Press Lake Camp
Fishing and Hunting Camp

Archived Posts

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

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!

April 5, 2024 – Spring is in the air and our season is quickly approaching!

Hi All,

Following our very strange and mild winter has been, well, a strange and mild spring! A little over a week ago we got hit with our biggest snowfall of the winter over three days, that totaled over a foot of snow with quite a bit more in the drifts as it was windy. Since then our temps have climbed right back up above freezing and have even been 45-50 degrees on the sunny days. In the last few days we have seen a very significant amount of snow melt and things are beginning to look quite a bit like spring. We still have snow pretty much everywhere and there is still plenty of ice to go ice fishing, but if conditions stay the same (which they are forecasted to) then it won't be too much longer and all of that will change. We haven't been up to check on the road into camp yet. It always takes a little longer up there for the snow to melt being a little farther north, and mostly shaded conditions on the road itself. We are hopeful that we will be able to get into camp early this year though and get a jump on opening up.

We were down in the Toronto area for 2 weeks visiting family in late march, and got home just in time for a big family Easter. Since getting home, we have been hard at work getting our annual newsletter and calendar ordered and in the mail. The last few years we have been sending out our mailout in the spring instead of earlier in the new year as it works a little better with our schedule (stuffing nearly 1000 envelopes takes a bit of time - haha) and this year we are even a little later than normal. Well, better late than never as they say and we are hopeful to get everything back from the printers next week and will have them in the mail shortly after. Thank you for the patience, and hopefully receiving the letters in the spring will get everyone excited for the season to soon come!

We have some pretty exciting changes ahead for this season! We talk about these changes in the newsletter as well, but since we are a little late with those I want to let the cat out of the bag so to speak, on here as well. For starters, we ordered a second Starlink system and some mesh nodes so we can get WIFI service directly in all of the cabins. This has always been something we have wanted to do, but historically haven't had reliable enough internet to make it work. Well, thanks to Elon, we finally have fast and reliable enough internet and should be able pass that along to all of the cabins.

Secondly, as of yesterday Press Lake Camp is the proud owner of three 4 stroke 25 hp Yamaha outboards equipped with electric start. They will be available for rent this summer on a first come first served basis as an upgrade from our standard 15's. Although they are slightly heavier than the 15's, they should push our rental boats quite a bit faster, will be quieter, and will be more fuel efficient not requiring mixed gas. We are asking $300.00 a week to upgrade to the bigger motors (up from $160.00 a week for a 15) and if you are interested in upgrading your rental please let us know asap as I expect these to rent out fairly quickly.

Lastly, we are planning on building at least one new dock this season to replace the worst dock in our cabin fleet, so we can then move the old dock into the campground. Some of the cabin docks are beginning to show their age and the campground has been void of anything resembling a decent dock for a few years, so that should be a welcome upgrade. We will likely do a new dock a season for a few years until all of the older docks at the cabins are replaced and we have a nice fleet of docks in the campground again. We do still have plans to upgrade the bathrooms on cabins 2 and 4 as well, but have been struggling with finding a contractor. We are also incredibly booked up which is an absolute blessing and we are very grateful for, but it makes scheduling renovations a little bit difficult.

Generally we up our price by $10.00 a year to account for inflation. It's a small increase that no one seems to mind, and it helps us keep up with the times and to invest in some improvements around camp. Well this year we are going to have to up our price by $20.00, still not a huge leap but we like to be transparent about our pricing structure. We are fortunate enough to now be out of all of our debt incurred during Covid, but unfortunately we are operating in an entirely new landscape with significantly increased overhead. Our business insurance has increased 2.5 times in the last 4 years, and as of this season, our wonderful government has imposed another Carbon Tax increasing the cost of fuel. You can expect slightly higher gas prices this summer (we mark up gas prices very little as they are already pretty high and we try not to gouge) but our cost for diesel to run the generators is also increasing. We have big plans to improve things around camp in the years to come and of course the cost of materials and labour have also increased significantly. We are also looking at eventually hiring another staff member as well and will have to cover another salary, so we may have to continue $20.00 a year increases for another season or two, but it won't be forever. As always we really appreciate everyone's business!

Well I think that is all for now, I will try to update more once we get a look at the road and can get into camp!

 

Ryan

Updated Vacancies – April 5, 2024

Current vacancies for the 2024 season:

July 13 - 20 - Cabin 4 (minimum of 4)

September 28 - October 5 - Cabins 5 & 6 (minimum of 6)

Otherwise we are booked solid for 2024, but keep an eye on here and Facebook for any cancellations that might pop up.

As a reminder in September we drop our minimum occupancy requirements and the strict weekly rentals charging $50.00 per person, per night. Please call or email for specific availability.

February 25, 2024 – What a Strange Winter!

