Next to Skin
Next to Skin
Next to Skin
Next to Skin
All Logo Wear
Enter your email address below and click "Subscribe" to signup for notices when new posts are made to this blog.
Kissed by an Elk
Sitka in the Khalarhi
Black and White
Black in Balance
Author: Sitka Ambassador Travis Boughton
Nov 26, 2012
When Dad called saying he wanted to go elk hunt with Zack and me, we jumped at the opportunity to show him the amazing elk country we have here in Montana. On October 21st we met up, reviewed our checklists, hit the road, and were met with the hiss of a flat tire.
We threw the spare tire on and got geared up at the trailhead just in time for an evening hunt. That night and the next day we attempted to still-stalk elk through the dark timber – a tough venture when there are three guys hiking on frozen, crunchy ground. With little luck so far, and a storm front forecasted to move through western Montana, I decided to change locations for the night. We navigated our way through the falling snow, often unable to see more than 50 yards in front of the truck. The snow would allow us a huge advantage come morning. With a 6 a.m. alarm, I opened the frosted truck topper door to three fresh inches of snow covering our camp. The new snow gave me the chance to finally test out the Sitka Stormfront Gaiters, which proved a must for snowy/wet conditions.
I made sure not to tell my Dad exactly how far we would be hiking, since I wanted him to forget about miles hiked and just focus on shooting a bull. We made it more than halfway up the first ridge before shooting light, and at the top of the ridge, I spotted the first set of tracks on an old logging road. From a distance they looked like snowshoe prints, but upon further examination they were fresh grizzly tracks!
The bruin decided to walk up the same gametrail as I had planned on hiking, so I carefully followed the tracks, hoping he jumped off the trail further ahead. My Dad was getting antsy, always thinking the worse was going to happen – in this case, getting mauled by a grizzly. I reassured him that the bear didn’t want anything to do with us, and soon we came across two sets of elk tracks heading the opposite direction we were hiking. They obviously had sought out lower ground during the night. We pushed on, relieved to see the grizzly tracks head off the trail 1/4 mile later. My Dad was in awe of the beautiful white landscape before him, which helped to keep his mind off of his aching legs. We reached the location where I harvested my very first elk, but the elk weren’t there. We sat down and ate a quick bite, boosted our energy, and set out looking for fresh elk tracks.
As we worked our way back over the steep ridge, we came across four sets of large elk tracks. “You have the energy to follow these tracks a ways?” I asked Dad. He said he did, so we followed the scurry of tracks, and soon enough we found fresh, empty beds. We followed the tracks further as they spread out in the same general direction, but a good distance apart. We positioned my Dad in the lead so he would get a shot if he caught view of a bull. Zack was between us with the camera hoping to have enough time to film if we saw an elk. After about a 1/4 mile of slowly creeping through the dark timber, my brother stopped us dead in our tracks. He mouthed “bull,” pointing to the hillside 150 yards away. My Dad and I looked, unable to make out an elk. The timber was blocking our view, and before either of us could move the bull trotted off. Zack was smiling, thinking it was funny that the cameraman could have just shot a nice 5×5 while the two hunters could see nothing. I didn’t share the same feelings at the moment. We continued following the set of tracks through overgrown larch trees, hoping for the best. After tracking another 1/4 mile, I saw another bull looking at us through the trees! As I raised my scope, the bull took off. The whole time we were tracking these elk, we noticed there was dirt kicked up along their tracks, almost as if they were trotting through the woods. There were 5-7 sets of tracks in the snow, so we knew there were more than just the two bulls we had bumped.
As we bypassed a small clump of thick brush, I saw a dark figure moving through the dark timber to our left. At first I thought bear, but I saw an extremely long tail. I instantly dropped to a knee and said, “Wolf,” to Zack behind me. I quickly aimed my rifle into the only clear gap I had in the trees. The wolf trotted into my shooting lane. I settled the crosshairs and let the 8mm Ultra Mag rip. The wolf dropped, my quartering away shot killing him instantaneously. “I just shot a wolf!” I glanced back at my brother and Dad. “I just shot a black wolf!” I was awestruck and couldn’t believe what had just taken place! One second I’m following bulls, the next I’m seeing a wolf hunting the same group of elk as we were! I still don’t know how I was able to get within 100 yards of him undetected. I cautiously approached the black shimmer of fur, completely amazed at the sheer beauty these animals are to behold.
The size of these was unreal. I brushed the wolf’s long black hair, which revealed an eery silver undercoat, matched with a pair of vivid yellow eyes. Upon further investigation of the area, we found multiple sets of wolf tracks, some being larger than this black male. To be able to share this moment with my brother and Dad was priceless. My Dad only gets time to hunt a couple times a year and this was truly an eye-opening experience for him.
After notching my tag and getting a handful of photos, I loaded the jet-black wolf into my pack and began arduously placing one foot in front of the other as we climbed the steep, snow-covered hill. It would be a good 500 vertical foot climb to the ridgeline and then two miles downhill to the truck. I enjoyed every step of the way.
After cresting over the small peak we came across the logging road that would take us back to our truck. Before I stepped foot onto the road, I noticed once again a set of large tracks. It honestly looked like bigfoot had ambled through. Of course we knew better and soon found it was another set of griz tracks, this time even larger! Once again, the paw prints were going in the direction we were headed. Another 1/4 mile down the logging road the tracks wandered back into the forest.
We made it back to the truck, all things intact. No we didn’t get a bull for my father, but we did have one heck of a hunting experience! I couldn’t believe it, I had just put down an elk-killing machine. The predator that was hunting the same prey as I was. As humans, we feel we are at the top of the food chain, when in reality, grizzlies, mountain lions, and wolves rank as very close seconds. We all have the same motive: to survive. If it weren’t for grocery stores, humans would have to go out and harvest their own meat, which today is the healthiest meat in the world. Wolves have expanded into most mountain ranges in Montana, and we are seeing a decrease in elk & deer populations in many areas. As of now, the wolf population in the region has grown to more than 1,700, and Fish, Wildlife & Parks took stronger measures this year to help hunters reduce the population. The balance between wolves and elk is tilting to the wolves, and it felt great to help do my part of the management that FWP sets out for hunters each year.
Thanks for sharing. Stunning pics. Congrats! The deer/elk thank you I'm sure.
Mike St.Pierre Posted At 12/03/2012 03:39 PM
Great story and undoubtably an amazing experience for you!
Casey Posted At 12/02/2012 10:16 PM
What a great experience! Im sure this one got your blood pumping.
Nick Watson Posted At 11/28/2012 10:27 AM
Chris Senecaut Posted At 11/27/2012 10:30 AM
What an awesome experience Travis!
Greig McAlpin Posted At 11/26/2012 07:49 PM
Great Hunt! One of my dream hunts is to go hunt wolves. Great Job!
Shawn Posted At 11/26/2012 03:11 PM
POST A COMMENT
Subscribe to receive notices when new posts are made to this blog.
Note: Comments are subject to moderator approval. Your comment
will appear after it has been approved by the moderator.
< PREVIOUS POST
NEXT POST >
2013 SITKA® Gear - 877-748-5247 (877-SITKA-GR)