ARCHERY WORLD – AUGUST 1986
A BOWHUNT ON THE GREAT DIVIDE – BY Norb Mullaney

It certainly wasn’t starting out very well.
The day was Sunday, September 18. I was
scheduled to catch a flight for Denver
early Monday morning with a connection to
West Yellowstone — destination, Rush’s
Lakeview Ranch, about 50 miles west of
Yellowstone National Park near the
Montana-Idaho line. On Tuesday we would
pack into a mountain base camp for a I0-day
combination hunt with licenses for elk, mule
deer and bear.

I had the flu! I hadn’t given in to a flu virus
in as long as I could remember, but
unquestionably, I had the flu! But Sunday
evening I was feeling better and Monday
morning I caught the plane, flu and all.

All seasoned air travelers are accustomed
to arriving at destination sans luggage. This is
to be avoided at all costs on a hunting trip.
Running down a bull elk and dispatching it
with a pen knife is a game for much younger
bowhunters than I. Seasoned air travelers also
know that if you have too much gear to carry
on your best bet is to check your luggage flight
by flight and transfer it yourself. Considering
the flu, it took a large cart, a sky cap, a few
bucks and a two—hour layover at the Denver
terminal to accomplish this. But I didn’t
reckon with the ingenuity of airline baggage
handlers. They put off my gear, every last bit
of it, in Jackson Hole and I arrived in West
Yellowstone with the insulated camo jacket I
was wearing, my camera and a small brown
paper sack that my thoughtful wife pressed on
me when I left Milwaukee. It contained
several Granola bars in the event my
flu-weakened appetite returned.

At the height of my frustration I met Rick
Bolin and Bob Stewart, two Ohio bowhunters
who were a part of this 10-day adventure.
They had driven over from Lakeview to meet
my flight. The fourth member of our group,
Glen Crisp, who had organized the entire
hunt, had arrived several days earlier and was
already in the high country after elk.
We left for the ranch with the airline’s
promise to locate my gear at Jackson Hole and
deliver it to Lakeview as soon as possible. I
got the distinct impression that it wasn’t likely
to be very soon though, since the next flight
wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon.

The Ranch
Lakeview Ranch was a surprise. Part of it
looks like a contemporary Montana ranch —
the rest is like something out of a Louis
L’Amour paperback executed in raw, fresh
western cedar — false fronts, hitching rails,
raised covered porches — the whole bit. The
Rushes, Keith and Kevin — father and son —
own and operate Lakeview Guest Ranch snuggled up
against the mountains that rim Centennial
Valley just north of the Idaho line.
From this headquarters they maintain more
than a dozen base camps in Montana and
Idaho. At dinner Monday evening we met our
guides, Jesse Willis, Bob Larson and Bud
Schwartz, all graduates of Rush’s Outfitter
and Guide School and selected by Keith Rush
for demonstrated ability, resourcefulness and
leadership skill.

We were scheduled to pack in about mid-
morning on Tuesday, but my fate was still in
doubt. My brown paper sack was a mighty
slim outfit for l0 days in the mountains. Tues-
day morning, as I watched Bob and Rick
ready their gear and the guides bring up the
saddle horses and pack animals to the hitching
rails, I felt as though the world was passing
me by. But I had reckoned without Keith, who
had engaged in a nose-to-nose telephone con-
versation with the airline baggage office. Just
as the Lakeview crew was bringing up the
horse trailers, a car rolled in with my gear
aboard. Frontier Airlines had driven it up
from Jackson Hole — a 300-mile round trip.
We saw our first elk while skirting the val-
ley en route the “jumping off” point. A some-
what confused yearling wandered out of the
near slopes and crossed the road just ahead of
our caravan. Bob and Rick bailed out for a try
but were never able to get within bowshot. I
did better with my camera ’s zoom lens, “bagging”
the youngster with a well placed 35 mm shot.

When we pulled off the road on the edge of
the valley and rendezvoused at the base of a
ridge, our guides set about transferring the
gear to the pack animals. It was during this
maneuver (and I use the word advisedly) that I
was impressed both visually and verbally
with one axiom of the outfitter’s code relating
to hard bow cases: “Don’t ask us to pack ’em
on a horse or a mule .” Our guides reluctantly
(but gracefully) agreed to pack mine in to the
base camp but would make no guarantee as to
its arriving in one piece or even aboard the
mule. A hard bow case is too long to pack fore
and aft and hence must ride crossways atop
the pack, making the mule look like a mountain-going Pegasus. Apparently Pegasus
avoided traversing mountain trails, particularly narrow ones with trees close spaced on
either side.

