I'm back with another elk hunting adventure from this Sep. After seeing some of the past posts from BB and StrikeratHome, I wanted to give a story another shot. I'm not the photographer or storyteller either of those gentlemen are, but I'll do my best to do our trip justice.
Some of you may remember last year's story, which featured my brother Rod, my buddy Steve (aka, Slevy), and me. This year the same three of us went back to WY, but we were happy to add our buddy Jon to the mix in our immediate group this year (he actually went out last year a couple weeks before us). Here's the link to last year's hunt, in case you forgot or didn't see it in the first place:
Some of the pics don't seem to be working in last year's story, but that link will give you the basic idea.
Unlike last year's story, I plan to write this one up in sections, one day at a time. I'll give you the daily report and let you know what we did and saw each day. It should be fun for me to write up and hopefully it'll be fun for you to follow along. As you'll see, this year's hunt was filled with highs and lows, but overall, was an absolutely wonderful trip. Most importantly, the four of us got along really well, all enjoy each other's company, and had a blast hunting together. I couldn't imagine going on a hunt like this with three better guys that my brother and two great buddies. All of these guys are dang good hunters, do their share of work around camp and with a downed animal, and are people who I genuinely enjoy being with.
I’ll do my best to give you the details of each day in a way that gives you an idea of what it was like for us while we were there. One unfortunate side note- we had some camera problems this year. Rod and Slevy both ended up with dead batteries in their cameras, and that cost us a lot of great pictures that would have really helped paint the picture of our elk hunt. I’ll do my best to convey their experiences with words, but I’ll try my best to not get too wordy or “over the top” with my writing. I hope you enjoy the story. So… kick back, read along, and feel free to chime in if you’d like.
The start of the trip: Jon drove from the Twin Cities to my place in Fargo on Thurs, Sep. 11th. He got to Fargo around 2:00 or so. Rod showed up at my place soon after (he only lives a few minutes from my place). We then loaded up all our gear in Rod and Jon’s trucks and headed for Bismarck, to pick up Slevy. Before picking up Slevy, we had nine coolers (many of them with just ice, in hopes of filling them with elk meat), two bikes (some areas are “no motorized vehicle” areas and bikes can really make travel much more efficient), three five gallon water coolers, three bows, a block target, three large bags of camo, a solar camp shower, a too many more things to include here. After picking up Slevy, we officially had “everything but the kitchen sink”. We were loaded for bear (well… actually elk) and rip roarin’ to go. We drove all night and about 16 hours (give or take about few hours- we were getting a little delirious at that point), pulled into the area we’d call home for the next week-and-a-half. Last year we used Rod’s Cabela’s Guide Series tent, which was great for the three of us. This year, we were totally spoiled regarding accomidations: Slevy is now the President of the Mule Deer Foundation in Minot, ND and we were allowed to take their Cabela’s Alaknak II. Or, if you prefer, the Taj Mahal of tents! We jokingly called it the “perfect four man tent”. It was spacious, solid, and really nice. Here’s a pic of it.
When we got back to camp we got the report from Rod and Slevy. They’d had a good day too. The moved in on a nice 5 point and got in a good position for a set up, with Rod calling and Slevy the shooter. Rod coaxed the 5 x 5 into 53 yards. Slevy ranged it—“53” on the range finder. He held his 50 yard pin a little high and let ‘er rip! His arrow sailed perfectly- it was headed just behind the shoulder, a little high, but dropping right into the “bread basket”. But… it didn’t drop enough- it literally skipped harmlessly off the elk’s back, taking only a small tuft of hair with it. The elk turned, and quickly became a brown blur down the draw. That encounter essentially ended their evening. After the elk ran off, Slevy ranged the shot again- “53” was what his range finder told him again. Rod then ranged it, but his range finder had an angle compensation feature that Slevy’s didn’t- true distance = 53 yards, but the distance Slevy should have shot it for, due to the sharp angle was only 40 yards. Bummer. Unlike Jon and me, they had done everything right, but just didn’t manage to connect. It was a very cool interaction and one that wouldn’t soon forget.
Day 1 was in the books and we were hungry and tired. We quickly ate some grub and hit the rack.
The alarm went off at 5:00 AM and we woke up to a cold, crisp morning. The stars were out and it was really beautiful at 8300’. Compared to Fargo at this time of year the moon looked like we could almost reach out and touch it. We got dressed pretty quickly, ate a breakfast of Nutragrain bars, Oatmeal-To-Go bars, and Poptarts, all washed down with a glass of milk. Then, we were off. We’d decided to start in roughly the same locale this morning. Rod and I were a team and Jon and Slevy joined forces, but the four of us all headed a couple miles West of camp together to glass from an area that offered a great vantage. Rod and Slevy had seen some elk in that area the night before, but they were too far to do anything about in the failing light of the evening. The four of us glassed for about 20 or 30 minutes, but saw nothing. Rod and Slevy were pretty surprised given the amount of activity they’d seen there the night before.
