It all started at O’dark thirty on Friday morning, but in order to tell the tale we need to go back a ways. As Evan and Snakey (from the Kifaru forums) have said, this trip has been in the offing for several years. If memory serves we have put in for this unit three times and got it this time. Ironically, I had decided to sell my boat this summer because I just don’t use it enough, but decided to wait if we drew, which we did. I have had an extremely busy summer, in more ways than one, and was only able to get the boat out at the beginning of July for a shakedown cruise. At that point, I had put in a new fuel system, which increased the capacity from 10-gallons to 18-gallons with new tanks and new lines all under the back deck which gives more room, and everything was good to go, that is except the kicker. The pull cord broke a few years back, and I have been unable to find the correct size locally, and the two replacement cords I made broke for whatever reason. However, it was no big deal because the new fuel system was working 100% and the bigger motor was rock solid. Snakey showed up Thursday night, and we were set to load the truck first thing the next day and roll out. Unfortunately, the tempo that kept Evan and I busy all summer continued all last week and frankly into this week. As a result, by the time we finished work on Thursday night and got some groceries it was 7:30 after a quick dinner and a bit more preparation we decided to call it a night. As sometimes happens we woke up early with a long list in our heads on what to get done before leaving, and of course Snakey was hanging out ready to go. Evan and I keep packs pretty much ready to go and basically just grabbed the standard load out without giving weather or environment specific though other then adding in some extra water bottles and in Evan’s case a pair of shorts.
One of the first things that I needed to do after finishing getting my personal gear together was pulling the stuff out of the boat we wouldn’t need, extra kids life vests the inner tube that sort of thing. As soon as I pulled the cover off the boat I realized I hadn’t charged the battery like normal. We immediately put it on the trickle charger as we finished getting it ready and loading the truck. At the last minute as we where hooking up the boat, Evan suggested throwing the trickle charger in in-case it wouldn’t start we could charge it off my truck for awhile. We ended up hitting the road at 7:30, which isn’t bad considering. The first stop, after coffee, was Burns to top off the truck, get maps, and check the air in the trailer tires. As we where airing up the tires, Snakey commented that a big chunk of rubber was missing from the tire. I looked around back and discovered that sure enough the back ¼ of the tire tread was gone all the way down to the belt. After a bit further looking it appeared as if the section of rubber had come loose and fallen off after breaking the taillight. We went across the street to the Big R and got a new tail light assembly and the rest of the stuff we needed to fix the taillight, or I should say Evan needed. While he replaced the light, I went over to the kiosk set up at the Thriftway to get whatever maps where available. With the light fixed it was time to hit Les Schwab to get the other tires checked, because even though they looked fine the one that lost rubber had also looked fine. Good thing we did, turns out, that even though the tires looked fine with a lot of tread and held air they were made in 1974. Given that a section of dirt road was on the way I decided a new set of tires, and as it turns out wheel studs, was in order. Finally, after about three hours in Burns we were back on the road. On the way in we took the scenic way to the launch, which really served to wet our appetites, but also served as a warning about how dry and big the country really was.
When we got to the launch the first thing we did was back the trailer into the water to make sure the boat would start so we didn’t get everything loaded and find we need to have it trickle charge for awhile. Did I mention it was a bit after 5 at this point? The motor fired with absolutely no issues on the first turn, after quickly loading we launched the boat and I waited offshore while Evan parked the truck and trailer then killed the motor as I glided in for the pickup. Finally, we were away, and up the lake for a run of around 10 miles. The boat was cruising right along at 28mph and it was a beautiful, but hot evening. The scenery was awe inspiring and all was right with the world. We got up lake a ways and stopped to float in the middle so we could figure out exactly where we were and to pick out our camp spot. As we started out again the motor sputtered and died. Dang out of gas in the first tank, but no big deal we had two more plus a 5-gallon can, and we really didn’t plan on running around the lake a bunch. The only problem was that when I loaded the boat I forgot to leave the tanks under the back deck accessible so some digging around was in order to get the next tank hooked up. I was a bit concerned as that was the fastest I had ever gone through a tank of fuel, but I had been running it wide open throttle and we did have a fair amount of gear. Evan and Snakey voted for a nice beach near where we were, but I had really been taken with an inlet back down the lake a bit and just had to check it out. When we got into the inlet I decided to kill the motor to conserve fuel. We decided that the beach back up lake was the choice, and I went to fire the motor up. For those who have been paying attention at this point I had fired the motor 5 times, well number 6 was just not happening, but that is why you have a kicker right. Oh yeah forgot to mention I still hadn’t found a pull cord the right size in town so no kicker. Evan was sitting in the bow and said hand me the paddle. He then proceeded to get on the bow and work us towards the spot we had been surveying for a camp, but the wind was blowing the opposite way, and while he was moving the boat the wind was moving it more. In the end we told him to just make for the closest shore where the wind was pushing us. Unfortunately, the closest shore was a rocky slope about 45 degrees that immediately dropped off into deep water. While Evan and Snakey tied up the boat and rested I scouted around a bit and found a small bench with space for three beds a bit spread out. The night was crystal clear, it was dusk fast fading to night, and the forecast was for nice weather so we just grabbed our bedding and headed up the hill to sleep for the night under a magnificent starry ski. About midnight a sudden spatter of rain woke us all up to no stars, a black sky, and thunder and lightning in the distance. Evan and I went down to the boat and grabbed our utopias and I put the rear cover on the boat to protect the stuff in the boat. Then we headed back up the hill. Evan and Snakey managed to fit under one utopia in the spot Snakey had chosen and I was able to get the other one over me in the spot I was at. Thank god for floor less, center pole less, shelters that doesn’t require all the corners to be staked to stand up. The rest of the night was uneventful and Friday ended.