Hi All,

Well since my last post, our weather hasn't gotten any more normal. All through January and now February, we have seen unseasonably warm temperatures and virtually no snow. There have been cold periods where the temps drop to -15 F or so for a day or two, but then without fail it warms right back up and highs during day have been consistently above 32. It seems we lose a little more snow each day and it has been weeks since we had any accumulation at all. It has made travelling with a snowmachine very difficult, although still possible as we have maybe 6" of snow in the shade and just enough on the lakes to get around. Ice levels are considerably lower than normal, but without much snow the little cold we have had has been able to penetrate and we have enough to safely get around, usually 12-18". Currently we are forecasted to get close to a foot of snow on tomorrow and Tuesday, so we may see a little bit of winter weather yet. As much as we need the snow, I had plans to drive into camp at the end of next week and spend the weekend, so we may be looking at a change of plans if the weather hits. Currently you can drive a truck down just about any road you want to, and this is the first time in my life that I have ever seen it like this in February up here.

As strange as the weather has been this winter however, we certainly can't complain about how nice it's been to get outside! Lindsay and I have enjoyed quite a few day trips out fishing so far and one camping trip for two nights on the ice. We have hit a variety of lakes and have enjoyed catching a number of the different species available to us in the area including walleye and lake trout, and stocked splake and brook trout. We were fortunate to bring home a really nice limit of brook trout on our camping trip and we couldn't believe the colour gradient of the flesh between fish, and how shockingly bright red some of them were:

Here are a few pics of some of the splake and walleye we brought home from other trips as well:

I also spent 4 days on the ice on an annual fishing trip I do with some buddies near Thunder Bay. We have been learning the lakes in the area so generally the trip has been more about comradery and the evening beers than it is about the fishing, but this year we actually caught quite a few fish. We had some crappy weather that went from very warm and sunny to rainy the next day, so there was very little snow to travel on between lakes and a lot of standing water on top of the ice. As a result, we only fished the lake that we were staying on and tried some new spots. We found some very aggressive schools of lakers and were actually able to limit out twice! And of course, we still had plenty of beer in the evenings - haha.

Aside from the weather and the fishing, we have been enjoying our off season and a bit of relaxation before we get busy again in the spring. We don't have any travel plans to head south this winter and have been happy to be spending a little less time on the road this year. However, we are headed down to the Toronto area for 2 weeks to visit family in early March. Mom will be joining Lindsay and I going down so she can visit her brother in Kitchener, while Lindsay and I head to Oshawa to see my side of the family. It will be a nice trip seeing everyone and we are a little overdue to get down there.

Our schedule is incredibly full for the 2024 season, so we would like to extend a big thank you to everyone booked with us! We really appreciate everyone riding out Covid and sticking it out with us through everything. It really feels like we are back to "normal" and we couldn't be any happier seeing everyone annually again. By the time we left last fall the lake levels had dropped to the lowest I have ever seen them, beating the previous all time low of 3 seasons ago. I am worried that if we don't see some snow by spring, or get a LOT of rain, we are going to have some lake level issues this year. But a lot can change between now and then, so lets just hope for some precipitation. For those who have been following along with our hunting journal from this year, I am hoping to get another instalment wrote and up this week.

 

Ryan

January 14th, 2024 – Montana Hunting Journal Pt. 4, Days 7-10.

On the morning of day 7 we headed back into the spot where we had located elk while scouting on day 1, to be set up and glassing before sunrise. This time opting to walk the last 1.5 miles in as the road was a little sketchy for a pick up. It wasn’t long and we found a herd of elk on a ridge in the burn a little below us about a mile or so away. We sat and watched the elk feed along the top of the ridge until they disappeared over the back side as the sun started to get higher, presumably to bed. We didn’t have a good way over to them from where we were, but we knew of a trailhead we could use that would get us in pretty close so we marked their approximate location on the GPS and headed back for the truck.

It took us about an hour and a half to hike out and drive around to the trailhead and we had our packs on and were on our way in again, looking at about a 2.5 mile hike. It was pretty easy going as we were on a trail most of the way and were actually slowly dropping elevation on the way in. Along the way Linds and I had to stop to squat behind a tree so I told Jake to keep going and we would find him at the top of a little knob we were hoping to locate the bedded elk from. The plan was to circle the elk wide keeping them on our right until we got past them and downwind. We were hopeful we would be able to glass them up again from our new location and then begin to close the distance, and if that didn’t work, we would get the wind in our face and try to still hunt in through the relatively open burnt timber.

As Lindsay and I were headed to meet Jake, we were circling the elk about 500 yards out from their last known location, and suddenly we heard 3-4 “mews” from some cows inside 100 yards directly in front of us! We couldn’t see them for a small rise in front of us but we hunkered down and I checked the wind on my puffer bottle and it was headed straight to them. Worried we were going to blow this second herd of elk out of the country if they winded us, we opted to turn left hard and head straight uphill to try to get a more favourable cross wind and to see if we could see them from the higher ground. It was pretty steep country and with the small undulations in the ground we weren’t able to see into where we thought the elk were, but we could see Jake waiting for us at the top. We climbed up to him and told him what happened and we made a plan for him and I to circle around wide behind them to get the wind in our favour and to see if we could sneak within range, while Linds stayed back in case we happened to bump them back towards her.

