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The steady drop is expected to accelerate in coming years, threatening the much-lauded model through which the U.S. has paid for conservation.
— Read on www.npr.org/2018/03/20/593001800/decline-in-hunters-threatens-how-u-s-pays-for-conservation
Today was a warmer day. My and I walked in a wooded area and saw a lot of tracks and beddings but nothing recent as the day before. There was a small stream we had to cross but luckily it was frozen but lots of downed trees and thorny branches to get through. After a 45 minute wait on Logan we went down another wooded area but did not have any luck on that trail either. At that point my beard and hair was covered in snow and frozen and white. So we stopped for lunch for awhile and tried to think of other places to go where we may have some kind of luck.
After lunch we were sent off on our own and given a direction to go. They were all step inclines. We saw a couple deer but the area was so heavily wooded it was hard to get a clear shot and you had to really pay attention because the wild life blended in with the trees. I saw another deer but it was a doe. Once I got to the top I waited for Logan and the others for about an hour. Logan claims we all ended up in the wrong places and we were suppose to stay on a straight path. My path was suppose to be parallel to the road, kinda hard to take a wrong turn from that.
After all the driving we had been doing and other hunters we talked to and drove by no one else was having any better luck. While driving around we managed to see a small 4 point buck going after two females. So we let my father in law shoot it and it was not even scared we all got out of the truck. We had to fire off a couple shots. That was about 4:15Pm. So we were running out of day light on the last day. So Logan was speeding down the icy roads quick to try and find any moving deer. Sadly, the last day came to a lose with only 2 of the 6 tags being filled. While it was disheartening to go that far and pay that much to have nothing to show for it, it was still an adventure.
Today it was -16 •F. The owner advised the guides to keep all the hunters in the trucks unless they had a shot. They informed the hunters that at that temperature our lungs could freeze and it we could die and it could be painful to breath if we stayed out to long. And it was painful if outside for more than a few minutes. Of course with the step mountain sides that we walked it was going to make things difficult tell it warmed a bit. We found a few deer and we were going I let my father in law (Jim) take a the shot at the buck since he had wanted a mule deer for years and since he paid for the trip only seemed right. Unfortunately, they must have been ghost deer because we lost them in the wooded area without any tracks or anything. So we had to hustle back to the car to get warm.
Almost two hours later we found more deer. We let Jim take the first shot and he hit him. He took another shot and hit him again. So we had to scale the side of the mountain at like 70 degree angle (not sure of the exact angle but it almost felt like 90). We followed the blood trail of here he should have been but could not find him. We had to slide down the back side of the mountain through the the thick timber and snow. There was not an option of walking down we had to slide on butts. We tracked the blood all the way to the road with no luck. We walked back to the truck and stared glassing (looking through the binoculars) to try and find the deer. We spent most of the morning and early afternoon trying to spot it. But with no luck.
During lunch Logan realized he had not brought water. He had a juice container that had frozen water in it but he had to put it next to the water to try and melt it. Of course he about melted the plastic to try and melt water. But we tried to give him some of our water but he was being stubborn. Of course his fire was more smoke than fire.
After much avail we decided to move on from trying to find that deer. We went on a short walk through the timber. We saw lots of tracks and some bedding a but nothing was moving. We talked to a number of other hunters and they had not seen anything either. So we spent the rest of the day driving with no luck.
We did see a few elk but they were females at the end of they day around 4:00PM. When we were heading to the road we saw a few deer but we could not get a clear shot at them.
We were all tired today. It was bitterly cold and it was warm in the truck. We decided to mostly stay in the truck and glass since and save our energy for when it mattered. Logan was exhausted as well from being up at the hospital with his sick son all night. After we had lunch and Logan was still working to earn his fire starting merit badge we started to perk up a little. We had seen a few animals on a distant mountain side but nothing we could go after. We were starting to wonder if we would ever find anything to fill the tags. The roads were pretty icy and slick in the narrow roads.
When we woke up in the morning we heard from one of the other campers that there were bear tracks outside our door in the fresh snow. The weather was in the low teens so it was pretty cold. As we were eating breakfast in the main building our guide Logan walked in out of breath. He said there were fresh bear and wolf tracks on the drive way and that was the good news. The bad news was a tree had fallen on drive way two miles back and he had to run there to get a chain saw. In the morning we drove around the mountain side looking for tracks in the snow. We only had a few inches of snow so we wanted to focus our efforts on tracking so we wouldn’t have to walk another 5 miles like we did the day before with all of our heavy clothes. In the mountains were we were hunting we had almost 8.
In the afternoon my wife was able to get a good size 8 point mule deer or 4×4 or 4 point for the people that live in Montana. She had to walk a mile back to get to a different trail to get close enough to shoot. After she and Logan got to the other trail they had to walk another mile or mile and half with a step incline. We had to pick up another hunter to come with us since his guide was having car trouble and his name was Ryan. So Ryan and I watched them hike up the trail from the ridge we were at and watched the snow come in over the mountains. Eventually after we heard the gun shots, my wife and guide went behind some trees and we lost site of them for about an hour. After an hour my wife climbed out of the timber that was on side of the slope. She started walking down the walking path but we couldn’t see Logan. Ryan and I packed our gear and walked to the trail head to meet up with my wife. She told us Logan was back with the deer caping it out and cleaning it. Ryan went to help Logan bring it up to the trail since it was hard to get through the timber. Thirty minutes later, after it started snowing pretty hard, Logan and Ryan came down the trail with the deer in two halves pulling it by small pieces of rope. Granite they were already pretty tired pulling it out of the timber. So we began the last mile walk to the truck in the snow. Our tracks from walking into the trail head had almost been covered up already by the new snow. From the time my wife had got her deer and we walked to the truck with it it was about 4 hours.
The first day was the best weather we had the whole trip. Today we hiked up one slop on one of the mountains. It was only one mile up but when you have three layers of pants, two shirts and heavy rubber boots with back packs you get a work out especially since it was raining. At that location we did not see anything but we had a great vantage point where we could see for miles. We went to a different location that had a pretty good incline of course it was a struggle with our gear but we managed to find a deer but we were going to have to go back for it the next day if it was still there since we were running out of day light. So by the time we hiked back to the truck with our guide we were exhausted. Logan (our guide) was running circles around us because this was just a warm up for him and he was only 20 years old and does this on a regular bases. Of course we were at a higher elevation with like 3 layers of pants and heavy rubber boots. We had not completely acclimated to the altitude yet either so that didn’t help with the adjustment.
View from one of the walking paths on a mountain classing for mule deer and bull elk. In a few of the pictures you can see snow clouds moving in over the mountains in the background.
Part of the path that forked one spot to go glassing and another to hike. Both were a step hike.