Newsletter 31 2-15-2011
We just put the wraps on another lion and bobcat season so thought I'd check in. We struggled with difficult weather conditions again this year but managed to make out pretty well. I took 5 lion hunters and 4 of them tagged out on some very nice toms, two of which should have a reasonable shot at making Boone & Crockett. We brought the last lion of the year out whole (which I never do, but did in this case due to a long and complicated set of circumstances) so we got to see it on the scale and it went 173 pounds. That's a whole lot of lion! Every year I hear about cats weighing that much or more but I strongly suspect the vast majority of those are based on "estimates".
The one unsuccessful hunter I had worked harder than any other lion hunter I've hunted with. The first day of his hunt was warm and rainy and then it cracked down cold that night and stayed cold every day and night after that. That soggy old snow set up like concrete which meant that a lion wouldn't leave a trace of a track and would leave very little scent behind as well. We spent the entire week walking the rough country that lion love with the dogs casting loose, just hoping they would strike a track that we couldn't see. We saw several good tom tracks made before the freeze but we never managed to cross their trail where it was fresh enough to run. The dogs did tree a female one day but the hunter chose to pass. It's not unusual to have a few days of uncooperative weather on a 7 day hunt but this time it wouldn't cut us any slack for the entire week. The hunter will be back next year and hopefully all the hard work he put in this year will pay off.
My lion hunts for next winter are all booked, with one exception. Many of you know or have hunted with my friend and guide Dan McNall. Some of you have even been on his family's ranch. They're salt of the earth kind of folks who make their living off their third generation ranch with cattle and timber. Around Christmas they discovered that Dan's dad, Al, has brain cancer. He's just finishing up 8 weeks of chemo and radiation in Seattle and everyone's hoping for the best. Of course the bills are stacking up so friends and family have organized a benefit for him. I've donated a lion hunt for the benefit auction and thought I'd pass the information along to you all in case you're interested. The auction will be for 6 days of guided lion hunting during January and/or February 2012. The auction is for the hunting only, it does not include meals and lodging, but you can optionally purchase meals and lodging from me for $100/day or I can recommend some local motels. There is no additional trophy fee if a lion is taken but bobcat would be an option for a trophy fee of $400. The winning bidder would have to purchase an Idaho hunting license and lion tag which are available over the counter. The auction is going to be on March 26 in Sandpoint, Idaho. If you're interested in bidding but can't personally attend I could hook you up with someone at the auction via cell phone so that person could live proxy bid for you. If you're interested in being involved or have any questions or clarifications don't hesitate to ask me. Other than this auction hunt I'm booking lion hunts for the winter of 2012-13 now.
The spring bear hunt is coming right up and I still have quite a few openings. I guess the economy is still slowing down sales of those hunts as well as my deer hunts so I'm offering a 10% discount to the good folks on this newsletter list on any deer or bear hunts booked between now and March 15th.
I've just added all the new cat pictures from this winter to the mountain lion/bobcat section of the photo gallery on the website if you'd like to take a look. Hope you're all wintering well and I look forward to hearing from you.
Newsletter 30 12-4-2010
Hope you've had a great fall and put lots of game on the meatpole! I figured it was about time for an update. The fall started off with 2 archery whitetail hunters. They had a good hunt and one of them tagged a very nice 5x5 that grossed about 146 on the second evening. His partner didn't take a buck but passed on some pretty good ones and went home with the memory of an extremely close range encounter with a sow bear and her cubs.
We had one fall bear hunter and he took a very pretty brown phase in some beautiful country on the 3rd day of his hunt.
I had 3 moose hunters, all of which were in unit 1-1. All of them tagged respectable bulls in the 38-39" class and one of them picked up a little mule deer buck for the freezer while we were at it. I drew a moose tag for unit 1-2 this year and expected to spend many days looking over bulls to find the one I wanted but as it turned out I found him my second day out. He's 48" wide with double/triple fronts and falls about an inch and a half short of B&C.
We had some great whitetail hunting this fall although I only had 2 rifle whitetail hunters. Apparently the economy has lots of folks choosing to hunt deer a little closer to home. The two hunters I had were here over Thanksgiving week. The week started with my son Jake shooting a very nice 125 class 4x4 after hunting for only 2 hours (that stand is now known as "The Lucky Punk"). On the second day of the hunt one of the hunters got a beautiful 5x5 that grossed 141 and on the next day the other hunter shot a good 4x4. That left me with a couple days to hunt and I took a 4x4 just a couple inches shy of Jake's (and don't think he won't let me forget it!).
