Archive for the ‘Adam’s Blog’ Category

Outback Outdoors Rolls On – Adam Wells’ 2011 CO Archery Elk

Monday, September 26th, 2011

The 2011 Colorado Archery elk season started off very slow, the rut was late and the bulls didn’t show up in any numbers until the last week of the season.  I had three days to hunt this last week and all I can say is “WOW” the elk were going crazy, the rut was in full swing. The problem was there were so many elk, so many elk calling at each other we had to get in close, very close for the elk to engage my calling.  As amazing as it was to be surrounded by upwards of 100 elk at a time, it was a difficult challenge to get in close to that many eyes, ears and noses. Especially the noses!

The tactic Trevon and I employed on this hunt was what I like to call “herd shadowing“.  This is one of my favorite ways to hunt elk, what I like to do is locate the herd from a distance, wait and observe the elk, the wind conditions and try to anticipate where the elk are headed, and what the winds will do.  Once I have a good idea of both, I maneuver into the herd at an angle that will keep the winds favorable and get me in front or parallel with the movement of the herd.  Just like with fly fishing where you read the currents of the river, I have learned over the years how to read the wind currents of the mountains. Believe me when I say that the locations that elk choose to bed are not by accident, they choose areas that are not only cool, but have swirling winds. This is where I have learned just how close to push the herd and where to sit on them without letting my wind drift into the elks location.  Knowing the wind and the location of the elk are key to being able to successful is this type of hunting strategy.

The particular herd that Trevon and I moved in on was very vocal, both bugling and cow talk.  We could never see the elk herd as the vegetation they we in was very thick, but we could hear where they were and where they were headed. We kept a safe distance from the herd, about half a mile to a quarter mile, just close enough to listen to the herd and keep track of their movements. While waiting for the thermals to stabilize and the prevailing wind to set up, we had some exciting encounters with some very nice satellite bulls. Once the winds were favorable, Trevon and I made a big loop to get even with the elk and get the winds favorable.  We worked in close to the herd, stalking up on a few more satellite bulls and keeping our calling to a minimum, calling just occasionally to get the herd bull to bugle. I knew he wouldn’t commit to coming into the call until we were in his “red zone” as there was too many other bulls in the area for him to want to leave his cows. We followed the herd without seeing them for almost an hour.

Finally the aspen grove we were set up in had a thick understory of Chokecherry, visibility was less than 10 feet in most of the area, and in some areas the Chokecherry would thin out and we could see upwards of 20 yards.  (There is nothing more exciting than hearing an elk bugle less than 20 yards away just waiting for it to step into the clear.)  We again shadowed the movement of this herd for almost 2 hours. The elk finally bedded down in an area where the aspen stand turned into a mature stand of gamble oak. This oak grove was very open and shaded. This is where the bull wanted his cows to bed as he could see other bulls encroaching on his harem. Of course just like normal this was a key strategic location complete with swirling winds.

This is where we first started catching glimpses of the herd bull, a very nice 6×6. We set up close to the herd but still keeping our wind favorable, and started calling. We were literally overrun by elk. Cows, calves and small satellite bulls. We were actually surrounded by elk but the herd bull kept just out of my clear shooting lanes. We were still not quite in his “Red Zone” and we just couldn’t grab his attention with our calls as he was busy herding a hot cow or chasing off a smaller bull. We had to get closer!

Once the elk herd that surrounded us settled down and went back to the bedding area we slowly stalked in closer.  We set up in the area the herd bull was most active in but we couldn’t move closer due to the swirling winds. We were as close to the herd bull and his cows as we dared go.  After 15 mins of sitting and doing some soft, cow calls, we saw the herd bull pushing a cow back into the bedding area. The cow went through a shooting lane and the bull was in hot pursuit. The big bull entered the shooting lane at a run and I tried to stop him with a loud cow call, but he didn’t even break stride.  No shot.