Him and I set out making a wide circle into where we had heard the elk “talking,” and when we arrived there was nothing but a mess of tracks in the snow. It didn’t look as though they had left running as though they had winded us, but they had clearly continued on their path of travel. We also noticed the tracks had come from the direction of where the first herd of elk we had spotted that morning bedded down. We followed the tracks about halfway back to the bedding area to realize that it wasn’t a second herd of elk that we heard, but the original herd as they had gotten up on their own and were moving along. As it turns out Lindsay and I missed intercepting them by probably less than 5 minutes.

Jake and I spun around on their tracks and started going in the same direction they were headed knowing they had a pretty good head start on us by this point and followed their tracks for around a mile until they went through a saddle and dropped off onto the other side of the mountain. We decided to go back and regroup with Linds and sit the hillside until dark hoping they would come back through to feed as we were overlooking a bunch of nice grassy meadows. As a bonus we had some decent glassing from where we were sitting to keep us occupied until dark.

Shortly after settling into our spot for the evening we saw a couple of long legs coming though the trees behind us. It was enough to get our hearts racing for the split second it took to realize that it wasn’t an elk, but was in fact a horse topped with a blaze orange cladded rider equipped with a pack and rifle. We watched him go by us at about 75 yards continuing down the ridge, seeming to not have noticed us huddled under a tree below him as he went by. A little defeated that we had some competition we kept our heads up high and stuck out the rest of the evening. The herd of cows never came back through, but about a half hour before dark I glassed up a small bunch of elk in a meadow about 1500 linear yards away from us and probably 500’ or so above us. Even before we were able to set up a spotting scope, we could tell one of the animals was considerably larger than the rest and knew there was at least one decent bull in the mix. The spotting scope confirmed this and we watched as the bull and the few cows with him filtered in and out of this little micro meadow feeding. We didn’t think we had enough time to get over there and make a play that night, as there was no good shooting position to get within range, so the only play would be to try to sneak in close enough to get a shot amongst the burnt trees. We watched the elk feed until dark and begun our hike out with plans to return in the morning.

On our hike out in the dark, and not really to our surprise, we could hear the hoof beats of a horse behind us sharing the same trail. We hopped off the trail to make some room and the other hunter came through and stopped to chat a bit. He was very surprised to see other hunters back in where we were and even more surprised that we hiked in. We chatted for about 20 minutes doing the familiar dance you do with another hunter in the field, toeing the line of comrades but also competitors looking for the same prey, sharing information but vaguely enough as to not give away the animals we were both after. We talked very openly about the herd of cows that went up through the saddle as he was aware of them as well, but we kept “our” bull in our pocket and got the impression he was doing the same with some information. We left hoping we both weren’t after the same animal the next morning.

We got some snow overnight and the road into the trailhead was already a little icy so we threw the tire chains on our rear tires for our drive up. It was my first-time using tire chains and I’ve got to say, holy crap do they make difference! Almost gives one the confidence to try to drive somewhere they don’t have any business going – haha. Anyway, we reached the trailhead and started hiking in knowing we were already behind our friend on the horse as he was camped at the trailhead and we could see the fresh tracks in the snow going in. Undeterred we started out knowing there was a lot of country and a lot of elk back there and hoping we wouldn’t be on the same ones. The storm had broken but left behind a lot of fog in its wake making glassing a challenge, but as soon as we got to our glassing knob Jake threw up his binoculars and said “got them!”

On an exposed hillside made up mostly of shale and loose rock with some patches of grass and the odd burnt tree, there was a nice bull and 7 or 8 cows brightly lit up against the backdrop of the fresh snow. We were about 1200 yards from the elk, but they were on the other side of a large bowl. Going straight would mean dropping down and then climbing back up 1200 vertical feet, and doing so undetected (and safely) in the loose rock would be almost impossible. The much better option would be to side hill around the bowl into their zone, which would be about 1.5 miles from where we were. Lindsay volunteered to stay behind and watch the elk for us flagging with a spare orange vest if they moved, and Jake and I headed out, really hoping to connect as this was his last day before having to head home to Wisconsin the next morning.

We knew they had to have bedded in the timber we were working though and moved out of it to feed in the open early that morning, and we were hopeful we could get over there before the sun warmed them up too much and they moved back into the dark timber to bed. On our way around we found their fresh beds and tracks headed out of the timber from the night before, and we followed them to the edge of the open, steep, shale-y hillside. We knew we were only about 300 yards from where the elk had been feeding, but we couldn’t see them, as they were in a bit of a dip. We could glass Lindsay from our location and she hadn’t moved the orange vest, indicating that the elk were where we had left them. Deciding it would be impossible to get any closer across the loose shale we decided to set up on their tracks where they left the timber and where we had a pretty good field of view, hoping to catch them on their way back to bed.

As fate would have it, elk weren’t the only tracks we saw in the timber that morning. On our way around the bowl, we intercepted fresh horse tracks in the snow, but since we had glassed the elk up in the open and didn’t see any orange, we were hopeful our friend was working into somewhere else and didn’t know about “our” bull. As we got farther into the timber the horse tracks veered left deeper into the woods and we were headed right towards the timber’s edge, so we pushed on hoping we wouldn’t interfere with his hunt, but determined to get an elk. As we sat in the shade of the timber waiting for the elk to work back to us with the rising sun, we heard the familiar BOOM of a rifle behind us in the timber maybe 300 yards away. It wasn’t in our direction or at the elk we were watching, but as we would later learn from Linds, as soon as the shot wrang out the herd we were working took off straight downhill. The icing on the cake was the second shot a few minutes later which pushed the elk the rest of the 1200’ down to the bottom of the canyon where we lost them in the timber altogether.

