Matt Killmaster in Cabelas archery dept fixed and tuned my bow while I waited and it was a tack driver (shooting straight) when I left. He was a Hoyt guy who had damaged his limbs in the same way and Hoyt had instructed him as to how to repair it. A few tweaks with the arrow rest and I was good to go. He had a release that was almost identical to the one I broke and I am big fan of this store now. Cabelas employee Jason Bourne (yeah…these are their real names) sent me to a local gun shop after admitting the store didn’t have a perfect fitting holster for my hand cannon…it was just too big (largely because of the front sight). He wrote down the name, address and phone numbers of two local gun shops for me and off I went.
My cheap flap holster failed dismally, causing severe damage to the rear sight of my S&W 329PD. I want my .44 on my hip when hunting in bear country. So Roben Kesel at The Baron’s Den repairs my revolver and fits me for the perfect holster (so I can wear it cross draw or strong arm) while I wait. In 40 minutes I was back on the road and ready to hunt. Thank you to Baron's Den for bailing me out and getting me back on the hunt so expediently. You're great! And the holster you selected for me Roben? I love it! After field testing, it is everything I asked for. Much obliged.
This is Parker and I just before heading into THE SUCK (and my camera battery dying).
I owe that guy a lot.
The lesson learned was that when hunting outta state in unfamiliar territory that isn’t open country…a small error can have a big impact and things can go bad suddenly and without warning. We were never really far from logging roads but they might as well have been on the moon. I always try to stay well within the limits of my body because the warranty expired at 50 and in the years since I’ve learned found healing takes longer.
It is now September 2nd, a full week after my trip into THE SUCK and I finally dug the last salmonberry thorn out of my body. The Havalon game skinning knives make ideal scalpels for such DIY surgery.
The next morning we headed back to the top of the same mountain 30 minutes before graylight. The woods felt different in the darkness…larger, quieter and more alive. I can’t really explain it. A third hunter joined us this morning, a long time British pal of mine whom I have fished with many times and he had recently moved to Oregon and taken up bow hunting a month prior. Parker has actually given Neill (that’s his name) his old bow. The three of us silently slipped into the thinned section of woods near the top of the mountain and set up in an area where the mountainside flattens out into a sort of plateau. Portions of it almost look manmade, perhaps a century ago when logging was active here. Parker and Neill sit downwind and uphill from me and I stand in a spot where game might be called in from three directions. They have weeks to hunt because they live there; I have only ten days so I am being given guest privileges. Parker had handed me a Bull Bomb to spray once I got positioned so it would cover our scent. I have never used one of these before but really, it’s a spray can…how hard can it be? (I know some of you who hunt are already laughing.)
The air is still, the first blue fingers of light are piercing the crisp morning sky and I point the Bull Bomb in front of me and press the button. A moment later I see the slight imperceptive breeze blowing in my direction as the fine mist envelopes me. Inhaling 100% genuine fresh elk urine first thing in the morning will outperform coffee every time. OMG! How FN stupid am I?
As I fight the urge to cough, choke, puke and spit I just know my two friends are fighting urges of their own. Musta been a gut buster watching me douse myself in elk pee. I spray in all other directions and the sky grows brighter. That’s when I learned lesson #2 about Bull Bombs…they are insect magnets. In moments I have literally thousands of biting, stinging bugs all over me. I pull up my bandit, (3/4 facemask) pull down my beanie and put on my gloves. As I write this a week later my hands and face still look like a teenage pizza employee’s face. My hands actually began swelling and looked freakishly plump for five days. Benadryl didn’t help.
So there I am, bugs getting caught in my eyes as I blink, buzzing is all I can hear and I’m trying to focus as Parker chirps (a subtle elk cow call) for bulls. The three of us are being eaten alive and after an hour we decide to beat it outta there. Yes, I have Thermacell (a little device that keeps bugs off you)…it’s right there in the truck two miles away. (Insert self administered bitch-slap here)
We decide to return to the pasture and have a look around, maybe the herd snuck back down in the night.
Well sure enough, they had decided to come down that morning…maybe it was the bad smell and noise above em that enticed them to return to the base of the mountain. There we find all kinds of sign including steaming elk poo. This too is better than coffee for swollen, bug bitten pizza boys like me.
Alas…all the chirping, cow calls and patience in the world would not give us a visual on the herd and as the midday heat burns off the last of the morning fog and temps soar…we break for lunch. Besides, it’s hard to stay still when everything itches. Moreover, I was burning up. My light mountain pants were in tatters so I was wearing my heavy Traverse bibs as a back-up and was sweating like a pig. Yep…Oregon elk hunting at its finest. This is Neill and I on the logging road near the top of the mountain.
