Howdy! Here are a few things I've put together that we will call blog posts. 

Enjoy!

Rooster Huting

January 17, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Destination finally in sight, Bryan Huskey already scanning for signs of fish. Paul Moinester photo The jeep pushed confidently through the soft sand closer and closer to the turquoise sliver on the horizon. From fifty feet back it looked like a solid and capable rig. From twenty feet out you could certainly tell this vehicle had been around the peninsula a few times. At the rental facility where I first hopped in and went to let out the clutch in first gear- I shivered with doubt. Yep, it's a well-used rental car alright! When you want a 4x4 for the remote desert exploration, you want a stick shift. And when you get a stick shift in a Mexican resort town, it's been driven by a lot of people who've only driven automatics. This poor Jeep had been through the wringer, and I felt sympathy for it like an abused dog. Reluctantly, we headed away from civilization and towards the backcountry, unsure of just how far the rig would take us.

Cerveza Fria. I learned quickly that this means cold cerveza, which stopped us in our tracks at this point. Bryan Huskey photo When you see cones on the road in Baja, it means there may be a minor bump in the road. When you see painted rocks- you really better watch out! Bryan Huskey photo

I've been fishing down in Baja a few times now. No veteran at the game by any stretch- but I've started to get a basic lay of the land and gained some understanding of places that I may be able to find rooster fish. Those are the fish we all dream of right? Well at least I do. And even though I've been fishing for roosters in Baja more than a handful of times, I've never been able to land anything but juveniles. 

I'm beginning to discover that I am the kind of person who is drawn to doing things the hard way. Or for some reason I just think certain ways of fishing are more interesting than others. By interesting, I guess I mean there are lots of unknown variables. And this kind of approach, when done by choice is really intriguing to me. The choice to DIY a trip from the tarmac on, the choice of no guide, no panga, no ATV, no live bait or teaser rod. Sure those things all make perfect sense and greatly aid in success, which is why they all are evermore common along the Baja coast. "But how rewarding would it be to catch my first rooster fish without any of those advantages?" I'd recite over and over. 

 

Like the archery elk hunting which I love so much, success could be found on any rookies first day, or it could take years for all the elements to align and to come to fruition. Except rooster fish don't bugle or leave tracks. In exchange however,  there are advantages of being able to spot feeding fish as they push prey into the air with a white spray and convection of shore birds that can be spotted from hundreds of yards away. So this hunting is quite visual, either by the flags of a feeding frenzy or the ghost like shapes of the fish themselves. 

 

What's always amazing to me is just how far away fish can be seen along these beaches. Spend enough hours staring at knee-high waves rolling into the shore and over time, the slightest shapes and shadows begin to materialize. A quick hustle sprinting closer will typically reveal something.. you just never know what it's going to be. Maybe a submerged plastic bag drifting along, maybe just some seaweed, or maybe a marauding pair of predatory fish.

First look for birds. Then look for bait splashing. Then look for fish! A few dorado chase baitfish directly towards the shoreline. Bryan Huskey photo That's what I wondered several days into this trip while scanning the mildly wind-chopped water,  squinting to locate anything that could be fish. I'd noticed several large needle fish patrolling the area, and throwing flies at them was so fun because the instant the fly hit the water the fish would spot it from nearly any direction and close in with such speed it was thrilling just to witness. Not many would actually eat my fly, but after a few hard slams I figured I'd better tie on a fly that I was willing to loose, given I wasn't properly tackled for such toothy critters.

The author chasing fish to position a cast. Alison Kelsey photo Maybe it's falling into the trance I love so much. Walking the beaches for miles with a rod in hand, the sound of the ocean, the seabirds, maybe a distant boat's hull breaking waves... It's a simplicity that I seem drawn to. I've noticed that once I start walking- looking for signs of fish and reading the information in front of me- I get into a groove, a zone if you will. Depending of what kind of beach I'm on, I'll sometimes let my fly drag in the sand while I walk. Seconds count when fish appear, and an angler needs to be ready with adequate amount of flyline already stripped off the reel. The line needs to be carried in such a way that can quickly be whipped into an effective cast. Usually I'll carry my fly in my hand with 60 or so feet of flyline dragging in a loop behind me. But one particularly long walk a few days prior I'd let my fly just drag through the sand. I'd since noticed the hook had been worn down considerably by this, so I demoted the fly to the JV roster.

