Tod's Blog

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

Archive for November, 2009


Posted by todblog on November 20, 2009

November 15, 2009

The big environmental buzz everyone’s talking about is reducing your carbon footprint on this planet. One such way is to be a locavore… a what?

Locavore- someone who eats exclusively – or at least primarily – food from their local area.

So, does hunting near home count as being a locavore? You bet it does. How about driving 10 hours away…hmmm. Okay, what if it meant you didn’t leave the state. Well, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, you’d still be considered a local who pays resident versus non-resident hunting fees. So, I say if you’re hunting in-state, you’re still a locavore.

My last post (Fungus Among Us) reported that our deer hunter-gatherer skills were leaning heavily on the gathering of mushrooms and our deep freezer was going through a deep depression as it began to forecast a gloomy meatless winter. But, wait a minute. Before you start clapping those vegan hands together…I should tell you there was one more bullet left in the Lum hunting rifle. In other words, there was one last chance to get out the meat slicer and vacuum sealer…it would be Jacob’s Snake River bull elk hunt. It was a very generous gift given to him from Aunty Bitsy, a coveted landowner preference tag for her Northeast Oregon ranch property.

Without a hint of expectations from mom, she gently told Jacob that she would much rather eat elk meat over venison any day. No pressure there. I’m not sure if she followed-up by saying that she would still love him even if he came home empty-handed. I was less subtle. “We’re counting on you to get an elk.” No, of course I didn’t say that! To me, it was going to be another opportunity to spend some quality time in the outdoors with my favorite number one son.

We left Roseburg at 5am Veteran’s Day morning and arrived at the ranch at 3:30pm. It was spitting snow and rain as the last remaining daylight vanished at 4:30pm. The weatherman forecasted snow overnight and it was just what we wanted. We hoped the snow would bring elk down to lower elevations, making them easier to spot and track and most of all require less calories and ibuprofen to go after them. It was an anxious evening as I made last minute preparations for the morning hunt. It was lights out by 9pm. One of the earliest times either of us had been to bed in quite a while. As I lay there in my sleeping bag I kept thinking…Where should we go? How many elk would we see? Would there be any bulls? Would any one of them want to come home with us? Would we see any elk? Would I be able to wake Jacob up? Should I pack the salty peanut granola bars or take the brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts? Which knife was the lucky one? Where did he put his elk tag?

The alarm clock went off at 4:30am and it was still WAY dark. I rubbed my eyes and thought we could probably snooze a little longer. We did for another 30 minutes and I got the coffee going. I could see the ground outside was all white with snow. It was only a couple of inches deep. I thought that probably wasn’t going to be enough snow to push the elk down. We would see once the daylight broke. By 7am, we were out trying to locate elk but, the low clouds made that pretty difficult. The only open ground we could see was down low and there were no elk to be seen. There were deer scattered around the hillsides and lone bucks with their swollen necks on the hunt themselves for does in heat. Every now and then, we would catch a glimpse of the higher slopes but, no elk. At 9am the clouds began to slowly lift and they revealed more slopes covered in white snow. We could finally see some elk, about 200 of them! They were mainly cows and there appeared to be a few bulls in the group but, they were too far to really tell how big they were. It didn’t matter anyway, they were on a neighboring property a few ridges away. All we could do was watch them as they fed along the open hillside and bedded down for the morning. Well at least we saw some elk and they were not double nose bleed high, maybe single nose. For the next couple of hours we continued to glass the hills with binoculars and spotting scope and tried to turn every rock or bush into a bull with Jacob’s tag on it. But, no luck. We opted to warm up and eat lunch so, we headed back to the ranch house.

Jacob made us sandwiches as I continued to glass the hillsides from the living room window. I could still see the large herd on the neighboring property and they were very content to lie on the south facing slope absorbing the sun’s warm rays. We both began to eat our sandwiches when I spotted some elk skylined on one of Bitsy’s ridges. They had just come over the hill out of the timber and were now in the open. It was just two elk and they both had branched antlers! My adrenaline was pumping again and I excitedly told Jacob to look through the spotting scope. “There’s your elk, let’s go!” We swallowed our last bit of lunch and headed down the road to begin our trek up the ridgeline.

We parked the truck and met neighbor Dan Warnock talking to someone in a truck and they were both looking at the large elk herd on the neighboring property. We told him that we’d seen some bulls and were going after them. He said he’d be around if we needed any help. I thought to myself, how does he get any work done with all these distractions. That’s probably the last thing he wants to do is climb up a steep face with loose rocks and snow to pack an elk off a ridgetop. He’s such a great guy.

Moments later Jacob and I were trudging uphill through the snow with pack frames on our backs. We were making a beeline for the ridgetop we thought would offer us the best location to see the bulls. The reality of the steep slope soon greeted us and we began to zig zag up the steep face. We had to place our feet in between rocks and bunch grasses to prevent sliding back downhill or falling. It would’ve been easy to do if you could see through the snow that covered them. I was getting winded and sweating heavily. The sun would break out of the clouds intermittently and provide us with gorgeous views below and lots of glare off the brilliant white snow. We had one pair of sunglasses to share between us. I wanted “shooter boy” to have them so he wouldn’t have an excuse for missing his target. He felt bad for dad who was beginning to see pink snow. We switched off with each other as we continued our hike uphill.

