Swarovski Optik CA Elk & Hogs

Photo by Ryan TrenkaSunny Southern California is famous for its white sandy beaches bordering the warm Pacific Ocean and palm trees blowing in the breeze. After my trip to California, I found myself singing the tune from the Beach Boys wishing that I too was a California girl, but not for the reasons that you may think.

 A mere 60 mile drive north of the big city of Los Angeles is a very special place in the heart of Southern California, the Tejon Ranch. This spectacular ranch takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the typical California life of traffic jams, honking car horns and shoulder to shoulder people to a place that its main inhabitants are Blacktail deer, Russian hogs and Rocky Mountain Elk.

 

A coyote’s yip can be heard for miles across the historic 270,000 acre ranch, the largest of its kind in California. The Tejon Ranch’s history begins in 1843 as a Mexican land grant and is deeply rooted under the principals of long term conservation, ranching and farming.

I met up with Dean Capuano of Swarovski Optik to film our adventures in the pursuit of Russian hogs and Rocky Mountain Elk for the 2014 season of Swarovski Optik Quests television show that airs on the Outdoor Channel.  

I never would have imagined that some of the biggest bull elk I have ever been blessed to hunt would be in California.  Be sure to tune in and see for yourself how our adventure unfolds. After seeing the Rocky Mountain Elk of Southern California you too will have a new appreciation of what hunting California has to offer the western elk hunter.

 

RMEF Team Elk Season 4- Girl Hunters MT Mule Deer

Girl Hunters RoCk...

The rough landscapes of the Missouri Breaks in Eastern Montana of deep draws, rock outcroppings and dense sage brush offer the perfect habitat for mule deer to flourish. It’s late November and the ground was covered with a dusting of snow, the rut was in full swing. The colder the temperatures, the better the hunting and with single digit mornings, we were in for some great mule deer hunting.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s President/CEO David Allen with Julie & Jessica NeilsonDavid Allen invited me to take afield four young ladies that all enjoy the outdoors and a spirit for hunting. Not just pretty faces here, these girls were tough and many giggles were shared and songs sang while tracking down mule deer bucks in the freezing cold. The excitement and anticipation of the hunt was a thrill for everyone.

Sydney Soueidi and Kendal Compton glassing for bucks.

 

 

 

 

Watching these young ladies help one another throughout the hunt was one of the most rewarding feelings that you can have as a mentor. This was a hunt that taught some great life lessons in perseverance and positive mental attitude; helping one another spot deer, track in the snow for hours and even pack heavy quarters over miles of terrain in single digit temperatures. The bonds that the girls forged will literally last a lifetime.Me, Kendal Compton and Sydney Soueidi packing out quarters.

These young ladies are a big part of the future of hunting and conservation. The memories that they take home and share with other young adults will help to grow a community of new hunters that are well equipped with outdoor skills, hunting ethics and conservation principals.

Hunting with 15 year old(s) Kendal, Julie and Sydney and 17 year old Jessica for mule deer was a trip that will never be forgotten by any of us and will be shared with everyone on the 2014 season of Team Elk airing on the Outdoor Channel.

Julie Nielsen all smiles with her buck.Kendal Compton with her stunning buck.Sydney Soueidi and her first buck! Way to go!!!

 

RMEF Team Elk Season 4- Korie Youth Cow Elk Hunt

RMEF Youth Ambassador Creating a Legacy...

The wind was blowing, it was cold, really cold. Winter had finally set in and elk hunting with 16 year old Korie was off to a blistering cold but exciting start. Korie is not only a tough hunter that is more than glad to brave single digit temperatures in pursuit of her hunting dreams, she is an outstanding young lady that is a true ambassador to youth hunters across the country.

Korie, a junior in high school, is on the honor Scott Reinhardt (Oregon State Co-Chair), Chad Klinkenborg (RMEF Regional Director – Northern Oregon), Marla Campbell, and Korie Campbell (Pendleton chapter volunteers) working the booth at the 2012 PBR Event in Pendleton, Oregon.roll, a member of the National Honor Society and an active RMEF Youth Member that volunteers her free time doing fundraising and habitat enhancement projects on behalf of the Pendleton Oregon chapter of RMEF. This is one amazing girl that is not afraid to get out there and get dirty removing sections of downed fence in a critical area where over 500 head of elk calve and migrate through each year.

Korie understands how hunting is conservation and even arranged for Northern Oregon Regional Director, Chad Klinkenborg, into coming to Pendleton to her Careers class this Fall to give a speech about his job and the RMEF.

The amount of time and service that Korie provides her community and state go on and on. Most recently, she and her father (RMEF Pendleton OR Chapter Chair) Tim took one of her friends, Donovan Pointer, who had drawn an elk tag out hunting when his own father was suddenly unable to take him. The trio had quite the hunt hiking for over 15 miles in freezing cold temperatures where Donovan was able to harvest his first elk. Both Korie and Donovan were able to experience the fact that the real work begins after the trigger is pulled and had a very long trek back to civilization packing out the elk.

Korie is truly helping to ensure the continuation of the next generation of elk and elk hunters.

It was an honor to share the field with Korie and her father Tim in her pursuit of elk for RMEF's Team Elk television show. Below you can read first hand Korie's account of our hunt together. I am truly looking forward to sharing it with all of you in 2014.

 


By Korie Campbell

People often ask me why I hunt; they ask why I enjoy spending my time out in the middle of nowhere, and why I love it so much. I just look at them, smile and say, “I hunt because that’s who I am.” Hunting is more than just a sport; hunting is a passion I have always shared with my dad. When I heard earlier this year that I was going to have this unique opportunity to be able to go on a filmed hunt with Kristy Titus and Team Elk, I was ecstatic. I had looked forward to this hunt for months, and it finally came, and it was the experience of a lifetime.

 

            After meeting landowners Chris and Donna Heffernan, Kristy Titus and Nolan Betterman (the cameraman) the previous evening to discuss our plan, we were met by Sheldon Heffernan in front of our sleeping quarters in the wee hours of the morning.  During the evening, it had snowed a couple inches in town and the higher in elevation we climbed the deeper the snow got and the more intense it was coming down.  We took a short drive to their property to get down to business.

 

            I remember shaking with excitement as I got myself ready to endure the day to come. The closer we got, the harder my body shook with excitement. We met Chris, laid out our game plan, and plotted to catch the elk on the move, but the snow storm created a bit of a challenge. While trying to position ourselves and stay hidden, we fought the changing wind and knew that the elk were not going to be moving much, as it was difficult to see and hear. We crept in the tree line and moments later, we heard an elk bugle; nothing gets your heart pumping faster than the sweet sound of a bugle while in the woods. It was a sign that there were elk here, and all we had to do was find them.

 

           Korie and her father Tim. After being stationary for a few minutes, we decided it would be better for us to move with the wind and to slowly ease our way down through the trees and go from there. We walked nice and slow and had our eyes and ears open. I was in the lead of our hunting party and the level of excitement was at a maximum when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. My heart started pounding as I stopped to take another look, and there were elk right in front of us. I turned around and looked at Kristy and whispered, “There are four elk right there.” The adrenaline was pumping through my veins as I looked through my scope, and it had me shaking. I lined up my crosshairs with a cow’s kill zone and when I heard Kristy give me the okay, I took a deep breath and pulled the trigger. After my shot, she ran right at us and stopped under a tree. I got myself ready for another shot, but she turned and headed downhill and we lost sight of her. After agreeing that I hit her, we decided to move down to where she was standing to look for blood, and more elk scattered. We searched the area and found nothing. We extended the search to a broader range, and finally spotted her. There she was, lying dead in the snow.

 

            The smile on everybody’s faces, the excitement around me, the hugs and the congratulatory Me, Kruger, Sheldon & Chris Heffernan, Korie & Tim Campbell at the skinning tree.comments provided a sense of accomplishment and made me realize that this experience was something I would never forget.

 

The fact that I got to share this extraordinary experience with my dad and that I was able to meet some amazing people along the way was incredible. I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity to hunt with Kristy, Nolan, the Heffernan family, and to have spent this time with my dad. It was definitely the hunt of a lifetime and I cannot wait to watch it on Team Elk in 2014.


