It’s a mystery to me and many of my friends (and former employers) “what exactly goes on inside that head I carry around on my shoulders..”(and many have said as much over the years)?!
At last post it was midnight Ennis time, and I was whooped! …I said I was gonna ‘hit it hard this morning’ and well; I did except for whatever reason I cannot explain; I drove out of the motel and went 5 miles toward where I hunted yesterday, then turned-around abruptly and headed toward a destination-unknown..?
“Wait what..?” _________
There’s at least three reasons why I did it; take your pick…
I’m “an idiot” is the easiest, but lets skip that one and explain that while I’d said “the Utah guys’ report wasn’t discouraging” – in fact it was, once I slept on it. …That they’d said they’d ‘been there all week and hadn’t seen a black bear (but two griz)’; ..this made me think this was not the place to revisit?
With the exception of one small bear track I came across yesterday, I really didn’t see much sign otherwise; and when they said “they hadn’t either” - again, my ‘dreams of killing a bear’ were interupted by common-sense telling me to go elsewhere? …The problem with ‘my version of common sense’ is its’ often without using the proper map, nor any reamaining brain cells I have left. __________
Not only was the Utah guys’ poor report of bear-sightings a factor, but as I was leaving last night and heading toward Ennis, no less than a dozen campers with ATV’s on the backs of them were pulling into the area I’d just left; so this too played a key role in my spontaneous decision to try elsewhere.
…And finally, it was one of the Utah guys themselves who asked me:”You know where the tobacco range is; ‘we heard that was good’..?” and my hesitance at what the hell he was talking about, that stuck in my head and didn’t appear until much later…
However, after a sleepless night of tossing and turning and awaking to more pain in my lower body than I’ve felt since elk-season; I grabbed a map and took it to the shitter. Once there I thought “you know that’s not very far from here actually, but in the other direction..?” - As on my map at least it, was in big bold letters: “Tobacco Range”; how the other guys missed it is beyong me?
So before I knew what was happening I was cruising thru Virginia City and looking for the Granite Creek turnoff (ended up being just past Nevada City actually)..and turned down a one-way road without a clue where it lead, or if it even went all the way to the big green glob that indicated a National Forest’ was somewhere north of there? It didn’t help I was using the very basic of BLM maps and roads seemed to almost vanish into themselves for whatever reason..? ________
And this is where things turned bad. The roads actually vanished into themselves.
“Shit”! Finally I came to a handdrawn sign indicating ‘forest this way..’ and that I wasn’t the only dumbshit to have gone down the wrong road apparently?!
Well I put her in 4x4, having made that mistake before, and fore long I was on top of the world and looking down on what I said to myslef was “pure bear country”, but instead didn’t see butkus for over 3 hours.
It seemed I’d somehow gotten myself into a desert, rather than a mountain-range with forested trees or streams like before. I recognized the area for great elk hunting and amybe mule deer up there, but not so great anything else...?
So not seeing any 'spring bears' as I was hunting them; I just did what came natural and went in even further up the slippery slope…(idiot).
...Ten more miles by the odometer, "road-hunting" at a snails pace, and I found myself at a complete deadend of muddy snow-pack, up to my bumper, and nowhere else to go but back...?!
“Shit”! (…was not what I said)
...So I did, at a snails pace again, as the incline I’d traversed up was making my bad brakes squeal their last breath; …all the way down.
“…Total bust!” _________
Next on my list of stupid things to do, I instead of turning back toward Ennis, and toward the way I knew home; I took a right and drove blindly toward that “Ruby River” the biologist had confused me about..? And before I knew it I was passing thru Alder (had never been there before or even heard of it) and headed toward “the Ruby Dam” where I didn’t see a dam thing, but was quite pretty none the less..?
Backtracking thru Alder I surmised “there must be more National Forest accesses somewhere up this way…”; so turned and headed north. Since even parts of my state BLM map had vanished, I went to my State Farm Altas, but this only told me I was taking ‘a really long way home’ if I decided to, at the end of this bloody day..?
I don’t know why I passed the first three exits into the forest, but maybe it was just the names that didn’t sit well – hell they were so forgettable I don’t even know them now? Still when I saw “Wisconsin Creek” I just turned not having a clue where it lead, but did seem like thick-woods might be in my future, judging by the snow capped horizon…
I drove first by some amazing homes and the kind of cabins I’ve always dreamed of, and tried not to grow bitter at seeing them, but as is my nature I quit waving to their lederly owners’ after the first few. Within 5 miles I was in a National Forest and one not to shabby looking either..?
Except for one thing. Unless you had an ATV you weren’t going any further than I did without hiking and since my balls…well lets forget about my balls for a second, but my calves were not doing much better; …I maybe hoofed it a few hundred yards before returning to my truck and vowing to get a job as soon as possible; then get a god damned ATV as soon after that..?!
“Fuck it”! _______
“If ya cant beat em join em I always say..?” (…actually I haven’t in the past, but do now..)
Yup, this is my new motto and I aim to live by it, same goes for shooting hundred pound bears; first one I see next time out is dead meat!
