The Middle Fork Chronicle 2008
Karla and I, along with our crew, want to thank all of the folks who hunted with us this year. We had a great time with lots of adventure shared with good friends in the Rocky Mountains.
Our first lion hunt last year was with Aron Wark and his nephew Jason. Aron wanted to fill a lion tag and Jason wanted to fill a general archery season tag (in December) for elk and deer. Jason, and his guide Bill, saw elk everyday of the hunt. Jason elected to pass on several cows and try to score one of the big bulls. He and Bill had a few close calls, but weren´t able to bring anything down. Jason did get two shots at two first-class bucks, but he missed.
Aron, along with Dano, Shiner, and I hunted lions. Dano and Shiner are two of our guides who love to hunt. Aron killed a 14 9/16th tom lion, after some tough hound hunting and excitement.
Our second lion hunt was with Tim Van Gelderen. We hunted as hard as I have ever hunted with a lion hunter. Tim stays in great shape which made it easier to travel some rough country. We did not have any luck with filling his lion tag.
We did get treated to seeing three Bighorn rams butting heads over a hot ewe less than thirty yards away. We discovered a new Indian cave with some neat pictographs in it. Dano and I camped there later on in February while we did a little hound hunting ourselves.
We picked Mike Clardy up in Missoula, MT, on January 4th. Mike knew the drill since he hunted with us the previous year as well. He killed a tom Bobcat with us his first time out. Treeing a lion or two was his priority on this second hunt. We ended up killing a very nice tom, and a few days afterwards a female. The second lion had the longest stride of any female I have ever seen. Since she was well up there in years, I didn´t feel bad about killing her. We try not to kill female lions, just mature toms. But of course it is the hunter‘s choice.
Our good friends, Mike and Pat Sharp, came out from North Carolina, for a lion hunt in the end of January. We hunted hard and reaped the rewards, killing a female the second to the last day of the hunt. She didn´t make it easy though. She took to some rough country before we caught her. Mike and Pat are great folks, we enjoyed their visit.
Ryan and Jim Tracy were booked for the fifth hunt. Unfortunately the weather worked against us. I had to move the hunt to ´09 due to deteriorating snow conditions. Nobody can control Mother Nature, but we´re hoping that she works with us this coming season, and gives us great conditions for chasing lions.
After a long winter at the B-C Ranch all of us were ready for a break. We had to snowmobile in and out for four months and get water from the creek for five and a half months. Spring gave Karla, Dano, and I a nice break and a good change with bear hunting. We only had three bear bunters booked this year. Bear hunting is a great 1st time hunt for a person graduating high school or college.
Our first hunt, Gary McElroy and Greg Lane came out from Texas for a pack in bear hunt. Dano, Kaitlin, and I set up camp and baits a few weeks earlier. The first day of the hunt Gary missed a big boar. Greg had one come in, but the bear heard the safety on Greg´s gun being flipped off, and booked it out of the area. The bears came back the last day. Gary wounded a bear. Greg killed a pretty red colored male bear. We spent the next day looking for Gary´s wounded bear. Without a blood trail we didn´t have anything to follow so we never found him.
The end of June my nephew, Justin Unruh, came in for his first hunt for any animal. Justin graduated from University of Californian Irvine so Karla and I gave him a bear hunt for his graduation present. Justin killed a 5´ male bear. From the look in his eyes I think it won´t be his last hunt.
After bear season we had a few days to get ready for our summer guide school that started in July. We had three guide school students and one cook student. The school runs the whole month of July and has been called the boot camp of guide schools.
Dano our number one guide, and Kaitlin our daughter, worked on gear during July: washing saddle pads, all 100 plus, oiling saddles, repairing tack, fixing lanterns, and the 500 other things that have to be done before elk season hits.
We irrigated 25 acres on the ranch with hand lines, took care of the 200 acre ranch we live on, and shot a lot of ground squirrels. Kaitlin, Dano, and I pushed cows for one of the cattle ranchers that holds a grazing allotment back here. On one day we moved 100 pair ten miles over rocky country. We wore some outfit horses out that day. After that Kaitlin pushed cows for him on her barrel horse.
We hired Brad Byrd from our guide school. Brad, Dano, Kaitlin, and I started cutting firewood and clearing trails to our hunting camps in August. I don´t know what I was thinking: me with three 20 year olds clearing trail with crosscut saws. Brad forgot a change of socks the first week out, Kaitlin had to ride back to base camp for the shoeing tools we forgot after one of the horses pulled a shoe while having a temper tantrum, all in all things went pretty smoothly. Kaitlin headed back to college after the first week so the boys and I finished up the last two weeks. We had a great time sleeping under the stars.
We had a summer fishing trip drop camp the end of August: Charlie Hartman, Larry Patchen, and William Lingerfelt. Charlie is one of the nine founding members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. With the honor of having his name on a plaque at the head quarters in Missoula MT. They had a great time, caught a few fish and enjoyed camping on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. They want to return and try one of the mountain lakes next year.
September 1st marked the start of camp setup. The Forest Service gives us two weeks to set up camps and pack hay to all of them. There are no wasted days and not much sleep to get everything ready for the season opener.
Elk and Deer Chronicles
Jon Cooke brought his son Eric on an elk hunt for a college graduation present on our season opener. Dano guided Jon and Eric while I guided Greg Clyne. Greg and I spiked out at Grouse camp. We got lucky on a five point bill. Greg turned down a bear opening day when it came into a cow call. Dano, Jon, and Eric chased a big six point all week. They had him at close yardage, but it does not always work out. All of us had a great hunt and made some new friends.