As a funny side note, Lindsay ended up seeing a post on a hunting in Montana group we are in on Facebook where she recognized a hunter from his horse and dog that we were playing with at the trail head the night before. I reached out and sure enough it happened to be the same guy and we became Facebook friends and bullshitted a fair bit. He is a really good dude who had actually offered to help us pack meat with his horse when we met him on the trail had we happened to kill something. I’m not going to call him out by name but if he happens to read this, congratulations because we later learned that he killed a totally different bull bedded in the timber in behind where we were.

Anyway, Jake and I sat the hillside until the early afternoon in case all of the commotion pushed something our way. Unfortunately, it didn’t and after a while we were getting pretty cold so we made our way back across to Lindsay where she filled us in on what happened with the elk after the gunshots. We sat and glassed from that location until dark but didn’t turn up any more animals. We headed out that evening knowing Jake’s elk hunt was over but hopeful that Linds and I could turn something up with the 10 or so days we had left. We put together a plan to pack everything up in the morning and to head to Great Falls for two nights to resupply, shower, and eat some real food. When we would come back, we were planning to pack in our tent and woodstove and to spike out into where we had been seeing the elk to save the hour of driving and 1.5-2 hours of hiking in and out each day. Hopeful that after a couple of quiet days some elk new or the same, would be back in that secluded basin.

On the morning of day 9 we said goodbye to Jake and we headed off to the city where we enjoyed a lot of sleep and some really good food at a couple of restaurants. As usual, we also spent a good bit of time and a bit of money at the local Scheel’s as well! On the evening of day 10 we swapped our smaller bags for our bigger spike out bags on pack frames and packed all of the gear we would need for our first true spike out adventure the next morning.

January 7, 2024 – Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Well since my last hunting journal update (more to come this week), we spent the last week of deer season down at our cabin, came home in time to have a few family dinners and Christmas in Dryden, and then back home for a few short days before Lindsay, Cedar, and I headed into Press for New Year's Eve! We have had an extremely busy, but fun filled fall and holiday season with very brief stops at home before heading off again. We are back home for a while now that the holidays are over and it has given us a chance to slow down a bit, unpack, and start to get ready for some serious ice fishing. We don't have nearly as much travel planned for this winter as we did last year, and are looking forward to a winter with a little more time at home to adventure in our own backyard.

The end of deer season was a little slow as we had unseasonably warm weather through December. The last week of the season (closing December 15th) saw temperatures rarely dipping below freezing and virtually no snow. We were getting lots of pictures of deer but almost exclusively at night as they became very nocturnal in the warm weather. The warm weather did make for more comfortable sits in the tree stand then we are used to in December, however. We were hopeful to get one more deer for the freezer, but with only buck tags it made for a tough hunt until the last day of the season when a little broken spiker came out to Lindsay's bait pile and she was able to close out our season on a high note!

The availability of natural food sources for the deer was a lot higher this winter making them much less dependent on bait in December than they usually are. Of course this contributed to the more difficult hunting, but should be beneficial to the deer herd with such abundant food reserves and easier and warmer conditions. I don't mind a tough season of hunting every now and then if it helps out the herd health.

Coming home from the cabin marked the end of the 2023 hunting season for us and left us with about a week before Christmas to finish holiday preparations and to start to settle back into the house. We had a wonderful Christmas with Lindsay's family in Dryden and then again with Mom here in Ignace. The weather remained incredibly warm right through December with virtually no snow fall. In fact on on our drive to Dryden on Christmas Eve, it was about 40 degrees and raining. After Christmas we saw more rain and some colder temperatures which froze the rain water over night leaving virtually all of North Western Ontario covered in very slippery ice. It was dangerous even trying to walk outside for a few days between Christmas and New Years, but fortunately has gotten a lot better.

Since we still didn't have very much snow and the slippery ice was mostly covered, travel became much easier, so we decided to drive into camp for New Years. Lindsay, Cedar, and I drove up on New Years Eve and spent a very peaceful two nights out at camp. We didn't bring any fishing equipment, but just went up to check things out and to spend some quiet time together after the busy hunting and holiday season, and it was a really nice and quiet trip! This marks the first time in Press Lake Camp's history that we could drive into camp in December/January in a truck without the aid of a plow. We drove up for one Christmas up there when I was really young, but even that trip required us plowing the road open. This has been one of the strangest winters I have seen in my life.

The few times we have spent time at camp in the winter we have learned it is much easier to stay in and heat a cabin, rather than the main lodge, so we spent this trip in Cabin 2. Pictured below are some nice venison chops and potatoes we made for New Year's Eve dinner, and some pics of camp and the drive in. It sure is beautiful up there in the winter!