I've posted pictures of the bear, moose and deer under their own categories in the photo gallery of my website. They'll be the first pictures shown in each of their categories.
Now it's time to start thinking about the cat hunts. The dogs are definitely ready to go....way too much energy! I'll be getting them out in the next week to get them tuned up and to burn off some of that surplus piss and vinegar. To those of you who knew and/or hunted with Boomer, my big Black and Tan, I'm sad to report that his age recently caught up with him and he's now gone on to somewhere with a fresh track to run every day. After 11 years I'm sure gonna miss that big galoot's huge bay rolling down the canyons. He caught a pile of game for me.
I'm booking now for 2011 spring bear and whitetail deer. I've got plenty of hunts available although it seems like I'm starting to see some signs of the economy picking up. I'll try to do my part to give the economy a kick in the ass by offering a 10% discount to anyone that books a deer or bear hunt with me prior to 1/1/2011. My lion hunts are pretty much full for the next couple winters although I did just have a cancellation for this winter and could take 1 more hunter if you're interested.
Hope you had a great Thanksgiving and I wish you a very Merry Christmas!
Newsletter 29 6-4-2010
We just put the wrap on the final week of a soggy spring bear season so I thought I'd send you all an update. After all the whining I did over the terrible lion hunting conditions we faced last winter I'm almost embarrassed to start complaining about the bear hunting conditions....but I'm gonna anyway. Almost constant rain and cold weather throughout May really put a damper on our bear hunt. It seems that sort of weather really suppresses spring bear movement and it also plays havoc with our ability to glass any distance at all. Our final tally was 4 dead bears for 8 hunters which is our lowest success rate ever. On the bright side, 7 out of 8 hunters at least had opportunities but for one reason or another did not connect. Of the 4 bears, 3 were boars, 2 were black, 1 was brown and 1 was blonde. One of the blacks was a big mature boar over 6 feet. I guess we made out alright given the conditions we were fighting but I'm looking forward to a more normal year.
After the last newsletter I sent out with information on the lion/bobcat hunts I ended up guiding one more lion hunter. He drew a supertag for Montana which meant he could hunt anywhere in the state but he hadn't filled his tag yet and was running out of season to get it done. He chose to hunt in the Swan Valley where I grew up and where I still do a little lion guiding once in awhile. Conditions followed the theme for the year and we were trying to hunt on snow frozen so hard that a herd of elephants probably could have crossed the road without me seeing their tracks (I know, not too likely in Montana but the point is they could have crossed and I wouldn't have known it!). Fortunately the dogs struck from the truck when they air-scented a lion on the second day. I turned them loose not knowing for sure what they'd smelled (lion, bobcat, wolf, elephant). They caught us a nice mature female which the hunter chose to take given the poor conditions we were facing.
I've posted pictures of the lion and the bears in the photo gallery section of the website if you'd like to take a look.
Deer season is coming up and there are still plenty of nonresident tags available in Idaho so let me know if you might be interested. One good thing to come from our lack of a winter this year is that the deer had a very easy time of it. I could also still take a few fall bear hunters. The lion hunts are pretty well filled up for the next couple winters.
Have a great summer.
Tomorrow is the beginning of the application period for an Idaho moose tag. You have until April 30th to complete the application.
Fish and Game made some big changes to the moose seasons again last year which makes it tougher to predict what drawing odds will be for any given season/tag. The majority of the tags are in a long season from 9/15-12/1, with additional tags in an early season (10/1-10/14) and a late season (11/1-11/14).
My outfitting territory includes parts of Units 1-1, 1-2, 1-4 and 2. I would avoid the Unit 2 hunt simply because the hunting and odds of drawing a tag are better in the other areas. All 3 areas in Unit 1 are excellent moose areas. We live in Area 1-2 and 1-4 begins just 100 yards from here so they are the simplest to hunt logistically. They give the most tags for 1-1 and it's only about a 45 minute drive. If I were applying for a tag myself I would be equally happy with a tag in any of these areas.