 

 

RMEF Team Elk Season 4- Jacob Youth Cow Elk Hunt

 

Paul Gilliland (middle) on a successful hunt.

 

 

For Generations To Come…

Over 100 years of cherished hunting stories and memories that have literally been the bonds of the Ellis family all took place on this awe inspiring ground. In the late 1800’s Sam and Ida Walker settled this land to begin their family, never knowing the legacy that they would be leaving behind.

 This has been the ground that many hunters trekked Verna Gilliland and her dog.across for their first and some for their last hunt. Those that have passed still fondly remembered today. A monster bull elk is proudly on display in the old farmhouse, taken by avid huntress, and daughter of the Walkers, Verna Gilliland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her husband Paul’s old hunting license from 1911 can be found on the office wall today. At the time, Paul was a mere 21 years old.

 


“Experience what we have known for three generations…over 33,000 acres of diverse and challenging hunting terrain, picturesquely framed by the foothills of the Blue Mountains.”

                      Ellis Family Hunting Ranches Website

The love of the outdoors and continuation of the time honored hunting tradition is being shared by the Ellis family as it has been so for over three generations, this time with Jacob, his best friend Chase and Jacob’s father Keith. Both Jacob and Chase are exceptional 12 year old young men, both have a love of the outdoors and spirit of the hunt within each of them. This was the perfect place for them to share together in the experience of Jacob’s very first elk hunt. Paul Ellis, Jacob & Chase in the field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This hunt was a special first for another reason as well, not only was this Jacob’s first elk hunt, but he would be the first in his household to hunt elk, ever. Be sure to tune into Team Elk Season 4 on the Outdoor Channel to see the time honored tradition of elk hunting be passed down from the Ellis family to the Taylor family, extending the legacy of the land and her grace for us all to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Kids Creating the Legacy of a Lifetime

Kids Helping Kids Creating a Legacy…

12 year old Emmett palmed his Buck knife in preparation to skin his first ever deer, a Blacktail doe. His grip was firm but unsure; he was looking up to 18 year old Paxton and 16 year old Mikayla, veteran hunters for guidance.

This was my second time coming to Black Oak Outfitters in Roseburg Oregon with outdoor writer Gary Lewis to mentor youth hunters in pursuit of their first deer. Paxton and Mikayla have been doe hunting here for many years and have mentored numerous other kids with their first hunt success. Two years prior, I was den mother in camp while 16 year old Alexa harvested her first deer.

Paxton, Alexa and Mikayla were all back in camp to mentor 12 year old Emmett in his pursuit of a Blacktail doe. Kids literally creating their own hunting legacy, together creating memories that will last them all a lifetime.

The Oregon youth mentor program allowed my tag to be filled by Emmett in the rich landscapes of southern Oregon. The area hosts the perfect habitat for the Blacktail and whitetail deer to flourish, the perfect target rich location for youth hunters to harvest their first deer.

The doe was spotted feeding 70 yards away in the grassy oaks. Emmett had practiced in camp, taking aim and dry firing on trees, he was ready and without hesitation. Working the bolt, clicking the safety off my Browning .280, Emmett took aim and made a perfectly placed shot dropping the doe in her tracks.

Often times there is strength in knowing that someone else has been in your shoes, Emmett drew confidence in knowing that the other youth hunters that surrounded him were there to help him field dress his very first deer. All of them giving him tips on where to make the incision in the cape, how to hold the skin taught and even the angle of the knife.

Watching kids help one another is one of the most precious moments that life has to offer. Everyone in our camp was there to help fulfill Emmett’s dream of hunting, everyone was part of this once in a lifetime memory.

Gutting pumpkins and skinning deer with kids, that is how I want to celebrate Halloween every year.

 

RMEF Team Elk Season 4- CO Rifle Elk Hunt

Stunning country roads of southern CO.Predator to Predator…

The snow lay scattered across the ground crunching under foot as we made our way up the mountain. The cold air stung at my face; this was my first glimpse of winter for the year. The Aspen trees had started to turn a rich shade of gold, not yet fallen to the ground. Winter surely is on her way.

 

 

 

There is an eerie quiet that comes in the winter.  All the hustle and bustle of the forest and the wildlife all seem to have gone dormant. Hunters know this kind of quiet; a stillness that is like nothing else. Every rustle of a leaf, snap of a twig, song of a bird sounds like it has been amplified through a speaker sweeping across the mountain the sound of life.

Amongst all this quiet an eruption has just happened; a frenzy that is not only heard but felt along the ground. There is a waking in the forest that has brought the bull elk back to the peak of the rut. A late estrous cycle from a cow elk has been sensed by the bulls. Her late need has him frantic running up and down the ridge top screaming and giving chase. Desperately, he is trying to separate her from the other cows and lesser bulls that have also gathered sensing her urgent need to be bred.

This late in the year hunting elk, I expected to find herds of bachelor bulls quietly gathered together after the frenzy of the rut had wore off, making their best effort to put on much needed weight before winter really set in.

Over my lifetime, I have learned that you never know what is going to happen on the mountain. Anticipation keeps hunters returning year after year, every step of every hunt is an adventure each having its own unique experience; the calming quiet of the mountain can disappear into chaos with the blink of an eye.

 

 

It seems as if all the animals are desperate to feed with the coming of winter. We spotted the mountain lion sitting on his haunches watching the herd, awaiting his moment. He too was called in by the same fervent eruption that had brought us closer. The desperate hunger that winter strikes in all wildlife makes the lion an even more deadly force.

Mother Nature always delivers adventure and this was my first time hunting the same herd of elk side by side with a mountain lion in broad daylight.

Be sure to tune into Season 4 of RMEF’s Team Elk airing on the Outdoor Channel beginning in January to see how this hunt transpires.

There is nothing better than the laughs shared in hunting camp.

 

 

RMEF Team Elk Season 4- NM Management Elk Hunt

 

 

Relentless Pursuit…

The smell of the rut clung thick in the air and I could not help but pause in delight. The warm breeze was at my face, closing my eyes, tipping my head slightly back I took in the fragrant aroma of the rutting bulls. This surely must be what heaven smells like; at least it is for those who love to hunt elk in the peak of the rut.

I was surrounded by the sound of raging bulls in their relentless pursuit of a ready cow. Some bugles were guttural mixed with growls and glunks while others were high pitched, squeaky in sound as if they were just learning to sing.  The bulls were racing to sound off their voice with the hopes of drawing a needy cow to them and also to warn off other bulls who might think of entering their domain in an attempt to steal part of their harem.

The frenzy was so hot that the direction the wind blew was nearly irrelevant. These bulls seemed not a care if they smelled me, no they had one thing and one thing only on their mind; the frenzy of the rut. The herd bull running non-stop circles around his harem, checking each cow over and over again so not to miss the opportunity of her readiness.

Younger satellite bulls inner mixed within the herd were sure to stand clear of the herd master for getting in his way or enticing a challenge would surely get them either beat up or kicked out of the herd. The cantankerous herd bull would select random lesser bulls even if they were minding their own business and run them out of his circle with ferocity. He meant war; he would not back down, willing to fight to the death.

The entire herd responded to his dominance, even the un-ready cow would run and dodge his fury quickly with the attempt of blending back into the herd and avoiding his charge. Cows, calves, spikes and satellite bulls responded and obeyed his ferocious bugle letting the sound drive them to and from bed, water and feed. The entire herd submitted to him. He is Royal…he is king of the mountain.

The distant sound of the wayward bull’s bugle would sprinkle the air, drawing closer and closer to the sound of the frenzy. He could not resist, he too wanted in on the upcoming action and would trot for miles to get in the middle of it. Screaming in often times to simply find that he was lesser, quickly backing off before feeling the fury of the herd bull.

The occasional bull will step up to the challenge and go toe to toe with the dominant master of the herd. The sound of crashing antlers fills the air as the desperate challenger hopes to take over the thrown. Tines are broken from the force, bodies are stabbed, mangled and scared from the brutality of the fight. Only the grittiest of bulls stand up to the challenge but there is room for only but one herd bull. The prize is worth the fight as the dominant bull will win an all access pass to the gathered harem.