We decided to split up, with Jon and Slevy heading South and Rod and I would head North. Just after Jon and Slevy had left but before we left the area, I ripped off a locator bugle. We were greeted with a response from the draw below- it wasn’t far from us, but it was too thick and steep to see into the area where the bugle came from. We scurried down the draw and quickly got set up for a calling sequence. I bugled out to the bull and he responded quickly. Soon, it became apparent he wasn’t coming in, so we moved closer and tried again. This time, we had three different bulls firing back- the first one we were calling, a bull down the draw several hundred yards, and one up high, further down the ridge we’d just come from. We set up quickly and tried again. The bull responded, but he’d once again moved further down the draw from us. Rod and I quickly moved down the draw too, while listening to the bull up on the ridge. I followed Rod, as he was the shooter. Just as we tipped over a rise and were about to do a set, I saw Rod’s body posture go from intense and cautious to slumped and annoyed- he’d just crested the hill only to see the bull buckle, turn, and burn. He boogied outta there in a hurry! Weird… Rod said the bull wasn’t looking in his direction at all and the wind was perfect.
While we discussed what to do next I noticed something out of the corner of my eye- it was Jon and Slevy… they were standing in the same spot the bull had just ran from. What Rod and I didn’t know was that the “other bull” up on the ridge was Slevy calling. We peaked over the hill just in time to see the bull bolt away from our hunting companions! He hadn’t run from seeing or smelling Rod at all. We went over and talked to the boys to get the report. When we got there Slevy was all smiles and Jon looked a little shell shocked. They’d bugled this bull a total of three times, moving closer each time. After the last bugle, Slevy was just about to fire up his video camera, because the bull was pretty close. However, just as he tried to reach in his pack, he saw antler tips and had to stop. Jon, however, was totally ready. He saw the bull and prepared to draw. The bull came to 25 yards and stood broadside for quite a while. He looked intently for the other bull who was making all the racket, but couldn’t find him. Jon, after seeing the bull well, a respectable 5 x 5, decided to not shoot. It was the first full morning of the hunt, he’d already seen two big 6 x 6’s, and he knew what kind of bulls were in the area. He let the bull walk (run). Slevy, on the other hand, wanted to shoot this bull. Jon and Slevy had talked about it and Jon wasn’t going to shoot a 5 point, according to his “master plan”. Slevy had just had a perfect 35 yard broadside shot on the bull, but didn’t dare take it. Even though Jon said he wouldn’t shoot a 5 point, Slevy figured this was a pretty respectable 5 point bull and Jon might change his mind pretty quickly when it was 25 yards out and broadside- so Slevy didn’t shoot. I sure thought that was a kind and honorable gesture on Slevy’s part, but I wondered if both he and Jon would regret their decisions later… It was a great start to the day!
Here's a pic that Jon took of Slevy rippin' off a locator bugle- fitting given that he'd called in a nice 5 point for him with that very bugle not long before.
The rest of this day was pretty tough sleddin’- Rod and I saw two raghorns across a draw mid-morning. They’d been quiet, but I cow called to them to see what they’d do. After the second mew the two bulls turned tail and trotted 180 degrees from us- they wanted no part of the cow that was calling out to them. That was it for us, except to get a couple shots of this guy:
Five minutes after that you literally couldn’t see anything across the draw. In fact, our visibility was cut to about 50 yards. The temperature dropped 20 degrees in about 30 minutes, the air was really wet, and the wind was blowing around 25 or 30 mph. Not knowing quite what the weather was going to do to us, we hunted our way towards camp. We ended the night a little bit early, since the bulls had completely shut up and we were concerned the weather might deteriorate into something pretty nasty. It was really cold in the tent that night. I froze! Temps hit the mid-20’s and I’d brought a sleeping bag that’d let me deal with moderate to warm evenings more than cold evenings. I didn’t sleep a lot, but everyone else seemed pretty cozy in their nice and warm sleeping bags. The image of that bull near camp the first night really stuck in my craw still- I could see it plain as day and was still annoyed at my idiocy. I hoped Jon and I wouldn't have to eat tag soup because of that screw up.
I was wondering when we would here about your trip.
Now, good luck to me getting any work done until I get the full story.!
It was very cold and a little breezy when we woke up on Sun. The plan was for Rod and Jon to head for the area Jon had passed up the 5 point yesterday and Slevy and I were going to head “way down” NW of camp and work our way along the private/public boundary to the East. About 400 yards out of camp we heard a bull start bugling. He was right in Rod and Jon’s path, so they tried to move in on him. They had to wait for good light for a little bit, but the bull didn’t seem to be going anywhere and he pretty clearly wanted attention. He was whaling out this annoying whiney bugle that just seemed to beg, “Somebody, please come talk to me!” When they got enough light, Rod moved in. Rod got to inside of 100 yards of the bull, the wind was perfect, the bull hadn’t (couldn’t) seen Rod and Jon dropped a few soft cow calls to the bull. As Slevy and I walked towards our area, I thought, “I hope Jon tries to cow call that bull- he clearly is looking for company.” Well… apparently we were both dead wrong. The bulls response to the cow calls was to turn tail and run straight away from them. The only response heard to the cow calls was the sound of hooves beating the rocks in the other direction. Bummer. The rest of the day was really tough for Rod and Jon. The bulls were really quiet in their area and they didn’t see too much either.