Attack of the Zoas
Remember back when we were stuck in THE SUCK and refilled my hydration bladder with creek water? Heh heh…don’t do this. My stomach shut down for two days and my plumbing turned into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It took me awhile to figure out what was wrong with me but eventually concluded that zoas from the creek bed water were multiplying inside me. Knowing a little bit about commercial food manufacturing and how to kill microscopic organisms, I turned to pH and began consuming hot picante sauce and Tabasco in an effort to raise the pH levels in my stomach and fry the dirty little swimmers. Don’t ask me to explain the science, I can’t but the next day I was brand new.
Gonna hafta carry something to put in my hydration bladder to kill the little suckers next time.
Most of our hunting had been on public (Forestry) land and maybe 20% on private property. It seemed this shy herd was on full alert now, having been pursued relentlessly since opening day so we decided to give em a break and hunt neighboring public land. Hunting between Waldport and Corvallis we trekked to the Five Rivers area which is loaded with prime elk haunts due to the more active logging there. Lots of clear cuts, thinned woods, trails and logging roads that seemed better than some city streets I’ve driven on. Those ole logging companies sure did some amazing work back in the day!
I will admit that at this point I was no longer interested in solo hunting. Oregon elk hunting is much more difficult than I ever imagined and I saw the potential for a life threatening situation. Surprisingly, I only met one Oregonian that preferred to hunt alone…and he didn’t seem all that sane. I suspect that at his age death would be a welcomed thing. Parker had been mauled by a cougar at age 5, had passed within a few yards of a big Tom cat while hunting a few years ago and had walked up to within 10 feet of a bear in the woods that startled them both. Lemme tell ya, walking up on a bear here is easy…you can’t see what’s up ahead! Everyone is strapped (except crazy old guy Larry) with some sort of hand cannon and a good knife here. Oh wait, I saw two crazy guys. One had ridden a Moped up a logging road and pitched a tiny tent next to it. I would have paid money to see him drive off with a bull elk draped across that thing! LOL
Oh…I almost forgot, there’s another fun plant here, I forget what it’s called (not poison oak) but after you touch it you get a tingling sensation that turns into a burning sensation. Locals recommend running hot water over the area which boosts the discomfort level while doing it but eases it immediately afterward. It doesn’t bother everyone up there but boy it sure got my attention.
For the remainder of my hunting here I was better educated and ceased making stupid mistakes. I had slowed down, surveyed areas more extensively and took the advice of a hunter who told me to “become a shadow” and give up on calling and sprays and all that crap. Find sign, still hunt and let all the other bow hunters push the game towards me. I’d like to tell you this all worked out and I shot a world record bull but the simple truth is, I never even saw another elk and drew my bow. Though I planned a ten day hunt I ended up heading home after eight days. The swelling in my hands got worse and I began to worry about toxemia. Frankly I was a wreck after 8 days. I had headaches, body aches, real pain in my big toe that is now starting to turn black (musta hurt it on one of my falls) and had a general feeling of exhaustion. I was plum beat up.
So for you folks who think you wanna hunt NW coastal Oregon elk, lemme give you a few tips I gleaned from this adventure.
Wear Cartharts or pants that are equally rugged because this area destroys synthetics.
Carry your Thermacell or be eaten alive by everything that flies or crawls.
Wear heavy gloves (not thin ones like I did).
Carry a lot of water…more than you think you need.
Don’t rely on your GPS or even your map…at the first sign of confusion go back and double check your position, it’s easy to lose yourself here.
Recognize that there is a time to be patient and a time to be aggressive. If I had run to cut off the herd I would have nailed that ten point bull.
Expect fog, pray for fog and use it…it is your friend.
Beware of slob FN lazy road hunters…they do not respect NO TRESPASSING-NO HUNTING signs and will run you down.
Pack light…weight is your enemy. Water, game bags, knife, rangefinder, sidearm, TP. You don’t need much. (And you’ll thank me later).
Hunt with someone. Getting tripped up and falling is a fact of life and if you hit your head you could be dead. Plus it makes the day more enjoyable.
No matter how great your hunt plan is…expect to have to change it and fast.
Unless it’s the rut, don’t call a lot. Wait until you see the animals and chirp sparingly to close the gap. I got to the area two days before the season opened and never heard a single elk but on opening day a million elk hunters were very vocal. Pretty sure this is how the elk know hunting season has started. Parker hadn’t taken an elk in five years. The area has a 7% success rate. Now I know why.
When the mountains begin to beat you down, remember you could be stuck working.
When your body begins to let you down, that’s when the adventure begins. You’re stronger than you know.
Elk have an invisibility cloak.
Always, ALWAYS hand the Bull Bomb (if you insist on using one) to someone else to fire off.
If you get the stinging plant stuff on your hands, don’t hold your dick when you pee.
I’ll get one next time.