VOLUME 78-----------DECEMBER 2008
SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'
WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY
December 3, 2008
Better kick off yer shoes and grab a toddy, this one may take a while!
I'm gonna start this month with a bit of 'Moose Meat Mathematics.'
Let's begin with the premise that a mature cow moose will weigh upwards of 700 to 850 pounds.
Those of you with farm backgrounds may recall that a prime beef animal will net about 50% of its live weight in packaged meat in the freezer. While at best an educated guess, we'll assume that a moose will 'package out' at considerably less that that. For ease of figuring, let's assume 300 pounds of meat.
Now we'll factor in the expense side of the ledger. We kept no detailed records of our expenses during our scouting and actual moose hunting trips, but I can make some reasonable estimates.
Campground fees for the trips with travel trailers amounted to $240.
As early as mid August, we spent a night at the Eagle's Nest Motel in Priest River, ID on one of our scouting expeditions. After the RV campgrounds closed we spent several more nights at the Eagle's Nest and used that as our operations base for excursions into Washington's GMU #113. Cost: approximately $400
Most of the diesel fuel for the truck was purchased at Miller's Conoco in Spirit Lake, ID as we found them to be consistently cheaper than the Spokane area stations. (The good news was, the prices came down during the two plus months that we traveled to and from the hunting area. In August we were looking at well over $4.00 a gallon, with the last fill-up at the end of November costing $2.60)
As best I can reconstruct, we made over a dozen trips from home to the hunting area, with some of those comprising multiple days in the field. I believe even a conservative estimate would be in excess of $1,000 in fuel costs!
A new set of truck tires to better navigate the snowy roads we encountered in the high country came to just under $1,000.
Plugging in incidental items such as eating in restaurants and the additional equipment and hunting gear purchased for this endeavor brings the total spending on moose hunting into the neighborhood of $3,000.
Now for the math: $3,000 divided by 300 pounds would come to just under $10.00 per pound; not bad considering what we are paying for meat at the grocery store now.
However, we must next consider a mathematical concept I learned in one of Mrs. Murphy's long ago math classes: Any number divided by zero equals infinity.
Since my moose season ended without a moose of any kind or size, I guess my non existent moose meat would be considered infinitely expensive, regardless of how much or how little was spent.
That's right; NO MOOSE! Am I disappointed? Of course. Do I regret the experience, or spending the money? No Way!
Since I covered the scouting and early season happenings in the October and November newsletters, I'll hit the highlights of the rest of our moose hunting experiences.
But, before I do that, I want to express our thanks and appreciation to Greg Koehn for his unwavering support and guidance throughout our moose hunting adventures.
Greg is a friend and fellow Hunter Education Instructor, who is obviously looked upon by his community as a valuable resource in guiding their kids through the Hunter Education experience and for his knowledge of the area and the habits and habitat of its abundant game species.
Greg is very GREGarious (pun intended) and was tireless in pursuing information from friends, acquaintances, and strangers about moose sightings and passing along his knowledge of habitat, behavior, and hunting strategies. Greg seems to have the ability to talk with and obtain information from almost anyone he runs across. He had County road workers in the area calling him with sightings. He had hunters of moose, elk, and deer calling him with sightings. I once observed him talking to a Ceanothus bush, a favored moose browse in the area. Strange thing was, the dang bush was answering!
Greg Koehn (right) congratulating Tracy Gillis on his nice bull
You may recall that from the second week of the season through the November newsletter neither Ann nor I had even seen a moose. That record remained intact through our November 5th trip. (For the next couple of weeks we interspersed some deer hunting at home in between moose hunting trips. I'll cover that later along with a report out of my Brother's hunting cabin back in Missouri.)
With no moose sightings in our hunting area for over a month, we found it ironic that we would have a moose here at the house on November 8th. We think this may have been a nearly grown youngster that was here earlier this year with his Momma and pictured in the September newsletter. This antlerless moose would have been perfectly legal game for my tag had it been 60 miles north. Here is a picture taken through our kitchen window.
Moose in the driveway
On November 13th Rick took a day's vacation from work and followed us to meet Greg at the Safeway parking lot in Newport. From there we ventured up Idaho Highway 57 and came in to Bead Lake Ridge Road from the Idaho side. We scattered along the Forest Service roads and glassed clearcuts for several hours. About 3 or 4 inches of snow had fallen in the high country, which should make it easy to spot the dark colored moose if they were around.
Greg spotted a cow on a clear mountainside called Mosquito Point, and waved to get my attention. Before I could make it to the vantage point the cow had disappeared into the timber in the bottom of the canyon.
I did glass the clearing for a while and watched a large bull meander up to the crest of the hill and eventually disappear into the trees over the top. During breaks between the snow squalls and fog, I had ranged the distances to the midpoint and top of the hill with my Leica 1200 rangefinder and determined that the farthest point was just under 300 yards. Ranging into snowfall or fog will often give false readings, and it doesn't take much of either to fool the laser.
