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374-4/8 vs. 35-06 JDJ
By John F. Martone

Published in The Sixgunner Magazine February 2007
This hunt started coming together back in March 2006. I was living in Missoula ,Montana at the time trav¬eling back and forth to Seattle seeing family and friends. There was a sportsman’s show at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe ,Wash¬ington and a buddy of mine had men¬tioned he was going and why don’t I tag along.
Attending a sportsman’s show is always something I’m up for. So I planned my trip over to Seattle on the weekend the show was going on.
There was a lot of fishing guides and other stuff that catches one’s eye and we had a good time. On the way home my buddy handed me a bro¬chure from a elk ranch known as Mountain View Elk Ranch in Riggins , Idaho . Without getting into any dis¬cussions about the pros and cons of ranch hunting, when I got back home toMontana I decided to give them a call.
I spoke to the rancher himself, Ken Walters and he described their ranch and hunting service. The ranch sits on top of a beautiful mountain that you have to head up an eight mile long old logging road. The 6000 acre ranch has been in Ken’s family for two gen¬erations now and they logged it but times changed and to merely survive they started elk ranching.
The operation has been going on for over eight years. After Ken and I talked for almost an hour, I decided it was something I’d be interested in. He sent me information and some references and I checked things out and decided to book a hunt.
My particular hunt was from Octo¬ber 6-8. I arrived on October 5 and got settled in and fired off a round or two to make sure the gun was sighted in and my eye site wasn’t off to bad. Well to my surprise both were dead on! What a surprise it was and a good omen indeed.
The Encore I decided to use was my 35-06 JDJ. My particular gun is set up with a 15 inch barrel with the military-style muzzle brake on the end of it making it a 16-1/4 inch bar¬rel. I have the T’SOB quarter vent rib with a Leupold 2.5X8 handgun scope. I really like this scope and setup and have it on all my Encores.
I also had SSK drill an extra hole in the bottom of the barrel to accept the TICfactory forend since” I feel the pistol forend is useless. SSK also did a trigger job on the frame making this gun a sweetheart to shoot. It was back in 2002 when I had gotten turned on to the 35-06 and have loved it since.
I originally bought the barrel’ to take on an Alaskan moose hunt which never happened, so the gun had never taken any game and I decided that this was the year and hunt that would change all that.
The 35 caliber load I chose was the 225 grain Nosler Partition bullet sit¬ting on top of 62.50 grains of RL-15 on a Federal 215 primer. Out of my barrel this load gets a consistent 2530 fps and is “dead on balls accurate!” Plain and simple I love this round and this gun.
While sighting in the day before the hunt it was like a symphony go¬ing on all around me. Bugling was everywhere. It made my trigger fin¬ger twitch uncontrollably. We bedded down for the night and I was up around 3 a.m. just from all the bu¬gling going on. My guide for the hunt was Ken’s son Brad Walters.
Brad proved to be a great hard working guide who did everything he could to get me on a bull. We decided to hike since I could hear bugling that wasn’t far away. We headed out just before first light trying to get an edge on the elk. We past a few Spikes and then I saw a sign that said ” Tibet 4 miles!” Oh no, why didn’t we take some horses?
Well being too late for all that, we decided to follow some bugling going on below us. We never did come on the elk that was bugling below. I could hear him, smell him, feel him but never saw him. This went on for over two hours and we decided to take a breather and rest a spell.
While doing so, we could hear some bugling coming from above us that seemed really close. We kind of just sat quietly listening and listening. What a musical it was! That first bull we were following appeared to go down into the bottoms and I wasn’t too keen on going down after him.
You know what I’m talking about … The thickest, nastiest wilder¬ness stuff that keeps the bulls safe and almost impossible to get into and thru unless you’re an Elk. Being the fool that I am, I had a bout of genius and decided not to go after him. Now the bull that had bulged above us was a whole different story. Brad and I decided to pursue him. After all he sounded very very close.
Well off we went in pursuit of the noise maker. We came upon an old logging road and decided to walk the road for a bit since it was easier and less noisy. Why advertise that you’re out there? The elk was doing that al¬ready and that was good enough for me.
