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Idaho Elk Hunt December 2003
Mark Snyder  

I did not get drawn for any of the fall hunts in Arizona. I was bummed. I was especially looking forward to doing some archery elk hunting, one of my favorite hunts. I called my brother, Dale, in Idaho the day I found out I wasn’t drawn. He said there were some leftover cow elk tags in an area near his place so I had him purchase my hunting partner, Rick, and I each one. It would be a general season, which meant I could use a firearm, which I was hoping, would increase my chances of getting one. My parents were also coming out from South Dakota, to tag along, and it would be the first time my folks, my brother, and I had hunted together since I moved to Arizona 17 years ago. I was looking forward to it.

The weather was unseasonably warm the week we hunted in Idaho. That meant the elk were up high and in the dark timber any time the sun was up. Usually within an hour of sunrise and just at sunset were the only times the elk were out in the open. It was a spot and stalk type of hunt.

I consider myself to be in pretty good shape. I ride my bike to work three times a week and it is about a 22-mile round trip. Given that, I was still unprepared for the steepness of the mountains around my brother’s place. The first day of the hunt we spotted six elk up on the side of a hill. I thought, “All right! Lets go hunting!” My brother said they were pretty high up and he was hoping we could find some at a lower elevation. Being the eager beaver, I thought, “It doesn’t look too high to me.” The openness of the country and size of mountains can be very deceiving, believe me. I found out over the next several days just how high the elk were. Unfortunately due to the unseasonably warm weather the elk remained at the higher elevations the entire hunt.

On the third day of our hunt we got into a good spotting position and waited for the sun to rise. As the sky was beginning to turn orange from the rising sun I spotted a herd of about 18 elk grazing in an open area about 100 yards from a timber patch. They were about a mile from me so I quickly started my move towards them. I wanted to try and catch them in the open before they got to the timber. As I said things can look deceiving. It took me about 20 minutes to get to where I had spotted them and all but two had already gone into the timber. The two remaining were a spike and a cow and they were in a small depression that led to the timber. I was only about 100 yards from them and it was wide open. I got on my hands and knees and started crawling towards them, as I could not get a clean line of sight on the cow. All I could see of her was her head every once in a while when she raised it from grazing. By the time I got to within about 80 yards they were in the timber. I was afraid to move too much because I didn’t know where in the timber the rest of the herd was and I didn’t want to get spotted. So I just sat there for about 5 minutes glassing the timber and contemplating what to do next.

Then the elk made the decision for me. Something spooked them. I am not sure, perhaps they winded me. It didn’t really matter, as that was the break I needed. Four cows came out of the timber on the dead run about 150 yards from me. I quickly got set for the shot and started tracking them through the scope. I gave a quick cow call and stopped them dead in their tracks. I put the crosshairs on the lead cow and squeezed the trigger. Down she went, then back up, down again and up again. I went to jack in another shell and the bolt had seized on me. I looked down at the bolt and hit it hard with my fist to bust it loose and reload. By the time I looked back up, the elk were gone.

I climbed up the hill to where I thought the cow should be and there was nothing to be found. I went from elation to depression as I expected her to be lying there. I started looking for blood and after about 15 minutes I found some. The blood trail went straight down hill and I found her behind a couple of large pine trees about 50 yards from where I shot her.

Then the work began. It took Rick and I about an hour and a half to gut, skin and quarter her. It was not fun working on the side of a steep hill. When I pulled the guts out of her they rolled about 15 yards down the hill, that is how steep it was. Thankfully my brother has a horse and we made a couple of trips to pack it out. Thank you Sonny! (my brother’s horse). I would not have wanted to pack that elk out on my back. It was about 8:30 in the morning when I shot her and we didn’t get her completely packed out till about 3:00 in the afternoon. That is some hard-earned meat.

The next evening we had a meal of fresh heart and liver, mmm, mmm. The evening after that was some fresh steak…delicious. I can’t wait to make some sausage out of the burger meat.

We hunted the next several days trying to get Rick in on the elk as well but were unsuccessful. On one morning my dad watched elk come out of a finger on the side of a mountain for about an hour and a half. He figured he had seen about 100 elk. Of course my brother and Rick were about 2 miles from that location so they didn’t stand a chance of getting in on that action.

All in all a very fun hunt and nice visit with my family.

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