Base Camp
Our two hour ride to the base camp was
uneventful except for those of us who are
more at home in a desk chair than astride the
gentlest horse in the string. As he made a last
minute check before we headed in, Jesse had
observed, “If your knees hurt, your stirrups
are too short and if your tail hurts, they are too
long. If you experience acute agony in equal
proportions, then the stirrups are just right.
Was I ever “just right! ”

Glen Crisp caught up with us at the base
camp that evening. He and “ Goober,” another
Lakeview guide, has spent the previous week
at another camp on the Montana side. He
would spend the next 10 days with us. He had
a success story to relate. It went something
like this: “It was cool that morning when we left
camp. We headed in a different direction than
hunted on previous days. Goober had seen
two nice bulls in the area. This was my last
day in this camp and I had passed up several
chances at some nice bulls in hope of something better,
but now, down to the wire, I wondered if I’d been too choosey.

“The wind, which had been blowing the
night before, had quieted and the morning was
still. We left camp at daybreak and after an
hour’s ride, we tied the horses and started
working the ridge tops. I bugled at intervals,
but there was no response. My hope of locating
the two bulls faded with each passing call,
but there was always one more try.

“Then, about 9:30 a.m. there was a reply
that we judged to be about a quarter mile distant.
The preceding days had taught me to
work in as close as possible and not be afraid
to move. It reminded me a lot of turkey hunting in Ohio.
The old bull seemed to hang up a
lot like a tom and not be ready to take an active
part this early in the rut. The young bull
senses this and realizes that the sooner the
confrontation with the big guy, the sooner he
loses his lady friends: he’ll want to look good
in front of the ladies but won’t want to be hurt
or lose the battle. So he answers the challenge,
but as soon as you stand to move in, he
gathers his cows and takes off.

“On one occasion I had a 3×3 bugle in
reply and then run with his cows. I gave chase
and caught up with them after a couple of
hours. I moved in close and forced a response
from the small bull. I was 20 yards from his
cows and only 30 yards from him, and he had
little choice but to become more aggressive. I
bugled and grunted, using the small bull reed
call and grunt tube. He lowered his head and
started sneaking back toward me. I let him get
about 12 yards from me and then stood up and
waved my hands. (That was when I was being
choosy). The bull didn’t know what to do.
He finally took off down the mountain and his
cows went up.

“Back to the bull at hand. By now we were
about 100 yards from him, but were separated
by a small park. I pulled back, keeping what
wind there was as much in my favor as possible.
I moved six more times in the next hour
and finally managed to get within 35 yards of
the bull. I had worked down-wind and came
in on his left side, well concealed by the
brush. I called. He replied and started moving
toward me. I tried to project the sound of the
bugle and grunts to confuse him about my
exact location. I had located another bull close
in, but wasn’t certain which was the larger of
the two. But that morning it was first come,
first shoot.

Just then the bull stepped around a tree 15
yards out! I eased back my 65-pound Qua-
draflex and released the Graphlex 17-8. It was
a good hit. The arrow passed completely
through and lodged in a pine 10 yards the

other side of the animal. The Bohning Blazer
broadhead performed well. The bull went
down in about 45 yards. He was a nice 5×5
weighing about 800 pounds. As Goober and I
viewed my elk, I said to him, in all humility,
‘Well, that’s one down — let’s go join the
other guys and tag one in Idaho!’ ”
Glen left Goober and the elk at the ranch
that afternoon and headed out to join us. His
tale heightened our anticipation and set the
stage for the next 10 days. Little did we realize
then that it was to be primarily his stage!

We were field testing a number of equipment
items on this trip — Quadraflex bows,
Sagittarius quivers, Jim Crumley’s Trebark
camo clothing and Graphflex arrows. These
were planned tests. Certain other items of
personal equipment, including four posteriors
and eight knees, were also subjected to
rigorous field test procedures. This phase of
the tests, although unplanned, was inseparable
from our mode of transport. The test
results? When I rode, I hurt, but it did get
better as the hunt progressed.

