17 October 2006

An Elk-scouting Hike

I picked up AJ Saturday morning and we set out on a hike to scout elk in an eastslope Pintler spot.

There was scattered snow beginning at 6500 feet or so elevation. We spoke briefly with a gang of Kalispell bow hunters who had been camped there a week, but saw very few elk. They were, of course, hunting way way way too low. I did not tell them that.

By the time we drove above 7000 feet, I had to turn the hubs in to climb across the icy spots.
We saw no elk tracks until we neared the 7600 foot elevation where we parked. There was fresh bear sign too. There were no man tracks. ZERO. The elk had been feeding extensively in the small openings and parks at this elevation, but had of course left early in the morning and ascended to their bedding grounds.

Photo: A mouse came to the end of its road, taken by a small hawk.

They were bedded in the whitebark pines at 8000 to 8200 feet in 3 to 4 inches of snow. We smelled them and circled around, intending to come in from above.

Because it was such a gorgeous day, we made a big circle--hiking up to the Continental Divide and eating our lunch [see photo of AJ with RolyTheDog] on the westslope scree. Out of the snowy trees and in the sun it was a pleasant spot. There was no elk sign at this elevation, but there had been a couple of very large mule deer bucks around, and we cut a set of wolf tracks that ran through a low pass.

As we headed back down toward the truck we busted up the elk herd at about 8200 feet. We were walking fast and talking loud but we were in amongst them before we knew it. RolyTheDog had a ball making little chases, and we got a glimpse of a cow and calf. There were tracks of a large bull along with 12 to 15 cows/calves. It was thick cover and the trees and ground were shaking as the herd ran off in several different directions.

Lots of snow coming this morning--looks like we might have an average weather year!

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