Summit Treestands
The highs and lows of elk hunting
Elk
Contributors to this thread:
IdyllwildArcher 23-Mar-16
IdyllwildArcher 23-Mar-16
IdyllwildArcher 23-Mar-16
IdyllwildArcher 23-Mar-16
IdyllwildArcher 23-Mar-16
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LUNG$HOT 23-Mar-16
IdyllwildArcher 23-Mar-16
IdyllwildArcher 23-Mar-16
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Dyjack 23-Mar-16
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BULELK1 23-Mar-16
Rick M 23-Mar-16
orionsbrother 23-Mar-16
sticksender 23-Mar-16
OFFHNTN 23-Mar-16
BobH92057 23-Mar-16
LINK 23-Mar-16
AZBUGLER 23-Mar-16
Coolcop 23-Mar-16
Z Barebow 23-Mar-16
wyliecoyote 23-Mar-16
Scoot 23-Mar-16
Destroyer350 23-Mar-16
Dyjack 23-Mar-16
Jaquomo 23-Mar-16
Fulldraw1972 23-Mar-16
Ron Niziolek 23-Mar-16
HUNT MAN 23-Mar-16
uteangler 23-Mar-16
trublucolo 23-Mar-16
ElkNut1 23-Mar-16
Lost Arra 23-Mar-16
otcWill 23-Mar-16
Z Barebow 23-Mar-16
WV Mountaineer 23-Mar-16
APauls 23-Mar-16
JohnB 23-Mar-16
CO Elkaholic 24-Mar-16
AZBUGLER 24-Mar-16
Trophy8 24-Mar-16
Nesser 24-Mar-16
elkstabber 24-Mar-16
Whip 24-Mar-16
Franzen 24-Mar-16
Bowfreak 24-Mar-16
Ben 24-Mar-16
ScottTigert 24-Mar-16
buckfevered 24-Mar-16
Grunt-N-Gobble 25-Mar-16
JLeMieux 25-Mar-16
HUNT MAN 25-Mar-16
Carnivore 25-Mar-16
easeup 25-Mar-16
BOWNUT 25-Mar-16
Elkman52 27-Mar-16
razorhead 27-Mar-16
elkmtngear 27-Mar-16
Coldsteel 27-Mar-16
Bowboy 27-Mar-16
midwest 29-Mar-16
HOOSIER 29-Mar-16
JLS 30-Mar-16
IdyllwildArcher 02-Apr-16
orionsbrother 10-Apr-16
pav 11-Apr-16
Bill in MI 11-Apr-16
orionsbrother 12-Apr-16
elkster 12-Apr-16
tacklebox 14-Apr-16
krieger 16-Apr-16
orionsbrother 25-Aug-16
orionsbrother 29-Aug-16
APauls 29-Aug-16
orionsbrother 29-Aug-16
TREESTANDWOLF 05-Sep-16
StickFlicker 07-Sep-16
orionsbrother 07-Oct-16
Barty1970 10-Oct-16
23-Mar-16
Before I get going, as the story is already written from start to finish, I’m going to say a couple things first. I have to warn you that the story is very long. I’m long- winded as most of you know and I decided to tell every bit of the story and not edit out less significant parts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Additionally, I’m not a photographer. I barely get by hunting and feel that taking pictures handicaps me when animals are present so there’s not going to be a photo-essay that many of you are accustomed to.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
The story of my 2015 elk season started before the 2014 elk season even began. I knew I’d have a certain low amount of deer points in CO and I wanted to find a unit where I could draw a deer tag and have an OTC elk tag in my pocket at the same time. This hunt would precede my annual WY elk hunt with my dad. I’d brand the CO hunt as a deer hunt with an elk tag and have about 3 weeks on the road in the Rockies between the two hunts. My plan for WY was my usual: put in for a long-shot with dad and buy leftover tags when the dream tag didn’t materialize.

So backing up to 2014, I’m doing my usual overindulgence in stats and maps that is my October - August daily routine and I’m bouncing a few of my ideas off of some super famous, but top-secret trophy elk hunter who will remain anonymous. Yeah, so, it was Will. Anyways…

I’d narrowed down my choice of units to three units that I felt held what I was looking for in a balance of deer and elk hunting. I’d then scanned the units on GE and topographic maps for dozens upon dozens of hours to find what I was looking for. And there it was: That sort of thing, where you go up to a thing and then all of this and that and it’s the perfect spot for unpressured elk (details omitted so that Will doesn’t kick my ass). I send Will a PM and ask him to look at a certain locale in a certain unit that just looks like it’s exactly what I’m looking for. “You’ve got to be (edited because Will said a bad word) kidding me.” Turns out, it was (one of) his honey holes.

23-Mar-16
Fast forward about a year. It’s the summer of 2015. I head out on a road trip to scout my CO elk/deer hunt and my NM Coues hunt in a mad-dash circle around the west in 6 days. NM was first and a very successful (so I thought at the time) scouting trip and I moved on to CO. I had about ½ dozen spots I wanted to check out. One of them was not Will’s spot since I already knew there were elk there (thanks Will!). During my scouting, I saw good deer numbers/sign, although not any mature bucks, no elk, and a lot of bear sign. More importantly, I knew exactly where I was going when I hit the ground come September.

23-Mar-16

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
More scouting photos: A good sign

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
Scouting photo: A Will Towle "hike in"

23-Mar-16
Day 1

September came and I left SoCal on the evening of the 8th with plans of hunting on the evening of the 9th. It’s always so exciting when you finally start heading to the elk mountains after months of anticipation – the beginning of the highs and lows of elk hunting!

Will and his buddies were based out of a certain area and I wanted to give them room so I set up camp about 45 minutes away near a spot that I’d scouted. Road work ended up making travel from CA longer than expected, so I ended up only having time on the evening of the 9th to quickly climb a cliff near camp and glass the area. I heard and saw nothing.

23-Mar-16
Day 2

The next morning, I’d decided to hunt my spot near camp. This was not a place that Will hunts and from my scouting, it was the kind of place you’re looking to hunt in a CO OTC unit for reasons that other people don’t hunt it *wink*. It was a few miles hike to where I wanted to actually hunt and there really was no discernible trail, but the terrain wasn’t too bad and the vegetation wasn’t completely Amazonian most of the way there. I got to my target area a few minutes before sunrise. From my scouting, I knew that there was an area where a creek flattened out and made a sort of swampy-pond off to the side of the creek and although the water was clear as crystal when I was there in June, it just seemed like the kind of spot where a rutting bull elk would like to bathe in his own urine.

I was right. There were bull-sized tracks and the smell of bull elk urine. The water in the swampy parts had been mixed into a mud-urine soup, the kind of mud-urine soup that gets your heart pounding and the hairs on your butt standing on end. That is, if you have hairs on your butt. I don’t.

I put my bugle to my lips and gave out the first locator bugle of the season. The sound echoed off the walls of the canyons for a second and then all was quiet again. I listened. The reply rang out above me like a jet streaking overhead: Tweet tweet, tweet tweet. It was one of those grey medium sized birds that come and hang out 10 yards away while you quarter an animal waiting to peck on the carcass. The only elk sounds were the ones from the imposter. I spent about 20 minutes doing the occasional bugle before deciding to settle in for the day down wind from the mud-urine soup and throw out an occasional splish-splash I’m-a-takin-a-bath and see if someone would come see what my urine smelled like. I was less than 1 hour into my hunt and my deer hunt had officially turned into an elk hunt. I’d made the effort but I wasn’t fooling myself.

The rest of the day was uneventful. Despite hammering that muck with a stick like Moses on a bad day till I had completely hosed myself down with speckles of urine-mud, nothing came in. A few minutes after sunset, I decided to call it quits since I had a pretty good walk back to camp. It was only about 15 minutes into my walk and starting to get darkish, but still well within shooting light, that I rounded a turn and there was a black bear, sitting on his haunches, chewing who-knows-what. He wasn’t a big bear, maybe 2.5 feet tall sitting on his butt hairs. He looked undisturbed and nonchalant looking back at me and continued to chew whatever he had in his mouth.

23-Mar-16
So there I am, bear in front of me at 35 yards with a bear tag in my pocket. I’d originally planned on hunting a carcass after killing a deer or elk and although I’d had visions of a nice big bear rug all the way out to CO, this guy was looking pretty tasty. And if you’re a regular on Bowsite and have been paying attention to the meat pole threads, well, then you know that I’m known to be a bit of a baby-killer as I’m a meat hunter before I’m a trophy hunter and, well, when you’re not that good at hunting, you take what you can get!

So all that thought process was probably like 2 seconds. I decide I’m going to shoot this bear. I nock an arrow, but he’s sitting right behind a 4 inch wide pine so I need to move to my side to get a shot. I draw and take a step back which is of course, sideways to the bear. It isn’t enough, I take another step back. I settle my pin on his heart and all the sudden, he gets up and starts galloping towards me. Not a bat-out-of-Hell gallop, but just a gallop. I start yelling at him, “hey, hey, hey, don’t do it!” My warnings went unheeded. I kept expecting him to stop or veer off, but he didn’t. Before I could even finish yelling, he was at 10 yards.

