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Ann's Corner

VOLUME 76-----------OCTOBER 2008

SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'

WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY

October 7, 2008

Well, it's time to report on phase one of the moose hunt!  I suspect you surmised that "phase one" means that there is yet to be a moose in the freezer, and phase two, or three, or more may be necessary.  You'd be absolutely correct!

Before I actually report on phase one, I'm gonna' open on a sad (also read mad) note and get on my soapbox for a minute.

For nearly 20 years we have rarely ventured from our own property for hunting.  The only regular exceptions have been excursions by 'shank's mare' to Larry's and Paul's adjoining acreages by permission.

This past week we hunted on Federal land in the Colville National Forest, State Department of Natural Resources land, and privately owned Timber Company land, all in Game Management Unit 113 and all currently open to public hunting,  fishing, and camping.

We were shocked and saddened by the proliferation of trash and litter we encountered on our public lands.  Nowhere could we look without seeing beverage cans, food wrappers, plastic bottles, cigarette butts, and other detritus strewn about.  How can people be such P. . . .

You know, I almost typed "Pigs" in the previous line.  Then I thought about the "lipstick on a pig" B.S. with which politicians and media pundits have inundated us lately, and decided it would be highly inappropriate!  To characterize the littering public, (or for that matter, many politicians and pundits) as Pigs, is probably a disservice to the porcine species!

Anyone who has raised pigs would know that a pigpen will have a designated area where the occupants go for their bodily elimination functions.  Or, in plain language, even pigs don't crap all over their pen until it becomes impossible not to lie around in it!

Another thing we noticed was that no trail or road is/was immune to motorized ORV travel.  No matter how far we walked on logging roads or skid trails ostensibly closed to all motorized traffic, we nearly always found 'wheeler' tracks.  (I guess 'wheeler' is the latest buzz word for what were once called 'four-wheelers' after 'three-wheelers' were deemed too dangerous for mortal man)  No matter whether the closure was by signage, locked gates, or 'Kelly humps', defeat seemed only a bit of ingenuity away.  (By the way, if anyone reading this knows the origin and history of calling the mounds of dirt and rock used to prevent vehicle access 'Kelly humps', please email me.  I've asked that question of several people and have gotten nothing beyond "I don't know.")

Now back to phase one.

Ann and I set up our headquarters camp at the Marshall Lake RV park a few miles north of Newport, WA on Tuesday afternoon September 30th.  Later that evening we were joined by Rick and Gary Hamil, in Rick's travel trailer.  Rick and Gary had volunteered to do the potential 'heavy lifting' often required in getting a moose carcass from kill site to vehicle.  Since bear season is open and they both have bear tags, an opportunity for a black bear would be a welcome bonus.

I've mentioned before in these pages that we've done the tent camping thing, sleeping in the back of the truck thing, piling sleeping bags and cots into a shack thing, and cooking on a camp stove thing on some of our outdoor excursions in years past.  I have nothing but admiration for those who choose to continue those traditions, but we choose not to do it this way anymore.  I'll show you what I mean:

       

Left to Right:  Our camp; Little Heifer (our chief camp cook); and Ann, along with Rick, and Gary at the dinner table

In our three previous scouting trips we had learned a good bit about the surrounding territory.  Thanks in large part to Greg Kohen, a fellow Hunter Education Instructor who lives in the area, we had a fair knowledge of how to access and navigate a good portion of GMU 113's moose habitat.  Greg was also our full time guide for the first three days of moose season, and would have probably continued had we not insisted that he break off and hunt the opener of his muzzle loader elk season.

Day one, October 1st. dawned warm, clear, and sunny.  Ann and I picked up Greg at about 6:00 AM and with Rick and Gary following along in Rick's truck, spent the day looking for sign and glassing old clear cuts in the Brown's Lake, North and South Skookum, and South Baldy areas.  We watched the day's temperature top out in the upper 80's.

We walked some old roads, skid trails, and game trails but saw no moose movement and ended the day without a sighting.  Although the rut should be in full swing, we figured the hot weather was keeping the moose holed up.  We did speak with two guys joyriding in an ORV who said they had seen a small bull earlier in the day, but my tag says "antlerless only."

Day two found Ann staying in camp cooking while Greg, Rick, Gary, and I ventured to the Cee Cee Ah Creek - Mill Creek network of Forest Service roads.  Our early morning efforts at glassing clear cuts again failed to be productive.

From our first vantage point, we could see another truck parked high on a point across the huge bowl we were looking into.  As we followed the road around the bowl, we found two guys belonging to the truck sitting along side the road staring intently through spotting scopes into the far side of the valley below. They were watching the movements of a pretty nice bull moose as their three hunting partners made their way up the valley in a stalking attempt.

As we participated in the ‘looking and watching’ we learned that the group consisted of avid hunters out of Vancouver, WA.  The tag holder was Tracy Gillis, 19 years of age.  The assistant stalkers were Tracy's dad Scott and their friend Tom.  The watchers were Mark and Kevin.  We were later told that their group's quarry was usually elk rather than moose, but since Tracy had drawn one of the twenty-five “any moose” permits for GMU 113, they were all there to help the young man bag a bull.

