12 Trips on the Edge

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Outdoor Life Online Editor

Rattle for Whitetails in Elk Country

Risk Level: 2 | Physical Demands:3 Biggest Threat: Hunting whitetails east of the Mississippi will never seem the same.
**Biggest Benefit: ** Unpressured, mature bucks in a vast mountain wilderness.

We all know that the whitetail deer is America's number-one big-game animal. However, in my humble opinion, some whitetail hunting lacks a key ingredient of a truly great hunting adventure: wilderness. But what if you could combine North America's number-one big-game animal with some solitude and adventure? With that combination you would-again in my humble opinion-end up with a number-one hunting adventure. That's exactly what you get hunting whitetails in Idaho's mountains.

I regularly hunt in the Clearwater River drainage of central Idaho during the last few days of the rifle season, which closes November 20. While a person can hunt with a rifle at this time, I always hunt with my bow. An archery-only season takes place in December, but I prefer hunting in November, when the rut is in full swing. During the last two decades, I have seen only two other hunters more than a mile from a road.

My usual approach is to strap a tree stand to my pack and get well off the road. Because these back-country deer see relatively few hunters, and because the buck-to-doe ratio is fairly even in remote areas, these bucks respond well to rattling and calling. I search for fresh rubs and scrapes and then put up a tree stand and rattle and grunt until the buck I want comes in.

Idaho issues about 10,000 nonresident deer tags each year on a first-come, first-served basis. During the past few years, these tags have not sold out. There is no limit on resident tags. A nonresident hunting license and tag costs $363.50. A resident tag and license adds up to $29.50. Contact: Idaho Department of Fish and Game (800-635-7820; www2.state.id.us/ fishgame).
-Dwight Schuh

** Go on a Quest for Gold**

Risk Level:2 | Physical Demands: 3
Biggest Threat: Moody, unpredictable weather-oh, and the bears.
Biggest Benefit: Trout that will bite on anything that floats by.

While others may climb mountains simply because they are there, flyfishing buddy Pete Mathiesen and I had a more compelling reason to ascend Wyoming's Wind River Range in late September. There were golden trout in them thar hills, or at least in some of the lakes of the Popo Agie Wilderness Area, and we were determined to catch the rare fish.

The Popo Agie is at the southern end of the Shoshone National Forest, where some of the highest peaks in the Rockies march in jagged lockstep down the spine of the Continental Divide. Several years ago, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department obtained golden trout from California and stocked them in some of the Popo Agie's alpine lakes. Thumb Lake, at an elevation of over 10,000 feet, was our destination.

Thumb is plainly marked on the map available from the Forest Service office in Lander, from which we embarked. We drove to the trailhead outside of town and hiked for a few hours along a well-marked trail. When we got to within a mile of Thumb, Mathiesen and I pitched our tent and, for the next couple of days, fished the surrounding streams. The weather started out bad and got even worse, with a snowstorm driven by gale-force winds being the main event. We never caught any goldens above the timberline, but the plump cutthroats and brook trout in the lakes, potholes and streams took out some of the sting. They also sufficed for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

On our final morning in the Popo Agie, I trekked up to the lake of the golden trout while Mathiesen stayed below and caught two-pound cutthroats that had never seen a Woolly Bugger. When I reached Thumb, a blizzard started piling whiteps at my feet and I decided that hiking over boulders and loose shale to the lee side of the lake would have been a dangerous task in the snow. Most quests end in failure and this one would have to wait for a better champion. Are you the one?

Contact: U.S. Forest Service, Lander Ranger District (307-332-5460).
-Colin Moore

Drift Down Trout and Grouse Heaven

Risk Level: 1 | Physical Demands: 2
Biggest Threat: Running out of No. 71/2s.
Biggest Benefit: Class III rapids.

In October in northern New Hampshire, you can pack a lifetime of passion into a two-week canoe trip down the Magalloway River, into Lake Umbagog and then down the Androscoggin River. Here you'll find ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting at its finest, along with good trout, bass and landlocked salmon fishing. Oh, and Class III rapids.

Put in at the covered bridge on Route 16 in Wilson's Mills, Maine, and meander down the flat water of the Magalloway River to the mouth of the Dead Diamond River. Paddle or hike upstream for some superb brook trout fishing (open to angling until November 30) or wing-shooting. (Grouse season in New Hampshire and Maine opens October 1.) A mile farther along on the Magalloway, camp at one of two remote sites, or paddle into Lake Umbagog and camp on an island near the mouth of the river.

At 7,850 acres, Umbagog is big, so explore its shores for upland birds using one campsite as a base, or travel up and down its length. There are 32 remote wilderness sites here, accessible only by canoe or boat, and at this time of year, you'll have your choice. The only extra requirements on the National Wildlife Refuge land are nontoxic shot and a blaze orange cap and vest. Lake Umbagog holds impressive landlocked salmon and brook trout to five pounds in its northern half, especially near the mouth of the Rapid River in the northeast. The southern half of the lake is shallower and harbors superb smallmouth bass.

If the days have passed quickly and you're out of time, take out on the south end of the lake at the state campground ramp. Or paddle downstream to the Errol Dam and scope the rapids below it. Run them or portage around them to Bragg Bay, then paddle downstream to the 13 Mile Woods. Rapids and flat water run alternately; you can camp at the primitive Mollidgewock State Campground or at one of their remote sites downstream. Take out above the dam.

Contact: New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (603-271-1734); Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (207-287-6008); Umbagog Lake State Park Campground (603-271-3628).
-Tom Fuller

** Fish for Snook With the Gators**

Risk Level:5 | Physical Demands:1
**Biggest Threat: **Monstrous, unhunted (read: bold) alligators.
**Biggest Benefit: ** Big grouper and snook all to yourself.