It’s funny, because it all happened so fast, but time slowed down to the point that I was able to consider a few things besides aiming my bow for a shot. First off, I considered the irony of the fact that I hunt Grizz country in Wyoming every year, but here, I was about to get mauled by a 130 lb black bear. And where was this bear’s fear? He “should” be afraid of me. I noted that I had neither bear spray nor side arm along, after all, this was friggen Colorado! The other thing I thought of was my next move after the bear and I made contact; what would be my next move? Could I grapple this little guy with both hands, or should I go for the Havalon?

This may seem odd, as most of you probably would have just kicked him and been done with it, but I’m a pretty slender guy. He was definitely a small bear, but I think that he and I both thought that he could kick my ass. Maybe he was just young and used to deer and elk running from him. But nonetheless, I’m no Hulk Hogan. To give you guys an idea, Bigpizzaman’s forearms are about the same diameter of my thighs. Imagine that Lou Phillippe and Dwight Schuh had an anorexic love child. Wait, don’t imagine that. That’s disgusting. Why would you imagine that? Gross. Get that out of your heads.

23-Mar-16
OK, tiny bear, skinny guy. I’m about to die a humiliating and painful death. What would you do? I’ll tell you what I did. I shot the little bastard. I shot him right in the arm. Crack! Right in the upper arm. My arrow hit humerus squarely. Man was he pissed! In an instant, he spun around in a circle, bellowing, chasing the arrow like a dog chasing its tail. After doing a 360, he grabbed the arrow in his teeth, ripped it out, and broke it in half in one movement. I know what you’re thinking and I was thinking it too: Dang, another 13 dollar Carbon Express arrow down the crapper. No, seriously, I was thinking, arrow #2. In hind sight, I did feel a little bad wounding this tiny bear, but at the time, I’m comfortable saying I was completely ok with wounding this bear. While this was happening, I was nocking another arrow, but before I could, he had the arrow out and was gone, howling, growling, and screaming the whole way. I could hear him bellowing for a good ¼ mile; dang was he mad!

The hairs on my… arms, were standing on end. I immediately sat down and I decided to wait ½ hour, which was kinda ridiculous because I could hear exactly where he went. It got dark. I got my headlight out and walked the path he had blazed through the tall grass. Not a drop of blood. I had the entire arrow. There was blood on the broadhead and no blood on the shaft. I thought about it and decided that I knew this bear would live and that following him in the dark was foolish. I took a 90 degree turn to where he went, hit the cliff and side-hilled all the way back, doing my best to avoid his general direction. I honestly believe that every wounded animal should be given a shot at tracking, no matter how dismal the prospects of retrieval. But right or wrong, I decided that this was an exception. The next day, I did do a search of the area that I last heard him and never found a drop of blood. I was able to follow his tracks for quite a ways as he charged through some pretty thick grass and then willow, but I never found even a drop. I don’t know, but I think he’s still alive and I think he’ll run the next time he sees a human. I got back to camp well after dark and fell asleep instantly. For the moment before I fell asleep, I had a good feeling about the hunt.

23-Mar-16
Day 3

I decided to glass while the sun rose and go down to where I’d shot the bear after sunrise. I saw nothing which is pretty typical for my style of hunting – the style where you don’t see anything. I went down to where the bear was shot and found nothing. I could follow exactly where he ran, not because of my finely tuned tracking skills, but because it was almost as if someone had taken a bear and shot him in the arm and he’d run like Hell through whatever was in his way and it sorta made a path that Stevie Wonder could follow. After deciding that the bear was alive and I was alive and the elk were all alive, it was clear that the morning hunt was pretty much done so it was decided that I could either go back down into the pit with the urine-mud, or I could head out, eat, and hit up another spot that I’d scouted that Will had also told me held good deer numbers and occasionally some elk.

Eating was done and I was off. A 1200 foot climb was made. Nothing was seen, Ike-hunt-style. I decide to come back in the AM to this same spot since I found some deer poo-of-the-day on the way out.

23-Mar-16
The view from the road looking towards my morning perch.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
Dunno who's picture that was. Let's try this again.

23-Mar-16
Day 4

I arrive at o’dark 30 and make the 1200 foot climb again. As I approached the precipice, the unmistakable sound of a rutting elk bugling his balls off was heard. Access to this spot was difficult. There was a smidgeon of land along the road that was public, but it was a cliff. It accessed another area that was public and bigger, but you had to side hill a pretty sheer face that was pretty jungle-like before you got to the semi-cliff where the elk were. Of course, this was one of Will’s spots, so you could expect to spend some time using 4 legs to get up instead of 2. I wouldn’t describe hunting the places he hunts as “hiking in.” It’s more like “scrambling in” or “crawling in.” On the way up, in the twilight, I bumped a fork horn buck and a doe with fawn. As I approached the top, watching my GPS, a sinking feeling crept in. The elk that was bulging every 2-3 minutes was on private land. I got as close as I dared, about 100 yards inside the public, leaving room for a death run, and set up to try and call the elk in. I estimated the bugling bull to be about 200 yards onto private land.

Elk butt decoy deployed, calls ready, arrow nocked, here we go. I’m about to start calling and out of the corner of my eye, uphill to my left, I see elk brown through the scrub oak. This area had burned several years ago and the oak had grown in a huge swath and was about 4-7 feet high and thick as willow. Along the upper edge, a cow and rag horn were feeding on the oak, picking the leaves off of the ends of the branches like mule deer.

Instantly, my thoughts of the bull on the private land were gone. I would kill either of these elk. The bull was a 3x3, but had legal brow tines and was still in velvet. As I looked uphill, the private was to my right and the elk were feeding to my left. I was directly below the swath of oak which was probably 80 yards deep and 120 yards from my left to right, ending shortly before the private land. The entire area was on a very steep incline. Above the oak was the precipice.

I collapsed the elk butt decoy, got on hands and knees, and crawled to my left to try and cut the cow and raghorn off. I got to the edge of the oak, looked up, and they had turned around and were feeding down the far side that I had just left – dammit! I got to hands and knees again and crawled the 120 yards back. I got up, and the cow was still along the top, but the 3x3 had reversed course and gone all the way back to the left and was probably 60 yards from where I’d turned around. Son of a..

I went back to my knees and crawled back a 3rd time. I peek up and they’re now moving back to my right again and go bed in the direction of the elk that’s on private that’s been bugling every 3 minutes the entire time this has been going on which has only added to the tension of this hunt. After they’re gone, it’s now about 8 or 830 AM. I’m pretty sure I won’t call him in this late, but it’s worth a try. And a try it was. We bugled back and forth for about 30 minutes, then everyone went to sleep; myself included, after a few minutes of glassing.

23-Mar-16
I woke up when the sun got around the mountain and onto my face. It was still morning so after eating, I decided to glass a little longer before leaving. I get glass to my eyes and no sooner do I sit down, but breakfast on the top tells dinner on the bottom that it’s time to move along. A rock is moved, a hole made, a terrible thing is done. No sooner do I zip up my fly than I see two deer coming through a patch of thick young aspen. Oh yeah, deer! I can hunt them too!

I nock an arrow and I’m already in good cover that’s waist high, but I never got a chance to replace the rock so I’m standing there, trying to slowly move into position to shoot while avoiding standing in my own poo. The deer are feeding through the aspen. I see antlers. I range the area, 55 yards. They keep feeding in. I follow through my range finder. There is a doe and a buck that is definitely not a fork and you know what that means! Knees a-nockin! The wind is on my left cheek. I’ve already positioned my bow in the firing position and attached my release and ranged a few trees. All I need is for him to look away, feed below the grass, or move his eyes behind a tree. He feeds to a tree I had definitely ranged at 45 yards.

He’s feeding and suddenly looks up. I get a good look at his antlers. He’s a mainframe 3x3 with eye guards. He’s not alarmed, but is looking around. This gives me time to look him over. He’s not a big bodied deer. He has poor mass and his unbranched G2s are about 9 inches long. He’s definitely a 2.5 year old buck. I had decided before this hunt that I would only kill a 3.5 year old buck or bigger as I can kill forks at home for meat. Of course, I’d sorta given up on deer for elk and I thought that I might just kill this deer for meat and hunt over him for bear since I’d decided not to notch my bear tag as I was sure the bear I’d shot had lived. I had a long time to look at him. His eyes went behind the aspen. At one point, he scratched his offside face with his offside hind hoof and I could easily have drawn on him then, but decided to just watch them instead. They fed towards me and angled by, walking 20 yards in front of me, never knowing I was there. After they were out of sight, the meat hunter in me cursed the trophy hunter in me, but such is the debate. From the precipice, I could glass two drainages and that’s where I spent the rest of the day. With 1 hour of shooting light left, I still-hunted down the slope and bumped a doe and spike due to my stealthy still-hunting skills. I slowed down and came upon a cow with a spike in another aspen thicket. They were bedded and I came upon them side hilling. They heard, but did not see me at about 20 yards and stood up suddenly, looking my way. I already had an arrow nocked, but I had no idea they were there before they stood up. The cow was in front and facing me, 20 yards away. An aspen blocked her chest. After a long, tense standoff, she took one step forward and peeked around the aspen. At this point, her chest was out in the open. I thought, “well, I may as well try to draw because this is going to end one way or the other.” I drew back and they blew out of there like a fart in church. The rest of the skid down the mountain was uneventful and I got back to the truck well after dark.

