Pulling My Trail Cameras From The High Country For The Season

Browning Recon Force Trail Camera

One of my Recon Force trail cameras on this tree for the last time this year.

 

Browning Spec Ops trail camera

This Browning Spec Ops trail camera has been watching a spring (to my back) for the past six months.

 

Aside from a cow elk tag that Dallen has for this year our big game hunting is over for the year. With winter approaching I took one last trip up the mountain to the high country to pull my trail cameras. I have spent so much time this year going up hunting and checking my trail cameras that I have become really fond of the area.

I found the trail camera on my favorite spring broken right off the mounting bracket and the camera was lying on the ground covered with mud. I have been able to use some super glue and a little time to let the moisture that entered the camera dry out and it appears to function fine now. Reviewing the footage from the camera and from past experience, I can only guess that it was a black bear. Those critters have it in for me I swear.... or at least they really don't like trail cameras.

I have thoroughly enjoyed communing with the mountain this year. With all the time and the video/images I have of the animals that frequent the area I can't help but feel connected with the mountain more so than at any other time in my life. People can say one thing or the other about the use of trail cameras but I'm here to say that I am very grateful for them in helping me feel so connected with such a beautiful place on God's earth. Not only did the cameras help provide elk meat for our family they are directly responsible for helping me loose weight and in getting my bad knees in better condition, something I could not force myself to do at any gym.

The mountain looks so different now. All the leaves fallen, much of the vegetation flattened from crazing and snow, the area feels deserted. It was a sad day for me to take this last trip.


Here's one of the best bucks I have seen on camera this year. I love the long cheater on the right. Where was this buck hiding during the hunting season? I really like this buck. He has a pretty set of antlers.

 

This young bull comes in with some cows and plops down right in front of the camera one evening. What's really neat is that this was the bull that I have the most on camera all through June and July then he disappeared from the area.

Bull Elk Browning Spec Ops Trail Camera BTC-3

5 Point Bull Elk Browning Range Ops Trail Camera BTC-1

Here is the bull on July 3rd. The camera shows 2012 but I had the date set wrong in the camera. Here he is on October 29th back in the area he spent the summer.

Here's a cow that comes up and licks the camera. This is actually a pretty common occurrence. The cows are really curious of the cameras. The self adjusting illumination on the camera is nice so it doesn't blow out the exposure as the elk gets closer.

 

This video is just of various elk that pass by the cameras over the past several weeks. Nothing big. I wonder if the two 5x6 bulls we were after made it through the hunting seasons.

 

Here's the camera that I believe Mr. Bear tried to destroy. Once the camera hits the ground a cow elk comes by and a magpie lands above it.

2013 Utah Youth Elk Hunt — Dallen Shoots Big Ol' Charlie One Horn

Sitting in Cliffs Elk Hunting

Dallen watching for elk from some cliffs.

 

X-Bolt Stainless Stalker with Vortex Viper HSLR Scope

My X-Bolt 270 WSM with a Vortex Viper HS LR 4-16x50 rifle scope and EGW 20 MOA picatinny rail.

 

Browning Powerhouse Ground Blind

We packed in a Browning Powerhouse ground blind so that we could crawl into it during rain storms. Actually there is no need to crawl into this ground blind it's extra tall allowing for you to easily get in it, stand in it and move around. Just what I like.

 

Big Black Bear

Here's the first big black bear that we spotted  while elk hunting. Looks like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, very big bear.

 

Black Bear

This black bear was smaller than the first bear that we saw but this bear by all means wasn't tiny. I think this bear is one of the bears that messes with my trail cameras. See video below.

 

Hiking in cliffs while elk hunting.

Dallen hiking in cliffs while elk hunting.

 

Hunting with clouds in background.

Dallen watching for elk and bears with some cool looking clouds in the background as the sun sets.

 

Dallen and I with his 2013 bull elk - Charlie One Horn

Dallen and I with his 2013 bull elk — Big Ol' Charlie One Horn.

 

Dallen Walking up to his 2013 bull elk.

