Thursday, December 20, 2012

December Coues: We're off like a herd of turtles!

The much anticipated 14th of December came and went with out nearly the excitement we anticipated. On Thursday it started snowing and some time Sunday morning it stopped. Our grand plans included leaving Flagstaff Thursday night, to be out in force with two teams of hunters/spotters first light Friday.... I suppose that's what we get for being so ambitious though!

We saw a break in the snow coming for Friday evening and Eli and I hurried to a "close to home" glassing spot, put on our water-proofs and gaiters and went for a walk. We saw a few sets of tracks in the fresh snow, that was encouraging  They were buck tracks on top of doe tracks, indicating that we had good hope for rut action to get the big bucks moving. The rest of the evening of glassing offered zero deer and a few dozen elk. We ran back home to pack for the rest of the weekend and have dinner with our families.

Saturday morning Eli and Nate were planning on being at my place to head out at o'dark thirty.  But instead I woke to a text telling me to look at the radar, so I looked at the radar, the whole state of Arizona was covered by the blob of precipitation on the radar screen. I should probably take a minute to point out that I'm really not trying to complain, we need the moisture, snow will help move the deer and start the rut, about 600 other December deer tag holders all over AZ are in the same boat, and snow or no snow we were going on an adventure!

We held off till daylight to let the freeway be cleared and we were off like a herd of turtles 30-40 mph all the way down the freeway! We decided to go to a glassing spot where we could retreat to the trucks easily when we got to frozen. However, the visibility was gone long before our will to glass was gone. The whole day was spent looking at the radar on our phones, napping in the truck, snacking in the truck and every so often when a short break in the clouds came by, we would pile out and glass. Then back to the truck when the snow commenced again!

When I tell people what we did, they look at me as if I a should be in the nut house. "You thought it was a good idea to go camping in the snow?" And truthfully, yeah, we did think it was a good idea and we had a blast sitting under the awning stretched between the tent and the truck camper with the propane heater between all of us just sitting around a having a great time catching up on everything under the sun!

The forecast for Sunday morning was great, crisp, cold and mostly clear; but when Sunday morning came, it was snowing. I poked my head out of my bed roll and asked Eli if he could hear it snowing, "No, all I can hear is Fog!" What a smart ass! Well it turns out we were both right! We picked a camp site lower than we originally planed so we wouldn't be in FEET of snow an only a few inches. That back fired when we woke up in the middle of the cloud bank! We hiked out to our destination glassing point in a little over a foot of snow and had about 20 minutes of good glassing before the fog rolled in and stayed for two hours.

In that 20 minutes though we spotted several groups of deer and one with a good buck. Between the fog, the distance, migrating beef cows and our cold toes, we were able to do nothing better than come up with excuses why we didn't get a shot fired.

The rest of the day we were finding deer very regularly, just no good bucks. Nate had come down with some stomach trouble by mid morning and after toughing it out till mid afternoon, he left us to make the hike back to the truck and go home to get better.

Eli and I finished out the day with several more lesser bucks being spotted and the spot of the weekend when Eli said, "Hey Sam, um there's a Ram over here." And not even kidding, several miles away from where the bighorns live in this unit, was a lone 4 or 5 year old ram just walking along! As you can see in the picture below, we got some pretty cool digiscope pics of him!

Eli, Nate and I are headed back out for a few days tomorrow so stay tuned. Big bucks are gonna be moving about. I'm holding all of Eli's bullets for him and I'm only going to give them back if it's a big enough buck! We know how his buck fever gets!

I think he was excited to get out and start his hunt! 

 Our home for the weekend be just before the heavy snow got there!
 I tell ya this guy was really happy to be here

 When the fog cleared it was GAME ON!

 Our crew taking advantage of the clear and sunny afternoon.

As always here are the pics to enjoy from December Coues: weekend one

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Shinanagans in sheep camp

My good friend, Clay, was one of the lucky tag holders for Desert Bighorn Sheep this year in Southern Arizona, and I mean REALLY southern. I was able to sneak away last week, and and I arrived in camp on Thursday. Having had my own sheep tag this year, Leah and Weston's deer hunt, getting married and all the other reasons to take time off work;  I was only able to stay down there with Clay for 3 days until Sunday.

After 4 hours of highway driving and a little over an hour of dirt road I made it to camp to meet the motley group of guys who would be hunting to find Clay the Borego Grande of his dreams. And let me tell you, what a group, a group I won't soon forget and a group of guys who I hope to be friends with the rest of my life. Sitting around the campfire in the evenings with these guys will make you go to bed with hurting ribs from laughing so hard.

Clay has been down there for 12 days now and he is in marathon mode. Hunting in a unit that has two open roads, neither of which get you any closer than 2 miles from the edge of any sheep country, he has his work cut out. They have to put on a lot of miles every day and still stop and glass an endless amount of country. He went 5 days before the season with out spotting sheep and was a little down on himself. However, when we all went out in full force on opening day we found sheep and continued to find sheep all three days this weekend. And not just sheep, but RAMS, too! Unfortunately they were lesser rams that hadn't quite reached maturity. It was a huge boost for our confidence, and  confirmed our ability to find them if they are there. With the remoteness of the area, cell signal is weak and spotty but Clay has been calling his wife via satellite phone and giving her the updates to pass along to his cheering crew here at home.

James (his dad) Matt (his good friend) and I, all had to leave on Monday so it's just Clay and Jason and then Justin came in just as we were leaving. Clay's friend Pav is going to be coming back down sometime this week to continue the adventures with them. I can't wait to post some pics of what he finds next, but in the mean time here is the last several days documented in pictures. Enjoy!

First light of opening morning! 

Me, Clay and Jason
Me, Matt, El Cazador (the hunter), James and Jason
"Lets jog to those mountains, I think I saw a sheep"
 Bring out the big guns, we found Rams!

Glassing in the Cholla shade.

Matt glassing at dusk.

These guys (Jason and Clay) are animals, mountain climbing animals!

Lions, tigers and sexy panthers oh my!
The track of the Borego that we are looking for!
 Not quite big enough to shoot but great to see. (click the pics to make them big)