Uncle Art's Hunting Diary

Bill Byford

Superior, Montana

These hunting stories are dated 1933 to 1938 and were written by my Great-Great Uncle Art on his hunting trips in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. I would like to share these stories with other hunters. I think everyone who hunts will enjoy them. I think you will agree that back in the 30s those old hunters really had to rough it. Bill Byford

Saturday - November 3, 1934

Well, after another year's planning and getting ready, today is the big day. We loaded the camp stuff on the trailer last night in the rain. It has been raining for the past two weeks, but we are going hunting if it snows or anything else Mother Nature wants to dish out in the shape of weather. We got up at 4 a.m. to meet George at the garage at 6 a.m. and we made the big start. Lillie and me in the Buick (that was not a 4-wheel drive) with a trailer and George alone in his car. Did not stop again until we reached Pendleton. Here we called the Jones' house to see if he was going. He was and said he would meet us at camp. As we could not check in until noon, we stopped along the road to eat the lunch we had prepared and drink the coffee we had brought in vacuum bottles. We arrived at Pilot Rock at 11:30 a.m. and had to wait until noon. At 12:10 p.m. we were off. As we climbed the hills we ran into snow and by the time we hit camp we found about 4 inches of new soft snow. We arrived at camp at 2:30 p.m. and got busy at once setting up. Jones arrived about the same time we did as had he put on his chains and came the cut-off way while we went around. He has a fellow with him he calls Elmer. I don't know him. They are camped in an old cabin about 100 feet from us.

Sunday - November 4, 1934

Got up this morning about 6 a.m. and looked out to a dandy snowstorm. It is still snowing. There's about 3 inches of new snow and it's still snowing real hard. Got in the car and hooked up the trailer and got stumps of wood in case this should last for awhile. We had dinner at 6 p.m. and now we are waiting for the big day tomorrow morning.

Monday - November 5, 1934

Well, the season opens today and the sun is shining bright and the wind is blowing. We left camp at daylight and went south where I killed my elk last year. Soon we found some fresh tracks and decided to run a thicket on the north hillside. After getting three on the stands, two of us drove the thicket and drove out four elk, but they went by so fast nobody saw them. We tried another thicket and got some more out but they slipped out before we could get anybody on them and we did not get any shots. There are dozens of deer in the thickets and they run out first and the elk slip by us without ever being seen. It looks as though we are going to have to do something about these deer as they are making it hard to get the elk. I am going to try a little still-hunting tomorrow as this driving thickets isn't working so hot. We all went back to camp and called it a day.

Tuesday - November 6, 1934

Up at the usual time and down in the same country this morning. Jones is going to drive the same thicket we drove yesterday and I am going to do a little hunting on the side. As Jones went up through the thickets I got out on the sidehill across the creek and discovered some fresh bull elk tracks where one had been feeding. After a few minutes of getting the tracks straightened out I saw that he had fed down into the creek bottom and Jones may run him out to me. I go along the hill to my right and I stopped and looked at two does that were up on the hill above me. I was thinking that there must be elk here because the deer are still here. I was looking at the deer and trying to figure out how not to put the run on them when I saw something yellow up the creek but I couldn't make out what it was. I started to sneak up where I could see better and after going around a bend I saw the shoulders and back of a big bull about 50 yards from me and with his head down feeding. He was facing me and I waited for him to raise his head. There were several trees on each side and I had a very narrow place to see through but I could see his right side and when he raised his head, he was square behind a tree. That is, his head was, so I couldn't shoot him in the head.

After looking the thing over I decided to shoot him in the brisket and as he was end-wise to me the bullet would go through the brisket and into his heart. I pulled down and gave him one of my 180-grain soft-point Western bullets. He never moved as much as a foot but stood just as he was and the only thing I could see was the hair raising up on the back of his neck. I threw in another shell, and after watching him for a minute, and he still stood I drew a bead on the same spot and gave him another. This time I had a 2-grain soft-point bullet. He never moved after this shot and after watching him I to shoot him in the head as he had now looked to see who was shooting at him. As I pulled a bead on him to shoot him again he just tipped over sideways and fell into the windfalls with a crash. I went around the brush and shot him in the head as this was the rule between us that we shoot them all in the head before walking up to them. I whistled and a bunch of the others came down and we cleaned him and as it was then about dark, we decided to leave him until morning to skin.

