View Full Version : Tag Soup For Me........Again!

10-24-2009, 12:15 PM
I did a 3-nighter in GMU 33, same unit as last year, but this year I moved east of Rifle Gap SWA. I was looking for a buck, any buck. I figured too many hunters in that area and this was to be my first ever backpack hunt, and solo. This year I was up north of New Castle on the 243 RD. My first stop would be on hiking trail 1840 up what I believe to be Deep Creek. Here are a few pictures of the trail heading in.
My lack of knowledge reading a topo map was quickly evident as this area was a near vertical canyon and half way in I probably should have turned around and moved to a different location. I don't know, but believe deer do not hang out in such a place? Being set in my plan, I continued on and moved into the canyon about two miles. I found a great campsite and setup. I would spend two nights at this site.
I humped around the deep sides of the canyon a bit, but it proved to be very tiring, and with temps in the upper 50's-60's, quite hot. Fortunately I was camped right on the river, and water was not a problem. My plan was to sit and glass, but the narrowness of the canyon made that all but impossible. These two nights turned into nothing more than a camping trip and a good test of most of my newly acquired gear. The Paratipi was superb. I slept with my head towards the low end and angled my bag a bit. Lots of room that way, with the stove placed a bit off-center. Greg, thank you for the Tyvek! Made things a bit more cozy and comfortable, I appreciate it. Condensation was an issue, but only because I tore down camp very early in the a.m. Being in the canyon, the sun light never did reach my location so early. New trekking poles were a live-saver crossing the river a few times. Saved me from falling on the slick rocks several times. Non-cotton everything worked incredibly well, my feet never felt better after getting away from cotton socks, not even close to a blister. Small stove was awesome even though the evening temps did not require heat. Was really nice to dry the boots, socks, cuffs of pants, etc. MSR filter was great! Needless to say I saw no deer or elk, just a few signs of poop, and not many, so I tore down camp, re-packed, and hiked out, back to the truck. Now that I knew what a vertical canyon looked like on the map, I found some area further north on the map that looked much flatter. I was now headed up Cline Top Road to what I thought was more furtile grounds. A few shots of the drive up, incredible terrain, and in my book.....rugged, and nearly inaccessible.
I traveled to the very top of Cline Top Road, and things did level out a bit with more rolling hills, albeit steep hills. I drove down one of the several side roads, threw on my pack, and headed out down a steady down-hill section, off trail. Easy going, but knew the return would be a killer! I saw lots and lots of sign, tracks and poop. I am far from a tracker, and couldn't tell you how fresh any of the sign was, no clue. More than I'd seen in the canyon, so I pressed on. Back to my weakness of topo maps, this walk ended at about the 1.5 mile mark at a vertical cliff, I mean straight down!!! But this presented a wonderful glassing site, so I plopped down and glassed the far sie for a few hours. As I glassed, I thought to myself that if I spot a buck, there would be no way to him, no way down the cliff and to the other side. Bummer, but I continued to glass. As I got setup to glass, I soon discovered that I had lost part of my bino-adapter for tripod use. I had been hiking around with the adapter attached to the tripod, and the spacer nut had worked loose and fell off. So I was now hiking around with a 2.5LB tripod that was no use! Lesson learned, pack that adapter away in a pocket next time. I glassed "off-hand" but did not spot a thing. On the way down to this site I found a trickle of a stream and in my eyes, an elk watering hole. I filled my water bottles and Camelback, and poked around a bit.
Lots of what I think were elk tracks at this water spot. I hiked back up to this spot, moved up the side hill, and sat down for lunch and the water re-fill. I did not have an elk tag, but at this point I would have taken an elk sighting, and thought maybe one might show for a drink. Didn't expect a buck to stop for a drink, but the rifle was at the ready in hopes of.
And I thought this was an interesting poop-sighting, on the fallen tree, and a big tree at that, laying on it side, it must have been over three feet tall. Elk dropping I assume? I thought bear for a minute, but I am unsure?
That rifle/bino photo was my attempt at "Timberline Artistry". Timberline, thanks for your lastest brown bear hunt post for my inspiration. So I sit and enjoy my lunch for about an hour and nothing shows up. Now I load back up and head back up the hill, back to the truck, and it was a MOTHER. I was dog-tired when I finally reached the truck! Thank God I had a cold Coors in the cooler, as I was "DONE". Sad to say I spent that night in the truck, as I was just too tired to find a suitable campsite for the night. The next morning I started hiking before sun up, and made a few stands in what I considered "bucky areas" for a possible walk-by, but no dice. With zero sightings in three days, I decided to bag it, and hike back to the truck. I probably did close to 10 miles on foot and saw nothing, didn't even spook a critter out of it's bed! I was very discouraged with it all, but will get back out next year. Just hurts to know that I will again wait another year for another chance at my first big-game animal. Got to go and stir my soup, and it is not smelling quite right yet.....