After walking the logging road for about 1/2 mile, the road started to bend to the right and all of a sudden Brad dropped down and I followed right behind him. He had seen a few cow elk and wanted to check it out. After glassing for a: bit, we could see there were five cows and a sixth one that was feeding.
I wanted to get across the road since there was some fallen timber and it was a better angle to see the elk. Brad watched in his binocs and let me know when the coast was clear to quietly get across the road. A good guide is so invaluable in these situa¬tions. Over on the other side, I had rested my Encore on a stump and started glassing.
I saw the cows and that one elk that was feeding but never lifted its head. It never lifted its head since it wasn’t a cow but a big bull that had his cows watching things while he fed. Brad bugled and he lifted his head looking in our direction. I’ll never forget the look I saw through my binocs.
He lifted his head and had grass and everything else he was eating coming out the sides of his mouth. He
Stopped, looked, listened and then made his mistake.
He lowered his head and continued feeding. You’re mine big boy was the only thing I could think of. I got him in the crosshairs and just watched him so I could get a good shot.
He was quartering away from me at 130 yards and since he didn’t know I was there, I just kept an eye on him through the scope and waited for a better position. I think this is one of the hardest things to do. Wait and be patient! I hate it but I did it.
After about a minute he started to turn towards me giving me a better angle and almost a broadside shot. Brad bugled one more time and the bull lifted his head and I let one go midway in his neck. Down he went!
The cows took off and he just laid there. I got up to him and put another shot in the top of his neck just below his head and it was over. I was shak¬ing with excitement over what had just happened.
It took some doing to get him out of the stuff he went down in and get him gutted and off the mountain. That took another four hours of real work for both of us. We got-er-done! The bull measured 374-4/8’s and had a hanging weight of 493 lbs.
This hunt was a wonderful adven¬ture. I had them process the elk for me and I was there with them watch¬ing, learning, and sharing their company and experience. They do everything the way you want it; charge a good fair price and send you home with your meat.
I decided to order smoked pep¬peroni and jalapeno cheddar brats. I’m Italian and their pepperoni was some of the best I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to get it and hunt with them again.
Mountain View Elk Ranch in Riggins , Idaho is family run by Ken and Tammie Walters. Their son Brad guides and his wife Sara helps out everywhere.
These are good solid honest people.
If you’re interested in a ranch hunt (and I’ve done a few) these folks are the best and treat you right. They can be reached at 800-618-3803. I smell the backstraps on the grill so I’m outta here. Good luck, good hunting and God bless.

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374-4/8 vs. 35-06 JDJ
By John F. Martone

Published in The Sixgunner Magazine February 2007
This hunt started coming together back in March 2006. I was living in Missoula ,Montana at the time trav¬eling back and forth to Seattle seeing family and friends. There was a sportsman’s show at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe ,Wash¬ington and a buddy of mine had men¬tioned he was going and why don’t I tag along.
Attending a sportsman’s show is always something I’m up for. So I planned my trip over to Seattle on the weekend the show was going on.
There was a lot of fishing guides and other stuff that catches one’s eye and we had a good time. On the way home my buddy handed me a bro¬chure from a elk ranch known as Mountain View Elk Ranch in Riggins , Idaho . Without getting into any dis¬cussions about the pros and cons of ranch hunting, when I got back home toMontana I decided to give them a call.
I spoke to the rancher himself, Ken Walters and he described their ranch and hunting service. The ranch sits on top of a beautiful mountain that you have to head up an eight mile long old logging road. The 6000 acre ranch has been in Ken’s family for two gen¬erations now and they logged it but times changed and to merely survive they started elk ranching.
The operation has been going on for over eight years. After Ken and I talked for almost an hour, I decided it was something I’d be interested in. He sent me information and some references and I checked things out and decided to book a hunt.
My particular hunt was from Octo¬ber 6-8. I arrived on October 5 and got settled in and fired off a round or two to make sure the gun was sighted in and my eye site wasn’t off to bad. Well to my surprise both were dead on! What a surprise it was and a good omen indeed.
