Rogue 36 Pack Wheel — Cow Elk Hunting

 

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For several months I have been working on building a Pack Wheel with the largest wheel possible, that being a wheel that is 36 inches in diameter. Thirty six inch wheels on specialty bikes are showing up more and more, especially for really tall people. Being a tall guy myself I have been really intrigued with the larger wheel. The larger the wheel the smoother the ride, as the angle with which the tire contacts an obstacle is lowered making going over obstacles easier.

There are a few challenges to designing a thirty six inch wheel to work with the Pack Wheel. Challenges in designing and building things my brain just loves to tackle, so bring it on. The two most significant challenges to designing this giant wheel to work with the Pack Wheel were first, redesigning the handle so that it would offer strength and stability in a lower-to-frame design. Something I refer to as leverage. The greater the distance between the handle and the center of gravity the better. The second major obsticle was designing the frame to handle the added braking force of the extra leverage from the huge diameter wheel. A few tweaks to the design of the handle and the frame accomplished both of these major obsticles with flying colors!

After working on the design for a few months I had parts cut and welded up just in time for our families late season cow elk hunts. Dallen, Landen and myself all had cow elk tags for an area that has some public land we like to hunt. The last couple of years I have hunted this area I have had to hike in over three miles to find what few elk have been in the area. This year we had a little more snow than the past few years so I was hopeful that we wouldn't have to hike three plus miles in for cow elk especially with my eleven and thirteen year old boys.

Not wanting to have three elk on the ground all at once I decided to have Dallen and I make an initial trip up and see if we could locate some and if possible bring a couple cow elk back with us.

We picked a good day of the week as there were no other vehicles in the parking lot as we showed up a little after daylight. We set out up the canyon with me pushing an empty Rogue 36 and Dallen pushing a 27.5+ Pack Wheel. The 27.5+ is a three inch fat tire that has an outside diameter of 29 inches, just a little smaller than the 29er tires that are on the Pack Wheel.

In years past we have hunted up the mountain for cow elk with Pack Wheels collapsed on our backs. Something that has worked really well for us. My personal Pack Wheels I have setup tubeless making them about nine ounces lighter. This makes my 29er right at twelve pounds of carry weight. Add the two pound meat panniers and I have everything I need to haul a completely boned out elk off the mountain by myself with just the fourteen pounds of extra carry weight with me.

This year we chose to just push the Pack Wheels empty up the mountain. This first prototype Rogue 36 Pack Wheel weighs in just over seventeen and a half pounds and the meat panniers are the same two pounds. In fact Dallen and I were taking the first set I ever sewed up and another very early set. Both sets have carried many elk and a few deer off the mountain and are still holding up strong. These two sets of meat panniers were most recently used to carry out Dallen and Landen's mule deer from the 2016 Utah rifle deer season.

Pushing the Pack Wheel along empty worked great. I wondered if it would annoy me but it didn't at all even going up some really steep inclines. I actually enjoyed having it to lean on and help keep my balance similar to a walking stick.

After hiking for a half mile or so we climbed up the North side of the canyon hoping to glass and find some elk in the area. Nope, nope and nope. After an hour or so we finally found three cows an a calf about a mile further up the canyon and on the thick brushy north facing side. We made a note of them and continued up the south facing slope that we were on. After another half hour we noticed that the three cows and calf had moved one ridge line closer. With not seeing anything on the side we were on we decided to drop back down, cross the canyon, and hope that we might be able to get within range be able to see the elk on the oak brushy side that they were on.

Some time later we were hiking on the other side along the edge of some oak bush when we spotted them at three hundred and fifteen yards. Well within range of my X-Bolt in 270 WSM shooting a 150 Gr SST and Dallen's new 300 WSM shooting 200 Gr ELD-X bullets. However, there was a one major problem, that being we were behind a line of oak brush and getting two of the cows to be in a window to shoot through at the same time highly difficult. Given they were feeding their way towards a ridge line and could disappear from our view, when the largest cow came into an opening I told Dallen to take her. Dallen made a very well placed heart shot and she quickly did a death run mixed with death slide into the brush. The remaining cow and calf ran and paused not far from cresting the ridge line. I had to quickly maneuver into a shooting position that wasn't the most steady but I had a narrow window to the elk through the brush directly in front of me. As I touched off the shot I was right on her back and that was exactly where I hit her. There went a good five pounds of back strap. :( Oops.

By the time we hiked up to them, had them both boned out, and loaded on the Pack Wheels it was after 10pm. As I get older I'm noticing that I can't bone an elk out as fast as I used to. 

