September magic

7 Sep

Discovering a shed antler that is hiding in plain sight, quickens the pulse almost as much as finding antlers with their deer still attached. This was another special September morning.

 This September seems to be heading for the annuals of “epic”. There is something special about this year, that is slowly becoming apparent. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say “slowly”; because this fall has started with a flurry over this past Labor Day weekend.

My wife breathing in the beauty of one of the many small islands found along the Pend O'reile River.

It was my friends idea; taking our wives for a nice kayak along the Pend O’reile River as a last “fun thing” before September really kicked off and we abandoned our wives for the mountains. It ended up just being my wife and I this past Sunday, but it was  great just the same. Being so close to the water as you glide along serenely in your kayak; there’s not much like it. What a great way to end the summer.

I couldn't belive how cold it has been getting at night. Monday morning was exactly that: COLD! But to the sportsman who craves the activities of the fall; it just means better odds that he might fill his tag.

Every since deer season started back on the 1st, there has’nt been much more on my mind; except maybe chasing rutting bulls within the next handful of days. This past Saturday and Sunday were filled with some very enjoyable time spent with friends and family…but it was killing me to get back out into the woods. Finally, Monday was all mine to use how I saw fit and I saw fit to get up early and head out into the crisp and freezing, autumn air. Everyone views a successful day afield in their own manner and my view might be considered simple by some. I had a few chances to fill my tag this day, but chose to sit back and observe this beautiful day I had become a part of. As I stalked across one of my favorite little gullies; I looked down to plan my next step as the sunlight revealed the curvy silhouette that was immediately familiar to me. With delight I recognized the form of a shed antler and smiled to myself like a child as I picked it up. I almost forgot the doe that I had been casually stalking and was close to giving up my deer hunt for a shed hunt. I broke my careful and stealthy form, to cast around for the antler’s mate…but then I realized that I was looking for antlers that were still attached to their deer! And then it was back to the hunt.

The day's prize strapped to my pack.

I put in a long and very hard hunt this day and was “only” rewarded with a smallish shed antler and some breathtaking sights to file away into my memory banks. Like I said before; my views of a successful hunt may be considered much more simpler, compared to the next guy. A little after two o’clock I succumbed to the miles and the heat (once the sun was up, so was the temperature; it ended up being almost ninety degrees!) and headed for home and a hearty meal. I was to meet a disabled friend later on and help him with his elk hunt; so I aimed to catch a quick rest and recharge my batteries. After a few pieces of my wife’s out-of-this-world, scratch made pizza; I wearily climbed back into my truck and headed out of town once again. I didn’t find my friends truck until almost 5:30 that evening and according to the pre-arranged signal; I bugled a sad note using my reed call and grunt tube and to be quickly rewarded by three quick cow calls from the trail below.

About the time we got on the blood trail; the cow was spotted only a short distance away.

I wasn’t sure what my friend had in mind; I just knew that he had a game camera set up over a trail that had provided some very promising intel that he was excited about. After I located him a few hundred yards down the steep trail, I found him in a nice little clearing, about to hang a tree stand. After the tree stand was hung; he climbed up and got situated. After a few minutes of whispered conversation, where he excitedly told me about the elk, deer and bear he got pictures of on his camera; I figured I’d better find a spot nearby and get settled.

I found a little depression to nestle into, just a few yards behind the tree and 15 yards or so off to his right. I had only been calling off and on for a little more than 35 minutes when I heard something coming in very quickly. I only had time to arrange myself into an awkward squat, with my elbows resting against my knees…and to realize how much in the open I was…before the “something” arrived on the scene. At first I only saw a pair of large and very dark ears, that were swiveling around like antennae. My first reaction was “what…a stinking moose!”, but quickly realized that not only was this not a moose, but it was a cow elk and she was headed right for me!
She was coming in on a string and seemed to know exactly where she was headed; the other cow elk that had just been talking to her! She came to a stop only 15 yards from me and seemed to look almost through me, with a quizzical look that said “I know she’s right over here…somewhere!” I couldn’t belive it that she was only fifteen yards from me and hadn’t spooked with me being out in plain sight! But then one word came to mind: OPTIFADE! That’s right! I had my personal Optifade cloaking device on! Well, after about 45 seconds (that seemed like 45 minutes), with my quads burning from the awkward squat I was in, she finally had  enough and turned to move along. As she left my field of view, I gave her a chirp with my reed call. This must have been all my buddy needed, because I heard the sudden twang of a bowstring; followed by her racing off and then a crash.
This was the last trip up the mountain. In my Mystery Ranch Crew Cab; I have the last hind quarter, the backstraps, tenderloin and neck meat from my friends elk.

I held my breath for a second before glancing up at my buddy. The arm held high was all that was needed to be said. As we whispered a few sentences about the shot; we heard her breathe her last breath only yards away. What a perfect end to a perfect day! We found the cow only 25 yards from us and quickly got to work. I packed the first rear quarter up the mountain in a bag he had used to lug his tree stand in. After I got the hind quarter to his truck; I went to mine to retrieve my trusty Mystery Ranch pack and to get some game bags. All in all, three trips up the mountain and two hours later it was a done deal. I wearily drove home with a smile on my face and a satisfaction that enveloped me like a warm blanket.

Today at work, once again my mind was miles away from my customers, emails and phone calls. My mind was stalking through the woods in chase of elk. Today was the start of my elk season…and once again I was stuck behind a desk and a computer! tomorrow will be my turn….!
Reading the signs of the deer woods.

*On the nature of gear; as always I’m using my tried and true Sitka Gear. This year they have several pieces constructed of Merino wool. And with me not being a huge fan of synthetic next-to-skin layers; I was very excited for these new additions to their line. I’ve been wearing the Merino Core zip-T over the last few days in the woods and I’m very impressed! Not only have I noticed that I sweat less, but have far less body odor after spending hours of stalking and bush whacking. While this may seem a little quirky for me to comment on; this should speak volumes to the scent conscious hunter. Besides the awesome temp regulating and scent control; I noticed that this piece also has significant wind resistance for a piece of this weight. I give this piece a 10 out of 10 and plan to order several more of Sitka’s Merino base layers. Now if they would only make Merino Wool boxers…then I’d be set!

Check out the new Sitka Gear Merino Zip T here: http://www.sitkagear.com/products/open-country/base-layers/merino-zip-t

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2 Responses to “September magic”

  1. rockymountainathlete September 8, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    Nice Job Luke! Success already! You’re gonna have a stellar season I feel.

  2. Luke Johnson September 8, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    Thanks guys! yeah, this year definitely feels special! I can’t wait to see what else the season entails!

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