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The Middle Fork Chronicle 2009

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.

Lion Chronicles

Karla and Kaitlin picked Michael Frellsen up on New Years Eve in Missoula for the six-hour drive back to the ranch. We had a couple of storms with good snow conditions so Dano and I were ready to do some hunting.

Michael is from Denmark. He runs marathons and is in great shape for a wilderness lion hunt. With the good snow conditions, we packed up and headed down to the Tappan Cabin on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Dano and I split up to cover more ground the first day. I wanted to hunt a section of the river that the elk and deer winter in, and sure enough, we started a bobcat track. In the mean time, Dano rode up to one of our fall elk camps and saw a big tom feeding on a cow elk. Dano tracked us down; we gathered up the hounds and turned out on the lion.

The tom was a big one and headed straight to the cliffs, crossed Camas Creek, and gave us a tough race. He made a circle and crossed the creek ahead of the hounds. It was a good thing we had come off the hill too because the hounds tried to cross Camas Creek after the tom. I had to pull my Bonnie hound out of an ice jam where she almost drowned. By the time we got the hounds gathered up, it was close to dark and we had to stop for the day.

We spent the next two days chasing the same tom in some of the toughest country we hunt. He was killing an elk everyday, but he kept managing to lose the hounds in the rocks. A warm storm came in and melted the snow. The lion was headed up stream towards the ranch. We packed everything up and headed back to the ranch to try our luck there. On the way back to the ranch we came across another of the tom’s kills, this time a nice Big Horn ram.

Back at the ranch, we hunted hard, but we were always a couple of days to late to catch him. The day Michael left he told me if I had one more day we could get that big tom treed. We had a great time with Michael and he’s coming back this year to try his luck again. Only this time he’s not leaving until he gets his lion.

Our next hunt was with Jim and Ryan Tracy. What do you know, Ryan treed a big tom the first day of the hunt. Scooter, one of our top hounds, picked the lion track out of a pack of wolf tracks and put the tom in a tree. Just as Ryan was shooting, the lion jumped tree and instead of being a solid hit, it was just wounded. A wounded lion is nothing to mess with. Sally, another top hound, lost a front leg a few years ago from a wounded lion and is now retired.

The next day the four of us went after the wounded lion. We found his track in the same area with blood in it. I turned Scooter out again and away he went. We were able to watch him work the track on the hillside. It was so steep we had to go around the hill to follow. The lion was stalking a bull moose, so I figured he hadn’t been hit very hard the day before. Scooter put him in a tree after about a mile or so. Ryan made a killing shot this time, and we had a big tom with a skull measurement of 14 13/16.” Jim and I had a great week hunting together and chasing lions. He and his son are real hunters and it was great to getting to know them.

Kurt Colgrove was our next hunter and he brought Jason Castle along. Karla and I were headed to Reno, Nevada, for the Safari Club International sport show. We called in my old hunting partner, Ted Kardos, to guide the hunt with Dano while Tina Hawkins did the cooking. The first part of the hunt went slow. The day before we got back Kurt bagged a big bobcat. The next day we decided to ride down Camas Creek. The hounds started a female lion track and headed into the rocks. Ted followed the hounds to help them get through the rocks.

The rest of us rode on down to Dry Gulch and found a fresh elk kill from a big tom. The hounds took off in Ted’s direction. From the racket they were raising we could tell that the other hounds were heading into the high country. Scooter chased this tom towards Ted, but got hung up in the rocks. Ted, who just had a pup with him, put the tom in a tree, but not for long.

The lion jumped tree and crawled into a natural cave where Ted could not see him, but he could hear and smell him. Ted radioed us and said we had better get up there quick since he only had a pup and no gun. Well, we double-timed it up the hill and sure enough, there was the tom deep in the rock crevasse. He was head first in the rocks with just his hind end and tail showing. Kurt put a 44 slug in him and we had our lion. Getting him out was another thing. He was wedged in the rocks and it took all of us to get him pulled out. This was a very big tom, scoring 14 7/8.” It was one of the biggest lions we have killed. We weren’t to far from the trail so we loaded him whole on “JD,” Dano’s favorite riding horse and packed him home. You can’t do that with just any horse.

Our last hunt was with Phil Hockman. We had a good hard hunt and treed a female with a kitten. We ran several lions and had several wolf encounters. We were lucky we didn’t lose any hounds. I ran into a band of sheep with two very big Bighorn rams in it. I also found a big Mule deer buck that was a winterkill. Phil went home without a lion, but said the adventure and all the wildlife was worth the trip.

Those of you that have hunted with us in the past will be saddened to hear that Bonnie, my blue tick hound, passed away this winter. She was a great hound that treed more lions and bobcats than I can count. I have four pups that are her grandkids and are showing great promise. Time will tell if they are as good as my Bonnie was.

Elk and Deer Chronicles

We took 25 elk hunters hunting in 2009, and killed 12 bulls and one cow. Three hunters missed bulls, one wounded a bull, and two turned down bulls. Only six out of twenty-five hunters didn’t get an opportunity at a bull.

We started out our elk season this year with Chad Guthrie and Rodney and Donita Wilkes. With Wendy cooking, Lyle and Ted packed them out to our West Fork camp for an elk and mule deer combo hunt. Rodney missed a tough shot on a great mule deer buck. Donita missed a nice buck as well, but she connected on a five-point bull, her first elk. Lyle and Chad spiked out at Grouse camp. The elk were scattered, which made for some long days in the saddle hunting for where the elk were hiding. It paid off. Chad connected with a nice six-point bull.