Finally though we were in his “Red Zone” and we engaged him with the call.  He got that cow back into the bedding area and circled back to herd me into the bedding area. This time he came into us at a slow walk, I drew my bow while the bull was behind some oaks, when he entered the shooting lane I settled the 30 yard pin tight behind his shoulder and let her fly.  I knew my shot was on the mark and made some quick and excited cow calls to calm the bull down. He only ran about 20 yards, stopped and offered me a chance to put a second arrow in him. My second arrow hit inches away from my first.  Two double lung hits, I knew the bull was mortally wounded as he crashed down the slope.  Trevon and I waited a few minutes to let the bull expire and heard his last cough and a crash about half way through our wait.  The blood trail was thick and short. The bull a beautiful 6×6 was down and better yet, a short downhill pack out.

My 2011 archery elk season was over, a tough one in the beginning but one with an incredible ending.  I can’t wait until next year to do it again.

Adam Wells – Outback Outdoors

Team Outback Outdoors Gives Back – Adam Wells helps the CDOW with Turkey Conservation

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Wild Turkeys would be nearly extinct if it were not for our state game agencies working so hard to re-establish wild turkeys into suitable habitat.  I have been able to assist the Colorado Division of Wildlife several times over the last few years in this process of trapping, processing and relocation wild turkeys. The trap is set over a bait site in an area with an abundant wild turkey population. Once the turkeys are routinely feeding at the bait site under the net trap a day is organized to do the actual trap.  It takes a lot of labor as once the net is dropped the turkeys need to be wrestled down and pinned by hand in the trap to minimize any injury to the birds.  It takes a while to work the birds out of the net, once they are out they get placed in a box and are then processed.

The processing of the turkeys involves drawing blood, getting fecal samples and tagging.  The blood and fecal samples are rushed to a lab to be scanned for any dieses that could hinder the turkeys from establishing new and vibrant populations and also to be sure there are no new dieses being introduced into an area that could harm other birds or wildlife in the relocation area.  Once the test results are completed, typically about 24 hours, and the results are negative the birds are shipped to their release location and we have another population of wild turkeys to enjoy.

Volunteering time and knowledge with our state’s Game and Fish agencies is rewarding and fun. For me I enjoy knowing I am doing a part, even if it is a small part to help promote and preserve our wildlife and sporting traditions for generations yet to come.

Adam Wells

Team Outback Outdoors

Whitetail Deer Hunting – Team OO Member Adam Wells Practices Herd Management

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

2011 continues to be a great year for me. After my Mountain Lion hunt in western Colorado, I headed out to Swanson Lake Ranch in southwest Nebraska with my good friend and camera man for Outback Outdoors Kyle Sanderson to hunt the late white-tail doe season.  Kyle had only a couple days that he could get away from work so I did my best to put Kyle in the best stands.

The first day I managed to harvest a nice fat white tail doe and was hoping that Kyle would have similar luck. As it turned out, Kyle was close to getting one that evening but everyone knows how hunting goes, sometimes it just doesn’t quite work out.

The next afternoon, would be Kyle’s evening to harvest.  This was Kyle’s first bow kill, I can’t tell you how happy and excited I was for Kyle’s success.  This is what is truly special about what I am able to do in my job as a guide and outfitter and through Outback Outdoors is to give people a positive introduction to the outdoors and  pass on the years of knowledge to those newer to the sport than myself.

Congrats Kyle.

Adam

Outback Outdoors’ Founding Team Member Adam Wells Sheds First Blood for 2011

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
After the 2011 ATA show, I had a couple of days where I could break free and chase lions and asked my good friend Andy Julius if there would be an opportunity for me to hunt. He told me that he didn’t have any hunters in camp and that I could go!  The next morning I bought breakfast for all my lion hunting buddies and started cutting tracks in the early hours of the morning. We didn’t find any fresh tracks so we discussed turning out on a 2 day old track to see what would come of it.  Nobody thought that we would have a good chance of actually running down that track, but we were hoping that we could run it all day and get an idea of where the lion was headed.  The track wasn’t that big but it was still possibly a Tom or a big female and it was the best option we had.

We turned the hounds loose on the track and the conditions were great. Even as old as that cat track appeared, the scent of that lion helped the dogs move on the track quite well. We tried our best to keep up with the dogs to keep track of their movements but quickly lost track of them. We had telemetry collars on the dogs but we could no longer get a good signal with the unit as the dogs moved the track into a canyon. So the search for  the dogs began. We split up each of us covering a different ridge or canyon in the direction the dogs had followed the lion track. Jake, one of the dog handlers, located the dogs barking treed in a tight and deep canyon.

