June/July 2012 EHJ (Issue 131) - Heading into the Nevada wilderness on horseback, I took in the breathtaking scenery surrounded by sheer cliff walls and listened to the constant clip clop of the horses’ hooves. Slowly they worked their way down the trail next to the creek as we rode through large stands of burnt pine trees. Years earlier, a huge wildfire had ripped through this drainage. I looked at the wildfire as a blessing as it opened up the landscape. Ridges that were once solid pine trees were now exposed, making it easier to find the elk that called this high mountain home.
An hour earlier, we had glassed a massive bull. The magnificent sight of him feeding in a meadow on a distant ridge with fresh snow highlighting his dark antlers will be forever etched in my mind. The bull had a big back end, good fronts, great width and was heavy. The rut was winding down and he had found a secluded spot to rest for the long, cold winter ahead. He was alone and in the process of putting away some calories, which I hoped would give me a little advantage.
How different this county looked from my first scouting trip in July. It was so green and lush then with wildflowers of purple, blue and yellow covering the landscape. Snow from the previous winter was still hanging around on the peaks and in the high mountain basins. It was a striking contrast as I glassed the ridges and basins below the peaks. Midday was spent capturing fantastic landscape pictures.
Now in October, the mountain was covered with the first snow of the season. For the past three days, the snow had fallen with fog blanketing the ground. I arrived at camp the day before with the crew consisting of Andy, Eric and Shane. We were greeted with a foot of new snow and thick cold fog. The weather forced us to stay in camp that night, as the fog would’ve made glassing a useless venture. My friends, Barry and Sharon, had been there scouting for a week, but for the last three days were essentially trapped in camp because of the weather.
Still riding in, I looked up toward the heavens and noticed the sun was starting to burn through the fog. As the sun won the battle, distant mountaintops were lit with the first golden rays they had seen in days. The snow started to melt and drop from the trees as we rode. Thankfully, the storm chose today to break, allowing us to glass and discover the bull we now traveled toward.
When Shane arrived back at the glassing point from dropping us off, he told Andy this was hopeless and never going to work. The bull was too far away and we would never get him; Andy told Shane to have a little faith. You never know how it will work out unless you try and if you have a great bull located, you go for it.
Barry, Sharon and I caught up with Eric, who had been hiking ahead of us. Eric had some bulls spotted down the canyon below us 900 yards away. We swiftly dismounted to take a look; there were three bulls. One of the bulls was heavy with quite a few points broken off and the other two were nice 6-points. These warriors who, just a few days before had been battling for breeding rights, had formed a small bachelor group. The bulls were busy feeding on the dried yellow grass, no longer trapped under this winter’s first snow. We mounted the horses and continued down the canyon toward the three bulls. They were bedded 200 yards away under an ancient mahogany as we came out of the trees in the bottom below them. Upon seeing us, they jumped up and headed for a break in the rim rock, making a flawless escape from these unwanted intruders.
For a full account of Michael's adventure, go to page 32 in the June/July 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.