Remind me to tell the hotel clerk that my wake-up call was for 4:15, not 2:15. I got up and started to get ready before realizing that she had set the system two hours early. An honest mistake. So I took the extra time to get my gear organized and watched CNN. Anderson Cooper does not look any better at 3:00 AM than he does at 7:30 PM.
In the lobby was Wes Atkinson, one of his guides - Chance, and Wes' client Marty who had shot a 7x7 Elk last evening. Wes was going to take Marty to look for the elk. They were confident the elk would be found as the hit looked good. Chance and I headed to the ranch to try and spot elk moving from their feeding to bedding areas up in the hills. Unfortunately, the fog had socked in and neither Wes and Marty, or Chance and I could do much of anything except wait it out in the truck. That took several hours and it was just before 10 AM when the fog lifted and we were able to start glassing. Not long after we had visibility, Wes called. They had found Marty's Royal! This was great news and I'll post a photo of it later.
This area is atypical for elk habitat. In fact, it appears more like a place you'd hunt pronghorns. But the ranch has several old, trophy elk and you can see them from hundreds of yards away. The elk move from the large alfalfa fields to the higher brush covered hills every morning. The reverse happens every afternoon. Visibility is critical. If we have fog every morning it will seriously affect our morning hunts.
We saw 5 mulies but no elk. Chance and I headed back to the truck and headed to another area of the ranch. As we turned a corner, we bumped into this Prairie Rattler laying in the road. I shot some great photos and videos of this snake who held his ground and coiled up when I approached him for some close-up photos. This was the first rattler I've ever seen and this one was particularly nasty! Of course, I just couldn't resist the temptation to move in really close for pics and video. After all, it's no black mamba.
Watch this on HD Video (Parental Discretion Advised - 7mb)
We glassed the hillsides but never found the elk. It's very hot, close to 90 so we headed back home. On the way out I snapped some nice photos of this decent pronghorn buck before heading back to the hotel to rest up for our afternoon hunt.
After a nice siesta, Chance and I headed back to the ranch to see if we could find the elk. We glassed several hillsides, moved the truck a mile or two, then glass more hillsides. On the third set we hit it. We spotted the elk skylined about 1000 yard away. The bull we were looking for was looking at us along with about 60 head. We were busted.
We watched them for a while but they were nervous and with little chance they would come our way, we decided to drive in plain sight of them to see if we could get in position for their nightly pilgrimage to the Alfalfa fields. They moved over the ridge as we drove below them and Chance drove the truck to the top of a meadow. From there, we hoofed it up a hill until we were on a cliff face. It was an incredible vantage point and it took Chance about 1 minute to spot the herd. They were moving our way, but several hundred yards below us.
We decided it was prudent to get my bow. There was a chance they could swing up high and maybe give me a shot. We scurried back down to the truck, grabbed the bow and my video camera, then came back to the cliffs. By the time we reached it, the elk had already passed us and were heading below and away some 200 yards. All we could do was video tape them as they made their way to their hillside staging areas.
On our way out we hit the main road which separates the high hills from the green fields. We could see the elk on the cliffs right above the road waiting till it got dark enough to hit the alfalfa.
It was a great day. We found the elk, however they are in a massive herd. Tomorrow we are coming back to this spot and try to get them on their way back up the mountain. Let's keep our fingers crossed we have no more fog - or rattlers!