The Encore I decided to use was my 35-06 JDJ. My particular gun is set up with a 15 inch barrel with the military-style muzzle brake on the end of it making it a 16-1/4 inch bar¬rel. I have the T’SOB quarter vent rib with a Leupold 2.5X8 handgun scope. I really like this scope and setup and have it on all my Encores.
I also had SSK drill an extra hole in the bottom of the barrel to accept the TICfactory forend since” I feel the pistol forend is useless. SSK also did a trigger job on the frame making this gun a sweetheart to shoot. It was back in 2002 when I had gotten turned on to the 35-06 and have loved it since.
I originally bought the barrel’ to take on an Alaskan moose hunt which never happened, so the gun had never taken any game and I decided that this was the year and hunt that would change all that.
The 35 caliber load I chose was the 225 grain Nosler Partition bullet sit¬ting on top of 62.50 grains of RL-15 on a Federal 215 primer. Out of my barrel this load gets a consistent 2530 fps and is “dead on balls accurate!” Plain and simple I love this round and this gun.
While sighting in the day before the hunt it was like a symphony go¬ing on all around me. Bugling was everywhere. It made my trigger fin¬ger twitch uncontrollably. We bedded down for the night and I was up around 3 a.m. just from all the bu¬gling going on. My guide for the hunt was Ken’s son Brad Walters.
Brad proved to be a great hard working guide who did everything he could to get me on a bull. We decided to hike since I could hear bugling that wasn’t far away. We headed out just before first light trying to get an edge on the elk. We past a few Spikes and then I saw a sign that said ” Tibet 4 miles!” Oh no, why didn’t we take some horses?
Well being too late for all that, we decided to follow some bugling going on below us. We never did come on the elk that was bugling below. I could hear him, smell him, feel him but never saw him. This went on for over two hours and we decided to take a breather and rest a spell.
While doing so, we could hear some bugling coming from above us that seemed really close. We kind of just sat quietly listening and listening. What a musical it was! That first bull we were following appeared to go down into the bottoms and I wasn’t too keen on going down after him.
You know what I’m talking about … The thickest, nastiest wilder¬ness stuff that keeps the bulls safe and almost impossible to get into and thru unless you’re an Elk. Being the fool that I am, I had a bout of genius and decided not to go after him. Now the bull that had bulged above us was a whole different story. Brad and I decided to pursue him. After all he sounded very very close.
Well off we went in pursuit of the noise maker. We came upon an old logging road and decided to walk the road for a bit since it was easier and less noisy. Why advertise that you’re out there? The elk was doing that al¬ready and that was good enough for me.
After walking the logging road for about 1/2 mile, the road started to bend to the right and all of a sudden Brad dropped down and I followed right behind him. He had seen a few cow elk and wanted to check it out. After glassing for a: bit, we could see there were five cows and a sixth one that was feeding.
I wanted to get across the road since there was some fallen timber and it was a better angle to see the elk. Brad watched in his binocs and let me know when the coast was clear to quietly get across the road. A good guide is so invaluable in these situa¬tions. Over on the other side, I had rested my Encore on a stump and started glassing.
I saw the cows and that one elk that was feeding but never lifted its head. It never lifted its head since it wasn’t a cow but a big bull that had his cows watching things while he fed. Brad bugled and he lifted his head looking in our direction. I’ll never forget the look I saw through my binocs.
He lifted his head and had grass and everything else he was eating coming out the sides of his mouth. He
Stopped, looked, listened and then made his mistake.
He lowered his head and continued feeding. You’re mine big boy was the only thing I could think of. I got him in the crosshairs and just watched him so I could get a good shot.
He was quartering away from me at 130 yards and since he didn’t know I was there, I just kept an eye on him through the scope and waited for a better position. I think this is one of the hardest things to do. Wait and be patient! I hate it but I did it.
After about a minute he started to turn towards me giving me a better angle and almost a broadside shot. Brad bugled one more time and the bull lifted his head and I let one go midway in his neck. Down he went!
The cows took off and he just laid there. I got up to him and put another shot in the top of his neck just below his head and it was over. I was shak¬ing with excitement over what had just happened.