Bryan changes flies, opting for a fly that could be sacrificed. Alison Kelsey photo Needle fish. Wonder why they call them that? Paul Moinester photo

So as more and more large needle fish came funneling past this shallow beach I was fishing, I reached for a fly that I could spare. A fly that would no longer be considered for shots at legitimate target fish like roosters, jacks or dorados. The mullet pattern was one of a dozen I'd ordered for this trip, so sacrificing one here to witness the lightning fast attack of a 4 ft needle fish was something I considered fair trade. I paced up and down the span of beach where I'd been spotting fish. Out where the pastel colors of shallow water turned electric blue a faint smudge appeared and slid along a gradual heading towards the shore. I broke into a mild trot to get a closer look. As the points of our triangle narrowed, I noticed there were two fish and they were moving in a direct line, unlike the swerving, scavenging needle fish. These fish were moving fast too, so I shifted down and turned on the jets to catch up and see what they were. It was so easy to tell they were roosters. The elegant stripes were unmistakable. Beautiful fish cruising intently along the beach as if they were pulled from a fast moving rope. 

 

At this point I recognized an opportunity was developing in front of me and I need to execute. We'd been fishing 4 days now with no shots at roosters. I'd been trying over the corse of years to put myself in this very situation and only a handful of times had I been close. It was simple. All I had to do was run fast enough to get myself ahead of the fish and put my fly in front of them before they passed and vanished forever. They were a ways out there. Frantically I stripped (waaaay too much) line off the reel and sprinted along the beach positioning myself for a shot. I had enough time. I could see the fish continuing their course, about 70ft off the sand paralleling the beach at my 1:30. From what I can remember I grossly overshot their distance. But fortunately I also led them by far too much, so I had to wait a few paralyzing seconds before I could begin stripping. This gave the 400gr line time to sink, a godsend I'm sure now in hindsight. I watched as the fish approached the approximate zone where my cast had met the ocean. I didn't want to strip too early, and pull my fly out of range before they saw it, but I certainly didn't want to wait till they were over my line and have the fly escape below them without drawing their attention. Somewhere in the middle there I began stripping, cautious at first, stuck in the limbo of the scenario. Then, without question I saw the behavior of the fish change. In formation, both fish banked hard towards the beach. I began racing my fly as it was now clear the roosters were tracking it like hounds. 

 

The rush of drawing something you want so bad towards you as fast as you can strip a fly is intoxicating. Coming from distant shadows in the ocean then developing into the most incredible looking fish right before my eyes, the pair closed in on my fly, which at this point was maybe 30ft out. As I continued pulling line as fast as I could, their combs broke the surface as they charged into the shallow water and breaking waves at my feet. I'd been backing up as this storm of energy and emotion came at me. I was nearly out of line and about to wave my rod in a final zig-zag at the waters edge. But for the last few strips before my fly reached dry sand my line was still strait and the fish were still closing in on it. As an incoming wave provided maybe a foot of depth, I began to rotate to my left, opposite the slight angle the fish were coming towards me. 

 

As I rolled left and stripped, both fish flared their combs in the crumbling wave and turned tight U's away from me. When they did, the line tightened in my hand and the rod became heavy as I now lifted to feel the heavy pull of a fish. The pair of fish ran hard back to the deep blue water, one of them taking me and my fly with it. Once settled and tight with loose line now safe on the reel I shouted to my wife Ali and friend Paul. Moments later the fish launched into a series of tarpon-esque jumps like none I've ever seen or even heard of rooster fish doing. It was pure thrill. It was pure joy.