10-24-2009, 12:24 PM
Thanks for the story. Everyone has to get and just learn the woods, critters and themselves, so good on you for filling your bag of tricks for next fall. After last fall I thought I was finally beginning to understand elk, but 9 days without so much as seeing tan fur humbled me greatly this year. An friend of my brother's just returned from Montana, same thing. And this guy knows and kills lots of elk. Turned out his herd was traveling over 7 miles one way at night to feed and water, then back their dark timber hidey hole before sunup.

10-25-2009, 09:24 AM
Great write-up. Sounds like you're "paying your dues" which will make your first success all that much sweeter. I remember well my first attempts at big game hunting and finding my way in the backcountry. Even though I was unsuccessful, I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. Learning new tricks, and seeing some great country in the process, that's what it's all about. I think you're on the right track, keep looking over new country until you find what you're looking for. Keep looking for "your spot," you'll find it.

Pretty rifle, BTW, looks like it has a few years on it?

10-25-2009, 10:17 AM
Excellent write-up and photos! Superb storytelling, with both the highs and lows of the hunt clearly laid bare, along with various things learned. Your photography really is well done and helps tell the tale beautifully.

I thoroughly enjoyed your report.

What chambering is your elegant Ruger No. 1?

David in OR
10-25-2009, 11:07 AM
Yes, great trip report. I feel your pain, as I transition from being an avid bird hunter with great dogs to a novice big-game hunter with only memories of my dogs. I see a lot of sign and does and yearlings and am working hard on my still-hunting skills, but my only shot this year at what I suspect was a good buck had me staring at the arse-end of a large blacktail, my GPS in one hand and map in the other, as it faded into dense cedars... /insert deep frustration smiley/ On the upside, on that same trip I was thoroughly checked out by a bobcat as I sat and glassed a small meadow, something that almost never happens when I'm sitting on my back deck having a beer. :)

My season this year was plagued by automotive difficulties. Two of three trips cut very short, once by a cracked radiator and then by a suspension damaged on very steep and rutted roads. Should have been out with my son all this weekend, but we had to limp back into Grants Pass out of the hills Friday to tend to his little 4runner, which he was so proud to be taking hunting. Then, since it could only be patched up, it was back home up to Portland, driving very carefully. At least I got to spend two full days in his company, and we maintained good spirits in the midst of some mild adversity and disappointment. Now, finally, our move out of state this week prevents me from hunting the last week of the season, when our blacktails might start getting rutty. <sigh>

Let's keep at it, though! :)

10-25-2009, 06:39 PM
Nice story, hiking/camping trip. You got to see some steep and deep country. I've been up Clinetop road a few times. Just beautiful up there. Wouldn't have recognized it though as its been over 20 years ago. At least you got some learnin in. I suppose that doesn't make tag soup taste any better. Mine is still simmering with two archery elk tags and waiting for a November buck deer tag to spice it up some.

Good luck next year.

10-25-2009, 11:41 PM
I had tag soup this year also. I think that there is a lot to be learned about life when you hunt hard and still shed no blood. Namely...that it's important to learn to enjoy the process. We've got to enjoy the hunting experience regardless of the outcome. Of course, taking a break, eating an avacado with a sprinkle of salt on some french bread while enjoying a great view of the mountains with the sun shining on my back makes that part pretty easy!

10-26-2009, 05:18 AM
An avocado??? What are you, nuts??

10-26-2009, 09:47 AM
Think on the positive side, by not shooting one you didn't have to carry it up that hill!! It is not unusual for my seasons to end without shooting either. Good story and an educational trip.

10-26-2009, 09:55 AM
Thanks for the encouraging words, all. That 1A is a .30-06 and I do love it, though it has been pretty finicky. I traded for it with a member of this board, and believe it was OzarkRambler, but I may be mistaken.


10-26-2009, 03:41 PM
Looks like some beautiful country. dont worry about the tag soup. i ate it for four years after my hunting career got started relatively quickly. looks like you are doing things right and what i have found out in my (although limited) experience all you have to do is get out there and have fun, the animals will come. keep it up and way to go on doing it the hard way. solo backpack hunting is a whole different animal.

10-28-2009, 10:37 AM

Great report! While you didn't fill your tag, you got a great deal out of the hunt, all of which build towards future success and better hunting. The photos and text make it seem that a bruiser muley in the bottom of that country would have been quite an effort to retreive, which would have been an interesting final chapter to this tale. Glad to have helped in a minor way.