Western Washington success...


Well-Known Member
Nov 2, 2003
Washington State
After working up a new load in my 9 1/4 lb., unbraked, 300RUM using Retumbo and 210 Bergers in a 1400+ round count barrel, I felt like I was ready for elk season. These are shot prone with Harris S pod.


Left lower corner of picture is actually the bottom side of the target. This shot and the 883 yd shots below where of two consecutive 3 shot groups, moving from one of my targets to another. The right side of the picture is down on the 883yd steel gong target below. After using Exbal to verify trajectory due to the fact that I was obviously low on the gong, I readjusted MV and quickly nailed the 1004yd milkjug.


Friday, November 6, 2009 found my brother and I traveling 5hrs to Mt. Adams Wilderness area for Washington's short westside elk season. We'd scouted a bit here back in September and were hoping that the weather held off enough to do a backpack hunt up into the designated Mt. Adams Wilderness Area.

If any of you live in western WA, you know that the weather 'did not hold off' for the last week or two. We were snowed out of the designated wilderess before we even got there. That had been my fear when we'd decided to hunt the westside.

For the past several seasons we've hunted the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain range, again in designated wilderness (sense a theme yet? :)) and have been fairly successful in WA terms. But, for WA elk hunting the state is divided into east and west sides with different short season times (9 days for eastside the week before westside which is a 10 day season). The westside season is a week later than eastside, and this time of year, that week can make all the difference in getting into the high country or not. But, in general, in the eastside of the state, a mod. firearm elk tag is good for a spike bull only and after shooting cows on special permits and one spike, we wanted to be able to shoot a branch anterled bull if we saw one. The westside of the state is, in general for mod. firearm, 3-point minimum. I still haven't quite figured that one out. Maybe someone here that knows the WDFW better than I do can explain this to me. I've called WDFW a couple of times trying to get an explanation of the spike on eastside vs. 3-point min. on westside thing and haven't really felt that I've gotten a cognizant answer. The say to read the herd management plan--it's in there. But, I haven't felt they've provided a good explanation...anyway...I digress... The westside was chosen as if we saw a 3pt or larger branch antlered bull, we could shoot it and we'd grown a bit weary of seeing large bulls walk by on the eastside and not be able to do anything about it without the very rare special permit for a bull.

This year the snow came early (local ski area is already open and BTW, it has the world record for snowfall, just to give snapshot of how much snow the high country gets around here--before that the world record was held in another part of WA state) and pushed us down out of the wilderness. We were resigned to car camping and day hunting using our rigs in areas we'd not scouted at all and knew nothing about. Now I was really wishing I hadn’t gotten greedy for a bigger bull than a spike and had stayed on the eastside where the weather is generally much drier and more pleasant in general this time of year. As it turned out on this hunt, we had snow/wind/rain everyday and fighting the moisture battle was the theme of the trip.

Day one found us hunting through the woods having no idea even where the clearcuts would be (clearcut hunting is a major theme of western WA hunting and the very thing I’d hoped to avoid by going high into Mt. Adams Wilderness). We saw some nice country when the snow and wind let up here and there. But no sign of elk with the snow falling heavily most of the time.


Shot of tent with MacGyvered pole a couple of days later after quite a bit of rain...

By the time we arrived back at camp on day 1, our tent, sewn by me, had collapsed. It’s a heavily modified Kifaru style tipi tent using one of Kifarus super lightweight stove designs and worked great for us for a number or years. But the infamous and wet ‘Cascade Concrete’ snow had piled up quite a bit in our absence and a gust of wind must’ve been the straw that broke the pole’s back. (I’ve already remedied this situation by designed a stronger pole.) Even thought the tent walls are steep and made of very slick silicone impregnated nylon ripstop, this super wet snow managed to stick to the sides and eventually help bring down the structure. Fortunately, no damage was done to the tent body or stove or contents and most thing stayed amazingly dry, thankfully. And we were able to devise a way to deal with the broken pole section and return to ‘situation normal’ with the tent. A little ‘WildSide Systems’ destructive testing and learning…

The rest of the day was spent driving around in deep snow trying to get the lay of the land and almost getting stuck up high near the wilderness boundary on Mt. Adams where we’d hoped to be hunting and where there was now 18” + of snow and building very quickly. I do believe that we were the last ones on that road up there this year. We passed a trailer or two that had been parked up near the wilderness that we saw the following day down lower after their owners had pulled them out. One of them had a collapsed roof from the Cascade Concrete. My tent wasn’t the only casualty apparently.

Day 2 found us trying our best to find gated/blocked road with which to access this steep, wet country and avoid vehicle traffic. We spent hours walking in rains and were very thankful for our GoreTex, being pretty much 100% covered with it. GoreTex works fine if you don’t work to hard as it can only transport so much moisture at a time and once that point is reached, you might as well be wearing your rubber slicker. But, when you’re sneaking through the woods slowly, it does pretty well and we were thankful for it that day and everyday. Did find some old elk sign on day two.

Day 3 found us trying a new area with multiple clearcuts facing SW and a large elevation change from the bottom of the hill to the top. We hoped that the SW facing cleacust might get enough sun to keep them partially snow free therby increasing the chance for hungry elk to get in there for an easy meal. Due to the elevation changed on the hillside with clearcuts down low and up higher in the snow, and the top of the hill at over 5k+ ft., with no road access at the top and plenty of steep dark timber from the river bottom to the very snowy top, we felt this might be an area that might hold some elk. We put in quite a bit of time up high in the snow and found fresh tracks in the daily dose of fresh snow up high. But with time an daylight running out we were unable to turn up an elk. Back to the rig and camp.