Dallen walking up to Charlie One Horn. Later we found that Charlie One Horn walked past one of my trail cameras minutes before Dallen takes him. You can see the footage in one of the videos on this page.

 

Dallen with his 2013 bull elk and a Pack Wheel game cart.

Dallen with a Pack Wheel game cart all prepared to haul his elk off the mountain.

 

Elk meat all loaded on a Pack Wheel game cart.

Dallen's bull elk all boned out, on the Pack Wheel ready to haul off the mountain.

 

Dallen packing elk head

Dallen carrying out the head of his 2013 bull elk while I used the Pack Wheel to wheel out all of the meat.

 

After I successfully took a spike elk with my bow we were hopeful that Dallen would be able to harvest one of the larger 5x6 bulls that we had been seeing in the area on my Browning trail cameras. However that last time any of my trail cameras had captured one of the 5x6 bulls was the day before the archery elk opener.

The week before Dallen's opener in rained almost every day. When it rains on the mountain we are hunting the roads get really greasy... So the night before the opener we chained up all four wheels and crawled our way up the greasy mud. We made it but the wheel wells were packed in with the muddy mess.

Opening morning we crawled out of our sleeping bags and started up the mountain. We took a steeper route than normal trying to avoid spooking elk and deer on the way in. Once we got to our first location to hunt we sat for an hour or so with no activity. We decided to move to our second location and sat until mid-day without seeing any elk.

At mid-day we headed back to the area where I shot my spike with a bow two weeks prior. We hadn't been there long when Dallen spots a bull elk working it's way up the canyon. Dallen was excited however once we got our optics on the bull we could see that it was a 4x4 bull. Basically the same size as the bull he shot in 2012. He decided to pass on it. I did my best to try and encourage him to take the bull but Dallen wanted something better and kudos for him not giving in under the pressure I was putting on him. Dallen knew that there were better bulls in the area.

You know the good thing about trail cameras is that you know what is in the area and the bad thing about trail cameras is that you know what is in the area. Trail cameras sure help in the decision making of where to hunt and what to shoot. Dallen was holding out for at least a 5 point. We knew from the trail cameras that there are several five point bulls in the area and a couple 5x6 bulls. Dallen wanted one at least that big.

Later in the evening after seeing the 4x4 bull we watched two different Black Bears come out of the quaking aspens just a 100 yards to our right. It was kind of funny as I spotted the first bear I told Dallen not to move because there was a bear to his right. After I watched the bear a little more I looked back at Dallen and he was froze solid still looking to his left. I guess I should have explained myself better. I think he thought the bear was right next to him. I just didn't want to scare the bear away. Pretty funny.

Three minutes after the bear came through Dallen spotted another bear coming out and down the same trail that the first one went down. Very cool!

We were good boys and came home Saturday evening so that we could attend church on Sunday.

Monday I picked Dallen up a little early from school and we flew up the mountain. We made it into position about 4:30 to watch the canyon we watched the bears in on Saturday evening. At around 5:30 I spotted a good bull sneaking around the quaking aspens out about 300 yards. It walked through an opening and disappeared. I told Dallen not to fear. I pulled out a cow call and mewed and quickly he bugled back, awesome! I then laided into two of my favorite Primos calls with some aggressive hot cow calls. The bull was hooked. He cut out of the trees and into a clearing and that is when we noticed that he was missing an antler. He crossed the canyon and popped up on a ridge line 150 yards across from us and then turned broadside walking along the hillside. Dallen and I went back and forth. Dallen would say, "he's only got one antler"... I then would respond "but he's big", "he's only got one antler"... "do you want him or not?" Ok dad, I'll take him. Hold on, I'll stop him. Mew, BANG!

In typical Dallen fashion shortly after putting down the bull Dallen had him named. Charlie One Horn.

We then boned out the elk to haul it off the mountain. While boning one of the front shoulders we found the second bullet that was fired from 189 yards. I really wanted to open up the chest cavity and find the other bullet but by the time we finished boning out the elk it was three in the morning. I didn't want to spend another hour looking for that bullet. I can say that there was no sign that it travel anywhere near to the opposite side of the rib cage.

