March/April 2014 EBJ (Issue 82) - On the evening of September 10, 2013, I discovered it for the first time in my life. It was my physical endpoint. My hunting partner and I had pushed ourselves to the edge of exhaustion and dehydration. I told Chris that I couldn’t do this – I had to leave my load behind. We were both hauling our second load of the day out of the canyon. We had just enough energy left to GPS in with my pack and then tag-team his load to the trailhead. The guy without the pack would get behind and push up on the pack frame, helping to make the 40% grade seem like less of an issue.
The potential of this scenario currently unfolding flashed through my head when I found out in June that we had drawn this unit. The last time I hunted the unit was 12 years ago. At that time in my life I could do a hard 40 miles in a day as a pre-hunt test hike. My conditioning was rewarded in having the good fortune of packing out a Pope and Young bull. Now, at 48 years old, things have a way of being more difficult.
The summer months passed quickly and before we long we found ourselves making the five-hour drive to the Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon. My hunting partner Mark Eisenzimmer had drawn with me. Another hunting partner, Chris Aho, volunteered to join on the hunt as a caller and packer. During pre-hunt map studies we pinpointed potential areas that would hold elk and be a little less physically demanding. We told ourselves that we needed to hunt smarter, not harder.
Unfortunately, these easy areas didn’t hold good numbers of elk due to the 90-degree temperatures. The elk moved into the dark timber of the north-facing slopes to escape the heat. On the first day out, our plan to hunt smarter didn’t work, as we bailed off into a deep, ugly hole in pursuit of a couple bulls screaming at each other. By the time we got into position, the thermals started shifting with the rising sun. The bulls got quiet as they exited the country.
On the third day we employed a new strategy. We started earlier and got down deeper into the canyons in order to have more time to work with consistent thermals. We moved in below three bulls bugling back and forth at one another. Chris called in two of the three to less than 20 yards. Both bulls where not quite what we were looking for, so we elected to shoot them with a camera instead.
For a full account of Greg's adventure, go to page 28 in the March/April 2014 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.