It took some doing to get him out of the stuff he went down in and get him gutted and off the mountain. That took another four hours of real work for both of us. We got-er-done! The bull measured 374-4/8’s and had a hanging weight of 493 lbs.
This hunt was a wonderful adven¬ture. I had them process the elk for me and I was there with them watch¬ing, learning, and sharing their company and experience. They do everything the way you want it; charge a good fair price and send you home with your meat.
I decided to order smoked pep¬peroni and jalapeno cheddar brats. I’m Italian and their pepperoni was some of the best I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to get it and hunt with them again.
Mountain View Elk Ranch in Riggins , Idaho is family run by Ken and Tammie Walters. Their son Brad guides and his wife Sara helps out everywhere.
These are good solid honest people.
If you’re interested in a ranch hunt (and I’ve done a few) these folks are the best and treat you right. They can be reached at 800-618-3803. I smell the backstraps on the grill so I’m outta here. Good luck, good hunting and God bless.

CLOSER TO HEAVEN
By; Matt Yablonski
What a spectacular view! I thought to myself as I stood perched on a rock outcropping 6500 feet above Idaho’s Salmon River Gorge. A rush of emotions came over me while I took it all in. I thought about how truly blessed I have been to see the things I have seen and visited all of the wild places I had been in pursuit of big game animals all over the world. These eyes had beheld many a beautiful vista but none quite as breath taking as this place. Truly, of all the many places I had been to this was quite surely the most scenic. The river snaked through the valley below winding through bends, twists & turns like an endless blue serpent with neither head nor tail. Jagged mountains rose skyward dotted with aspen, pine and juniper dispersed among meadows and bold rock cliffs. The expanse of mountain range behind me was home to bugling rocky mountain elk, black bear, mule deer, timber wolves, mountain lions and hoards of smaller creatures. This place epitomized the rocky mountains of the American west. A hunter’s dream and here I was in the thick of it all! I thought about how I got here and how fortunate I was to be the one standing here. I thought about the series of events that took place in the past few days and how surreal it all was. I drew in a deep breath of the crisp mountain air and as I turned to walk back to the lodge for dinner I was greeted by an amazing sunset and three big bull elk feeding in the meadow. I truly felt like this was a place closer to heaven or about as close as I would ever get while here on earth. So where this was place and how did I get here? The place was aptly named Mountain View Elk Ranch in Riggins, Idaho. How I ended up here toting a muzzle loader and hunting bull elk is a story in itself. Keith Warren contacted me several months prior and told me that the owner of the ranch, Brad Walters had contacted him to ask if he would be interested in hunting there and filming a TV show. He asked me to research the outfit, talk to the owner, and decide if it would be a good fit for The High Road TV show. When I had finished I gave Keith the green light on the place and after a conference call with Brad, Keith, & myself a hunt was set for September 2009. Keith was to hunt and I was to be the camera man. I received a phone call in late July from Keith. “Yablonski I got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?” “Let’s get the bad news out of the way first I guess.” “OK. I can’t make the September hunt at Mountain View Ranch. I drew a once in a lifetime tag for the Indian Reservation and I have to go” Immediately my heart sank. I had a plane ticket booked and had everything set up for the hunt. “Dude, the Walters family isn’t gonna be happy about this. They cleared that portion of their calendar for us in prime rut and I promised Brad a TV show! Now what!?” “Now the good news brother. You’re just gonna have to fill in for me. I’m sending a camera man out there to film you. You will be the shooter. Is that cool with you?” I was pretty stunned to say the least and was at a bit of a loss for words. “Yablonski are you still there? Is that cool?” “Well Keith, I didn’t expect to be in front of the camera. So you’re telling me that I have to go elk hunting. I guess I’ll have to suffer through it and take one for the team.” Of course I was being sarcastic and Keith knew it. It was the stuff dreams are made of. I called Brad Walters and made sure he was OK with it. Turns out he was. He informed me that we would be looking to take a bull in the 350” class which was also a welcome surprise. A 350” bull is more than a respectable representative of the species in anyone’s book! About 8 weeks later I flew into Boise Idaho, rented a car