shirt-sleeves by 3 p.m. Dry Indian Summer can deteriorate into wind, snow and cold of elk hunting heaven. With little thought hunters may move their rifles from house to field, truck to field, or tent to field without thinking of the consequences. Think of you or your friends experience with eye glasses or binoculars that went from heat and moist to cold and dry. The same fogging happens to steel rifle parts, only the effects aren't as visible.

Those same hunters may not realize that oil that keeps mechanisms lubricated and rust-free in humid area quickly becomes sludge and ice when the mercury plummets.

If you are building or buying an elk hunting rifle, look for the older style mechanism, or at least know that the newer mechanisms will need more TLC. If you have a rifle with the newer style trigger, become a rifleman and take care of the mechanism correctly. (Maintenance link later)

Although an elk hunter isn’t a soldier, both live in difficult and changing weather conditions. In that respect it is important to remember the adage, “A soldier can take heat, cold, wet and dry, but a weapon needs constant TLC.”

For more info on trigger control go to:

The Elk Hunter's Rifle

What's Important, but we won't go there now!

Since before David and Goliath, people have been searching for better ways of propelling rocks--and their successors--at opponents and wild game. A look into hunting or shooting magazines, or a sporting goods store indicate the search continues. As people search for the "super-whazzooo," they need to recall that Biblical accounts of David's conquest didn't include mention of his brand-new, shiny, high-velocity rock-throwing sling. It centered on the people of the story. Only David's accurate slinging and his will to succeed brought down Goliath.

We will skip following Biblical precedent of focusing on the individual, for now, and move on to the "super-whazzooo," or at least a simplified version. The individual will come later. I mean, who doesn't like guns? (besides Hillary, Schumer, et al.)

Whether it's David's sling,

a complex Olympic grade air rifle:

a less complex, but nearly as accurate high-power competition rifle,

or a hunting-type rifle,

the important consideration is they are all just "tools."

Some people like the crescent-wrench. Others constantly wield a Leatherman. Similarly, I have my view of what tool works best for Bull Elk, essentially what The Elk Hunter's Rifle should be.

If a Bull Elk is your quest, here are the elements that need to be addressed to build The Elk Hunter's Rifle: (links added as needed)

With those elements in mind, my perfect Elk Hunter's Rifle would be built on a Winchester Model 70 action, and have a medium-weight 22-inch barrel. Several years ago, I would have mounted a rear aperture (peep) sight and a sharp, square front post. As I have aged, my preference for sights has changed. Now I would opt for a Leupold 4x scope with a simple duplex reticle. It would be chambered for either a 30-06 or a 338-06. It would seem that I forgot the trigger, but one of the reasons I chose the Model 70 action is for its trigger.

Reasons for those decisions will be revealed as this series continues.

As a person who believes in K.I.S.S., I haven't built the perfect Elk Hunter's Rifle, but continue to use what is in the safe. Mostly I grab this Remington Model 700, in 300 Winchester Magnum:

The only bullet-launcher I own that comes close to The Elk Hunter's Rifle is this one:

This rifle is a sporterized Springfield 1903A3. It has taken more elk, deer and bear than I know, but I only take it out of the safe for occasional cleaning. My grandfather, Charlie Carter, bought this miliary rifle from the NRA for about $25 in the late 1950s. He cut and polished the barrel, fitted it for a scope and built the stock. No factory stock can compare in fit to a person. Surprisingly, everyone who has ever held this rifle remarks on the stock fit.

More later. Onward and upward.


Back to: My Initial Response

Return to .300 Weatherby Magnum

Sunday, February 22, 2009


More Than Can Be Seen

Skellum. A couple of years ago there was a dog living in Bozeman, Montana named “Skellum.” It’s not an English word, but one of Zimbabwean that has no direct English translation. In one way it means “foolishness,” or “nonsense” in an endearing way. It can also be seen on warning signs with skull and crossbones around high-tension power lines. In that way it means, “beware of things you can’t see.”

The owner of “Skellum” is Mark Atkinson, a veterinarian from Zimbabwe who was hired as Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' first wildlife veterinarian. During his first two months with the Department he assisted in trapping over 100 bighorns and 100 mule deer. (For stories on Sheep capture go here.)