Once we had them loaded, off the mountain we cruised. The giant 36" wheel was amazing in the snow. If I could change one thing I would like a really knobby tread like the Hans Dampf or Knobby Nic tires that are on our 26, 27.5+ and 29er Pack Wheels. There just aren't many tire options to choose from that are 36 inches in size. The tires that are on the 36" Pack Wheel are knobby just not super knobby. The reason I would prefer the super knobby tires is for holding your position going around a steep loose side hill. 

There was a hundred yards or so of going around a side hill and the 36 inch tire worked well it just didn't grab and hold it's line quite as well as the knobbier tires I am used to using. I dont' see the tire being a problem I just noticed they slipped a little where the Hans Dampf tires would have held their ground better.

One of the things we knew was going to happen from other snow experiences is the extra resistance of a fatter tire that was on the 27.5+ Pack Wheel Dallen was using. Wider tired have more resistance in un-groomed, wet and deeper snow. I prefer the 2.35" wide Hans Dampf tire over the wider Fat tires in the snow. The reason being is unless you have perfect hard pack snow conditions the fatter tires still sink into the snow. It's a lot easier to have a narrower tire cut through the snow than a fat tire. There just is more resistance along the front edge of the tire. I knew this but still wanted more experience with a fat tire so the Pack Wheel Dallen was primarily using was the fat tire Pack Wheel and I was using the Rogue 36. 

Both Pack Wheels worked great however there was a two hundred yard stretch of sage brush flat that had a layer of a foot of powder on top of a crusted layer of around another eight inches of snow. The 36 inch wheel went through all eighteen inches of snow with ease. The fat tire took some energy to move in this section and a few small rest stops to make it through this two hundred yard stretch. The fat wheel would sink just as far into the snow but it had considerable more resistance to push through the snow just like we have found in other experiences we had last fall while hunting mule deer in heavy wet snow. I knew this but wanted to get a little more experience with the fat tire in the snow. It still worked in the snow but I definitely prefer the standard 2.35" wide tires in the snow. 

We did take turns using each size of the Pack Wheel so that we could better get a side by side comparison.

One thing was for sure and that is the giant 36" tire is now my hands down favorite in the snow and I'm betting it is going to be my all around favorite for all of my outdoor adventures. I'll bet I'm using it on all of my trips this year. :)

Other than a slight slow down for the fat tire on the 200 yard flat, we cruised off the mountain in the dark. 

Did I mention how much I loved the giant wheel? Dang it rolled really nice!

Next up getting Landen's cow elk tag filled.

 

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2016 Utah Muzzleloader Elk Season — Pack Wheeling Into The Backcountry

 

Just crawling into my sleeping bag. Dallen and I put some miles and vertical feet in tonight. We are in a great spot right now to hopefully find some elk the last two days of the Utah #muzzleloader elk hunt. I'm taking a stroll back through memory lane. I am hunting the area I first used the Pack Wheel back in 2008. I did #solohunt archery elk hunts in this canyon in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2007 I stuck a little 5 point around 6 miles in. Thankfully my good friend @ferryboater saved me with spending a whole day coming in with his horses to haul the meat off the mountain. Prior to this I had already been sketching ideas for a wheel to be ultra-light, collapsible, and have a good braking system to haul boned out meat off the mountain. This was the final straw for me to start working on building just a system. By the next year in 2008 I had my first prototype @packwheel with me in the canyon I'm in right now. Will be dreaming of big bulls tonight. #memorylane #packwheel #diyhunting #elkhunting #utahhunting #outdoorlife #outdoors #hunting #getoutdoors #getoutside #kneesaver #hikinggear #hiking #mountainlife #huntutah

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Like last year I have been just too busy in August and September to hunt elk with my bow. Things settle down a little for me in November so like last year I was chasing elk with a smoke pole. 

This year was full of lots of unexpected work that caused me to use up most of my vacation. That being the case I only had a couple days that I could spare to take off to hunt. Given the distance and elevation of where I wanted to pack into I like to spend at least a couple days in there. It's over five miles in to where I like to make camp and 2,300 vertical feet up.

With very mild temperatures and weather I felt it best to wait to hunt the very last days of the hunt hoping that I would have a greater chance of elk moving out of the private ground above and into this public ground I would be hunting. 

