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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Seeking Out Elk

Hunting elk on Afognak involves a LOT of looking.  You would think that given the size and color of an elk that they would be easy to find.  But Afognak is a big place and there are a lot of bushes and trees.  Add in the fog and rain we had on this trip, and looking for elk is a lot like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

And we tried hard.  We generally got up 2 hours before sunrise and were off hiking as soon as there was enough light to see.  Elk are more active in the morning and evening, and bed down in the bushes to chew their cuds during the mid day hours. Bedded down they are even harder to find.  We tried to get up to the tops of mountains and hike the ridges looking down into the valleys and bowls for elk.  Also, on occasion, we hiked down in the bottom of the valleys trying to bust elk from their beds.  

At one point down in a large valley 3 big bull elk actually snuck past us in the trees.  We found their tracks and looked back to see them sneaking away - by the time we looked they were over a mile away and trotting quickly in the opposite direction.  In retrospect we should have followed because it turned out that the bulls joined a large herd.  If we had followed we would have found the herd.  The only other herd that we saw had disappeared by the time we got to where it had been.

So we hiked and hiked.  Climbed mountains, waded streams, bored down bear tunnels through the brush, whacked on through the brush where there was no trail, and even did some climbing on slippery rocks.  We did a lot of hiking and glassing. My legs and hands are covered with salmonberry and devilsclub spines.  No elk this year but I'd do it again just for the adventure and hiking.  Patrick

Starting a descent into the salmonberry, devilsclub and alder. On this particular descent we ran into cliffs and had to do some back tracking.

Another bowl with no elk in it.

After checking out this bowl we hiked through the forest to the ocean in the far distance.

For the first part of the trip there was always fog in the valleys but up on top the mountains were in the clear.  Here we are leaving the fog behind.

Glassing for elk in another bowl.

Relaxing up on top while we wait (fruitlessly it turned out) for the fog to clear out down below.

John and I try to see elk down in the valley through a fortuitous hole in the fog.

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