The second hunt ended up being the biggest group of the year. Tom, Reno, Bino, John, Russell, and Chris were guided by myself, Ted, and Brad. We hunted Martin Mountain, one of the highest camps in our area. Tom, Reno, and Bino hunted with us two years ago at Grouse camp.
Tom, Reno, and I got into bulls on the first day. We had a bugling bout with a six point. He got within 30 yards but the wind changed on us and he high tailed it from the area. We saw three bulls this hunt. It was above the normal temps and the elk stayed holed up in the shade of the timber. Ted guided Bino and John. They spiked out at Grouse and saw two nice bulls, but they didn´t get on them. Martin Mountain is rugged country that makes the hunting hard. Brad, Russell, and Chris hunted together. Chris had some altitude problems and didn´t hunt; he stayed in camp and helped Larry do the cooking. Brad and Russell saw two bulls as well. The weather and country didn´t let them get in close to the bulls.
Dano, Steph, and Mark took Aron Wark and Rich Elliott up to Soda Camp. This camp has abundant open country. During hot weather it is tough elk hunting. Aron missed a nice bear above camp. Lyle, one of our long time guides, hunted deer at Soda the seventh hunt. He saw 150 head of an elk there. A cold front sure brings the critters out.
Ted guided Mark Greene and Charlie Bassman at the Tappan Ranch. The weather had changed for the better and the elk were out. They saw several bulls. Mark wounded a 300 plus six point and had a five point at 40 yards but couldn´t get the cross hairs on. Ted tracked the wounded bull into a nasty hole called Macarte creek till dark. He couldn´t pick up any sign the next day.
Harry and X-2 were back for their eighth hunt with us on the season opener in Unit 28. They both killed six point bulls and X-2 killed a nice 3x3 buck. Ted guided them and they had a great time. Ted said they were never more than 40 yards from the horses. Some things are just meant to be. I guided Greg Hensen. Greg killed a big tom lion with us last year and came back to try the elk hunting. We saw bulls the first day and had one at 40 yards, but he didn´t stay for long. Greg killed his first mule deer, a high scoring 3x3. We saw fifteen branch antlered bulls plus four or five bucks that would be close to a Book buck. Tina cooked in camp for this hunt. She made willow baskets for all of the hunters´ wives, her baskets are one of a kind works of art.
The day before this hunt started I got my finger hooked in the halter of a horse I was going to shoe. After the wreck that followed the finger looked broken so Ted took me to Salmon, ID, for x-rays. There were no breaks, but the finger was dislocated. They couldn´t get the finger back in and I talked the doctors into doing surgery that night. I had a torn tendon. Ted picked me up at 4:00 AM from the hospital and we were in camp by 12:00 PM. Brad helped me guide throughout the hunt. I didn´t even have to saddle my own horse. Jim and Jimmy Vance hunted with Dano and Jon at our Duck point camp. Carol was in for the cooking. They were in to Bulls most everyday and saw a couple of big six points. Jon was pretty excited when he saw a deer that looked like he had a tree on top of his head. Jon grew up in Dillon Montana and has seen some big elk and deer. This was one of those hunts that we should have tagged out on, but didn´t. The good thing is they will just be bigger next year.
Brad, Steph, and I headed to Buckhorn with Jerry and Jason Walls, George Watkins, and Larry Siri the next hunt. This was their third hunt with us and we have become good friends. We saw bulls nearly everyday and cows everyday. Jerry shot a big five pint bull three hours from camp at dusk. We had an hour and a half walk just to get back to the horses and a devil of a time finding them. My horse, Thunder, was helpful enough to whinny and guide us in. Brad hunted with George and Larry. Larry missed a good bull and George turned down a 4x4 bull. We saw 13 bulls this hunt, a few of them were over 300 points.
On the other side of the drainage, Dano, Carol, and Jerry Soderburg rode up to Soda. Jerry only had a few days to hunt. They spotted two bulls and killed a 3x3 buck. Jerry is planning on returning with his son next season.
The following hunt Lyle, Trent, Gretchen, and I took Berend, Don, and Preston up to Buckhorn. We only had four days to hunt which makes things difficult. We saw sixteen bulls in the four days of hunting. Two were big six points. We weren´t able to get in on any of them. Berend and his friends have hunted with us since we started outfitting and they will only take mature bulls. We look forward to seeing Berend for a lion hunt this winter.
While we were hunting Berend´s group, Dano, Brad, and Carol took Ernie, Rod, and Dennis down to the Middle Fork. Rod wounded a six point bull. Ernie and Dennis turned down a bull with a broken horn. The boys saw fifteen branch antlered bulls and had a great time.
Our last hunt of the year our hunters cancelled. We guides don´t get to do much hunting of our own. Dano, Brad, and Jon took advantage of the free time and went down to Tappan for a little guide hunting.
Brad missed a bull. He didn´t want me telling anyone that he pulled such a pilgrim stunt, but I tell on anyone that misses a shot. Dano and Jon were into bulls but they were looking for a big old boy. I think there was some serious napping and well earned relaxation going on with these guys.
Lyle, Dano, and I started pulling camps before any big snows hit. We lucked out and had sunshine while we tore down all of my camps. After that I spent a week hauling the horses and mules to winter pasture. After I wrapped that up, I started getting ready fro winter lion season. Those stories will be in The Middle Fork Chronicle 2009 for your enjoyment.
Karla, the crew of Middle Fork Outfitters, and I want to thank all of our hunters. We appreciate you hunting with Middle Fork Outfitters and we look forward to seeing you on the trail in the future!