For the second hunt Lyle, Ted, and Wendy packed out two father and son teams to the Tappan Cabin. Gary and Trevor Tompkins hunted with Ted. Tom and Wesley Karr hunted with Lyle. I joined Ted for the first day of the hunt. We got into elk right off, with at least four bulls bugling. Ted and I started cow calling and what do you know? A six-point bull came running in from over a half mile away. Gary took him at less than 200 yards. It was his first day of elk hunting and the first elk he had ever seen. Trevor and Ted got into a bull that would have scored a 320 or better a few days later. I hate to say it, but Trevor missed him at 60 yards. Lyle and Tom put a good stalk on a bull, but couldn’t get in close. Tom had to try a very tough shot and missed, so the bull is still roaming the mountains for next year. Wesley turned down a rag horn bull.

We had a fire in this area three years ago, which created some great new habitat. We are looking forward to hunting this area again next year. We saw several 300 plus bulls during the season, and those big old boys are still out there waiting to fill someone’s tag.

I missed guiding the first two hunts this year because of drawing a sheep tag. I was able to get away a few times during the first hunt. I turned down two small rams and held out for a trophy animal. The weather was very warm and didn’t make for the best sheep hunting. I did catch a glimpse of a monster ram, but I’ll be damned if I could find him again. I had a wonderful time trying to fill my tag; I lost ten pounds, and had a few good wrecks in some rough country. I saw 25 goats, six of which were nice billys. I saw 30 head of sheep, two of which were nice rams, about two weeks after season closed. Timing is everything I guess.

For the third hunt Lyle, Ted, and Tina took Joel Colgrove and Kevin Jenkins to the Tappan Cabin. Joel’s brother, Kurt, lion hunted with us last year and killed a very big tom mountain lion. Joel had good luck with us as well. He took a six-point bull and Kevin took a rag-horn bull. They saw fifteen bulls during the hunt.

The fourth hunt started with the North Carolina boys, Carl Underwood, Tony Crisp, and Eddy Crisp, were back again for a drop camp hunt at Duck Point. These boys are hard hunters. They cover some ground and it sure pays off for them. Carl killed the biggest bull of the year, a six-point over 300 points. Eddie took a nice 3x4 buck, and Tony killed a spike bull.

Ted and I guided the second camp for the fourth hunt. We had the New Jersey boys, Harry Rizzuto and X2 Scagliozzi, returning to hunt with us for the ninth year in a row, and Grant Hagerty returning for his second hunt with us. Grant and I got lucky on the first day by calling in a six-point bull. The bull came in from over a half mile away to a cow call. He covered the half mile in open country and gave us quite a show. He brought two other bulls in with him. One of the bulls he brought with him only had one antler, the other was broken off and he looked like he was still in full velvet. I wish we could have gotten our hands on a video camera. Grant dropped the six-point at 50 yards. Ted, Harry, and X2 hunted together again. Last year they tagged out with Ted and they were hoping to repeat the pattern. Harry ended up wounding a bull. Ted spent two days looking for it, but with no luck. X2 killed the broken antler bull in velvet that Grant and I had seen the first day of the hunt. The bull had been injured, and as a result had no nuts, but he was the biggest bodied elk I have ever seen. He was a 5x3 with huge bases to his antlers. He made X2 quite the unique trophy.

For the fifth hunt, Ted and Bob guided Wan and Clark Seegmiller along with Wan’s nine-year-old grandson. Wan was 83 years young and wanted to introduce his grandson to a fair chase hunt. Clark bagged a big 5x5 buck and missed a bull at long range.

The second camp for the fifth hunt Lyle, Trent, Gretchen, and I took Berend Friehe, Tom Evavold, Don Bodenman, and Preston Dixon to Soda Camp. Berend and I have hunted together for many years and have had some great adventures together. Tom took a fat cow for his meat locker and Don bagged a 4x4 rag-horn. Berend missed a 4x4 buck. We saw several good bulls on this hunt. One six point would have probably gone 300 points or better. The bulls will be there for us when we try again next year.

For the sixth hunt, Lyle and I took Leland and Mike Bollinger, a father and son team, to Buckhorn. Lyle did the cooking and I did the guiding. I have a few favorite honey holes that I like to hunt at Buckhorn, and they paid off this year. Mike spotted a bull the first day of the hunt. The one bull turned out to be a herd of 40 cows and six bulls. Mike and Leland worked there way down the hill and put on a nice stalk. They busted a huge 5x6 and 6x6 within 100 yards of each other. The bulls scored 290 each. The hunt was a retirement gift from Leland’s wife and we couldn’t have been happier to get these good old boys two nice bulls. Leland and Mike decided to head home early to show off trophies.

Lyle and I headed to Soda camp to pack it out before the snow got too deep. We both had deer tags and an extra day to do some of our own hunting. We spotted two bucks not too far from camp. We made a nice stalk and ended up killing two bucks less than 30 yards from each other. They scored out at 155 points. As guides, we don’t get much chance to do our own hunting so we had a great time. We are planning to set aside some time next year to see if we can get another pair of bucks, hopefully even bigger than this year’s.

We wrapped up the season with our seventh hunt at the Tappan cabin. I did the cooking and Lyle guided Phil and Tina Barron. They purchased our action hunt at the SCI show last year. They saw a few small bulls, but they couldn’t get closer than 500 yards. Phil and Tina both bagged bucks on the same day. Their bucks scored 150 and 154 points, but Tina’s was the biggest. This was their first wilderness hunt on horseback. We had a great time with them and it was a good way to wrap up a fun season.


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