and made the three hour drive to the ranch. The drive out was absolutely breath taking. The winding mountain road weaved its way through canyons with shear rock faces on either side. Pristine, gin clear, ice cold streams teeming with wild cutthroat trout gurgled their way through meadows and stands of towering pines, their source being some far off snow capped summit where the elevation would be suitable for only eagles and mountain goats. Around every twist and turn in the road one awesome view gave way to yet another and another, each one unique and amazing. I arrived in the town of Riggins, turned right along the Salmon River down a dirt road and arrived at the ranch gates. My first impression was “where are we gonna hunt elk here?” There were large mountains all around me but at the ranch gates there was nothing but hills and pasture. I called Brad on my cell phone and told him I was at the gate. He told me to drive in and shut it behind me and proceed to the small cabin at the end of the driveway. There I met both my camera man Rex Summerfield and the owner Brad Walters for the first time in person. I am always a bit apprehensive when I first enter camp and wonder if the folks that I will be living, eating, and spending time with over the next few days will offer good companionship and will we hit it off. It didn’t take but a few minutes for me to figure it out this time. Rex was a soft spoken genuinely nice guy with a polite demeanor, the type of guy that is hard not to like. Within one minute I knew I was going to like Brad as well as he too was a very nice and welcoming guy. “You can leave your vehicles here and we’ll drive up to the lodge in my pickup.” “Where is the lodge?” I asked “About nine miles straight up this mountain.” As we made the drive along the dirt road we went higher and higher amidst timbered ridges and valleys. Blue grouse flushed every few hundred yards from the brush covered road side. We had to stop to allow a flock of Merriams turkeys cross the road in front of us with several nice long beards in the bunch. A mule deer doe skirted the roadside with a respectable 5×5 buck in tow. This was a game rich and incredibly beautiful place. When we pulled up to the lodge I could hardly believe my eyes. The lodge was a large newly built rustic log cabin. The location was what made this place so special. The lodge sat perched atop the mountain in the center of a large meadow surrounded by mountain vistas in every direction. “My God, now this is elk country” I said out loud. Brad took me inside and introduced me to his mom & dad Ken and Tammy Walters. Absolutely wonderful folks. They explained to me that the ranch is completely family owned and operated. Brad personally guides all of the hunters, Tammy does all of the cooking and Ken tends to all of the ranch chores and maintenance. I very quickly understood that you are not just another number here. They only allow one group of hunters at a time and keep the groups to four or less. After we were shown to our rooms we were treated to a nice lunch and then I sighted my Muzzle loader at the range adjacent to the lodge. We were quickly unpacked and Brad said that we had plenty of time to go out in the jeep and have a look around the ranch and maybe get lucky and shoot a bull. We piled into the jeep and were off. We would stop along the road from vantage points and glass for bulls. I couldn’t believe how steep and knarly the terrain was. Extremely steep timber covered slopes were divided by deep brush choked ravines. We spotted a nice bull bedded on the side of the mountain in a shaded area, but he was not quite what we were looking for. Brad said that once the sun started to go down closer to evening the bulls would come out of the heavy timber and we should see plenty. I wasn’t in a hurry to pull the trigger as we had several days to hunt but if the opportunity presented itself and everything was right to get the kill on video I wouldn’t hesitate. As the shadows began to lengthen the bulls started to melt out of the timber. They also began to bugle. We stopped along the road in a shaded glade. There was a large elk wallow that was obviously being used regularly. “This is a hot area. The bulls are starting to really get wound up in the rut. Let’s get out here and walk up through. This place is covered up in elk sign. Matt, there are two really nice bulls that I have in mind. One is a little more symmetrical and the other is short in his thirds but he is very wide and has awesome mass. He has massive whale tails and has an absolutely gigantic body, one of the biggest bodied bulls I have ever seen. Either bull would be a really good one for you to harvest if we can find ‘em. Both are 6×6’s” We slipped along single file with Brad in front, me close behind and Rex in the rear with the camera. We came to the “elkyest” looking place I have ever