After boning out the elk Dallen strapped on the head to his pack and I carried the backstraps in my pack and the rest of the elk meat in Pack Wheel Panniers strapped to a Pack Wheel game cart. The Pack Wheel game cart made it a breeze to get off the mountain. Because the cart is so lightweight and collapsible I carried the cart with me while we were hunting. This makes it really nice so we don't have to make any extra trips. We just bone out the elk and load it on the Pack Wheel and go.

I personally took 210 lbs. of meat out easily by myself in one trip. The meat the Pack Wheel carried was 185 lbs. and I had 25 pounds of meat in my pack.  The head that Dallen was carrying was 40 pounds. Pretty dang heavy for a one antlered elk. With a bullet through both shoulders we probably lost about 20 pounds of meat. It sure was nice to take a whole elk off the mountain in one easy trip.

Recovered from elk 150 Gr. Accubond LR
Recovered 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range bullet. With a muzzle velocity of 3034 FPS from my X-Bolt this 150 Gr. Bullet is reduced to 29 grains of bare copper after a 189 yard shot into Dallen's elk.  Isn't the lead supposed to be bonded to the copper? Are these really Accubonds? Looks like just a really fragile Ballistic Tip.

For this hunt Dallen was using my Browning X-Bolt 270 WSM setup with a EGW 20 MOA rail and a Vortex Viper HS LR 4-16x50 rifle scope. We are using a new bullet this year. Nosler's new Accubond LR in the 150 Gr. .277 diameter variety. I really like the EGW rail and Vortex rifle scope setup on this rifle. The "Accubond" LR bullets I'm a little disappointed with. Yes, Dallen shot his elk at closer range (154 and 189 Yards) but the bullet I recovered went from 150 grains down to 29 grains in about 10 inches of penetration along the shoulder. What concerned me the most was that there is absolutely no sign that this bullet has the lead bonded to the copper.

I love bullets that penetrate enough to make it across the elk but fragment like crazy. The 140 Accubond has been a great bullet for me over the years and performs very well. The "Accubond" LR I know is designed to open at slower velocities that you have at extreme long range however it shows no signs of bonding that help maintain bullet weight and penetration.

Although I have not tried the 150 Gr Berger VLD, I would bet that it penetrates further than the 150 Gr. Accubond LR. Is the Accubond LR really an Accubond or just a super fragile Ballistic Tip? I'd bet that ballistic tips are tougher and penetrate better. I started getting a little nervous about the strength of the bullet when I found that I could not load compressed powder loads, as seating the bullet would crush a ring into the ogive of the bullet.

Now with all this said about the Accubond LR I am not completely disappointed. It did a fine job of putting Dallen's elk on the ground with a 154 yard shot through the shoulder and a quick follow-up shot across the other shoulder at 189 yards as a precaution. However, he was dead on the first shot.

Dallen's first shot was at 154 yards and went directly through the shoulder and into the chest cavity. It penetrated through the four inches or so of muscle of the shoulder and made a 1 1/2" hole through the ribs and into the chest cavity. The elk was really sick and slowly turned and walked back the way he came. My rule on elk is to keep shooting until they fall over, so Dallen slid another bullet just to the side of his rear and into the opposite shoulder as it was walking directly away from us. This shot was at 189 yards and the bullet penetrated from the back of the shoulder to near the front of the shoulder crushing the scapula in the process. This bullet penetrated around 10 inches and was recovered weighing only 29 Grains and showing absolutely no lead bonded to the copper.

Using trail cameras has made all the difference this elk hunting season. We are hunting such a small piece of property that gets very limited elk traffic. Yes, elk are there but not every day. Using the trail cameras throughout the summer and fall has really helped us narrow down general patterns that the elk have. Generally they like to move from here to here in the evening and in the morning they generally might move in this location etc. Armed with this kind of information Dallen and I were both able to be successful in bringing home meat for the family from a very tough area to hunt. The key has been the use of multiple trail cameras and moving them around the mountain until I found the key locations where I see the most activity. I was a little surprised where the elk were and especially where the elk weren't. I thought for sure they would be in one particular area but there was no sign of them there.