The weather still hasn't changed too much in the new year. Temps are getting colder with highs in the teens and lows around zero overnight. Yesterday marked the first real snowfall we have had and I would say we have maybe 6" of light fluffy snow at the most. Despite the warm weather the ice conditions are really good, as we were seeing cold enough temperatures at night to make ice as there hasn't been any snow on top to insulate it. We are actually yet to get out fishing (will be changing that here very soon) but have heard anywhere from 9-12" of good solid ice depending on the lake. I believe we will still be able to get into camp despite the fresh dusting of snow we received, so we are hoping to make at least one more trip up there before we get more. This time we will be bringing the fishing gear and snowmachine to see if we can find some walleye. Our plan is to do a little fishing around Ignace in the next couple of days, and then plan another trip up north for a few nights.

We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and we wish you all the best for 2024! We are looking forward to seeing everyone again this summer! Stay tuned for more hunting journal updates from this fall and an ice fishing report once we get out on the hard water.

 

Ryan

December 6th, 2023 – Montana Hunting Journal Pt. 3, Days 5&6.

On the morning of day 5 we set up to glass a new section of coulee, farther down then we had previously gone. We had a slower start to the morning not seeing a lot of deer, but turning up a few pockets of does and a couple of younger bucks cruising between them. We did see one very nice buck emerge from some buckthorn that I was very interested in, but in a matter of 20 or so minutes we watched him cruise about a 1/2 mile down the canyon bottom, up over the bank to the flat top and quickly out of our sight and out of our lives. I guess he didn't find the doe he was looking for. It is truly incredible how quickly and how much ground a deer can cover out there cruising at a walking pace.

We also turned up our spike elk again this morning and to our surprise he had gained a friend, one more spike elk. They were probably another mile down the canyon from us and fed out of view so we decided to make a mid morning move in their direction. The plan was to move maybe 1/4 mile or so at a time stopping at various vantage points to glass around and see what we could turn up. Well the day was very quickly heating up as the sun rose and by around 11:00 am it was in the mid 60's. Moving along the canyon bottom we found an easy spot to climb part way up the bank on the west side of the coulee, and decided to sit down on a flat spot to cool off and eat some lunch.

When we stopped we were all sweating from hiking with our layers from earlier in the morning still on, so we took the opportunity to strip down a bit. I peeled out my base layer top and put my orange vest on without a shirt, had taken my zip off base layer bottoms off from under my pants (zip off bottoms are great for taking off without having to untie your boots), and had taken off my boots to air out my feet. We were sitting there casually chatting, eating, and enjoying the beautiful weather, not really expecting to see much for deer. With most of our focus on what we could see with our binoculars down canyon we had been ignoring what was in our immediate vicinity, until Lindsay said "Hey, there are a couple deer straight across the coulee from us on the other bank. I think one is a buck!"

Well, we all dropped our food and lowered our voices as we pulled up our binoculars to see a very nice buck cruising and feeding on the hillside opposite us with a few does. I quickly pulled my rifle off my pack and got laid down behind it building myself a shooting platform and told Jake to grab his spotter and let me know if he thought it was a shooter buck. I grabbed the range at 350 yards and dialed my scope while Jake told me it looked like a pretty good buck. I found him in my rifle scope and agreed and decided this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. 350 yards is the farthest I have shot at game thus far, although I practice at that distance and beyond as much as possible at home, so I took the time to line up and dry fire on the deer once. Everything felt really solid and I was very confident so I chambered a round and waited for the deer to turn broadside once more. That only took him a couple of seconds and I was squeezing the trigger. The rifle jumped and I saw the deer buck hard and head about 40 yards into some buckbrush with one of his front legs clearly not working properly. We knew he was hit hard and did not see him come out of the brush so we began celebrating and laughing that I had just shot a really nice buck and wasn't even wearing any boots!

After the shot we finished eating and got our gear together and headed down our side of the canyon to go start the steep climb up his side. It didn't take Jake and I very long and we found him piled up in the buckthorn exactly where we expected to, but we couldn't believe how big the body of the deer actually was. He had a very nice rack being a cool 3x3 with eye guards, but he actually scored lower than Lindsay's buck from this year, and my mule deer from 2022. But despite the size of the antlers he is by far the biggest bodied and most rutted up buck I have ever shot. At the base, his neck has to be bigger than a basketball, and the goo from his tarsal glands was running down his back legs like tree sap. He was on a very steep bank so we tied paracord to him at the front and back ends and worked him down the bank slowly to where we could work on him on flat ground and get the meat in the shade as we broke him down.

A few hours later and we had full packs again and started our 3 mile pack out while we still had some daylight. We got back to the truck shortly after dark all smiles as we had filled all 3 of our deer tags. We decided we would take the next morning off of hunting to finish butchering out all of our deer that we had been keeping on ice in Jake's HUGE Yeti 210, and a had a couple of drinks to celebrate that night.

The next morning Jake and I got to work butchering out the already deboned deer meat and Linds made a supply run to Great Falls to get us dry ice. For those who don't know, if you put dry ice on the bottom of a cooler it will act as a fridge. If you put the dry ice on top of your meat, the cold sinks and it will freeze the meat underneath it solid. Just be sure to add a couple layers of cardboard to prevent freezer burn and leave a vent plug loose as dry ice turns to CO2 as it sublimates and it can pressurize your cooler to the point of eruption - haha.