With the .338 Remington Ultra Mag I was carrying, sighted as it is, I could 'hold on hair' up to a bit over 300 yards and the trajectory should put a bullet into the vitals of a moose sized animal. At about 275 yards the bull stood broadside for quite some time, I had a good steady rest against a tree, but alas, my tag says "antlerless only" so I could do nothing but look!
With no more moose in sight, Rick and I walked a closed off and abandoned logging road along the canyon side below us. First the old road turned into a skidder trail, then a brushier trail with 10 or 15 year old trees in it, then to nothing but thick brush and bigger trees.
About this time a snow squall dropped over the mountain and enveloped us in a thick blanket with near zero visibility. It didn't take long for Ann to radio from the truck, asking, "Are you guys all right?" Of course we were, but when the snow blew out we had to navigate some thick and steep stuff to get back to the road without retracing the mile or two we had walked to get where we were.
After the climb out to the road, Rick remarked, "For a 66 year old, you sure didn't huff and puff much comin' up that hill."
Moving the trucks a mile further up the mountain revealed another clearcut with two moose in the middle. One was feeding and the other was bedded down a few yards below. Both were within 300 yards of where we were parked and there was good stalking cover to get much closer. But again, both had antlers! Ann and Rick stayed in the truck to watch for any cows that might join our two little bulls while Greg and I split up and walked logging roads looking for more moose.
When we returned to the hilltop after an hour or so, I finally had the presence of mind to take some pictures, but by this time the moose had drifted out to the 400 or 500 yard range.
Telephoto shot of the two bulls
November 19th found Greg, Ann, and I on another day trip that resulted in a brief glimpse of a cow and calf, but Greg's efforts to bust brush and get above them to push them out where I could get a shot came to naught. This would be Greg's last trip with us as his muzzle loader deer season opened the next day.
Ann and I spent November 25th and 26th in the Cee Cee Ah Creek and Mill Creek drainages, again overnighting at the Eagle's Nest Motel. We probably walked 10 miles or more on gated logging roads over those two days with nothing more exciting than hearing what I think was a moose crashing through the brush on a steep canyon side below us and spotting a heavy antlered whitetail buck chasing a doe.
After Thanksgiving dinner at Rick and Christi's, we decided that Rick and I would hit the moose hunt hard for two more days before calling it quits. We left early Friday morning and first searched the area above the Mill Creek basin. A long walk on a logging road netted us nothing but sign where someone had dragged a deer down to the road and two snowmobiles that were traveling on more 'wishing' than snow.
That afternoon we again tried Bead Lake Ridge with no sightings. While snow flurries had made visibility questionable at times all day, it began snowing really hard about dark. After a prime rib dinner at the golf club restaurant and a night's sleep at Eagle's Nest, we awoke to two or three inches of fresh snow and headed to Mill Creek, again entering from the Idaho side.
The fresh tracking snow encouraged us and we were confident we would get our moose! We were the first travelers to the road above the Mill Creek basin, and the many moose tracks in the road gave us further encouragement. We stopped on the highest point, spread out and began glassing a huge area of ceanothus and small aspen and fir trees below us.
Rick soon caught my attention with a low whistle. He had spotted a large bull about 200 yards out and below us on a small ridge. When I arrived on the scene the bull had moved to a position that placed his head behind a small tree so I never got a full, unobstructed view of his antlers.
However, Rick initially had a clear view through Ann's 10X Swarovski binoculars and described it this way, "They said Tracy's bull measured 48 inches wide. I'm sure this one was well over 50, and his palms were two or three times wider than Tracy's! He even had miniature snow drifts on his antler palms!"
That bull stood for several minutes at 200 yards with his shoulders and chest area exposed, and I again can do no more than curse because I have a cow tag! We looked hard for any cow that might be hanging out close by, but could find none. Finally the bull walked over the ridge crest and disappeared. It would have taken all day to gut, skin, quarter, and pack a moose out of that hole, but with Rick's relative youth and muscle to help, we were prepared to do it had it been a cow.
We got back in the big red Ford and started toward Pyramid Pass to check for tracks in that area. In a short while we met a truck with a man and woman whom we had seen cutting wood down canyon the previous day. We did not talk with them the day before, but this time we exchanged greetings and the man asked what we were hunting.
I said, "I've got a cow moose tag."
The man said, "No kidding? We saw a cow a few minutes ago. She was in the road above where you saw us yesterday. She just climbed up the hill and stood there as we went by. You'll see her tracks all over the road when you get down there."
Sure enough, the tracks told us a moose had come down from above, wandered around in the road for a while, and then climbed back up the grade. However, there was no moose in sight at this point.
A hundred yards down the road we found an old skidder trail that seemed to angle up the mountain in the direction the moose tracks had pointed. I started up with the rifle; Rick following with the day pack and shooting sticks. The skidder trail petered out after about 300 yards, and we were climbing over logs and through brush in steep territory. The snow was beginning to melt and the footing was getting worse.
