Elk, And Then Some

What happens when an editor gets a mess of elk hunting photos? He dreams about elk.

Buzz Ramsey, Greg Stanger, Mike Donahue, Gary Lundquist, Brett Cooley, Norm McKean and Jason Brooks have all fired pics of 2009 bulls over to me in recent days, and just before waking this morning, I had a mess of unusual dreams — but thanks, guys!

Hunting elk, elk camp, elk woods, elk in the snow, elk on game poles, elk, elk, elk, elk, elk, elk, elk.

So I figured I’d share the eye candy today, show off a few of the REAL bulls and stories from those hunters.

WE’LL RUN ‘EM IN ALPHABETIC ORDER, starting with Northwest Sportsman contributor Jason Brooks’ weekend hunt on a high, snowy ridge — unfortunately, far away from where the elk actually were that day:

Andy,

Here’s an update about the weekend. So Chad comes over for his first ever Westside elk hunt. We head out at 2:30 am on Sat to the trailhead where I took Adam in Sept., hoping those bulls were still in the same basin.

It’s snowing lightly as we head up the trail at 5:00 am. By the time we climb the 2,000 feet up to the ridge at 5,000 feet we are in almost 2 feet of snow.

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CHAD HURST, UP TO HIS CROTCH IN SNOW. (JASON BROOKS)

For some reason we decide to head to the peak of the mountain instead of skirting across open slopes with 2 to 3 feet of snow on huckleberry fields. I don’t know, call me crazy, but a snow slide body surf just doesn’t sound like an Olympic sport. As we near the top of the peak I am pushing snow up to my waist.

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HMMM, NO ELK BEHIND THAT TREE. (JASON BROOKS)

We look over into the basin and nothing. In fact, we never cut a fresh track and I knew that everything was in the timber, keeping out of the wet stuff.

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BROOKS GETS ANSEL ADAMSISH. (JASON BROOKS)

We decided to bail off and head back to the truck, and as we got back to the main ridge we ran into two guys who were camped up there. They say to us how they heard it was supposed to “warm up” by Tuesday and they were going to stay hoping to catch the animals moving.

By the time Chad and I hit the truck (six hours after leaving it) it was snowing hard. Within an hour it had dumped about 4 to 5 inches on the road. I can only imagine what it was like on the ridge! Those guys will easily be in 3 to 4 feet of snow by the next day and by Tuesday … well, no amount of rain will melt that much snow! I hope they wised up and got out of there.

Anyway, we head out and make the 2 1/2-hour drive home. Just as we pass Eatonville I tell Chad, “There’s some elk out your window.”

He replied, “Ya, right…wow,” and couldn’t believe it — 13 elk with 11 cows, 1 spike and a 5×5 only 20 yards from the road … in a plot of land that was posted “For sale” and no tresspassing.

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TEMPTATION. (JASON BROOKS)

We decide to turn around and knock on the door of the farmhouse next to the land, figuring if it was for sale, maybe the owner won’t be so protective of the elk, but no answer. So we drive back and I take a few pictures of the elk so Chad has proof that there really are elk over here!

The elk move off after I got out of the truck for the photoshoot, and it was a good thing since they were so close to the road with traveling elk hunters passing them — take away the temptation from those who can’t help themselves.

So, we should have known this was going to happen, as this is how Chad’s season has been all year. First he misses the buck that his brother killed (high hunt) then I get the flu and can’t be there for our Chelan County deer hunt. He calls me the last few hours of the last day and tells me he found a 4×4 on his way home — 120 yards behind a “no tresspassing” sign. I tell him that the sign in illegal and that it is on public land (I knew exactly where he was since I sent him there after he got out of the high country, asking for a good hunt on the way home).

Since Chad just completed his Master Hunter program he felt that even if the land was public and some land hoarder who is anti-hunting posted it to scare others away, it just wasn’t worth it, so he drove home. He called the game department the next day in Wenatchee and they confirmed that it was DNR public land. My dad also called the game warden, who he knows and is a friend. The warden is pretty upset and also states this is public land and they have already cited a land owner in the area for doing just that — posting public land as private to keep people away. The agent was going to take down the sign the next day and confront the possible suspect.

So, here we are again, looking at a nice, legal bull, in an open unit, on the only day Chad can hunt, during the last hour. And we took a few pictures, waved goodbye as the elk pushed into the timber.