From: LUNG$HOT
23-Mar-16
Bring it on Ike! Great story so far! Totally laughing out loud reading about the bear! Classic

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
The view from where I glassed.

23-Mar-16
Day 5

I’d been texting with Will the day prior while glassing as I had some reception up at the top – he’d been having a heck of a hunt thus far as I’m sure you’ve all read. Things were looking good, except for some nasty weather on the horizon. I had high hopes for the next day and had 3 places in mind. My spot from day 1, the same spot from the day prior where I’d seen elk, or another spot that Will had told me about. I don’t like to go to the same spot two days in a row unless I have undisturbed elk patterned. The nice spot that I’d found originally that I mentioned in the opening was where Will and his friends were hunting and I decided not to hunt there as Will was already putting himself out trying to get several other guys an elk and if I went in there, I would only add my own scent which is known to be distasteful to women and elk. I know he would have been fine with me heading over, but I’d been in animals every day and I figured I could give him room.

I decided to go back to where I’d gone the first morning. I woke up 45 minutes earlier so that I could get to the crossing before legal shooting light. This area was basically where one drainage met another. The mud bath I mentioned was near the bifurcation of the two drainages, but the bedding was up the other creek drainage. In the pitch black, I got to where the two creeks met, positioned myself up on the downside cliff to try and get my scent cone out of all 3 valleys, and waited.

About 15 minutes after legal shooting light, I heard the unmistakable sound of a bull elk, but not the typical bugle that you usually hear. I’d heard this sound a few other times, always in pressured areas. It’s hard to describe, but it’s just a short bugle without going into the high pitched sequence and it only lasts about a second. I believe it’s just bulls wanting to bugle, but at the same time, not wanting to bring too much predatory attention to themselves. The bugle came from down valley of where I’d come in and I was surprised they hadn’t winded me when I came in, although they may have and they also could have been a mile away or more when I came in since they were moving the opposite direction I was and I’d gotten in so early.

23-Mar-16
Glass up to my eyes and I’m scanning back and forth. I know they’ll pop into view shortly. I know exactly where they’re going. There’s only one patch of north facing steep timber in the area and they’re going to bed there. To give you an idea, I’m about 200 feet up the cliff on the south side and they’re heading to the north side. I’m on the corner of the two drainages and see them coming from the south west. Cow, calf, cow, calf, cow, calf, cow.

Where is he? They come through about a 30 yard opening and head back into timber. At this point, they’re 250 yards away and 200 feet below me, heading towards me, but angled to my left about 45 degrees heading for the slope that’s across the drainage from me. Where’s the bull?

He trots through, but on my nearside of the opening. I only catch sight of him for a second. I get a quick glimpse of headgear. He’s a shooter. Of course, for me, that means legal. What I mean is that some of you reading this would shoot him too.

I know where they’re going to bed. I know exactly where they’re going up. There’s only one spot. The rest of it is a cliff. If I can get down there, I can cut them off and they’ll walk right past me. The only problem is, they have to walk up my drainage as they’re coming from downhill and so I have to stay on my side of the drainage or else they’ll scent me.

I get down to the bottom and it’s perfect. I get to an outcropping and I’m 20 feet above the creek behind a boulder that’s directly above the creek. It’s a perfect pinch. The elk are going to come right by me. I could kill anyone of them at 30-40 yards. Here they come. They’re walking on a line and then the unthinkable happens: They turn right and head straight up the friggen cliff. WTF!!! If they’d have just come another 60 yards, it would have been easy to go up the drainage, but no, they have to take the hard way and bypass my ambush. You’ve got to be kidding me. The cows go up and the bull follows.

23-Mar-16
Well, crap on a stick. Now what? I know where they’re going. This cliff is triangle shaped and about 400-500 feet to the top and they’re going to go near the top and bed. So I have options. I can still-hunt up. I can go down and circle around above them and hunt down on them once the wind changes. I can wait till tomorrow. Or I can try and call him down.

I decide to call him down. But I know that if I do it right now, right as they bed, that they’re just going to bolt. I’ve spooked enough elk in this scenario that I’ll just never follow them right into bed right as they settle in. I think that the cows know that there weren’t elk around and if all the sudden, elk waltz in right as they go to bed, that they just take off because they know it’s a human. It’s shortly after sunrise right now and the days have been hot. I need to wait till the cows are sleepy and the bull is horny. I sit down and wait. After about 45 minutes, I can’t wait any longer, I know the wind will shift before long, and feel they’ve been up there long enough.

23-Mar-16
I slink down to the bottom of the drainage, cross the creek, and move up to a spot that’ll give me some room to shoot that’s uphill a bit from my ambush. I have the creek to my back about 50 yards. There’s a small opening up till the cliff starts that is uphill from the pinch point where I was sitting in ambush. Trees start as soon as the cliff starts going up past the opening. The opening is about 50 yards across. It’s covered in that non-native Canadian thistle crap that is such a pain in the ass and grows about belly button to nipple high. About 20 yards from the cliff that the elk are on, there’s a single 8 foot fir or pine or whatnot, that I plan to hopefully get in front of to use as cover. I get into the middle of the opening and I give out the exact same bugle that the bull had done earlier in the morning. Nothing. I give out a cow and calf call and then the same weak bugle. He bugles: Full cycle, the “I’m the badass in the area” bugle. I immediately give out a couple of cow calls and the same muffled bugle and start kicking rocks, breaking sticks and moving away, making it sound like the herd is heading away.

There’s an unmistakable sound when a bull elk decides to go from point A to point B through thick timber as fast as he can do it and it sounds like a huge boulder is rolling down the hill. He’s coming down the mountain, unmistakably, and this is going to happen. At this point, I’ve moved quite a distance away trying to sound like a herd on the move. I thought I had a lot of time because I figured the elk were near the top, but all at once, I can hear that he’s almost on top of me; almost at the opening. They had not bedded up as far as I’d assumed. I sprint back to the opening, nocking an arrow while running, but it’s too late, I can hear him just 20 yards out of sight in the woods. I’m running as fast as I can and I’m completely caught out in the opening except for the thistles and so, without any other choice, I plant my feet in the shooting position, put my bow forward, and duck. I’ve learned to never kneel in rough stuff because then you’re committed and if you can’t see to shoot, you’re screwed. My butt is almost on the ground, my bow is canted, my head is down, and thistles are in my face. He crashes out of the woods and into view, but I’m obscured by the thistles. He stops, about 10 yards inside the opening. He’s 15 yards from me. All I can see are the tops of his antlers out of the corner of my eye. I wait.

He looks around. He’s looking for elk. He chuckles and goes into a bugle from his chuckles. I’m still squatted, pinned in the middle of the meadow. It seems like hours. I’m in the shooting position with my bow forward, but I’m not drawn. But if I stand to shoot, he’ll bust out. He’s facing me. He starts sniffing the ground. He moves around, sniffing the ground like a dog looking for the scent of the elk he thought must be here. He moves sideways, slightly quartering to, but almost broadside, taking one step, sniffing, another step, sniffing. He looks up again and gives out a bugle. He’s 15 yards from me and I can feel my lungs rattle in my chest from the bugle and my ears ring afterwards. I decide that the next time he puts his head down, that’s got to be my chance and hopefully the thistles will block my movement enough. His head goes down and I draw, still squatting. He didn’t see me. He’s still got his nose to the ground. I find my top pin, rise, find the shoulder. I’m looking for the triangle. I find it. I’m in a ½ crouch. My arrow is clearing the thistles and I’m finding a lane. I see the top of the leg now. Straight up the leg. Squeeze.

He lifts his head right at that moment, but it’s too late. The arrow is on its way. He whirls and runs, not up the hill, but along the edge of the embankment, headed downhill. At the end of the opening, 50 yards away, there’s a lip. As he gets to it, I’ve recovered my bugle and give out the poorest replication of a bugle you’ve ever heard in the elk mountains. He stops, looks back, heaves, coughs, and I see a mist of blood spray out of his nose and I know he’s mine. He takes one step and crumbles, stumbling down the lip and out of sight. There’s a crash and then silence. I drop to my knees and the shakes start.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
What an incredible hunt. I was not able to stand for quite some time. I’ve had many elk in this close and I’ve killed elk in close, but to have him hovering over me and bugle right on top of me so that I felt as if the bugle would knock me over, then be able to rise, release an arrow, and watch him fall, was so overwhelming, that I tear up just writing the experience. There is nothing like hunting bull elk in the rut. There is nothing like it.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo

23-Mar-16
There is also nothing like hauling a bull elk out of the elk mountains on your back. All I know, is that after the tears of joy, come tears of pain. But it’s a labor of love. Elk meat is incredible eating. The immensity of the story that follows this hunt, to me, will forever stand over the happiness of this hunt. What happened next, regardless of how well I tell the story, will never be able to be fully comprehended by anyone but me as it would be a personal test where I would see the limit of what I was capable of and would give me a glimpse of the line between my youth and age. For the second time in just a few days, I was a first-hand witness to my mortality. Perhaps I’m sounding melodramatic, so I’ll put it in more plain terms: I got my ass kicked.

