Monday, 25 November 2013

Pincher Creek High Efficiency Hunt 2013

Headed down to Pincher for me & Jesse's annual hunt on the November long weekend. We rolled in on Friday night and headed out at first light Saturday morning. We saw one white-tail about 5 minutes after leaving the house, but unfortunately it was on land we didn't have permission to hunt that weekend. Fortunately, we did see another good-sized doe about 30 seconds later! She was on the right side of the fence, but was on a hill top so it wasn't a good shot, and she took off before we could get any closer. We started to sneak up the hill after her, but unfortunately couldn't find her. Fortunately, we did see 2 more deer at the bottom of the hill on the other side! They hadn't spotted us yet, so we crawled over to a nearby downed tree branch for a nice shooting rest, with the pair about 100 yards out. I took the first one with a high-ish shot through the lungs and the bottom of the spine and she dropped on the spot. The second one didn't take off right away, so Jesse shot it too. Turned out they were a doe-fawn pair, and Jesse had taken the young buck. Pretty damn big for a fawn, though - we couldn't even tell he wasn't an adult until we got right up to him. 
Elapsed time: 15 minutes.
Back home, Andrea and Jorden were just getting up and heard the shots. "Already?" We got the deer home, and that's when the real fight began - the Pinto-Otis showdown over the carcasses. Better toughen up my gal for next year - she's got a 40 lb weight disadvantage to overcome.

On Sunday, after Linnea and Todd arrived, Todd joined us and the three of us went out all morning to the Castle Stock Grazing Reserve just south of J & A's to try for an elk. We had a great, extremely snowy day in the foothills and covered a lot of ground, saw a ton of elk tracks and beds, and even a few moose, but there were no elk to be found. For next year, we talked about setting up a wall tent way back in the reserve and taking a week off to go and find something. Anyone want to fly back to Alberta to join the fun?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Speed Goats

Since moving to Colorado I have wanted to go pronghorn hunting, but the tags here are difficult to get. Fortunately, in Wyoming they are begging people to kill them, and doe tags are only $35 out of state. So Jesse and I put in for tags last March and each drew one for a unit 2 hours north and west of Fort Collins, near the town of Medicine Bow. 

After 3 days of excessive drinking we packed up my truck and headed north  

Yeah, I bought a truck

We left on a Tuesday morning and got to our unit around midday. Wyoming gets a bad rap sometimes for how it manages wildlife but this unit was an example of something they definitely do right. It is part of a program called the Private Land, Public Wildlife program, where land owners get paid to allow Fish and Game to control access to their land. Basically we just had to apply online for a permission slip and had multiple sections of a mix of public and private land, with 2-track access roads on which to hunt, and all with minimal fences. 

The unit descend from higher elevation in the south, where we came from, and so we did not see any pronghorn for the first few hours, but that would all change. Once we lost some elevation we were in prime habitat, however this looks slightly different than what either of us are used to hunting. 

Fuck, it is flat, and there are no trees
A different perspective...
 The first animal we saw was a lone doe that we chased for half a mile before realizing we would have better luck keeping up with her by getting back in the truck. As soon as we did this we started seeing more animals, but everything we saw spotted us first, and was on the move before we were out of the truck. We spent most of the first day driving around, spotting large groups at over a kilometer and trying in vain to get close enough for a shot. We did get close (within 400 m) a couple times and got off a few shots from pretty far, but all of these missed. 

Ultimately we started realizing that a lot more stealth was needed. The pronghorn were spotting us way too early and were really unpredictable in how they would move, ducking behind some slight topography and then doubling back as soon as they were out of sight. With some knowledge gained, we headed into town to enjoy some local hospitality.


Originally we had planned to camp, but it is windy as fuck in Wyoming, and we are old, fat, and lazy. So we got some dinner and a hotel room and mingled with the locals at the famous Virginian Hotel, which is supposedly the setting for the first Western novel ever written.

Oh yeah, it looks just as classy on the inside
Needless to say, the locals provided some excellent entertainment, as well as enough second-hand smoke to cause Jesse to go into nicotine addiction relapse. 

Waking up the next morning, smelling like stale smoke and shame we realized we only had 3 bullets left, as I forgot the second box at home. So we had to drive back to Laramie (an hour away) to get more. Fortunately, there is nowhere for pronghorn to hide during the day, so starting at 11 am was not a big deal. 

The first pronghorn  we saw (a group of 3) were on the run before we even thoguht about slowing the truck down, but we got out to take a look around regardless. We eventually spotted them around 2km away from the road, and there was some actual topography between us that we could hide behind as we tried to get close. 

Needless to say, we spooked them pretty quickly, but walked up to the top of the ridge they ran behind and saw a group of 20 does on the other side. We were able to sneak around behind the ridge and crawl through the sage to within 200 m of them. Laying down, Jesse took a shot but missed. Fortunately they did not run too far, and he was able to drop one at around 300 yards. 
Sweet picture
 We were a couple miles from the truck at this point, but we quickly learned that the best thing about pronghorn, is that they are light enough to do this...

Once back at the truck we continued on down the road to a place where we had gotten close to some pronghorn the previous day. We did not see any animals, but there was a ridge off the side of the road, and on a whim we decided to check out what was on the other side. The ridge had a large water tank on top and we were able to walk up behind this to stay hidden. Looking out from behind it there were 6 pronghorn does and bucks. I missed two shots completely, but they did not care at all, which was surprising given how skittish they were the previous day. I eventually calmed down and nailed one at 220 yards. 

All-in-all it was good trip, and one we will try to do again. Anyone is welcome to come down as well- tags are cheap and you have to put in some time in March. It is definitely a different experience than other big game hunts as you get to see animals non-stop. Trying to stalk up on them is a blast, and you know you will get multiple chances. After reading some more since this trip, it sounds like a lot of people crawl up to 400 m to get to better position, so you might be able to get closer than we did, but longer shots are definitely the name of the game. I think I will hit the range a little more before the next trip, and try to dial my gun in a little better.

I'll leave you with some parting shots...

My truck being badass

Celebratory whiskey

Tenderloin...pronghorn tastes real good

Monday, 11 November 2013

Trans-Atlantic Migrations ( + Product Review)

I made a quick trip to la belle province last week.

In between a conference and seminar I managed to sneak off for a quick (24hr) hunting trip just north of the Maine border in the QC Appalachians. I stayed at Steeve's cabin, which perhaps not surprisingly, bears much resemblance to Caw Ridge. In addition to hunting, we had a bit of work to do on the cabin so Steeve kept me well fed:

This is venison, caribou, and wild boar (shot in texas) - also this was for one meal.

We were hoping for ducks, geese, and grouse: only the latter cooperated. It was a little too late and too cold for the migratory guys - although I did see thousands of snow geese just west at lower elevations.

Having not hunted for over a year, it took me a while to get into the groove:

I was using a Rossi 410 - this gun to be exact. This gun is amazing for two reasons: i) it has an interchangeable 22 barrel; and ii) it easily fits into a backpack. This will be my next gun purchase for sure.

Back to the hunt: after a little warm up...  I took to walking with the safety off (I forgot how quick grouse flush). Eventually I succeeded. This ended up  being the most expensive bird of my life: aka a $90 non resident permit.

Having little time to prepare a meal, I opted to return to Scandinavia. 

Examining our Swedish icebox revealed fresh truffles (Kim bought from Italy) and pasta. A meal worthy of a ninety dollar bird?