From a distance, Atkinson’s close-cropped—almost shaved—head, muscular build, British-like accent and intense focus bring images of a sergeant major from Her Majesty’s commandos. But up close, he is a compassionate veterinarian who shows a love of animals and people.

Although people don’t need to “beware,” the contrast between an exterior tough guy and an interior loving person does illustrate a person who has qualities that can’t be seen. Some department staff expressed that Atkinson had an iceberg quality—more substance than is visible.

During a break in trapping sheep near Augusta, the trapping crew came on a deer that appeared to have an injured eye, was wandering in circles, and seemed a likely victim of chronic wasting disease. CWD is the elk/deer variant of mad cow disease.

Atkinson suggested that the deer had some kind of liver infection. FWP biologist Quentin Kujala said he wondered, “Who is this guy and can’t he see that the deer has an eye or head injury?” Game warden Larry Davis shot the deer and Atkinson and Wildlife Laboratory Supervisor Neil Anderson performed a necropsy. Brain tissue was removed and later found negative for Chronic Wasting Disease. The necropsy revealed that the deer had a liver puncture, which may have been caused by a rutting deer’s horn. It was apparent to department personnel that Atkinson saw something in the deer’s behavior that no one else did.

Anderson, Atkinson’s boss, said the Atkinson was very qualified, had a good attitude and was unpretentious. “If Mark was arrogant or too bold, he wouldn’t have fit in with the field crews,” Anderson said.

Atkinson attended college in Europe, received his veterinary degree in Zimbabwe in 1989, and became Zimbabwe’s first veterinarian for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. Rhinoceros and elephant were his main focus, although he worked with many African animals. His experience capturing elephants and rhinoceros took him to Nepal where he assisted that country's rhinoceros management program.

In 1996, Atkinson was encouraged to leave Zimbabwe. He said, “I didn’t want to be a martyr. Some of my friends stayed and were jailed on trumped-up charges.”

He moved to Ohio where he worked at “The Wilds,” a 10,000-acre international wildlife conservation facility. Atkinson said that he and his wife Shirley Atkinson 37, never felt like they “fit in” in Ohio. Shirley Atkinson is a wildlife ecologist, also from Zimbabwe, and did contract work on endangered bird species for FWP.

Born and raised on his parent's farm 62 miles north of Harare, the nation's capital, Atkinson said that he would like to retire to Zimbabwe, but for many reasons that may not happen.

Atkinson has since moved to Nevada working in Nevada’s Department of Wildlife. Like Montana’s wildlife officials, Nevada’s must have seen something beneath the surface. In November 2008, NDOW selected Atkinson to head their newly created Wildlife Game Division. (press release here)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Humans and Wolves, or Is It Wolves and Humans?

Wolves seem to be in the news. So much so that it isn't really news anymore. Still, some elements of wolf reintroduction go under media radar.

Some time back, while researching a story on a wolf pack, I was digging through thousands of slides at the headquarters for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I came across one that seemed out of place. A lone domestic calf was standing in front of some plastic snow fence wearing a backpack, like he was going camping.
Calf with his battery pack and signaling device. Wolves killed the calf after he became playfl with them. (USFWS photo)
Later, I asked Ed Bangs and Joe Fontaine about the photo. Bangs is the top man for wolf reintroduction in the northern Rockies. Fontaine was the number two man. Since then Fontaine has moved on to other things.

What follows is an excerpt from an in-house "book" I did on a pack of wolves. The people I wrote it for didn't want any publicity, so I will not mention them by name.

The later half of the 1990s brought activity to Yellowstone Park. Wolves that were trapped in Canada were released to Idaho and Wyoming in January 1995 and January 1996.

The combination of more wolves and more wolf/livestock incidents brought attempts to reduce conflicts. USFWS, USFS and Ted Turner teamed up to experiment with teaching wolves to avoid domestic cattle. They believed that since wolves were social animals, some could be taught to fear cattle and then be turned loose in the wild to teach that fear.

They fit a domestic calf with a battery pack and signaling device similar in function to underground dog fences--the type that shocks a dog if he approaches. The calf was placed in an enclosure of several acres. The enclosure also contained a few wolves that had been fitted with shock collars tuned to the frequency of the calf's back pack.

Being animals, no one knows what the wolves or calf thought, but initially they avoided each other. As the days wore on, the calf became lonely and tried to bed closer to the wolves. The wolves shied away. The experiment ended badly for the calf when one wolf and the calf were face-to-face., but out of distance of the shock signal.

