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The Middle Fork Chronicle 2010

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.

Elk and Deer Chronicles

During our first hunt of the season John Traul, Paul Wright and I rode from the B-C to Grouse camp. We had sunshine, wind, rain, and some big hail on the way up the trail so camp was looking awful good as we climbed down at the hitch rack. Grouse camp was still standing which was a relief. You never know at Grouse, sometimes the bears have a party when we’re gone.

The first day we went on a foot hunt up the second fork of Grouse. We found elk sign, but they had been gone for a few days. The following day we rode up towards the lookout and heard a bull bugle. We had found a nice herd. There has been a big bull hiding out in this area the last few years. Several hunters in the past have missed him and I was determined to bring his rack back to base camp this year.

We didn't have any luck filling tags with him so we headed back to camp to prepare for round two. The next day we found the ole boy and John was able to get a shot off at about 250 yards and guess what the ole boy’s luck held out for another year. Tyrell was able to join up with and help guide a bit. He had been packing feed to Simplot and rode up with a load of feed.

We headed back to the same honey hole we had been hunting and Paul killed a 6x6 with Tyrell cow calling while leading a string of horses and me cow calling coming up the trail. The bull thought he was in the money ‘till Paul dropped him 30 yards from the dusty trail.

This was our first hunt without a full time cook in camp, but it worked out pretty decent. I started the main dish in the Dutch oven every morning. When we returned to camp in the evening John and Paul did the rest while I took care of the stock. It worked out good with John and Paul being good camp help.

We hunted as hard as I ever had with clients this week and it paid off. John and Paul are great hunters and in good shape. They’re both coming back this year, and I’m looking forward to going deep and staying late.

For hunt two, Jim Welden (Doc) flew in and hunted out of Simplot. Jim (Sudsy) Sudgen flew in to cook up some of his good food. Tyrell was there to help out guiding the first few days before it was time for a feed run back to the B-C. The Simplot ranch and the B-C are 30 miles by trail apart so it’s a full day’s ride one-way with supplies. The only thing we can’t pack in is the 100 gallon propane bottles. Needless to say Tyrell and I were wearing out some horse shoes packing back and forth.

We saw five different bulls this hunt. Doc turned down a bull that would have scored close to 300 points. He wanted to look for a bigger bull and ended up wounding a club horn five point. We spent two days looking for this bull, but no luck. The 6th hunt I saw the same bull with only a slight limp doing fine. It will be interesting to see what his horns look like this year.

This was a fun hunt for all parties involved. We hunted from Simplot and the cabins and the hot tub were real nice at the end of a long day in the Frank Church. One interesting event occurred this hunt; the three of us were riding up Loon creek to a spot I used to hunt in the late 90’s when Karla and I worked out of this ranch.

Ahead on a gravel bar I saw something move that didn’t look like a animal. I took a look with the Bino’s I couldn’t believe what I saw, a girl in a bikini sun bathing on the gravel bar. I couldn’t wait to share my discovery with Tyrell and Doc. I told the boys she could be in trouble and we better ride over and make sure she’ wasn’t in distress. It turns out she was with the Montana Conservation Corps and they were rebuilding trails. They were on their days off. I have to admit I felt like a wuss wearing wool pants jacket and long johns with her in a bikini. We felt it was necessary to rename the spot Bikini Beach.

Wayne Vanzoll and Ken Nagle flew into Simplot for our third hunt. I had packed Sudsy down the day before to get the Tappan cabin ready for the hunt and to cook some of his great meals. It’s a 3 hour ride from Simplot to Tappan so we were there in time to get settled in and glass a bit before dark.

We hunted two days from Tappan, chasing the big bull John had missed the hunt before. Wayne had him at less than a 100 yards in the fog, but the wind changed and there was that familiar sound of brush breaking. I figured we had pushed them out of that drainage and decided to head up to a spike camp. This would shorten our hunting ride by several hours each day.

The second day up there we spotted the bull with his cows in a open meadow. They were feeding into the burned timber so Wayne and I made a mad dash down to head them off. We made it just in time before they headed over the hill. Wayne made a great shot and we had a 318 point bull. With his broken tines added we figured he would have scored 325 points. Wayne an old Utah guide took care of the field dressing and quartering while I went back to camp to get a couple of meat mules. We made it back to camp after dark to end a great day.

We still had a couple of days remaining to hunt and I wanted to get Ken a chance at a bull. We packed down to Tappan the next morning, picked up Sudsy and the rest of our gear, and rode on to Simplot. It was another long day, but we were going to be able to hunt one day for Ken.

