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Archive for August, 2009

Scouting for Sheep

We had trouble getting out of town at a reasonable hour Friday, due to a Lifelock issue and a new Polaris Ranger.  We upgraded to the crew ranger so that we could bring Erik’s parents and friends on hunting excursions in one smooth riding powerful vehicle.

Badlands
We made it to the Dubois KOA by 8:20pm, set up camp and hit the hay.  Saturday morning we were entering the badlands by 6:30.  We parked at the top of Windy Ridge and planned on working as far down the ridge as possible.  We made it no more that 300 yards down the mountain when we happened upon 3 rams feeding.  They busted us within a moment or two as we both tried to get in position for a  good look.  The rams spooked and moved further down the ridge to a barren slope, where they stopped and watched us watching them.  We were able to spend a good half hour or 45 minutes watching them.  As we were taking pictures and discussing our options for the day and the hunt this coming week, Erik spotted a larger lone ram.  This ram was out toward the furthest point of the rim laying in the shade.  We watched these sheep for a few more minutes and then made our way to Spring Mountain where we had seen ewes and lambs las weekend.  It took some hiking to find the sheep, but we located them on a ridge that faced Horse Creek.  We also unfortunately found a male lamb dead on the rim opposite of the ewes.  bighorn ram
After driving back to Dubois from Spring Mountain we drove up Horse Creek and into the AB Ranch.  We spoke to a young fellow who was working on irrigation equipment if he knew much about the sheep in the area.  He didn’t know much about the resident sheep, but he did know he had only seen them on slope and ridge we had seen them on.  That helps narrow the search.  Saturday evening we had a great meal at the Rustic Pine Steak house (best london broil on earth) and spent a couple hours visiting with locals in the lounge.
Sunday morning we got up and headed back to relocate the rams from Saturday in the Badlands.  As we made the descent we jump a covey of around 20 Chuckars.  Upon the first look we didn’t see any of the same sheep, so we crossed Byrd draw and hiked down Windy Ridge.  From a low vantage point Erik was able to spot the lone ram from the day before.  He was within a few feet of where he had been yesterday.  We never did see the band of three however, we did hear some commotion in Byrd draw that we never could pinpoint.  This was enough evidence of rams for us to make the decision to come up this coming Tuesday, which is opening day, and begin the hunt.

bighorn ram
We made reservations at the Stagecoach and left the Ranger so as to have a quicker more fuel efficient drive back to Casper.  And if you have never eaten at Paya’s – you’d better order the Mediterranean pizza!

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Dubois

School has started and we are back to being weekend warriors like the rest of the 9-5ers out there.  We raced the kids out the door after school, loaded the 4 wheeler and headed for Dubois.  The plan was to fish for monster Brookies and scout for sheep.
We drove into the Winds and worked our way along Union Pass.  Before we reached Fish Creek, we saw 3 nice bull moose feeding in a pond a couple hundred yards off the road.  We made camp a couple of miles away from the Big Brookie Lake just as it was getting dark.bull moose
Saturday morning we were on the wheeler by 5:30 trying to make the early morning bite.  It was a brisk ride, but a nice temperature for fishing.  We were in our float tubes and fishing long before the sun peaked over the hill.  Erik caught the first fish of the morning.  It was an 18” fat male Brook Trout.  Erik caught 5 fish and Michelle caught two and broke one off.  By mid morning we packed the wheeler and headed back to break camp so we could make it to the KOA in Dubois in time to eat dinner and then look for sheep in the Badlands before dark.  As we were loading the 4 wheeler we noticed something in the front left tire.  We had managed to pick up a fencing staple on the morning ride.  We realized it was wedged deep enough that we could leave it in until we reached town.  When we got to town not one of 4 places we stopped would fix the tire!  Two of the places were ATV sales and repair!!  So, we bought a plug kit and did it ourselves…

Brooke Trout
After making camp and fixing the tire, we ate dinner at a local cafe.  We spent the evening working and glassing the badlands close to town.  We were able to locate two bands of ewes and lambs and learned more about the roads in the area.
Sunday morning we got up as it was getting light and headed for Wiggins Fork Canyon.  We parked the wheeler and hiked all along the canyon rim looking for sheep.  Unlike the last trip, we saw nothing.  Before returning to town we ventured on a road we hadn’t been on before.  It was a good last minute idea because we were able to find another part of the area and there was a band of over 20 ewes within the boundry of Mary’s area.  We will definitely explore this spot more next weekend!

