FHL 448 Elk Hunt Success

Navy SWO

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I was fortunate enough to get drawn again this year for a FHL military tag. This time it was the 448 hunt over Thanksgiving week. I hunted with my kids again, and the three older ones took turns accompanying me in the field. Unlike previous years, the base was pretty much wide open and all of the traditional elk areas were available for general weapons.
A buddy of mine who also drew hunted with his son, my kids and me and we concentrated on TA 20 west of Gabilan Rd and TA 15 early in the hunt. We found a nice herd of 30+ cows with a couple of bulls and a couple of spikes in 20 that we played hide and seek with for most of the hunt. We found the herd right away opening morning and started our stalk. We passed on a 150 yd shot on a group of six pigs as we concentrated on the elk and got to 500 yds before they spooked. We found them again in the evening and got to 300 yds at last light but didn't shoot because we couldn't tell the spikes from the cows in the available light. We put them to bed and went looking for them the next morning. We found them right away, but they were very close to the road by the time we set up where they were moving to and came over a small ridge to take a shot. The herd was really bunched up and no safe shots presented themselves before they crossed over into the closed part of TA 20. We looked through TA 15, and from a high point glassed a small mixed herd working through some oaks a few ridge lines away. We tried to get on them, but in the time it took to get where they were, they had moved on and we couldn't find them. By this time it was mid-morning the day before Thanksgiving and my buddy had to drive back to San Diego to make his extended family's big Thanksgiving celebration. My family was camping with me so I stayed to continue the hunt. I decided to give the herd in 20 a break to hopefully settle back in to the west side of TA 20 and sat on the water tank in TA 29 that evening. There was lots of sign of the elk using it, but nothing came in that evening.
Thanksgiving morning, my two older boys and I headed out to TA 20. As we passed TA 15 at first light we saw a group of two bulls and three or four “unknowns” crossing one of the flats. Thinking this was the small mixed herd we saw the day before, we decided to check them out and drove around to try to get on top and in front of where they seemed to be going. We hiked up to look down at them, but they were no longer in sight. At this point we heard a couple of shots from TA 20 and I was kicking myself for stopping on the way. We decided to see what was going on and headed to TA 20. We found a father and son team who each had a tag. The father was able to take his cow but the 13 year old son missed. The son and an adult friend followed the herd on foot while the father tended to his cow. We headed to the other potential exit from the valley in case the herd decided to move deeper into 20 vice towards the boundary road. They didn’t and when we heard another shot, it was pretty clear we needed to regroup. We walked back to the truck and ran into the other two hunters. The son took a shot, but his shooting sticks collapsed as he shot and he missed again. The herd moved on faster than they could follow on foot and they decided to work on the elk their group had down. Based on where they said the herd was going, we had a pretty good idea where they would be, so we hurried along to try to cut them off before they crossed the road again.

This time we were successful in getting well ahead of them. From a gap between some of the low hills we spotted the herd and knew where to set up. We started moving to the top of the ridge for a shot when I heard a very close bugle just on the other side, then saw the rack of a nice 6x7 start to crest the ridge. My two boys and I crouched down immediately and watched as the bull came over the top and stared at us from 15 yds away. We played stare down for about five minutes then he bugled again and continued over the ridge and down our side to look at us from a different angle. He certainly knew we were something out of the ordinary, but couldn’t figure out what. After looking at us for another minute or two, he finally committed to continuing down. At this point I figured that if I stood up he would continue downhill away from us and not spook the cows still on the other side. I stood up, moved over the top and found the rest of the herd about 50 yards away. I picked out a nice cow standing broadside with a clear shot behind, raised my rifle (and then realized my scope caps were still on – thank goodness for flip caps), and took the shot. The 150 gr E-Tip from my 7x65R did the job nicely. She took a couple of steps and went down. Another year’s worth of the best meat on the planet was taking its first steps toward my freezer. A couple of pics are attached. This cow had a couple of white patches on her flank. I’ve never heard of piebald elk, but this looks like it might be one. There were no scars or other indications of trauma that would have caused the hair to change color. Field dressed weight was 326.5.
If there are any JHOers who are hunting the 444 hunt that was rescheduled to Jan or the bull hunt in Dec, feel free to pm me with questions. We saw elk in 15, 20, 13E, 13A, 13B and heard of elk being seen in 12B and 25. We saw bulls in both mixed herds and bachelor groups. Jim the base biologist also said he counted 55 bulls in the MPRC (TA 22) along the river last week. As of Sun, four of the eight tags were filled. My buddy hunted until Mon, and found elk in 13E, but never got close enough for a clear muzzleloader shot. Right now he is kicking himself for going home for Thanksgiving. The rain on Sun definitely made things difficult. FHL continues to be a great place to hunt and definitely gave me something extra to be thankful for this year.


 

DAQ80

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Congrats! Sounds like you had a lot of fun with the family. Can't ask for much more.



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rvrrat

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Congrats! Thanks for sharing, sounds like a fun hunt. Hopefully I live long enough to pull one of those military Bull tags!
 

mike_cook82

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Awesome man! I wish they would reschedule the 449 hunt! Congratulations!
 

jls456

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Good for you. Glad you got to have the kids along with you. They will remember It for a long time!
 

Bossbrott

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Yeah, the kids look like they're having some fun. Congrats on the thanksgiving elk.
 

SoJo

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Elk, its whats for dinner! Definitely a "thanksgiving" to remember! Congrats!
 

hks95134

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Congrats Sailor !!!

There's a lot of meat on that cow.

FHL has an abundance of cow elk and they really do need to be culled.

Good job.

Semper Fi.
 

CaliJeephuntr

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Congrats Navy SWO! I've been on a couple cow elk hunts up there and they're tough to hunt. Always lots of eyes to worry about. Glad you got it done! Good to hear about all the bulls you're seeing also. A buddy has a bull tag starting on the 20th. Just hope it's not pouring on us during the hunt.
 

fritojay

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Great story. The kids look like they are having fun also. They will never forget the memories you are giving them
 

Navy SWO

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Thank you for all the kind replies everyone. My family had a great time. My daughter who hunted the first couple of days, but wasn't in on the kill is ready for her hunter safety and hopefully a junior deer or elk tag for next year. One of the great things about FHL is the kid friendly terrain and game population for taking the kids along. They never got bored, and while they were tired every night, they kept up with the walking and glassing every day.
 

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