For what seemed like an hour, I knelt uncomfortably behind the cedar at full draw. The bull had responded aggressively to my challenge and bugled back, enraged that any intruder dared trespass onto his valley. I watched the old monarch shred two cedars as he charged up the dark, heavily wooded canyon towards me.
The bull roared again at twelve paces, reducing me to a quivering, sweaty pool of fear. Time stood still as an epiphany caused me to realize this monster bull elk was now hunting me! How did this happen? My arms began to tremble as muscle fatigue set in from being at full draw for too long. I waited and prayed the bull would take the last three steps to clear the cedar and provide a shot opportunity. I tried unsuccessfully to regain my composure, I was rattled for sure. “If this bull takes three more steps”, I thought to myself, “I will find out if I have the mental toughness to seal the deal.” Could I do this? What if he charges? Three more steps…..
Through the cedar I was concealed behind, I watched the bull breathing, so close I could see the matted, wet hair on his neck. He cautiously surveyed the mountainside for a glimpse of his target, for he had a score to settle. One step, two, three. As he cleared the cedar, I settled my top pin just behind his shoulder. The wild-eyed bull snapped his head toward me, glaring through bulging eyes. The moment of truth had arrived, it all came down to this. I had prepared my whole life for this moment.
It had been a long and arduous journey to this point. I had spent my youth hunting squirrels, rabbits and whitetail. I had subscriptions to every hunting magazine in existence, reading cover to cover, and over again. I loved the stories, but was especially fascinated by the tales told of high mountain adventures. The tough, dangerous, unforgiving region that grizzly, mountain goats and elk called home, where rough men on horseback spent long days matching wits with Mother Nature and oftentimes returned to camp hungry and empty handed. I wanted to be like them, rambling through the alpine meadows of the high mountain country and sleeping under the stars-where eagles dared.
For eight long years, I faithfully applied for an elk permit in Montana. After a lifetime of dreaming and researching, I concluded Montana was the place- the last, best place to find out what I was made of. On my 8th application attempt, I was notified by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks that I had been successful in this years drawing. My dream was falling into place and I almost cried as I opened the letter containing my tag. OK, I did cry, but just a little.
As prepared as I could be, I left the Hill Country, Texas heading North. From Kerrville to Denver took 15 hours. Then Denver to the Beaverhead National Forest in Montana. Arriving at the trailhead, I spent the next few hours of daylight setting up camp and organizing gear. Have you ever seen the sun set across the Rockies? Better than I imagined, it took my breath away.
The next few days proved humbling for a flatlander Texas boy like me. Things, everything was made more difficult in the mountains. Returning to camp after dark every night, I soon realized why, statistically, there are more millionaires in America than there are hunters who have harvested elk with a bow. Miles and miles of hiking, dozens of close encounters and two blistered feet later, Ifelt closer than ever to nature and believed my opportunity would soon come. The elk bugled from every draw and my mountain man skills were improving after every blown stalk.
The mornings, crisp and clear were my favorite. Although cooler than I was accustomed to, the morning chill added a special element to the excitement. For nine days, I hunted hard covering many miles with mixed results. I saw lots of elk and deer but usually they were out of archery range. The coyote's were heard every night. Breathtaking mountain views, flowing glacier fed rivers full of trout and skies that went on forever provided a hard earned reward unto itself. Life in the mountains had a rhythm learned only through time spent learning and listening. It started to make sense. I was no longer an outsider, but a player in the winner-take-all game of life, and death. The lines that separated predator and prey overlapped occasionally as I was reminded daily by the griz tracks located along the trail. In the rugged mountains of Montana, you are always only one mistake away from being lunch.
As my 10-yard pin settled just behind the shoulder, the bull glared defiantly. A backcountry showdown! I don’t remember consciously pulling the trigger of my release, just watching the fletching spiraling towards the nine hundred pound angry bull. The impact of the broadhead surprised us both as the arrow buried deep inside the bull. He spun around, crashing through the timber and back down into the dark valley below. I knew my shot was true.