Slevy and I burned some serious boot leather and built some blisters this day. We started a long ways from camp and skirted along the private/public land border. Our plan was to catch bulls that had wandered onto the public land from the private land. We’d get below them, taking advantage of the downhill morning wind. This would be much easier than trying to work our way towards bulls on private land and getting stuck at the property line. As we worked our way along the sharp hill, working East, we stopped at one point to admire the dark timber and really steep hill- the one we’d have to climb later to get back to camp. You can’t really appreciate the "steepness" of it from this picture, but here’s what it looked like- it would be pretty relevant to our hunt later.
We sat on the wallow for an hour or so, but typical of us, we got bored. It always amazes me can sit on stand for hours when in MN and ND hunting whitetails, but when out in that country we always feel the need to keep on moving. We had moved about 400 yards when I ripped off a locator bugle. We got an immediate response from the private land (i.e., the wrong) side of the property line. We moved in right up to the property line and fired back another bugle. Unfortunately, the wind switched and as we got down there and the bull must have gotten a nose full of our scent (which was growing by the day, I might add).
However, after I got done calling I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a decent 5 point heading uphill back to our West- he was headed to the wallow. Slevy and I busted our butts back to the wallow as fast as we could. Of course, the bull could walk faster than we could run. When we got to within 80 yards of the wallow the bull caught our movement and busted out of there. Dang! If we’d just been a little more patient we’d have had a bull right in our lap at the wallow! Again, grrrrrrrrrr………… Here’s a picture of the wallow that eventually became known as “self-pity” (i.e., to wallow in self-pity: a lame play on words that you can blame/thank Rod for).
After that Slevy and I made the hellish trek back to camp- it seemed like it was straight uphill for the first half mile, then a little better for the next ¾ mile or so.. The bulls were dead quiet and we saw nothing after that on Day 3. Still no blood on any hands or arrows, despite several pretty close encounters…
But it looks like you guys are having a great bowhunt. BB
In the morning Slevy decides to go to the “self-pity wallow”. Since Rod and I were due to team up, Jon decided to go to the wallow where he shot his bull last year. So, Slevy headed one way and Rod, Jon, and I headed another. Jon would walk with us for about 1 ½ miles before pealing off to the North to his lucky wallow. Despite the bulls being quiet as a mouse last night we heard a few bugles in the morning, however, nothing close. At the point where Jon was to leave us we stopped to glass for a while. This was very near where Jon had passed up the 5 point a couple days ago. Jon had already commented on how he was really starting to wonder if that was such a good idea and he again repeated the old adage, “never pass up a bull on the first day that you’d shoot on the last day.” He and I don’t actually adhere to that adage, but regardless, Jon was really starting to doubt his decision to not pull the trigger on that easy chip shot. While glassing, Rod spotted a pretty nice bull a loooong ways away. It was probably over 1 ½ miles from us, and getting to it would require dropping down into a sharp draw, walking the length of this draw, crossing some low open areas that were in pretty plain view of the elk, going past the elk 600 – 800 yards, up the mountain, then over a ridge. After all that, we’d just have to hope the elk was still there. Jon headed to his wallow and Rod and I started the 1 ½ hour hike to get somewhere near the bull. On the way, we bumped these two whitetails.
Slevy got shut out at the wallow. Jon also laid an egg at his wallow. However, Jon was able to make a friend. This little guy slinked in on him while he was half-asleep at the wallow during the late morning. Anyone know what kind of snake that is?
On the way back to camp we saw a couple spikes down a draw, where we’d seen them a couple times already. They were located in “Spike Draw”, which was also known as “the draw where Slevy missed the 5 point on the first day”. For some reason, though, Slevy preferred the name, “Spike Draw”. Here’s a pic of the spikes.
We got back to camp that night right at dark. We found Rod and Slevy there, and they had good news- Slevy had hit a respectable 5 point while on the wallow! Awesome! We were all pumped to hear this. They’d been on the wallow for several hours with no action. Very suddenly, they heard a stick snap- a bull had moved into the wallow without so much as a sound. He was close and Slevy had to pick up his bow and draw in an instant. The bull quickly walked into the opening Slevy had, stopped for a half-second, but was obviously still on the move. Slevy felt a little rushed, but good about the shot. He quickly settled the pin in and let this arrow go. Slevy’s got white arrow wraps and fletchings on his arrows, and both Rod and Slevy saw the arrow enter the bulls chest very well. They described the hit as “not perfect, but one that should definitely do the job just fine”. According to Rod, the arrow had entered 4-5 inches back of a heart shot, and 2-3 inches lower than a top-of-the-heart shot. However, clearly lungs and definitely not bad, by any means. After a wait, they followed the blood for a while and found a great blood trail- big 2 foot x 2 foot pools of blood, with big bubbles in it. But the blood started to get less as they went, and with failing light, they didn’t want to push things. They headed for camp and we decided to wait until morning to go back. We were excited and the news looked promising for packing out meat in the morning. However, Slevy wasn’t feeling so happy about the deal, as anyone who’s ever had to wait overnight to track after they’ve hit an animal can relate to. Ironically, we ate my mom’s homemade BBQ’s that night- Slevy’s favorite food in the world. He ate a little, but just couldn’t get himself to eat. It would be a long, sleepless night for him for sure… But, given the solid hit, the great blood trail, and two good trackers (Jon and Slevy are good trackers, Rod and I are colorblind and pretty worthless when it comes to finding blood), the rest of us were pretty positive and encouraged about how things looked in the morning.