Moments away from rooster fish victory! Paul Moinester photo Finally!! Alison Kelsey photo Rooster fish in hand, one of the coolest looking animals on earth! Paul Moinester photo Playing this fish was incredible, formidable and fulfilling. It was so rewarding to FEEL something I'd wanted for so long. To feel it's force, it's meaning, it's impact. That fish represented so much for me personally. While I watched the reel scream and cranked down a flexing rod, more than a simple fish was on the line. For me it was a milestone victory I'll cherish the rest of my life. It was a fish I'd pursued many times with nothing short of crushing defeats, but it was also the formation of an unbreakable bond with this place. A place that my late father loved and described with such color and enthusiasm when he spoke of it, and now a place that he and I share together- if never at the same time, where we like many others come to fish, and leave forever changed. Unless of course a stroke of fortune renders their rental Jeep useless and strands them there. Something I hope for each time I return.


2016 Buck Report

October 31, 2016  •  Leave a Comment
Hey there folks! 
Yep, it's cocktail hour again and time to read through another of my long-winded hunting reports!
I hope you enjoy.
 
Well last season I broke a way-too-long dry streak with a studly spike elk on the last day of archery elk season. Following this newfound one elk winning streak I was compelled to try my hand at filling my deer tag during the October rifle hunt. I put my research cap on and sniffed out areas close to home that looked juicy for deer. (I think I started another "Rutt Report" for that hunt but steelhead season took over and I never completed or sent it.)
 
It had been almost 20 years since I'd gone deer hunting with a rifle. Switching gears into looking for deer proved to be super fun. I roamed new parts of regional public lands, places that I'd never seen or necessarily even knew were public. That alone became addicting and within a handful of days in the field I'd had so much fun I declared the effort a success. 
 
 
Absolute satisfaction came when I climbed a thousand or so feet up a mountain and into a series of north facing coves that from google earth caught my eye as ideal zones I'd hope to find bucks. No sooner had I taken my old 7mm to hand and put a round in the barrel did I sidehill into the sagebrush pocket and find exactly what I was looking for. Following an hour or so of negotiating the topography and swirling wind I gathered my composure and executed a hundred yard shot that put my best buck into our freezer! 
 
 
Along with fishing, many of my fondest childhood memories took place in the sagebrush deserts of SE Oregon deer hunting with my dad. Mule deer bucks were an icon of my imagination, and the quarry of my first years as a big game tag holder. Lady luck never smiled upon my father and I though, and short of one forked-horn buck from the majestic Steens Mountain, our dreams of gripping 4x4 racks remained only that- dreams. In 2013 I lost my father as a result of a freak cycling accident. Our relationship had broken down over the 5 or so years leading up to that, and now when I reach for some of my best memories with him, they take me back to deer hunting in the 1980's. My dad had outrageous enthusiasm for many things. He would light up like crazy at the most modest-sized fish or game animal. Unfortunately he never harvested anything that could be considered even close to trophy class, nor had I. When I look back now at these photos, I can only imagine the excitement he would express if he could see me with a buck like that. His voice rings in my imagination, and I can hear him saying "What a buck-WOW I'm so proud of you son!"
 
 
As described earlier in my 2016 Rutt Report, archery season brought me incredible success and the continuation of this new steak- one of big game success! Armed with knowledge gained in last years deer hunt and confidence that only a blood stained backpack can bring, I eagerly anticipated this year's general rifle season. Following a ten day bout with the worst cold I can recall, I made my plans for my first deer hunt of the season. 
 
I've often stated that because of my love for adventure, tagging out on the first day of any season would suck. With that echoing in my mind I contemplated strategies as I admired a handsome buck bedded far below me. He was 490 yards away and on a random plot of private land. But I speculated if I stayed put, he would eventually get up and migrate uphill into better cover once the morning sun eventually blazed down on him. As I'd hoped, the buck did just that and wove his way through the sage up the steep terrain of crags, bitter brush and willows.
 