Finding a mature old bull, worn hard from the battle is easy to spot. He will have scars on his face, neck and body, tines will be snapped off his main beams, his body lean from the relentless pursuit.  He will bugle when other lesser bulls dare not, the king makes himself known. He is un-mistakable, he is what dreams are made of.

A New Mexico management elk hunt on the UU Bar ranch is truly an elk hunters dream come true and I found myself absolutely awe-struck. This is my version of heaven on earth.

My hunt is for a special king of sorts. I am not looking for your traditional “trophy bull” but instead an old bull that has reached his genetic maturity and is possibly somewhat of a “freak” or a bull that simply will never be a 6 point or greater in size.

Newly appointed ranch manager, John Caid has spent all year looking over the herd at the UU bar and is working diligently to improve upon the current habitat enhancement program coupled with a revamped breeding management program. Continually enhancing the habitat of the 180,000 acres of the UU bar ranch benefits not only the elk, but also the abundant numbers of mule deer and antelope.

The aggressive breeding management program will not only help to remove undesired genetic traits found with some of the bull elk but also afford the opportunity for the average harvested age of the elk to increase. This alone ensures a long abundant life for the bull elk on the UU bar. True stewards of the land and wildlife, the UU bar ranch is helping to ensure the future of the next generation of elk and also elk hunter.

Be sure to tune into Team Elk Season 4 on the Outdoor Channel to see and feel for yourself the relentless pursuit of the rut in a place that I call heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RMEF Team Elk Season 4- OR Archery Elk Hunt

100 Yard Elk...

The morning was unusually cold, 29 degrees, the frost lay thick on the ground and your breath clung to the air, seemingly frozen in time. The herd bull was on his feet and screaming following his cows closely.

Screaming bulls in the frenzy of the rut, these are the moments that elk hunters dream about every night, year round. This is the moment that I have been waiting for.

The challenge was not in locating the fervent bull, but slipping into his domain and placing me and my Field Producer, Nolan not only within bow range but camera range. With the keen eyes of numerous cows and spikes, this was not going to be an easy task…

I love hunting elk in my home state of Oregon and this year, for the final days of archery season, I found myself near Heppner Oregon at the Opal Butte Ranch with fellow Oregonian and conservationist Ryan Cade.  Opal butte, a 10,500 acre ranch is named after the rich opal mines that can be found within the heart of the mountain.

The terrain at Opal Butte is nearly identical to what I am used to hunting on public land with my friends and family in Oregon. Open expansive mountains, dusted with pine and juniper trees. The ground is covered with rocks and a thick blanket of pine needles. The dry ground crackles like popcorn underfoot making being stealthy and quiet nearly impossible.

The mountains boast a seemingly endless series of draws and timber pockets, the perfect setting for elk to hide in what appears to be wide open terrain. Western landscapes are always deceiving like that. Elk appear and then vanish into the wide open.

The dominant bulls were settled in with their chosen harem, satellite bulls patrolling the perimeter of the herd for an opportunity to steal a wandering cow.  The cows do not dare wander too far from the herd bull as his screaming call keeps them tucked in close to him. His desperate bugle can be heard a draw away and if you are lucky enough, there are times that you are so close to a bull elk that you can feel his whine rumbling across the ground.

Ryan represents one of RMEF’s outstanding partners, Danner Boots, a unique company with a genuine commitment to conservation and un-wavering support of RMEF and its missions. Be sure to tune into RMEF’s Team Elk Season 4 on the Outdoor Channel to see how this home state hunt transpired for Ryan and I.

 

 

 

 

RMEF Team Elk Season 4- MT Archery Elk Hunt

 

Your Dreams Are Waiting For You…

You have just watched your dream bull crest over the horizon. The majestic bull stands atop the mountain looking over his territory below; he is “royal” and knows that he is king.

 

 

 

This was not a dream that I would need to awaken from. Don’t blink…my dream bull was waiting for me as this was my reality in the mountains of Montana.

I am often asked why I describe elk hunting as “dream hunts or dream bulls” so frequently. The answer is simple; I think about elk hunting all day long, I dream about it every night and I live it in my heart every single day. Every hunt that I go on truly is a dream hunt. Every encounter that I have with elk is always different, always new, always like a dream come true. The Yamaha Viking loaded and ready for the mountain.Every minute on the mountain is living my dreams and this is why…

 

 

 

It was the second week of September and the bulls were beginning to display their dominance by taking out their aggression on the local trees and shrubs; violently raking their antlers in a fit of frustration, waiting for the upcoming rut to kick off into full swing. Bugles were pleading and desperate in sound.

Many of the bulls were not yet with cows, just in the beginnings of their search for a hot cow. The desperation of the season was beginning to mount and the bulls were anxious to come in to the sounds of cows chattering on the mountain. The mood is infectious and your heart begins to live in your throat amongst all the excitement.

This was an uncommon elk camp with me and Vicki Reed, a successful competitive archer and avid hunter. Two girls in camp in pursuit of dream bull elk.

Stay tuned for RMEF’s Team Elk Season 4 on the Outdoor Channel to see what went down in the mountains of Montana.

 

RMEF Team Elk Season 4- UT Elk Hunt

Velvet Dreams...

The first elk hunt of the season signifies a years worth of dreams potentially becoming a reality. Red Creek Outfitters in Utah is the perfect place for those dreams to come true. The pursuit of big bull elk while in full velvet is a dream come true.

The part of early season archery elk hunting that I truly love is having the ability to pattern a big bull. When you find bachelor bull habitat, you know it. Wallows, bear cabbage and timber...oh my!

The bulls are in bachelor herds and granted, you may not find a ton of elk sign, when you see elk in bachelor habitat, chances are it's a bull. The big old bulls can't even be bothered in bachelor herds. They are off all by themselves relaxing and enjoying the final days of pre-rut life. Young bulls start to spar, anxiously awaiting the upcoming rut.This is my favorite time of year.

Country music song writer and artist, Josh Thompson was in camp, pursuing his own dreams of filling his archery elk tag with success. He even graced us with a private performance.

Stay tuned for RMEF's Team Elk Season 4 on the Outdoor Channel to see what went down in the mountains of Utah.

 

 

 

Ghost Rams- The Pursuit of a 15 Year Old Stone Sheep Legend

The calm before the storm…You have spent weeks, months or perhaps years dreaming about this hunt. The pursuit of Stone Sheep in Northern British Columbia is a hunt that I still dream to embark upon for myself; in the meantime I am thankful to accompany my good friend Bryan Martin in his pursuit. I guess one could say that I am living vicariously through my friend.

Jeff Jamison also made the trek with us as an expert videographer, photographer and editor. Jeff is like me, big hunting dreams and lover of the outdoors and adventure. The three of us, kindred spirits are a perfect combination to take on such a remarkable adventure.

An 8 day backpack hunt is no easy feat to prepare for, especially when you are trekking into land that remains mostly untouched by man where you have no resources accessible to you except for the critical items that you bring along.

Thankfully, I spent hours in my garage organizing gear, double checking lists, ensuring that nothing was missed or left behind. This time spent at home made my arrival to camp very enjoyable. While Jeff was mind boggled over cramming necessary gear and food into 5500-6000 cubic inches, while attempting to maintain 70 pounds, I was all ready to go.

Mind you, I still managed to forget my camera battery charger and extra spotting scope eye piece behind. Checking and double checking all components of gear is a tedious but necessary task.

It is virtually impossible to have enough gear and food in less than a 6000 cubic inch pack and weighing less than 65-70 pounds is extremely difficult. My pack was the smallest at 5200 cubic inches and 73 pounds with water; no easy feat for my 5'2" frame.

Bryan was a bit behind on his writing assignments and took an additional day to finalize work before we could begin the hunt. I used this precious time to write, get out my newsletter and even take a long nap. It is best to begin a grueling trip with a fit but well rested body. When it was go time, I was ready both physically and mentally.

It was late when we arrived at the river’s edge; 8:00 pm and darkness sets in just after 10:00 pm. We literally had two daylight hours to inflate the Zodiac, conduct an exploratory run down the river to determine our take out and logistics and move everyone and all of our gear. Bryan always seems to enjoy keeping everyone on the edge of too much adventure. The last thing I wanted was to end up with was a capsized boat in icy glacier fed waters in the dark.