Bull sharks swarm in jungle rivers like schools of piranha. Gators have to be push-poled away from the boat. Wild boars stroll the beaches. And plenty of big snook, reds and trout-along with the occasional barrel-size grouper-bust up your tackle. Sound like your kind of place? If it is, visit Everglades National Park this winter. Despite the mad rush to suburbanize the rest of Florida, the vast national park at the southern tip remains as wild as ever. Camping in the backcountry puts you in the middle of the action, well beyond waters visited by weekend fishermen.

Camping where mosquitoes travel in swarms? Actually, no. In winter, the bug count is modest, especially if you choose a campground well up one of the rivers, where saltwater mosquitoes and the tiny no-see-ums are scarce. On a trip last year in December, there were few insects in attendance, and though we slept in screened tents, the snoring of fellow campers was more annoying than the few bugs that got inside. (You'll still want to carry a repellent, though-and between April and October, forget it!)

Wilderness camping is made possible through a series of federally maintained sites, most of them just big enough for one party. Some are on shell mounds left by the Native Americans who used to call the Glades home before the days of insect repellent. (Now those were tough people!) Others are wood platforms built by the National Park Service. All have enclosed toilets (with plenty of spiders inside) and hot-and-cold-running raccoons (be sure to store your food in raccoon-proof containers when you head out for the day).

The fishing ranges from good to spectacular if you know where to go. It's not a matter of simply casting a Zara Spook at any likely looking shoreline. The best action is usually found on run-outs from smaller creeks, around rock holes and in the bends of deep but narrow creeks on strong tide flows.

We fished live mullet for monster grouper and big snook on our last trip and caught some of both-we also caught a lot of bull sharks. In some creeks, the bulls were so thick and voracious that a fall overboard would surely result in some sad news for your family back home. Gators, never hunted here, are equally possessive when you drop a live mullet near them, and may demand a fee for using their turf.

To camp the backcountry you need a $10 permit, available at visitor stations in Everglades City on the west end of the park and in Flamingo on the east side. Contact: Everglades National Park (305-242-7700; www.nps.gov/ever/).
-Frank Sargeant

**Search for a Back-Country Bighorn **

Risk Level: 3 | Physical Demands:4
Biggest Threat: Rams live on precipices. Biggest Benefit: Mature bighorns.

In 1988, my friend Larry Human and I drew bighorn sheep tags for the 2.2-million-acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho. Thirty miles and 12 days into the hunt, Larry crept into the midst of eight rams and dropped a full-curl, 111/2-year-old brute. Larry offered me his .270 to take another big ram he'd seen in the bunch. I declined, wanting to take a ram with my bow or not at all. It turned out to be the latter.

In 1995, I got a second chance. Packing 35 miles deep into the same wilderness with my llamas, I hunted for 16 days. Although I counted 27 ewes, lambs and immature rams, I never saw a legal ram.

In 2000, my friend Wayne Crownover and I drew sheep tags and hired a bush pilot to fly us and a 14-foot raft to a back-country airstrip. We floated the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and then backpacked into the surrounding crags glassing for bighorns. In 13 days, we saw three legal rams, two in the 170 class. With rifles we might have filled our tags; because we were bowhunting, we diugs that got inside. (You'll still want to carry a repellent, though-and between April and October, forget it!)

Wilderness camping is made possible through a series of federally maintained sites, most of them just big enough for one party. Some are on shell mounds left by the Native Americans who used to call the Glades home before the days of insect repellent. (Now those were tough people!) Others are wood platforms built by the National Park Service. All have enclosed toilets (with plenty of spiders inside) and hot-and-cold-running raccoons (be sure to store your food in raccoon-proof containers when you head out for the day).

The fishing ranges from good to spectacular if you know where to go. It's not a matter of simply casting a Zara Spook at any likely looking shoreline. The best action is usually found on run-outs from smaller creeks, around rock holes and in the bends of deep but narrow creeks on strong tide flows.

We fished live mullet for monster grouper and big snook on our last trip and caught some of both-we also caught a lot of bull sharks. In some creeks, the bulls were so thick and voracious that a fall overboard would surely result in some sad news for your family back home. Gators, never hunted here, are equally possessive when you drop a live mullet near them, and may demand a fee for using their turf.

To camp the backcountry you need a $10 permit, available at visitor stations in Everglades City on the west end of the park and in Flamingo on the east side. Contact: Everglades National Park (305-242-7700; www.nps.gov/ever/).
-Frank Sargeant

**Search for a Back-Country Bighorn **

Risk Level: 3 | Physical Demands:4
Biggest Threat: Rams live on precipices. Biggest Benefit: Mature bighorns.

In 1988, my friend Larry Human and I drew bighorn sheep tags for the 2.2-million-acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho. Thirty miles and 12 days into the hunt, Larry crept into the midst of eight rams and dropped a full-curl, 111/2-year-old brute. Larry offered me his .270 to take another big ram he'd seen in the bunch. I declined, wanting to take a ram with my bow or not at all. It turned out to be the latter.

In 1995, I got a second chance. Packing 35 miles deep into the same wilderness with my llamas, I hunted for 16 days. Although I counted 27 ewes, lambs and immature rams, I never saw a legal ram.

In 2000, my friend Wayne Crownover and I drew sheep tags and hired a bush pilot to fly us and a 14-foot raft to a back-country airstrip. We floated the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and then backpacked into the surrounding crags glassing for bighorns. In 13 days, we saw three legal rams, two in the 170 class. With rifles we might have filled our tags; because we were bowhunting, we di