Dallen's bull really has some mass in it's antler. I think I will send some of it's teeth off to deerage.com to find out how old it is.

Dallen also pointed out how cool a European Skull mount this bull will make. The pedicle looks like it was broke years ago and it grows out the side of it's head.

Cliffs at sunset wihle Elk Hunting

Elk Antler at Sunset

X-Bolt Stailnless Stalk with Bull Elk

View of some cliffs at sunset while out elk hunting. Elk Antler at sunset. X-Bolt 270 WSM with Dallen's 2013 bull elk.

Minutes before Dallen shoots this bull elk it walks past a Browning Range Ops trail camera (shown directly below). Unfortunately for whatever reason the camera didn't pick him up until he was almost all the way past the camera. The camera usually does better, I'm guessing the bull was walking directly towards the camera then turned? They detect the IR signature change and motion better when the animals pass directly broadside.

 

Here's some video of bears on the trail cameras over the past couple of weeks. They seem to like to try and take out my cameras lately. Starting to be a regular theme by the stinkers.

 

Here's some video of a five point bull elk on the trail cameras that was hanging around the past couple of weeks.

European Skull Mount of Charlie One Horn Elk

Elk Antler at Sunset

European Skull Mount of Charlie One Horn Elk

European Skull mount of Charlie One Horn. Because the one antler is so heavy we have not been able to find a way to mount him on the wall. So for now he makes for a great desktop mount. At some point in his life he broke the pedicel off his skull right off exposing his brain. Lots of arthritis has grown around his eye socket. Bone grew back over his brain except one small half inch sized spot.

 

2013 Archery Elk Hunting — Taking A Spike at 35 Yards

Real Tree Xtra Camo Elk Hunting

Sitting/standing in the spot where I shot my spike elk.

Trying out Real Tree Xtra camo for the first time on this hunt. I like the pattern however my favorite camo pattern is still Real Tree Max-1.

 

My 2013 Spike Elk Taken with a Browning Adrenaline Bow

My 2013 spike elk taken with my custom Browning Adrenaline bow (I placed longer limbs on the bow and made custom strings to give me a 32 1/2" draw length), QuikSpin Speed Hunter vanes, GoldTip Series 22 shafts and Rocket Stricknine broadhead.

 

Alps Pathfinder with Spike Elk

I use the heck out of my Alps Pathfinder pack. It is a very versatile hunting pack and in comes in Max-1 my favorite camo pattern.

 

Sticknine broadhead entry hole on elk

After boning out one side of the elk I flip it over to see the entry hole made by the Rocket Sticknine broadhead.

 

Bloody QuikSpin ST Speed Hunter arrow vanes.

Here's the the back half of my arrow the elk broke off when he ran. It shows my favorite arrow vanes, QuikSpin Speed Hunters.

 

Pack Wheel game cart with Spike Elk

Back with my Pack Wheel game cart ready to start boning out the elk meat.

 

One side of Pack Wheel loaded with elk meat.

Half of the elk meat loaded in a Pack Wheel Pannier ready to load the second half.

 

Pack Wheel game cart loaded with spike elk

The whole elk boned out and loaded on the Pack Wheel ready to haul it off the mountain. 133 pounds of meat and a 20 pound head (I forgot my saw to cut the antlers off so I had to take the whole head. The antlers might make for some cool knife handles some day.)

 

The first two weeks have just been incredibly hot. Not unlike my experience hunting the Wasatch Limited Entry Unit last year. I highly dislike hunting in the extreme heat. I really wish that the Utah archery elk season was at least two weeks later.

With the extreme heat I think the elk have no been moving around much. I can see it from the activity or should I say lack of activity on my trail cameras. The elk just aren't moving around like they were back the first of July.

