Cooperative efforts help hunters notch tags

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Rudy Lopez, Spokane Valley, with his first elk.

This is the last of a two-part about the 2015 elk hunt.

Three of us, Rudy Lopez, Lani Schorzman and me, held cow elk tags for the Ellensburg area this year. Our camp this trip was a motel in Ellensburg.

We were invited to hunt private land on Thursday, the second day of our cow hunt. The landowner asked not to be identified, so will go by LO in this story. Rudy and I showed up at a site known as Elk Camp, which was occupied by LO’s friend, Dan, and Dan’s father. Two cow elk were hanging from the front-end loader.

We followed the men to an area where the road splits and forms a Y at the base of a hill. This brought six steep hillsides into view. As we were unloading equipment a group of elk were spotted on the skyline a half mile away. Things were looking up.

I hiked up the left canyon road. There were elk tracks everywhere, a step could not be taken without stepping on an elk track. Plus we were in cougar and bear country. LO had trail camera photos of four cougars drinking from one of the water tanks, plus other photos of a large male.

Another group of 40 elk were spotted as I neared Rudy’s position. We watched as they effortlessly climbed the steep hillside and disappeared.

The next morning, we were joined by Lani Schorzman. It was suggested we again hunt the Y area. A herd of 50 or so was spotted on the way, but they disappeared as we approached.

An hour later, LO’s son arrived on his 4-wheeler. He had already tagged his cow and was anxious to help us get ours. We told him of the large herd and he said, “Well, let’s go get one.”

Rudy jumped on the vehicle and the two headed down the road. About 30 minutes later, a shot was heard. Dan arrived and said Rudy had one down. I was to head back to camp and Dan went looking for Lani, who had hiked up the road.

Shortly, Son and Rudy arrived and the elk was placed on the loader and skinned. His shot his animal at a distance of 312 yards.

Soon LO told me to get on the back of his 4-wheeler and off we went, flying down the road and up the sharp edge of a ridge dividing two canyons. This vantage point allowed us to see into both canyons.

We spotted the animals at the same time. About 20 elk, cows and bulls, were across the canyon to our right.

He ranged them from this spot and they were 450 yards away.

“Load up and let’s go,” LO said.

He then began walking straight at them. The herd milled around, but did not seem concerned. LO finally stopped at the edge of the steeper part of the canyon and we both sat down.

I had borrowed Rudy’s shooting sticks and used them to get an elk in the rifle scope.

“They are at 390,” LO said, indicating the range. Next he began to assist me by speaking in a calming tone which was almost a chant.

“The last one on the left is a bull, the second is a cow. Now the cow is the last animal on the left.”

I aimed and fired. It was a clean miss. The same chant from LO commenced, “The last one is a bull and so is the second, but the third is a cow.”

I aimed and fired again. It was another clean miss.

Unconcerned about two misses, LO began again, “The last one is a cow, the next one a bull.”

My concentration was intense and I took a couple of deep breaths, aimed a little higher this time and squeezed the trigger; the cow dropped.

I was instructed to walk straight to the animal, dropping into the canyon and up the other side. The canyon was steep, but not unbearably so.

The cow was located, tag notched and attached and the gutting procedure was started.

LO had descended the ridge and was working his way to me on the side hill. LO’s son was approaching on his 4-wheeler and was pulling the transport trailer. The hillside was steep and son couldn’t make it to our position, so we pulled the elk 200 yards to the trailer. The elk was suspended on the front end loader next to Rudy’s and skinned.

The next morning it was Lani’s turn, as he and Dan drove toward the Y in a 4-wheeler. LO was assisting a youth hunter who had a cow tag. As he and the youth headed up a hogback on foot, he stopped and turned.

“Dan just sent a text,” he yelled. “Lani has one down.”

This time the animal needed to be pulled down the steep hill for about 100 yards. It was transported and skinned.

The Hut crew filled all three elk tags and five out of eight deer tags. The freezers are full and this will allow me to cook some old recipes, experiment with new recipes and make a bunch of sausage.

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