(10/29/03 - 11/3/03)
A few days after opening day, 2003, a few of us were at the East Fork of the Bitterroot River, Montana, hunting for Elk. Below are some pictures. Earlier we went on to the Fort Peck Reservoir to hunt for deer. Click here for pictures from that.
Here is a map of Montana, with the location of Fort Peck Reservoir on it and the approximate location of the East Fork of the Bitterroot circled in red. It's south of Missoula by about a 2 hour drive.
As we arrived into camp on 10/29/03, and JUST as we got the tent thrown up, it started snowing. We're furiously running around trying to get everything ship-shape before the snow gets everything wet. Steve is pounding stakes along the perimeter in this picture.
The next morning, I start up Sign Creek before daylight. I'm going to do a long day, up through Sign Creek, the meadow, and then over into Copper creek to meet up with Bruce and Chip and Steve.
Here is a picture from the very top of Sign Creek, about 11:30am, 5 hours after I started up the trail.
Over the top of Sign Creek, I'm now technically in Copper Creek area, and here are some Elk tracks in the snow on my path.
A close up of the Elk tracks.
It's a very pretty, Christmas-like hunt back here in Copper creek.
Later in the day, we're gathering together to hike out all together. That's Bruce on the left, and Chip on the right.
Looking down into "Hole in the Wall" (Copper Creek area) from the steep steep switchbacks leading out of Hole in the Wall.
At the bottom of the "Hole in the Wall Trail" (next to the pickups), this is the sign post.
Zooming back, this is in the parking lot.
On 11/2/03, I take the ATV up to Fish Lake. This is what I found in the parking lot when I got to the bottom of the trail. Whoops! I guess I'm not the first hunter up the trail on ATVs. :-) That's my ATV in the center of the picture, these are all other pickups with empty trailers.
This is the trail head leading into the ATV trail.
A couple minutes up the trail, I run into 3 doe (female deer), and 1 pretty nice buck (male deer). I don't have deer tags at all for this area, so I take this action photo.
Along the ATV trail, this is the location I got my very first deer about 8 years ago. It was at dusk on the point way down the hill just before disappearing into the trees on the right.
At the top, this is the place I park the ATV to hike the rest of the way to Fish Lake.
Spinning around, this sign is on the other side of me.
This cluster of trees hides my favorite "tree blind" here overlooking Fish Lake. You can sit in those trees and rocks way up high, with good views of a game trail and the lake, sheltered from the wind and from animals seeing you. I've spent a few hours sitting in those trees on previous trips.
Here is a picture from inside my favorite "tree blind" overlooking Fish Lake.
I walked down to the lake, and this picture is looking back up the tall slope to my blind on the opposite side of the lake.
On hiking out, I found this group of hunters and their kids around a fire, with their ATVs parked here.
Steve bagged himself a big BIG 6x6 Elk (6 points on each antler) the day I was up at Fish Lake, so the next day (11/3/03) we all hiked in to pack it out. Along the path, there is a tree fallen across a stream. It has an old survey sign on it which is pretty strange to see on a fallen tree.
A close up of the survey sign.
We're about 5 miles in from the last place you can take a pickup, and here is Steve Sanders with his absolutely gorgeous 6x6 elk. Look at the size of those antlers!!!
Steve showing the size of this bad-boy.
Ok, most people will want to skip this link, but if you are curious about seeing how to field dress an Elk, you can click on the link here. WARNING: this is EXTREMELY GRAPHIC and bloody, you probably do not want to read this. But if you do, click here to see us field dress the elk. Enter at your own risk!!
Ok, the elk meat is now all in bags and cut up, and we're going to hike out with most of it (we'll come back tomorrow for the bit the 4 of us can't quite get in this trip). Below is Steve with the elk head on his back, which weighs close to 100 pounds. Notice he wrapped the elk antlers in bright hunter "marking tape" so that nobody mistakes him for an elk and shoots him during the 3 hour hike out.
A good picture of Steve with his enormous elk head.
This is me, with an 85 pound backpack full of elk meat, ready to start the 5 mile hike out. Sure, I felt good here at 3:30pm after just putting the pack on, but when we finally got to the pickup at 7:15pm in the dark, I was ready to collapse from exhaustion.
That's solid elk meat on my back.
Chip and Steve, making their way through the wind-blow-down timber.
Hiking out behind Steve.
Steve in front, Chip behind him.
Steve crossing a river. He is standing on sheet ice covering the stream, with a 100 pound load. :-)
And in the Salt Lake City airport while changing flights, I notice this "Laptop Lane" in the airport advertising "Peace, Quiet, and a T-1 Line". I'm back to civilization again!!
This was the end of our East Fork of the Bitterroot Elk hunt. Previously we had been at Fort Peck reservoir to hunt deer. Click here to go see pictures from that hunt.
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