seen. There were wallows, trails, and rubs everywhere. Every jack pine that was smaller than the diameter of a telephone pole was reduced to a splintered, tattered, sap oozing skeleton of a former tree by the antlers of a rutting bull elk. The air was permeated with the pungent odor of rutting elk. “Game On” I thought to myself. Brad broke my self induced trance. “Let’s stop here a minute. I’m gonna bugle and see if I draw a response. This area is all tore up and that whale tail bull has been hanging around this area, I’ve seen him here three or four times in the past week.” Brad pulled out the bugle tube and let one rip. Immediately a bull answered back about 500 yards directly in front of us, then another from our left. What a sound that is, the bugle of a bull elk. There is nothing quite like it. It personifies western hunting. We moved ahead slowly and came to a stand of sparse pine intersected by a logging road with a small meadow on the other side. I heard the clatter of hooves on the ground and saw the tips of elk antlers disappear over the hill to our left. I thought we had blown it. Brad quickly raised his binoculars and shook his head. “That’s not what were looking for .Watch that flat down there those bulls are coming out. There’s five of ‘em. Those are all young bulls another year on those bulls and at least three of ‘em will be shooters.” We were sort of ducked down in some high grass and Brad was telling me a little about each bull’s age and how you determine score on the antlers when Rex interrupted. “What about that bull that just stepped into the meadow?” Brad and I looked at the same time and my heart skipped a few beats. “That’s him! That’s the whale tail bull I was telling you about!” The three of us hunkered down in the grass and had an excited whisper session pow-wow. “It’s up to you Matt, we have lots of time to hunt if you want to try and find that other bull.” Brad said. I asked Rex “what do you think Rex?” “It’s not my decision but that is one heck of a bull and it can’t get any better than this for film.” “Brad, which one of the bulls do you like better?” I asked excitedly. “They are both good bulls but to be honest this bull is a lot more impressive. He’s way bigger bodied, has wider antlers, lots of character, and those whale tails are just….” “OK Dude, he looks good to me. Let’s take him!” Rex was already rolling as we belly crawled to a stump to get a good rest. The bull heard us and looked in our direction, then ripped out a bugle that sent chills through me, as if to say I don’t know who or what you are but you’re on my turf and you better get out! The bull was broadside and looking in our direction. Brad raised the rangefinder, “89 yards” he whispered. I flipped the safety off the ML2 Savage muzzle loader, “You there Rex?” “Yeah, take him” The crosshairs settled on the bull’s massive front shoulder as I tried to control my now totally pegged adrenaline meter and I took a deep breath, let half of it out and squeeezzzeeddd BOOM! “Great Shot!” The behemoth animal hunched up, a crimson spurt of blood pumped out of the 50 caliber bullet wound indicating a heart shot. The giant bull took two side steps, lost his footing and piled up stone dead less than 10 yards from where he stood when I shot. I could see one side of his massive rack above the waist high grass. “I want to go see him!” I said gasping with excitement. “It would be better to do the out take shots and stuff before we shoot the recovery footage.” I really wanted to see my bull and put my hands on him, but I knew that Rex was right and half heartedly agreed, after all that’s what we were here for to shoot a good TV show. It took nearly 45 minutes to do all of the outtakes and lead up footage and it was killing me. I finally got to walk up to my bull. “Oh my God!” He was truly massive and magnificent. Brad was not exaggerating about his body size he was absolutely huge. Brad estimated him at well over 1,000 lbs! And those antlers! The 6×6 bull was very heavy and carried his mass well the entire length of his main beams. The antlers would later be scored at 355 & 2/8” SCI. I was elated. As the sun dipped below the mountain peak the air carried with it on the breeze a crisp chill hinting what was to come in the months ahead. As darkness enveloped us the sky was painted crimson, violet, purple and a slight hue of orange. The moon hung in sky above the mountain peaks like a luminescent crescent sickle. The stars shined like diamonds against this intense backdrop of color. The mountain Peaks now stood out like a black skyline in the distance. The gold and yellow leaves of the aspen now barely visible in the twilight whispered a prayer or maybe a blessing in the silence and the amen was the chilling bugle of a bull elk on some distant mountainside. At that moment in this special place I truly felt closer to heaven.