As we watched the drama unfold, my Swarovski 8 X 30 binoculars picked out another black object that hadn’t yet been identified. Redirecting the higher power spotting scopes confirmed that there was also a cow moose that was drifting in and out of the trees and brush on the far side of the bowl. Turned out there was a calf with the cow as well, but this wasn’t known until later. (I’d estimate the distance from which we were watching to be three quarters of a mile or more)

Finally the stalking party was in position to 'surround' the bull and as the shooter took a stand near the logging road above the moose, the drivers moved in.  They were moving through brush and trees that looked short and small from our vantage point, but were very thick and well over the heads of the men.  Two things happened:  The bull bolted up to the logging road, and the cow and calf ran down a game trail toward Tom.

Tom said later, "I thought they were gonna' run me over, but they turned into the brush about three feet away."

Mark, who seemed to be the good humor guy of the group, asked, "Tom, did it itch much after it dried?"

Meanwhile the bull stopped and turned broadside to Tracy at a reported distance of seven yards!  Tracy's borrowed Ruger Model 77 .338 Winchester Magnum spoke only once.  The bull was down!  Then the real work began.

This action all took place between 10:00 and 11:00 AM.  We met up with the group again about dark, just finishing getting the quarters and head into the truck.  This gave me an opportunity to take some photos and visit with Tracy, Scott, and Tom.

Tracy told me, "I really wanted to take my moose with my bow, but decided to carry the rifle instead when we realized how far in we had to go, and no way to tell what the situation might be when we got there."

It was interesting to learn that Scott had drawn a moose tag for GMU #117, just across the Pend Oreille River in the 2006 season.  I know people who have applied for moose tags for 20 years without being drawn, and here we had a father/son team who both drew within two years of each other.  As I recall, this was Tracy's fourth year of application.  Anyway, congratulations were in order, and here are some pictures:

This picture appeared in the August 2008 newsletter and was taken on our first scouting trip to the area.  Just to the right of the gray outcropping on the upper edge of the lower clear cut is where Tracy's bull was killed

Tracy Gillis

After the shooting of Tracy's moose our party continued to move down the Mill Creek drainage, spotting one more bull, but no cows.  Greg was making rutting moose sounds as we watched the bull slowly play hide and seek from across the canyon to the bottom just below us.  The opening where the bull last appeared was lasered at 311 yards with my Leica 1200, well out of range of the 1895 Winchester lever action I was carrying, besides being the wrong sex.

After the bull disappeared from sight, I suggested to Greg, "You might wanta' either quit making those noises or brace yourself, I'm gettin' in the truck!"

Day three, Friday, we again hit the area above North and South Skookum Lakes and then spent a short time in the high country above Cook's Lake.  Greg's grandson was playing in an away football game in Coulee City that he wanted to attend, so we called it a day around noon, and went back to camp for lunch.  That evening Rick, Gary, and I drove up to No Name Lake for a look-see, but found zero moose sign in that area.

After work and school Friday evening, Christi drove to Marshall Lake to bring Jennifer to join us.  Christi spent the night, and went back home Saturday morning.  Later Friday night, Kiira, Gary's spouse-to-be drove up to take him home to prepare for a day of ski run maintenance on Mount Spokane on Saturday.  By the time the people shuffling was finished on Friday I wasn't even sure where I was!

Saturday, day four, we awoke to the rainfall that the forecasters had predicted.  After a leisurely breakfast, Jennifer, Ann, Rick, and I drove to Bead Lake and set out on Bead Lake Ridge Road for a circuit around the lake.  Moose had been reported in this area and we did find tracks made since the morning rain.

Even though Ann and I had driven this loop on one of our recent scouting trips, this drive proved to be interesting, to say the least.  It seemed each time we would stop to look over clear cuts or openings, it would rain a little.  Finally about two thirds of the way around the loop it started raining in earnest!  The clouds dropped lower and lower, and nothing looked the same as it had our last and only trip through.

There are many forks and turns in the Forest Service roads in this area and we soon found ourselves without a clue as to whether we were on the right track.  Everyone's sense of direction was saying different things, it was raining hard, and the roads were getting muddy and slick.  We stopped, locked in the front hubs, and shifted into four wheel drive.

Thank goodness for the GPS sitting on the dashboard!  At least it told us in which direction we were moving.  (I had forgotten to bring the Colville National Forest Map we had been using, along with those I had printed from my mapping software, so that didn't help us)  Common sense told us to keep heading west and south which required bearing left at every fork in the road.  We finally emerged into familiar territory and came out on Cook's Lake Road.  Had I followed my faulty sense of direction on this cloudy, foggy day, we would have ended up in Priest Lake, Idaho!

On this note we decided to pack up and move home on Sunday morning.  The return home was uneventful but it took all the rest of the day to unload gear and get the mud off the red Ford with the pressure washer.

Greg, our volunteer guide, continued with his muzzle loader elk hunt and called me on Monday evening, October 6th.  His report was exciting!

"I saw a bull today that was bigger than Tracy's, and he had a big cow with him!  The cow was within 150 yards and would have been easy to get to; close to the road and no gates," he said.

This sighting was in an area that I haven't seen, a few miles south of the Skookum Lakes.

Ann and I plan to travel to the Eagle's Nest Motel in Priest River, Idaho on Wednesday evening after Jennifer's softball game, with Greg showing us this new area at first light on Thursday morning!  Wish us luck!

This month's hillbilly wisdom comes from a Des Moines Register interview with Larry Monson, an 81 year old Iowa golfer who had just hit his 10th hole in one!

"I don't mention it to people because it sounds like bragging. You shouldn't ever brag about golf, because you always have to hit another shot."

Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .

'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!

THE OL' HILLBILLY
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