Wednesday morning we rolled out well before light,
enjoyed an excellent camp break-
fast, and were mounted and headed up the
trail through the timber toward the ridge in the
dim light. At the top of the ridge we split up,
with guides Jesse Willis and Bob Larson escorting
Bob Stewart and me east along the
ridge; Bud Schwartz led off to the west with
Glen and Rick.

A mile or so along the ridge, in a loose
stand of pines, Bob Larson spotted an elk no
more than 40 yards ahead. It crossed the trail,
moving off to our right. Bob Stewart and I
slipped off our mounts and attempted a still-
hunting encircling maneuver without success.
We never had another glimpse of the animal.
We were unable to identify it as bull or
cow but regardless, the close-in sighting
could only be considered encouraging.
Further along the ridge the guides called a
halt. We tied the horses and moved across to
the brow of the steep timbered slope that offered
a panoramic view of Big Sky country.
Immediately to our rear an equally large section
of Idaho stretched off to the south.

We stayed there glassing the lower hillsides,
ridges and scattered meadows for several hours.
A small band of elk drifted in and out of sight in an
aspen-dotted meadow atop a small hill about a mile
northeast on the opposite slope. Our guides, Jesse and Bob, called
on their knowledge of the terrain and developed a strategy that sent
Bob Stewart with Jesse down the slope and up the valley while
Bob Larson and I rode eastward along the ridge to a position opposite the elk.
Once there we moved off the ridge and down into a large grassy area that
extended well below the timberline in an immense “V.” At the vertex
of the V a well-used game trail led up from the valley below and the aspens
beyond. Jesse and Bob speculated that if the elk moved out of the
aspens, they might well head up the trail and give me a shooting opportunity.

As it turned out, the elk moved out before
Jesse and Bob Stewart reached the aspens, but
they chose the opposite slope. The only thing
Bob and I saw come up that trail was a hot and
weary Bob Stewart.
We saw a great deal of that ridge during
our stay in the mountains. Glen and I huddled
under my space blanket beneath the low
branches of a pine on a cold, rainy and windy
day at the edge of a meadow that straddled its
top. The elk were using this area frequently,
but we saw none that day.

On another occasion, after a heavy rain
had made the normally difficult trail down to
camp a bit hair-raising, and the heavy cloud
cover brought on an early blackness in the
timber that rendered my night vision totally
inadequate, Jesse led the way off the ridge and
back to camp with my tiny flashlight. Moving
down that steep, slippery trail required supreme
concentration on my peripheral vision
(the best for night vision) just to make out the
faint blur which was the rump of the white
horse less than IO feet in front of my nose. My
greatest solace was that I was astraddle “Old
Deuce,” a mountain horse of many years experience
and a will all his own. Old Deuce
was my mount for most of the hunt by universal accord
a distinct tribute to his mountain wisdom, sure-footedness,
generally amiable disposition and a tolerance for damn near
anything on his back. Old Deuce would even pack
fresh meat, a task usually reserved for mules
in the Rush remuda.

We made it down the steep side slope that
night without serious mishap thanks to Jesse,
my fast-fading mini-flashlight and horses that
must have a strain of bat blood. There were
two minor casualties — Glen lost his cherished
trophy-taking arrow, and Old Deuce
slithered past a tree that put my Sagittarius
bow quiver to the supreme test and came close
to taking my bow arm off in the process. How-
ever, the Sagittarius was restored the next
morning by some judicious straightening and
still serves its intended purpose. If it could
handle that collision with the tree trunk and
survive, it’s a remarkably tough quiver. Perhaps
what surprised me the most was that I
hadn’t lost a single arrow!