We got done our butchering midday on day 6 and decided we had enough time to go check out our deer spot one more time just to rule out if those elk were still around or not. We hadn't seen the two spikes since the morning of day 5 and were pretty sure there weren't any more elk in there, but we had to check it out one last time to be certain. We hiked almost 5 miles down the coulee in search of them and were only able to turn up more deer. And as luck would have it of course the best buck we had spotted so far was on this day, after we filled all of our tags. But that's alright we were all extremely happy with the deer we took, and satisfied there weren't any elk around we hiked our 5 miles back out in the dark planning on heading up into the mountains in the morning.

December 5th, 2023 – Montana Hunting Journal Pt. 2, Days 3&4.

Well on day 3 we decided to sleep in a while as we were pretty tired from packing deer so late the night before, and Jake would be driving through the night and arriving sometime mid morning. He was towing a camper across country with him and we got the text that he had arrived at our camping spot and was going to grab a little sleep before we got there. Linds and I packed up our motel room and headed up into the national forest to find Jake and swap the deer story from the night before. While chatting a CO from Montana FWP drove by and saw us in orange with the deer skull and stopped in to say hi. He checked to make sure we all had our licenses in order and then we all shot the shit for a few minutes and he told us there had been a herd of elk in where we were deer hunting. We had heard this information once already but he was able to show us the private land they had moved out onto in case we wanted to set up on the land we could hunt, and try to catch them coming back. We thanked him for the info and he was off!

It didn't take too long and we were settled into Jake's camper so we headed out to go verify his rifle. The day was waning but I figured if we hurried we would be able to get back into our deer spot with the last hour of daylight and thought that might be enough time to make something happen. Lindsay decided since she had filled her tag and she was still tired she was going to stay back at the camper for the night hunt, and Jake and I headed out to search for a buck.

After about a 20 minute drive and an hour or so hike we were arriving at the little cliffy edge of the coulee that we like to glass from. There is a great view of the canyon floor from there running up and down the coulee, as well as a great view of the opposing bank catching deer coming in and out of the canyon. It also sets us up to be in a position where deer will work the canyon bottom underneath the cliff edge and within rifle range without having to move. Well as we reached the cliff edge and were admiring the view of the open country Jake looked right below us and said "Hey, there's a deer!"

We threw up the binoculars and directly below us, 200 yards away, was a buck feeding with a small group of does. I asked Jake if he wanted to shoot it and his reply was "Let me get a look at it in the scope, but I think so." So we sat down quick and took off our packs. Jake built a rest to shoot off of and started checking out the buck. He was nice enough to ask me if I wanted to shoot it and I said "No, you take him. You spotted him anyway." With that we hadn't been to our spot more than 3 minutes and the first shot rang out. I confirmed to Jake it was a hit, but the buck just took a couple steps forward and was looking around as though nothing had happened. Another shot rang out and this time the buck kicked good and hard, but otherwise didn't move. I confirmed that Jake smoked him that time for sure, but the deer was seemingly unphased. It turned around and started to head the direction it had been coming from and we could see blood pouring out of the exit wounds, but the deer started to take a few steps headed for some thick buckthorn. A third shot rang out and I watched the bullet impact with the group of exit wounds from the first two shots, and to our surprise the buck was still on his feet. Well, that wasn't the case for long and he tipped over in his tracks, somehow absorbing 3 well placed shots from a .300 Win. Mag.

After getting the high fives and hugs out of the way (and some laughs about how quickly everything came together) we started off down the bank to go check out Jake's first muley.

A couple of hours later and we had packs full of meat and were headed for the trucks. My second pack out in two days and it felt great! We got back to the trailer and celebrated with a great dinner of butter and herb basted tender loins, stovetop stuffing, and instant mashed potatoes (which frankly have come a LONG way)!

The next morning we headed back out to check out some different country in the same area. We killed two bucks in two days pretty close together so figuring that area was a little blown out we wanted to go a little farther to see if we could stumble into the elk we had heard about, and to try and find another good buck. We spent the day glassing and saw quite a few deer, but no bucks that caught my eye enough to initiate a stalk. We spent the day glassing some really big country and enjoying the visibility and all of the amazing views. Of course I'm not great at taking pictures that don't have animals in them, but we did get a little excited when we saw this guy cruising solo:

Not the best picture as it is a screen grab from a video but we spotted a lone spike elk wandering near the bottom of the canyon abut a mile or so down from us. Unable to shoot a spike with our tag (branch antlered bulls, or cows only) we didn't make a play but were hopeful he wasn't alone. That was the excitement for the day as we spent the entire day glassing and didn't chase anything. Excited to come back the next morning to try to locate the elk, and hopefully our third buck, we hiked out to get some sleep.

December 4th, 2023 – Montana Hunting Journal Pt. 1, Days 1&2.