In the morning we all loaded up with frame packs and gear to take care of a downed elk, then headed to the self-pity wallow where Slevy had hit the elk. When we got there, things looked to me just like they’d been described- it was a blood trail even I could follow, and that takes a pretty nice blood trail! We followed the trail for about 120 yards or so, then found three very large pools of blood- each was about 2 feet in diameter and all three had lots of bubbles in them, indicating a lung hit. Things looked good. While we had followed the first 120 yards of the trail in about two minutes, the next 50 yards took us approximately an hour. It was incredible, after those three big spots, the dang thing just seemed to almost quit bleeding. We tracked it another 50 yards, then lost the blood completely. Back and forth we’d go looking for the next spot of blood, but to no avail. After the trail had completely evaded us, we did a systematic search for about 4 hours- we spread out 30 or so yards from each other and walked back and forth about ½ mile on each side of the last spot of blood, each pass covering higher or lower ground on the sharp breaking mountainside. Nothing. Slevy finally called off the search, thanking each of us for our efforts and feeling terrible for the loss of the animal. We all felt terrible.
Here are a few pics of the mountain in the area where we were in making pass after pass, looking for the elk. Obviously, it was tough and rugged dark timber with tons of places for a dead elk to be. Who knows, we may have walked right past it.
After some lunch and a little shooting at camp, we again split up. Despite all the comotion of the morning search near “self-pity”, Rod and Slevy were convinced another bull would come into that wallow. Also, 95% of the walking we’d done in the morning was well above the wallow, since the bull went straight uphill for the first 150 yards or so, and all of the bulls seemed to be accessing the wallow from below. Jon and I went “way down” to the NW of camp again.
After glassing for a while and seeing nothing, we moved to the West, again along the property line between private and public land. We stopped in a perfect looking park and did a blind set- nothing. We headed West out of the park, but stayed just in the timber along the edge of it. Just when we got to the far West end of the park, Jon stopped and looked back at me so we could formulate some sort of more specific plan. As we were taking, something caught my eye just over the top of his head- I’d seen a glint of light, then some movement. I focused past the leaves that were immediately behind Jon and saw one stud of a bull! He was a solid 340+ 6 x 6 and not far away- maybe 60 yards. I knocked an arrow and pulled out my range finder- 55 yards. Although the bull was in the relative open, I was blocked by some of the pines and junipers that were close to me. I slowly shuffled left and found a spot where I would have a more open shot. I ranged him and he was exactly 60 yards. Sixty yards may seem like a long shot, but it’s exactly the distance I had decided I’d shoot out to. I’ve got a sliding sight on my bow and I can very reliably shoot inside of a volleyball at 60 yards. I felt good about the situation- I slid my sight to 60 and drew. I settled the pin just on the back edge of his shoulder, leveled my level in my sight, relaxed… but I suddenly noticed a branch five yards in front of me that I was afraid I’d hit. I tried to kneel, but there was a lower branch that was then in the way. I stood half-way back up and tried to steady myself with knees half-bent. There, I found an opening I knew I could fit my arrow easily though. This whole process took about three seconds, but seemed like it was in slow motion. While I was doing the equivalent of jumping jacks, trying to find an opening, the bull had spotted movement. Now, I was standing with half-bent knees and with an alerted bull staring right at me from 60 yards. Finally, I settled my pin back behind his shoulder. I noticed the bend in my knees, a lot more waver in my pin, and I tried to calm and steady myself for the shot. I still thought I could send my arrow towards the point I wanted to, but I was really afraid the bull would jump the string- he was staring right at me and fully aware something wasn't right. At 60 yards with an alert bull, I was afraid I’d hit the bull poorly. I slowly let my draw down and let the stud 6 x 6 walk. Uuuuuuuggggghhhhh… that was so tough to do. Here’s a picture of me that Jon took after the encounter.
We made the long trek back to camp, but stopped to admire the moon as we got near camp.