Exhausted and triumphant, I set my bow down and laid on the forest floor. The leaves in the Aspen above waved in the wind as I stared up into the sky. My lifelong quest of chasing elk through the rugged Montana wilderness had come true. The breathtaking scenery, the ruggedness, the wildness of it all exceeded my expectations. It was everything I ever dreamed.
Two days later, with everything packed neatly into the pickup, the tailgate shut and I prepared to return to Texas. I stared at the Forest Service gate at the trailhead that started every days new adventure. I thought of the switchbacks, the countless blown stalks, the blisters, the sunrises and the cold, clear mornings easing up through the meadows. I remembered the cow and calf moose I watched feeding on the second morning. The bald eagles, the snow-capped mountain peaks, the rainbow trout that broke my line. I smiled earnestly as I recalled the band of bighorn sheep I glassed bedded on the opposite ridge. What an adventure I experienced! As I started the truck, I vowed to return again one day. To venture way beyond civilization, behind the gate and off the beaten path. To breathe that cold mountain air again. A once-in-a-lifetime trip? Think again!
Headwall contributor Nick Davis and photo editor Chad Harder dialed up one of the best hunting trips in the magazine's history last fall. "Take it to the limit" details how Davis quickly hit his, knocking down upland birds left and right. Harder, however, didn't have to stop shooting. Here are the outtakes from that adventure.
Sky full of pheasants
Outtakes from "Take it to the limit," from the Fall 2012 issue. Story by Nick Davis, photos by Chad Harder.
With two days to explore the southern Madison Valley, my babe Kara and I were looking for an overnight trip into mountains that would offer four things: an alpine lake, wicked scenery, never-been-there country and the chance to scope some elk for the upcoming hunting season. It also couldn't take too much time to get there, as it was already late afternoon when we topped off our tanks in Twin Bridges. Lake Cameron, a smallish gem high above Bear Creek in the Madison Range, fit the bill perfectly.
Four-ish miles from the trailhead, and located in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness' Taylor-Hilgard Unit, the 8,947-foot Cameron Lake sits nestled among small, forested ridgtops, great campsites and killer wildlife habitat. After a half mile of walking along Bear Creek's swift-flowing north fork, the path turns north, climbing 2,400' up a sun-baked, south-facing slope, through wildflower meadows and towering old growth conifers.
We didn't start walking until early evening, and stalled out many times along the climb to watch the light dance across the stunning southern Madison Valley.
We arrived at the lake just in time to pitch the tent and snap a bunch of hot-burning branches off beetle-killed pines for a fire. We kicked back and enoyed some G&Ts as the sun set.
The next morning we headed straight uphill, traversing the stunning, two-mile long, multi-summit ridgetop of Cedar Mountain.
The route was beautiful and challenging, taking us longer than we'd expected. We kicked back for some time on the summit, ogling Cedar Lake, The Sphynx, Lone Peak, the Yellowstone Club (where the bull elk were) and other interesting landmarks. Instead of backtracking we chose a looping route across the upper basin that pretty much kicked our butts. But amid the crumbling and decomposing rock ridges and screefields we found some fun glissading and rocked it quickly down and across the mountain, stepping off the speedy corn when the water running beneath thinning bridges made us nervous.
Arriving back at our Cameron Lake tentsite, again at sunset, we were beat, hungry and nearly out of food. But instead of heading back to the rig—and on to Ennis for burgers and beers—we opted to stay one more night in Nirvana. I built a fire, we picked at the heavily-mined and peanut-rich trailmix and passed out by the coals before crawling back to the tent and crashing hard.
Only two things lame about on this one—an unescapable mat of decomposing horse shit blanketing nearly any spot big enough to pitch a tent, and an army of mosquitos that, fortunately, chose to retire early.
We got up early, brewed the last of our coffee and followed fresh grizzly tracks down the trail and toward our truck, the one we didn't yet know we were locked out of.