Day 4 found us higher still, but with much less fresh sign, except for one ‘monster’ bull that we wanted to think we were right behind. It looked like we pushed him out of his day bed and we had visions of many ivory points tantalizingly dancing through our heads. A couple of hours later in snow that was often thigh deep, reality started to set in. The bull was winning this contest. His stride was such that to step from print to print down lower where there was less snow was a stretch for me and up high in the nearly 2’ deep snow it he was clearly winning the battle as time and time again he’d walk or jump over deadfall timber 3-4’ off the ground without touching the snow piled on the deadfall. Big elk…that knew a lot more about this country that we did. We returned to a pass area with a patch or reprod in it that we’d seen elk tracks crisscrossing through the day before and set up for a longrange ambush until well after shooting hours, but didn’t see anything move on this day.

Day 5 found us driving up road to a spot where I’d seen a somewhat open reprod area with shots from 650 to 850yds. I set up there while my brother decided to walk up the road and check out several clearcuts along the way. Much to my great surprise and delight, he retured an hour or so later having shot a 3 x 5 raghorn bull 5 mins. after shooting light with a 188yd shot. The bull died 20’ off a road—I’m used to packing these critters out on my back out of the wilderness, not having them where I can drive to within a few feet! Wow. We were very excited that my brother had even seen an elk in this area new to us, let alone seen a legal animal and killed it! We felt very blessed and thankful as to our knowledge, from talking to other hunters later, most folks hadn’t even seen an elk, let alone a legal bull. We set to work and took care of the meat thanking God for His provision.



Beatiful when you can see!

That night found us trying to figure out how to get me a shot while spotting some more as best we could. The next day after a quick morning hunt my brother took off to get the meat in the cooler and head home due to family obligations leaving me to hunt solo. I enjoy the time spent with my brother, but also very much enjoy hunting solo as every sense seems to be sharpened when solo. Two more day of high and low hunting hard without seeing a thing, the second of which was in very snowy and windy conditions where I couldn’t hardly see an elk if it walked up on me and not hearing of reports of other legal animals being seen had me down a bit. And, I started to feel a bit greedy in trying to get my own bull with the shared meat from one already, meat left over from a spike shot last year and deer this year already. I found a location where I could just barely get the weather and it sounded wet and windy nasty the rest of the season. I decided I’d had enough of this Westside Washington elk hunting weather and headed home.

It’s always amazing to walk into the house, thankful to see your family after been gone over a week, realize how warm and dry the house is and what’s that…??...running water and it’s even hot…?! Wow. What luxurious lives we live. But a part of you always yearns for the simple life of hunting the wilderness. Next year… Jon
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Great hunting story, enjoyed it a lot. Not good to know you didnt harvest a bull, but you were very persistent even though the hard weather conditions. At least you got some meat from your brothers buck. Thanks for sharing.
Jon - great story. Yes, we do get weather don't we? Rain & Snow and Wind... And lots of it. Congrats on pulling off a great hunt despite the weather, and congrats to the hunter fortunate enough to take a branch-antler bull here in Washington. Not a common thing.

You're right about the weather over on "my" side of the mountains. It's been chilly, but not too wet. Seeing some strange white stuff in the mountains though. Slippery too.

Regards, Guy
Congrats, that's a well earned bull!

So, are you going to go back to hunting the eastern bulls next year?


Thanks for the kind commetns guys.

Slopeshunter, For sure...we'll do our best to draw a branch antlered bull tag, but even if I have to stick to spikes and the occasional special permit cow, it's still much more enjoyable hunting eastern WA, I believe anyway, unless the lack of snow lets you access the western WA high country. But given that the season is now in the second week of November, that chances of being able to access a big chunk of high country is fairly unlikely.
The weather doesn`t hold off around here does it lol. Warming up and raining just a bit now though :rolleyes:
Anyway, congrats on the elk. Looks like you have that load tuned well.
Nice job on a wetside bull. A branched antlered, public land, general tag western WA bull is very hard to do. The most frustrating part of hunting western WA, at least around Skagit Valley, is access. I wish I could have signed the gate contract for these timber companies$$$$$! Even the state land is locked up most of the year, which is a huge change from the 80's and 90's in this area. How was the access where you hunted? Don't feel bad about not understanding the management strategies of Washington state, as they regularly do things that boggle the mind. I have had pretty good fortune here, but definitely not the same kind of success that is had all around our state (BC, Idaho, Oregon). The game department of WA has a pretty solid track record of producing a poor product when you look at the opportunities (especially in the northwest part of the state) combined with the game management policies. It's not all doom and gloom, but I know we could do much better.
Really a great story and read. Thanks for sharing it.

That country looks very similar to the Oregon coast range that I usually hunt. 10 months 'til elk season... :)
Great hunting story. Congratulations to your brother. Nice pics of your shot groups and excellent shooting.
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I feel the frustration of trying to take on the west-side. Its proven difficult at best for me. Wet weather and I dont get along well,(Im from Eastern Oregon). But anytime a guy gets to hunt its good, no matter how bad it is. Success of anyone in the party is sweet! And seems to fuel the fire to brave the miserable conditions for the chance at another elk.
Right off the road.... your brother was BLESSED! Good for you guys! Thats cool.
Congrats to both of you, and good job on the hunt. 1 tag filled and a never say die attitude for goin it alone is a success to me.
Nice shootin too, 800+ with those groups is something Im still searching for with my toys. Someday........Ill get there.
Good luck this year
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