I certainly can’t say I do many of these straight to the point blog posts of a trip but I think this weekend’s recap is a good one to enjoy.
As I wrote a couple weeks back about mock hunts, I put that to the test this past week when I took a buddy of mine out on a coyote hunt that was truly a mock hunt to try out gear with a little coyote hunting added in. He has never been hunting and will be my hunting partner on this year’s elk hunt. Heck of a way to get into hunting!
I planned and truly wanted us to hike in about 3.5 miles to camp and get away from some roads in the wilderness. This was going to be a great opportunity to try out gear, get him setup on binoculars and a spotter as well as see how he feels from elevation change with some pack weight. I also thought that there is no better way to see how boots feel than by hiking in them for a few miles.
The plan was to set out early and hike into our spot by the late afternoon. I figured we would be set up and glassing before the evening rolled in and we could see critters starting to move around once the heat subsided. The forecast said 90 degrees and with some elevation, that always lightens the air a bit and lowers the temps a bit so it seemed to be a good go.
Well, we drove in, packed our gear and set out on our hike into camp. As we began hiking in, we realized a few things that were already going the wrong way. The temperature was way warmer than expected. That 90 degree high was actually 104 degrees. That was a game changer. Because the temps were drastically higher, the typical planned water allotment of 12 liters became the reality check that we didnt have enough water. To make matters worse, we had a creek on the map that was dried up and watering holes that had no water either. Our plan to scout water holes and possibly get additional water from another source was no longer there.
As we were hiking in, we stopped after 1 mile and talked about the plan. I figured we should stop and my buddy agreed. I realized a few things that made me truly decide that a pivot was necessary.
1. Lack of water worried me. I saw 2 so called watering holes that were dry. To hike another 2.5 miles in to get to another dry spot seemed dumb and a waste of precious water and energy.
2. We were still somewhat close to my vehicle. If we needed to bail, we weren’t too far by only being in 1 mile.
3. Since it was so hot, I knew animals wouldn’t be moving anytime soon so to waste that time struggling out there made no sense.
4. We needed to find shade and we had some nearby that we strolled upon while heading up on our hike.
The final decision was that we needed to hunker down and get out of the sun. We ended up finding a cave that was shadowed. We grabbed water, our optics and some snacks and sat in the shade for a few hours. Our goal was to hunker down until it got cooler. This would have given us the opportunity to move around more and not feel as warm. Plus the sun would be lower and we wouldn’t be in direct sunlight. As we hunkered down for a few hours, it became apparent that we were not going to make it until nightfall due to water. We had already drank 6+ liters and we technically still had a full evening and morning the following day to experience.
As we were sitting and chatting in our little shadowed shelter, we heard a loud BOOM! I got up only to look around the rock and see if was raining a few miles away and lightning was striking around. I got back into our hole and quickly brought up to my buddy that we’re in a predicament right now. While I wanted him to have a great experience, see some animals and try some gear out, I couldn’t fathom us being out there any longer.
We watched as the storm rolled in a bit further before getting our butts in gear and getting back to our packs. We packed up our gear, tent, etc and hiked down the mountain. As we were coming down, the storm was getting closer and closer. We could see spots of rain coming down with the thunder and lightning all over the place. It became the race to get to our vehicle. Who would win, mother nature or us? Well, the truth is mother nature already won but we needed to get a mini win for ourselves on this one. We made it back just in time. We had 10 minutes or so to spare before the rain hit. For a day that was supposed to be 90 and no rain, we sure got rattled with something different.
We ended up staying around the area to see if anything would pop out from the weather change. Once the rain stopped, I found a spot that had quite a bit of dead grass roughly 200 yards north of us. In the middle of all the dead grass, there was some green grass. My thought was that there must be some moisture and if there is green grass, likely bunnies would be around. If bunnies are around, coyotes wouldn’t be too far behind. I had my buddy take our caller out about 100 yards from the vehicle and I hit the bunny call.
My buddy had just gotten back when I saw a coyote jump out and run towards our direction. I had to jump off my binoculars to get my buddies attention which ultimately spooked the coyote. I wanted him to get on my side of the vehicle so the coyote wouldn’t spot his movement. I am not sure if he heard us or saw us but I couldn’t find the coyote anywhere past the initial sighting. We decided to pack up and drive up and down on a dirt road while looking for more spots that would contain some food for the coyotes and the bunnies. We did that for another couple hours until another large storm blew in. This time, the storm wasn’t going away. As a matter of fact, it must have lasted 3 hours.
As we were driving back, my buddy was reflecting on the day. He asked me, “so when do you just call it a day?” I proceeded to ask him what he meant by that? He then asked, “Well, at what point when you’re hunting, do you just say that the animals are somewhere else and they are not here?”
I actually get asked this alot. My answer is always the same. I go with my gut and if my gut tells me there should be animals here, I take 2 days. Otherwise, I will move by either hiking or going to another area. I have seen my share of good spots and bad spots. Sign is always something I look for. If I don’t see enough water, there is a concern for me. Then I look for food and shelter. Herbivores can eat alot of plants, grasses, etc so I feel that food and shelter are less important when it comes to the desert.
So why exactly do I say 2 days? If I find water, there is a likely chance I can build off this important piece, especially in the early season. If there is water, I start looking for shelter and food sources. If I find some cover, even if it’s a couple of bigger trees, I get a good feeling about the place. I then start glassing these areas and become relentless to prove myself right. I also think that if there was someone else there the day before me (not knowingly,) it could cause some animals to spook and knowing that I’m quiet, I need to give it a solid day before I will see anything due to potentially some prior commotion. Most animals I have witnessed always come back to their home spots except for elk. If you blow an elk out of an area, they move quite a bit and they arent coming back to that same spot for a while.
As we both looked back on the day, a few good lessons and some achievements came from our discussion that made me feel like today was a solid day.
- We had a heck of a time.
- We were able to test out gear as planned.
- We battled some brutal weather and persevered.
- We found a coyote in an area that I did expect would hold a couple.
- We made the right decision to pivot and get off the mountain due to the weather. Both heat and storms.
- We both learned that you have to make calculated decisions and the rational behind the decisions was key. It was the right move every time.
- We didnt give up. Persistence is key no matter if you made a change.
Sometimes things won’t go your way. They certainly didnt go our way. I’ve been on many hunts where things change and I could be hard headed with it and lose time. Time is ultimately the chance to punch that tag and tie it to an animal or take it home for some tag soup. I’ve always been able to adapt to the change and make something of the situation and that was important for my buddy to see. It’s also something vital for anyone reading to realize as a very important factor to your overall success or failure.
Cheers to the E2W hunts readers and until next time…
Scout, Hunt, Repeat