Brook Trout

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Yellowstone/Glacier day 5

Monday morning we had a goal of hiking into Hidden Lake and fishing for Cutthroat Trout, big Cutthroat Trout! We had read how many and how big the fish are in the lake and had been waiting all summer to wet our flies here. We took the highway to the sun to the visitor center at Hidden Lake. On the way we ran in to some construction, which normally would have been frustrating, but it was nice to be able to stop and look for goats along a road that had few pull outs for glassing. It is a very steep and narrow climb on this road. No trailers or wide vehicles are allowed- for good reason.

bighornmountain goat

We made it to the parking lot just before the visitor center opened at 9.   After a quick tour of the center and cehcking out a goat across the highway, we started the trail to the lake. It took more that 2 hours to go merely 3 miles. The flowers, marmots, bighorn sheep and mountain goats kept impeding our progress.

trail to Hidden Lake

This is one of the most beautiful trails we have been on. As you ascend to the lookout point over the lake you will see abundant wildflowers including Indian Paint Brush and Bear Grass.   As you top out with waterfalls to your right bighorn sheep and mountain goats share the trail foraging alpine grasses and wild chives.   The view of the lake is spectacular, but there is more.

Hidden Cut

Pass the look out and make the descent to the lake to find more goats and marmots posing and interacting with the tourists. At the lake we took off our shoes to make our way across the cold glacial waters of the creek to find the best fishing spot. We had to work our way more than half way around the lake to get into consistent fishing. ONce we found where the fish we congregation we started catching 14-18” cuts using dry flies. It was very exciting to watch the fish break the surface to take the fly.

cutthroat

The fish in Hidden are fat and healthy and put up a good fight.   We stayed at the lake until 4:30 before making our way back to the trail. The hike out proved as exciting as the hike in, we saw many goats and sheep on the way back to the visitor’s center.  We decided to make our way to Saint Mary for the night.  Just before we left the park for the night we saw a gorgeous black bear eating berries by the side of the road. We found a KOA in St. Mary, it is nice to have a place to clean up and restock every few days….

black bear foraging

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Yellowstone/Glacier Day 4

Avalanche Lake CutthroatIt took most of the day Sunday to drive to Glacier park.  We arrived around 3:30 and found a campsite at the base of Avalanche Lake.  As we were making our way to the campsite we noticed many day hikers setting out for a destination nearby.  So, rather than wasting the long evening in camp we inquired as to where everyone was heading.  A park ranger told us that Avalanche Lake was a 2 mile hike from our campsite.

dinner

We all grabbed our fishing and photo gear and headed up the mountain.  It was a very easy hike in at this elevation, it took maybe 35 minutes to get to the bottom of the lake where we could view the entire lake as well as the amphitheater and waterfalls to the far side.  We worked our way to the middle of the lake where we found a nice sand bar to fish from.  We were the only fisherman at the lake this night.  Each of us took turns fishing and we were all able to pull in several small cutthroats.  Geoff caught his first ever Yellowstone Cut!  While we fished a black bear worked his way up the shore on the far side of the lake and a nice whitetail buck kept emerging on the shore at the headwaters.  We finished the evening with a walleye dinner and a nice visit with a Canadian couple next door.

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Yellowstone/Glacier Day 3

Saturday morning we waited until the sun got high enough for us to look back toward Yellowstone in Amphitheater Mountain to see some mountain goats that we had scouted just a couple years earlier when Michelle had a goat permit for this part of Wyoming.  We saw two billies just inside the park boundary sunning themselves.  As we ascended Bears Tooth Pass we stopped to look back at Index and Pilot Peak.

Pilot & Index Peaks

It was a clear and crisp morning, perfect for taking pictures.  We spent the next hour or so heading towards the trail head that would take us into Line Creek.  We saw some construction, marmots and a couple getting their wedding photo’s taken, but there were no goats on the side of the road.  We parked in the trail head lot, donned our hiking gear and headed into the hills around 10am.  It was a cool, sunny morning and Both of us were surprised at this altitude how well Geoff was able to keep up.

Mountain Goat Billy

It took only 30 minutes to get to the top of line creek.  Erik glassed the far rim looking for mountain goats and after moving to get around the first corner found a very nice billy sunning on a snow bank only 100 yard in front of us.  He was a magnificent aged goat, a loner.  After taking some pictures and video, we move around to the other side of the goat to get a different vantage point.  He never got too worried about us, but after we interrupted his nap he decided to move toward the direction we had come from to get further from us.  After a snack (vegimite and crackers!) we worked our way back to the truck to head down the steep highway to Redlodge.  The rest of the day was spent on the highway to Bozeman to sleep for the night.

standing on steep

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