Tod's Blog

Adventures with family & friends and other things I'm passionate about…

How Now Brown Cow?

Posted by todblog on January 31, 2008

January 29, 2008

I remember sliding down muddy hillsides as a young boy with friends hiking along one of the numerous trails in the Koolau Range on Oahu. It was fun and we enjoyed the time communing with the slick wet soil under foot or pants. I don’t enjoy sliding around in the mud much anymore probably because I’m the one who has to clean up the mess and my knees keep reminding me that they’re not as youthful as they once were. As a matter-of-fact, as a precautionary preparation, I usually “pre-lube” my knees before a strenuous hike by taking some Ibuprofen or Aleve. Somehow, doing so reduces the sensation of an ice pick being shoved under my knee cap whenever I find myself negotiating a steep and/or slippery slope. I had just such an opportunity this past Saturday.

It was the opener for my antlerless elk hunt in Weyerhaeuser’s Millicoma Tree Farm in the Tioga Unit. It is a good place to pre-lube ones knees. It is known for its convoluted ridges and steep slopes and lots of elk call it home. This particular late season antlerless elk hunt started several years ago when the Tree Farm began to sustain heavy damage to tree seedlings. There is tremendous cost when elk uproot newly planted tree seedlings in clearcuts and a crew needs to re-plant more seedlings again. The elk damage tends to occur in the winter months and that’s where I come in…

I was excited to go on my elk hunt. I had waited patiently for this season and I knew there were good numbers of elk around but, not sure exactly where to go. At approximately 144 square miles, the hunting area was very large with lots of scattered openings to find a feeding herd of elk. I had to find good help so, I called Jerry Mires who had filled a number of elk tags in the area and knew of a few spots to find one. Unfortunately, Jerry caught a cold a few days prior to my hunt and had to cancel. Not knowing anyone else with local knowledge of the hunt area, I chose to enlist the services of someone with a keen eye for spotting game and a very strong back for packing meat (two very big pluses to look for when seeking an elk hunting partner). That person was Michael Burrell, his knowledge of elk and hunting skills would fit the bill nicely.

I met Michael at 5:30am on Saturday morning at the Umpqua Store and we tossed his stuff in my truck and headed for the hunting area. It was about a 40 minute drive to the area and it wasn’t long before my Toyota T100 pickup was driving on a lightly snow-coated road. The nice thing about fresh snow is it reveals who has been there before you. No tire tracks was a good sign. A little way later we came across a set of fresh cougar tracks going in and out of the road and timber. It was cool to see we weren’t the only predators in the area hunting.

We arrived at our destination, the beginning of a logging spur road with a thin stand of trees to conceal the truck. We were swallowed up in darkness as I turned off the headlights and the engine. We were near the edge of a unit that had been clearcut and re-planted about 5 years ago. The plan was to wait the darkness out and head to the clearcut to glass for elk at the first signs of daylight. After about 20 minutes, there was much hope and anticipation as the first rays of sunlight exposed the trees around us gently swaying along the breezy ridgetop. We quickly geared-up and headed over to take a look at the clearcut.

Michael and I inched our way down the spur road and glassed the clearcut below for any sign of elk. It looked like a great place to find some feeding elk but, there was nothing to be seen. We continued down the spur road and came across some fresh elk tracks in the muddy road. Michael’s eyes lit up as he pointed to the tracks and whispered, “..these are fresh!” That was encouraging but, where were they? We followed the tracks until we reached the landing at the end of the road. We kept glassing but, no elk. The tracks disappeared and we decided to bail off the road and ease our way down through the clearcut to another vantage point about 100 yards below. Perhaps from there, we might be overlooking an elk hidey hole.

The clearcut was littered with slash from the logging operation that took place years ago. Luckily, we were able to tip toe through it and get to a dirt trail which put us in complete stealth mode. I was in the lead inching forward and about 15 yards from the vantage point when Michael started whispering loudly, “T-T-T-T, ELK, ELK, ELK”. He spotted a small group of elk feeding at the edge of the clearcut far below us and one had already slipped into the timber.


The view overlooking the clearcut where the elk were feeding below us.

I immediately hunkered down and was truly thankful for my choice in hunting partners who just saved me from getting busted. I tried to quietly chamber a round in the Browning .30-06, it was as quiet as stepping on a soda can. I eased forward and took up a sitting position on the dirt trail. I could see the elk and they looked small and far from our elevated position. A young elk was broadside and staring at me. It probably heard what sounded to be like a soda can underfoot. I had an uneasy feeling that there wasn’t much time left before they would all leave for the safety of the timber only a few yards from them. No time to range the distance. (Michael ranged the distance later at 166yds.) I shouldered the rifle and locked my elbows into my knees and took that last breath. Then I took another last breath and one more last breath. Finally, I convinced my body it didn’t have too much coffee that morning, I wasn’t out-of-shape, and I wasn’t too excited. The Burris scope crosshairs magically stabilized enough for a gentle squeeeeze of the trigger. The 150gr Nosler AccuBond bullet found its mark and the elk was down in a few seconds. Michael and I watched the group of elk head into the timber minus one seedling eater. It was 7:40am and my elk hunt was over well, the easy part that is.

I headed back to the truck and brought it down to the landing. Justin Hadwen loaned me his brand new portable capstan winch made for hauling heavy loads and is frequently used by elk hunters to get their elk out to the road. The gas operated unit weighs about 16 pounds and is secured to a stump while a rope is tied to the elk and pulled into the winch. Piece of cake. We had pack frames but, opted to use the winch as it was a new concept to me and I wanted to try it out. I had heard so much about these winches and their ability to get elk out of ugly places far away from the road.


Hauling the elk through slash and brush..




Up the muddy trail…




Almost to the top where the truck is waiting

Well it took us about four hours (11:30am) to get the entire elk out to the landing where we were finally able to dress, skin and load it into the truck. It was a lot of work pulling the rope through the winch and taking it up, over and around slash piles, boulders, stumps, and vegetation. I was always trying to plot the best route to haul the elk out and found myself thinking, “How now brown cow?”

One benefit of bringing out the whole elk is the ability to work on it at the truck with the tarps and water you bring, and being able to keep the carcass clean. However, I would say if you’re not going to make short ribs or bone-in roasts/steaks and you can keep the carcass fairly clean, it’s better to bone out the carcass and pack out the meat. It would’ve been much faster for two people with boned out meat and pack frames to carry out the load compared to dragging the whole elk for 300yds. By the time we got the elk up to the truck, it was one brown cow. However, slogging through the mud did bring me back to my childhood days when I slipped and slid barefoot in the mud without Ibuprofen.

Photos by Michael Burrell


2 Responses to “How Now Brown Cow?”

  1. David McGill said

    Congratulations on your protein prize. That should keep you out of the meat section of safeway for a while. I’m sure even with the winch it was no picnic. Awesome. David


  2. ben lum said

    the answer to “how now etc” is

    “quite full white bull”

    would lik to come up to go crabbing


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