Luckily for us, the river expedition went off without a hitch and we made it safely with all of our gear just before the darkness set in. Our first night, we camped by rivers edge in the heavy timber with a beginning elevation of 2009 ft.

The first day's hike is always mentally and physically the most difficult for me.  Your pack is at its heaviest and your body and mind have to adjust to the extreme load, steep angle of ascent and thick heavy bush. Because the timber and bush are so thick and dense sometimes you feel like you have hiked for hours without making traceable progress.

The heavy bush pushes you backwards as you make your slow attempt at gaining elevation. Luckily, everyone started with well rested bodies and we were all more than excited to be heading out into the back country.

There are trails throughout the bush where bears have travelled year after year. We don't typically use the bear trails as coming face to face with a big grizzly bear is a less than ideal situation.

There is many a foul word yelled when the Devil's Club bites into your flesh breaking off causing pain for not only hours but day's if you are bitten.  Bryan took the bite of the Devil on numerous occasion and his hands showed the thistles and swelling that were left behind.

Not all of the plants are unpleasant like Devil's Club and I certainly was not expecting to find plump ready to eat blueberries scattered along the mountainside. Snacking on berries from the garden of Mother Nature in such a beautiful place made our climbing breaks a real treat.

After traveling a short distance of 1.4 miles and ten grueling hours later we finally reached sub-alpine, 4400 ft elevation, just as the sun was beginning to set.  This was a heinous hike due to the heavy bush that left our bodies worn out and ragged. The time and location and setting were perfect for setting up camp for the night.

In the morning, the sun’s rays warmed up my tent waking me like a gentle tickle from a lover. The views were enough to make the combination heaven on earth. Alpine is my favorite elevation to camp and hike because you are so close to the sky, the mountain speaks to you here.

The beauty intoxicates you but the reality is that you must put that pack back on and keep pressing forward, farther from man closer to God, hopefully that much closer to finding one of the most incredible of animals in the world, the stone sheep.

The moss and lichen squish under foot, the shale rock easily slips out from under you, grasses blow in the breeze. This is where we want to be, where our vantage point allows us to see for miles and our optics get to do the walking for us.

The particular band of rams we were looking for had literally not been seen by man since sometime between 1996-2003. Bryan had heard rumors of a couple of Boone and Crocket rams that that was spotted all those years ago. Come to find out, we were literally chasing a ghost ram(s), hoping that this particular gene pool would be found still living along the mountainside.

Even after a full day of hiking we were a long way off from being in position to spot the rams; if in fact they even exist.

Climbing vertical mountains is not easy with heavy packs on, however the rocky alpine terrain offered a welcomed break from the bushwhacking from the day prior.

Step, lock out my knee, step and repeat. Slowly but surely you will reach the top. Jeff, a newcomer to alpine hiking was learning the art of rock walking. There is a technique for bounding across the rocky mountain surface. The beauty of it is that the higher you climb the more spectacular the views become.

As we ran out of daylight, we found a perfect rocky bench, seemingly on top of the world at over 5700 ft elevation to make camp on. When we kicked he boulders off the surface, a nice bedding of sand was exposed, perfect for sleeping. I am quite certain had a plane flown by they would have considered us crazy camped along a cliff wall, tents staked into shale rocks and sand.


The views were nothing short of spectacular. We were nearly on top of the mountain; the valley was stretched out far and wide below us. The countryside was larger and more expansive than anything I had ever encountered let alone attempt a spot and stalk hunt.

There was a nanny mountain goat with her kid that we spotted with my 85mm Swarovski spotting scope on the mountain across the valley floor. Even with my powerful scope they were so far away they were but tiny dots barely to be seen. Still no stone sheep rams were to be found.

Two days hike....we were two days into our hike up the mountain to locate the rams and we had at least two more days until we would be in a position to spot where the rams were rumored to be.

It was decided that the best way to potentially spot the rams would mean that we would have to lose all the elevation that we had spent two days gaining, cross the valley floor that lie in front of us and climb up the mountain opposite of where we assumed the rams may be on. This was our best chance at spotting the ghost rams and formulating a stalk if in fact they do exist.

In sheep country, sometimes you have to go up to go down....

Surrounded by rock cliffs and impassable terrain, we were forced to climb to the peak of the mountain in order to safely navigate around the cliffs, gaining vertical feet that we knew we would turn around and lose.

At the top, 6500 ft elevation, we found melting glaciers and our first tangible sign if wildlife, a shed antler from a Caribou. The shed was most likely a couple of years old. If it weren't so heavy I would have been tempted to pack the find off the mountain. Instead, it lays on the peak forever.

 

 

 

 

Impassable I thought as I approached the edge, but leave it to Bryan as he somehow managed to find a goat trail that was navigable. This was the first point in our trek that Jeff got openly scared and rightfully so. Having grown up on the mountain and having done numerous similar trips, I felt comfortable making the decent but for a first timer, it was nearly too much.

Bryan took the lead to show Jeff a clear path and I held up the rear to help coach him along. Learning to slide with the river of shale and sand all while balancing a heavy load is no easy feat, especially when a mistake will take you off a cliff into the abyss below. You are literally rock skiing down the mountain; an epic adrenaline rush to say the least.

This was a dangerous but necessary path. Slowly we made it off the steps of shale and cliffs to the grassy flats below. Jeff's legs were spent, partially from the decent, partially from being rung out from a powerful cocktail of adrenaline and fear. It happens up here, your mind can wear out your body faster than the mountain. This was Jeff's biggest challenge so far. He owned the mountain, looked his fear in the eye and not only overcame it, but loved it.


Once we reached the plateau below, we were once again forced to climb, this time to reach the top of the next bench, a seemingly short 500 vertical ft that would afford the vantage point that we needed to see the valley that swept out below us. Our hiking future lay before our eyes. The bush was thick and heavy, the decent to the river below was steep.

It took us until dark to reach the river that winded through the bottom if the valley, our ending elevation was 2900 ft.  Bryan and I had packed wading slippers and we each took turns crossing the deep, swift water in our best effort to keep our feet dry. Because there was no rainfall and without worry of flash floods, we were safely able to make camp along the river bottom. We were all pretty well exhausted from the days trek and all welcomed sleep.

I awoke to the sound of the river flowing.  My body was aching, face swollen from the physical demands that I had put upon myself over the previous few days. Today would be worse; bushwhacking up the mountain to re-gain the 3000 vertical ft we had lost the day before.

We made our way up the mountain by way of a heavy flowing creek which can be very risky as mountain topography can become steep and cliffs on either side of the banks can trap you.Fortunately, we had been able to glass the creek the day before to determine that our route was safe.

The creek was fast moving; the waters were murky brown. Zigzagging across the creek was made difficult with knee deep water. Our saving grace was the wading slippers as they allowed us dry passage across the creek.

When we left the creek bottom to head cross country up the mountain I was worried about heavy bushwhacking, climbing a 35% grade with a heavy pack on your back and having the bush push you back while maneuvering over logs is a nightmare for my small frame. I fatigue physically in those conditions not to mention the mental frustration that comes with your struggle.

I literally thanked God when our passage proved to be steep, yet by and large bush free. We were able to follow a dry creek bed straight to the alpine and out of the timber. It was the "yellow brick road" of the mountain layered with a soft covering if moss, no bush and no whacking. Excluding the first half mile of heavy bush, this was an easy day’s climb, well as easy as they get given the conditions.

We were so high up on the mountain that we were literally looking down at two mountain goats below us, one was a bruit. After we found our camping spot and dropped our packs, I grabbed my spotting scope and cameras and made my way back to the goats to get photos and video if them resting and grazing along the mountainside.

 

 

 

 

 

After all that hard work, I was once again in my happy place. This is what I live for. There is nothing more awe inspiring than to be a part of an animal’s world, completely undetected. These goats literally had probably never before encountered a human. ; A place relatively untouched by modern man.

After dark, I stared across the valley memorized by the sheer mass and beauty of the land before me. Permanent glaciers frosted the highest peaks, shining across the valley. The excitement from the day was out weighing the exhaustion that my body was feeling so I lay awake for hours pondering our journey, reliving the previous moments of triumph that had come so far, looking forward to those future moments that were yet to unfold.

