Hakes Heritage Hunting Diary:
The sport of hunting has been a part of the Cornell Hakes family heritage for generations, with Carol and Dave Hakes continuing to carry on this heritage, enjoying it as a husband and wife team. Together, with their son, Curt, accompanying them on many of the hunts, they have many memorable North American hunting adventures, trophies and stories to share for generations to come.
This year, they drew the Montana Combination Big Game license, giving them the opportunity to set their sights on the majestic Montana elk and mule deer. After 15 plus years of hunting in Montana, this fall’s hunt was by far the most challenging and rewarding for the couple.
A look into Carol’s journal, chronicles the highs and lows of their Big Sky country experience.
Friday, Oct. 25 One day before the Montana, two-week rifle season Dave, me, dogs, Olivia and Riley, along with close friends, Steve Sime, Sam Howard, and new Hakes’ acquaintance, Chad Sime (Steve’s cousin), set across the cattle grazing fields of Montana’s Jones Hills in Cascade County, Montana, with two fullsize trucks, three ATVs and enough supplies to last the season in camp.
Plans are for Dave and I to stay two weeks. Steve, Sam and Chad will leave after the first week, with Keith Stickney, Wally Gass and Curt Hakes coming for the second week. We’re prepared, with propane heaters to keep us warm, and generators and a freezer to keep meat cool. The temperature is 67 degrees.
Carol’s bull elk Ground conditions allowed us to drop trailers off in the flats, and move the trucks and ATVs through the numerous creek crossings, and up into camp. I spotted a nice cinnamon bear, with a blonde cub, feeding, as well as mule deer and trout in the streams. Big Sky Country never disappoints, as we took in the mountainous views, sounds of nearby streams and the smell of sage in the air that evening.
Saturday, Oct. 26 SEASON OPENER!
5 a.m., the sound of crickets (that would be my phone alarm). Sam pushes the door on our little cabin open and out came the first four-letter word of the season...SNOW! Over 12”! Visibility was limited, so we weren’t in a big rush to head out.
We filled up on coffee and a Mountain House breakfast. (If you’re a doomsday prepper, you might want to stock up on these; they’re quite tasty and have an expiration date of 2029.) Steve and Chad headed out first, and then me. Dave and Sam hung back at camp.
I drove a four-wheeler through a few creek crossings and spotted a small, 6x6 bull elk, bedded down over half a mile, uphill. Spotting game is my forte – harvesting them is Dave’s – we make a good team that way! Knowing this and that there’s usually more than one elk together, I went back to camp to get Dave, to capitalize on the hope for multiple opportunities.
Well, that and to also have someone with me who has forgotten more about hunting than I will ever know.
We headed up the hills to position our- selves, according to wind and cover. By this time, the snow had stopped. We got to where we could see the elk bedded down. Dave said, “There have got to be others in here, but they’re probably bedded down, as well.” This elk was not one we would have gone after, but may be in the company of one we would. It was also on private land, so a lot would have to go our way for this to be a success story.
At 2:43 p.m., we had no longer decided to hang out for the best-case scenario, when Dave spotted a lone bull, some 400 plus yards below us, down by the creek crossings we travel through. Dave came into this hunt with the hopes of harvesting a bigger trophy than he has already accomplished.
Me too, but after a few years of errors in judgment by this much less experienced hunter, I thought he was a magnificent trophy and I was NOT about to pass up on the first day, what I wouldn’t pass up on the last.
Call me crazy, but for some reason, I find that I often check the time of day when it matches gun calibers. This was one of those ironic time tracking days. At 2:43/.243 caliber, my “Caliber Hunt” began.
Dave led and we headed down the steep hill in deep snow, to what looked like a good enough rock for a rest. Dave said to try and hold on a spot, and see if I felt steady enough to take the shot. I felt confident with the 400yard shot, pulled the trigger and missed. I reloaded, while the bull looked around, unsure where the shot came from.
He turned and started walking the opposite direction, giving me a broadside shot. I pulled the trigger...reloaded...looked up to see him go down, followed by a strong pat on my back and Dave saying, “Good shot!!” Congratulatory hugs and kisses followed.
We headed to claim our trophy...my legs shaking so bad, I fell numerous times before getting to the bottom. Dave looked up to where the initial bull I saw was laying and he was standing up...along with three other bulls.
We got down to the creek bottom at 3 p.m./.300 caliber (I shoot a .300 short mag), found the elk and with the help of Sam, took care of the elk, and I even found my perfect bullet, lodged in the front shoulder. We headed back to camp at 3:57 p.m./.357 caliber and arrived in camp at 4:10 p.m./.410.
This was the easiest packing (if you can even call it that) these guys have ever had! We loaded him on a snow sled and pulled him to camp with an ATV. I brought a bottle of wine to open the night I shot an elk, but forgot a corkscrew.
The guys used a Milwaukee drill and a wood bit to drill through the cork. We filtered the cork out by pouring the wine through paper towels into dixie cups. We’ve since been educated by many, on easier ways of getting this done. Bellies full of a homecooked camp stove meal, the sharing of hunting stories and bouts of laughter, made a very happy ending to a fantastic hunt!
Tuesday, Oct. 29
We spent Sunday and Monday hunting hard, but came up empty. Best thing that happened those few days, are the sharing of hunting stories and the bacon-wrapped elk tenderloins – in that order! We saw elk and mule deer each day, but didn’t connect.
Conditions worsened, with now over 2 feet of snow and more forecast. I was out on my own and climbed up thigh-deep snow, to a lookout point. There were 30-40 mph winds this day. No sign of any elk, but I saw a lot of deer tracks.
I sat a bit and spotted a muley buck over 400 yards below me. Yes, nothing comes easy! I got within 400, took a shot at him... missed...reloaded...shot again...he jumped and started walking away. Concerned I may be off zero from my adrenaline falls down the hill on Saturday, I chose to not go after him and consult with the experts back at camp.
Experts’ opinion: I could have gotten closer, I didn’t account for the wind and there’s nothing wrong with your rifle. Where’s that bottle of wine now?!
Wednesday, Oct. 30
Very limited access to hunting areas. ATVs just couldn’t get through. With Dave leading the way, we started the hike up to where I spotted the muley. During the climb, I spotted the muley 200 plus yards above us, bedded down under a tree in deep snow. I got Dave’s attention.
We weren’t getting any closer and Dave saw a tree 10 yards from us, that he thought I should use as a rest. I got positioned, but could only see the neck up on the buck. I looked at Dave with the unspoken question, “Are you sure this is OK?” A nod and I was on my own.
One shot...followed by, “Good shot”! I love it when that happens! Time to claim an-
Carol’s bullet found in her elk’s shoulder