Over many years of hunting along the Bitterroot River in Western Montana, my hunting partner and I have witnessed countless fascinating wildlife encounters. Waterfowl in abundance, herds of deer, prickly porcupines, meandering bears, and wild turkey have revealed themselves to us, marched across our paths, and always managed to touch something deep within us. But of all the encounters, a recent one with a coyote gave us a story that we're likely to speak of as long as we hunt. Here’s that story…
As I snuck into the woods that Autumn evening, the darkness seemed to amplify each snapped twig my thick river muckers stepped on. It was opening day, September 3rd, 2011 and I was slowly creeping through the head high grass and foolishly stepping on every dry, crunchy inch of the path on my way to my favorite hunting spot. Despite the cacophony I perceived, I must not have been too terribly loud because only minutes after I halted my approach, a beautiful coyote trotted right up to a tree only 15 yards away. His fur was a dappled gray color that blended better than the best store bought camouflage and he walked so silently that if I hadn’t seen him in motion, I doubt I would have ever noticed him. A distinctive white tipped bushy tail floated along behind him. He surveyed the scene for a few minutes without deigning to notice me, then darted across a field towards my hunting partner’s favorite spot. At this point, I suppose most hunters would have taken a shot to rid the world of one more classified predator, but I reminded myself that I was there to hunt deer, and deer only. Of course if I’d known then what I know now, if I’d known all the mischief and trouble that coyote was going to cause me, perhaps I would have taken that shot
After he left me, my new coyote friend ran towards my hunting partner and very obnoxiously began barking, yipping and yakking like crazy for the next thirty minutes. It turns out he had spotted my partner and cleverly thought to let the rest of the forest know of our whereabouts. After almost an hour of this treatment we gave up for the day. With such an escort, we weren’t truly surprised that we didn’t see much deer activity and could only hope this was the last of our run ins with this coyote for the season.
Alas, this was not to be. Two weekends later, we were back hunting in the same area. This time, I was in a tree stand when I caught some movement a few hundred yards away. Through the branches of my tree, I caught glimpses of two coyotes who were pestering a few does, spooking them out of the area. Sure enough, one of them had a distinctive white tipped bushy tail. For a moment, it seemed as if they were herding them towards me, but I wasn’t so lucky. Silently I mouthed a curse on coyote kind and hoped they wouldn’t get wind of me like last time and ruin another good hunting day. Eventually though they moved off and I continued waiting.
After that, I didn’t see any action for the next hour until I got a text from my partner. It read, “Shot a doe. Am having a hard time recovering her though.” I lowered my bow, climbed out of the tree, and started tromping through the alleys of tall grass in his direction.
I found him kneeling next to the blood trail 100 yards away from his stand holding the arrow that worked its way out. Although it wasn’t a pass through, he believed he had made a good shot and we turned our thoughts to tracking and recovering the wounded doe. Having already found sign of heavy bleeding, he pointed me in the right direction and we fanned out and started scanning for the next clue. The sun had just set, and I picked up my pace hoping to find his prize before we would be forced to use our flashlights. Ahead of me, I saw a very small kidney shaped pond and got excited as I spied a fallen deer near the far end of the bank. At first glance, I decided it wasn’t my partners. I could see several exposed ribs and naievely assumed it was a deer that had been decomposing for several days. I was so sure that it wasn’t his deer that I didn’t even mention it to my partner when he called me over to see a big pool of blood where the doe had bedded again. We were getting close and I was thinking about venison steaks when we realized the trail led right back to the pond and the fallen, partial deer I had just left.
Together, we silently looked at the half-eaten deer. Magpies were pecking away and cawed as we startled them off their dinner. A closer looked revealed this was indeed a fresh kill with nearly all the hindquarters chewed off and the ribs picked clean on one side. A sad realization slowly dawned on me.
“Those damned coyotes!” I muttered. From the moment my partner’s arrow pierced this deer’s lungs to the moment we discovered her by the pond, no more than 30 minutes had passed. Well, I guess 30 minutes is just enough time to consume most of a deer if you’re a hungry coyote and you brought your friends to dinner. It was truly a sad moment, but in the end we had to leave what was left of the deer for the coyotes to finish that night. Darkness descended and we headed home declaring more curses on the coyotes.