We estimated him to weigh about 800 pounds live weight. The first two bullets had torn his heart out and gone throughout the lungs and liver. The third bullet had gone into his neck from the front about in the center and four inches below his head and went into pieces on the neck bone without ever breaking the neck. (Did I hear somebody say they could break an elk's neck with a 30-30?) We called it a day and went back to camp at about 4:30 p.m. very tired but very happy. October, 1935

The next morning we all went down the creek and George and I were going to be hunting together and Elmer and Jones went another direction. About 3 p.m., Elmer ran over another bull as he ran out across an opening. Elmer shot three times at him and when I got up to where Elmer was he said he thought he had hit him twice. Once in the right side and once in the rear end as he went over the hill. He was using the 30-40. It was about dark so we went into camp and the next morning we were back on the tracks by daylight. We followed him about two miles up and down hills and across the creek and up on top of the next ridge. We finally lost the tracks in a bunch of other tracks, so we started circling around and looked over all of the thickets thinking we might kick him out. He did not show many signs of being hit, but I was not too surprised. The way the elk Jones had shot before with his rifle it would not bleed much unless the bullet went all the way through, and I did not think the 30-40 would go through a bull elk. We finally gave up on him around noon and set down on the ridge.

We were looking back on the other hillside where we had left George and Jones when we heard another shot. We came to the conclusion that one of them had run into some more elk, as that was a good place. Elmer and I hunted on our way back to camp and got in just before dark without seeing anything. George and Jones had come in and gone after the elk Jones had shot. We went on over in my car with the trailer and loaded him in, and got back to camp around 7p.m. His elk had already started to get a smell to it, so Jones took it home to get it in the cooler. George told us of running onto a bull and shooting him at about 125 yards with the Krag. He said he had hit him in the heart but he went on up the hillside about 75 feet and he gave it to him again and that turned him down the hill. He was plenty mad and coming at leaps of 30 feet apart. George was just across the little draw from him, so he lowered his head and took out after George. When he got real close George shot him in the head above the eye and he went down for the count.

This was the 24th and the next day was our last day. "Yours Truly" did not have a shot yet and it looked as though I was not going to get a chance to try that new 30-06.

The next morning we took the car and headed toward the elk George had shot. We got to the elk at 7:15 a.m. Just as we got there I saw a big Buck run across in front of me but before I could get it stopped he was gone. We got the elk butchered and loaded on the trailer at 8:25. I drove the car up on to the top of the ridge and we decided to hunt until noon. George went south upon a little ridge. Elmer went north up a canyon and I decided to stay right on that point until one of them got back. It was a good crossing and a spring just under me in the draw. I saw a buck jump into the thickets and I could see his rear end sticking out. He stuck his head out from behind a pine tree and, as I was putting the sights on him, George came walking up to me from behind. I shot the buck three inches behind his head. We cleaned him and dragged him up the ridge, as we were only 150 yards from the car. George told me he had found bull elk tracks on the other ridge but he could not track them. He had come to get me because he knew I could track him. George had left the Krag in camp and had his 30 with him. He was afraid to shoot after yesterday, and tracking the elk he had shot with that Krag.

I went up on the ridge, found the tracks, and followed him for about one and a half miles. We saw he was feeding and figured he would lie down before long. He was making a big circle and was working his way toward the car. I stuck to his tracks like a bloodhound and after I had crossed about three ridges I figured he was on the same ridge the car was on. I sure was watching, as I didn't want to walk up on him in one of those thickets and have him hear me. He was climbing up to a little bull pine thicket where they like to lay and I was sure he was just ahead of me. Well, thanks to the "Russell's" without any soles, I didn't make any more noise than a mouse.

Pretty soon I caught a whiff of him (you can smell them at about 100 yards), and knew he was close. About a dozen steps more I caught sight of something through the brush that looked mightily like elk to me. I went down on my knees and squirmed along. I could see his hip and one side up to the shoulder but couldn't see the horns. I wiggled some more toward him and then I saw about a foot of horns and that was what I was waiting for. I put that gold bead on the shoulder at about 50 yards and touched her off. He waited about five seconds and got up as though a fly had struck him and stayed behind the brush. I could only see just an outline through the trees, so I pulled right on his shoulder and shot him again. He ran out of the brush and I shot him again right in the neck about six inches below his head. He went down so hard that he shook the ground.

George and Elmer showed up to help me get him cleaned. I walked down the ridge and found that we were only 150 yards from the road we had cut in to get to George's elk. We loaded my buck into the trailer with George's elk. That was a perfect day for us. We went home with two elk and a nice buck.

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