 
Still far out of range, I watched the buck disappear into a fold of terrain. He was now off the private and onto beloved public land. An hour later he had not emerged so I opted for a stalk that would deliver me to a close range vantage into the hidden gully. As I approached the crest above the buck, I slowed to a creep with my rifle mid-shoulder. The day was calm as a candle flame without a breath of wind, and I could hear each pebble crunch under my footsteps. A short distance below me I heard a light rustling and knew that had to be the buck. I peered through the tops of brush and spotted antler tips tilting back and fourth. The slightest squeak of my rifle sling jolted the buck's attention and the rack spun to my direction. He was 70 or 80 yards away, and I'd spotted him first. Yet he had me pegged even though he directly couldn't see me. I was only inches below his field of view, and if it weren't for his antlers I'd never know he was there. The standoff began as his vigilant stare seemed to penetrate the partial sagebrush curtain that concealed me. I was mid-stride and straddling a large bush. A few minutes into the stillness contest I could swear he was going to hear the muscles in my legs and ass quivering and cramping. The slightest movement would certainly tip him off and he'd be able to vanish down the steep ravine with one jump. I'd intentionally delayed this stalk until direct October sunshine would have the day's warming thermals sliding uphill. I was sure glad of that as the bucks rack finally began to rotate and wobble again, indicating that he'd returned to feeding from the golden delicious colored willow in front of him. 
 
It was clear that in these conditions the buck could hear the slightest sound and even a careful slow motion step was going to draw his attention back to me. My feet may just have well been planted in cement. If I was going to have a shot at this buck I'd have to find a way to make it happen from the current scenario, and I couldn't hold my awkward stance much longer. At half a sloth's pace, I raised my rifle into shooting position, eventually bringing the glass of scope to my eye. I was able to see his head and neck, but the old growth sage blocked his body. The ground threatened to crunch at even the slightest shifting of weight from one foot to another. I kept trying to find my crosshairs a clear line of sight to the mass of the buck's body. I extended painfully high on tippy toes and leaned as far to one side as I could. Craning my neck and torso I found the shot. For a second I contemplated a checklist; nothing behind the buck to worry about hitting; yes I had my tag in my pocket and was sure I was in the right unit; yes this is a beautiful buck and although I wished the experience of deer hunting could take me exploring longer, I can't accept the potential of a buck like this as a haunting memory of hindsight regret. So I let the lead fly.
 
At 70 or so yards and literally no elapsed time between firing and the bullets impact, the shot was actually too close to hear the definitive thump of a hit. The buck simply vanished from view. As I approached the spot where he was standing I expected to find him on the ground. But he wasn't there. Close examination revealed not a drop of blood. Scanning steeply downhill in the direction he'd fled I could see tell-tale tracks hauling ass down the draw with enormous gaps between each stride. The narrative in my head had taken a sharp turn, dumbfounded I reconstructed the events and contemplated how I possibly could have missed. I recalled a time when I was 13 or 14 and a fantastic non-typical buck with extra points appeared at a similar close range like this. Crystal clear I remember setting my sights squarely on that magnificent buck. The close range shot felt perfect. One jump and he too vanished out of sight. Hours later my dad and I left with shoulders slumped and my head hung in disappointment and disbelief. Somehow I'd missed the buck completely. I felt so embarrassed and incompetent. It was a common feeling my old man and I knew, a sour pill we each had to swallow every fall during a decade or more of hunting together. 
 
As with my archery bull last month, I shook these thoughts out of my head and reassured myself that the shot was solid. I strapped my pack back on, chambered another round and set my gaze to the line of tracks unraveling away from me. When I reached the farthest visible track a splash of red practically leapt from the sage. "I knew it!!!!" I proclaimed to myself. A short distance later the trail revealed all the signs of a buck hit hard and whirling out of control down the mountain. I could plainly see where the buck had died mid-air, lost his legs and fell into a tumble. The tracks told the story as clearly as if I'd witnessed it in real time. I paused and took a knee on the slope knowing my dandy buck was expired somewhere right below me. For so many years I'd dreamt of savoring a moment like this, and I soaked it all in. Seconds later I spotted the fella, clearly at peace and waiting there to be claimed. 
 