The calf wanted to play and attempted to butt the wolf with his head. The combination of being attacked by the calf and the resulting shock of the collar caused the wolf to lunge at the calf--killing the calf instantly, regardless of the continuing shock.

End of Experiment.

It is strange what humans will do to make poor situations more palatable. Even after the shock, the wolf probably found the calf very palatable.

Wolf populations have grown and continue to grow. Only now have wildlife enthusiasts noticed that not only do wolves eat domestic sheep and beef, but they also eat a lot of wildlife.

If people want enough wolves, lions and bears (oh my) so that everyone visiting Montana can see one, we will have to import more food for them.

Gun Control

Good Morning American!

I normally keep political topics off of my elk and wildlife blog, but the newest gun control measures in Congress are important to all outdoors people and freedom loving people.

This new bill is called "Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009."

You can find the link here.

The link is here.

I am a true believer in writing, calling or emailing our delegations in Congress.  

If there ever was a time, NOW IS IT.  Keep us free by utilizing First Amendment Rights to save our Second Amendment Rights.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Link to Sheep Capture, Part 5: Past and Future

Three-year old ram fully processed except his radio collar, which is being prepared by Utah DWR biologist Randall Thacker. Only a few rams were taken to Utah, and this was the largest.

This is just a link to an article I "pre-posted" while I did the research and writing. The actual post is buried at least one page back. Hopefully, it is worth reading. Here is the link. Or, got to

Pathfinder helicopter bringing three more bighorns for processing. Photo taken at the second day's site, below Gibson Dam in Sun River Canyon. Temperature about 5 below zero, with winds exceeding 60 knots.
More photos can be seen by clickin on the link.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Drifting Thoughts

A Few Winter Thoughts

With deep snow weighing heavily and cold slicing deeply some Saturday evenings it is good to put down the book, mix a "toddy-for-the-body," and watch the fire. Cracklin' fire is far simpler than chopsticks on the keyboard, yet more relaxing than Baroque symphony. Crown and a cube in my favorite soapstone mug allows the mind to drift with the flames.

Last Saturday the mind wandered back to the stories of this year's latest high-velocity, super ballistic coefficient, low drag bullet launcher yet devised. The name isn't important. It is only the most recent in a number of offerings that wet the appetite of any consumer.

With so many options left to the consumer it is often difficult to know, "What is best?" As the mind pondered this, it wandered to a new and improved, futuristic elk hunt. It is no longer just one person slipping silently through the timber. It is one man followed by a platoon of gun bearers. When quality game presents itself many decisions have to be weighed. The first is, "What is the animal?" Deer? Sheep? Bear? Elk? Ptarmigan? The second question is, "What is the range?" Close? Far? "What are the conditions?" Open meadow? Heavy brush and timber? After all the variables churn through the hand held ballistic launching profiler, it turns out that the 15th gun bearer has the correct weapon.

Number 15 arrives with it. A little tremble. A wobbly sight picture. The crosshairs sweep the target and the trigger is pulled.

The mind heaves a sign as another spark disappears up the stack.

No real need for all that "stuff." Remember the military acronym, "K.I.S.S."--Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Simple items to take a tough bull elk. No, I don't still use a 30-30.

Keep It Simple, Stupid. How does one mind keep it simple? And when that simple thing becomes one mind's opinion, how does it compete with many minds making many things simple and complex, which becomes many opinions, both simple and complex?

Simply? It can't.

Over the next week or so, there will be one simple (here) opinion on the following items:

That mind. Another lick of flame twists and fight for air, and thoughts move to a older time of younger people. A day of lying in the Georgia sun, wearing two sweatshirts and a heavy leather shooting jacket, being repeatedly pounded by an M-14. That was both fun and fatiguing. No snow. No cold. No fireplace.  A simpler time.  Everyone had the same rifle.  Everyone had the same gunsmith.  Everyone was issued ammo from the same box.  The only thing separating one shooter from the other was their mind's ability to use conscious action to shoot a subconscious shot.  And comment from SFC Tulua, NCOIC of 6th Army MTU, like, "Good shot group, Specialist (anyone).  You could cover it with a dime.  Just throw ten pennies at the target," would give serious competition a little humor.