While the boys talked about what had just unfolded, they repositioned themselves with Slevy as the shooter. The woods had just quieted down when another bull came strolling in to the wallow. They’d literally just waited 15 minutes since the last bull had left! This guy was a 5 x 5 and he came in fast. However, he hung up at about 30 yards, with no easy shot presenting itself. Soon, the bull worked his way across the sidehill and Slevy had an open shot. Also, the bull was right next to a tree he’d ranged earlier- he remembered the tree was 30 yards. He drew back and let the arrow go. It looked perfect, heading just behind the crease of the shoulder and ribs. Then… the arrow fell harmlessly to the earth, just under the bull. What?!? “What just happened?”, screamed through Slevy’s head. The elk had no idea what’d just happened, but he knew something was terribly wrong. He boogied out of there before Slevy could even reach for another arrow. Slevy looked carefully at his bow, everything was perfect. He looked at the spot the elk stood- he’s right by the “30 yard tree”. Then, in the foreground of Slevy’s view he saw a second “30 yard tree”. What he hadn’t seen when he was ranging the small juniper at 30 yards was that there was one just behind it at 48 yards that looked nearly identical. The bull was standing by the “wrong 30 yard tree”! Grrrrrrrrrrrrr………. Slevy was miffed, to say the least! It was a bad luck deal and again, fortune refused to smile on us. So close, but no meat to pack out and nothing to fill our freezers.
But… it was early (remember, I said they had a whale of a story). Each of the boys had missed due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, but it was again Rod’s turn and they were apparently in one serious hotbed of bull activity. This time it took serious patience from what that’d grown used to that day- the poor guys had to wait for nearly 45 minutes before another bull came in! This one didn’t just wander in though, Slevy had bugled him in from a long ways away. Slevy would fire off a bugle and this dude would rip one right back, at first from 1000 or more yards. This game continued for a while, with the bull bugling back and sounding worked up, but not coming closer. After ten minutes of this though, the bull got closer with each successive bugle- 800 yards, 600, 400, 200… he was comin’! Slevy fired off one last bugle and the bull fired back from about 100 yards. Seconds later they spotted him- he was a nice looking 6 x 6. His rack had long fronts, he was nice, and at that point there was no doubt he was a shooter. He turned broadside at 48 yards and Rod had a wide open shot. Slevy softly whispered “just be patient, he’ll come closer”. Rod’s response was unspoken, but clearly, “No way!”. Most here don’t know Rod, but the dude can flat out shoot and he had a bull broadside and unaware, at a range he felt totally comfortable at. He drew, settled the pin a little higher than usual (it was a pretty steep downhill shot and he wanted it to enter high and exit low), and let the arrow go. They not only watched the arrow bury right where it should, they got it on camera! The bull tore off down the hill and sounded like he plowed over and through every tree within 150 yards. On the video we watched at camp it literally sounds like a steam engine barrelling donw the hill! Rod and Slevy said it was clearly a “death run”. They gave him an hour and got on his trail. It didn’t take long- they found him 150 yards straight down the hill, all piled up in the dark timber. Yes!!! Rod and Slevy quartered his bull, cut the horns off, boned out one shoulder, and hauled out what they could. By the time they got back to camp that night it was getting late- too late to finish up with any light. So, they decided to get what was left in the morning. It’d be a 1 ½ mile haul up the hellishly steep dark timber I showed in a picture earlier, but it’d be the best kind of climb.
Oh, BTW, this was a time when an unfortunate thing happened- Rod busted out his camera where his bull went down only to find that the battery was stone dead. Slevy didn’t bring his because he knew Rod had one. Major bummer!!! So, despite our best efforts, we don’t have any pictures of Rod and his bull at the location where it went down. Here’s a nice shot of Rod when he got back to camp.
The end of the trip was starting to come into view. I couldn’t help but continue to think about the bull Jon and I had botched that first night near camp. Jon dwelled on the 5 point he’d passed up the next morning. Slevy was still upset about the bull he’d lost. However, in spite of those thoughts we relished the success Rod had that day and really all felt as if the Team had been successful. It was great!
A little side note: at this point in the trip our feet, especially our heels, were taking a serious beating. I’ve got bone spurs on my heels, so they were really taking a whoopin’. Each night at camp I’d have to remove a blood soaked sock and wash off all the blood from my heels. Here’s a picture of my heel after I cleaned it up really good one night.
A final pic showing the highlight of the day!
I think Paul Harvey will come back with "The Rest of The Story"!
Yep, daily reports... more to come. Not sure if I'll get a chance to post over the weekend or not.
We spent a good part of the next morning boning and packing out Rod’s elk. We experienced a burn in our legs on the climb back that was incredible! But… the pack out want remarkably well. The first 1/2 - 3/4 mile was though the nasty dark and fallen timber I showed in the last post. We took our time, as we weren’t in a hurry, and took lots of stops. Up to this point Jon had been running everyone ragged up and down that mountain. However, Jon had the heaviest pack on this climb out and it really did a nice job to serve as an equalizer for the rest of us after that! I didn’t realize how heavy Jon’s pack was or I’d have taken some of it from him. However, the side effect of slowing him down a little after that was certainly welcome!!! Sorry Jon, but prior to that you were an absolute machine, after that, I was happy you couldn’t shift into 5th gear anymore!
