The adventure is over. My first hunt outside of PA did not fill the freezer, but was an experience of a lifetime. My father and I headed to SW Montana for a 5 day Elk and Mule Deer hunt with Wilderness Connection in Gardiner MT. We hunted the Cinnabar Basin Area, which is the first stop for the migrating elk form Yellowstone Park. We saw many elk making their way to our area from Yellowstone through a neighboring ranch (no hunting) and prepared our week to intercept.
The first couple days focused on mule deer, the rut was in the early phases and large mountain bucks were starting to show-up. Day 3, after a 2.5 hour horseback ride then "still hunting" straight up for another 1.5 miles, I was able to get a shot a awesome 5x5 mulie. My 200 and 300 yard practice did not help for the 50 yard broadside shot, straight-down hill. First shot, miss, buck turns at me. Second shot, aim low in chest, hit. Buck turns and runs downhill. Finding bone at the scene and no blood was a bad sign. The snow was getting heavy and filling tracks quickly so I turned my guide loose, who was a 24 year old bully-goat. I caught up to him 2.5 miles later when the snow made it impossible for the tracking to continue. The only blood we found was when the deer laid down (which happened 5 times). From the time I shot to when we gave up it snowed 6"-8". Depression sets in. This lesson is forever burned into my memory, aiming low is not enough, very very low when zeroed at 200, shooting 50 yards.
Day 4, I was able to get into some elk. My guide and I dropped off my dad at ridge-line and continued to the top of a low peak (8500 ft). The bulging was in font of us 300, 250, and 200 yards. The wind was in our face and stalk was on. We settled in at 100 yards with cows even closer, glassing small bulls in and out of the timber. Saw two nice shooter at 100+ standing next to "No Trespassing ". I thought I was hunting in Chester County for a second. The herd was moving back the hay fields for afternoon feeding. An hour sooner we would have cut the herd off and pushed them back to our hunters. My guide and I backed out to try again tomorrow. However, tomorrow the would be a miss also, the elk moved back though during a "full moon" night into the next valley out of our area.
I my opinion this was a trip of a lifetime, it was everything I anticipated and more. The facilities and food were great. The comradery of guides and the other 5 hunters in camp made the down-time memorable.
We saw animals everyday, with one opportunity and a few "almosts". Plus, spending 5.5 days on the road with my dad sight seeing the mid-west, priceless.
Wilderness Connection, Inc. GPS N 45 06.934' x W 110 51.915'
Last day looking south into Gardiner
Electric Mountain north side of Yellowstone
The crew at supper, yes there is a TV
Guide John holding last year's 406" bull who didn't make it though the winter