Afterwards, my partner lawfully filled his doe tag and called the game warden to explain the scenario. Weeks have passed and I’ve spent countless hours in the tree stand thinking about this encounter and what I would have done differently. Could we have tracked the doe faster? Would I now shoot that coyote if the chance presented itself to me? Truthfully, I’m not sure. When it comes right down to it, he’s just a hunter trying to feed himself and his family, which I can respect. Even when wildlife encounters go poorly for you, as in this case, they still contribute to the thrill of the hunt we all love and yearn for. I haven’t seen that bushy tailed coyote since that day, but I still find myself imagining he’s out there watching me, laughing his little coyote laugh, just waiting for one of us to shoot another deer. Well, as long as I keep hunting, we’ll see who gets the last laugh.
Mom and I were breathing hard. I could hear her slow, rhythmic breathing as she led me through the stunted pine trees and bear grass. We hadn't talked much as we hiked through the wide grass field and up onto the thin ridge; both of us were content to walk without words. For us, opening day was about silence. The hunt always required it, and we enjoyed that aspect of it. Mom shaded her eyes and gaze out at the approaching rain clouds.
"The way I see it, we can either take the high trail so we can hunt down, or we can take the low road and hunt up." She whispered.
We continued the climb. Reoccurring piles of shale seemed to appear every couple of feet up the mountainside. One wrong step and my tags would never be filled.
Patches of pearl everlasting with their white buds made a stark contrast to the brown mountainside. The tree line, which had a variation of green, yellow and orange was about 150 yards to the right of the trail we had taken. There wasn't much to grab if one of us were to take a spill.
My foot made the last step to the top as three shots fired in the distance. Someone was getting lucky on opening day.
Mom used her binoculars and glassed down the side of the mountain. She gave a nod, which in our silent hunting language means no animals. We started the descent down to a logging road for better travel.
I used the binoculars to scan the opposing hillside and saw two flashes of blaze orange on the ridgeline. I hoped with other hunters theyll drive the game my way.
The rain started softly drizzling. Any successful hunting was out of the question at that point. We cradled our guns from the rain and continued on.
The mountains that surrounded us sported a fiery hue from the recently turned larch. I made a 360 and could see Missoula and Frenchtown in the distance.
We could feel the cold settle into our skin as the sweat from the uphill climb turned icy on our backs. At about 6,800 feet with a 25-mile-per-hour wind anyone would feel the freeze.
We dropped down and got onto a logging road that took us around the side of the mountain just in time to meet up with my dad and sister.
My sister was all smiles even though I could tell from their body language they hadnt seen anything either. Shes 13 and that day was dressed nearly head-to-toe in blaze orange. She was carrying my dads .300 Winchester short-mag, a heavy gun for such a young girl, but she insisted. Its a gun thats seen its fair share of forest, prairie and mountains; it feels special in her hands. For her, this is the beginning of a silent tradition. Of walking through cold conditions hoping for that three seconds of glory it takes for the bullet to meet its target.
In the state of Montana, anybody under the age of 15 with a hunting license can shoot either sex deer and elk. My sister brought home a six-point buck last year and Im certain shell be just as lucky this season.
We unloaded our guns and were about ready to call it a day when the game warden drove up. He made small talk and surprisingly didnt ask for our licenses. With the traffic on opening day hed probably seen quite a few already and it was only noon.
The Nine Mile area on the Lolo National Forest known as Region two and is a very heavily hunted area. So its no surprise we headed home empty-handed.
My mom hopes this season she can bag a cow elk. After two decades of hunting and no luck taking down an elk would be significant and special. I know well be back, it was the first day for rifle season and we have until November 27th to fill our general tags.
A beautiful area with dozens of mountains, roads and a forest filled with Douglas fir, larch and white bark pine. If the forests werent filled with anxious hunters ready to kill, Im sure we wouldve seen more wildlife as well.
Our lack of success on the first wasn't as disappointing as one would think. In the end, it was a good day to be outside in Montana.