The bull was down sometime after 730. It took me a bit to get on him. I sat and admired him for a bit. I took a few pictures. Then I set about breaking him down. I don’t know exactly what time I finished breaking him down because I didn’t check the time, but I think it was about 1030; it takes me about 2 hours to break down an elk. I moved all the meat 80 yards from the carcass and fortunately, had a nice north facing rock cliff to put the meat on, and started the first trip out.

23-Mar-16
Now, I’ve already explained that I’m not a big guy. I’m 6 feet tall and weigh in around 160 lbs. I usually end September at around 152. I admit, I’m not a very strong man. I’m in shape and I have endurance, but I readily admit my limits and know where they are. Some guys can throw 100 lbs on their back and hike out with it. I can too – for a time. But I risk injury and I know that I’m doing my body harm when I carry that kind of weight. Usually, packing out an elk for me is a 6 trip venture: each ham is a trip, each shoulder with a backstrap is a trip, neck meat/trim is one trip, and head/antlers/gear the 6th trip.

The problem was that I was 3.25 miles from camp by map. As I broke down the elk, I did the math in my head. 6 round trips is 12 total single trips x 3.25 miles each way meant 39 miles total traveled; with ½ of that distance being weight bearing loads. I knew I couldn’t do that. I also knew that there were a lot of bears in the area, seeing as I’d just shot one in the arm a few days prior not too far from here. To tell you the truth, I usually don’t like to hunt this far in. The unit and spot made it necessary, but I knew that I had Will, who is a badass, who would be more than happy to come help me pack my elk out. He offered as much on more than one occasion. So I pondered that, half intending to call him to help.

I finished breaking the elk down and decided to bone out the shoulders since they go to burger anyways and it doesn’t matter if you hack them up. I generally don’t like to bone out animals because I feel that leaving the bones is a waste. I have 2 Labradors and they will even eat an elk femur. The big bones can be used for soup and there are ultimately a lot of calories and nutrition in the bones. Still, I had to get the trip count down, so with boning out the shoulders, I was able to get the total trips down to 5: Ham, ham, both shoulders, neck meat, head and gear with some trim.

The first trip out, I had my Badlands 2200 so I took out both shoulders because I was able to put most of it inside and a small bag attached to the outside. I came back with my bigger pack next and took out both hams the next two trips. After the 2nd trip out, I was feeling good and still marching full speed. I thought about calling Will, but pride/stupidity got the best of me and I decided to go back in. After the 3rd trip out, I’d done 19.5 miles on the day including the walk in and it was getting dark, around 730 PM. I was pretty damn tired. In fact, I was done, but wouldn’t admit it. I’d been riding high on adrenaline and I’d been sucking down sugary foods to keep my energy up, but I was starting to hurt. I always bring two pairs of boots on any hunt because I like to let one pair dry out for a day and switch. This ended up being key, because I was able to switch back and forth between boots to prevent blistering. Still, when I came out after the 3rd trip, I had a decision to make: I had two trips left. I could a) go back in with more para cord and tie the meat/antlers up better than I had them and come back the next day, b) call Will and have him come help me, or c) just go get it done.

Here’s the thing. If I was going to go back in, I wasn’t coming out without meat or I’d have to sit there and wait for Will. If I was going to call Will, it was already 730ish and I didn’t have cell reception at camp, which would have meant driving a ways to get a hold of Will, then ask him to come help me pack one load of meat in the middle of the night which means waiting for him to drive over and he’d have been getting to bed at midnight and would have screwed his next day’s hunt. Or I could just go back in.

23-Mar-16
What I decided to do, was to take both packs in, load up my big pack with the neck meat and the Badlands with the antlers and some trim and hopscotch them back and forth till I got them both out as I’d have more chances to rest as I worked my way out.

Half way back to the meat with both packs, I started to get the idea that I’d made a mistake. I went from “done” to “really done.” I was still marching full speed, but my energy level was tanking. When I got to the meat, without any extra para cord, I was screwed. It was 845. I looked around at the trees, considering tying everything up, but the area was old growth fir and there were just not any reasonable branches at 20 ft. I looked at what I had and realized I couldn’t get 2 bags of meat and antlers and head high enough into a tree to keep a bear from getting it with my one strand of paracord. I considered making a fire and sleeping with my meat. I’ve slept out in the woods before with nothing but a fire and that was the most miserable night of my life and I didn’t want to repeat that – plus, the forecast called for rain some time in the morning and I knew that if I was out there and it started raining, that it would just be better to fall on an arrow.

So, I loaded up both packs and started hop scotching. I’d go as far as I could, then drop the pack and go back for the other. When I got the rear bag, I’d force myself to pass the forward bag and drop it when I couldn’t go any further. I can’t even begin to explain how tired I was. I kept checking my gps and I wasn’t making any progress due to short trips, 2 back packs, and long rests between. It was late, dark, bears were around, so I sang to let the bears know I was available to eat and to keep my spirits up.

I got to the point that I truly didn’t think I could take another step. I was walking with the heavier load, the neck meat, which is actually a really friggen heavy load if you cut it all out including the rib meat/briscuit, and I tried to stand and just couldn’t. I had to lift the back pack for 15-20 feet at a time till I found a rock high enough to put the pack on so I could back into the pack and walk away. From then on, I would only put that load down in a place that was up high because I couldn’t stand up with it. I checked the gps and I hadn’t even made it half way.

Half way was a big deal when I finally made it, but was also pretty depressing because it seemed like so much work getting both loads that far that it would be impossible to do the next half. I kept telling myself, Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Those are words that have motivated me through a lot in my life and I’ve been on a lot of long trips where it’s been “one foot in front of the next;” the job at hand only one step at a time. One thing I’ve learned is that, until you fall on your face and die, you can always take one more step, so take it. Then worry about the next step. And so it went.

I thought about my kids. I thought about my dad and the hunt in WY that we were going to have. I sang “Old Man” by Neil Young and thought about how my dad had followed me into the WY elk mountains over the past few years with a bum hip. How I’d drug him over dead fall and up mountains with a bone-on-bone hip joint that put some people in wheel chairs. I felt guilty for being such a pussy and more so, for feeling sorry for myself and the last several miles I got my pace back and moved the packs twice as fast as I had the previous few hours.

I got back to camp at 3:43 AM with the last of the meat, 17 minutes from when my alarm was supposed to go off to hunt the next day. I looked at my phone and laughed. I should be going back in there to hunt bear over that carcass. I considered it for an afternoon hunt. Problem was, I knew I couldn’t haul a bear out because my feet were eggs sunny side up. So I slept in. By the map, I’d done 32.5 miles that day. The gps said it was closer to 40, but I don’t trust gps mileage and elevation measurements; I think they overestimate a little.

23-Mar-16
Day 6

I woke up just a bit before 9 and tried to move. I then tried to laugh at my stupidity and that hurt too. I was not going to hunt today. I lay there pondering how dumb I was, but a satisfaction came over me because I had my elk in the back of my truck and I didn’t have to go back out there. I grabbed a Cliff Bar, a gallon jug of water, and my bottle of pain pills and consumed all three. Very soon, the sun would creep over the mountain into my freezing-cold crack in the Rockies and my elk meat needed to be somewhere else.

I still had deer and bear tags. I still had 5 days till my dad’s plane landed in SLC where I’d pick him up on the way to WY. I hung my antlers higher than was necessary and was on the road to the meat cutter’s.

The rain started. It came down in buckets. As I drove to the meat cutter, I cursed the rain for making me use my leg to operate the gas pedal instead of using the cruise control because my damn legs were so damn sore. I smiled. I thought about Will. I knew that poor guy was out in this crap right now while I was in a heated truck headed to the meat cutter’s. And afterwards, I would go to the restaurant and have a country skillet with potatoes and eggs and sausage and country gravy. Mmm, country gravy. Best not to text Will about the country gravy, I thought. I sorta felt bad for Will, but I also sorta smiled. Sorry Will. I know you got rained on that day. If I’d have kept you up all night packing elk, you probably wouldn’t have hiked around in the rain all day. But I know that there was no other place you’d rather be than under that tree anyways.

I got back to camp early-afternoon with a 6er of IPA. Usually I don’t drink in elk camp, but I was hoping to help my pain meds work better and I knew I had some time on my hands. It was partially cloudy and I decided to hang out in camp and put up a ground blind not far from camp where I’d found a good deer trail coming off a cliff along a small drainage. After a couple of IPAs, I decided I may as well shoot my bow a little because I believe in the virtues of combining drugs, alcohol, and shooting sports and by this point in the hunt, I was full of good ideas. My shot was dead on. While shooting, a guy came down the road in a side-by-side ATV with blaze orange on. He was hunting bear with a ML. We got to talking and he was the son of a land owner up on one of the nearby ridges. I showed him my elk and when I told him where I got it, he was pretty surprised. His dad later told me that “no one hunts down there.” For good reason: there was no way to get an elk out of there except on your back and only crazies like me would consider it.

