1 December An Idaho Elk Hunt to Remember December 1, 2012By George McQuiston Elk In Rut, General Information, Guided Hunts Elk Hunts 0 This is a “short” story about a hunter/client/friend of ours who is part of a group of guys we affectionately call the “Cali boys”. His name is Bill Bunch and someone in his group has hunted with us consistently for 11 straight seasons. He is one of those guys that in my opinion is a true sportsman. Let me explain. He doesn’t eat, sleep and breath hunting, but he truly looks forward to his elk hunt each year regardless where it is. He is one of those guys who loves seeing the scenery and wildlife even if it is not the quarry he is after and best of all is always up for a new adventure and that is where this story begins. I know that the “Cali boys” are coming this year because their default ring leader, Tory S., has kept in touch and since they have hunted many, if not all of the hunts we offer except this late season elk hunt, they decided this would be the hunt they will hunt this year. I talk to Tory and explain that I have discovered a new area within my licensed area in Idaho that I would like to explore and asked him if he has has bought his elk tags yet as Idaho elk tags are zone specific. Tory says he has and has purchased an area 27 bull only elk tag. I says no problem. About a week goes by and I get a voicemail from Bill that says he hasn’t purchased his elk tag yet and heard there might be a new area to try and would I call him. I call him back and explain that I would love it if he would buy this tag and explained that if we hunted this area that we would be hunting in an area I had never been before at which comes a good belly laugh on the other end of the line with a comment to the affect “so what is new?”….Ok, so I Laughed a bit too and hung up with the anticipation of exploring a whole new area. Fast forward to the elk hunt and the boys arrive and I have to explain to Bill that because he bought a different area tag than his partners had, he would be hunting with a camera the first day. In typical Bill fashion he just smiles and says “no problem, just glad to be here” and off we go. No good in that area so we move over to our lower camp and begin to “explore” what is out there. He rides some trails with each of 2 of my other guides who, by the way, have never been there either and come back with the report that one trail is almost impassable and the other is so steep that we couldn’t hunt it 2 days in a row with the same horses…not that great of Intel if I do say so myself. Well day 4 finds Bill and I on another 2 hour commute by horseback to his area allowed by the tag I talked him into. Too much coffee causing another pit stop and not one wanting to waste an opportunity to glass new country, I spot some elk right away and we see a bull in the herd so after a short discussion on how best to approach (in country we have never been) we set off on horseback until the country gets so steep we tie off and take off on foot. We find ourselves right in the area we last saw the elk and low and behold no elk….2 hours later…go figure. Knowing Bill as I do and seeing that the “top of the mountain” is within reach, I turn to him and ask “I wonder what is on the other side?” to which he responds in typical Bill fashion “I guess we won’t know if we don’t look now will we?” So off we go. The view is amazing at which point Bill begins to take some pics. Again a true sportsman in my opinion who just enjoys the opportunities our public land system here in America affords all peoples to enjoy. After a few pics and a short discussion about what we found, we sit down, pour over the map and eat a couple of “saddle bag sandwiches” and ponder about how to spend the rest of the day. After a short lunch we decide to follow an elk trail to “see where it goes” and as we are walking towards the trail, an elk bugles. We look at each other amazed as it is November 5 and this bull is bugling like it is mid September! We are in a wide open sage brush ridge so we sit down to start glassing where the elk are and we start seeing elk appear one at a time, but no bull ever shows, until finally he runs through the back of the clearing we are watching with no chance of a shot. So we sit there and discuss our options and we decide to go after the heard. We cow call and bugle off an on and the bull answers periodically and lets us know where he is. He is so close the last time he bugles, I swear we can smell his breath, but it was one of those circumstances that we just could NOT see him. We got a glimpse of a cow or calf once in a while but no bull. After about 45 minutes to an hour of chasing these elk, they finally give us the complete slip with that final bugle that says “I’m outta here”. We walk back to the horse and ride back to camp in the dark completely excited about the events of the day. Now most hunters would be discouraged. Not Bill. He enjoyed the day as much as I did. Well with the warmer weather…and a new tracked Polaris Ranger… we decided to try the upper country again which…well…left Bill to hunt with camera again. To which he was completely amenable! While we were on top, I mentioned to Bill, “why don’t we try a bivy camp right in the heart of all the sign you saw the other day?” Guess what he said? You guessed it he said “ sounds great!”