Trying to come up with a strategy for which hunt to apply for is tricky. Drawing odds will be lowest for the long season because most local hunters will apply for that. So you may want to avoid that unless you need all that flexibility on when you come. The early hunt can be tough if the weather is warm and all the leaves are still on the brush. The moose would be rutting at that time which would help but we generally see more moose when we hunt later in the season. The October hunt may be a good choice for archery though. The short, late hunt is probably what I'd suggest. I think it's the best time of the season to hunt and hopefully drawing odds won't be too bad. I hesitate to give too specific a recommendation as I don't want everyone I talk to to apply for the same hunt and hurt each other's odds. The table below shows the hunts available on my outfitting territory for antlered bulls and what the odds were for each hunt last year. There were some extremely good odds! That may change this year when other applicants see how good the odds were on some of the hunts and apply for them. I'd say just look it over and pick whatever looks good to you.
If you want to apply for a cow tag your choices are much simpler: Area 1-1, hunt #3104 would be by far my first choice. Area 2, hunt #3105 would be my second choice.
As far as the mechanics of applying for a tag go, you must first purchase an Idaho hunting license and then you can apply for the tag. The following link will take you to a page with the application worksheet as well as links to purchase the hunting license: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/apps/ch/apply.cfm The application deadline is April 30th. Results of the draw will be out by at least June 10th, and usually it's considerably earlier than that.
In addition to the regular drawings Idaho has two drawings per year for superhunts. They have individual drawings for deer, elk, moose and pronghorn, as well as a superhunt combo which has tags for all 4. The superhunt tag is good for any open hunt in Idaho. Odds are not great in this drawing but almost every year I guide a moose hunter that has drawn one so there's definitely hope. It's a raffle-type drawing and a person can purchase as many chances as they want with the first ticket costing $6 and every additional ticket costing $4 for the single species tags. It is not necessary to purchase an Idaho hunting license to enter the superhunt drawing. Tickets must be received by 5/31 for the first drawing and 8/10 for the second drawing. The second drawing comes so late in the year that there are usually quite a few less tickets in the hat. For more information, or to get the ticket order form you can go here: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/superhunt/
Let me know if you have any questions and Good Luck!
Newsletter 28 2-8-2010
There are 8 days left in the lion and bobcat season and I'm still hoping to get the kids out cat hunting for a couple days but I think the 2009-10 cat guiding season is over for me. In 30 years of chasing hounds that were chasing cats, this season consistently had the worst conditions I've ever seen. While other parts of the country have been getting hammered, it seems that it forgot to be winter here which made every hunt a struggle. Lots of bare ground, rain, and when it wasn't raining, where you could still find snow it was often frozen up so solid that a cat wouldn't make a track all combined to make very challenging conditions for the dogs and I. On the plus side there seemed to be quite a few lions out there this winter...the trick was getting them caught.
I took a total of 7 lion hunters this winter and we killed 5 lions. Four of the lions were good toms and one was an adult female. One of the successful lion hunters also took a bobcat. The two guys that did not get lions at least had some excitement. We did tree a small lion for one of them which he chose not to take (understandably). We spent most of the other guy's hunt trying to catch up with a big tom whose tracks we were finding pretty consistently but that we just couldn't seem to catch in the rainy conditions. I also had a bobcat hunter that we managed to catch a nice male for. In a normal year I would be a little disappointed going 5 for 7 on lions but given the conditions this year it could easily have been worse.
The lion hunts for next year are going quickly, I expect to be fully booked within the next month or so.
Next up is spring bear. It's shaping up to be a very early spring but it is northern Idaho so I wouldn't place my bet yet. I still have several openings available for the first 2 weeks of May.
The lack of winter that caused me so many lion hunting headaches this year was good news for the deer. Normally at this time of year they're compressed into the low elevations which increases predation, stress, and disease and decreases the availability of food, but this year they are spread all over the place enjoying the good life. We should have another good deer season this fall and I do still have quite a few openings there.
The moose tag application is coming up and I'll be sending out my annual email to those of you that have expressed interest regarding that. If you would like to receive that and have not yet asked me to be on that list please let me know and I'll get you added.
I just got the website updated with pictures from the 2009-10 cat season. There are pictures of all of the cats we took this winter on the first page of the Mountain Lion/Bobcat photo gallery.
I hope you're all having a great winter thumping coyotes, hunting sheds, pulling fish through the ice or just chasin' mama around the house and trying to stay warm! Thanks for reading and if you ever have any questions just let me know.