With three days left in the hunt Dallen and I set off up the mountain with our Pack Wheel's loaded. We each carried in fourteen quarts of Powerade Zero and water, mostly Powerade Zero. I like having a drink that replenishes lost minerals from sweating them out. I am really prone to bad hamstring cramps after a long day of hiking, especially once I crawl into my sleeping bag.  To prevent cramps I either drink Powerade Zero or I take an Endurolyte pill for every couple hours of hiking. Even though we carried in a ton of fluid I still carried my MSR water filter just in case we needed to hike down to a spring to pump water.

It was nice to have Dallen come to help me on this hunt. I was full of stories about archery elk hunting this area back in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2007 I shot a little five point bull way at the back of this public ground. This was the last straw to push me into doing something about my ideas for a ultra-light system to haul elk off the mountain. When I packed in to hunt the same area in 2008 I had my first prototype Pack Wheel cart with me. Needless to say I had a lot of stories to share with Dallen about the area and during the course of our hunt I was able to show him a lot of my favorite spots to hunt for elk.

As we hiked in we watched a lot of mule deer but couldn't find any elk. Until the snow flys the elk are usually way at the top and down in the upper canyons so I didn't think we would find any on the hike in but we enjoyed glassing the mule deer.

It was after dark as we crested the ridge I wanted to get past to setup camp. As we got to this ridge we saw a camp fire a little further down the ridge. We weren't going to have the area to ourselves. Darn it. Oh well. We went another half mile around the canyon then setup the Alps Chaos tent and hit the sack dreaming of big bulls in the morning.

Early the next morning we took off with day packs headed out a ridge to glass. It didn't take us long before we glassed up a six point bull around 700 yards away. We needed to head down one draw then pop up on a ridge and hopefully the bull was still there for a 200 or so yard shot. And then there was the horses, yeap, horses, ten of them to be exact. Apparently the camp on the ridge was a camp of a bunch of horse hunters. As we moved down into the canyon going after the elk we could hear steel horse shoes clanking off rocks all over the place around the ridges of the canyon. No, no, no...

When we made it to where we hoped to get a shot the bull was gone. In the process of going down into this canyon we also spotted another six point bull in a different sub draw off this canyon. In both cases the bulls were headed for safety of the private ground fence line. We took off trying to get in front of them but we found that horses had already made it around to that side of the canyon. Oh well. I wished there wasn't all the noise from all the horses surrounding the canyon but this is how public land hunting goes sometimes. I may not agree with the style of hunting but everyone else has a right to be there just like I do. Now if I did have a horse to get me into this area to hunt I would leave my horse at camp and sneak down into the canyon on foot. They just are soooo noisy. You can hear them coming a mile away and I don't have as good of hearing as a elk has. Oh well. This is one of the reasons I like archery hunting. Bow hunters may ride horses to get into the backcountry but they generally don't ride them around hunting from the saddle.

So the rest of that day we hiked back to camp then moved camp over to another location. That evening we hunted right along the private land border but never saw any elk. I did snap a pretty nice pic of a Dusky Grouse that evening but that was about all we saw.

We were up early the next morning debating on whether to go back to the same area or hike a mile to the north and hunt that canyon. As it was just getting light we could see and hear the train of horses head up the mountain and to the north. Well that answered that question. No need for us to go to the other canyon with a bunch of horses headed that way. We slipped down into the same canyon we were in the day before and glassed from a few different locations. Nothing. We had the place to ourselves this morning but there were also no elk in the area. At one point that morning a yound bull moose came in thirty yards from us and I snapped a few pics of him.

Again that evening we hiked around to some good vantage points and glassed but not an elk could be found. Oh well. Maybe next year. 

We hiked back up to camp and loaded up our Pack Wheels in the dark then off the mountain we flew. And flew we did, with just a little weight in our day packs and everything else on the Pack Wheels for the near six miles and 2,300 vertical feet down we were off to the races. Well, Dallen was, my knees can't take the pounding of runnning so we cruised at a pace of three miles per hour. Dallen with good knees could have ran off the mountain if he didn't have to wait for me. 

I guess there is always next year. I haven't been doing too well at filling my tags the last few years. I'm a little picky wanting a 150ish or better mule deer so I have passed on a few but when it comes to elk I shoot whatever I can find if I can find one as I love the meat. I'm hoping I can find more time to hunt next year and get a bull in the freezer.

Even though I ate tag soup I had so much fun being on the mountain. I generally like to hunt solo but find it really enjoying to hunt with my kids. Dallen was a great help and I really enjoyed the time we were able to spend together on the mountain. Thank you for the help Dallen!