Sitting position at 200 yards with the Army Marksmanship Unit. Photo is actually taken at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, circa June 1987.

But an evening in a hot tub with a cold Corona let a little steam drift up the chimney.

After a day being pounded by an M-14 in the hot sun, a hot tub and beer go great. Specialists Four Holt and Willard and Corporal Carroll.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Time Flies

The Lynx Creek cook tent circa 1983. Arlene, Wende, Dennis, Robbie.

After reading so many posts about families that are involved in hunting, and reading so many warm stories I recalled some special times in my hunting life. (This all started with the Outdoor Bloggers Summit Challenge--go here. For my contribution--go here.)

There have always been women in the hunting camps were I grew up.

Cooks, helpers, friends, wives. Endless. Camp, hunting and the outdoors would not have been the same without them. Although one special woman comes to mind--my wife, Wende.

Sometime around 1983, Wende asked if she could come into camp with me. We weren't married, but had been going together for a year or so. It happened to be Thanksgiving Week. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area can be--and was--quite cold at the end of November. I said great, come along, and I took her in on a meat run. On meat runs, I traveled with my horses, mules, a bunch of meat and horns, and my trusty blue heeler "Star." (Previous posts have a dog named, "Tippy," that is another dog.) Anyway it was just her and me and seven mules. (Camp was filled with hunters, guides, cooks, woodcutters, about 15 in all.)

Thanksgiving-style meat run, circa 1982-4.

We didn't have lots of cash at the time, so we skipped buying another sleeping bag. I took her to camp, and IT WAS COLD. The trip is 19 miles. The first six are exposed rock face around Gibson Reservoir. And here on the Rocky Mountain Front wind is our constant companion.

For our first night, I had built a nest on the hay stack in the saddle tent. Put down a tarp over the hay, then some foam pads, then a wool blanket, top it off with the sleeping bag and another tarp. Ummm. Heaven.

We finished the night, but it was below zero and not all that cozy. We (someone) decided to sleep on the floor of the cook tent until we left on the next meat run.

Somewhere after Thanksiving we had more elk. Another meat run was needed.

Temperature was still below frigid.

At about the halfway point of the 19 miles is a place named, "The Bars." It isn't there anymore. It got its name from the cowboys that trailed cattle into what is now wilderness and before Gibson Dam was built. The Bars was just a gate at a narrow point in the canyon. When there were cows, it kept the cows from coming out of the mountains. Until the Forest Service removed it in the 1990, it kept loose horses from causing chaos along the exposed (read, cliff) along Gibson Reservoir. Originally, the gate was a simple arrangement of sliding pine poles that closed the gate--The Bars.

Sorry. As we last left them, Dennis and Wende had just arrived at The Bars during a typical below frigid Montana day. Normally, they would have a sandwich, water, pop, something to eat, Dennis would adjust the mules loads and cinches, and both would make their necessary calls with nature. Cold made efficiency and speed the key. Check the mules, make the call and keep riding.

Wende was bundled up. Two pairs of long johns. One pair of jeans. One pair of wool pants. One set of heavy leather bat-wing chaps. For her call to nature, she asked if I would help her with the Michelin gear. I undid her chaps and helped as best I could. She waddled off to the brush along the river. Seconds later, her and Star came waddle-running yelling, "There's something out there. There's something out there."

It was still cold. I said, "There's nothing out there. Quit dicking around and lets go."

"No. See. Star's barking. Something is out there."

I slipped my bullet-launcher from its scabbard and slid into the brush. It was twisted and matted snow brush higher than your head. Something was pissed and rooting around in it. The snow brush concealed undulating ground. Unknown to me what ever it was was in a depression making it look only a couple feet tall. It was chocolate brown and had a hump in its back. The only thing we have in these parts that has that description is grizzly. But, not at this time of year. The guy made a bluffing charge and turned out to be a yearling bull moose--I had never seen a moose in that area--ever.

His legs and belly were covered with ice. Apparently he had come from somewhere and was going somewhere, but The Bars and the rapids of the river kept him from going there.

When we left, The Bars were open, and I didn't see him when I return the next day.

A pretty simple story. Here is the sort of "Paul Harvey 'Rest of the Story.'"
The top photo is (l to r), Arlene Troy- cook, Wende, Dennis, and Robbie Balek has the jug of Schnapps. The photo was taken during that trip described in the previous story. It was probably 1983-ish. The center photo is another Thanksgiving time meat run. The rider isn't Wende. The next picture--bottom--is Wende and Dennis in the exact same cook tent as the first photo. This time, we owned the place and the date was about 2000. In between those dates, there are many fine memories.