We all regrouped as Jake worked his way down to the dogs first and radioed that it was a big Tom!  I couldn’t believe it!  I thought that the day was going to be a tough day of keeping up with the hounds and helping the dogs work out a tough and old scent but now we had a big Tom in the tree!  We had only been on the trail 6 or 7 hours.  As you can imagine, I wanted to get down there and see what kind of cat we had up a tree.

When we started in to the tree, we cut a very fresh and very large Tom track, Nick and I suspected that the cat in the tree was the one that had made this track, and that was definitely the case.  I don’t know how the dogs ended up on this large Tom when we turned them loose (as more of a training exercise) but this big lion was the cat for me, a large mature Rocky Mountain Lion.  As is the case with most lion hunts, the shot is a little more anticlimactic then the chase, but working with the hounds and the physical adventure of climbing the mountains and canyons in lion country is the real challenge!

For the final act on this exciting hunt, I had a fairly tight shooting lane to hit the vitals on the big tom, but I felt I could hit the spot and make a clean and ethical kill with my trusty Hoyt.  I took a solid range, made sure the video was running and took my time on the shot. The arrow flew true and I harvested the tom lion I have always dreamed of.

Be sure to look for this and other exciting hunts on Outback Outdoors (with a few format changes)…..coming soon in 2011
Adam Wells
Team Outback Outdoors

Recap on the 2010 season

Friday, December 31st, 2010

My annual calendar revolves around the activities of hunting, guiding and fishing.  2010 was no different, but I had a rougher year than usual. Unfortunately, I did not draw any of the limited tags I was hoping for.  In addition, my hunting partner and best friend Trevon was unable to join me for my Nov and Dec hunts due to his should injury.  Without Trevon’s camaraderie, the hunts are just not the same. I can’t wait for next year and for Trev to get the wing flapping again.  My work on the ranch was, by far, the most hectic and stressful year of my tenure up there.  Life was busy on my Swanson Lake Ranch hunting club as well, we competed the building of our lodge on the property this fall, so my time in Nebraska was focused toward the construction.  I hope that you enjoy seeing a glimpse of my year in the outback.

January and February found me surviving on the ranch with a few lion hunts tossed in here and there when I could break away from pushing snow around.  Here is a pic of a Tom we treed and harvested in Jan 2010.

March and April are two of my favorite months of the year. In 2010 they were spent fly fishing for permit in Belize, archery turkey hunting at Swanson Lake Ranch, and pre-runoff fly fishing for trout in the Rockies.  I also was still fighting the snow and cold at the ranch, and got my snow cat buried in an avalanche that I triggered while attempting to open up a ranch road.

May to August was an incredibly busy time for me. The ranch was going through several of changes, we were building a lodge at Swanson Lake Ranch, and I was still completing  all of my food plots and habitat work.  This didn’t leave me much time for play, but I did manage to get out for a few evenings of fly fishing.

September always seems to go by too quickly. Observing the elk rut and bow hunting for bugling bulls is hands down my favorite thing to do.  This year, during the first set up of the season on opening morning, I successfully called this nice 6×6 bull in for an older hunter.

The second week of archery elk season, I managed to work this nice bull in after an hour of calling. The bull approached to within 3 feet of my hunter, and he put an arrow in him when he was finialy turned broadside at 3 yards.  What an exciting hunt!

I had a couple days to myself before Trevon made it in to hunt, so I slipped out for one evening and one morning. In the short window of time that I had this year, I lucked out and harvested this nice 6 point bull.

Trevon came in a day later and we had a great hunt, calling in several bulls the first couple of day. The evening that Trevon harvested was magical.  We were surrounded by bugling bulls; there must have been seven or eight bulls in the park. Trevon managed to pick out this nice 6×6 bull and made a great shot and a clean kill to wrap up the 2010 archery elk season.

The four Colorado rifle seasons span from mid-October to late November. I was guiding every day of the open seasons. Here are some of the animals that I personally guided hunters to this year.

When I get breaks in Oct and Nov I always manage to get out and do a little bit of hunting and fishing of my own too. Without Trevon to join me on these breaks, I self videoed my white-tail hunt at Swanson Lake Ranch. I passed on numerous bucks from 120 to 140 class as I knew from my trail cams that there were a few monsters on my property.