AUTHOR’S NOTE;
If you would like to watch the TV show on the hunt featured in this article go to the website www.keithwarren.net Click on the tab for FULL EPISODES. The title of the show is
“A MOUNTAIN OF BULLS”

 

LAND OF THE COLORED BEARS
By; Matt Yablonski
“Oh my gosh! Did I just miss? I think I just missed!” That was the first thought that went through my mind. It was one of those moments in a hunting career (and we’ve all had at least one if we have hunted long enough) that the very moment you touch the trigger you want a do over. My gut feeling was that it was a clean miss. Now I wish that I could tell you that it was because I shot off hand, or I was sitting off balance, or I was jet lagged because I had just arrived and though all of those things were fact, truth be told I just plain got excited and rushed the shot. An amateur mistake at best. The big chocolate phase black bear didn’t want to come to the bait right away and he offered me a 100 yard shot along with a big heaping serving of humble pie! I had seen many trail cam pics of this big guy and I wanted him so bad that the situation had clouded my better judgement. An attempted quartering to shoulder shot to break him down quickly seemed like the perfect medicine but alas the shot just didn’t feel right. At the report of the 30-06 the bear disappeared. I didn’t see him run off, flop, nothing. The silence that followed was deafening. Not a sound. No death moan, no crashing, nothing. Either he was laying right there in a heap or in the next canyon. Inspection of the site revealed no spoor at all. We searched the area thoroughly but to no avail. My suspicions were confirmed the next day. The bear had returned to the bait at 2:30 am. The trail cam took great pictures of my unscathed bear. I think if he had a middle finger he would have used it on camera! In retrospect i should have waited. With 5 more nights to hunt I’m pretty sure I would have gotten a better opportunity. After several days in the same blind with no success and tons of night time trail cam photos of the big guy I figured he would stay nocturnal for the balance of my stay and I moved to a new bait.
This spring hunt had really started about 5 years earlier when I hunted Mountain View ELk Ranch in Riggins Idaho with the Walters family. The ranch is a family operation and their son Brad and I really hit it off right out of the gate. Mountain View is a high fence elk ranch nestled on a mountain top at 6500 feet above the Salmon River. I was there to film a hunt for The High Road TV show for my good friend Keith Warren. As a twist of fate would have it Keith drew a tag on an Indian reservation for the same week and sent a camera man to film me as the trigger man. Not the original plan but I wasn’t complaining I ended up behind the gun instead of the camera!! Evening conversations at the lodge turned as they always do to other hunts and in the midst of things I learned of the high black bear population around the ranch. Walter’s also own over 6,000 acres of private ground outside the high fence. Brad showed me pictures of bears they had shot over the years. I was surprised to see that nearly all of the bears were color phase. Chocolates, reds, cinnamons, blondes and everything in between. I have always wanted a color phase bear. Brad told me to come back out in the spring and he would set some baits for me. As fate would have it, life got in the way and I always found a reason not to go. That is until the spring of 2014. Brad started e-mailing trail cam pics of colored bears and it was more than I could handle. I booked my flights and the second week of May found me in Idaho. The first evening there on stand was the epic miss covered at the beginning of this article. When I had moved to a different bait that was being visited by several bears I informed Brad that if a blonde came in I would harvest it regardless of size, unless it was a cub or a mother with cubs. This bait had a large red bear, a huge black bear, and two smaller blonde bears on the trail camera guarding it. Brad wanted me to hold out for the big red one but I really wanted a blonde more than anything. The perspective of a taxidermist is a bit odd to some hunters. I tend not to always look at the size or score of an animal but rather envision the way it will be mounted and how it will look in the trophy room. After about an hour on stand a big black bear came in. Not what I came here for. I had already shot a dozen or more black bears; I wanted a bear of a different color. After the big fella ate his fill and sauntered off into the bush I heard a twig snap behind the bait and in walked the most gorgeous blonde bear I had ever seen. I mount 40 to 50 bears a year in my studio so I am a fairly good judge of size. I knew that this bear was probably only 150 lbs. or so but he was just way too pretty to pass up. The report of the rifle echoed through the canyon and this time the bear in the crosshairs piled up right at the bait site. I went