 
Very similar and slightly larger than my buck last year, this harvest represented tremendous fulfillment for me. Still far short of true trophy class by technical definition, I gazed in awe at this buck which is a prize trophy to me. IMG_Buck3. Flat-out beside myself with joy and pride I reconnected with my dad, imagining the things he would be saying and the beaming smile that would be on his face had he been there with me. Sweat dripped steadily from my hat as I worked to field dress, de-bone and strap the buck to my overloaded pack. I was overcome with happiness and gratitude. IMG_buckPack. Now at my desk just one week later I cherish this memory already and look forward to the opportunity to take kids of my own deer hunting one day, with the recognition that these are the greatest days of our lives. Stop and soak your moments in. I think you'll be glad you did. Thanks for reading this far, and coming along! 
Bryan

Bryan Huskey's 2016 Rutt Report

October 31, 2016  •  Leave a Comment
As I may have explained last year, in efforts to elude other hunters I've shifted my elk hunting locations several times in past 4 years. The area I spent 2014 and 2015 had a lot of bulls and very little hunting pressure. Sounds great right? However it also possessed another very strange characteristic. Up until the last week of the season the bulls in that area were 100% uninterested in any vocalization or rutting behavior. Main obvious reason- there were no cows! It was very strange to spend days of September amongst bull elk and not hear a single bugle. Quite honestly it was very disappointing as strategizing and calling is the entire reason I love to archery hunt elk. Non-vocal elk are typically a result of intense hunting pressure, and I'd finally discovered an area with little to no hunters, so it made no sense at all! 
 
 
So I decided for 2016 I needed to change locations once again. I decided to move to an entirely new region as I also very much enjoy exploring Idaho. Many hours of pouring over maps, Google Earth and property ownership info, along with a couple actual scouting trips led me to a new area that held a large population of summer range bulls (IMGrr1). The lack of well traveled roads into the area and established camp sites led me to believe this area was also overlooked by most hunters. So my hope was that come August 30th, the elk would still be there and hunters like myself would not.
 
 
My longtime friend Brian from Bend joined me for the first few days of the season. We were stoked to find no other hunters, and the bulls I'd seen during the month of August were still in the area. We explored this new range with many, many close encounters and near shot opportunities at various sized bulls (IMGrr2,3,4). We heard a few bugles and saw at least one cow, good early season indicators for a return to "normal" elk hunting. Many times we had bulls come in to our calling setups, but without any bugling or response of their own. At one point I was able to stalk to within bow range of 4 mature 6x6 bulls. But the wind shifted as I was just about to have a clear shot at the nearest. Our opening week was encouraging, filled with lots of close encounters. 
 
 
The following week I made another trip back and again found no other hunters and plenty of bulls. I had several close calls before shifting wind occurred, and was even able to pass up two opportunities at small bulls. Still however, not much for bugling activity or interest in calls. This was very curious given these bulls were completely un-harassed or pressured by hunters. One would expect them to be very responsive to calling. 
 
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Third week of the season was another solo trip for me. Perched high atop a ridge, the early glow of sunrise revealed a group of 8 bulls in a meadow below me. A few minutes later I spotted another group of 7. All bulls, not a single cow. "What the hell is going on?!" I wondered. "Where are all the cows?!" This new area was turning into a bazaar repeat of my previous location. Later that morning however a few of the bulls did begin a volley of bugles as they dispersed to their various bedding areas. I pursued with several close encounters before eventually hooking into a legit calling exchange with one particular bull. Everything was perfect as he responded instantly to my calls and branch-rubbing racket. When he reached about 60 yards of me I was able to see he was a very large mature bull- the kind of bull I've always dreamed of. (IMGrr4.5) At about 50 yards he paused and began rubbing a pine within the lodgepole thicket. I quickly took this opportunity to advance into shooting range and safer down-wind angle. With an easy 40 yard shot before me I waited for him to look away or block his vision so I could draw my bow. My guts twisted as I saw his nose begin to bob in the air and I new the deal was blown. The archers nemesis (the wind) had pulled yet another physics-defying stunt and somehow piped-in to tip the bull off. He whirled and trotted away, ducking and twisting his huge rack gracefully between the trees. My level of frustration at that moment can not be explained with words! 
 