December found me hunting ducks, pheasants and white-tails on Swanson Lake Ranch, as well as eastern Colorado Mule deer. As many of you know, I have trained bird dogs for almost 20 years and have as strong a passion for decoying waterfowl and hunting upland birds as I do for fly fishing and bow hunting. This year I was able to spend a few days chasing pheasants with my old buddy Trigger and my new German shorthair, Briz.  I spent time on my mule deer hunt catching up with my late wife’s family and helping out on their family farm and ranch. I did go looking for bucks in the mornings and chased some pheasants mid day, but I also really enjoyed having the time to catch up with my in-laws.

Here’s looking forward to 2011, lets hope the draw is kinder to me and I won’t have as large a work load, and my bud Trevon gets healed up. Thank you all for tuning in to Outback Outdoors and Happy New Year.

Turkey season has begun!

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Trevon and I had a great start to the 2010 turkey season last week. We headed out to my Swanson Lake Ranch in southwest Nebraska to catch the last weekend of the archery only turkey season. The turkeys were hot! It is always hard to draw the Tom’s off the big flocks in the morning and evenings but the midday hunts in the loafing areas were great!

I arrived early and did some scouting and blind prep and the birds were in all of their usual locations as well as utilizing some of the new habitat improvements and food plots we implemented in 2009. It is always very satisfying to see the wildlife use and benefit from my work. Its like the field of dreams, build it and they will come.

Trevon had a few close calls, it seemed something just went wrong every time a big Tom came in, a tree would be blocking the view for the camera, a branch would be blocking his shot, something would get bumped in the blind and the birds would retreat. But, I did manage to harvest a very nice mature Tom, things just came together. Bowhunting is never easy, but that is why it is so much fun too.

Elk Hunting – Rembembering the 2009 archery elk season

Friday, February 5th, 2010

My reward for the year in wildlife management is the archery elk season.  I love all aspects of hunting, but there are few activities that are as challenging and exciting as pursuing elk with a bow and arrow.  I average about 30 days a year hunting or guiding archery elk hunts. I feel that from the amount of time I spend calling and hunting elk and the areas I am able to guide and hunt in has given me not only some incredible memories and experiences but also a great education in how to hunt elk.  It is this education and some fun stories I want to share with you here from time to time.

I feel that when archery hunting elk, first and foremost, is you need to simply be able to enjoy the experience. For me just having a close encounter with a rut crazed bull is as rewarding as harvesting that big herd bull.  My first bit of advice is to just enjoy the moment, enjoy the hunt and the people you are with. If you base your success on just the harvest, I feel you miss out on so much of what archery hunting for elk is all about.

The bull pictured below is a great example of a close call.  When calling to elk, or any game for that matter, I try to create an illusion of a scenario where that bull would naturally come to.  Calling is more than just making elk noises, it is knowing how to “communicate” with a particular animal. This bull was a classic example of this.  There were four or five bulls bugling in the canyon below where my hunter and I were listening from.  I guessed there were 40 to 50 elk in the herd, the wind was not perfect but workable, my hunter was capable of getting into position so we made a play. Now here was the challenge, how do I make my set up more attractive and enticing than 40 to 50 real elk, all talking their fool heads off? A cross wind that is far from perfect and a fairly new archery elk hunter that is still needing some coaching on how to set up, when to move, when to sit, etc.  1st thing we did, before ever making a call was to find a spot close to the elk, but were I could call out of sight of the elk but in sight of my hunter. We found a great “break” in the hill that would accomplish this beautifully, as long as the wind holds… well it was looking like a good set up.

