Press Lake Camp
Fishing and Hunting Camp

April 14th, 2024 – Montana Hunting Journal Pt. 5, Days 11-13.

Posted on April 14, 2024

We woke up early on the morning of day 11 and left Great Falls for the trailhead that had been growing pretty familiar to us. The logging roads in were pretty icy so we stopped to quickly throw the tire chains on our rear tires and finished the drive in. We had all of our gear and enough food for three nights in our packs putting our pack weight at an estimated 70 lbs. each. To our surprise the heavier packs didn’t slow us down too much and we were at our selected camping spot maybe 15 to 20 minutes later than we had been on our daily hikes in and out with the lighter packs. We arrived mid morning and spent about an hour or two getting camp set up and unloading all of the gear out of our packs that we wouldn’t need with us while we were hunting. Satisfied with our set up we hiked up the last knoll to our glassing location and settled in for the afternoon to try to find some animals.

The afternoon didn’t yield anything, however that all changed in the “golden hour” before dark. The first elk we saw was a lone cow that wandered into the same micro meadow that we had seen several animals in, near where Jake and I had set up on the herd just a couple days previous. She seemed to be by herself so we watched her feed for a little while before she bedded down, and we didn’t see any more animals join her. I wandered about 100 yards from where we were sitting glassing to gain a different perspective of the country down below us, and within a few quick minutes of glassing  turned up a very large herd of cows, calves and spikes abut 1200 vertical feet below us in a valley near a private land boundary. They were currently on the public land but we didn’t have enough daylight to try to navigate down to them so we watched them until dark. Some were up and feeding but most of the elk were bedded and didn’t seem like they were going too far, so we headed back to camp for the night planning on heading down to them in the morning if they were still there.

We were camping in a meadow in an old burn so firewood for our stove was plentiful but there wasn’t too much water near our campsite. Fortunately there was enough patches of snow that we could collect and melt on the woodstove in the evenings to ensure we had enough water to rehydrate our freeze dried meals for dinner, and to get us through the next day. Once we were done our nightly firewood and water chores we settled in for the evening and had dinner. We hung our boots over a tripod with our small power bank powered boot dryers so they would be nice and dry for the morning and crawled into our sleeping bags for the night.

When we woke up in the morning we grabbed our food for the day and begun our wonderful 11 minute walk to our glassing knob, which was a lot better than the 2.5 hours of driving and hiking we had been doing each morning previously. Feeling very rested from getting a few extra hours of sleep than we had been getting, we settled in to start looking for the herd of elk from the night before. After about the first hour we weren’t having much luck turning them up so we made boiled some water for coffee, tea, and breakfast on the mountainside. We enjoyed our morning sitting there glassing but hadn’t turned up a single animal, so I decided I was going to go for a couple mile hike around to a different glassing point that would give me a better perspective on the valley below. Linds decided she was going to hang around camp to collect more firewood, read, and relax a little.

When I arrived at the new spot I settled in to start scanning the broken terrain below me to search for the elk. I wasn’t able to turn them up at all and figured they must have migrated the rest of the way off of the mountain out onto the private land over night. I was however, able to watch Linds collecting firewood trough my spotting scope thanks to her blaze orange vest. I snapped a couple quick pictures of her working away while I was glassing and went back to panning around the hillsides and valley floor until dark.

I didn’t see a single elk until it was almost too dark to see, and again that lone cow came out in the same micro meadow and bedded down. My new vantage was 2 miles from camp in the opposite direction from the meadow, so making a play to get in on her was out of the question. It was nice to know that she had a bit of a pattern so I packed up at dark and hiked back to camp thinking I would work my way to that meadow slowly and quietly in the morning and just sit it until dark in hopes to see her or some other animals.

Back at the tent that night while we were melting more snow and having dinner we used our InReach to check the weather forecast, and it looked like we were going to get quite the dumping of snow the next day. Although I was very intrigued by the possibility of getting that cow, the roads in already had a fair bit of snow on them and we worried about getting the truck off the mountain if we got the 12″ or more of snow they were calling for. Hiking back out to the truck wouldn’t be an issue in the snow, but we didn’t want to risk getting buried or potentially sliding off the road on the way down the mountain. So, we made the tough call to play it safe, we would wake up in the morning and tear down camp and head out. We had a back up location planned about a 90 minute drive to the south, where we had seen some elk last year and figured we would go down and check that area out.

The next morning the clouds were rolling in and it looked like the snow was coming so we packed up and headed for the truck. We decided to head to White Sulphur Springs which is close to our new hunting area, so we could grab a room for the night. In the morning we were headed back into the field to set up camp in the AM and to get out hunting that afternoon. We had 6 days left of the season and were hopeful we would be able to make something happen!