About 20 years ago there were no elk in Central Oregon, also considered high desert country. They migrated off of Mt. Hood once they figured out looking from the mountain to the East that there were nice bushy green spots and clear water lakes. So they began to show up in Shaniko country in pursuit of barley, wheat, alphalpha, CRP, and fresh water. When I first arrived on the scene, the elk herd was less than fifty and today there are a handful of herds roaming the area and some herds the size of 100 or more. Wapati, that is what their Native name is from the Indians, which means white ghost. This is because they have the tan butts than you can see when they run from you. They have great noses, and good eye sight. Which means when they are running in a herd they have a hundred sets of each all trying to bust you from your hunt. In the high desert, there is nothing really to hide behind, and the wind often changes directions which makes hunting them difficult. To make matters worse, when I am hunting for them I am bow hunting that happens to be my preference. When I am guiding, most of the time it is clients with rifles and even that task can be very difficult.
Elks are big and can run a long way, especially in the high desert. Their only defense is to run long and fast, so when you do engage them you have one shot because when they stop running they are in another county all together. Grover, a long time good friend and I had a successful hunt one evening and as the herd passed under him in a sage brush for water he patiently awaited a nice 6 point and took him at 30 yards. I was back behind him helping him call and watched the entire hunt unfold. His patience allowed him a clean shot at a nice bull that fell where he had shot him. It was so quiet that the entire herd had no idea what happened and just walked off.
That was a great hunt and a great memory that we will both share until our last breath. We then scallywaged his son into field dressing the elk. I am always very proud to be apart of the hunters experience especially if was their first bull.
I know folks, Raider hat and a hangover? He is really excited just doesn’t know how to show it.
This bull ended up rolling down the deepest canyon on the planet. The only bullet I found in him was in his ankle. apparently, he broke his neck in the fall because he expired at the bottom of the canyon. Took us all day to get him out.
Sometimes it can be very difficult conditions. Take this story, we were tracking this herd and I decided to get a head of them knowing that I could cut them off in one of the drainages to get my hunter above them to engage. It all worked out perfectly until….
This would have been a great photo if the bull would have been engaged and dropped where the photo was taken. However, it didn’t happen that way. The bull had a few cows and they were all paralleling the canyon below, they saw us and started to head up towards the top. Easy shot at 200 yards and they are hardly moving. I said “hold your fire, just keep him in your sight he is tired but he is heading up and we can easily take him on the top.” BOOM!!! The bull rolled to down 20 yards to the bottom and expired. I looked at my hunter like I was going to kill him for not listening but did not say a word.
This is when the work begins. First thing I do is find the young strong ranch hands and get some ice cold beer. Then talk them into going down with the hunter to put the elk on the retriever unit. I then call my other friends with the 2000 ft. cable winch and invite them over for cold ones.
This beats the heck out of packing them out on your back or even horses, but it does make for a nice picture later.
We have had some great memories out there and harvested a lot of elk steaks for the bbq.
The ODFW say that in Oregon, statistically a hunter harvest a bull once every seven years. I say, if you put your mind to it, and you work hard you can harvest an elk every year. As my ole friend and hunting partner used to say when he walked this earth with us…..”Time in the field Shay…Time in the field.” How right he was, R.I.P. Carl Fleming. I miss you buddy.