Sleep must have overcome me somewhere in my thoughts and I awoke to dark skies. We were going to get our first rain of the trip. Cloudy skies can provide the perfect lighting for glassing animals at distance, which is where I found Bryan. He was just over the edge from camp glassing relentlessly for signs of the ghost rams, making best use of the perfect lighting conditions.

So far we had gained and lost 8000 vertical feet of elevation with over 35+ legitimate hiking hours with packs weighing in from 73-85 pounds. We had reached what we believed would be the Promised Land for huge rams when began the trip.

After hours of glassing, there were no stone sheep to be found. Something was wrong. Sitting there on the side of the spectacular mountain ready and excited to find the ghost rams, yet physically exhausted and swollen from exertion I listened to Bryan speak, for the first time ever, to the man that had actually seen the rumored band of giant rams in real life all those years ago.

Apparently, rumor still has it that the monster rams did exist all those years ago; but they were found on another mountain over 10 air miles away. Our hot tip that was 95% sure that we made our way to the correct mountain had been incorrect. All if the time effort that we had put in so far and we had climbed the wrong mountain.

Mother Nature seemed to feel our pain, crying rain down on us for the rest of the day. The only thing left to do at that point was to scour the up the valley to be sure that a ram was not hidden in the fold of the mountain just out of site. We had came all that way and did not want to miss a thing. The glassing uncovered plenty of mountain goats, but no stone sheep.

 

 

 

 

 

 We all enjoyed taking the day to rest our bodies and legs while visually exploring the mountain. Jeff and I melted down a snow glacier into drinking water, sipped on hot tea and took much delight in filming and photographing the many mountain goats that were surrounding us. They made camp life a delight watching them feed and bed right before our eyes, we were literally living alongside the mountain goats less than three hundred yards from them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff and Bryan seemed to have no trouble taking cat naps throughout the day, but I was still too excited to completely rest. I dream to be on mountains and I couldn’t hardly hold still let alone sleep.

The next day, we packed up our camp, confident that we had not overlooked an inch of the draw, knowing that there were no stone sheep rams and began our trip back out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first part of our hike was easy, alpine, downhill, my hiking love. This lasted for a short couple of hours. 

The next two days are some of the most formidable hiking days of my life. Granted our packs were significantly lighter having consumed most of our food by this point but the terrain on the way out was much more difficult than our arrival had been.

We chose to try and follow the river bottom out, then head up the mountain we had originally climbed on day one and back to the boat. A seemingly simple plan. The Northern terrain and bush is very deceiving. Even when you know you are in for a hell of a hike, sometimes, you just can’t wrap your mind around how challenging and unforgiving the mountain can really be.

Thankfully, we were blessed with warm dry weather as the bush would have been a slippery nightmare otherwise. Climbing back up the mountain, we were as steep as one could physically pass, clinging to bush, literally pulling ourselves up the mountain, clawing our way out. We finally reached the boat some three days later.

As hunters, we kill to have experienced the thrill of the hunt, awe inspiring moments that are created in the field and to nourish our bodies. This trip was about three friends exploring the untouched, chasing a dream and possibly a long past ghost. It is only when you dare to venture where no man has gone before that you find that hidden jewel and if you are afraid to look, it will never be discovered. Trips like these create the concrete foundations of friendships and trust, forming bonds that last not only our lifetime, these experiences live as stories will be told for generations.

 




Swarovski Optik ID Black Bear Hunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

In June, I met up with Gray Farnsworth and Dean Capuano of Swarovski Optik North America for a spot and stalk black bear hunt in Idaho with the Flying B Ranch. The Flying B lodge simply put is breathtaking. Everything from the accommodation, meals and guides was amazing.

I was excited as this was my first time hunting with and meeting Gray. Even more exciting for her I am sure as this was her first black bear hunt.  Mid June is peak rut time for black bears so you will find many two year old bears that have just been weaned and mature boars on the move looking for ready sows. All the excitement that June brings gives hunters the perfect opportunity to spot a bruin on the move.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weather could not have been more perfect to go along with the miles and miles of hillsides that we were glassing for bruins. On the second day of our hunt we spotted a nice boar on the move but were unable to stalk within range before he disappeared into the timber.

Big open country like Idaho can be very deceiving. What appears to be close can in actuality be miles and miles away. Having good optics brings those miles closer to you; however covering those miles to hunt can in reality be very tricky.

 

We were able to stalk within range of three bears, but unfortunately, they were all only two year old bears weighing in at maybe 70 lbs. each. We passed up these little guys in hopes of finding a mature bruin.

The weather in high country can go from good to bad very quickly and on the final day of our hunt we literally hunted in a down pour of rain. Our hopes remained despite the conditions and we hunted until dark hopefully seeking a mature boar without luck.

For me, one of the highlights of the trip was one morning while loading our gear into trucks, Gray spotted a bedded doe just in front of the lodge. Getting out her spotting scope Gray discovered a doe in labor. Literally right before our eyes, we were able to watch the birth of twin fawns and thanks to Swarovski  Optik, we were able to digiscope stunning photos of the entire event.

 

 

This trip was a trip of forged friendships, good times and even greater memories in the field. Gray was able to take in the splendor of Idaho’s rugged landscapes for her first time. I am sure that her heart is now as fond of the western landscapes as mine and will return again sometime soon.



 

 

Milligan Outfitting Ocean Black Bear Hunt

The waters of the Pacific Ocean were rough spraying cold sea water against the pier, the wind was full force making hearing difficult. When Bob and Brandon passed the jet boat off to Scott they warned of an exposed sand bar ahead that we should avoid and gave basic directions to where the Yukon Bear had been anchored. She is a 55’ fishing boat that we were going to be stationed out of while we patrolled the coast line and inlets for bruin black bears.

The sea water was spraying over the boats bow and windshield into our faces, rolling huge waves. I have no personal experience on the open ocean and especially not in a jet boat. This moment on the open water  was very humbling to how small a person really is and how big and powerful the ocean can be.

With the waters murky and angry from an incoming storm it was difficult for us to determine exactly how far the sandbar reached and how deep the murky waters under us were. We knew where the sandbar was in theory but to actually realize how expansive a sandbar can be, well that was one part that we seriously underestimated. When Scott lowered the throttle on the jet boat and we lost our plane, we instantly knew we were right on top of the sandbar, nearly grounded.

Thankfully for us, Bob had a pair of hip waders in the jet boat that Scott was able to slip on and enter the frozen ocean pushing the jet boat back out to sea and off the shallow sandbar. We had gotten lucky and avoided having to call for help. That would have been embarrassing to say the least.

 

The Yukon Bear was in the distance rocking to and fro, pushed around her anchor by the sweeping sea. I had only been on a fishing boat like this one twice in my life; both times were in my late teens, half my lifetime ago. This was my first time climbing aboard and calling a ship my home.

 

 

The Yukon Bear was gentle by comparison to the jet boat. She felt sturdy underfoot in the rough ocean. That was a relief for me. I am a mountain hunter, the ocean is new to me and quite honestly that new naïve understanding of the sea made makes me fear it. Some love the ocean, I enjoy parts of it, I respect it but at the end of the day, I love my mountains.

Scott and I unloaded our gear, chose our sleeping bunks and prepared dinner for ourselves. One of the positive aspects about the ocean is fresh seafood. Bob had so graciously left us a gallon sized bag filled with giant prawns. Surf and turf it was for dinner and let me tell you that no store bought prawn can compare with fresh caught sea fare. Maybe the ocean isn’t so bad…

The rough sea had Scott and me questioning the security of the Yukon Bear’s anchor. We were spinning around the anchor so much in the wind and the sea level was getting so high from the incoming tide and storm it was slightly disorienting. We finally came to the conclusion that we had not lost our anchor, the sea was just deceiving us.

Sleeping on a ship for the first time was surprisingly relaxing; the boat rocked me like a baby in a crib. The sound of the water lapping the sides of the boat was like a lullaby. I slept like a rock.

The storm had arrived and was staying…the bear hunting was not good due to the rain but thankfully that didn’t affect fishing. Right?  I didn’t catch a single fish, nor did I have one bite my hook, but I tried. Like I said before, I am a mountain hunter not a fisherman or sea go’er.