Another 300 yards or so of steep climbing had us stopped for a breather. Suddenly we heard stomp, stomp, and crack, crack below us. The noise stopped.
Rick whispered, "I'll push through the thick stuff straight downhill if you want to start back down the trail. Maybe I can push her toward you."
Well, the noise had stopped, but the moose hadn't. As Rick discovered, we had pushed her from her bed in the snow on a little bench below us. How the heck an animal that size can move about in that stuff without being seen or making more noise is beyond me.
Anyway, I started back down the trail, slowly because of the slick footing. About halfway down, I saw moose tracks going down right over top of our tracks coming up! The tracks veered right, back left, then right again, crossing our previous trail three times in all. The last time she crossed and headed for parts unknown she was within thirty yards and in plain sight of the truck!
Below us the road made a sharp bend, so I rushed down to the curve while Rick followed the tracks, hoping the moose would again work down toward the road where I could see her. No such luck. The moose lit out and all Rick got was hot, sweaty, and tired.
So there you have it. We came very close but ultimately had to admit we were skunked. Neither of us actually saw the moose we were chasing around on the mountainside, but the tracks made us pretty confident it had to be the cow the couple saw in the road earlier.
As stated before, even without a moose, I have no regrets about this experience. I've already talked about Greg's dedication, and Ann and Rick were stalwart in doing everything they could to help in the effort as well. They both walked several miles carrying that day pack.
We saw lots of big, steep, and beautiful country, learned to navigate miles of logging roads in the Colville and Kaniksu National Forests, and I think Ann and I are in better physical condition than we've been in a long time.
Last but not least, I'll long remember the good ol' Eagle's Nest Motel in Priest River, Idaho. There's just something exciting about crossing a state line and spending several nights in a motel with a good lookin' woman!
The regular Missouri deer season opened on November 15th. I wrote about my brother Ed's hunting cabin last year, and the same group of regulars gathered again for opening weekend. On Sunday evening the 16th I got an email from Ed reporting on the hunt's first two days. I'll post some pictures and then paste in part of Ed's email narrative for some explanation.
(I will note here that I found it necessary to correct some spelling, grammar, and punctuation in Ed's email in order to bring it up to the standards required for my newsletters; this in spite of the fact that I'm the uneducated Hillbilly of the family while his formal education is near PHD level)
Jim, Here are some pictures of some of our opening weekend results. Besides what is pictured here, there were two other does taken on the first day.
The weird one (still in velvet) has a little history. My neighbor to the north has gotten trail cam pictures of this deer for the past two years and he never came out of velvet nor dropped his rack each year. He has simply been slowly growing and never getting out of the velvet stage. His bases are huge and the very end of each point was barely exposed and needle sharp.
The guy that got him is Shaun Bogle. He is a fraternity brother of Jason's (Jason is Ed's son in the picture on the left) at SWMO state and is now an MD living in Northern Arkansas. He has been one of our "hunting crew" for the past 14 years. Or better known as one our cabin rats.
The other bigger buck was taken by a banker friend of Jason's from Lawrence Kansas.
Now we'll turn to our deer hunting here at the ranch. I use the term 'hunting' loosely, as we're under no illusions that it's more population control than hunting. We see so many deer, so often, that we occasionally name them so we can tell one another which ones are around at any given time. This year, among others, we've had Big Spike, Little Spike, Stub, and Hell Bitch. This last one was named for the outlaw horse of the same name featured in the mini series "Lonesome Dove." She was always pawing and fighting with those around her.
Neither do we offer apologies for the way we hunt. Our house sits in an area overrun with deer. We prefer to step outside the door and shoot the deer rather than see them rot alongside the road after being killed by a car or truck.
Of the six deer taken by our family, three were donated to the Union Gospel Mission, one is being processed to be donated for a special dinner at the Elks Lodge, one was given to a friend who is having it converted to sausage, and Jennifer's was turned into jerky and pepperoni for family consumption.
You've seen pictures of Jennifer's buck and Ann's doe in last month's newsletter, so here are the rest. My doe tag was filled on November 8th and Rick shot his buck on the 9th. My buck was taken on the 15th, and Ann had to retain her bragging rights by shooting our biggest of the year on the 18th.
In addition to the 6 tags notched by our immediate family, Rick's friend and coworker, Gary Hamil came out on November 14th to try and fill his doe tag. Gary arrived at 2:00 PM and we were loading his deer into the tractor loader before 2:30. We were happy for him since this was Gary's first ever deer.
left to right: Jim, Rick, Jim, and the last two, Ann's
Told you this was gonna be a long one!
This month's hillbilly wisdom comes from the ol' Hillbilly hisself:
"Don't marry a woman who's a better hunter and shooter than you are unless you're willin' to eat humble pie at the end of most every deer season!"
Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!