 

 

Dallen took this pic of me headed up 2,300 vertical feet and five miles in on my muzzleloader elk hunt in November. We each carried in 14 quarts of Powerade and water on our @packwheel carts. We found a few bulls and a lot more horse hunters riding the canyons. Even though I didn't get a bull I had a great time with Dallen. It was fun showing him the area and telling him the stories of archery elk hunting the area -- the area I tested my first prototype Pack Wheel back in 2008. #diyhunting #elkhunting #utahhunting #getoutside #getoutdoors #hunting #gearjunkielife #outdoors #outdoorlife #hikinggear #hikeutah #hikingadventures #backpacker #hiking #mountainlife #huntutah #whatgetsyououtdoors #kneesaver #backsaver #huntinglife

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Muzzleloader elk hunting last month with my CVA Accura V2 sporting a Vortex Viper HS-LR 4-16x50 scope. Love these scopes for big game hunting rifles. Might scale it back some for next year and get a smaller scope more in the 3-9x40 range. We'll see, I like to tinker and test new combos. My max effective range I feel comfortable with the 300 Gr Powerbelt AeroLite bullets was just over 300 yards. These bullets shoot sub MOA with this rifle but only have a 0.197 BC and I'm only getting them moving around 1,800 fps.... would like both of those numbers to be higher. I may also try and find some bullets with better BCs. Hmm... #whattotrynext #hunting #vortexoptics #cvamuzzleloader #biggamehunting #elkhunting #utahhunting #getoutside #getoutdoors #whatgetsyououtdoors #vortexviper

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2016 Utah Rifle Deer Season — Landen's First Buck

 

Way to shoot Landen!!! Awesome #firstbuck !

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Love these boys!

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Midday snack time.

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Some of the bucks we saw today. Nothing we could really go after.

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Big D watching a canyon for muleys.

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Four point down!

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Two days after coming off the mountain from elk hunting with the boys we were headed back out. This time for mule deer. Opening morning we decided to drive up in the dark and do a day hike down one of my favorite canyons. As it was just getting light, we set out down the canyon. Within minutes we found a bunch of deer and a couple bucks but they were right on the corner of a CWMU so I had to tell the boys to just ignore the deer and lets get down around the corner to see what else we could find. As we were passing by these deer we walked right up on a couple of other hunters setup watching the deer. I tried some small talk with them and they didn't say a word back. Awkward silence.. Ok then. Guess they weren't too happy we were parading past them. I didn't want to hang around so we headed past them and down the canyon.

Surprisingly once we got further down into the canyon we found other hunters had hiked way down into the middle of the canyon in the dark. So much for seeing any deer in that big canyon, with them already in there. We watched the canyon for a few hours and only found one deer. Usually there are a bunch of deer in that canyon but you can't go down into the middle of it in the dark, you just scare everything out while you can't see it. Oh well, the joys of public land hunting in Northern Utah. There are a lot of people crammed into very little public land options. We did find a few more deer way out in the distance but all on the private CWMU. 

Around mid day after watching the guys in the bottom of the canyon hike all around down in there and not kick up a single deer we headed back out. 

With the young boys in school on Monday we decided to make wait till Thursday night and pack into some other public land to hunt through Saturday night. 

Thursday night we loaded up our Pack Wheels and headed up the mountain. We glassed for deer along the way in the sage brush draws but just like the weekend before we could only find deer on the other side of the fences. Public land traffic bumps the deer to where they aren't messed with. That is does.

After dark we made it in a couple miles to where I wanted to make camp we setup our Browning four man Greystone tent for the night.

The next morning we were up early and out glassing for deer. It was nice to actually find more deer than hunters and we were finding plenty of deer. After a while we setup on a point to glass in a spot where the deer were funneling through. By mid morning we had spotted right at sixty two does but no bucks. Dallen decided to walk around the corner a little to be able to look down a canyon better. It was just then that he startled Landen, KB and myself by firing his rifle across the canyon. It didn't sound like he connected on whatever he was shooting at. Dallen was just 30 yards or so from us and I was able to find were he was shooting. It looked like a decent buck and I ranged it at 330 yards and yelled over to him the range while also working with Landen to setup for a shot. Now with the reange Dallen's second shot made a solid hit but it appeared to be a gut shot as the deer was now very sick looking and not wanting to move.

While the buck was still standing Landen was able to get a shot off and I could hear it hit. I later found that Landen hit it in the front leg just below the shoulder. Then Dallen sent another 200 Gr ELD-X through the heart follwed by a fifty yard death run down the hill.