Fortunately, we did catch crabs; lots of them were babies and females that we had to release but there were several large males, enough for Scott and me to enjoy at dinner.

 

 

 

The warm sunlight tickled across my face. It felt good. The sea was quiet and the Yukon Bear was still in the ocean waters. The storm was over. We enjoyed a hot breakfast, taking our time to gather our gear. Scott filled the boats with gas and put the outboard motor on the tiny boat that we were going to take up river in search for bears.

The day was young and the bear hunting wouldn’t be good for several hours so we decided to stop on a beautiful grassy beach to take some photos for Easton Mountain products new Kilo tent.

 

After setting up the tent, taking a few photos and having lunch we went to get back into the boat and begin our search for bears. The tide was going out faster than we could move and before we knew it the small boat had been grounded.

No big deal we thought, we can just drag it back into the surf that was literally inches in front of us…The more we drug the farther the shore line receded. The tiny boat was heavier than it looked, even while empty. The sea was faster than us so we decided to make claim on the beach for a bear watch there until the tide once again returned.

Even though we were technically beached, we were actually in a great position to spot a bruin. During low tide, no matter the time of day, the bears will patrol the shore lines for shell fish. This provides an excellent food source for the hungry spring bear.

 Like clockwork, 6 hours later the tide returned without us spotting a bear. Back on the boat we headed up the bay. There was one steep rocky mountain after another when finally we reached a beautiful grassy flat, the perfect place to tie the boat up and glass for black bears.

Scott and I were busy unloading our gear when I spotted some movement out of the corner of my eye.  A big grizzly bear was making its way over to us and fast. Our gear immediately went back into the boat as the bruin was fast approaching at the trot even though he was down wind of us. When the bruin swam a rather large tributary popping up on our side, he shook off the water like a dog and immediately continued trotting in our direction. This time he was less than 150 yards from us. To the boat we went and fast.

The bruin must have heard us get into the boat because we didn’t see him again but we did hear him in the timber just off from where we had just been standing. This was one dangerous bear to come at us from the downwind position and then circle us in heavy cover to lay and watch our retreat. That behavior makes grizzlies dangerous and scary, an animal that must always be both respected and feared.

We were both buzzing from adrenaline. Moments like that are exactly why I am a mountain hunter. The appearance of the big aggressive grizzly was sure to make a slow evening on that grass flat for black bears so we steered the tiny boat back to the Yukon Bear for the evening.

Waking up to the sea does grow on you. The setting is one that comes from a dream. Warm spring air, the sea gently lapping the sides of the boat, the snow capped mountains surrounding you; it just doesn’t get more beautiful than this.

The ocean changes her appearance very quickly and when the wind picked up, it was apparent that Scott and I were not taking the tiny boat out on the open sea due to rough water. There is specific technique to navigating rough waters in small boats, Bob has mastered those, Scott and I had not, so instead, we packed up our gear into the jet boat and made our way to the mainland. Logging roads and clear cuts is where we would end up hunting.

To the land we go…

Having both feet on solid ground we set out in search of a bruin. The weather although cold and windy on the ocean was mild and warm on land, perfect bear hunting conditions. The bears were seemingly everywhere we looked, ravenously feeding on Dandelions.

Some of the bears could not have a care about our approach choosing to lay and feed while others that were not so keen on our appearance would dart into heavy brush to hide. Now you see it, now you don’t. One particular bruin was there one second and then gone the next. With only but a brief look we knew instantly that we needed to take a closer look at him.

Scott ran into the brush after the bruin and I close behind in step. The brush was thick and heavy, visibility was down to what was right in front of you. My feet were treading through swamp water; Scott had treed the bruin just ahead.

On the ground bears are difficult to judge but up a tree can be even more difficult. We first made the verification that the bear was in fact a boar and second the diameter of tree that he climbed was huge. Instead of clinging to the sides of the tree the way smaller bears will tend to do, this bear sat atop several branches watching. This was the second largest bear we had seen since my arrival.

With a knock of my arrow and draw of my bow, my arrow flew true and the bear was down. On the ground, he seemed bigger as I approached him which usually does not happen with bears. His head was massive, his teeth worn from age; one of his giant paws was nearly the size of both of my hands. He was a fighter with old scarring nearly ten inches long that was severe enough on his side that it kept him from growing hair.

This had been an amazing trip to British Columbia. I had been able to experience in two short weeks two very different sides of the Provence, land and sea, establishing a new level of respect for those men and women who are masters of the ocean. There is so much for me to learn about hunting the ocean’s edge, so I do hope to someday return to British Columbia to pursue black bear once again.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milligan Outfitting Black Bear Hunt with the Hood Family

The road to Northern BC becomes more remote with each passing mile. Busy highways turn into country roads and soon it seems the only traffic comes from the wildlife crossing the roads. The Skeena Salmon Lodge is a magnificent; crafted from area logs, nestled along the banks of the Skeena River, every angler or hunters dream come true. When you book a spring black bear hunt with Milligan Outfitting, many of the hunters call this home for the week. Welcome to paradise.

On this trip, I was fortunate enough to accompany my good friend and guide Scott Miller with clients,  Bob and Brian Hood for a father and son black bear hunt.

This hunt was  truck based where we traveled across the seemingly endless logging roads, glassing logging cut blocks and mountain slopes. The many years of area logging has created the perfect habit for hungry bruins to emerge from the thick forests to feed on fresh young grasses and dandelions.

Brian was first up as hunter, using his bow, we had to get in and get close. Luckily for us, there were bears seemingly everywhere we looked giving us ample opportunity to connect on a bruin with spot and stalk strategies.  These bears can get very large and are abundant in population; Brian was able to pick and choose bears that he wanted to put the effort into stalking.

Bears are difficult to judge, so sometimes we would stalk in, just to get a closer look. On one particular bear, we stalked in within bow range while the bruin lay resting on the edge of a cut. We were unsure of his size due to him laying down, so I pulled out my predator call to see if we could not only get him on his feet, but possibly create some excitement in the bruin and have him come our way for a hot meal.

My theory was good, the bears response was lacking. Instead of running in for an easy meal, the bruin batted his eyes at us sleepily, occasionally glancing in our direction apparently un-interested. There was only but a single dandy lion by his resting place, so I imagine he had already gorged himself on the flowers and was content right where he lay.

Eventually, the bruin probably annoyed with my constant predator call, stood, yawned and started to slowly move away from us. Once standing, we were able to determine the bruin was of good size.

Much to my surprise and amazement, Scott took off on foot literally chasing the bear into the thick trees. Never before had I seen such a thing, Scott had successfully treed the bear giving Brian the perfect opportunity to take the shot he had come to Northern British Columbia for. This turned out to be a thrilling day that none of us would ever forget.

 

 

 

The next day, Bob, Brian’s dad was up as hunter, so we decided to head towards higher ground. Bob was rifle hunting and had the option of reaching out and connecting on a monster bruin.  

We glassed cut block after cut block, mile after mile but Bob was holding out passing up many young bears. We were in search for the perfect bear. The daylight slowly turned to dark and we went home that evening without filling a tag.

Bears are very conditional animals, meaning that if the weather conditions are warm and summer-like, the bears will be out and about feeding most of the afternoons, which is exactly where we spotted the gorgeous chocolate bruin. He was laying in the shade on a grassy flat filled with dandelions adjacent to the timbers edge filling his belly on the lush green grass dozing in between gorging sessions.

We made our way towards the bear but age brings wisdom and he quickly grew uneasy and started making his way towards the timber. Bob slowly crept his way towards the bruin. Taking aim, Bob made a perfect shot on the stunning chocolate bruin.

The bears in the spring feed lazily on grassy flats and openings, sure to remain close to the timber for quick access to cover. Sometimes it seems that they are in a food like coma, slow to alert to our approach.  This sleepy state makes them fun to stalk upon while walking the miles of logging roads.

When you see a monster bruin, you know it without a doubt. When we spotted this bruin we all knew instantly that he was a monster and in a position for Brian to stalk within bow range. The bear was near timbers edge and he was dangerously close to disappearing out of sight and bow range. Brain was able to maneuver into a good shooting position letting his arrow fly…right over the bruins back.