A few years ago in late November I found myself in a situation most bow hunters dread, the possibility of slurping up a big ol' bowl of tag soup. I still had my chances but I had a pocket full of unfilled Elk and deer tags well into the Montana rifle season. With very little chance of taking a rifle pressured elk with a bow, let alone a bull, I concentrated my efforts on taking a deer with my bow in particular a mule deer buck I had been spying on during September and early October. With long tall tines, great mass and numerous sticker points, this buck was unmistakable. He roamed the typical rolling open sagebrush country that big bucks seem to easily disappear into. My plan was to use his only weakness, find him when he's looking for love! There are several other nice bucks in the area but the tall wide rack of the sticker buck was on my mind. My planned time to hunt luckily coincided with a early snow storm that dropped a foot of fresh powder.
Soon after I started my hour long hike, the darkness turned as the sun began to rise. At the half-way point I cut the tracks of 3-4 does and one very large set of buck tracks. I couldn't resist following the fresh tracks as the sun was rising. The snow had blanketed everything and I made almost no sound as I paralleled the tracks winding through the pines and sage. It was now legal shooting light as the single file line of tracks crested the ridge a hundred yards ahead. I picked up the pace to hopefully catch a glimpse of the buck and form a strategy to set up a stalk from the ridge. I had my fingers crossed that it was the big buck I was after. As I peeked over the ridge I could see two groups of does scattered throughout the pines but no sign of the buck. I sat for a few minutes glassing through the binoculars hoping to see those big antlers moving through the scattered pine trees. There was little chance of being detected, the wind was in my face and I blended into the fresh powder dressed in snow camo. I finally picked up movement to the right of the does and found the match for those big tracks left in the snow. He was moving directly away from me and by the looks of him he was definitely a "shooter". I made the decision to try a stalk regardless if it was the "sticker" buck or not, the clock was ticking and the foul taste of "tag soup" was closing in. I quickly looped around 150 yards to their right behind the ridge and out of their sight. My plan was to intercept them before they bedded. As I was moving through the sage I was shocked to see a herd of elk feeding on a ridge less than a half of a mile away. The contrast of their tan and brown coats against a blanket of white snow was so shocking I couldn't believe they had gone unnoticed. I thought to myself how great it would be to take a bull this late in the season in fresh snow in my snow camo, opportunities like this don't come around very often for a bow hunter. The buck however was still my priority and I thought if I blew the stalk I could try for plan B, chase those elk!
I continued on to get ahead of the does and belly crawled to the top of the ridge to peak over once again. My plan was working as they were still headed in the same direction. I finally reached my point of ambush and waited for the does to filter by me, hopefully with buck in tow. The first doe appeared less than 20 yards away. The wind was light but was now a crosswind. Suddenly the first doe became nervous and looked in my direction then slowly walked back in her own tracks. I could see through the trees the sure sign of my failed stalk, the bouncing white butts of a fleeting herd of mule deer.
I was still unsure if it was the sticker buck or not but it didn't matter at this point. I decided to go ahead with plan B, try to fill my elk tag! I began backtracking my own tracks in the snow toward the point where I had first spotted the elk feeding. Halfway there I caught movement in the sage ahead of me...it was a Bull!!! I was in the open but the snow camo made me invisible. He was walking toward a small group of trees about a hundred yards ahead of him and I felt I had enough time to intercept him. I suddenly noticed another bull walking in the same steps as the first bull and he was bigger. My plan was to let the first bull walk into the trees and assume the bigger bull would follow. As soon as the first bull disappeared into the trees I quickly moved forward, positioning myself with a small pine between us to conceal my movements to get within shooting distance. I crept to just under 80 yards as the second bull was now too close for me to move without detection. He suddenly stopped behind a group of trees and I used the soft quiet snow to my favor and ran as fast as I could to close the distance. I stopped within bow-range, slipped an arrow onto the string and drew back. I held my breath as he stepped into view his head turned toward me staring at the strange white statue. I released and the arrow flew straight and true. The bull sensed the danger and began to move, but the arrow had found its mark. As the bull ran full speed directly away from me the first bull burst from the trees and both ran side by side through the sage and out of sight.
