Last year's 2nd bull season was a blast, if you enjoy wilderness camping and no elk. We did manage to eat 4 pounds of Tillamook Medium Cheddar Cheese and a 3 ft beef stick with other tasty morsels, but mostly we just enjoyed the country, the company, and eventually the constipation. But my boys put 42 miles on their boots in 4 days of hunting and only saw 4 cows a mile and a half away. I hunted a less remote unit the first season and killed a spike. This caused minor upheavals and the desire to kill a branch bull was outweighed by the chances of killing an elk; I had seen many more elk than 4 in the few days I hunted.
Not too many years ago, before hound hunting was banned in Oregon, we had good populations of deer and elk. With unregulated predator numbers the hunting has deteriorated to a bleak existence. When we moved back to Oregon the kids were excited. They have heard the stories of successful hunts, they have seen the pictures and all the antlers hanging in the shed, they have also spent enough time in the mountains to know that NE Oregon has what it takes to be a hunting mecca. Having lived and hunted in Wyoming makes this fact even harder to accept; they have seen good hunting, they know it exists, they know what good country looks like and they understand habitat and carrying capacity. NE Oregon has the country, the habitat, the space, we just don't have the herds we once did.
Corey is a JV football player and his last game is today, October 25th, the second day of the first bull season. He didn't hunt yesterday because he has to be at school to play, so it was just Tyler and Dad. We decided to hunt where I killed my bull last year. The snow this year was close to 8 inches deep, it was fresh, new powder that silenced most of our stumbles on the steep hillside. The air was crisp with a winter-like bite. The clouds hung heavy on the mountain top with intermittent fog/clouds keeping our visibility down to a minimum; it reminded me of my first elk hunt that happened on these same ridges Tyler and I hunted yesterday.
That hunt took place 28 years ago, when I was 12, and my dad had been out scouting for me and had found a nice bunch of elk with a lone spike. He had given up bull hunting by that time hunting cows every year. He knew the chances of killing a late season cow was better than an early season bull and with 5 kids to feed and a big freezer to fill antlers became less important. I could have drawn a tag with him, but I wanted a bull.
Dad didn't argue or even try to persuade me to hunt cows with him, all I got was an, 'are you sure?' So, with limited time off, one horse, and me in school dad found a herd of elk on Mt. Emily for me to hunt. We borrowed uncle Sig's 4x4 truck to make it through all the snow we had that year and dad and I left EARLY; it was a good thing too. A tree had fallen in the night and Sig didn't have chains, an ax, or even a jack in the truck. Dad used his bone saw to cut the tree through and then manhandled it out of the way, just far enough to the truck through; we were still on time. To put this in perspective the tree required cutting from both sides to get all the way through. I sat in the old, tan Chevy and roasted in my winter clothes while dad worked hard to make sure I was successful. I remember on the trip dad hit a bump that jostled us so bad I bounced off the seat and hit my head on the crossbeam that vehicle manufacturers conveniently place right where your head would hit if something like that happened. We got a good laugh out of it and I got a nice goose egg.