After we got back to camp it was late morning. There was a bedding area with a nearby wallow not too far from camp that I thought might be good to check out while Rod boned out his elk. Jon and I headed towards that wallow and Slevy had stayed at the self-pity wallow for a while. Jon and I did a blind set a couple hundred yards North of the wallow. I did some soft cow calling, but dropped a few slightly whiney, somewhat pre-estrus mews in there too. We waited for what seemed like an eternity, which was probably close to ten minutes. I then walked up to Jon to talk about our next plan. When I got up to him and asked him what the plan was, a bull busted through the dark timber away from us. Grrrrrrrrrrrr…….. He’d come in completely silent and we hadn’t been patient enough. When he took off he was a mere 50 yards from us! If we’d just been a little more patient, I have no doubt Jon would have shot that bull. The wind was perfect, the bull seemed to be headed to the perfect spot for where Jon was set up, and I was in a great spot to see and call from. We couldn’t buy a break!
Next Jon and I plodded around looking for the wallow. It was in a slightly different location according to each of our GPSs, but after walking past it on the East side, we came back to it and found it. We got in a good spot with regard to the wind and set up. Jon was the shooter and I was the photographer/caller. Here’s a picture of the wallow from the view of our crude, makeshift little blind.
We went back to camp and ate some lunch. Jon and Rod decided to head to the wallow while Slevy and I decided to go “way down” again. Slevy and I had a busy evening together. Once we walked most of the way to “way down”, we got on a hot bull, but couldn’t close the distance. Next, we walked right up on a nice 5 point, which was right behind a juniper bush in a relatively open park. We walked to within 30 yards of him before he saw us and we saw him. Unfortunately, these two things happened at the exact same time and he was gone in a blink. Later, I fired off a locator bugle. We got a response from about 800 yards away, from an area that was over a rise where we couldn’t see. We scurried up a couple hundred yards ahead and climbed a small rocky area that gave us a better vantage point. I fired off another locator bugle, hoping to better pinpoint the bull that’d responded, now that we could see the country better. Suddenly, Slevy said, “Scoot, get down… he’s right there.” I ducked down and tried to knock an arrow. A completely different bull than had responded before had come charging out of his hidey hole to check us out. However, he didn’t go far before he crossed our wind and the it was over before it started- he turned 90 degrees and was gone before I ever even saw him. Her's a pictue I took of Slevy, not long after that encounter.
We noticed two things on this day: 1) the aspens really started to turn color, and 2) the bulls seemed to be more serious in their responses to our calls. Maybe things were making a change in our favor...
Day 6 was in the books. Rod was tagged out. Slevy had opportunities, but not been able to fill his tag. Jon had passed up a decent 5 point and joined me in the debacle near camp the first night. Besides messing up the bull the first night, I had drawn on a nice bull, but couldn't find a shot I felt comfortable with. The three of us had all come very close, but still had our tags in hand. Our time was starting to run a little short. Jon and I had talked about the likelihood of us all tagging out at this point. Jon said there's no way it could happen, simply due to the logistics of packing meat out. I remained slightly optimistic, thinking that maybe two of us could take a bull on the same day. I knew it wasn't realistic, but I remained hopeful...
The plan for Day 7 was for Rod and Slevy to head straight West of camp, past where Jon had passed on the five point on the second morning of the trip. Jon and I headed back to the wallow South of camp to start the day. Before we got there, we got a response to a locator bugle closer to camp. However, that bull vanished on us and we never heard him again. The wallow and the area around it was a complete bust for us that morning- we saw only a couple mule deer. Here’s a pic of a mulie doe we saw.
A side note- On the way back to camp, I stumbled into the rack of a nice bull when we were walking out of a little park. The bull looked to have been dead for a couple months, but his antlers were in good shape, minus some mice chewing on the 5th and 6th points on one side. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to take it or not, so I left it. Later that night, I asked a local fella at the trailhead about it- he said I could only take it if I had permission from a WY Game and Fish rep. He gave me the phone number of a guy and I called and left a message, explaining where the bull was, that it was on public land, where we were camping at, etc. I asked if I could take the bull or not and if I’d have to tag it if I was allowed to take it. I didn’t know if I’d hear back, but after dinner I tried to call home and found a return message on my phone. The gentleman returned my call and gave me permission to take the rack. Cool!
At about 4:00 we got pretty close to camp and it looked like it’d really start to rain hard soon. Also, several lightening strikes had hit the mountain not too far from us and started small fires. Here’s a couple shots of the results of these lightening strikes.