. The morning we were going to head in I talk to one of my guides and verbalize, “I wander if this is such a great idea” to which they reply. “ Bill is so excited to do this, you can’t back out!” so off we go. We load a mule with the bare necessities of camp…you know coffee and freeze dried food and off we go on mine and Bill’s first bivy camp adventure into new country that he had seen for an afternoon and I had never seen except through binocs. As we are riding in we spot a nice branch antlered bull lying in a clearing and we pull up and decide that since, 1. we were not sure where we were at, and 2. we had no idea where we were going to camp, and 3. that we only had about 2 hours of daylight left to decide the answer to the 2 problems above, we had better pass on this bull. We rode on a bit further, decided on a camp spot, found the spring for water we were looking for and Bill took off for the last rays of daylight to “scout” while I took care of the stock and set up our Spartan camp which consisted of horse blankets for pads, manty tarps and our sleeping bags. For November, the weather was simply amazing. We slept warm and morning found us without even a frost on the grass. So after a couple of coffee singles and a hot bowl of oatmeal, we are off for the morning hunt. It doesn’t take us long and we are in the elk! We spot a spike and as Bill would put it “he is kind of old, but I suppose I could shoot it”. You see Bill is a meat hunter and enjoys the taste of elk and he figures the younger the elk the tastier the meat. So when the spike presents the shot Bill takes him and then the work begins. We prepare and load the elk and then go load camp and begin the long walk back to camp leading our horses loaded with camp and elk meat. We arrive at camp thoroughly tired from the long walk out and also thoroughly satisfied in having enjoyed a couple of days on public land in the backcountry. What a great hunt and memory. Hunting with guys like Bill is the reason we stay in this business…that and the big bucks…pun intended! Related Posts 10 Reasons Why Idaho is THE Best Place to Hunt in the West in 2014 1. Tags…Idaho has tags 2. Game…Idaho has always, and is doing even more so now, producing good QUALITY elk, deer and bear, and now we can even hunt wolves. 3. Opportunity…Some of Idaho’s backcountry hunts run for over 2 months giving you more than just that 1 week window in October to hunt and maybe even having to choose between hunts because you were fortunate enough to draw that “coveted tag” after “only” 15 years of trying in another state. 4. Opportunity…Many of Idaho’s hunts allow for multi species hunts during the same time. I personally do not know of any other western state where you can hunt elk, deer, bear and wolves all at the same time and in the same area…and have a realistic chance at harvesting multiple species. 5. Tags…Did I mention tags? Idaho is still offering OTC deer and elk tags first come, first serve. Some states have gone to “draw only” for all tags and species. Because Idaho has had such a bad rap from the wolf issue, hunters have NOT been coming here. Well, we can NOT rule out man is the ultimate hunter and with hunt tags going unsold for at least 5 years now, and wolf hunting and trapping going for the last 3 years, Idaho is seriously beginning to see an uptick in both numbers and quality of elk and deer in its backcountry units along with its front range units where wolf control has been more aggressive since the beginning. 6. Opportunity…When you buy an OTC deer tag, that tag is good all over the state, not just a specific zone. You can hunt early season mule deer in September and if not successful, you could end up hunting late season white tails in December. 7. Opportunity…In Idaho you still don’t have to “choose your weapon” as you do in several western states. You may purchase your archery stamp and hunt an entire month in most areas and again, if not successful, add up to another 2 FULL months of rifle season to your hunting season. Can you show me another state that allows this for trophy quality mule deer and elk? 8. Opportunity…Bear hunting in most western states has gone to draw only and is very restrictive. Here in Idaho you can buy OTC tags (are you sensing a pattern here?), and hunt with dogs, over bait or spot and stalk. Your tag for spring bear season, up to 3 months long, is still good in the fall for up to 2 ½ months of fall bear hunting…while you are hunting other species (again are you sensing a pattern here?). 9. No points system…Yes that is a benefit! Idaho is the last place left (that I know of) that one could really actually draw a tag for trophy species including big horn sheep, moose and mountain goats. Idaho has shorter waiting periods (2 years) and if you don’t harvest, you can try again! 10. No points “creep”…Let’s face it. Some hunts in other states could take 15-20 years just for an “opportunity” to hunt; and that’s if you started the process today! Hunt Idaho every year. Year after year! You could spend that time “waiting” by sharpening up your hunting skills for that day when you do draw that special tag instead of sitting on the sidelines hoping “next year will be the year.” Good Luck in you hunts! Why Hunt Idaho? Short answer. Because you can! Yup, that is the answer, because you can. As a sportsman/hunter first and an outfitter second, I cherish my opportunities to hunt out west and based on what I have discovered in my travels, reading the news and talking to hunters from all over the globe about hunting in “their” states, once again Idaho simply rises to the top as THE best place for an opportunity to hunt…bar none! Back in January of this year I blogged about the “ten best reasons to hunt Idaho in 2014”, well I am extending those 10 reasons indefinitely; certainly until someone can show me a state that has this much opportunity and on trophy animals to boot! After what we saw this year in the field and in talking to other hunters and outfitters, Idaho