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A 5X5'S LUCKY DAY -- LAW-ABIDING ELK HUNTERS SPOT HIM ... BEHIND 'NO TRESPASSING' SIGNS, AND THEY DON'T SHOOT. (JASON BROOKS)

And you know what, we felt good about it. Sometimes we get reminded through life’s little temptations, and that makes the rewards just that much better when you do things right and it all does finally come together. I just don’t get those who poach.

OUR SECOND HUNTER IS MR. BRETT COOLEY. His story:

This spike was taken within the Bethel unit (spike-only) of Eastern Washington within two hours of legal shooting time on opening day of modern firearm season, Saturday, October 31.

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BRETT COOLEY OF RENTON AND HIS SPIKE ELK TAKEN WEST OF YAKIMA. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

It was 450 pounds on the hoof, and since I had to pack it up an incredibly steep hill, I boned it out completely — 130 pounds of de-boned meat was harvested and my wife and two sons couldn’t have been happier with meat for the winter.

NEXT UP IS MIKE DONAHUE.

I shot this bull last Friday (in Kittitas County) and it was the first morning of (son Jack’s) first hunt with me. Not to mention it was my first bull after hunting elk for over 20 years. Needless to say, it made for a great story and an extremely memorable event for both of us. As you can see on his face, he was pretty excited.

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JACK AND MIKE DONAHUE WITH THEIR KITTITAS COUNTY ELK. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

After a long day of packing and hiking, we were extremely exhausted but I don’t think I could’ve scripted how I would shoot my first elk any better than how it unfolded.

GARY LUNDQUIST FORWARDED THIS PIC and story of Dan Gallagher’s unusual velvet spike, a rare phenomenon, but one that does occur, according to the state big-game biologist for the Colockum, south of Wenatchee.

The 2009 elk hunt started out well. I got my elk on opening day. This year the new rule is true spike bull in the Colockum area that I was hunting. The spike I shot was still in full velvet which is very unusual for this time of year.

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DAN GALLAGHER'S VELVET BULL. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

I saw many elk this year including a herd of approximately 250 elk right before dark Wednesday. We spent many hours in preseason scouting and 615 miles on my ATV which paid off.

NORM MCKEAN TOOK ONE OF THE BIGGER PERMIT BULLS we’ve seen, a whopper from the Cowiche west of Yakima.

This 6×7 bull taken by tractor salesman Norm McKean on Oct. 30 2009 at approximately 3:15 p.m. at 518 yards with a Weatherby Accu-Mark 30-378 Mag.& Leupold 4.5×14 Custom Calibrated Scope.

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NORM MCKEAN'S PERMIT BULL FROM THE COWICHE UNIT. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

YOU MAY RECOGNIZE THE NAME BUZZ RAMSEY and his hat from Northwest salmon and steelhead waters, but that dark Stetson does double duty protecting him from midfall’s snows.

He needed it on the opening day of his big-bull permit hunt in the Peaches Ridge unit just east of the Cascade Crest near the Yakima-Kittitas County line. Not only did he get his elk (a spike), but his group got two other bulls that day, including a 5×5 that required six guys, cable, come-a-longs, a snatch block, game sled and two vehicles to pull out of a deep canyon.

“They dropped over the edge and they didn’t get to it for an hour,” says Ramsey of his hunting partners who went down to retrieve Tye Hunter’s branch bull. “It was so steep you couldn’t even see the guys.”

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"THEY'RE NOT EVEN HALF WAY TO THE BULL YET," WRITES RAMSEY. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

"AFTER AN HOUR, WE SEE THEM." (BUZZ RAMSEY)

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"WE ROPE/CABLED HIM OUT USING A SNATCH BLOCK." (BUZZ RAMSEY)
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"THE ELK IS COMING UP -- IF WE CAN JUST KEEP THE TIRES FROM SPINNING." (BUZZ RAMSEY)
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ALMOST TO THE TOP. (BUZZ RAMSEY)
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"IT'S SO GOOD TO HAVE THE ELK ON THE ROAD ... AND IN THE TRUCK." (BUZZ RAMSEY)
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JIM SHERRILL AND BUZZ RAMSEY'S SPIKES. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Thanks, guys, for the pics and stories, I do appreciate it!