Now for the calling, how do I get a bull to leave 40 to 50 cows? First I gave a lost cow call, then a minute or so later one more. Even though I didn’t get a response to either call, I knew that the bulls could definitely hear me.  Then I gave one more lost cow call with a squeelly little bugle right after… that did it, now I had one talking back! Ok, so now how do I keep the attention of this bull and get him to come upwind of my hunter? Can I get the bull committed or will I loose him to the mass of elk below? I hit the bull right back with an excited cow call, trying to say “hey big boy, get this little guy away from me…” but right as he bugles back to the cow call, I cut him off with another little squeelly bugle. Oh, that is just flat out rude was the bulls reply to me cutting him off!! But I can see now that I am getting under his skin, I have his full attention, and he is coming closer… perfect!  Now I would have liked to have set up closer to the herd, but with an inexperienced hunter, questionable wind, and a great spot to set up a little over 150 yards away from the herd….. well I made the most of the set up. The bull being an elk like he was started to circle down wind of my hunter and I, so I changed my location to keep the bull coming on a line that would bring him upwind and close to my hunter. All the time continuing my conversation and illusion of a small bull running off with a hot cow. Well, now I hear the bull has “hung up” I was anticipating this as we had to set up further away than what I find is typically successful distance to be. The bull would continue to respond to both the cow calls and the bugle, but was not wanting to leave the 40 to 50 cows in the canyon below. From experience, I could guess that this was as much as the calling would do, so I shut up. By going silent on the bull, I was giving my hunter and I the opportunity to move in closer of need be, or see if the bull’s curiosity would get the better of him. When the bull kept bugling at me after I quit calling I felt his curiosity might get the best of him, then after a few more bugles at me without a response, the next bugle was closer, a lot closer. Then I could see his tan hide moving thru the brush but he was going to be down wind of my hunter before a shot could be had, so quickly I made a soft cow call, it worked, he turned back on the “line” I had planned out for him. But now, I was so close he could tell right where the call came from. Good thing I picked a good set up spot as I had the break of the hill to my advantage, the bull now was 25 to 30 yards from my hunter and about 50 yards from me so I he could see where there should be a cow elk standing. Here is where a Montana decoy is a killer!! I had the decoy popped up but laying on the ground next to me, I slowly held the decoy up, saw I had the bulls attention and slowly dropped it back out of sight. That did it! Here he comes! When the bull was 10 yards from my hunter I stopped him with a loud and quick cow call in the best shooting lane my hunter had. Everything was perfect, the elk 10 yards away from the hunter, his full attention on my location, but he quartered his shoulder towards the hunter. So close but no shot at all. He stood here for a what seemed like a life time and finially detected that something was just not quite right and turned and walked away without ever offering an ethical shot.  I was able to snap a quick picture of him here right before he walked into the shooting lane.

For me, working the bull, getting him close to my hunter, and having that experience is what I live for.  I hope by me sharing my story, I am keeping the fire in you for next September and maybe you learned a little too.

Life on the Mountain: More snow and lions

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Just a quick update from the Mountain.  Last few days I have been fighting a flu bug but getting better now.  More snow here the last couple days, about another foot to foot and a half.  This last snow was very wet and heavy, I worry it will form a hard crust and hurt the elk and deer wintering nearby.  But once we hit about Feb 15, the snow starts to melt off the south facing slopes and winter is about half over.  I feel the elk and deer will fair ok here this year.  The snow level is about average this year and the brutal cold is about over.  It is nice to feel the days getting longer, I am sure the elk and deer are liking it too.

More lions, had one walk through my horses last night, we turned the dogs out on it this morning and put a female up a tree.  The guys with the dogs, Andy Julius Outfitters, have a hunter in that is wanting a Tom. I hope the experience for her getting chased will be enough to keep her away from the horses.  We found a good Tom track this afternoon, but all the new snow that has fallen and blown in the track was making it very difficult for the dogs to trail.

Large snow fall and being sick are never a good combination, had the truck stuck today for about 3 hours. It was all I could do to dig the tires out for chains and walking to get another truck to help tug.  I sure could use some help up here from time to time.  Its all good, part of living my dream up here in the Rockies.

Elk and Deer Body Condition on the Winter Range

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Late season cow harvests are a good way to monitor body condtions going into the winter

Another factor in Wildlife Habitat to take into account when looking at the winter range quality is just how well are the elk and deer fairing.  How well the elk and deer are wintering, has a direct correlation to the quality of antler growth for the next growing season and the health and survivability of the fawns/calves for the upcoming spring. (more on why fawn/calf recruitment is key when looking at where to plan your future hunts)  Several of the factors that I look at when determining the condition of wintering elk and deer are: Body Fat measurements from Late Season cow harvests; Feild Judging body condition; and the how the animals behave.