Mid-morning found Rod and Slevy in the general area we call “Moon Pie Flats”. Moon Pie Flats is a bench near the top of a peak that has the Rocky Mountain version of crop circles- large circles (five to 20 feet in diameter) that are cut down 6 – 12 inches into the rocks. We have no idea what the heck they are… Once past there, they glassed an area that looked like it “should” hold a bull. Soon, Slevy spotted one. However, after trying to get on it, they lost sight of it. They got to the spot they’d last seen it and figured it had to have taken one of two paths- one went up, one went down. They chose up. After a while, the trail split- one went left, one went right. They went right. 100 yards later, they crested over the top of a rock only to find a bull immediately below them! This was exactly the stroke of luck they needed! The bull was a 4 x 5, and given that it was the second-to-the-last day of the hunt, there was no doubt he was a shooter. Slevy quickly knocked an arrow, Rod ranged the slightly quartering away bull at 48 yards (compensating for any elevation drop), Slevy drew, settled his pin in on a tuft of hair, and released the arrow. Slevy didn’t see his arrow hit the bull, but he heard it hit rock- not exactly what he was hoping to see and hear. The bull bucked and took off like a bat outta you-know-where. Slevy said out loud, “Are you kiddin’ me? I missed.” They watched the bull run off 100 yards away. He then stopped, looked back at the area he’d just left, and stood there for a second. “Slevy asked Rod, “How’d I miss?” When suddenly, the bull wiggled, his back end wobbled, and dropped! Slevy hadn’t missed at all- in fact, his shot was absolutely perfect and Slevy heard his arrow hit rock after the pass-through. They boys went over to bull, busted out Slevy’s camera and discovered that the camera’s on/off switch had been bumped. Sadly, Slevy’s camera was just as stone dead as Rod’s was at his bull. Unbelievable! So… sorry, but we have no in-the-field pictures of Slevy with his bull either. Bummer. However, here’s a shot of Slevy at camp with his bull.
Rod and Slevy boned out the elk in the field and made two very long trips getting it back to camp. I think it was at that point that Rod started to realize that shooting the first bull of the trip essentially makes you a pack mule for the rest of the trip! He had become our “callin’ and haulin’” boy. After two trips on his bull and two trips on Slevy’s bull, he was one whipped pup! Not a word of whining or complaining came from him, or anyone else though. That’s one great thing about this group- nobody felt sorry for themselves during the trip, everyone had fun, and nobody complained. You gotta love it!
One day left. Rod and Slevy were tagged out. Jon and I had come sooo close, but couldn’t seal the deal. We were happy as could be for Rod and Slevy, but Jon and I wanted to fill our tags and we were keenly aware that was very unlikely at this point. I was of two minds at that point: on one hand, I couldn’t help but think 2/4 was pretty dang good, but on the other hand I couldn’t help but want to fill my tag. I felt that Jon and I would have to get it done in the AM tomorrow, or the odds would catch up with us and we’d eat tag soup. Still, I kept reminding myself that 2/4 was great and that we’d all played a major role in filling the two tags we’d made good on. I conceded that regardless of the happenings of tomorrow, the trip was a major success and we’d all had a blast. With that in mind, maybe tag soup wouldn’t taste so bad…
Day 8 (final day of the hunt)
We started the day off with Slevy and me going down to the NE of the self-pity wallow. Rod and Jon were headed back to the area where Slevy had shot his bull yesterday. After shooting the bull, they’d seen three other decent bulls in the area, so it seemed like a logical choice. After our standard breakfast, we split up and put on a few miles. The morning started interesting for Slevy and me. We went down a draw and quickly found an interested bull. He sounded big and mean, and he was pretty interested in our calling right away. We called back and forth with him, moving in tighter after each call. We finally came to a large park, about the size of a football field. We then called back and forth with this bull for 15 minutes. Slevy would bugle at him and he’d fire right back. However, it became apparent he wasn’t going to come any closer and we were in a tough spot- we couldn’t get at him to the East, because he’d wind us. We couldn’t go very far West, because the West side of the park was a steep rocky cliff that we couldn’t climb. Our only shot was to cross the open park and risk being seen by the bull- we had no other option. We carefully and quietly slinked our way across the park and set up in a likely looking spot, about 60 yards from where we thought the bull was bugling from. We hadn’t seen anything in the aspen stand he’d been, but that’s pretty typical- it’s thick and nasty in some of those spots, and you often don’t see the elk that are relatively close to you there. Slevy screamed a bugle at the bull, hoping to get him to respond aggressively to the intrusion in his living room… nothing. We waited a few minutes and he tried again. This time the bull responded from about 400 yards away. Just as we’d feared, it was a done deal- he’d spotted something fishy and boogered outta there when we were crossing the park.
As we got to the bottom of the last hill, we noticed two headlamps coming from the North- it had to be Rod and Jon. Hmmm… it was late, too late to be getting back to camp, unless something delayed them. I couldn't help but be hopeful, but I also I had the pessimistic thought, “They must have stuck it out to the bitter end, given that it was the last day.” We met them at the bottom of the hill and they immediately knew we’d shot an elk (not sure if it was the ear-to-ear grin or the big ol’ rack on my back). We asked for their report and they told us that at 1:00 or so they went to the self-pity wallow. We’d not been gone for an hour when they showed up, but they had no idea where we were or that we’d even been there. It was all quiet until mid-afternoon. Then, Jon told us a lone cow wandered into the wallowing area. Given it was the last day and with extremely limited time, Jon shot her at 15 yards. They were making the final trip out with the last of the meat. Wonderful! We congratulated Jon and there were smiles around. Miraculously, we’d all tagged out, with two of us filling our tags in the final afternoon! I showed the boys a picture of the bull I shot and asked to see a picture of Jon’s cow. Unfortunately, they told us that in their haste to get their work on the animal done, they hadn’t even bothered to take a picture. Again… bummer. But, not matter- we’d all tagged out and we cracked a celebratory shot out to acknowledge the accomplishment, as well as celebrate the conclusion of a wonderful hunt.