Dallen ended up hitting the buck twice a little far back and his final shot through the boiler room. We teased him about getting excited and not using his range finder before flinging lead. We nicknamed this buck "First Try" with a rough, deep Batman voice. Dallen had a range finder and a diagram of yardages for his Nikon BDC reticle laminated to the side of his rifle scope. He just needed to take a few seconds to get the range. Buck fever will get you excited and excited he sure got. Dallen now had a critter taken with his new X-Bolt 300 WSM. He was really itching to shoot something with it this year.

The buck turned out to be a nice little 4x5. Landen was happy for Dallen but at the same time a little sad he hadn't got a buck or elk yet. Understandable, very understandable.

We boned out the deer and Dallen hauled it on a Pack Wheel back to camp. At camp we refuel for the evening hunt and Dallen headed off the mountain with his buck as it started to rain. 

KB, Landen and myself did setup that evening and glassed that evening spotting a bunch more does. Where are all the bucks? 

Back in the tent that night the little boys and I chowed down on Chicken and Dumpling Mountain House dinners. It was raining quite heavy on the tent and in the dark and rain Dallen made it back to camp and crawled into the tent with us. 

Dallen was a trooper hauling his deer a couple miles off the mountain by himself back to the Montero. He then drove home 20 miles, came back and hiked a couple miles back up the mountain in heavy rain in the dark back up to help his little brother get a buck. It was around 10pm with me and the two young boys snug in our sleeping bags listening to the rain when Dallen made it back. I was a very impressed, proud father that Dallen came back to help his little brother with it being so wet and dark. Thank you Dallen.

The next morning we were up extra early because it was Saturday and we knew we would have a lot more orange on the mountain and that we did. We initially setup where Dallen took his buck but after a half hour we spotted a small buck way across the canyon and we decided to take off after him.

As we crossed the canyon and popped up over a rise where we could see the deer passing from across the canyon. As we did a 18 inch variety of buck came around and stopped broadside just over 200 yards away. I'm not sure what happened. We had Landen on the shooting sticks, it all looked good but we were rushing to help him get positioned and ready. Whatever the case he missed and the buck moved into some brush. As we were waiting for the buck to clear the brush two hunters walked around the bend right in between us and where we were shooting. Ahh! We had to get up and chase after the buck. The two hunter hadn't seen nor knew we were there but after they saw us they changed course and we were able to chase after the buck without having to worry about them chasing it also.

As we crested some brush the buck got out at around 150 yards away. I tried to get Landen on the buck but he just couldn't find it in the scope. Things that come with experience. One of the reasons I like to take the kids prairie dog hunting to learn to shoot under a little pressure.

So off to the races we went again trying to make it to the next draw on this side of the canyon in hopes that we could see the buck in that draw. Nope, too late so on to the next. We were getting a workout. In the next draw we could see the group of deer a thousand or so yards ahead of us. We slowed it down and started crossing through the bottom of the draw when a couple deer jumped up out of the tall sage brush above us. I glassed them up and the last one was a spike. Landen said he wanted to get him so we setup on the sticks again. The buck was broadside right at 200 yards and miss. Landen put another shell in and as the buck paused now going straight away he quickly fired and bam, down goes the buck. What a shot. Not the most optimal angle but it proved to be very effective. I like how Landen loaded and took the shot all on his own. But we have since talked about waiting for a better broadside shot in the future.

Just after he dropped the little buck a larger two point came around the hill just above the downed buck. Then just after we walked up to the buck I four point comes around and stops in the spot where Landen had shot from. Oh well, Landen and Dad were excited for the buck he was able to harvest. As it turned out the buck had some little forks. We kidded about using the antlers as utensils like a spork and the name of "Sporky" was giving to Landen's first buck.

In the chase for the buck Dallen had been kind enough to push the empty Pack Wheel and help KB along.

After we had the deer boned out and loaded on the Pack Wheel, Landen and KB took turns hauling it a good two miles back to camp. It was a small buck and the meat only weighed 40 pounds and then the head was at least five pounds, but even at 45+ pounds my 12 year old and 10 year old were able to easily haul a whole deer with my extra-large Pack Wheel. That was pretty cool having such young kids be able to easily haul a deer. 

Back at camp we broke down the tent and loaded everything up on our Pack Wheels for the trip off the mountain. The Gear Panniers easily stacked right on top of the Meat Panniers that were holding Landen's deer meat. This made it very easy to haul everything out that night in the dark.

As I look back at this hunt it will be one that was really special to me. Having all three boys with me, both of them getting bucks, Landen getting his first deer, sleeping in the tent in the rain. The whole experience was just awesome. 