I headed out early to wrangle the stock and heard a bull bugle above the pasture. I told Ken we would wait till daylight to see if we could get the bull for him. At daybreak we snuck up the hill a ways and spotted a good sized heard with a six point and a small five point. Since Ken wanted meat, we didn’t try to get the six point. Ken made a 360 yard one shot kill within sight of the ranch. I like these kind of meat packing jobs. We saw five different bulls this hunt and had some exciting bugle hunting. We hunted some rugged and beautiful country from 4000’ to 9300’ and logged better than 150 miles in the saddle.

Harry, X-2, Ted, and Tina packed into Duck Point from the B-C. This was Harry and X-2’s 10th year of hunting with us so it’s like old home week when they show up. Ted has been guiding and Tina cooking for the boys for several years. This was their first hunt at Duck Point having hunted most of the other camps at one time or another in their illustrious career with us. This camp is a honey hole for big bulls. We have taken several 300 point plus bulls from this area. Deer hunting for big bucks is good at Duck Point as well. There isn’t a huge abundance of deer, but they only get hunted one week a year out of this camp so they get the chance to get big.

The first day, Harry shot a 5x6. Ted couldn’t find it that day since the bull was hit high and wasn’t leaving a blood trail. They went back to the same area the next day and Ted found the bull on a hillside with his binoculars, a very good piece of guiding with not having a blood trail and lacking snow. They saw two more branch antlered bulls and a spike. We usually see a few more bulls. I attribute their scarcity on this hunt to the hot weather that was keeping them holed up. Harry and X-2 are booked with us through 2012. We appreciate their long patronage with us and look forward to renewing our friendship with them each year. Ted will be guiding and Tina cooking again next year at the same camp.

Terry Risse, Joe Delorme and I packed into Buckhorn for the fourth hunt of the season. This was a no cook hunt again where I start the meat in a Dutch oven in the morning and the hunters do all the rest of the kitchen chores. Joe and Terry are firemen and used to cooking in the fire house. The first day out we rode to Nipple Knob. This spot used to have a different name but a rancher friend of ours saw it and insisted we change the name. If Wyoming can have the grand Tetons, Idaho can have Nipple Knob.

We spotted a group of cows and a bull first off. They headed over the hill and I figured I knew where they were going. I was wrong and we missed catching up with them that day. The second day we rode back to the same spot and the herd had moved closer. We made a stalk and just before we were going to peek over, a cow busted us. We made a run to head them off, but we were too late.

To catch our breath we sat down and glassed the other ridge and what do you know there’s a better six point. In fact I was guessing at least 300 points. He was trailing some cows and I had killed bulls where they were going so I was feeling pretty confident. A shot rang out while I had the glasses on the bull I watched him stumble and then go down. Some private hunters had moved in and killed him. Such is hunting on some days, even in the wilderness.

We hunted hard the rest of the week, but warmer weather had the elk in the timber and the rough country that hadn’t frozen up yet. We saw four branch bulls and five spikes and one very good buck. We found some good shed horns in one of my horn hunting spots. This is way off the normal bull numbers we usually see from this camp. I was going to hunt here again in a week so I would see what the weather would do to help us.

For the season’s fifth hunt, Bob and Eric Frame flew into Simplot to hunt with myself and Tyrell with Jim as head cook. Eric had just got out of the Marines and his dad was taking him on a wilderness hunt for making it back home safe and sound. We were into elk everyday on this hunt.

Eric killed a 5x6 bull after a long stalk and made a good shot dropping him in his tracks. The next day we had a lot of fun packing the bull out. Tyrell took Bob out to one of his honey holes on the Middle Fork and was back before lunch to get the mules to pack out Bob’s 5x5 bull. Father and son hunts are always a pleasure for us, especially when both tag out on elk. We saw six branch antlered bulls and eight spikes we were seeing from 30 to 80 cows a day on this hunt.

Stan Mitchel and his son John flew into Simplot for late deer season on hunt six. Stan and John had hunted Simplot with Dan Mangus the previous outfitter so they knew the ropes. Tyrell did the guiding and Tina was there to cook up some of her great meals for everyone. Stan wasn’t able to connect with a 160 class buck the second day, his scope mount broke without being noticed. A good reminder to always check your gun and zero when flying in.

The next morning was a lucky day for a 3x2 management buck John let go after a couple of rounds. Later in the day, Stan downed a nice 4x4 with eye guards just before the beautiful Salmon mountains faded to black.

The following day, Tyrell spotted a pile of deer on a couple near ridges with several nice bucks in there. They rode the horses over to a better position for a stalk and had to bail off quickly for an opportunity at a 150-160 buck chasing some does, but couldn’t get a comfortable shot. No worries though, Tyrell knew where the big one was hangin’ out with a harem of does down in a hole. John missed the huge 170 class buck who will be around for the next lucky hunter who might have a crack at them. It was a long walk out of that hole, but well worth it just to be within range and sight of a majestic trophy as that.