That seems to always happen with the big ones. Our nerves can easily get the best of us. The bear bolted but by some miracle he stopped to take a second look at us giving Brian the needed time to knock another arrow and execute a perfectly placed shot.

There is nothing better than seeing the look of pride on a fathers face and in his smile. Bob’s excitement for his son was clear to see. Brain’s second bear was enormous. Spot and stalk success with his father by his side along the foothills of British Columbia’s stunning mountains.

It just doesn’t get any better than that.

 

Wounded Warrior Outdoors Black Bear Hunt

There is a great American story that’s seldom told- a story of battle-scarred heroes that we’ve yet to meet. It’s a story of Wounded Warriors trying to find their place in the world and to feel “normal” again. This is a story about Americans we owe a debt of gratitude to.

The steep rugged mountains of Southern British Columbia’s Cascade Mountain Range is the perfect place for anyone to get quiet, take a breath of fresh air and let your soul fly with the eagles. Time spent on the mountain, pressing yourself to go beyond what you “think” you can do breaking those self imposed limitations, doing things you have never before dreamed that you would ever be able to do. The mountain makes you work harder, fight longer and possibly even exhaust you, but at the end of the trail there is the triumph that you have risen to the challenge and owned the mountain.

Adventures Enabled that sums up Ron Raboud’s mission with Wounded Warrior Outdoors, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping active duty service men and women get out in the outdoors while attaining therapeutic benefit, rediscovering their ability despite their current physical challenges. WWO is unique in the fact that all the guests are current wounded in-hospital patients from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Balboa Medical Center San Diego, Brooke Army Medical Center or San Antonio Military Medical Center. WWO serves 50 active duty warriors every year.

This trip’s warriors were all Marines based out of Balboa Naval Medical Center; Guillermo (TJ) Tejada, USMC, Kaleb Weakley, USMC, Isaac Blunt, USMC, and Jordan Maynard, USMC, Medical Chaperone Anthony Shuford, USN, from Balboa  Medical Center accompanies the warriors on the trip as well as wounded warrior mentor Jim Sursely.

In years past, over half of the warriors have never been on a hunt and Dave Wabnegger of Otter Lake Guide Outfitters makes certain that everyone from first time hunters to experienced hunters alike have an amazing experience.

After meeting Ron and several warriors at the Wild Sheep Foundation convention and sporting clays tournament, I was thrilled to participate in this year’s British Columbia black bear hunting adventures.  This was a chance for me to honor and an opportunity to thank these American heroes for their service to our great country, countrymen and women. Chris Denham from Western Hunter T.V. was also along with two cameramen to document the journey to air over Labor Day this year.

The night before the hunt was quiet, everyone settling in, dining on good food and just getting the feel of the place. The first night is always the quietest.

Our first day out, I hunted with TJ, a double amputee with a smile bright enough to light up a room.  Tj’sTJ Tejada USMC glassing for bruins. love and dedication to his country and his family is second to none, a noble man and true warrior in every sense of the word. The morning started out slow, driving logging roads to glass clear cuts. Dave and Randy were put to work as part time lumber jackers clearing the winter fallen trees from the roads.

Kaleb Weakley USMC and his stunning bruin.Mid day, we got the call that Kaleb had taken a nice bear so we made our way over to where they had taken the bruin in case they needed help packing or skinning. The bruin was stunning a gorgeous cinnamon colored boar. Kaleb was beyond thrilled.

After a series of photos and skinning Kaleb’s bruin, we set back out in search of a bear for TJ. Kaleb’s bear was the first one that TJ has seen in the wild and the excitement had us all anxious for action. While driving a logging road, we came upon an old cabin, feeding a mere 70 yards from the road was a black bear. He was close…too close.

As soon as we spotted the bear, so did the hounds that were boxed in the back of the truck and when their alarm bark went off, so did the bear. Into the timber, we did not see the bruin again. The disappointment was felt in all of us after spending many long hours with the hopes of that moment but blessings come in many forms.

Within 30 minutes, thanks to the help of volunteers Jordie Cook, Omar Karame and Debbie Wabnegger; TJ was back on another bruin; this one, a big chocolate. He was playing peek-a-boo along the hillside between 300-330 yards away (or meters as the guys put it). The bear was a shooter and we just had to get TJ set up to take the shot.

TJ was set up as stable as possible in his chair on the side of a mountain. Unfortunately, the shooting sticks were too short we had to improvise off the tripod that I had brought along for my camera.

Falling Back on Training…

I always say that in the moment one rarely rises up to the occasion but most always falls back on their level of training. TJ is a 14 year Marine and has extensive training. After sorting out the reticle in his Swarovski Optik scope, he set his hand atop the tripod, wrapped the sling around his arm resting the stock of the gun along his wrist, all while balancing in his chair on the side of a mountain, took aim and executed an absolutely perfectly placed shot at over 300 yards.

TJ never wavered, he is a trained Marine and when the time came he had 14 years backing him to take the shot on the bruin. The excitement was incredible for everyone!

Getting TJ to the bruin was our next challenge. The entire crew lined up chain saws and we logged andRandy, Omar and Jordie clearing trail. off-roaded our way nearly to the bruin but we couldn’t get TJ all the way there in the truck. The bruin was going to have to come down or TJ was going to somehow get to him.

As a hunter, the moment of truth and reward lies in the recovery. The bruin was too large to drag down the mountain without quartering him up. TJ deserved better than that, he had earned a proper recovery for his bear, so the chain saws came back out and we all made sure that TJ was there, in the exact place that his bear lay, doing a proper recovery. TJ put his arms around the necks of Omar and Jordie and they literally carried him to his bear.

I have been on many hunts and I have never been on a hunt that has affected me so deeply. Words simply do not give this moment justice but in that moment, watching TJ with his bear, that is exactly why I volunteered to be part of the hunt. I could relate to TJ and knew from my own personal experience as a hunter exactly what he was feeling and I could not have been happier for him in that moment.TJ Tejada, me, Randy Rockey & Dave Wabnegger.

Back at the Ranch…

Now this is what hunting camp is supposed to be like, the guys were throwing jabs back and forth, telling stories, laughing and joking. A little bit of smack talk back and forth which was much more entertaining than the quiet evening we had had before. What a great day and night.

The next day, I was hunting with Isaac, the youngest of the group at 21 years old. The weather was not good. It was raining and the skies were dark and grey. Not good for bear hunting so we spent most of the day telling stories in the truck and learning a bit about one another.

Isaac is a strong guy and I would describe him as graceful. Strength tends to lend itself to grace. He talked about how he was getting new legs and arms that were going to take him atop a mountain in Australia in June. I believe that those legs will take Isaac just about anywhere he makes up his mind to go. He is strong in the mind like that. No limitations just small obstacles that can be overcame.  There is great strength in the will to do something.

Isaac Blunt USMC dress rehersal.We did get some action when we spotted a big chocolate bear in the exact same spot that we had busted the black bear with TJ the day before. We had the same problem with this bear too…it was too close and it saw us when we saw it. No time for a shot.

Unfortunately I had to leave the next morning, so I was not around for the remainder of the week. The weather continued to be adverse and the bear hunting action came to a close with the continued adverse weather.

The weather was bad but the guys still received a lot of therapeutic benefit to the hunt putting in long hours and dedication. All in a normal day for these guys! Be sure to head over to facebook and “Like” the Wounded Warrior Outdoors or check them out on their website. It is through generous support and donations that WWO is able to ease some of the challenges facing our American heroes.

I am already looking forward to 2014!

Kaleb Weakley and his big Rainbow trout.

Nebraska Turkey Hunt

Merriam Madness...

Today we took a day off from our photo shoot and went TURKEY hunting:-)!!!! Ramsey Mills and Rob Burnett, Cabela's Women's Footwear Category Manager(s) have been talking with me about coming to Nebraska to hunt Merriam Turkeys since SHOT show and I could hardly wait for this day to arrive!

Nothing beats a day in the woods hunting with friends. At 5:00am sharp our journey began with an hour long drive to Ramsey and Rob's hunting lease. A beautiful stretch of river bottom property in Nebraska.

The morning started out cold and crisp but I barely noticed except for the fine layer of frost surrounding the barbed wire fences. At sunrise, the sun glistened off the wire creating a sparkly ice show.