We were all up early and while Evan and Snakey headed up the ridge to look around I headed down to the boat to improvise yet another pull cord. I had two different kinds of cord to use, but really wanted to make the p-cord work as the other stuff had a lower breaking point and was pretty thin. The p-cord was the right diameter, but just wasn’t stiff enough to push through the whole. Finally, after trying everything else I decided to see if I could tie fishing line to the end and drag it through. Low and behold when I pulled a fishing rod I keep on the boat to get some fishing line snarled on the end was not only one of the improvised cord, but the original one. How they both got jammed up in the corner out of sight I don’t know, but I wasn’t complaining. After a quick look I determined that the original pull cord hadn’t really broken the plastic keeper on the end had. It was the work of minutes to get the cord threaded, but then I had to figure out how to secure the end. After several different knots, electrical tape, and maybe a bit of exasperation I finally got a knot tied that would fit into the narrow slot and allow me to wind cord around the pulley. After a few tries I even managed to wind the cord the right direction and dang it if I didn’t have a working pull cord. The motor fired on the second pull, but quickly died. No big deal it just hasn’t been run in awhile. However, all my attempts would have the same result, I could get it started, but couldn’t keep it running. At this point, I need a break and decided to fill the empty tank from the 5-gallon container. Turns out that we hadn’t run out of gas I had just forgot to open the vent in my haste the night before, and the tank was half-full. After this break I got back at it until Evan and Snakey came down the hill and found me hard at it with no success. They had grabbed their gear and told me to go grab mine while they gave it a shot. They didn’t have any more success and started tracing the fuel system to see where the leak was. They finally determined that the leak was coming from under a metal plate that held the fuel pump assembly on. There was no gasket, but we all agreed that there sure should be one. Snakey proceeded to fashion a new gasket out of four layers of nitrile gloves and dang if we didn’t have a fuel system with no leaks and good pressure. However, now the motor didn’t want to start at all. At this point Snakey mentioned that this was why he always ran dual 35hp motors instead of a big one, 80hp in this case, and a kicker since 35hp was the biggest you could pull start. My response was I don’t think my 80 is setup to pull even if it was possible, and Evan’s response to that was well let’s find out. Turns out that it is, and you can pull start an 80hp. Just like that we were in business and I hurriedly grabbed the rest of our stuff on shore pilled in and headed out. At this point I wanted to cruise the lake for at least an hour to charge the battery and Evan and Snakey humored me. It also gave us an opportunity to check out another place further down the lake that was a possibility as overnight someone had taken our intended camp spot. After looking around we chose a small bay with three small canyons or draws opening on to it. As I came into drop off Evan so he could pick out one of two spots for us I tried to raise the motor, and found that the battery hadn’t charged a bit, not one little bit at all, as there was simply no juice. I backed out and we motored around off shore while Evan decided that near was better than far. It was with a great deal of trepidation that I shut off the motor, but then again we could always just pull start it again. Plus it was now a bit after 12 and dang it; it was time to get camp setup so we could do some hunting.