I can't wait to take the boys out again next year after deer. They have been talking a lot about packing in the extra couple miles next year to be in a better position to get larger bucks. I can't wait. 

 

 

 

 

 

#comeoutheavy in ease, with a smile on your face, thanks to the Pack Wheel.

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Landen notching his first tag last month. What a wonderful memory being there with Landen, KB and Dallen.

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#muleymonday with a #packout in a rain storm.

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A look across the canyon at #deercamp for @diyhntr and his three boys last week.

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2016 Utah Rifle Elk Season — Landen's First Big Game Hunt

Coming just off my exciting muzzleloader mule deer hunt I was looking forward at taking Landen on his first big game hunt.

Landen will be starting his hunting career out with my Browning A-Bolt Stainless Hunter in 243 WWSM. In this rifle I have 80 Gr Tipped Triple Shock bullet going 3,550 FPS. These bullets are awesome on deer and elk out to around 300 yards. This bullet going this fast just crushes through bone and penetrates like no other.

Dallen was itching to shoot something with his new X-Bolt Gray Laminate Long Range Hunter in 300 WSM. He just purchased it... well I purchased it for him for helping me with building Pack Wheels. In the two or so weeks we had this rifle before the season we tried some HSM 185 GR Bergers that just shot horrible groups. I ordered some 200 Gr Hornady ELD-X bullets and loaded them up and Holy Cow. My first three completely different powder charges all shot right at 1/2 inch or better. (check out the groups shown below) Holy Cow!!! I have never seen anything shoot this good with the very first loads I ever tried. Holy Cow!!! Did I say that already? Anyhow Dallen was liking his new rifle and so was Dad. 

The night before the opener all of us boys headed up the mountain and setup my Browning Greystone four man tent to spend the night. That night we discussed the nice six point bull that we captured a bunch of images and video of on my Browning trail cameras, he was our #1. We also discussed a goofy little 7x4 bull as the bull the boys hoped to find as their number two bull on the hit list.

Early the next morning we were up and hiking up the mountain. Dallen being a veteran hunter with a view season under his belt chose to hunt by himself for the morning looking out over a oak brush filled canyon.

KB, Landen and I headed up to where several of my trail cameras are located to hunt for the morning. Things were really quite all morning until just after 10 when we had a calf, cow and bull come over a ridge and into the canyon we were watching. They were only around 200 yards away however they where in some quaking aspens and not clearly visible to take a clear shot. They appeared to be headed towards a clearing that Landen was setup on shooting sticks all ready to take the bull. Then something happened and the bull made a cough like sound and they all turned around and headed right back where they came from. What the heck just happened? They couldn't smell us... then a couple minutes after they left I found the answer — a black bear. Stinking bears! Right where we had just watched the elk I watched a black bear follow the path the elk had taken over the ridge and out of the canyon.

Dallen didn't see anything that morning so he came up to hang out with us for the afternoon and evening. Unfortunately we didn't find any elk that evening. Before we left we pulled the SD cards from my cameras to see what had been in the area. 

That next week Dallen went up on the mountain by himself and hunted for a couple days. I was proud of him going on his first hunt by himself and sleeping in a tent all by himself. Dallen returned form the mountain with stories of an elk sneaking in silently and spooking. And stories of a bull that answered his cow call just before dark. He was pretty excited but again no elk again.

The following weekend the four of us boys were out again looking for some elk. The little boys were troopers hiking up and down the mountain. We learned on this trip that a little five point was out in the open the day before Dallen went hunting during the week. If Dallen had been there the day before he could have easily seen this bull with several cows. This is also the bull that evaded Landen on the opener thanks to the help of the black bear.

The last couple days of the hunt the boys had school off so I took off work and headed back up with them in hopes of finding a bull especially for Landen. This trip we decided to hunt and area that gets more hunting pressure but also has a lot more elk. I tend to shy away from this location just to stay away from other hunters. 

The first night we hiked way over and down into the canyon. I packed a Pack Wheel along just in case so we would be all ready to haul an elk out of the canyon should we get one. That evening we did see a cow elk way out across the canyon on a CWMU. We setup in more of a thick bow hunting area and called hoping to get a bull to sneak in. At one point we were pretty sure a bull came in behind us as it sounded like antlers hitting the maple trees but we never saw what it was. I also called in a hunter right to where we wanted the elk to show up but again no elk.

On the last day we did a lot more hiking around exploring but just weren't in the right place at the right time. We later found out that a five point was shot in the spot we had been the night before. 

