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Author Topic: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose  (Read 7236 times)

Offline KP-Skagit

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Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« on: September 20, 2023, 08:41:06 PM »
This year coming into the draw I had an unshakable good feeling. At the same time I felt confident there was no way I was going to draw anything. This got me wondering... Was this the year for my dad?

The draw day largely went how it always, does hours of doom and gloom and complaining in multiple group texts of friends. None of my friends had drawn anything and my dad stopped checking after the last deer and elk tags were announced. However, about 6 oclock at night my dad called with news. He had drawn not only a bull moose tag but a sheep ewe.

My dad is not a stranger to moose hunting, in the late 80s and into the 90s he went on several moose hunting trips with my great uncle (mom's side) in northern BC and the Yukon. They brought back a moose all but one trip. My entire life has been spent starry eyed listening to those stories, dying to tag along. My dad was in his early 40s on those early trips, my uncle Ed in his 70s. Now my dad is 74, and my Uncle Ed passed away about 10 years ago at 92 but not before giving me his moose gun, a pre 64 model 70 300 H&H.

Upon hearing the news about the moose tag I grabbed the 300 and headed over to my dad's to celebrate (who's my neighbor). We were going moose hunting, and we were bringing Ed with us.

49 Degrees North is a bit of a special unit for us. It's the unit I harvested my first deer in and that same hunt I saw my first moose. By the end of the trip, I had seen a dozen or so moose, including hearing fighting down in the swamp below us.

My dad and I spent this summer getting over to the unit and covering as much ground as possible. Its vast. And the area we used to deer hunt has totally grown up and changed in the 20+ years it has been. As of writing this, we haven't seen a moose in the unit yet, though have found plenty of fresh sign. Not a huge surprise considering it was in the 90s every day we were there.

Offline KP-Skagit

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2023, 08:56:39 PM »
But what about the sheep? The sheep definitely took the back burner for us, in part because several of my dad's friends had told him it was a really easy hunt. The direct quote "you just drive around until you see one". We managed to spend two days in the unit in advance of the opener. We drove every road in the unit you could, multiple times, we didn't see a sheep and as we learned the access I started to realize this was going to be a lot harder than was anticipated.

My dad is a 74 year old disabled veteran, he received permanent lung damage in the service and then spent the rest of his life as a self employed contractor. All things considered he does pretty good and does way more than a lot of people 10 to 20 years younger than him. That said, uneven terrain and long hikes are really a fond memory of his. It seemed to me this hunt would have plenty of both.

Spoilers for anyone who read Huckleberry's ram thread. That was us.

Not knowing any better the opening morning found us and a close family friend on top of the Butte glassing. An hour or so passed, with me getting driven absolutely nuts by chukar before finally I spotted a lone ewe all the way down on the rim of the cliffs leading down to the river. I figured where there was one there would be more, showed her to my dad and we raced back to the truck down to where she was. She was in a very convenient spot for him to get into. We had to walk across about a 3/4 mile flat and we would be on the rim of the canyon. Maybe this wouldn't be as hard as I had feared?

Offline lewy

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2023, 09:00:03 PM »
Tag
Go hawks

Offline KP-Skagit

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2023, 09:13:57 PM »
We parked the truck and started out after the sheep, me in the lead, our friend in the middle and my dad taking up the rear. As we got closer to the canyon rim we started taking our time, watching the rocks and every nook and cranny one could be hiding in. I by far don't have a trained eye for seeing sheep, for some reason they evade me. We paused for a while to take a look at an old ewe skull bleached white on the ground.

Out of the corner of my eye I see two sheep about 200 yards away standing on top of some rocks watching us. They had me and our friend dead to rights, that said, they hadn't seen my dad yet. He snuck up the ridge to some rocks overlooking the sheep closing the distance by almost half. He got a good rest. Boom, sheep ran off, we looked, no blood. I tracked them a bit while my dad continued to the canyon, still wondering what the heck happened.

After feeling adequately satisfied it was a clean miss I came and joined them. It didn't take long to get a shot at another group of sheep, unfortunately again, the bullets didn't go where they were supposed to. Perhaps this would be harder than I thought...

At this point we all knew it was most important to get some confidence in the gun. Morale was rock bottom. I had sighted it in for him weeks earlier and was shooting inch groups at 200 and my dad is a good shot. We grabbed a lead sled from a friend and shot the gun a bit. 12 inch groups at 100 yards.... Ran into town, grabbed two boxes of different ammo. 3/4" groups. The ammo my dad was using was a different box of the same ammo. Clearly some quality control problems at the factory...

We went to bed that night feeling cautiously optimistic.

Offline KP-Skagit

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2023, 09:16:36 PM »
Some day 1 pics.





Offline KP-Skagit

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2023, 09:17:15 PM »
The hills have eyes.