Meanwhile at our second hunt six camp, Ted, and myself, with Jim doing the cooking, rode into Buckhorn with Ryan, Brian, Doug and Eric. This was a fun hunt. These guys were great to be in camp with they could take a joke and also dish it out with the best of them.

The first day Ryan, Brian, and myself spotted three bulls and went after them. We put a good stalk on them and two bulls came out at about 70 yards. The problem was the only shot was a head and an ass shot. Ryan ethically turned down the iffy shots.

Ted was guiding Eric and Doug. Eric turned down two small five points in the search for a big bull and missed a spike late in the hunt. Doug’s luck wasn’t good this week and he didn’t get an opportunity.

Brian, Ryan and I were hunting Nipple Knob when we spotted a rag horn bedded in some burned timber. We made a fun stalk, but couldn’t find the bull when we moved in close. I sent Brian ahead while staying back to cow call. As soon as Brian was in place I cow called and the bull came out. A good shot later and Brian had his bull. A couple of days afterwards we were back at the same spot. After an hour of not seeing any elk, a coyote started howling. I asked if anyone wanted to shoot him and it was yes of course. I started calling with my best wounded rabbit call and what do you know a six point bull comes out of the timber to see what in the hell is going on. I tried to call him in but that wasn’t happening.

The bull headed into the burned timber to bed. We kept a eye on him and as soon as he was down Ryan and I made a hurried stalk and Ryan killed him in while he was bedded down. The bull scored 301 points. We saw 12 bulls and four spikes during the hunt, which is pretty average for this camp. I found a shed horn from a bull with a 22” dagger and a 40” spread. This bull will go 330 points and I plan on doing some horn hunting in this area to look for the other side. Brian and a hunting partner are coming back for the same hunt during 2011. Karla and I are looking forward to it.

We hunted from Simplot the last hunt of the elk and deer season. Trent and Gretchen, who are from Morgan creek, flew into Simplot to cook for Berend, Don,Tom and preacher Dave. Berend, Don and Tom have been hunting with us for years and the last hunt is an annual hunt for them. Preacher Dave came along as a non-hunter to see the country.

Tyrell and I were in for the guiding. We spotted five good bulls the first day just before dark at Wolf Saddle. Three of them were in the 300 point plus range. The next day we found them early and made a hard long stalk to find they had moved over the hill. What a view from the top though. We spent the next several days looking for the big boys and saw elk and deer each day.

On the last day of the hunt we split up. Tyrell and Tom headed up the creek to an open rocky hillside and found a wide 3x3 buck with eye guards hanging out with a doe. Tom made a great shot and he had his deer. Berend and I rode up to Wolf Saddle to look for the big bulls again and maybe a deer. We found them and made a good stalk only to have them disappear. The wind wasn’t good, but on the last day you take your chances.

On the way back we saw a 145 point deer, which Berend shot from the trail. The weather was going down for flying so the crew decide to fly out a day early. Too bad the weather didn’t hold Berend and Tom and Don and Dave had to ride out to the end of the road at Mickey’s. It was a 23 mile ride but these guys have hunted with us for so long they know the stock and I wasn’t worried about them making the trip on their own. Trent and Gretchen decided to wait for a plane.

This left Tyrell and I with one day to hunt for ourselves, which is rare, as guides we don’t get much fall hunting time in. We figured it was a “if its brown its down” day since we were wanting to put up some winter meat. Tyrell took a nice 4x4 deer with a long 260 yard running shot through the burned timber and I for the life of me couldn’t find anything to shoot at.

The next day Tyrell and I rode up to Grouse to pull the camp. On the way we could have shot, if only the season had still been open, four different bucks and three different bull elk. Nothing big, but the day before they would have been in trouble. One bull followed us on the trail within 30 yards of us. At that point you just have to laugh and enjoy the show. The weather still wasn’t flyable so Trent and Gretchen decided to ride out with me. Tyrell was staying in to do some trapping. We had a small problem being one saddle short, but we adapted and overcame by rigging up a pack saddle with stirrups for Gretchen. She said it was almost as good as a regular saddle.

We had a great 2010 season renewing old friendships and making new ones. Our crew Tyrell, Ted, Tina, Jim, Trent and Gretchen, were great. They made us look good and Karla and I thank them for that. We have many new outdoor trips to offer with the addition of the Simplot ranch. Horn hunting and pictograph tours along with the seclusion of the Middle Fork of the Salmon are just a few things we can now book. For you pilots you can fly into the B-C for fishing, meetings or just relaxation. Karla, Tyrell and I have wintered at the B-C and Simplot. Tyrell and I are beaver trapping right now if you ever want to tag along on a trap line let us know. We ended the season with a 40% kill ratio and 65% opportunity for elk, late season for deer was 50% kill and 80% opportunity.


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