I like to use my late season cow hunts mainly to control the population of elk here at the ranch. But I have also started to take notes on the body fat that the harvested cows are carrying.  I measure the amount of fat on the back and rump as well as the amount of fat on or around the kidneys. It is good to see from year to year how the amount of fat on the elk varies.  Even though the fat is a result of the summer/fall range conditions, it gives me a very good idea on how well the local population should winter.  If you have the chance to hunt a late season cow in your hunting area take notes from year to year on the amount of body fat on the elk as they head into winter and see how this correlates to the quality of antler development for the following fall.

I realize that not all of us can look at 20 to 30 harvested cow elk a year and take notes on the body condition as I do, but we can all take a weekend to go on the winter range in our favorite hunting areas and field judge body condition.  When trying to determine the body condition on the winter range it is often easy to spot the animals that are not going to survive, once the ribs are clearly showing these animals will most likely not survive.  Even in mild winters there are always going to be a few individuals that are going to look to be in bad shape, don’t focus too much on the few individual animals that are going to die.  What I like to do is look at the population as a whole.  Look for the angle of the rump.  If the majority of the animals you see still have a good round shape, the population as a whole should be good. But, if the rumps have a distinctive angle, or sloping look, the herd is suffering.  Also, look at the coat conditions of the herd.  When the animals start to stress, the coats loose the oils that keep it shinny and healthy.  If the coats look “bleached out” or rough, this is a sign that the animals are losing their energy reserves and if they survive the winter, they will have a longer recovery in the spring before they can put energy into antler production and will most likely have lower birth rates/lower survivability rates on the fawn/calf crop.

One other area that I view is just how the animals behavior is affected by the stress winter brings. The basic things I look for are:  How alert are they or do they seem sluggish?  How are the animals interacting with one another? How well do they travel? How is the head and ears held?  If the animals on your winter range are alert, you see them chasing each other or having small fights, they are traveling to and from feeding/bedding areas, and when moving heads are high and ears forward and moving. These are all signs that the herd is healthy and doing well.  If the animals seem sluggish, are feeding and bedding in the same spot, are allowing people to get close, heads down and droopy ears, these are signs that the herd is starting to stress from the winter conditions, and are trying to save as much energy as possible.

I hope some of these basics on winter range will help you when planning your hunt next fall. Please remember that even in a mild winter the elk and deer are slowly starving to death until the spring green up. Do not try to approach wintering animals, leave the shed hunting until the spring green up has begun and turn in any poaching.  The winter and winter range is the main limiting factor to our elk and deer populations, so please do not add to their stress levels.

Winter Range Quaility

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Wildlife Habitat can be looked at for the quality of the forage available.  In the winter time, accessibility of forage is often what most us look at when thinking about elk and mule deer winter survival.  I feel it is also important to look at the quality of the forage available. First, I look at what plants are seeing the majority of the browsing. Second, I look to see how much browsing pressure the winter range is receiving.

When looking at the plants that are being browsed on (I could write volumes on this) I look to see what the elk and deer are browsing on: exposed grasses and forbes; or are they focusing more deciduous woody shrubs (sage brush, bitter-brush, service berry, etc); or if they are eating coniferous trees (juniper, fir, etc).  It has been my basic observation that when there is a good amount of grasses and forbes exposed or enough snow is melting to expose the ground, the elk and deer are getting through the winter in good shape, but if the winter range has been experiencing periods of drought and the exposed ground is bare, then I like to see what woody shrubs are being utilized.  What I hope to find is browsing pressure on the the more deciduous plants and I look to see if just the new growth and buds are browsed or if the elk and deer are starting to get into the stemy portions of the plant.  If the browsing pressure is getting into the old stemy growth, there could be major problems developing, not just for the current winter but for long term damage to the quality of the winter range.  If you are seeing the browsing pressure on the coniferous tress such as juniper, this is typically an indicator of a very sever winter and a good chance of high winter mortality in these areas.

It is good to run out to your hunting area if you can and check on the quality of the winter range and help plan your hunt for next fall. Also remember to use good judgment when in close proximity to wintering animals and be careful not to put any stress on the game with your presence as the winter can be hard enough on our next years bucks and bulls.