Change of Venue
July/August 2011 EBJ (Issue 66)
Oregon, 2009, DIY, Public Land
- Growing up on the west side of Oregon meant learning how to elk hunt in some pretty nasty brush, often in overcrowded conditions. Many of my elk hunting plans involved more dodging people than hunting elk in prime country. With some creative tactics though, I figured out how to satisfy my obsession, find some tucked-away spots, and put a few bulls on the ground.
The biggest problem I was having was with the space between my ears. I was always dreaming of a true wilderness adventure. To find this adventure, I would have to give up a lot - over 15 years of intimate knowledge of my area, hunting partners who for numerous reasons couldn’t change areas, and success in my own backyard - to go east and start all over.
After a few years trying one remote place after another with various hunting partners who were willing to hunt this new backcountry style, I realized this was going to be harder than I was giving it credit for. I was seeing the occasional elk and a few nice bulls, but was not getting into enough elk to fulfill my expectations and I was still having trouble getting away from people. What I was looking for was going to require going in deeper; way deeper!
So here’s the story I came up with. Find three guys crazy enough to drive ten hours through three states, head into the nastiest, biggest country, horseback ride three hours up a rock-strewn, brushchoked creek, and hunt in some of the hottest, steepest, most rattlesnake infested terrain in North America. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? If your reading this magazine, I know you think it does!
From the moment we popped out of the creek bottom on our horses, we were into elk. We quickly dropped off our equipment in camp and then went right into hunting. On the first night, my buddies Ryan and Trevor had two herds with six-point bulls to work on. One bull was a dandy 350-plus – a dandy for an Oregon bull. Ryan worked to within 53 yards of this brute, but chose not to take a risky shot at fading light. Jeff and I also saw one herd each; both with 300-class six-points. To put it mildly, we were a little excited at camp that night.
The next day was about the same. Everyone saw elk, had some close calls, and heard plenty of screaming bugles. We were starting to put the puzzle together on where to spend our time hunting. I had seen a deep canyon from a preseason scouting trip that looked great from a distance, and Jeff had confirmed it with a hunt up this canyon, seeing a lot of elk sign and hearing some bugling.
For a full account of John's adventure, go to page 18 in the July/August 2011 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.