On Thursday of the first week Glen Crisp
bagged his Idaho elk. It had snowed the pre-
vious night accumulating three to four inches
in the meadows and on the ridges. Glen was
hunting by himself, as he often did, working
the diaphragm and tube at frequent intervals.
Off to one side of the main ridge and part way
up the opposite slope in the heavy timber he
coaxed a response. The bull was a good distance
away but continued to bugle as hunter
and prey mutually closed the gap. Glen
worked his way up the slope keeping to the
best cover, confident that he now had an interested
and aggressive bull at the other end of
the challenges. He finally glimpsed the lone
elk at the edge of a small sloping meadow.
Fortunately, the immediate locale offered
excellent cover and he was able to ease within 35
yards as the bull moved along the edge of the
meadow, seemingly trying to pinpoint the
source of the challenge. The moment at hand,
Glen’s Quadraflex sent another l7-8 shaft on
its way. The bull never made it out of the
meadow. Glen led us to it early the next
morning with the pack mules in tow. Jesse and Bob
Larson skinned, caped and quartered the 6×6,
carefully separating the tenderloin for a spe-
cial camp dinner that Bob promised would be
worth remembering. Indeed it was!

That evening he cleaned the loin, sliced it
into half—inch thick steaks and liberally salted
each steak. Then he packed it tightly into the
base of a one-gallon glass jar and covered the
surface with aluminum foil. The jar was immersed
in the creek to a level well above the
meat and left for two days. Sunday evening
Bob pan fried the tenderloin slices and we en-
joyed some of the most delicious eating I can
remember. True, it may have been enhanced
by a day of active hunting, but it was my introduction
to elk tenderloin and one I will never
forget.

Several mornings we rode to the top of a
high ridge that commanded a spectacular
view of the surrounding peaks, ridges, slopes
and valleys. It was a great spot from which to
glass the clearings and meadows and several
sage-carpeted saddles that were favorite
haunts of mule deer and elk. Not only that, it
was a good jumping-off place because you
could slip down into the timber in any number
of directions to initiate a mile-or—more-long
stalk on observed game or still—hunt into
promising areas like the beaver pond in the
creek in the next valley.

It was a Sunday that Bob Larson led me
down the slope toward the beaver pond and
high enough on the opposite slope to spot 13-
plus mule deer grazing in four groups on an-
other section of the slope from the ridge we
had just left. The closest group was at least
1200 yards away — beyond the beaver pond
and above a healthy stand of aspens that grew
about a third of the way up the slope. We toiled
up through the aspens, moving from spruce to
spruce, picking our way through the sage until
we reached a run—off channel that led up-slope
toward the largest group of deer, By this time
we were within 200 yards of our objective and
the cover was getting sporadic. We could see
the mulies farther up the shallow draw, work-
ing in and out of the sage and higher brush.

We closed the distance to about 100 yards, but
at that point they must have winded us be-
cause they moved up-slope at a brisk walk. We
counted eight animals in the group as they
topped out on the ridge and faded out of view.
When we reached a vantage point that permit-
ted us to survey the slope, it was void of deer.
The other groups had also departed for parts
unknown.

On our way back to the ridge where we’d
left the horses we moved in on a young cow
moose browsing in low brush and small aspens
at the base of a slide. She was totally
unimpressed by our intrusion. She’d look and
browse, then casually look some more before
returning her attention to the vittles at hand.
As we worked up-slope to circumvent the
slide and the fault that appeared to have
caused it, she was still at it as serenely unconcerned
as a Holstein in a Wisconsin pasture.
On another occasion, several days later.
three of us rode down a timbered draw and
surprised a moose family of three — a sizeable
bull, a cow and her half—grown calf. They
were reluctant to leave the draw and herded in
front of us for a hundred yards or more before
the bull led them off into the pines. We knew
that the Rushes had a moose hunter in camp,
but he was hunting from a different base. He
had the license — we had the moose.

Jim Collin’s is Lakeview’s senior guide.
He is also the principal instructor for the Outfitter
and Guide School. Part way through our
hunt Jim rode into camp and informed Bud
Schwartz that his carpentry skills were
needed back at the ranch. Jim would join our
group as the third guide for the remainder of
the hunt. I had the privilege of hunting with
him and observing him in action for two days.
During that time we walked in on a group of
cows and calves, but had only a fleeting
glimpse as they faded into the heavy cover. A
couple of bulls answered Jim’s bugle, but they
weren’t aggressive and never let us get close
to them. Still, I came away from those two
days with a picture of a man who impressed
me as a true sportsman and conservationist
a lover of nature and wildlife. I don’t think
Jim noticed me watching as he reached into an
obscure crevice in the rocks on a high ridge
and extracted an empty beer can that he
tucked into his back-pack. He was cleaning
up the refuse left by someone who didn’t cherish
the natural beauty of that isolated wind-
swept spot as much as he did.