You’d think that’s the end of the story, wouldn’t you? However, it isn’t. In fact, what happened after that was pretty incredible! While we were sitting around the tent enjoying a celebratory drink…
Great story and pics, I've really enjoyed the read.
I CAN"T WAIT. POST IT! POST IT! POST IT!
I have been glued to your posts everyday! You are one great story teller! Congratulations to all of you for your super success. May the elk gods continue to smile upon you and your friends.
I am picturing the bus of Hawaiian Tropic women from "Dumb and Dumber"!
Since both Scoot and his brother Rod are married, I hope they refuse the job offer as "oil boys", and just give the ladies directions!
BTW: Congrats on such a great hunt and greater story for us. Can't wait to read the final.
As the bull approached to about 15 yards, Jon drew- a shot appeared just seconds away. However, the bull stopped and ate some grass and a cow moved in to 6 yards. The cow was facing right at Jon, which wouldn’t have been much of a problem, if she hadn’t done it from inside of 20 feet and looking in Jon’s direction for three straight minutes. Jon didn’t dare move or he’d be busted and it’d be over in a heartbeat. He held his draw, then he held it some more. Finally, he started to shake, the he shook some more. Finally, the cow put her head down for a second and Jon let his draw down. The bull moved in tighter and was now at about 12 yards. However, Jon had absolutely no shot. Rod was a couple yards to Jon’s right and he had a wide open view/shot to the bull, but Rod wasn’t the shooter! Rod finally couldn’t take it… he very softly whispered, “Find a shot.” Jon responded with, “I have no shot”, as he had two trees right in front of him. But Rod would have none of it and replied, “MAKE a shot”. Finally, the bull walked a few yards to the East, Rod’s general direction- exactly what Jon needed. Jon slowly and carefully tried to move his bow to his right so he could draw and shoot. But, Jon was so focused on the bull he didn’t see his broadhead headed for the tree immediately in front of him- “SSSSSSCCCRRRAAAAAAAPPPPPPPEEEE”, went the arrow on the tree. Things were apparently meant to be, though, and neither the cow at 6 yards nor the bull at 11 yards even batted an eyelash. Jon drew and got his pin on the bull’s ribs in one motion. Rod wasn’t really in the way, but leaned back to be 100% sure he was completely clear of Jon’s arrow. “ZIP” went the arrow, then all heck broke loose! Elk were flying everywhere! It all happened so fast that Jon wasn’t even sure he had hit the bull, let alone made a good shot. It was only 11 yards, so he felt good about it, but he somehow hadn’t seen the arrow enter the bull’s side. Rod wasn’t sure either, because he was staring at the bull’s rack the entire time! Soon they found Jon’s arrow covered in bright red blood and soon after that they found the bull. Here’s a few more pics of the monster 5 x 5.
A few other notes about the trip: My dad, mom, and uncle all considered joining us at camp this year, but it didn’t work out for a handful of reasons. I wish they could have come, but, but maybe next time. I think we’d all really like that.
Sorry if the pictures seemed biased towards Jon and me, but that's due to Rod and Slevy's cameras crapping out on them- not due to any bias on my part.
Thanks to Steve Foss for help with the pictures- he's a genius with his keen eyes and a master with the software he uses.
Thanks again to Rod, Jon, and Slevy- I’ve never shared a hunting camp with finer fellas and I hope we can do it again and again for many years to come.
Here are a few final pics from our trip. Here's a shot of Jon and me hauling out the final load of meat for the trip.
I'm having a tough time getting the 'puter to take the final few pics. I'll keep trying...
Congratulations on your beasts, but more importantly on a great hunt with good friends. Reading your story has been perfect to get me really wound up to pester some elk- I leave for an Arizona archery elk hunt in 2 days. Though my tag won't allow me the luxury of whacking big'uns like you guys did, I doubt I'll be able to sleep between now and then- and your story didn't help a bit.
Thanks for taking the trouble to write this up. I can't believe I got to read it for free- I hope you publish the pics and stories someday.
Congrats on a successful hunt.
I'd have that sumbitch framed and name it, "THE PERFECT TRIP"
This is one of the best stories I've read in awhile. Thanks very much for sharing and taking us along with you. Great job! Looking forward to next year..........
Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing and letting us come along. You did an outstanding job in the field and here at the Bowsite!
Best wishes and may you and your friends have many more great bow hunts. BB