Sorry your Dad failed you on getting an elk your first year Landen. I still had a lot of fun spending time with all three of my boys on the mountain. I wish I had more time to spend with them doing things like this.

Just one day to rest and the opener of deer season. I'll get you on a buck Landen, don't worry, we'll find you a buck.

2016 Utah Muzzleloader Deer Season — Bucks Galore

 

This blows me away! I am amazed at how #accurate my Accura V2 @cvamuzzleloaders is with AeroLite 300 Gr #powerbeltbullets. These three shots were shot at 100 yards, in breezy conditions and 88 degrees. I shot from sand bags and fired each shot within a couple minutes of one another with a spit patch ran down the barrel between each shot. I also just switched to a BlackHorn loose powder breech plug. #triple7 primer, 120 gr Triple7 FFG loose powder, #velocity 1785, 1803 & 1809 fps. @vortexoptics 4-16x50 Viper HS LR scope, @evolutiongunworks Rail, @burriscompany Signature Zee rings. #cvamuzzleloader #vortexoptics #hunting #evolutiongunworks #elkhunting #muzzyscope #huntutah #utahhunting #getoutside #getoutdoors #deerhunting #outdoors #outdoorlife @muzzleloaders #muzzleloader #muzzleloading #bullets

A photo posted by Brady Smith (@diyhntr) on

This year I have muzzleloader deer and elk tags like last year. I was hopeful to get a muley on the ground and end my mule deer dry spell dating back to 2011.

This year Utah opened up muzzleloaders to have variable power optics. While this is nice option to have, I really would have preferred that a 1x restriction would have stayed in place. Not that I don't like the variable power, just that I know more people will be out hunting with muzzleloaders, something I'm sure the DWR knew would happen, taking a little pressure off the rifle season.

This year I had Dallen come with me on my pack trip in the high country. With heavy amounts of early snow in the high country we had to start hiking a mile further because of impassable snow drifts in the road. With this extra mile and the deep snow to hike through we decided to hunt our way across the mountain for four days instead of just hiking the full six miles in and only hunting in that area.

The night before the opener Dallen and I seen a few deer, a small four and three point were out feeding not far from where we camped. We went to sleep dreaming of big bucks come morning. 

Opening morning we woke and hiked out to a point to glass a basin for deer. We found around ten bucks with a couple four point bucks in the 22 inch wide size. We decided they weren't what I was looking for and picked up camp and Pack Wheeled in another mile to check out some other canyons for the afternoon and evening.

That afternoon we watched a bunch more deer including a beautiful four point buck that tempted me really hard to go after. He again was right around 22 inches wide but had larger very even forks with a very symmetrical frame. We decided to save him for a possible rifle season trip with Dallen and Landen my 12 year old who will be hunting for the first time later in October.

That evening we had a whopper of a lightning storm move in on us. It was pretty intense but just before the storm started dumping on us, the sun was setting with light coming in under the dark storm clouds. It made for some amazing photos that I quickly took of Dallen with his Pack Wheel just before we scrambled to get a tarp out to wrap around us and ride out the lightning storm.

The next morning we hiked up and down some canyons looking for a good buck. All we found were does, so midday we broke camp and started headed further down the trail with our Pack Wheels.

As we were hiking down the trail we crested a ridge line and busted a mature 3x4 buck in a area I never see deer at before. I dropped my Pack Wheel and took off to try and circle the canyon and get a shot at this nice buck. When I got to within about 150 yards of where I last saw the buck I started slipping my way down through jack pines and snow covered ground. As I was slipping, literally slipping in the snow trying to be as quiet as possible I heard something go out the other side where I couldn't see. I figured it was him but I kept sneaking in to see what I might find. As I got to the spot I found two small bucks both young 3x4's. I was able to sneak to within 40 or so yards of them and get some fun photos but they weren't nearly large enough for me to want to shoot.

That evening we finished packing in the full six miles... make that seven miles this year thanks to the snow. 

The next morning we climbed into and glassed a couple basins finding lots of bucks across one canyon all safely located on a CWMU. After glassing this basin for an hour or so I looked down to our side of the canyon and there was a 4 point right below us that must have been bedded and decided to stand up. He wasn't the largest four point. Probably in the 22 inch wide range but he was in a very easy spot to get him boned out and up to a ridge line where we could wheel him off the mountain with my Pack Wheel. With all this in mind Dallen ranged him at 166 yards and a 31 degree downhill cross hill shot. I plugged in the information into Strelok Pro and sent a bullet right over his back. What the heck was that?!? 166 yards was a chip shot with my sub MOA shooting 300 Gr Aerolite bullets, CVA Accura V2 with Vortex 4-16x50 HS LR scope. What just happened?!? I could hit milk jugs out to 310 yards just fine while practicing.