Friday even I headed back up the mountain to see what I could find. I decided to go into the area that I had moved a trail camera to watch a muddy spring area. I checked the three cameras that are in that general area and found some really cool videos of a small five point bull that plops down in the mud right in from of the Browning Recon Force trail camera (see video below). The bull wallowed in the mud the night before I got there so I decided to sit on that spring for the evening.

Nothing came in Friday evening so in the morning I headed for my ambush location were elk like to walk past in the morning hours. Nothing passed my ambush however a large bull came down a trail about 150 yards from me and turned down the wrong trail or I might have been able to get him. Dang it!

I forced myself to wait until noon just encase the large bull I saw got up and moved up to get water and bed down in a cooler area. At noon I slowly moved around the mountain and over to the muddy spring. It was a hot one and the sweat was a poring as I worked my way around the mountain.

I took a small collapsible shovel in my Alps Pathfinder pack. When I got to the muddy spring I used the shovel to help make the muddy spot where the 5x5 bull had wallowed two nights prior into a larger pocket. I was amazed that the bull wallowed right in front of the camera so I thought I might encourage more bulls to do the same and see if I can get them on the camera.

At 35 yards to the right of the wallow I setup with my back against a maple tree. Being one o-clock I tried to get a little rest but the flies and ants did a good job on crawling all over my face and hands keeping me awake. By four o-clock I stood up and rested my back against the tree.

Around seven o-clock I heard something to my right and I watched two spikes working their way through the trees. They weren't exactly what I would have preferred to shoot but I really could use the elk meat this year. I didn't draw cow elk tag and I knew that Dallen would be "trophy" hunting with his tag coming up in a couple weeks so elk meat was elk meat and spikes always taste great. With this in mind I decided to see if I could encourage the spikes to come down to the spring. A couple cow calls and they turned and started circling down and around the spring. Oops they went a little to far. After they were out of sight for a few minutes I gave one soft high pitched calf call and back they appeared this time headed straight for the spring. As they got within a couple yards of the spring they stopped broadside and I zipped a 463 Grain, Series 22 shaft tipped with a Rocket Stricknine broadhead through his shoulder. He ran about 30 yards and tipped over.

The shot placed a good one inch entry hole through the shoulder just behind the joint that articulates forward. The arrow then angled back and stopped against the rib cage behind the opposite shoulder. I really like the combination of QuikSpin ST Speed Hunter vanes, the original heavy Series 22 Goldtip shafts (that they don't make anymore), and Rocket Sticknine expandable broadheads that have a huge cutting diameter. I have been very sucsessful with this combination for years.

After a few quick photos I hiked back out to get my Pack Wheel game cart. Buy the time I returned it was well after dark. While boning out the meat I was surprised at the amount of blood shot tissue that was all around the shoulder that the arrow entered. It looked similar to a rifle shot. I was able to get 133 lbs of meat. I could have gotten another 5 to 10 lbs around that shoulder but I wasn't going to eat that nasty looking bloody meat.

I loaded up the Pack Wheel Panniers full of meat onto the Pack Wheel and off the mountain I went. Aside from going over several large downed trees I used little to no effort hauling the whole elk in one trip back to my Montero in no time.

One might ask with all the time I have spent scouting and using trail cameras this summer why would I shoot a spike? When it comes to elk I primarily hunt for meat. Our family loves elk meat. Also Dallen, my oldest son has a youth elk tag this year, right after the archery season ends his hunt starts. This has been my primary goal for learning what elk are in the area and their movements. Dallen is more of a trophy hunter than I think I am and I want him to have a great experience. He has passed a few bucks and bulls in his early hunting years. With me getting a spike this really helps our family out with keeping the freezer full of meat as we generally go through two full elk a year and Dallen can hold out for a big one without me putting pressure on him to shot something he doesn't want to.

The trail cameras really have paided off for me in knowing which spring the elk generally came to in the evenings and which areas they generally went through in the mornings. Using several trail cameras in an area really teach you a lot about the movements and patterns of the game in the area you are hunting.

Now I can focus on Dallen's youth elk hunt.

 

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