down to inspect my prize. The coat was absolutely gorgeous! The bear had cinnamon colored legs and muzzle and the entire back was a beautiful strawberry blonde. I called for Brad on the radio and he came in to get the bear loaded up and back to camp. I awoke early the next morning and went out on the porch of my cabin to watch the sun rise over the Salmon River valley. To my surprise there were wild turkeys gobbling all over the mountain. I asked Brad about it and he said the ranch was full of big gobblers. Even better it was still turkey season and the tag was over the counter! After breakfast a trip to the licensing agent was in order. Now a turkey hunt had not been in the plan but far be it from me to look a gift horse in the mouth. After getting my tag it was nearly 9:00 am and Brad had some logging to do so I would go it alone. I put on my camo, grabbed a borrowed shotgun, strapped on my daypack and fired up the four wheeler. The Walters ranch is a beautiful and expansive property with many roads, ridges, and canyons to explore. Never having scouted the property for turkeys, I rode the logging roads until I came to a likely looking pasture area. I shut the quad off and let out a few yelps with my diaphragm call. I was shocked to hear an immediate response not far over the hill. They gobbled again & were closing the distance. I barely had time to run to the base of a big pine tree a mere 25 yards away and get set up. As soon as I got sat down the top of three fans appeared just over the rise. Three soft yelps and the three big long beards were in my lap in full strut gobbling like mad. One busted me and started to putt but it was too late as I already had a bead on the bird. One shot and it was all over as quickly as it had begun. I had a beautiful tom on the ground a mere 15 minutes after leaving the lodge. It was the quickest turkey hunt of my life. The large turkey population on the ranch is virtually unhunted and after filling my tag I spent my mornings calling in toms of every shape and size for the rest of the week. Made for some awesome video footage. That evening Brad and I dined on wild turkey breast and freshly picked morels accompanied with a good bottle of red wine. I have been all over Canada on many spring bear hunts but none can compare to spring in the mountains. It was one of the most enjoyable and relaxing hunts I have ever experienced. After filling my tags I was never bored. The surroundings alone were enough to take ones breath away. Spectacular vistas awaited me around every bend in the trail. The wind blowing through the pines sounded like ancient voices whispering some long forgotten secret. Mornings were spent calling in turkeys and plucking succulent morel mushrooms from the forest floor to be reserved for the evening meal. The aroma of freshly blooming flowers, new spring grass, and towering pines filled the afternoon breezes as we checked and replenished our bear baits. We spent an afternoon on the banks of the Salmon River catching whitefish for the smokehouse. All this was enjoyed with no mosquitos or black flies that are the norm on a Canadian spring bear hunt. The area is not only scenic but game rich as well. In the week that I was there I saw elk, mule deer, turkeys, bears, blue grouse, ruffed grouse, and chuckar partridge to name a few. I saw a lion track and even heard a wolf howl on a distant mountain one evening. I must admit that the thoughts of missing that big Hershey bar colored bear haunt me to this very day; he is still there, waiting for me. When I reflect on that miss I think to myself with all of life’s stresses, demands and responsibilities thank god there is still something that gets me that excited….brings me back to boyhood….makes my heart pound and my hands sweat…gets me excited enough to miss!
IF YOU WANT TO GO
If you would like to experience a hunt at the Walters ranch for yourself here are a few tips. Getting there is half the fun. There is no easy way logistically to get to Riggins. Boise Is the closest airport and the ranch is a three hour drive by rental car. The up side is that you will never go on a more scenic three hour drive in your life. It is incredible! The bears in the mountains have little human contact and seem to be on the move at all times of day. We had trail cam pics of bears on the baits at all times of day so if you have the ability to sit for long periods, I would recommend it. Licenses are available in the town of Riggins and bear tag is over the counter. Accommodations are at the Mountain View lodge in private bunk houses and it is far from roughing it. The bunkhouses hold 2 hunters each and have hot and cold running water. The adjacent main lodge is where meals are served. There is satellite TV and all the comforts of home. Lastly, the Walters family are top shelf folks that have that unique ability to make people feel comfortable immediately. They are honest, hard working and down to earth people and I can’t say enough good things about them.