After an hour of slipping and hearing weird noises coming from my knees, we reached our point on the ridgeline where we anticipated having a view of the bulls. We knelt and slowly eased up on the ridge trying not to skyline ourselves. Jacob in his chemical Tyvek white suit blended in well with the snow. I pulled out the binoculars to glass the distant hillside. The clouds were just hovering over the ridgeline like wispy strands of cotton candy providing us only a partial view. My mind was racing with thoughts like,…Did we spook the bulls? How could they have known we were coming? The wind was a breezy crosswind but, I thought it was okay or was it? Did they hear me slipping and falling on the way up? Did we just get here too late? Did I wrench my knee for nothing?

I continued to glass the rimrock structures and tried to reconstruct where I had seen the bulls last from the ranch house way down below. They couldn’t be very far away. The steady crosswind gave me a sense of reassurance that they couldn’t have winded us and they certainly couldn’t hear us coming even after a few loud episodes of falling and moaning. The same winds came to our rescue as they lifted the strands of cotton candy clouds and there they were… the two bulls on an open hillside. I whispered loudly, “There they are, you see em!”

Jacob pulled down the Browning rifle’s bipod and hit the snow in a prone position. He wriggled around in the snow and rocks to find a spot he could finally settle into for a steady shot. Our timing couldn’t have been better. The bulls were just getting up from their mid-day siesta and were getting ready to move. While we were setting up, one of the bulls walked behind a rocky ledge and disappeared from sight. The other remained on top of the rock and stood broadside to us. I fumbled with the rangefinder and it wouldn’t give me a reading. I was shaking too much. I grabbed the rangefinder with two hands and tried to settle down and hold the tiny square on the elk. Nothing. I moved the square sight onto the rock the elk was standing on and held tight… 325 yards.

Jacob lay still for what seemed like forever as the bull stood there broadside looking uphill. At 1:30pm, the canyon and all it’s snow muffled the sound of the .30-06 as two 165 grain Nosler AccuBonds did their job. The bull dropped in the snow and was quickly grabbed by the hand of “Mean Old Mr. Gravity” as he took him 300+ yards down the steep snow covered rocky slope. The bull finally came to rest about a quarter mile from a ranch road below. We couldn’t have asked for a better location to quarter the elk and get it back to the ranch. Packing an elk downhill is good, sliding one downhill is even better. Dan Warnock would not be distracted from carrying out his daily ranch duties today.

As we walked up to the bull elk I could see the amazement in Jacob’s eyes. It was the largest game animal he’d ever taken and he could not believe the size of the magnificent animal before him. I was very happy for him. At 16 years of age, he has had some amazing opportunities afforded to him (thanks again Aunty Bitsy) and he has had a great network of support from family, friends, teachers, coaches, etc. It was also a key moment for me too. It suddenly hit me that we would not be needing a bunch of store bought meat this winter and thanks to Jacob’s efforts, we were doing our part to consume local fresh natural meat. Somehow that made me feel better about the carbon output we’d be expending on our 10 hour drive back home…

A gorgeous view of the sun breaking through the clouds (Jacob’s Ladder) in the Upper Imnaha River Drainage

Jacob and his first 5×6 bull elk

Two locavores so happy to be looking at a road a quarter mile below them!


Posted in 2009, Hunting, Stories | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Fungus Among Us

Posted by todblog on November 9, 2009

November 8, 2009

Well this marks the ending of the 2009 Western Oregon Deer Rifle Season. We had over 30 days to find a buck blacktail and it came down to not investing enough time. Lots going on this fall including remodeling the house, kids activities, work, and remodeling the house. I only managed to get out 3 days to hunt. It was a lot of fun being out in the woods anticipating the big buck to be just around the next tree. However, hunting blacktails is very humbling. The odds are on their side from the start. They are so tuned in to movement, sound, and smell. Many folks wait for the end of the season when bucks are getting close to the rut and are more concerned about finding girlfriends than remaining unseen. That was my hope… finding lovesick bucks as the season came closer to the end.

I enlisted the help of a professional, Michael Burrell. Now this guy has a deep passion for hunting. He is a hardcore hunter who takes the fall harvest season seriously. He travels the west in search of big game to hunt and has done quite well. Michael spent a couple of days with me looking for blacktails in the Cascades. It was under some tough conditions. One day it was sunny and warm and the other day it was windy. We made several hunts, checked lots of different spots and tried rattling antlers too. We didn’t find many deer but, we did see highways of tracks and sign. Blacktails are humbling.

As my last remaining grains of sand trickled through the hour glass, I resorted to a last ditch attempt to bring something home. I got out a plastic bag just for this occasion and picked some chanterelle mushrooms. They were popping up everywhere on the forest floor. I felt like a kid on an Easter egg hunt where adults left eggs in the middle of the lawn for an easy find. The mushrooms would’ve been killer on a venison steak or mushroom deerburger. But, it was not to be. Instead, we fried some up with lup cheong sausage, it was good. Blacktails are humbling.

mikerainNote the raindrops rolling off my rifle’s barrel.

mikeglassMichael in seek and destroy mode.

IMGP4065A nice hillside with unseen deer.

deertrack260Lots of buck tracks around…a .260 Remington round to be exact.

shroombowl20 minutes of picking chanterelle mushrooms.

jessshroomsJessie waiting for the cooking to begin.

lupcheongshroomLup Cheong Sausage and chanterelles.

Posted in 2009, Hunting, Recipes and Stuff | Tagged: , , , | 11 Comments »