I waited in the deep snow for an hour enjoying the sunshine and taking in the moment. I trailed the bull for a surprisingly long distance but there was not doubt by the signs left in the snow that the arrow had found vitals. I tracked him to his last bed in a small patch of timber close to a mile away.
I never did get a chance to see the sticker buck again. However I'm almost certain he survived the hunting season and hopefully the winter predators. And luckily I have forgotten what tag soup tastes like!
I had been after this bull for 4 days now. I had spotted him opening day with his huge herd of cows. However he had no interest in coming in to cow calls or bugles. He was content with what he had, and if I bugled he’d just gather the herd up and head for the deep timber. On the 5th day I got up high early and just watched the herd from a bare ridge. They eventually went into a thick patch of timber at around 11 a.m. to bed for the day.
I thought if I stalked in as close as possible in the late afternoon, maybe I could tempt him to leave the herd with some aggressive bugling. I headed into town and picked up my son Brandon from school at 3pm. Brandon would turn 9 in just a couple of weeks. He had been practicing bugling and cow calling since he was 6 and was exceptional at it, using only his voice and a tube.
We drove the 20 miles to the roads end and hustled up to where I’d last seen the elk enter the patch of thick timber. We quietly walked as far as I dared. I positioned Brandon behind me about 50 yards behind a big, fallen log. I gave him instructions about giving different hand signals when I wanted him to bugle, cow call or rake brush. I found a good spot in some tall sage about 30 yards from the thick timber. I gave Brandon the signal to bugle. He cut one loose and immediately the big bull answered back from about 100 yards inside the timber. I continued to have Brandon bugle about every minute, and the bull answered each time, sounding madder and madder each time. However he didn’t seem to be getting any closer.
I gave Brandon the signal to rake the big stick I’d given him. He started raking a small dead pine and I heard the bull coming our way. I gave him the signal to stop raking and signaled him to bugle. Finally the bull had more than he could take and I could see him coming out of the timber heading straight at me. He finally stopped about 6 yards in front of me. I was shaking like crazy, down on my knees, when he raised his head and let out a blood curdling bugle. He was so close I could see his ivories when he bugled. I knew things weren’t looking good because he was so close. After about 30 seconds of looking around and seeing no bull, he headed back the way he’d come. I signaled Brandon to bugle and as he did the bull turned broadside at 30 yards. I’d already drawn my bow, and because I was shooting instinctive, I released the arrow a second after he turned.
I could see it was a double lung hit. I turned to look at Brandon and gave him a big thumbs up. Even at 50 yards I could see the huge smile on his face. As I was looking back I heard the big 6 x 6 bull crash to the ground. I went back to Brandon and we talked excitedly about what had just occurred. I told Brandon “you just bugled in a huge bull that I couldn’t get close to for 5 days”. At that moment I was happier about Brandon calling in the bull and watching it all unfold than I was about actually arrowing the big bull.
We waited about 20 minutes and took up the nice blood trail. Another 60 yards and I yelled “Brandon, there’s your bull. “ After making sure he was dead, Brandon grabbed the antlers and looked at me with the happiest smile I’d ever seen from a human. At that moment I was the happiest, proudest dad on the planet. No other hunting experience will EVER top that one for me.
Elk hunting with a bow is something I enjoy immensely for a variety of reasons. I love getting away from it all, enjoying the mountains, relaxing and most of all the chance to chase bugling bull elk. As many of you who have hunted elk know, seldom do things go as planned.
They're all in-season in central Montana right now.
A lot of folks have the perception that central Montana is flat and boring. They are only partially right. Central Montana is flat and fabulous — and the fall is prime time to enjoy some of the area's best wonders.
To start our weekend of father-daughter hardy Montana activities, my Dad and I drove out to the Slippery Ann Elk Flats outside Lewistown, Mont. Every year hundreds of elk gather here to sort their social posses for the winter ahead. Bulls bugle themselves hoarse trying to lure more females to their harems. They run themselves ragged trying to fend off other bulls from stealing what cows they already do have. It's actually a pretty fantastic display of the mighty animal kingdom. Bulls will lock antlers and spar with each other when things get really heated. The biggest harems we saw had close to thirty cows.
