This story starts at the end of the 2010 elk hunting season. It was my first year of bow hunting. I went home empty handed but had a few chances at some bulls. But being new to the whole archery thing I blew a chance and the wind blew a couple more. During the months prior to hunting season I became fascinated with the idea of going on a backcountry hunt. I bought Cameron Hanes’s book Backcountry Bow hunting and read it front to back 3 or 4 times. I already had the season planned out so my back country adventure would have to wait.
Let’s fast forward a little bit. It’s now the spring of 2011 and the Oregon draws are complete and I didn’t draw any of the tags I put in for. At this point I decided this would be the year of my adventure. I tried to recruit my dad and brother to go with me. After about 3 months my dad decided he could not do a hike in backpack hunt due to bad knees. My brother on the other hand committed pretty fast. I have been buying and collecting everything I would need for this type of hunt. Our plan was to head towards are normal hunting grounds in eastern Oregon and pack into some pretty remote country. We were pumped and really looking forward to it. Well a few financial snags later neither of us could save enough money for fuel and food for the trek across the state. We decided to hunt a bit closer to home in the Cascade Mountains. I spent most of the summer looking at maps and scouting different areas we could go. The only down side to hunting in the Cascade’s was the Elk are scattered and very hard to find. I finally found an area we should go. It was a 4 mile hike from the trail head and it was very remote.
Time flew by and it was now September 15th. We were all packed up and rearing to get into the Mountains. Here is where our inexperience with backcountry knowledge bit us. In all of our excitement we way over packed so our target weight of 50 pound pack’s were more like 80-90 pounds. At this point it was too late. We strapped on the packs and headed down the trail. It was now raining on us and so foggy we could only see about 100 feet ahead of us. I think we made it about 100 yards down the trail before we need to stop for our first of many breaks. I think we thought we were in better shape than we really were. The only nice thing was the trail was a gradual downhill. Our plan was to hike down the trail 3 miles and then hike 1 mile off the trail to a couple secluded lakes I found on the maps. The only problem was with the fog we couldn’t see down in the basin where the lakes were and from the ridge it looked pretty steep, and with the extra weight on our backs we didn’t dare go down and end up getting stuck. So plan B came into play. At the end of the trail was another lake so we just decided to head down to it. By the time we made it to the rim of the lake we were tired and sore. We had a 800 foot ¾ of a mile decent left and we only had about 30 minutes of daylight left. And just as it was getting dark we made it to the shores of the lake and quickly set up camp and tried to find some dry wood for a fire. After the fire was going and camp was set we were finally there. I have never been so tired in my life! We made up some dinner then I wanted to throw out a bugle to see if we could get any response. No such luck but oh well I was tired and went to bed. Morning came early, and with more than half the weight unloaded out of my pack we headed up the ridge behind the lake. We found deer tracks everywhere within 100 yards from camp. Our hopes were high at this point. We also found a few Elk tracks so things were looking good. We got to an opening to break and I let out a bugle. We waited for a few minutes with no response. I let out another one. We thought we heard a bull call back but it was very quiet. After 3 more hours of hiking and glassing we went back to camp. On our way down we ran into the main trail that we took the day before and 50 yards from camp we saw a set of elk tracks walking right down the trail. They were fresh as they were not there the day before on our hike in. Our hopes and spirits were very high. We followed them to within 10 yards of our tents and then they headed straight up to where we just came from. Well we had some lunch and looked around camp and found some chicken wire. We went down to the lake and it was straight out of a post card. I have never seen water so clear before. While looking in the water we saw fish swimming and crawdad’s walking around. We had the great idea of making a trap out of the chicken wire. After about ten minute we had the trap made and baited it with some beef jerky. We attached some rope and tossed it in the lake. By now we have wasted enough time so we went back to hunting. After some long hikes and long glassing we saw or heard nothing else that day. That night while we were sleeping I woke up to noises. I’m not sure what kind of animal it was but there was something walking around our camp. The next morning we woke up to voices in the distance. They got closer as time went on and finally 3 men came walking down the trail to use the lake for some fishing. These guys have been fishing the lake for years and were familiar with the area. After talking to them for a bit and got some bad news about the deer and elk population in the area due to bears and cougar in the area. We decided to pack out of the area 2 days early before another rain system came in. We ended up going to an area we have hunted several times for the remainder of our trip with no luck. Let me tell you that pack out was a pain in the everything.
Here are some of the things I learned in my first backcountry wilderness hunt. Don’t over pack your bag. More than half the stuff I thought I would need I didn’t. I brought 4 fuel cells for my stove not knowing how efficient it was. I could have gotten by with just 1. Make sure you’re in top shape when trying to pack into the backcountry. Also make sure you scout a bit more and make sure there is game where you plan to hunt. Although I came home empty handed again I learned a lot about myself and what is needed for a wilderness hunt. I also became better at glassing. And have a Plan B. My brother and I still had a great time and I wouldn’t trade that time with my brother for anything. Now I have a late season deer hunt to look forward to. Hopefully I will have a successful harvest story to write about then.