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Guys,
A buddy of mine, Freebird134, have started our own blog to progressively track our progress in our campaign to spend almost two weeks in the mountain ranges of Idaho on a September Elk Hunt.

Stop by and check it out, and leave comments and advice if you'd like.

For those of you who have an inkling of what we're going to be putting ourselves through, feel free to leave any tidbits of information you wish to share...


Thanks Everyone!

http://operation-idaho.blogspot.com/

Brad.
 

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Where and when?

I was just wondering where you guys are going in Idaho, and at what part of the season? I spend almost all of Sept. there every year. We hunt up high,and the country is rough, but it is a rewarding place to hunt. I am allot older than you guys, but I have seen that country kick allot of young guy's butts too. Make sure you are in good condition before you go, and it will make your trip much easier and much more enjoyable. I look forward to the trip each year, I typically loose eight to ten pounds, and put in sometimes ten or more miles a day.
Thanks,
Dan
 

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Dan,
Nothing is certain yet, but we are thinking about unit 23, probably Sept 19-26. We're already working on the physical aspect of it, working out or doing cardio almost every day. What unit do you hunt? We're also considering a few other places, but all in the lower half of the state.

brandon
 

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I go to 29.

We hunt 29. The reason I started staying so long, is because the elk's behavior has never been the same in the same time period. I have seen rut behavior in the first week, the last week, and everywhere in between. Sometimes it will only last for a few days. Sometimes it never quite materializes. Sometimes the elk aren't even there, but a week later they move in. Sometimes the wolves are there and then everything sucks. The weather is the same way. I have seen everything from the 90s to single digits, all in one season. I have seen good hunting on opening day, and I have seen lousy hunting in the later part, again with everything in between. There have never been any consistencies.
 

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Dan, are you hunting the Lemhi range on the 29/37a border? That is another spot we have been looking into. My reservation about that area is that the deer hunting isn't great, and I'd like to have that option available.

How do you guys hunt? Are you packing in bivy style (which is what we are doing), or are you setting up base camp, horses, guide, how far from roads, etc? Our whole mission is to get as far from people and roads as possible. I'm scouring the maps looking for places that are 5+ miles from even the littlest dirt road.
 

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The hard way.

We hunt the hard way. Since we stay so long, we set up a big comfortable base camp and then set spike camps about five miles in farther. We have taken animals close in and as far out as eight miles or so. We use pack boards and frames and a couple of haulers that we made. No horses, they are nice, but too much trouble. If you have horses, you need an extra guy to do nothing but wrangle them. The haulers get us by just fine. We sometimes take them in and just leave them at the spike camps. There are few trails and no roads where we go in. Some years you have to walk out of the people. One thing you really have to be careful of though, is not to camp in the middle of the elk. If you do, they will just leave. We have had over anxious guys before, run way in and set up camp in the middle of where the elk are, and push them right out to another drainage or range of hills. The big herd bulls are really prone to move like this.
Sometimes we will spend several days out in a spike camp and hunt way in. Then we will go back to base camp for some comfort and a hot shower. The big base camp comes in handy if the weather gets bad. We have never seen the hunting be good in really nasty weather. Our base camp is at about 7600 ft, with our spike camp areas at 8500 to 9500 or so. We have been going to the same general area for many many years. It makes a huge difference to really know the area, it can save you allot of leg work,(literally). We end up doing an incredible amount of walking and hauling, but we wouldn't have it any other way. If you want to see some pictures of our camps and gear, I have a couple of threads. One about Elk hunting country and one about elk camps. Lots of hunters posted pictures of some nice country and camps.
 

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Wolves.

One thing I should probably complain about would be the wolf problems of late. The last few years, the wolves have really screwed up the hunting. I don't know if you have been reading the threads, but it is a real problem all over the state. They are everywhere nowadays. They have made the hunting much harder. When the wolves are in an area, the elk will leave and scatter. We used to see many times more animals before the wolves showed up. We used to see tons of moose, deer, elk, and a wide variety of small game. The wolves have decimated the populations. They are even killing the bears. We have had several close encounters. When they are around, you can even call them in with elk calls. Allot of hunters have gone to other states to hunt because of them. We have considered the same. Idaho Fish and Game will loose much of their income because of the wolf reintroduction.
 

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Hey Dan,
I have read a lot of the wolf stuff. Not just hunters, but the actual literature and the data on wolf and prey numbers. Predators can change prey behavior, and may or may not change prey density (this is actually the exact thing my dissertation research is on). You are probably right: IDFG will lose money because hunters will go to other states. People like to notice the bad,and forget the good. We had record elk densities in Idaho in some areas WITH wolves in the past few years. Now, elk numbers are down. There isn't much correlation showing wolves are killing off all the elk. The thing hunters often forget, and should get excited about, is that the overall quality of the herd and, consequently, the quality of the trophy bulls will increase with predation. Just like hunters out East regulate whitetail deer numbers below carrying capacity, and prevent large-scale starvation and disease, wolves and other predators keep prey populations in balance with their environment. Hunters in general are just mad because they don't want competition for elk, and argue we don't need wolves to regulate elk because hunters can do it. This may be true, but it is a selfish view point that feeds right into the Anti-hunter argument that we are all just trigger happy killers that only care about antlers on the wall. To be honest, from the vast majority I meet or talk to via the numerous forums I visit, the Anti's are right. And, I'm sick of it.

(Dan, I wasn't pointing this rant at you, so I hope I didn't offend you. I have no idea what your view is on the matter. I just got caught up on my soap box. Sorry!)
 