There were probably only about 200 head of elk when we visited the elk flats. My dad had been the week before and said there were close to twice as many. One of the patrolling park rangers said there had been some mid-week "activity" that scared off a number of the elk. We eventually deduced that he was talking about "rifle activity". The Slippery Ann Elk Flats lie in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, so shooting at the quadrupeds is a bit of a no-no in the area.
Anyway, the elk flats here are positively spectacular. Being on the Missouri River flood plain makes them a small oasis of green in a landscape of dominated by yellows and browns. The Missouri flooded exceptionally high this year, and our same park ranger said the grass wasn't nearly as lush as it usually is. He said they'd try and restore it the following year to prevent the now-dried ground from developing a habit of being fallow.
Next up on our to-do list was to try and evolve my hopeless self into a lean, mean fly fishing machine. Daunting, I know. I told my dad that I wanted to learn how to fly fish after seeing so many of my peers in Missoula enjoy the hobby, so we drove out to Ackley Lake to have a go. I can remember fishing at Ackley Lake when I was little, so having another go some 20-odd years later seemed entirely appropriate.
The trout were biting and we each caught a couple on our fly rods. I was happy to see that the elusive world of fly fishing was something reasonably in my grasp. It's kind of addicting.... you cast out... nothing... BITE!!... YES.... still there??? .....—-..... lost that one....start over.... cast... nothing.... cast....(repeat 10x).... ready to go home... cast... cast again....then... BITE!!!... ahh!!.... it's big.... oh my god I got one!.... MY FIRST FISH!! eeee!..... revel in glory.....cast.... cast again...
You get the idea, it's kind of fun.
This is going to sound so horribly cliche, but I can't decide if it's more exciting to catch the fish or more exciting to eat them. Cooked fish are BEAUTIFUL. Lemon slices and rosemary sprigs stick out of their bellies... plus a strip of bacon to help absorb some 'fishy' flavor. Our trout were about a pound each — two was more than enough for both of us. Trout, potatoes and green beans — possibly as enjoyable as the elk, hay bale and trout troika.
In driving out to Ackley Lake from our house in Hobson, we saw the Montana Bale Trail in full swing. As the pictures might imply, ranchers channel their artistic sides to try and make the best hay-bale display. Below you can see Wild Bale Hickok and Hay-O-Jima. They're pretty clever and always seem to provide a good chuckle during our highway time.
To the naked eye central Montana is flat and boring.... but a closer look at the landscape reveals a richness of exciting things to experience. The elk come out to bask in the last remaining days of fall, enjoyed by young couples, families, and other father-daughter teams like my Dad and me. The whole fly fishing thing, another skill I've somehow failed to learn over the years, this weekend became attainable and immensely fun. And lastly... when it got too hot for the elk and too windy to fish... central Montana's hay bales keep our eyes piqued for what lies around the corner.
Th'th'th'th'the'that's alllll, folks.
We set up over decoys on the Clark Fork well before dawn this morning, but had only one bird come within shooting range all morning. Naturally the duck surprised us while we were taking a coffee break and escaped unmolested.
Shots rang out occasionally up and down the river, but judging from the infrequency of the gunfire, nobody was getting into a mess of birds.
As we were packing up to leave around 9:00, we saw a handful of ducks pass overhead, and saw a couple dozen mallards settled on nearby farm ponds, but we had already made up our minds to grab some breakfast at the Alcan Bar and Grill in Frenchtown, which received notice from my hunting partner for its tasty, scratch-made bloody mary.
Although we didn't see evidence of any migrating ducks passing through, we did come across a couple hundred Canada geese in a hayfield right next the mill. Shouldn't be too long now until the ducks arrive.
SNOW REPORT FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 28th:
This is a public observation from
SNOW REPORT FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 14TH:
Closed for the season.
Snowbowl closed a week early this season because warm March weather melted enough snow to…
SNOW REPORT FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 14TH:
This is a public observation from
SNOW REPORT FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 14TH:
This is a public observation from