One thing I didn't factor is the lift I would get from the fairly strong wind that was blowing into the steep sidehill. I have learned that shooting across a slope that has a wind blowing against it deflects some of the wind upward creating lift. I had held a little for the crosswind but not thought of any lift at the time of the shot. This alone would account for maybe a couple inches at this range. Second, I obviously may have just pulled the shot, but the shot didn't feel like I pulled it??? And Third, something I have been reading and studying about. If you want to shoot long range with a muzzleloader you need to load it just before you take the shot. Having a load in the barrel over night and various temperature changes must create moisture and something that greatly effects the accuracy. I have read where it is best to discharge your muzzleloader every evening and load a fresh load in the morning. I talked with a guy on the mountain that talked about only loading the muzzleloader after spotting the deer.  More on this third item in a minute.

Oh, one of the things I found from going out and shooting the 300 Gr Aerolite bullets is that the published BC of .222 for this bullet is not what I was getting with respect to actual bullet drops. My calculation from using Strelok Pro was that the BC was somewhere around .195 for this bullet. I later received an email confirming this from PowerBelt Bullets that the .222 published was incorrect and that their data had the BC at .197. Not the greatest BC for this bullet but the accuracy is amazing!

After missing the shot we hiked down to verify that I hadn't just sent the bullet right through him when Dallen spotted the bullet hit the cliffs behind him. Sure enough a clean miss right over his back. I have spent a lot of time running this miss through my head... I wasn't too upset about not getting this buck as he wasn't a huge buck but missing has been driving me crazy. Anyhow back to the hunt.

After missing I wanted to head down into some untouched canyons. We spent most of the day going into some awesome canyons. We found another four point and another 3x4. The four point wasn't wide but had decent mass and forks however he was right on the private property line according to my maps in Back Country Navigator Pro and the KML I downloaded from the DWR of the CWMU boundaries. So I let the buck walk just to be safe.

When we were down in these canyons we bumped a doe that climbed up a few yards and stopped right out in the open a little over 100 yards from us. The strangest thing I have ever seen with a deer's behavior during a hunting season then happened. The doe was right in the path of where we needed to go, to climb out of the canyon, so we just kept hiking towards her and she never moved, in fact she started chewing her cud and browsing on some of the vegetation by her. It was really steep where we were at as we slowly hiked past her. She was probably only 40 yards away as we hiked past her. It was like she was a pet deer in a national park or something. Kind of strange experience for me on this mountain.

Latter that evening we glassed a bunch more bucks with one in particular that I wanted to shoot. The group of bucks was feeding out of the CWMU and onto the public ground at the last light of the day. I felt that it best to wake up extra early the next morning and slip into the area and cut off the route back to the CWMU hoping they would be there the next morning.

Well it sounded like a good plan but the deer had all disappeared except one small buck come morning. It appeared that they moved back into the CWMU long before daylight and were already bedded at daylight. Curses!!!

This was my last day to hunt and hike off the mountain. We stopped and hiked through some nasty thick small quaking aspens trying to check out some different canyons on the way off the mountain but never found a deer.

So yet another year that I come up short getting a mule deer. There's always next year I guess. I've been saying that for a few years now. 

So back to accuracy issues with a load that sits in your muzzleloader for an extended period of time. After the hunt I went shooting some reloads in some rifles and I also needed to empty my muzzleloader. I setup the chronograph and fired the load that had been sitting in my muzzleloader for several days. That shot missed the bullseye by near four inches to the right. I loaded up the muzzleloader and fired again. This fresh load only missed a perfect center shot by only 1/2 inch. The velocities (which I wrote down and can't find now) were both around 20 fps of one another so that wsn't a problem. So what caused the inaccuracy of the sitting charge?

At a minimum I will be discharging my muzzleloader at each day's end on future hunts. If I can get a quick system to load my muzzleloader I may hunt with an unloaded gun in the future. I also wonder if I ran a spit batch down the bore on top of a sitting charge just before taking a shot would bring the accuracy back to where it should be. It's kind of hard to do a lot of field testing on this. Load a gun leave it outside for a few days the shoot it and then repeat... This could take forever to get good data on what is going on.

Next up Landen's first elk hunt

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