My goal every year is to at least hunt the first and last day of each bow season here in Oregon (tags permitting). Nothing beats the anticipation and excitement of opening day. For the past few seasons I have hunted the first week of the season out of an eastern Oregon camp. My friends set up camp on the Thursday prior to the opener to ensure we have the best spot for our base of operations. A quality camp makes the hunt better. Early season brings warm days with cool nights, plus the infamous dust that grows each day as hordes of hunter pound the roads. Being off the beaten path and way back on rough roads the trailers, four wheelers, and generators don’t travel makes our camp pleasant.
Our camp is high in the mountains on the only flat spot for miles. We do not see many other hunters up here because it is so steep. It refreshing to know that you, your friends, and the elk and deer are the only ones out there on any given day. The most common question in camp is: “Where are you going tomorrow?” All of the hunts or “bow hikes” as I regularly call them are good ones. Fresh sign is usually every where. Climbing, descending, and side hilling are always part of every hunt, and will test any pair of boots.
This country requires “The quads that god gave you.”
A brief description of “the hole” is needed to set the stage. The hole is owned completely by fine the tax paying citizens of the USA. It is void of any roads and motorized entry. Water is present in the form springs, side draws, and a perennial stream that tumbles through the entire length of this formidable canyon. The north slopes are loaded with blowdown, old growth timber, and stands of dark timber. The south slopes are drier with pine, older stands of tasty mountain mahogany, sage and bunchgrass. Game trails traverse “the hole” and provide a relieving break from the unforgiving terrain while bow hiking or on an early season walkabout. A few open meadows are dotted on some of the softer slopes. Any way you shake it “the hole” provides everything an elk needs in September.
The first couple days were slow with no signs of the big bull. A 45 yard shot I took at a nice respectable 4×4 muley was rudely interrupted by a twig. Sightings of numerous velvet deer was encouraging along with the fresh elk sign.
On Wednesday of opening week I decided to hunt a remote ridge line on the edge of “the hole”. While inspecting a old hunting cabin I stepped on a twig and set off a growling bull in some dark timber just off the rim of “the hole”. I played cat and mouse with a nice bull for over an hour while the wind decided which way it wanted to blow for the day. My hesitance to push in close resulted in a nice sighting of the bull slipping off into the remote depths and folds of the side canyons in “the hole”.
On the long warm walk back to camp I ran into two of the dumbest deer on the mountain. I spooked them and they ran towards me. I positioned and then repositioned for the shot. At 34 yards I pulled the trigger.
With the stink lifted, I slept in the next day and went after an elk for the remainder of the week. I had been running into quite a few grouse and was running low on lunch meat so I focused my efforts on a few “pine chickens” on the walk back to camp.
The week ended without an elk on the ground, but I was happy with my deer and fresh afternoon lunch. With the rest of the season in front of me I set my expectations accordingly, dusted of my gear, packed up and headed home.
Shoot straight, use the quads that god gave you, and leave the aiming fluid in camp.