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Brandon.... I would like to talk about the wolf situation with you sometime and hear your thoughts based on the research you've done. My biggest problem with the wolf situation isn't about the wolves themselves but rather the lack of authority the DFG has to manage their population. I worry about the impact the wolves may have on the deer and turkey population as much as the elk. Mule deer especially seemed to be struggling before the wolf population boom. I know that nature will self regulate predator to prey populations but my fear is that theoretically the wolves could totally erradicate the deer population and still survive on elk and other food sources. I'm not saying it will get to that, but in theory it could happen and right now the DFG has no authority to stop it from happening.

On another subject, I've been following your blog and wanted to assure you and Brad that your physical conditioning and preparation are more than adequate and neither will be a limiting factor in your hunt. You're covering all of the bases that you can right now. The hard part is finding the elk and you have to be there to do that. Keep doing what you're doing now and you'll have a great trip weather you kill a bull or not.
 

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My first hand experiences.

My observations in regard to the wolves and this area in Idaho are my own from first hand experiences. I hunt this area for the whole month of September every year. I even stay after a harvest, just to be there. I hunt three drainage's and three ridges. The area is not that big, about ten miles by five miles, but we cover it well, and are very familiar with the country. Years ago there were some articles published about that area and it was over run with hunters as a result. At that time the elk population seemed like it could handle the pressure and higher kill ratios. This area had a real good bull to cow ratio, and produced huge bulls. The gene pool was great, huge bodied cows as well.
The wolves started showing up in 2001. Over the next few years, the elk, deer, and moose population decreased dramatically. There were kills everywhere. Elk sightings in an average day went from 50 to 60, to 0 to five. Deer sightings went from 10 to 20, to 1 or 2. Moose sightings went from 4 to 6, to 0. In 2007 I covered this area completely over the period of a month. I only saw one elk calf, the whole time. I did find three pretty good bulls, but could not keep up with their movement. I saw seven different wolves in that small area. The largest group of elk I saw was a group of six cows, one calf and one bull. The elk were scattered and quiet. I never saw a moose that trip, and only saw five deer. We only took one bull that year. There was almost no elk sign. The feed was thick and lush. Last year we took two bulls, but the numbers were still non existent.
You could never convince me that the wolves are a positive addition to this area. It used to be phenomenal. The wolves haven't just created competition, they have decimated the game populations in this area. My observations in this area are not unlike many other areas in Idaho. Read some of my posts on the (wolf) threads. I have tried to remain objective. I think spending a month in an area that small can provide a better than average viewpoint. Most of the surveys, (if not all), are done from aircraft.
My observations are all from covering the ground, on the ground, and not confined to roads and trails. The wolves have spread farther, faster, and multiplied more than any of the so called experts ever expected. Read the threads, look into it, make some comparisons to many years ago. I do not believe the herds can support the wolf populations. Their habitat is too limited and effected by man. The habitat is nothing like it was long ago, and is nothing like the wilderness habitats of Canada. The wolves are too proficient as predators, and don't just kill to survive. I hope you end up hunting an area where the wolves are present, you will see more than competition.
 

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Brandon.... I would like to talk about the wolf situation with you sometime and hear your thoughts based on the research you've done. My biggest problem with the wolf situation isn't about the wolves themselves but rather the lack of authority the DFG has to manage their population. I worry about the impact the wolves may have on the deer and turkey population as much as the elk. Mule deer especially seemed to be struggling before the wolf population boom. I know that nature will self regulate predator to prey populations but my fear is that theoretically the wolves could totally erradicate the deer population and still survive on elk and other food sources. I'm not saying it will get to that, but in theory it could happen and right now the DFG has no authority to stop it from happening.

On another subject, I've been following your blog and wanted to assure you and Brad that your physical conditioning and preparation are more than adequate and neither will be a limiting factor in your hunt. You're covering all of the bases that you can right now. The hard part is finding the elk and you have to be there to do that. Keep doing what you're doing now and you'll have a great trip weather you kill a bull or not.

I don't want to hijack this thread as a wolf discussion, so I just deleted most of what I was writing. But, maybe I wasn't clear: I'm not against wolf management. I'm pro-wolf, pro-hunting, pro-conservation of all species (not just antlered ones), and pro-state regulation. Idaho is a great state, with great hunting. Wolves won't change that. And, how cool is it that we could have a wolf season?!?!? You don't have to hate wolves to want to hunt them! :)

The one thing I do have to ask is why you would be more concerned about turkeys than wolves? Wolves are an important part of the mountain ecosystems and were exterminated by humans. Turkeys are a non-native species that humans introduced to Idaho, not that long ago. From my view point, wolves the the right of way.

I'm glad you guys are following Operation Idaho, and thanks for the support. Hopefully you won't start rooting for our failure because I like wolves!
 

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Sorry!

I wasn't trying to hijack the thread. If you are going to hunt Idaho, or have an elk hunting, or deer hunting thread that concerns Idaho, this subject will surface. I wasn't wishing any kind of failure, I was just hoping you might get some first hand, real education when it comes to wolves and the present day situations. Game management needs to quit focusing on how it used to be. Unfortunately in the US, Nature cannot balance itself in all instances. Man has already screwed that up, so he must do his best to help keep the balances. You and more people that are involved with game management should listen more to the people that are out there and are intimate with the subject. There is no substitute for experience. I hope you will learn that as you age.
 

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Dan: I wasn't implying that you were hijacking the thread. I was about to write a ton, and realized I was about to hijack the thread!!! And, I didn't mean to imply you were wishing us failure--I was just kidding.
 

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Guys


this is quite entertaining and quite ironic. A buddy and myself are heading to ID for a 2 week hunt in Sept as well. He's hunted there before, but I've never gotten a chance to hunt elk.

We were kicking around the idea of trying to write something up about our preparation too. Enjoyed the blog and now have it as a favorite.
 
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