Western Hunter Magazine July/August 2019 #70 - Page 21

A Last Hurrah Every September for nearly a decade, I’ve head- ed to Idaho for the general archery season. I’ve been drawn back by the changing fall colors, ringing echoes of lustful bulls, and most importantly, the opportunity to spend time with my old friend, Doc. At 83 years young, Doc doesn’t do a lot of hik- ing or hunting, so most of that is left up to me. I’ll help him set up a main camp and then backpack hunt from there, returning every few days to give updates of the hunt and to share camaraderie. We’ve had some great hunts, with a handful of nice bulls to take home, but many of my best memories have just been the regular old times around camp with a good friend. Since the beginning, Doc has been my most consistent and dependable hunting partner – every year, without fail, he’s been there. But heading into 2018, he let me know that change was in the fore- cast. After nearly 50 years of living in Idaho, his old bones just couldn’t take the cold climate anymore. When the season ended, he’d be pulling up stakes and permanently moving south. This would be his last big year at elk camp; his “last hurrah”. Jaw-Dropping Proportions The season started with regular tasks and tra- ditions. First, I helped Doc set up an end-of-the- road main camp. Then, we went up the mountain and brushed in a ground blind that Doc could use for an evening hunt (or just a snooze) if he so got the hankerin’. Finally, we shared a big meal and toasted the season with a stiff drink. The next day, I loaded up my pack and headed for a mountain and some big nasty country I had never explored. For the first few days, the weather was mild and I found elk. Two mornings in a row I got in on an old bull of jaw-dropping proportions. He was massive and blocky, with a thick frame of antlers that stretched impossibly wide. Even with short third points – the right being little more than a stumpy nub – he was one of the most impressive bulls I’d ever seen. So, after a quick check-in with Doc, who was every bit as excited about the bull as I was, I headed back up to the same country for another week. Dog Days As often goes, though, things were different when I returned. Smoke from new forest fires had blown into the area, more hunters were lurking, and temperatures were growing hotter by the day. As result, the elk became more tight-lipped and worked their way deeper and deeper into their dark hidey-holes. With no additional sighting of the big bull, I decided to change pace and spend a few days basing out of Doc’s camp and checking out other areas of the unit. It was a good change, and for a few days, camp life was pretty grand. Meals were hearty and laughs and stories were heartier. One day, after a morning hunt, I returned to find Doc amidst a hunt of his own. Wasps had invaded his old motorhome “roll- ing wall tent” and he’d declared war! An intense battle ensued, filled with hilarity and a few exple- tives, but eventually the dust and bug spray settled, and Doc emerged victorious. His hunt had gone well, but mine continued with little improvement. Daily temperatures were reaching into the high 70s and no rain had fallen in weeks. Reports from other hunters were much the same as mine: too hot, too dry, and no elk. Many folks, completely discouraged, were packing up and leaving the country altogether. Doc and I, however, were deter- mined to stick it out ‘til the bitter end. We agreed that I ought to go back up after that big, wide-antlered bull, just one more time. The mountain will continue to stand; the elk will “ continue to move throughout it; the wind will continue to blow. At the end of every journey is a new beginning.” info@westernhunter.net WESTERN HUNTER 21