Wende and Dennis in same Lynx Creek cook tent, just 20 years later.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Deadlines and More

OK, so I've gotten away from any "BULL ELK" stories and info.  I should return with some important stuff on Wednesday or Thursday (18 or 19 January).

There is one thing that has come up.  License deadlines for nonresident hunters coming to Montana are fast approaching.  

Nonresidents looking to hunt Montana's elk or deer have until March 15 to get all the paperwork completed.

A lot of rules govern which license a person needs.  I won't cover it in my blog.

That info can be found at either, MTFWP license deadlines, or MTFWP nonresident license deadlines.

My next few posts will cover a topic that I dread to speak on--rifles, scopes, etc.  As a former outfitter and former member of the Army's Marksmanship Unit and a civilian competitive shooter I have some specific ideas and views on what makes a good rifle, sight, SHOOTER combination.  And yet, those topics are very subjective considering no one else has the same experience I have had.

So, I will keep those topic as short as possible and warn everyone that I am biased toward my own good shooting etiquette.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Father-And-Son Heroin Trips

This morning I ran across a blog:  Outdoor Bloggers Summit.  I had never read it before.  On Thursday's post, 12 Feb 2009, there was a challenge that was initiated by a piece of writing from The American Spectator.  The piece, The Hunt for Gray February, was written by Christopher Orlet.  Hopefully, those who read this blog will find Orlet's opinion very narrow and biased.  If I were the editor, I would have asked Mr. Orlet to "flesh it out a bit."

I don't have any experience with gender bias, but it does bring back memories of an opinion piece in the Great Falls Tribune several years ago.  That piece was written by a Mr. Paul Edwards of Helena, Montana.  (FYI: Mr Edwards had recently moved to Montana from California.  Not that Californians are bad people, but he did have a view that was not shared with my Montana community.  He was also a screenwriter for several hit TV shows--I don't remember which ones.  He had also purchased 160 acres that bordered the Sun River Wildlife Management Area--locally known as, "The Game Range," or "The Winter Elk Range.")  In it he lambasted a father/son team that had traveled to Siberia to hunt grizzly bears.  This is my letter-to-the-editor response:  (I believe the date was 20 July 2000.)

In response to Mr. Edwards letter of 4 July: Import yourself to this Montana, of diverse people and condemn our lifestyles and heritage?  Call us "throwbacks," "ignorant, base and shallow?"  Call a father and son, "spiritually challenged?"

Those are not the prose of a great writer elevating the level of debate, but of a supercilious interloper, wielding a haughty pen, alienating us, the Cro-Magnons.

With a jaw too small for wisdom teeth, my evolutionary development is on par with yours.  And yet, I know if I transplanted myself to California, I would need to adapt to social conditions and individuals that I believe to be against Him and His laws.

Please, sir, pack your bags and your ink-filled dagger and return to California.  If saving bears is your passion, go to Sacramento and have the bear, which graces California's state flag, reintroduced to that state.  Those bears are not endangered--they are extinct.  Repotting you and your soapbox to my neighborhood and pointing a prejudice finger at me, before roots develop, is truly, "tasteless and appalling."

A brow ridge and dragging knuckles do not limit my knowledge of hunting.  Without hunters, your Sun River land would border a cattle ranch with 20 wintering elk, not 2,000 (Sun River Wildlife Management Area)

Problem grizzlies would not be relocated there--they would be secretly shot (not by hunters).  Hunters have kept the Sun River Game Preserve a preserve, closed to hunting.  Without a modicum of research your epitome of Erector Set sentences seems incomplete and Neanderthal.

Done with the ethics and morals I was taught as a young man, there are few father and son activities better than hunting.  A more self-important and bombastic individual may wish "the organs of public information" to promote a futuristic and mentally pleasing activity, such as father-and-son heroin trips.

This may not be the best of my writing, but it was written with a passion from my heart.  I will always enjoy reading it.  (Cramp in arm from patting myself on the back)

As hunting seems to be losing some of its members, it is important that we (hunters) share those good, ethical and moral experiences of hunting and the outdoors.