is simply THE place to hunt and unfortunately is the best kept “secret” out there. When I work shows in the east and ask hunters if they have ever thought of hunting out west or have ever hunted out west, it seems “they” all seem to think the west stops at Wyoming, Colorado and Montana. This doesn’t sit that well with a Utah and Idaho outfitter. Utah, unfortunately, gets lumped in with other states that are wonderful to hunt….if you can draw a tag. Unlike Idaho where tags are readily available over the counter, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Nevada are all draw states. I believe Colorado has over the counter tags for very short, choose your weapon seasons and no real predator hunting to speak of. In Idaho, you can hunt archery for a month and if unsuccessful you can pick up your rifle and head deep into a backcountry unit for another month and probably have just about as good of chance for a trophy size animal as almost any draw hunt in the west. All it takes is a little saddle time or foot soldiering to get off the beaten path. Even now at the time of this writing (December 1st) if you wanted to go hunt whitetails in Idaho you could head right in, purchase a tag and go hunting. What other states can offer that in December? And if you are willing to pick up a bow, you can still hunt elk and deer in some areas right up until the end of December. Wow! When it comes to predator hunting, Idaho is definitely second to none. Here in Idaho we can still hunt bears over baits or with dogs. Dogs have been outlawed in many western states along with baiting. We can hunt spring and fall with the same tag for bears and in the back country units you can even harvest 2 bears AND at a reduced price... again Wow! You can hunt mountain lions with dogs and you can even hunt wolves for an extended period of time. Heck some states have outlawed hunting mountain lions all together (you know who you are California) So if it sounds like I am proud of what Idaho offers, you better believe I am and as much as I wish everyone who reads this would book a hunt with us, I realize that many who read this will be Do it yourself (DIY Hunters), already booked with another outfitter or hunting with family and I am afraid the worst case is the poor soul sitting out all hunts “waiting to draw a tag in a trophy area somewhere else”. That truly is heartbreaking. Either way you make it to Idaho, by outfitter, DIY or family, just make it!…and bring a youth hunter with you because Idaho has, in my opinion, the best deal on youth hunting in the country! You will be very happy you did! Happy Hunting! 2010 Idaho Hunting Season Comes to a Close Hunting season in Idaho’s backcountry unit 27 comes to an official close on November 18 and this year the snow began to roll in about then. So after 2 days of packing out camp it was time to chain up and haul livestock over the pass to winter quarters and begin the drying out of tents, tack and equipment. Riding in to pack camp after the last hunter leaves is always sort of a bitter sweet journey. First you think “whew” we made it through and then you think “hell this is a lot of work” and then finally it sets in…the dreaded PHD; street name Post hunting depression. A common malady with most hunting/outdoor enthusiasts that find themselves suddenly thrown from the great outdoors into the great indoors due to a monster snowstorm and no open season…but wait now may be the time to take up mountain lion hunting, predator hunting or even cross country skiing. My cure for PHD thankfully came fast and came in the form of a to-do list that can’t possibly be finished by spring bear season, so there is no time to waste pining away that hunting season is over. Time to get to work planning for next hunting season:) This years season was pretty amazing. From some trophy deer to an amazing drop camp bull, to a 100% success rate on spike only elk hunt in Utah making new friends and getting to hunt again with some old friends. It was a pretty amazing year. We really appreciate each and every hunter we hunted with this year. I hope your Holidays are perfect! Spot Available for Late Season Idaho Mule Deer Hunt in the Rut Putting in for draw hunts in multiple states, at first glance, seems like it would increase your odds of drawing a tag…and you would be right…BUT it also increases your chances at drawing the potentially unwanted scenario of drawing 2 tags in 2 states and being married to a woman who only allows 1 hunt per year That brings us to the subject of this blog. We had a hunter book a late season 2014 mule deer hunt which is a draw hunt here in Idaho; it is a guaranteed tag if you put in for the draw on time in May, but if you wait until after the draw closes, you don’t have a choice. If you want to hunt mule deer in an amazing mule deer area…during the mule deer rut, you are out of luck until next year. Well this hunter put in for mule deer tags in multiple states and drew a tag that he had been trying to draw for 16 years in another state and he drew! Lucky him right? …maybe…he had drawn the late season hunt in Idaho and has a loving wife who wishes he would only hunt 1 hunt a year. Which hunt do you think he chose? That’s right, the other one Well, we made a deal with the fish and game that we would replace that hunter and they gave us only until 5 pm Monday August 4, 2014 to do so (tags normally need to be purchased by August 1st), so his “loss” could be someone’s gain! There is honestly only 1 tag and 1 spot available to hunt Idaho mule deer in the rut, in November, in the backcountry, by horseback, but you have to decide quickly. This hunt sells for 2950 plus tax and tags