To that point in the season I'd had many opportunities, maneuvering within bow range of 16 different bulls. 14 of the times the wind had swirled and blown the opportunities in the final moments. Two times the wind held for the 2 smallest bulls I'd encountered, which I'd passed up. The box score of 2-14 was grinding and made any optimism or hope feel nothing short of naive. The wind in this place seemed to be particularly defying. Every direction I'd head it would shift and blow my scent far in front of me. So I'd turn the other way and rearrange a different strategy. Same result. It felt simply impossible to do anything with any hope of success. No prevailing wind or compass heading was dependable, no time honored logic of rising or falling thermals could be trusted. It was like shaking a box with a rubber ball inside, constant rebound and zero predictability.
 
That was the second to lowest point of the day. After making my way to the area I'd planned my evening hunt the wind continued to shift from N,S,E & W. My confidence was low as I entered a panel of timber where I was certain I'd encounter elk. I covered up in full camo and knocked an arrow as I crept through the areas I expected to find bulls. I questioned the intelligence of pursuing elk with such shifty wind, but I had to do something with my precious hunting time! I wasn't but 60 yards into my planned loop before I spotted exactly what I was hoping to find. Ahead of me a single, medium sized bull fed through the patchwork of old growth timber and fresh Christmas-sized trees. It was the ideal scenario for a stalk. With the bull alone there would be less sets of eyes to keep track of, and the act of feeding kept the bull distracted along with constant chewing sound to reduce what noise he may notice from my approach. I moved swiftly and silently when each tree blocked his view. I knew it was only a matter of time before the wind would eventually shift in his direction, so I stepped with urgency when I could. In a matter of minutes I'd closed the gap and reached a point where I could see the bull would eventually walk through. I'd have a clear and broadside 35 yard shot, if the bull made it there before the wind tipped him off. 
 
With my feet set, backpack and all my gear still on, an arrow knocked and focused as I could be, time crawled as the bull's pace seemed to slow. It felt like forever as I waited for him to reach the shooting lane. My heart pounded in my chest and I tried to control my breathing to keep composure in check. (I still get incredibly overwhelmed when I'm close to any shooting opportunity.) The wind began to blow and I could feel it twist around and eventually blow against my back. I cringed in anticipation of the tell-tale body language of an elk sensing danger on the wind. But somehow his head never stopped rocking along the grassy forest floor. Finally the bull approached the bullseye zone and I drew my bow as he stepped into it. The motion immediately caught his attention as he raised his head to look right at me and halted in his tracks. It was too late though, as he was now right where I needed him and presenting an ideal shot. I released my arrow and watched with great relief as it disappeared into the side of the bull within an inch or so of where I was aiming. I dropped to my knees then rocked backward as I unbuckled my heavy pack and released a great sigh of relief. 
 
I've had some harrowing experiences tracking and recovering bulls over the years. And because of that I've gained a wealth of tracking skills when blood trails dry up for one reason or another. The placement of this shot however left me with little concern as I approached the trail following a standard 30 minute waiting period. The blood trail was strong and flowing from both sides of the bull, confirming my arrow had passed completely through the elk. But I had not heard him crash to the ground in the initial moments after the hit, something that seemed a bit curious. An hour or so later the blood had trickled to a few drops every 10 yards and we'd covered over two hundred yards in total. It was getting late, the western sky was turning orange and alpenglow light tinted the spectacular view below me. "Why were these tracks still going- how could this bull have stayed on his feet this far after a shot that was so ideally executed?" I slumped to the ground and tossed my pack aside as I confronted the situation at hand. At this late hour and with the trail still unresolved, it was decision time: either leave the trail overnight to avoid pushing the bull further, or stay on the trail a little longer in hopes he was not far. My heart ached as I swallowed the bitter pill of considering that I was on the doorstep of loosing this bull. After a deliberate self-contained debate, I declared to myself that the hit was ideal, a passthrough of both lungs. I had to keep confidence that the bull was indeed down and must be close. Looking ahead, a thick stand of dark timber draped over the steep sidehill we were traversing. "I'll follow through that stand then pull the plug till tomorrow." I concluded. Within a few yards of entering those trees, I spotted antler tips, motionless and horizontal on the ground! (IMGrr5, 6) 
 