Within minutes of setting up our decoys we heard a tom gobble. Shortly thereafter in strolls a hen. Strangely enough, she was alone and nearly walked over the top of Rob as she cruised by us and our decoys.

I went from high adrenaline to questioning what had just happened. This time of year, a hen is rarely alone and I sat there in disbelief that a tom did not strut in behind her.

Rob and Ramsey decided that we needed to make a move down the river bottom in pursuit of more cooperative turkeys. Along the way Ramsey found a whitetail shed.

No gobbles...no turkeys. Back to square one.

We head back down the river bottom where we just came from and what do we see? Three strutting toms and hens galore...right where we had been sitting a mere hour earlier.

Patience was not our strong suit today. We set back up with an attempt to call in one of the strutters.The gig was up when we heard the turkeys take flight and cross the river.

Fortunately for us, Rob has a brand new Argo and this was a perfect opportunity for her maiden voyage. What a better way to break her in than chasing after a flock of turkeys!?! Plus, I have always wanted to ride in an Argo after spending years watching Jim Shockey take on the Yukon behind the wheel of one.

Check out the photos below to see our Argo adventure...

Rob and his Argo maiden voyage...Jim Shockey has nothing on Rob's mad Argo skills!Tricky spot here...The maiden voyage has only taken us 40 yds from the truck & we are stuck with one tree wenched over. OOPSSecond tree wench did the trick.Turned the Argo around and BAM!!! Stuck again!!! You can feel the intensity of Rob & Ramsey in this picture.Hooking her up to the diesel!!!Got ER' Done!!!Needless to say with all of our Argo adventure, we ended up not getting on the flock of turkeys. Jim Shockey makes navigating an Argo look so easy.

It was nice to be in the woods on a beautiful day, away from the hustle and bustle of life and cell phones with the company of friends and a pretty fun adventure to boot! Turkey or not, we had a great day!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013 Oregon Turkey Season

 

ThUnDeR ChIcKeNs....

Spring has finally sprung and the thunder is rolling...Thunder Chickens that is!!! After a long winter and few hunting opportunities, Spring finally arrives and with it comes the excitement of Spring turkey season.

Opening morning was bone chilling cold, but despite that with high hopes, myself, Mikyla and Mike Jahnke all climb into the blind. Mikyla is up as shooter, I am on camera and Mike is caller.

We make a great team...

Turkey hunting from a blind can be challenging, double that when you are trying to capture the "moment" on camera. By 7:00 am we have a strutting tom called into our decoy.

I can see him and he is framed up perfectly on camera BUT Mikyla cannot see him. With the tom's keen eyesight and high level of awareness, she cannot move to make the shot.

All of us in complete anticipation await the moment when the big tom comes strutting out in front of Mikyla...

A moment that did not come. That is hunting, so close, yet so far away.

Shortly after our morning encounter, Mikyla made the responsible move and went to school on time, without filling her turkey tag.

With Mikyla at school, it was my turn on the gun and camera. Double time for me. :-)

Sometime later that morning, we call them in...four crazy jakes, strutting around, mounting decoys, anxiously trying to figure out what to do next when in strolls Mr. Long Beard.

Oh yeah, I am shaking, ready for my shot. I'm on the gun, camera rolling, everything is perfect, except for the fact that the four jakes had already laid claim to the decoys and they were not going to allow Mr. Long Beard to take up shop and strut around.

The chase was on...the jakes put the run to Mr. Long Beard and he was gone as fast as he came. When Mr. Long Beard tried to come back, he was again chased off, and a third time.

Opening morning turned out to be an action packed no shot opportunity hunt that was left me shaking with anticipation. This why we love hunting!

Time to re-group. For our evening hunt, Mikyla rejoined us and we came up with the plan that if one of the long beards came in, Mikyla would take the shot and if the pesky jakes came back, I would take the shot with my bow.

One way or another, we were bound and determined to tag a turkey.

Round II~

Here they come...jakes on parade once again strutting up our decoys! This time, I am ready, bow in hand, I take slow careful aim and let my Easton arrow fly. With a perfectly placed shot, my jake is down less than 10 feet from where my arrow passed through him.  SUCCESS!!! My first archery Rio!

I felt bad for Mikyla that Mr. Long Beard never showed up that evening, but we were glad to take home dinner instead. What a great way to close out opening day of turkey season.

The next morning, with a second turkey tag in hand, Mike and I set out in pursuit of Mr. Long Beard. It was cold. Really cold...36 degrees and our breath was the only thing that was to be seen.

No turkeys, no gobbles...no bueno.

Not even one of the remaining pesky jakes will come into our calls, possibly a bit wiser from the day before when I took one of their own out of the equation.

Shortly after 10:00am Mike and I decide to abandon our location to try another spot and we get all settled in at the truck to leave when far in the distance we hear it; Mr. Long Beard gobbling.

Like a flash of lighting, we were back out of the truck, racing to set up our blind and throw up the decoys. Mad chaos had set in and the adrenaline was flowing! I could literally hear my heart beating in my ears, but no gobble.

Here comes the doubts...did he see us, did he hear us, did we bump him or do we just need to have some patience?

The sound of a tom turkey drumming his feathers is absolute music to every turkey hunters ears. The sound of Mr. Long Beard drumming his feathers had my hands shaking and my heart pounding. He was close, really close.

My camera was set up and ready to record, aimed at the decoys, so of course, he strolls everywhere but up to the decoys. Mr. Long Beard makes a giant circle around us holding strong at 80 yards but will not close the gap to our decoys.

My guess at this point is that he is scared of the jake decoy given the beat down that he had received the day before. Mike and I came to the conclusion that he simply was not going to come into the decoys. We made our move, windows went up so we could move within the blind without detection.

Once the camera was re-set and we were in position, we opened a window with the hopes that Mr. Long Beard was still there. Thankfully, he was.

Now the waiting game...he was scratching the ground just over 60 yards from me, just out of reach for my Browning BPS 20 gauge.

Here he comes, ever so slightly towards us, just enough to place him within range and unfortunately for me, he stops and struts just behind a tree. No shot.

Waiting and hoping; finally, he takes those two small steps into the open and with one gentle squeeze to the trigger, he is down. Perfect end to a perfect hunt!!!

With my tags filled, I stuck around Southern Oregon long enough for Mike to fill one of his tags with this stunning Rio. Unfortunately, I had to leave before Mikyla filled her tag but the best of luck goes out to her. I am looking forward to getting photos of her hunt success.

When it comes to turkey hunting, it just doesn't get any better than this!! Thank you Mike and Mikyla Jahnke for everything!

 

 

 

2013 RMEF Youth Turkey Hunt

This past weekend was my second annual Rogue Chapter RMEF Youth Turkey Hunt. Everything went perfect for first time hunter, 9 year old Spencer and his dad Chad.

Spencer was a trooper, hiking over 4 miles through the rugged Western landscapes in our search of a fervent tom turkey. He came to the hunt prepared with his Rocky Mountain Hunting Turkey Calls and he knew how to use them.

Spencer literally hunted daylight to dark on opening day and was dead serious until days end about his hunt.

During the last hour of daylight, all of us “grown-ups” were talking a bit too much or Spencer and he finally looked at us and said “Are we talking or hunting?” This kids attention span and intensity was second to none. I was very impressed, especially after the hike we had been on.

On Sunday, Jeff Heil, RMEF Life Member and Volunteer called in three jakes to less than 20 yards. Spencer sat completely still for 17 minutes while these three jakes took turns beating up the jake decoy.

The turkeys were grouped together too close for him to take an ethical shot and he kept it together the entire time, unmoving. When the birds finally split up a bit, he took one perfectly placed shot and his bird was down.

I have footage of the entire hunt from two angles. The blast from his shotgun nearly knocking him over.  We had a great trip and I can’t wait to share the footage with you. Such a remarkable little boy!!!

This hunt would not have been possible if not for the support of the Rogue Chapter of RMEF, volunteer Jeff Heil, Hocking Ranch, Matt Dunbar of Dunbar Taxidermy and all the members of the RMEF.

This is a true testament of how Hunting is Conservation. Together, we are ensuring the continuation of our time honored traditions.