I told him I still had a deer tag and he offered to let me hunt his 540 acres. I went up and met his dad, also a really nice guy, and he gave me a tour of the property. It was getting late in the season now and the bucks had long since shed their velvet. He told me that before they shed, that he had good buck numbers on the property, but they disappeared after they shed. His dad ended up driving me around the property in the side-by-side and showed me all the boundaries. I checked out the property and decided on a spot for a blind and spot to glass for spot and stalk. It turns out, this guy reads Bowsite and saw my elk on the meatpole a few days later. He and his dad were both great guys. Often times, when people out of state see my California license plates, they’re suspicious and sometimes downright rude. But these two were as nice and hospitable as anyone I’d ever met.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
A view from the private property's high point.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
Day 7

I parked off the road next to the gate. This was odd for me because I’d never hunted private land before in my life. Believe me, I’ve tried! But in Southern California, my attempts to get private land access have always been responded to with either “no” or “hell no!” I felt odd, like I needed to get my truck farther off the road and out of sight and had to tell myself it was ok, that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I climbed to the property’s high point and sat down to wait for first light. It started to rain a little so I parked my rear end under a juniper and watched the sunrise.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo

23-Mar-16
No deer were spotted. Around 9, I scouted the property a bit more and found the best place for a ground blind. The day was taken up with a trip to town for a shower and meal. The evening hunt was spent in the ground blind. I did have a doe and fawn come by within 5 minutes of legal shooting light left in the evening.

23-Mar-16
Day 8

Back to the spot with the 1200 ft climb. Boots hit cliff obnoxiously early so that I can be to the top before legal shooting light. I’m getting to know the climb better and know where not to go so I don’t have to walk through the worst of it. This climb would be so much easier if I could walk on private land. It’s amazing how all the flat stuff is private and no one owns the cliffs.

I no longer have an elk tag in my pocket, so the hunt has once again turned to mule deer and bear. I get to the same glassing spot and watch the sun light up my view. No deer to be seen. All the sudden, from behind me, a bugle rips through the silence not 100 yards away. Scared the chit out of me. I recognize this bugle. I’ve heard it 100 times from my hands and knees. It’s him. I don’t have a tag, but I’m going to check him out.

I crawl to the edge of cover that I’m in and see a cow and spike, presumably the two that I had the stare down with a few days ago, heading over to the same north slope with the aspen grove. Close in tow is the bull, but I can’t see him yet. What I do see, is an aspen, about 15 feet tall and 5 inches in diameter enjoying the last roller coaster ride of its life. I decide that since nothing is going on in the deer department, that I might as well stalk this elk for the heck of it. I leave my bow, pack, and glass and quickly close the distance to 40 yards. At 40, he’s still giving this aspen the ol’ in-out in-out, but I haven’t gotten a visual on brown or antler. There’s a lot of cover, so I work my way around brush and I’m soon at 20 yards. There’s still a lot of aspen and brush between the two of us so I really can’t see him; I can just see the tops of the aspen dancing. I try to move closer and a good sized stick under my foot cracks. Of course, this was between plays from scrimmage and the whistle is blown. The gig is up. I’m frozen in one of those “oh chit” stances where I was trying to take a step and got caught so I’m in an awkward position and I lose my balance and fall with complete lack of grace onto a bush. Crash! He’s out of here. Without regard to small sticks lacerating my skin, I try to get a glimpse of the bull as he thunders off. I saw some brown and part of one antler. It was big. Bigger than anything I’ve ever shot, although I didn’t see enough to put an inch estimation on him.

23-Mar-16
Well, good thing I scared him back onto private land and saved his life! I go back to glass, but instead decide on a Cliff bar, wasabi soy sauce almonds, and a nap. The sun hits my face and I wake up with a half-dozen pine needles stuck to my cheek, cemented by drool to my beard. It’s getting warm. Time to fall down the cliff and go back to my elk carcass for an afternoon bear hunt. It’s been a couple days. In all honesty, I expect the carcass to be completely picked clean. I didn’t come back the day prior because frankly, I really didn’t want to ever make that walk again. I was blown away when I got to the carcass and it looked as if it hadn’t been touched by anything bigger than a fox. It sure smelled ripe enough to attract a bear. The blow flies on it sounded like the hum from a parked train. I positioned myself uphill a bit where the lip met the cliff and sat down to wait, with images of a huge bear, sure to waltz in anytime. As I considered this, I thought, “I’m definitely going to call Will to help me pack out the bear.” It got dark, no bear came. I left.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
Day 9

Back on the private. I’ve brought a ground blind and I’m going to set up in the only drainage on this land where it runs into the cliff where the deer bed. The best way up is past my blind and the sign proves it. I put my blind in some oak scrub and the shots are 20-40 yards. Now all I need is a 250 inch atypical mule deer to walk through my shooting lane.

That didn’t happen. In fact, I saw no deer. I did hear an elk bugle off across the far valley on another ranch’s property, but that was the extent of my wildlife encounters on this morning. So I pack up and walk out. Into town for a shower and meal. I’m back for an afternoon hunt, but where do I go? I had a few spots I knew of. Making the climb again was pointless for the afternoon. Did I want to spend another afternoon sitting the carcass? It hadn’t even been touched. I decided to put my ground blind on the spot with the deer path coming off the cliff by camp. I actually had two deer come by, but I had positioned the blind for the late evening hours when the wind shifted and it hadn’t yet when they came in and they blew out like a firm loogie behind a hearty sneeze. I never saw them, but I know it was two mule deer because if there’s one thing I know about hunting, it’s what the sound that busted deer make. I’ve got that one down.

23-Mar-16
Day 10 and 11

It’s my last day. I’m going to leave at dark and drive till I get too tried to drive anymore, then sleep in the truck and finish the drive the SLC to pick up my dad at the airport. I decide to go to a new spot since I’ve not seen any good bucks. I had another area scouted that Will had told me about. At o’dark 30, I have to cross a river then climb a cliff. At legal shooting light, I’m to my approximate destination and end up seeing/hearing nothing. Back down, meal in town, and I’m back to the bear carcass by 3 PM. And it’s gone. I mean gone. Not even bones. It was completely gone. A few years prior, I’d seen a grizz drag my elk carcass a ways, so I circled around a bit with an arrow nocked till my courage ran out, but I never found a thing. Amazing. It didn’t get touched for 2 days and then in two day’s time had evaporated.

Oh well, at least I didn’t have to pick up my meat at a late hour. The meat cutter had a shop next to his house and said I was good to pick it up whenever, but I felt better getting there at a reasonable hour which then allowed me to get a good meal before getting on the road. I slept somewhere in the badlands of southern Utah and got into town early enough to drop my antlers off at a taxidermist and take a shower at a truck stop before picking up my dad. From there it was north to Wyoming. We had new dreams and leftover tags. I’d hoped we’d have made it to our destination early enough to hunt the morning, but that was not the case. We rolled in around midnight and decided to sleep in the truck and organize in the morning.

23-Mar-16
Day 12

We’d gotten in pretty late and the unit we had tags in really didn’t have any good hunting options for hunting near the road. We had breakfast, packed our stuff in our packs and began the trip in. It was a couple miles into camp. We camped against a cliff right around the corner from a drainage to keep our scent from going up into it with the thermals. The plan, as is typical for our spike camps, was two nights at this spot, then back out. The day was taken up packing in, setting up camp, filtering water, etc. We did find some fresh sign. We glassed the evening till dark, but saw nothing.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
Here's dad with the typical 4 times as much wood on the fire as is necessary to smelt iron.

23-Mar-16
Day 13

We were up and on our way into the drainage before first light. It was damn cold with the morning thermals bringing air down from the high country from well above tree line. We’d climbed about 800 ft of elevation when first light appeared. We stopped and I ripped off a locator. Nothing. Bummer. If we hiked all day, we would barely get out of this drainage so if there were no elk here, this part of the hunt would be a wash. We hiked on.

We hiked another 10 minutes and stopped for a breather and a locator again. No response. We’d had fresh sign so we assumed there were elk in the area, but with 2 locators that definitely lit up the entire drainage and no response, things weren’t looking good. After a couple minutes, we were climbing again. Another 10 or 15 minutes later and it was time to bugle again. Seeing as this was a leftover/general zone and high pressure by WY standards and I’d had so much success with that short bugle the year prior in another high pressure leftover/general unit and had gotten a response in CO with it, I figured I’d try that bugle instead. A quick wimpy low pitched bugle and we got a ½ hearted locator from up on the ridge, far above us to the left. Game on.

