It was time to get up and hunt, but the sideways rain and just-above-freezing temperatures weren’t make it very easy to leave the comfort of my sleeping bag. It’s one thing to be wet, and another to be cold, but soaking wet and cold? More than uncomfortable, that combination can be dangerous in the mountains.
So, Phil and I hunkered under the rear hatch of the Suburban and made breakfast. Rudy didn’t wake ’til later in the morning; I’m sure that his rest was much-needed after nearly 4 weeks of non-stop hunting in the mountains.
The rain continued, and continued, and we decided to head for nearby cell service to check the forecast. We also wanted to make sure that we weren’t going to get stranded, because the only way in and out of our location required driving through a rising creek, and over the remains of a mudslide.
We made it to the highway and stopped at the closest coffee shop – a place that was booming with hipsters and mountain-yuppies. Phil, still in full ASAT camouflage leaned over and said,
“I’ve never felt more out of place in my life.”
I told him that if he was uncomfortable he should go hide behind the fake potted-tree that in the corner. After all, camo is for blending in, right?
It wasn’t long before we were headed back to the trailhead and packing up to hunt. We followed the trail for a couple of miles, occasionally dropping down to check for safe spots to cross the creek that paralleled the trail. We wanted to hunt the other side, but all of the recent rain and snow-melt had the water roaring, and crossing wasn’t an option.
The trail was wedged between two steep mountains, and after following it for 3 miles, we decided to use another creek drainage to begin working up the mountain to our left. The theory behind using the creek drainage was to have a path that was more navigable and less choked than the thick mountain face; that theory worked…for about 200 yards.
We were soon neck-deep in oak brush, bushwhacking our way up the mountain. Everything was soaked, including us, and solid footing was a rare blessing. We climbed, and ducked, and pulled ourselves higher and higher.
We finally reached a small bench on the mountainside and found an elk bed and droppings. We climbed a bit higher and it started to rain. Or snow? Or hail? I’m not sure what it was. Phil described it best when he said, “It’s like the sky is dumping Dippin’ Dots.” Little white, bouncing balls of precipitation.
We didn’t know how bad the conditions were going to get, and we were somewhat stuck between cuts in the mountain that fell to either side of us. We could go straight up, or straight down, and that was about it. Rudy decided to let out a couple of bugles…
“Did you hear him?! “
I didn’t, but Rudy and Phil did. We continued to call, and were all but stuck in our position. Would the bull come in? Honestly, I didn’t see how he could. And, judging by the location that Rudy and Phil heard him call from, I didn’t see how we could get to him. As we waited, the conditions worsened.
As you can see, we backed off of the mountain. Dropping down to the trail was an adventure in and of itself; I ended up taking a 20-30 yard slide down a loose chute, and slammed my bow hard against a rock face. Once we got back to the trail the precipitation started to ease up momentarily, but after few minutes the skies opened wide. I’m glad we left when we did, and in the moment I honestly didn’t see any other choice.
We arrived at the trailhead after a 3-mile hike and I checked my bow out. The cam took a major hit, and showed visible damage, but it was still shooting lights out. The Elite Answer was up to the task of surviving mountain hunting!
The storm continued, we couldn’t cross the creek to get where we really wanted to hunt, the road out of here was deteriorating, and we were loosing daylight. We decided to pack up and head out to find a new spot. Yes, another one. The possibility of getting stranded where we were was real, especially with even more precipiation falling on an already “closed” road. We decided that we would use what little daylight we had to get out and find a new spot that we could hunt from tomorrow. We exhausted Plan A, got pushed out of Plan B, and now we were searching for a Plan C.
Lesson of the Day
Listen to your gut. That’s the lesson I learned on this day. I could have reasoned myself to all sorts of decisions up on that mountain, but something in me told us that we had to drop back down to the trail when we did. I’m always analytical in decisions, especially while hunting, but sometimes you just have to listen to your gut…your heart. I don’t mean to be dramatic about the conditions that we faced, or the location that we found ourselves in, but the moment came that I knew the three of us – three Dads with wives and young children – should make the smart move, the safe move, to come off of that mountain while we still had daylight, and before the storm got worse.
Gear of the Day
My LOWA Tibet GTX boots were absoultely awesome throughout this whole trip. I didn’t get one blister in 50+ miles of mountain hiking, and they kept me dry through rain, sleet, snow, and creek crossings. It hard to make a blanket recommendation for boots, because everyone has different feet and needs a particular fit, but if you’re looking for a high-quality boot for serious hunting, you owe it to yourself to try a LOWA on and see if they fit your fit. And if they do, you’ll be set! Look for a full review on these boots coming soon.