and we believe is about the best deal going on quality mule deer hunts out west. We want to know if there is anyone out there still interested in hunting quality mule deer in the rut. Contact us if you are interested. This must be sold by this Monday August 4th or it is a loss for Idaho of a nonresident fee and a loss for 1 lucky hunter. This hunt was originally booked for November 12-19, 2014 but with only 1 hunter spot available, we can be fairly flexible about choosing a 7 day period during the entire season which runs November 1-18, 2014 that works best for you. This is a fully guided 7 day hunt. Contact us today! The 2016 Idaho fall hunting seasons are almost here We are just a few short days away from the 2016 fall hunting season here in Idaho. August 30 is the opener of most fall bear hunting units along with statewide general archery season for elk and deer. Here in Central Idaho’s wilderness backcountry units, we are fortunate to enjoy a two-month long rifle season, so our first opener is bear season and we are getting ready. Our first baits have now been set, camps are getting readied, and firewood is being cut and stacked and come next Tuesday we will welcome our first fall 2016 hunters here at Wild Idaho Outfitters. We certainly hope that many of you will be taking to the woods this fall to enjoy the many wonders that this great state and country have to offer as far as outdoor fall activities. Hunting, fishing, berry picking and simply sightseeing all seem a little more enjoyable as the summer crowds return to the cities and the mountains seem to just welcome those who come to visit. The weather around here has been amazing and as the autumn approaches and the mornings get a little more brisk, we find ourselves longing for the high country, those amazing wilderness sunsets and the camaraderie that can only be found in hunting camp. Now that farm chores have finally gotten done thanks to the best brother-in-law money can buy, we can turn all our focus to meeting new friends and welcoming back old ones to our hunting camp back deep in the Central Idaho Wilderness. This year we are very blessed to have so many return hunters that we are simply grateful and humbled. We find some of our best and most successful hunts are with our return hunters as they have seen the country and our operation and know what to expect and how to prepare for a successful Idaho wilderness hunt. So, as the days get shorter, the mornings a little cooler and the mountains a bit more colorful, we do hope you will head out to the mountains, rivers and lakes and enjoy your public lands. Remember too, as you head to the woods, take a kid along. If you don’t have any, borrow a few…I hear they come cheap this time of year. See you in the woods! Photo: Heading in to set our first bear bait of the 2016 season with my A team of Wyley and Kelly (Tia opted to stay home and play in the neighbors tree house). Sun Sets on 2015 Wild Idaho Hunting Seasons 2015 will go down as one of Wild Idaho Outfitters most successful hunting seasons of our career. Beginning with spring Bear hunting where we enjoyed a full 75% opportunity rate to our fall hunting seasons where we went just under 100% opportunity rate on an animal. And most importantly, almost everyone who hunted with us this year lived. Those few exceptions were probably a little ill anyway. Yes folks that is one of my corny outfitter jokes. Honestly we had an amazing season with many returning hunters and also many new hunters that we now consider friends. I have said it before and I will say again, the best part of my job is the people I meet. Everyone who hunts with us here at Wild Idaho Outfitters leaves an impression on me, my guides and our families. We truly appreciate all those that hunt with us and hope our paths will cross again some day. I have inserted and you can watch the video of Kelly bringing out the horses from our high camp through the 9000 foot plus peaks pass and then dropping over 3000 feet to our winter pasture ground on our ranch in Challis. I hope you can see and feel the pressure fade away knowing we got the livestock out again another year. It is always a bittersweet moment when we hit the ranch. We are always happy (and especially this year) that the livestock and all the people got out safely, but are also a little saddened by the thought that we won’t be in camp next week. A lot of people ask, “So do you take the winters off?”. Man I wish it were that simple. We have over 40 head of outfitting livestock to keep fed, camps to dry out and put away, machinery to service or more likely to repair, tack to dry out and treat, and then there is the show/booking season when we hang on every email and phone call hoping it is some hunters wanting to book a 2 month Idaho elk hunting combo but begin their journey with a spring bear hunt and wanting to bring along 24 or 25 of their closest friends We hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends and have time to reflect on the many blessings we Americans have including the privilege of being to able to enjoy the use of public ground to hunt and fish when seasons are open. When given the chance be sure to thank God and a Veteran for many of those blessings. Please check out our gallery of pictures from this year’s adventures and if you hunted with us and don’t see your favorite picture on here, please contact us, because I may not have it in my possession to post. A lot of different cameras take a lot of different pictures and I don’t always end up with them all. God bless America and thank Idaho Fish and Game that spring bear season is on 5 short months away! Comment (0) Comments are closed.