The bull was at least 400 yards away from us on a small lip off the ridge, but it was a cliff to get there through nasty stuff, so getting up there would have been pretty rough. I traded bugles of increasing intensity with the bull with raking mixed in for a few minutes till he was finally responding with full sequence bugles, but he was staying put, announcing he was king of the mountain from his perch. Time for a change in plans. The ol’ kicking rocks, breaking sticks, and herd talk while moving away routine. It worked. Luckily for us, the cows were all down in the ag fields and the mature bulls were wisely hanging out where they were less accessible so they were without herds. I’m making herd sounds and the bull starts down the mountain. Even from 300 yards away I could hear him crashing through the woods.

23-Mar-16
Now, funny thing is, usually, my dad can’t hear a damn thing. He’s been installing hardwood floors for several decades and from all the saws and whatnot, he can’t hear at all. Learning to hunt elk together over the past few years has been an exercise in improvisation. He’s generally in front as the shooter, so in order to get his attention, I generally have to either use a cow call and talk through the thing or throw a small stick at him.

23-Mar-16
Back to the story, this bull is without a doubt crashing down the mountain, but is a long ways away, again, it was a good 500-600 feet up there. My dad looks at me with eyes as big as saucers and says, “He’s coming!” I was caught between laughter and amazement because, it was pretty obvious that the bull was coming; there were rocks rolling and branches snapping. It was either that or some guy with a pretty convincing bugle had pushed a Volkswagon Beetle off the cliff. But secondly, I was amazed that my dad could hear it. It goes to show how much noise bull elk make when they’re not trying to be quiet, which is in such stark contrast to how quiet they can be when they want to move around quietly. What a difference.

So we’re setting up. There’s a nice log at waist height to stand behind right at the bottom of the drainage so I have my dad stand there and I move up the other side of the drainage about 50 yards away. When I get there, I make a few more cow sounds and a spike bugle. The bull keeps coming in. It took a long time, but he’s coming straight for us. I set up behind some trees where I can’t see my dad just below me, but I can see the semi-open area the bull is going to come into that is full of waist-high brush; ferns, those bushes with the little oval leaves that turn yellow, etc.

He gets close and, oh man, it’s not a bull elk. It’s two bull elk! No wonder it was so loud. The front one is a 5x5, probably a 240 inch bull. The 2nd elk was a legit 310 inch 6x6. They pop out 90 yards or so beyond my dad. I’m pumped. It’s finally going to go down. Three years elk hunting with my dad, all the opportunities, all the encounters, all the things that went wrong, but finally, on the first day of our hunt, he’s going to get a shot. I sit there waiting for the “pop – thock.”

I know my dad. Even though the 2nd one is bigger, he’s not going to notice that and he’s going to shoot the first one. I don’t care, but when the first one starts angling to our right, I’m worried it’s going to be a long shot. The bull stops for a few seconds, then moves on down, crosses the bottom of the drainage and heads up above me to my right. The second elk does the same thing and is about 30 or 40 yards behind the first elk and I’m just waiting to hear the shot. But it never comes. What happened? Why didn’t he shoot? As I’m thinking this, the elk walk right past me. I already have an arrow nocked. The smaller elk angles down closer to me while the bigger elk takes a left and there’s not going to be a shot on him. The smaller elk catches me somewhat by surprise because I thought they were going to be thundering off after a shot from my dad so I didn’t turn to my right for a shot. The bull walks past at 25 yards, angled sharply above me. I had to turn my body to the right to shoot, which he saw. I turned and drew in once sequence. Pin on the heart, squeeze.

Right as I shot, he bolted. Coupled with the fact that my “25 yard shot” was really 33 yards (angle mod and underestimation) and my low shot hugging the bottom of the triangle like I like to, I missed low as he jumped the log in front of him. Both elk bolt. I stopped the bigger one at 100 yards with some cow calls, but it was just postponing the inevitable.

I meet up with my dad and asked what happened. “They walked by at 70 yards.” I’d known it was going to be a longer shot, but I figured it was less than 50. I’m proud of my dad for passing up both those elk. He has a 70 yard pin, but that’s beyond his effective range. It was the right thing to do. We know the morning hunt is pretty much done, but we walk on further since it was so early and throw out more locators up the valley, but hear nothing. We retreat back to camp, eat, and take a nap. For the evening, we head back into the same area, but hear nothing.

23-Mar-16
Day 14

Since we’ve pressured this drainage so hard and probably the only two bulls in it saw humans, we figured we’d move further. We wake up extra early and hike past the width of this drainage, which is a good mile wide down where we’re camping, and head around the far point to the next drainage. We climb up in the early hours of the morning and after reaching a lip with a park in front of us, I throw out a locator. Nothing. It’s been a long walk and it’s already 60 minutes past legal shooting light and we decide to rest for a few minutes since we just did a mad scramble straight up a long incline. I throw out some cow estrus calls and we sit down behind the lip.

It’s been a good 3 minutes and we’re just about to get up to continue the hike and a bull bugles right over the lip from us, I mean, he’s right on top of us. I can’t believe it, a bull came into the cow calls and we’re not ready. Fortunately, we have cover from the hill and my dad nocks an arrow. He peeps over the hill, ducks back down, draws in a crouch, then stands up, aims, and releases. “pop – thwack!” Yes! Dad is nocking another arrow, I scramble up and peak over and see a bull running away. My Temptress is in my mouth and I give out the “cow-giving-birth” call. He stops and looks back. My range finder is up to my eye. I call out to my dad “83 yards,” but the arrow is away while I’m saying it. It just misses low dead on to the heart, grazing fur. The bull runs up to the top of the park, about 180 yards away. This time I give out a round of “cow-with-bad-constipation-and-a-wasp-stuck-in-its-throat” calls and he slows down and looks back before going out of sight. I’m thinking “Die die die, please die!” But he walks into the woods. I note the spot, check the time, then go over to my dad.

23-Mar-16
“I got him. I think I got him. I shot for 30 yards. I had him dead broadside at 30 yards.”

I note that I didn’t see the shot, but I heard a shot and impact. It sounded a bit like a shoulder blade hit, but I definitely heard an impact. My dad relates the story, so I have him stay standing right where he took the shot. I go over to where the elk was. It’s obvious where the bull took off because there’s 4 hoof marks dug into the ground where he took off. I range my dad: 30 yards. In a loud whisper, I force a whisper back as loud as I dare, “30 yards.” My dad gives me the “I can’t hear you” look, which is him turning his head to his side, as if he can hear better with that ear. He can’t.

23-Mar-16
So I say, “Let’s sit down for 30 minutes, then I’ll walk across the park to where you took the 2nd shot and I’ll look for blood. Let’s not push him just in case he bedded right inside the woods.” We sit down and eat. I postpone 30 minutes into an hour. After an hour, I head over where he was for the 2nd shot. My dad stays where he took the shot and directs me. It takes me a minute, but I find the 2nd shot arrow. No blood on it. I follow the bull’s tracks as he ran off. No blood. I follow the tracks as far as I can, which is about 50 yards. I head back to my dad and check the first shot. No blood. I start walking from the first shot to the 2nd shot and stumble on the first arrow. There’s no blood on it. There’s also no nock on it.

Turns out, my dad was using brand new arrows and an almost brand new string. The nock had popped off at the shot and even though he’d taken a 30 yard shot on a 30 yard elk, the nock popping off had deflected the arrow enough that it was a clean miss. We were pretty bummed. We’ve had a lot of close encounters trying to get my dad a bull over the past few years, but something always seems to happen. If it isn’t stepping on a stick or the bull going right around him, which has happened too many times, then it’s a damn nock popping off and messing up a chip shot.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
We worked our way up the drainage further, but had no more elk action. At the point it came to turn around, I looked at the map and said, “ya know, it’s just down this ridge and we’re right into the drainage we hunted yesterday and it’s a way faster way back to camp.” “Yeah, but the way we came is downhill, then flat.” “It’s 6 of one, ½ dozen the other. This way is more direct.”

So we went my way. And we got cliffed out on sand stone in absolute sheep country. At one point, I looked back at my dad inching his way down with his trekking pole and he gave me the look of, “yes, we should have gone my way, but it’s alright. This is nothing like that 3 miles of chest-high deadfall you drug me through last year before I got my hip replaced.” At least that’s what I interpreted the look to mean. He was actually a great sport about it as he always is. We should have gone his way and I told him that, but he never played it up. And I sure would have. If you’d have seen what we had to go down, you’d have probably never let me hear the end of it. It was a real avalanche chute. Near the bottom, we had to walk down about 80 yards of scree and it was really crappy scree. Near the bottom, my dad took a pretty bad tumble into the ditch and broke his quiver. “Well good, now you can justify buying a Tight Spot,” I told him.

From: Dyjack
23-Mar-16
I was about to go to bed, but started reading can't stop! Thanks for posting.

23-Mar-16
We got back to camp, ate, broke it down, and hiked out. It was a big day. We’d done a lot of mileage and elevation gain/loss. We went into town, showered, ate, and headed back to the woods after dark. I had one more spot in this area that could be hunted from the truck and since we’d done some big mileage, it’d be good to have a shorter day the next day.

23-Mar-16
Day 15

We’re accessing a drainage that’s off the road that is an absolute cliff of a drainage. It was a real Will Towle hunt, but in this unit, that’s the only place there was going to be any elk this close to the road. We climbed and bugled and climbed and bugled. There were no elk that close to the road.