Late in the second week of our hunt Rick `
tagged a nice 4×4 mulie after a stalk that took N
him halfway around a mountain and occupied
the best part of a day. He kept after that buck
with dogged determination and finally maneuvered
the shot that brought him down. We
hadn’t seen many mulie bucks and Rick was
not about to let that one get away.

The Hunt In Review
One thing worth noting — Trebark camo
in the brown, gray and black pattern is an excellent choice for a western hunt. It blends
right into the sage and other brush and it is totally at home in the tall timber, offering the obscurity
that bowhunters want.

This chronicle would hardly be complete
without some mention of Homer — by far the
outstanding mule in the Rush’s remuda.
Homer is a piebald Missouri canary who, according
to the Lakeview crew, had a sweet,
amiable, and remarkably tolerant disposition
until, like the biblical Samson, Delilah in the
form of Keith Rush, parted him from his
crowning glory. Hormer’s flowing mane was
roached to enhance his mule like appearance.
Apparently Homer was greatly affronted by
this tonsorial violation and became unpredictably
cantankerous. If the remuda was missing
in the morning, it would be Homer who led
them off. He appeared to know every trick in
the book for shedding a pack and had a mind
of his own that never seemed to be in agreement with that of his rider.

While we had licenses for bear in both
Montana and Idaho and saw ample evidence
of their presence, we never did quite get
around to hunting specifically for the bruins.
Our guides quoted statistics that credited the
average Montana bear to be in the neighbor-
hood of 175 pounds live weight. Judging from
the height of the claw marks on bear trees
along the trails, these had to be the tallest and
skinniest bears imaginable. As I sat aboard
Old Deuce and looked at the claw marks, they
extended to levels considerably above my
head.

It seems to be a bowhunter’s nature to be
interested in what equipment is used in the
field by other hunters and how it performed
under conditions of the hunt. All four hunters
in our camp carried Quadraflex bows ranging
in draw weight from 60 to 70 pounds. Properly
set up, the Quadraflex is one of the best
performing round wheel compounds available,
with a rating velocity of about 205 fps. I
have found it to be a very forgiving bow, read-
ily tunable, and capable of great tolerance for
arrow spine and weight distribution. I have
used these characteristics to great advantage
in machine test work when it was desired to
shoot a wide range of arrow shaft sizes or to
compare the penetration of various broad-
heads of different weights.
The Quads performed well on the hunt.
About the only misadventure happened to
Rick Bolin’s bow. One limb developed a small
glass splinter from a nick early in the trip. We
worked it over with a fine file until the splinter
was blended out and he shot it after that with-
out problem.
Considering the unusual tolerance of the
Quadraflex, it is possible to select from a
wide range of arrow types. Glen Crisp elected
Graphlex 17-8s while I preferred the 18-8
size, even with a lower draw weight. Bob Ste-
wart and Rick Bolin used Easton aluminum
shafts which, if I recall correctly, were 21 17s.
The Sagittarius bow quivers adapted well
to the Quads, but it is important to select a
mounting system for these quivers that is
compatible with the bow in question. For
bows with conventional limb adjustment bolts
and associated washers, Sagittarius offers a
two-piece quiver with mounting brackets that
fit under the limb bolt washers. This system
provides an extra long span for the grip on the
arrows plus overall reduced weight of the
quiver — two excellent features.

I had equipped my Quad with a detachable
bow sling that was developed by Wayne
Carlton. It attaches with the quick disconnect
fasteners that are common on rifle slings.
This device proved very helpful when toting
the bow on horseback or on steep mountain
trails where both hands are required for
climbing or descending.
Our 10-day hunt seemed too short — at
least it did to me, since I returned empty
handed. While I was inexperienced with this

type of horseback pack-in trip, I felt that we
were in the hands of experienced, competent
and considerate outfitters who did everything
possible to make our stay a pleasant, memorable event as well as a satisfying hunt.
If you have a craving to hunt the Divide
Country with the expanded possibilities of a
two-state bag, you should certainly consider
Rush’s Lakeview Ranch. Their alternate pro-
grams for photography, snowmobiling, skiing, fishing or just plain dude vacationing
offer non-hunters in the family many adventure
opportunities as well.

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