Offline KP-Skagit

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2023, 09:54:09 PM »
4 am the alarm clock rang, coffee was poured, sandwiches were made and we were in the rig headed back to the butte from our deer camp in Winthrop. We knew today was going to be quite a bit different than day 1. The sheep knew what was up now, and we had pushed any that were in the closer canyon deeper into the unit and further from where you could drive. On top of this, the forecast was for mid 90s.

We parked and started up the gated road that runs east and west through the unit at first light. Again, I was in front, with our friend close behind and my dad bringing up the rear. We hiked out the ridges, glassed as much country as possible. We made it through the first two canyons and didn't lay eyes on a sheep.

On the road, the rim of the second canyon was about 3 to 4 miles from truck. I paused here and spent some time glassing even further into the area. I found some ewes, right on the rim of the cliffs down to the river. Two canyons further in, and another mile and half maybe more. My dad caught up and I let him know where things stood. He was pretty exhausted, it was about 10, starting to get hot, and those sheep looked about 10 miles away to him. I was also concerned of pushing him too far into the unit to the point it was too far back out in the heat of the day. This was going to be way harder than we thought.

We paused here, he had a sandwich and some water. Chatted with a ram tag holder who came by and watched more ewes on the far ridge. I also watched the first group drop down into the nearer canyon. At that point I asked my dad, if I drop in there and find them, can you make the middle ridge and come down for the shot? The answer was an enthusiastic yes.

I dropped down the center ridge and spent quite a while glassing to no avail. Finally, I made a move that allowed me to see the absolute canyon floor and sure enough, 9 ewes were bedding there. 450 yards... we needed to get closer. Our friend went back to lead my dad in and I found a spot to set up. Fortunately, the canyon allowed us to have a perfect rock outcropping about 225 yards from the ewes offering cover.

I sat waiting and noticed the ewes start to get spooky. I turned to see Huckleberry, the other ram tag holder and an acquaintance of our friend on the hunt sneaking by. I whispered out to him and he was kind enough to come sit down as the stalk unfolded. Not long after, my dad came down, sliding on his butt down the scree and picking his way through the boulders.

We got him set up on the rock, got him on the ewes, including the one I thought it would be best to shoot. He was tired, a bit winded and the day before loomed over him. He took a good while to get settled in on the rifle taking a very aggressive downhill shot. Once he was comfortable we all sat on the glass and waiting for the gun to ring out. I can say now, I have never been more anxious about a rifle shot, my heart pounded, my breathing a mess. After what seemed like hours, the rifle rang out, I watched the bullet hit the ewe, and the celebration began. Backslaps, hugs, laughs and big sighs of relief for all.

At this point my dad really wanted to go see his animal, unfortunately the terrain was not going to allow it. We sent him back up the hill with hiking poles and water and told him we would meet him at the truck. Our friend and I dropped down, cut up the ewe and took her down the canyon to the railroad tracks along the river. The canyon was hardly passable for us, we made the right move.

The road out for my dad was even longer than the road in. He took the shot at 11 oclock, it was 6 PM before he finally got to see his ewe. This hunt was WAY harder than we thought it would be.

I cannot overstate how proud I am of my dad. This was an incredibly challenging hunt for him both physically and mentally. He met that challenge head on, and pushed himself further than most people would in his situation. When the time came, he pulled it together and got the job done.

I feel very lucky that the adventure continues on October 1st!

Offline KP-Skagit

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2023, 09:54:55 PM »
The bounty as she lay.


Offline KP-Skagit

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2023, 09:58:30 PM »
And if you ever want to feel guilty while your father is baking in the 90 degree sun on a death march, try getting offered a ride on a pontoon boat by a group of strangers while you are hiking out!

Shout out to these very nice folks who saved us a couple miles of walking the tracks. What a cool experience, grandparents, parents, grandkids. Two of the kids had just gone through hunter ed and were stoked to see the sheep.


Offline Gringo31

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2023, 10:01:10 AM »
Fantastic and congrats!  Thanks for allowing us to ride along  :tup:
We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.
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Offline Pathfinder101

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2023, 10:26:58 AM »
Awesome!  :tup:
Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.  That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

Offline JakeLand

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2023, 12:19:31 PM »
Good stuff right there !! Canít wait for the second part of this story

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2023, 01:48:00 PM »
Great story! tagging along for the rest!

Offline bearhunter99

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2023, 05:43:16 PM »
Great story so far - Congrats to your dad on the trophy and getting it all done!

Looking forward to the next chapter!
RIP Colockumelk   :salute:

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Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison

Offline BKMFR

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Re: Big Year - Chelan Butte Ewe and 49 Deg Early Bull Moose
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2023, 07:43:30 PM »
Good story, I watched most of it unfold ... the first 2 missed shots and you guys spent good time working it out... glad your Dad was successful I wondered how it was going, hats off to him going as deep as he did on round 2... Great story, Congratulations!

 


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