Evan and Snakey’s plan for the night was to head up high along the north ridge and glass and put together a plan for the next day. I decided to work the lower canyon country from a middle ridge. During the drive down we asked for and got some good information from Snakey on how to hunt deer in this country, which was basically to glass every piece of shade you can. I had just topped out on the second knob in from the lake when I looked across the narrow deep draw toward the ridge Evan and Snakey where following when I saw a deer laying in the shade looking at me. I put the glasses on it, but just couldn’t tell if it actually had some spikes or if I was making them grown while I watched. At this point to not spook them, although I was probably 700 or so yards away, I sank down next to my pack. I then alternated waiting for Evan and Snakey to come into view and watching them through the binos. I kept seeing what I thought was a spike and fork horn, but at least once one looked like it had decent antlers. I was sure there were at least two and that at least one was a legal buck. At this point I saw Evan and Snakey come into view on the ridge probably 200 or so yards above where they were laying, we later determined that there was just no way they could have seen them from anywhere on the ridge they were at, but at that point all I could do was watch in despair as Evan and Snakey continued up to the high country without a look in my direction and without seeing the deer. I even said screw it they know I am here and if they flush it is going to be away from me, which is towards the other two so I gave a quick loud yell. Evan briefly looked back and then they were gone from sight. I was left sitting next to my pack trying to figure out what to do. Continuing up my ridge was out as the wind was gusting hard from my ridge towards theirs and I would still be around 300 or more yards from them trying to shoot across a canyon with a heavy wind going west to east in the bottom and south to north on top. I decided the only thing to do was go back down ridge drop down into the canyon climb up the other side onto the other ridge and around on top and then try to work down on top of them. So that is what I did fully expecting them to be gone when I got there. I also decided to drop my pack in the bottom so I could really motor up the other side. I got around up on top with my kit bag, binos, rifle, and walking sticks, but no range finder. I started to work my way down the ridge and suddenly saw the ears and very top of the head of the spike looking at me from a different spot from where I thought they were going to be. They hadn’t moved things where just deceiving. So I started to crawl. The only problem was that I was on the edge of a slope so it was more a side crawl than anything. Slowly, as I crawled, three deer came into view, two nice bucks and a spike, nothing trophy but nice and all made of meat as KevinB would say. After about 35yds one of the nice bucks stood up almost broad side to me. At this point I decided it was time to shoot as they where only about 100yds away and slightly downhill. I got a good sight picture and fired as the rifle came back down I see the buck still looking at me and I fire again as soon as I have a good sight picture. At this point I am a bit flustered, and admit to jerking the next shot, which I knew as soon as I broke the shot, but the instant it broke the they all four, yup four, start running downhill and my first though it shit I just jerked the trigger and wounded it so I sent a fourth shot after it in a hail mary. Of course the fourth shot missed just like the third, and second, and first. I watched the bucks work their way up canyon up a side draw and drop back over the ridge I had originally been on and into the canyon on the other side. I reported my failure to the other guys by radio as agreed after gunfire and then walked over to check for blood, I knew there would be none, but I figured it was my duty to make sure. At first I couldn’t find where they had been because I was about 30-40 yds uphill from it. Things in this country could be really deceiving. I followed their trail for a couple of hundred yards searching for any sign of a hit and then trudged back to camp picking up my pack on the way. Evan and Snakey rolled into camp around dark and we had dinner. Snakey planned to head back up the north ridge Evan and he had climbed that day to work the high country. I planned to repeat my previous day’s trip, the middle ridge, hopefully with more results, and Evan decided to take the southern ridge as the deer I had missed dropped over into canyon between the middle ridge and southern ridge. Saturday ended. Before anyone asks I am not sure what the heck happened or why I missed. I could speculate, but it would be that. Needless to say I figured I blew it and my hunt was over.