So, another bite in town and a shower. We needed to move across the unit to an area where there were new possibilities. We got there early afternoon, but there was no hunt to be had in the afternoon. We had some beers and sat in the shade of some cottonwoods as it was hotter than hell. There were no trees at the trailhead so we had to go down the road and post up by the river on the road to get out of the sun. The local rancher drove by and stopped to chat with us. He was a really nice guy. He also told us about the ½ dozen grizz that he was seeing every morning in his oat fields that were leaving every morning after sunrise and going up the drainage that we were planning on going up. No problem! We’re going before sunrise, we’ll beat them up there!

23-Mar-16
We’re up and hiking in the dark. The trailhead is a ways from the mountains and it’s over a mile through sage to the mountains. We couldn’t believe all the rabbits. We could have shot 100 of them. The rancher later told us that since the wolves moved in, the rabbit population had sky rocketed because the wolves killed all the coyotes. We could have limited out easily, but we didn’t have small game licenses. We got into the crack of the drainage right at first light just before legal shooting light. Just as we were starting to head up, we heard a bugle, but it was behind us and off to our right, out in the sage flats. We scrambled up the cliff side to get a view. It was just getting into legal shooting light. The elk were specs in the distance. Glass to eyes and I could barely make them out. 2 bulls and 20 cows/calves. They were a good ¾ mile away and angled quartered away. They’d been feeding in the ag fields during the night and were now heading back into the mountains to bed. Even if it was flat, there was no way we could catch them; the flat part was private land and we had cliffs between us and where we’d need to cut them off.

“Stay here, I’m going to run and see where the go up.” I left my bow with my dad and took off on a mad dash up and down the small drainages coming off the cliff to stay on public land so that I could get around the corner and see where they were going. There were two different places to go up and I wanted to know for tomorrow where the right place to be was for an ambush. I rounded the biggest point about 10 minutes later just as they disappeared up the closer drainage, which was the smallest of the two and never a place I considered hunting. I got good glass on the herd. I counted 20 cows/calves to the head. There were two bulls. I was looking at them through 8s about ½-3/4 mile away so it was tough to judge, but the small one was about 3 cows back from the lead as they walked and looked to be a 5x5. Oddly, he was doing all the bugling and the big bull was silent. The big bull was obviously a 6x6 with big swords. He walked in the back of the herd and if a cow or calf slacked off and he caught up to them, he horned them in the rear end.

23-Mar-16
I got back to my dad and now we had two options. We could go hunt these elk, but we didn’t know where they went beyond the drainage and it was a long ways over there and up. Or we could continue with our current plan and go up the drainage we were in and try and ambush them tomorrow. That’s what we decided to do.

We got up into the drainage and climbed a very sheer area to get into the closest spot that had some north facing bedding. We climbed over the lip and set up to call. My dad nocked an arrow, then noticed he didn’t have his release attached to his bow. His hunt was done. Nothing responded to the first bugle, so I told him to just hang back as there was no reason for him to climb into the next draw. I walked in, it was still early, around 7. I wanted to get over the next lip before I did a locator and before I get there, I cross a huge pile of grizz poo. It’s solid oats and it’s steaming. I had to do it, I put my finger on, then into it. It was not cold on the outside and warm on the inside. The entire thing was hot, even the outside. This was fresh-baked grizz poo. I wondered if the elk would hang with the grizz – doubtful. I walked on. I only needed to get another 100 yards where I’d round the lip and be into a new drainage.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
Mmm, oatmeal.

Size 12 boot.

23-Mar-16
After rounding the lip, I set my bear spray down as I need to 2-hand my bugle. I gave out a locator ½ expecting to get charged. I haven’t had much luck with bears this month. I quickly picked up my spray and looked around. A long 2 minutes passed and there was no response. Well, no elk here! Time to get the Hell out of Dodge! I got back to my dad, showed him the picture of the poo, and we decided that we knew where the herd was and that was not where we were now; we were in grizz bedding. We left the grizz to do their thing in peace because we’re from California and we have soft hearts. Getting back to the truck relatively early, we decided to go back to town to eat and shower. We got back in time for an evening hunt. We made our way to where the elk would hopefully come back down, but they didn’t. It got dark and we made our way through locust-like rabbit hordes back to the truck for another good night’s sleep in the bucket seats.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
From the trailhead

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
Day 16

We have a plan. We know exactly where we’re going. We’re going to intercept elk that are coming up from the ag field. We’re going to be sitting in the crack where they came up on the side of the cliff and rain fire down on the unexpecting herd. Talk of doubling up happened. We got up extra early. The GPS and the rancher’s barbed-wire fence agreed exactly where the property line was and we followed the fence 1 yard into public land all the way across two miles of sage. When the GPS said it was time, we hung a left towards the mountain and followed a drainage up and found what we were looking for, the perfect ambush. Now all we needed was a herd of elk to walk up here. We waited in the dark. As the very first light of morning came, my 8s scanned back and forth. Where’s the herd? I kept looking. It didn’t take till sunrise to realize that the elk were not here and weren’t following the script.

We had two options: We could turn towards the mountains and head in and try to find them. The problem was, I already knew where they were bedding. It was a good two miles up the drainage where it turned and there was a big north facing slope. If we killed an elk in there, we’d have 4 miles to the truck in grizz country and after last week, I knew that this was a bad idea. We talked it over and decided to pack in. There was a better way to get to the bedding area and that was going up an established trail on the drainage over and not walking over all the crap we’d just clamored over to get here.

Back to the truck. Showers, a meal in town. There was nothing to hunt that evening so we got our packs ready and got to bed early.

23-Mar-16
Day 17

We were up early and on our way with full packs. Up the drainage next to where we were headed, it was easy, till we got to the switch backs about 1.5 miles in. Before we started up the switch backs, my dad took a downwind break. After he got back, we hit the switchbacks and climbed. And climbed. It sucks climbing straight up with full packs. As the sun came up, we had climbed an entire mountain and before rounding the corner into the next drainage, I wanted to camp out on the lip to keep our scent out of the drainage we would be hunting, so we started looking for a spot to camp that was flat enough for a 2-man tent. We found a general area that was sorta flat so we dropped our packs to look around. Before we could start looking around, my dad has this “oh chit” look on his face and is looking through his stuff, looking around on the ground. Obviously, something is gone.

“I lost my bear spray.”

“Oh, crap.”

“It probably fell out of my pack when I took a crap at the bottom of the mountain.”

“Oh, crap.”

“I’ll go get it.”

“No dad, it only makes sense for me to go get it.”

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
This was the ag field/oats that the grizz were feeding in. The elk were in the field to the left in the picture which you cannot see. My dad's pit stop was just up from the ag field, more than 1K feet below us.

23-Mar-16
I drop everything and start down the switch backs in a jog. Please let the can be on the trail somewhere close. Every foot I drop I know I’ve got to walk back up but at one point I’m thinking, screw the descent, we really need this 2nd can of bear spray. I found it. Right where he put his pack back on - all the way at the bottom of the mountain. Fortunately, he buried his turd cause there was a time the year prior when I was collecting fire wood and came around a corner right into a steaming pile. We had to have a talk about leaving no trace after that.

I get back up top and we move on as there’s no good place to camp here. We move about another 200 yards up and are about to drop the packs again when all the sudden, up above us about 300 yards, I spot a bull. I snort at my dad to freeze, but he’s already seen us. This is a south facing slope and there’s not much on it besides sage and some juniper. We can’t believe it. Here we are, late morning – it’s gotta be 830, maybe 9. And there’s a bull walking a south facing slope.

23-Mar-16
I pull open the cow butt and we both get behind it. He’s seen us and moved a couple times looking back. I give out some whiney cow calls and he stops. I keep whining, but he’s at least 250 yards away and 250 feet above us. I get glass on him and he’s a solid 320+ inch bull with 8-9 inch G5s. Maybe 330+. He keeps taking a few steps and walking higher. My calls do nothing but slow him down.

“Do you believe that?”

“I can’t believe that.”

“Where’d he come from?”

“I don’t know.”

“It’s so late, what’s he doing climbing up here so late?”

23-Mar-16
Who knows where this bull came from, but he was out in the open climbing a southern face in the late morning. We dropped our packs again and decide that we can find a camping spot later. We’re going to climb this mountain and set up where the bull crossed over onto the north face and try to call him in. We get maybe 1/3 way up the 300-400 foot climb and I look down and there’s a bull straight down from us! It’s almost 10 AM and it’s hotter than Hell. The bull is panting with his mouth open, but walking with determination. He’s over a lip and walks not 40 yards from our packs. He’s 100 feet below us and maybe 175 yards away.

Again, I hiss at my dad to freeze. He can’t hear me; he can never hear me. The thermals are going up the hot southern face now with some movement and the wind is a bit loud. “Freeze!” He freezes and I nod my head in the direction of the bull which is still heading our way, quickly closing the distance. Holy crap, this is happening again – bulls are wandering out of nowhere in the middle of the day.