 
Another twist to this new area was the presence of wolves. Nights prior I'd heard their haunting sounds with the falling of dusk. At first, just one would initiate a solemn sequence of notes. Then, from quite a distance away more would join in. It seemed they spent the days apart, then at night would call out to initiate the evenings activities- whatever wolves do at night. I tried to keep this though at bay as I swiftly worked to take my bull apart, into well-practiced pieces small enough to pack one at a time. The rear quarter and rump went first. The backstrap from the hip to the back of the neck came off next. It was while I worked to remove the front shoulder and brisket I that I reached the point my headlamp was needed. As I stood up to stretch my back and relax my shoulders it started. Below me the chilling should of wolves lofted into the sunset. I promptly concluded that I'm no mountain man, and packed what meat I had ready to go into my backpack. Then I covered the bull with my coat, vest and bow. I drained a piss in 4 spots around the bull, marking the site as human property for any marauding critters to avoid overnight. 
 
The next morning I arrived early to find some disruption. To my great surprise the coats had been thrashed, bloodied and pulled from the bull. My bow was on the ground and covered in bloody paw prints. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before. Over decades of past experience bears, coyotes etc had never touched meat left overnight in this fashion. I guess wolves are bolder however, and I counted myself very lucky that I'd already removed and bagged the accessible prime meat, and all the wolves did was gnaw into the areas I'd already made my cuts. Not more than a few steaks were lost. The next few hours I enjoyed the experience of field dressing the remainder of the bull. Something I've done may times before but this was the first time as a solo venture. It was a beautiful morning to be on a mountain top in Idaho, and I savored the solitude of the moment while basking in the satisfaction of success. It was awesome! (IMGrr7) 
 
Feeling a tad ashamed that I hadn't stayed overnight to defend my harvest, I considered another challenge to make this experience as fulfilling as possible. I decided that if I wasn't brave, I'd strive to be tough! I doubled the loads I'd normally carry in each trip, figuring I could pack the bull just under 2 miles to the truck in 2 trips. (IMGrr8,9) The loads strained my body to it's max. But it felt great and since I'd worked very hard leading up to and during the season to be as fit as possible, my body handled it well. I'd stop each half mile and sit for a few minutes, then recover and amble on. By 1:00 I was back at my truck with the entire bull loaded and ready for the drive back to Boise. 
 
 
For the final few days of the season I once again teamed up with Brian as he set out to fill his Idaho tag for the second year in a row. Idaho did not seem to happy to have him back! We were met with 3 days of intense wind, rain and fog. (IMGrr10,11,12,14) To make matters worse, the peculiar situation of these "alternative lifestyle" bulls persisted. Still- not a cow could be found, and the many bulls in the area showed only marginal interest in any calling. They did however give us just enough engagement that we were able to locate bulls on occasion, and bring a few in to calls. So between that and the simple density of bulls in the area we enjoyed a few very active days when the weather allowed. Brian had shot opportunities at a handful of respectable sized bulls, but for one various reason or another we just never found the perfect scenario for another harvest. (IMGrr13)
 
 
Throughout the season between Brian and I, we figured we were within bow range of bulls on average about 2.5 times per day. Pretty incredible and due in part I'm sure to the strange all-bull and no breeding behavior. Overall it felt like a mixed bag- blessing in the lack of ever-vigilant cows that so often disrupt anything the bowhunter is trying to accomplish in typical bow season elk calling and hunting, but also a curse to spend yet another September in country thick with bull elk and not be able to enjoy the frenzied chaos of hunting elk in the rutt.
 
 
I'm not sure what next season will hold, if I'll give this area one more year or yet again move on to explore more of Idaho in my search for elk hunting nirvana. Either way, you'll hear all about it in the next Rutt Report! 
Thanks for reading this far and coming along!
Bryan

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