I just had to scratch the hunting itch this week and that meant a two day flame run down to Mike Jenkins elk camp in Southwest Washington. Mike runs Upfront Outfitters and guides big game hunters in Arizona, New Mexico, and here in Washington. You may have heard him dishing out blacktail and roosevelt elk tips on the Outdoor Line this fall. He's great on the radio and even better in person. I wasn't quite sure what to expect heading to a new area and a new camp, but I could sleep under my truck during hunting season and be happy as a pig in mug.
I rolled into camp Tuesday afternoon and then followed the directions he gave me over the phone to a locked gate. "Just ride in as far as you can and you'll be in'em," were Mikes words over the phone. I hopped on my mountain bike at 2:30 and road for 4 miles until I had to walk up a long ass hill.
There were tracks all over the road that were two to three days old and the road was hemmed in by gnarly reprod. As I huffed and puffed up the hill with the bike I crossed some tracks that were..."Hey, those are fresh!" 5 seconds later the reprod erupts 30 feet away and three or four elk ripped off thru the black forest. I wormed my way in there to see where they were living and my gawd it was thick. Pretty much a dark, dingy hole with elk sign EVERYWHERE
Fat chance finding them in that mess so off I went to the top of the mountain. Huge, huge clear cuts up on top and I dropped the bike and slowly worked my way thru as many as I could before dark. Sign everywhere, mostly old though, but I did see 5 blacktail does. Just before dark I walked to the top of a knob that overlooked some more cuts on the back side. Halfway up I heard a bunch of cow calling and figured some jackass was screwing around with his cow call.
I crept to the edge of the overlook and there below me were 11 cows and a spike bull. The cows were meow-ing like crazy. I glassed every square inch of the hillside around them hoping to find a legal bull and nothing. Darkness fell and I flipped on the head lamp and headed for the bike. It was mostly down hill or flat all the way back to the truck and it didn't take long to reach the gate....especially in the dark with the boogy man after me the entire way
Mike had four hunters in camp along with one of his other guides and his son Mike, who does most of the cooking. 8 total people including me and plenty of room for everyone. We slammed down a hearty dinner of rib eye steaks, twiced bakes potatoes, Bulleit bourbon, and some killer wine that Jim brought. Hardly a party though, as these guys had been hunting hard and everyone was in the sack by about 9:00 p.m..
Yesterday morning we rose at 4:00 a.m., rammed down some chow and were at the gate by 5:30 a.m.. Mike and his guide Jeff Cannon had some elk patterned and they went that'a way and I once again hauled ass on my bike. I got to the top of the mountain just as the sun was starting to show and grabbed a stump to glass from where the elk were the night before. I glassed for about two hours and didn't see one living creature. In fact, I hunted every square inch of that hillside yesterday and the only living creature I saw was a squirrel that made an appearance when I was on my union break laying in some comfy grass in the dark timber. It was pretty windy out and I'm guessing that the elk were all hunkered down safe and sound in the reprod.
Tough day of hunting for me, but there's still no place I'd rather be. I got to the truck at about 4 and headed for camp to grab my gear. On the way out Jeff came screaming around the corner in his Subaru Forester covered in mud with Mike Jr. in tow and a cart in the back. One of the guys Jeff had been guiding had gotten a nice 4 point bull at 40 yards in the reprod and they were headed back in to get the rest of the animal. These guys had been into big numbers of elk every day and their hard work had finally paid off
Dave Wilken with his 4 point Roosevelt elk. It was also his first elk ever...pretty awesome Dave
Jeff from San Fransisco cookin' up the rib eyes on the fire
Check out this funky hunting bike. Not quite sure what to make of this contraption
Upfront Outfitters camp
Guest quarters...heated wall tents with cozy cots
The cooking and guide tent
We'll have Mike Jenkins on the Outdoor Line this weekend to dish out some hunting tips. You can check out Mikes website at http://www.upfrontoutfitters.com and if you're ever in Cabelas on the weekend swing by the archery department and say hello to Jeff Cannon. Good guy and one helluva hunter I'll be hookin up with these cats again...that's for sure.
Next week...duck and goose hunting at Mar Don Resort. I just picked up a new Browning 3 1/2 mag for this hunt