If there were one plus-side to this adventure, besides the best day I ever had in Montana, it was a further appreciation for what this great state has to offer…as apposed to others I’ve lived or visited before. In the lower forty-eight there simply is no other comparison as far as places you can just 'go on a whim' or enter if you can reach them...and I’m really happy I moved to Montana, and cant wait to go after spring bear again next week…
Either the lady at the Ranger Station had her info wrong, or I dont know where I'm hunting? I got to the area behind West Fork Cabins and the roads looked fine and open? Lots of tire tracks all the way up the mountain?
I couldn't figure it out...?
...Being mister 'follow the rules' though, I parked and began walking up the mountain.
It didnt take long though before I began experiencing those familiar fat guy hiking issues all over again; shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and discomfort from having parts of my body rub together that haven't in a while? As I stood to hyperventilate for the first of many times today, I glanced back and realised I hadn't even gone two hundred yards?
I struggled on and eventually was convinced I'd gone "at least a mile"; when I heard something coming from behind and looked to see some old dude cruising along in an blue beater four-door Plymouth, and casually waved looking at me like the fool I was for walking?!
I went right back to my down to truck and said the hell with it, if he can I can too!
On the way back I was suprised too see 3 nice bulls with their horns in velevet, not huge yet of course antler-wise, but big bodied!? I hadnt brought camera on my little walk, so missed a shot; but was a neat encounter as they were less than fifty yards away; wind perfect and they never knew I was there.
The group of cows pictured above was in exact same place as bulls were earlier, but 8hours later on way out. Where ANY of them were hiding during season is the real mystery??
I found my 'meadows' as I remembered them, but after a two mile (very slow) walkabout on the logging road around it, and glassing them it from all sides; I headed back to look for greener pastures?
It seemed the higher I went the more brown it got and the lower was much lusher, so headed back down.
I walked up on this young moose and he let me take a dozen shots of him. It was very cool as he's the first one I've seen this year and only the second ever in Montana. While other folks see them quite regular I almost never do; so it was another neat encounter for the day!
I made mental note of the presence of several of these beeuties and while this one startled me a bit walking up beind me while I glassed the opposing slope; I didnt mind the visit.
Didnt see any bears this day, but whata gorgeous afternoon! Probably the nicest day I can recall in Montana? Not sure what it was, but I just felt great out there all alone and damn near was most of the afternoon, excpet a couple other guys hunting too.
I'm gonna hit it hard tomorrow too, even though after talking with two guys from Utah who have been there all week and seen no blacks, but two griz; I'm not discouraged...though am keeping my eyes peeled for the brown type?
I'm staying in Ennis tonight, here at cheap motel. I'll check back in tomorrow night and hopefully have had better luck on the bear hunt...as far as a better day though; its gonna be tough to beat!
..Especially considering I haven’t even left yet..?
I had a phone call first thing this morning for a meet with a tree-farm operation about some field work and it stretched longer than I expected; so there was that delay. Then the rancher calls as I’m pulling into the Vet to drop girls off and ‘needs me to run errands’, and I couldn’t say no.
He’s essentially my boss till I find real employment; and since he’s also my landlord - and has been a hell of a guy cutting me slack on rent; I was busy all afternoon hauling tractor equipment across town.
By the time we were done it was too late to go tonight, so I just put it off till morning. Because of this, I just spent last few hours pouring over my old maps and topos, studying the lay of the land once more - and boy am I glad I did…!?
Given this extra time to plan instead of just “going for it..”; I picked up the phone to try and get better info on road conditions and what the weather was doing down that way?
I called the Madison Ranger Office in Ennis and was reminded of how much of a clueless greenhorn I am when it comes to hunting in Montana, when she matter of factly informed me all those lovely well kept roads I drove on during elk-season “are in that shape because they don’t let you drive on them this time of year when it’s all muddy and covered in patchy snow drifts”. Wonderful.
This means I’ll have to hike up the roads and hunt them I suppose, but how far can I get...? When I hung up I was thinking this plan might not work after all? I’d fully intended on driving in as far as I could then hiking to a few meadows I recalled last year; now though these meadows would be 5 miles up (at least)?!
I called West Fork Cabins to get a forecast and he said “in the past hour it had been bright and sunny, foggy, with severe wind, then snow, and now sleet”? Not that I have the coin to stay there anyway, I was just getting a forecast but it doesn’t sound good for tent camping.
So I called some more FWP folks and asked more questions and between poor cell service on their end, poor map skills on mine, and some confusion as to whether he meant the Madison or Ruby River; when he was describing where I “might see a bear..?” …I was left with more questions than answers then when I started?!
...Oh I’m still going and leaving first thing regardless of original plans down the crapper. Once my mind is made up on this kind of thing, especially when it involves hunting something; there’d have to be a major catastrophe to keep me home now.
I'm just gonna have to sort it out when I get there I guess and hike a few miles too.
Did pull truck into the bay this afternoon and checked under hood and changed oil; so don’t need to worry bout that now either. I also cleaned my gun, scope, and binos, as I hadn’t done either in a year at least; so not a total waste of a day, but a rough start to this adventure already.
I've switched my phone off, so no more interruptions on this trip. Gonna get a good night’s rest for long day ahead. Still got girls and saved a days’ boarding-fees; since rancher caught me in time, but will need to drop them off first thing then hit the road…
Not sure I’ll be able to check-in tomorrow evening since I’ll likely hunt till dark, but might drive into Ennis for dinner – who knows?
I have lap-top, digital camera, and wireless so will try..?