Hi All,

So this year I am actually going to get my butt in gear and get a recap of our hunt out west up on the blog while it is still fresh on my mind. I meant to do the same last year but we seemed to have a lot going on and I just didn't get around to it. I'll be starting today with a recap of our first two days in the field, and will continue with daily updates on here with single or multi-day recaps. I'll be gone to our deer cabin for a week or so on Thursday to finish up our deer season here at home, so there will be a little break in the posts but I'll be sure to finish them up when I get back next week.

We left home on November 7th this year, opting to break the drive up over 2 days instead of driving straight through like we did last year. We got the bulk of the driving out of the way the first day, and only had about 5 short hours to Great Falls on the 8th, where we make our last few stops to grab gas and the last of our supplies. Another 45 minutes or so drive south and we were checking into our motel room that would be home for the next 3 nights. We had plenty of daylight left after getting checked in, so we took the opportunity to run up into the mountains and verify that our rifles were on and ready to go after travelling and changing altitude. Once dialed we headed back to our room to get some sleep so we could start scouting the next day.

Deer and elk season were both already open and we had each had a tag for both species. Since we were in Montana for the last 17 days of the regular rifle season, we took the first day to assess access into some different hunting areas that would be new to us this year. The plan was to see how the roads getting in there were and then spend a few hours glassing around to see if we could locate any animals. Carrying our rifles in case the opportunity to take something presented itself, but ultimately just scouting and seeing what was around. My friend Jake from Wisconsin would be joining us for a week starting on the 11th, so we were hoping to get the drop on some elk up in the mountains, were hoping to have some deer located in the foothills and if possible, have one down and packed out for a head start before his arrival. We headed out early on the 9th to begin our day 1 scouting...

The weather was A LOT different this year compared to last. In the lower elevation foothills there was no snow and the temps felt like beautiful fall days hitting the mid 60s at times. At higher altitude there was maybe a 6" snow pack and temps would be cooler but still ultimately very warm for this time of year. We headed out early in the morning to drive up to a burn to start scouting. We ended up driving down a road that was certainly passable (as we were driving on other truck tracks) but was a little narrow at times for our liking with a few good 40' drops if you were to slip off the side. Unable to turn around we kept poking along knowing that there would be a spot to turn around eventually as the other trucks that had gone in there must have. Eventually reaching our destination we hiked in the last little bit to our glassing knob and within 5 minutes we spotted a herd of elk out feeding about a mile from us.

We glassed around a while longer and didn't see much more so we headed off to check access to a nearby trailhead. We drove up to the trailhead only to realize that we had both forgotten the adapters to attach our binoculars to our tripods on the ground at the last spot. In the excitement of finding the elk we forgot to put them away, so back down we went. Not wanting to drive the last part of the road again we decided to hike in the 1.5 miles to grab our gear and back out again. Leaving our packs behind and going in fast and light made for a quick, but annoying trip back in to where we just were. After reclaiming our gear we set out to go a little farther south to check out a different burn. This one was farther back in and at a higher elevation and the road looked a little too snowed in for our liking to try to get the 13 miles back in we wanted, so we decided to take that spot off the table for this season. With an unexpected free afternoon, we decided to head down to the foothills to begin scouting for deer, which we had been planning on starting to scout and hunt the next morning.

We spent a great afternoon glassing up lots of pockets of does and seeing a few decent bucks out cruising from group to group looking for a hot doe. After watching deer until dark we headed back to our room excited about what tomorrow was going to bring.

The next morning we settled into our glassing position bright and early. We had a slow morning and early afternoon glassing. We saw some deer but not as many as the evening before, but we were confident that as the evening approached things would pick up. We moved once mid day to gain a different vantage and around 2:30 Linds glassed up a really nice buck that fed over the backside of a little knob and was was feeding and bedding with a doe on a little bench. At about 3 they were still there and looking like they weren't going anywhere so we decided to make a play on them. We were hunting in coulee country and glassing from a high point on one of the banks to see the canyon below us. We would have to drop down a couple hundred feet into the bottom and work our way down towards them and then climb back up into a shooting position.

We grabbed our gear and headed out making better time then expected getting over there. Operating on waypoints that we had dropped for a rough location of the deer and a location we figured we would be able to shoot them from, we began climbing up their side of the canyon. While climbing we checked the wind and it had been swirling around and was now blowing directly to the deer making it impossible for us to get to our shooting location without bumping them. This left us with the only option of circling around past them and coming up behind them, however doing so would mean we would be climbing up onto the bench they were on and would be within archery range before we could actually see them. We started creeping up the backside of their hill dropping our packs midway. The rest of the way up was incredibly noisy as all of the leaves and grass were very dry and crispy, but much to my surprise when we slowly rose up over the hill I could see the bucks big white hind end and rack as he was browsing.

The doe was a little higher on the hillside up from their bench, and unfortunately picked us off as soon as we started to rise up. She knew something was there but didn't completely blow out, she just kept working higher up the hillside staring at us trying to figure out what she saw. Hunkered down and unable to move or make a play on the buck we had to wait as we watched this doe slowly move farther higher and across the bank stopping every few steps to look back. We expected to see the buck start to work up the hillside following her but to our surprise he didn't, and she was finally out of our sight and we could move again. We rose up to check for the buck and we couldn't see him. I figured he did one of three things, moved into the thick buckthorn he was feeding on and we couldn't see him, moved south and down off the side of the hill into the bottom of the canyon, or worked north and over a fence onto private property.