We were up early and Snakey and Evan where soon gone into the pre-dawn dark. My plan was to start just as I had daylight so I could glass. If nothing else any deer I pushed would head away from me and towards the other two along the canyons. Not long after daylight I heard a boat cruise into our cove and caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I watched as three coyotes came up the canyon and one split and crossed the saddle 25yds in front of me without knowing I was there. The big male that stayed in the draw was one of the nicest yotes I have seen and at first glance I thought I was looking at a wolf due to color and size. After a bit I continued up ridge, and found out that the one that crossed in front of me was just over the knob as he immediately told everyone around that I was there and he was surprised by that. I worked my way on up the ridge and heard Evan whistle and we got on radios and chatted a bit. He had been watching me and Snakey all morning. We agreed to work our way further up the ridges to where they joined and then head up on top. Our plan was to stay out all day and maybe overnight depending on what we found. Since Evan was working the south canyon I worked around the north side to really glass the north canyon. When I came out on a bench between two knobs I was able to see back into the south canyon, which had turned to the south and saw a deer grazing, then another. I dropped back over the edge of the bench and dropped my pack. This time I made sure to have my radio and range finder in addition to my other gear, and crawled back over onto the bench. The deer where 300 yds off. Too far and the crawl was on. I managed to close 50 yds before I got busted when I leaned out to see if Evan was on the ridge above them. They weren’t sure what they had seen, they just knew it was movement so they were nervous and kept looking and just occasionally eating. When I leaned out I saw Evan was there and should have been in a position to see them down below, but again I saw him turn and start up the ridge. I took the opportunity to roll out and go prone behind another sage bush on a slope down and to my left. At this point the deer where 250 yds from me and around 100 or so from Evan. I whistled to get Evan’s attention and he dropped his pack and started to glass, and as he put it found me prone aiming in his direction. I am not sure if the deer heard him or me or just decided to leave and they cut back down canyon and around the slope and onto a little bench/bowl where I knew Evan couldn’t see them. At this point I wasn’t going to miss another opportunity. They where 200 yds from me, Evan was about 100yds uphill from them to the left and I was shooting downhill and into a sandy backstop. I got a good sight picture and fired and watched the deer slammed to the ground. I automatically cycled the bolt and got back on target. At which point I could see the deer flopping on the ground and trying to drag itself forward through the brush. I fired three more times, but just couldn’t connect through the brush it was behind from me. I got on the radio and talked Evan in so he could finish the critter. I had shot it through the spine, and it was dying, but I didn’t want it prolonged more than necessary. Evan told me to come on down so I grabbed my pack and headed towards him. As I got to the bottom of the intervening draw I looked to the left and saw the other deer at the shoulder of a ridge downhill. I called Evan and as he looked it went around the edge of the slope. We quickly decided he would try to put the sneak on it while I waited right where I was. He was able to side hill along and catch up with it as it was going up a side draw heading towards the north canyon. Just like that within 20 mins of each other we had two deer down and it was only 9:20 on the second day. When he heard me shoot mine Snakey had called to see if we needed help as he figured he was only 20 mins away, in retrospect it was more like an hour and a half or two hours. At Evan’s shots he again called, and we told him no we got it. We both boned out our critters and packed up and where back in camp with the animals on ice by 1:30. I tell you what as hot as it was 80-90 our daily dip in the lake was sure nice, but maybe nicest after that little trip. Snakey was back in camp after a monumental hike around 2:20 and we spent the rest of the day lazing in camp and had a stellar dinner of elk burgers with sweet baby ray’s barbeque sauce and chipotle chili beans. We also hatched a plan for Snakey’s hunt the next day. Sunday ended.
As we had twice got on deer closer to the lake and Snakey had covered a lot of the up country without any sign we decided to stake him out before first light on a tall knob on the center ridge where he could glass most of the surrounding country and we would push to him at first light. We ended up doing a giant push up past around and back to him over the course of the morning, and Evan found a bunch of sign back in a deep canyon, but that was it. Snakey ended the day with a hike a simple zen hike with a rifle. Monday was over.
After we dropped our deer Snakey decided that we would leave a day early on Tuesday. I think the status of the boat had been in all of our minds. To refresh everyone’s mind. The kicker wasn’t working, the big motor was, but the battery was dead and the motor was down. As a result of the motor being down the wave action had buried the skeg and lower portion of the propeller with silt and sand. Well before daylight we were up and by daylight camp was broke and everything was down on the shoreline ready to load, but first we had to get the boat unstuck. Remember how I didn’t account for being at a lake. Well the result was me barefoot and in my boxers in the water digging out the lower portion of the motor. Snakey had shorts and crocs so he was helping me. After digging everything out I pulled over a large rock and using it and a sturgeon gaff I was able to lever up the back of the boat while Snakey and Evan pushed and pulled it into water deep enough to float. While I held it off shore Snakey and Evan loaded. Plan A was to try starting it hoping it had enough juice. Plan B was to have me pull start it from down in the water. Plan C was for Snakey to pull start it from the boat. Plan D was for Evan to try to pull start it from in the boat. Plan E was to try the kicker again. Plan F was to move the boat about 300-350 yds to a rocky point and try to pull start it from shore like we did on Saturday. The only problem was it was too shallow close to shower to line it well from shore so it had to be moved through deeper water. Well you have seen the photo and I can now say I have pull started an 80hp motor twice. When we got back to the ramp and on the trailer after another run down lake the battery still didn’t have any juice, but as soon as we connected the trickle charger it raised immediately without an issue. We loaded up and headed for home.
It was a stellar hunt in amazing country and I would do it again in a second, of course I would make sure the boat was running right first.