We rose over the top of the hill we had been huddled behind and I went to check the canyon bottom and Linds went to my right to check the neighboring property. After just a few steps each in opposite directions, the buck exploded out of the buck brush right in front of us and started up the hill the same way the doe went. Linds had her back to the action but I whisper yelled and got her attention. She turned and saw the buck cruising up the hill and I was able to stop him at about 100 yards with a grunt. Unfortunately he was broadside to me but too severely quartered away from Linds for her to take a shot. With her scope still on its lowest setting she dropped to one knee to get more steady and the buck started walking uphill again. Another grunt and he stopped again this time around 150 yards and perfectly broadside to her. Wasting no time I heard a shot ring out and the buck kicked hard and headed uphill towards a fence and private property. I yelled for her to shoot him again to stop him but as we went up the hill she never had another shot. We watched as his head and front end got lower and lower as he approached the fence and I knew he didn't have enough in him to jump it. As it turned out he didn't even have enough to make it and fell over a few feet shy and way laying there dead. Linds had her first ever mule deer on our second day of the trip!

We drug the buck down onto the bench where we originally spotted him to butcher him out and few hours later he was deboned and in our packs and we were starting our 2 mile pack out. It was a bit of a grind seeing as we hadn't gotten used to the elevation yet and had an entire deer split between us along with our gear, but it wasn't too bad and we got the deer out in one trip. We got back to our room after midnight and were excited to sleep in a little and to go meet Jake when he arrived the next day.

To Be Continued...

November 6, 2023 – Another Season Has Come and Gone!

Hi All,

I would like to start this off by giving a big thank you to everyone who vacationed with us this year! This was the first summer that felt truly normal since Covid and it was so great to see so many familiar faces and a lot of new ones as well. I think it's fair to say that everyone is excited to be able to travel uninhibited again (us too), and camp was as busy as ever! It was a great season and above average temperatures through the fall made it a nice and easy shut down for us.

I've got to make this post fairly quick as we are putting together the last of our gear to head off to Montana tomorrow morning for our annual elk hunting trip. After a very busy season we are really looking forward to spending a couple of weeks in the mountains chasing mule deer and elk. Closing down camp and the month of November is a bit of a blur for us, it's a LOT of fun, but it is hectic. We were home from camp for one full day and night two weeks ago, before heading down to our deer property for a week of whitetail hunting. Then home for a very short three days to do laundry and repack before heading out the door again tomorrow. Our house is a mess of boxes and storage totes everywhere, but that's December's problem!

The deer hunting was slow, despite the weather turning cold and snowy just in time for opening day, but we were there about a week too early. We saw lots of does and fawns and a couple of spiker bucks, but nothing we wanted to take with only buck tags. Of course the last two days we were there we started to see the first fresh rubs, scrapes, and signs of rut, and then the evening of the day we left my target buck came out in daylight and I have a nice picture of him in front of one of our tree stands - haha. But hey, that's hunting! That same night we actually had a new bigger buck cruise by as well and who knows what else the rut will bring. We will be back down there for a bit in December and will hopefully be lucky enough to see him.

We had a very successful moose hunt this year with two bulls being taken during archery season, another two during rifle as well as a cow. My group of friends got an additional calf so far, and we are hoping to fill our cow tag before the season closes on December 15th. Fishing through the end of the season was a little spotty. There were days where they were biting great and others that they were slower and extremely scattered. We had very strange weather this fall where it would be close to a frost and then two days later it was 70 and sunny, and then two more days later it was close to a frost again and storming. A lot of weird pressure changes and the fish didn't seem to have time to settle back into schools between storms, but plenty of walleye were found to eat and lots of good fall bass fishing was to be had as well.

With the average temp warmer than usual right through the end of our season, I noticed two big differences this year. The first is that the lake hadn't turned over by the time we left, which is very odd as it usually does early to mid October depending on weather. Secondly, a lot of the poplar trees still had leaves on them when they are usually totally deforested by the end of October. It was a beautiful but strange sight leaving camp with fall colours still in the trees. The water was at an all time low when we left camp so we need to hope for a decent snow pack this winter and a wet spring. Two years ago was the lowest I had ever seen Press, and I think this year topped it. The narrows on the north side of The Big Island was basically unpassable unless you were in a small boat and pushing through with a paddle. The southern narrows weren't a whole lot better, especially if you got out of the channel into the mud flats which usually resulted in the boat getting stuck in the mud. Here's to hoping it will look different in the spring or we could be starting at a real deficit.

Well I should get back to packing! I'll be writing up a big post when we get back with all the stories from our trip and hopefully some great pictures as well. I will be sure to get a few of the fall fishing and moose hunting pictures up then as well. Might need a two part post - haha. We will will be gone for about three weeks, but if you need to get a hold of us please just email or call and leave a message and we will get back to everyone when we get home. Booking inquiries are handled in the order that they are received, but thanks to all of you guys we have very few vacancies for next year!

 

Ryan