Foomp. The elk butt opens and we’re both behind it, but the bull saw the movement of the decoy deploying and he’s zeroed in on us. He’s about 100 yards away. My dad is behind me as we’d shimmied together as I deployed the decoy and he’s nocking an arrow behind the blind. The bull is not sure what’s going on. My Temptress is around my neck and I give out a cow call. He just stands there. Then he starts walking up, but quartered to. He’s getting closer, but the window is closing because he’s not coming to us. Every time I give out a cow call, he stops for a second, then resumes the same route which is going to put him 50 yards away, but there’s an outcropping of rocks that’s on our same elevation so when he gets into shooting range, we won’t have a shot.

23-Mar-16
All the sudden, about 70 yards away, he decides to take a route that’s farther away from us and drops to his right facing away from us and goes over a lip. We have cover. Immediately, we’re up and sprinting. It will never cease to amaze me how quickly elk can move. This elk had to climb straight up a very steep incline after climbing who knows how many feet and all we had to do was run 50 yards side hilling, essentially a flat surface. The bull goes downhill, then up a small drainage on the side of this cliff, has twice as far as us to go to get past the rock outcrop and he not only beats us, but beats us bad. We got into view of him and he was way above us, out of range for a shot. All we could do was watch him walk up the cliff and up and over the exact place where the previous bull had gone.

To make it even worse, it took him about 2 minutes to do the entire climb up and over the top. We decided to follow and go back to our original plan and get over the top and try and call the first bull up (or the 2nd bull) and it took us half-an-hour to get up there. The bull did the same distance in literally 2, maybe 3 minutes. This is why we use bows, cause we sure as Hell can’t run em down!

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
Well, that was basically all the action. We had a crap climb up a crap face and got up there and called and moved forward 40 yards and called and moved forward 40 yards, etc. No action. Those bulls weren’t coming in.

We found a spot for camp and set up, gathered some dead sage and juniper for a fire, and set up for an evening hunt. Perhaps the elk would come back down this way? Unlikely, but we found the two best ways for them to come down and one of us posted up in each of them. After dark, we met back at camp.

The picture is from near the top after we'd decided that they'd given us the slip.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
Day 18 The first two days, the elk had been down low overnight and had come up into the mountains to bed. The first morning, they’d taken the far side of the mountain back up that we were now on. The second morning, they’d come right up the center. The center of the mountain only had two places that were climbable, even by a sheep. Both ravines resulted in a pinch point. The day prior when we’d come up, the first elk had gone up the first ravine and the second elk had side-stepped us and gone up the 2nd ravine. We decided that we’d gamble and put one of each of us in these ravines and if they came up this way, at least one of us would have a shot. The pinch points allowed us to sit off to the side on the cliff edge which would hopefully give each of us a cross wind with our wind going down the cliff.

The elk decided to go elsewhere – we didn’t see anything. The mid-day was spent taking a nap. The other side of the mountain was north facing and had nice bedding so what we decided for the evening, since it was a long way around and into a hole, that my dad would post up in one of the escape routes/chutes, and I would sidehill around the mountain and hunt the north-facing bedding once the winds shifted down on the north side. I got to the far south rim and waited on the sun and wind.

After the sun set, the wind took a shift from up the bedding to down. I was around the other side of the mountain now, going up an east-west facing drainage. The whole idea was that I’d either call elk down or push them up and over into my dad who was waiting in the escape route on the south side of the mountain. As I got into the drainage, there was elk sign everywhere. Every tree less than 6 inches in diameter was scraped clean of any bark between 6 inches to 6 feet off the ground. I worked my way into the center of the drainage and called, but got no response. At that point, I worked my way up the drainage hoping to push elk into my dad, but I never saw or heard a thing. I got back well after dark and neither of us had seen or heard any elk.

On the way back, I noticed that the moon seemed to be getting smaller. We had no idea it was coming, but over the campfire that night, we watched a complete eclipse of the moon.

23-Mar-16
Day 19

We knew that on at least two of the three days we’d been at this spot, that the elk had come up from the ag fields to bed in the mountains. We decided to try and ambush them again as they came back up. From what we’d learned from walking the mountain, there were basically two areas they could come up. Both areas had two pinch points that had impassable cliffs on each side. I offered my dad the one that was closest to camp and I took the 2nd one. Well before first light, we were in position.

I had about a ½ mile walk to my spot. It was on the far side of the mountain and my dad was essentially right in the middle. My spot was out on a little finger that would allow me to glass and maneuver back against the mountain and to my right or left depending on which way the elk came. First light came and I couldn’t see any elk from the ag field 1500 ft below and 2 miles away all the way up to where I was, nor could I see any elk across the canyon to my left that I could glass from my perch. Only a few minutes after sunrise, I knew my spot was a bust so I decided to move in the direction of the bedding I’d been in the night prior.

23-Mar-16
I didn’t get far. The area was still pretty south/east facing and largely open sage with wooded areas only on north facing slopes. I’d been alternating between locators and cow calls into any area that could have an elk that I couldn’t see. It’s about 45 minutes after sunrise and I’m starting to get pessimistic when all of the sudden, I see a bull through a few dead trees about 100 yards away. I’m completely out in the open in the sage and the only thing I can do is duck behind the sage. I nock an arrow and prepare for a stalk through the sage. I drop my pack and jacket and start to crawl. He’s feeding slowly to my right. I only have to get about 10 yards and then a nice lip will protect me and I can crawl without any direct line of sight till I’m about 40 or 50 yards from him. He’s a mature 5. His 4ths and main beams were more than a foot from where they split and both had very good mass. He also had very good fronts. I think he was at least 260, maybe 280, despite being a 5x5.

The last I saw him, I’d crawled well into the area in front of the lip and had spotted his antlers through some sage sill bobbing left and right as he fed. I was sure I was out of sight and there was enough wind, which was quartered to me, that I could belly crawl then crawl on hands-and-knees to the lip. After the crawl was done, I slowly peeked up through a sage at the edge of the lip. He was gone. Had he heard me? Had he seen me? I know he hadn’t winded me. I didn’t think it was possible for him to hear me with the stiff wind I now had, coming up the south-facing slope and across the saddle we were in.

To my right was a steep and narrow drainage into the creek bed below, which was down about 200 feet. To my left, was a north facing bowl that was probably 200x200 yards and wooded. I looked to my right off the edge and didn’t see him. I looked to the left, but it was deep timber. So I decided to throw out a locator into the timber: nothing. I waited a couple minutes and tried making herd noise. I tried estrus calls: nothing. What the Hell, where’d he go? I guessed that he’d seen me and was ½ mile away by now. I got to the high point in the lip and sat down to glass. I glassed for a good 5 minutes and didn’t see a thing.

23-Mar-16
Well, crap, I really blew that one. I called for a few minutes and didn’t get a response. The sun was now on everything facing east and south and I figured my hunt was over. We were completely out of water so I decided to descend down to the creek and filter water. I then ate and went back up to the lip where I’d seen the bull. It was getting late, maybe 830ish by now. I decided to give out one more call-sequence before heading back to camp. I gave out an immature bugle and some herd talk and wouldn’t you know it, the bull stepped out about 150 yards away. He’d dropped down into that thin ravine to my right when I thought he’d gone into the thicker bedding area to my left.

He was marching up with determination, straight for me. I’m concealed by the lip of the drainage and he’s got to come up a 45 degree angle to get to me. He gives out a bugle and I know he’s committed. Trouble is, if he comes over right where I’m at, I’m going to have a 2 yard shot so I backed down the lip about 10 yards and out of view, preparing for a frontal shot. About the time I expect him to come over the lip, I draw and hold. And I hold. And I hold. Where is he?

About the time I need to draw down, I hear a full sequence bugle and can tell that he’s stopped short in the drainage. I crawl up to the thickest sage on top and peer through. He’s directly below me, maybe 50 yards. I back down a bit and come back up a foot to my right so I can range him, crawling with my range finder in front of me. Click, 41 yards. I back down again, crouch, draw, and stand to shoot him. No dice, there’s a dead snag covering his vitals on my side of the drainage and my arrow just might hit the top of the burm – I’m not high enough. I inch forward at full draw maybe 6 inches and he catches movement. He takes a few quick steps forward which really doesn’t get him any farther away from me since he’s broadside and I give out a cow bark with the diaphragm in my mouth and he stops right out in the open. 45 yard pin right on the top of the bone, straight up the leg. You should have run. Now you die. Squeeze.

23-Mar-16
You know that feeling you get when you have an animal dead-to-rights and you’re fully confident in the shot? It’s almost as if the shot doesn’t matter at that point; that you’re just going through the motions and the end result is already played-out despite the minor fact that the shot still has to take place.

The arrow sailed just under his armpit, missing leg and shoulder by no more than an inch. I was in such shock that I didn’t even stop the elk till he’d run quite a ways. He’s running on a 90 degree angle from me because to his right or left is straight up a cliff. He finally stops when I give out the cow-giving-birth call and looks back for a second. I range him at 88 yards – a shot I won’t take. I expected him to turn and run off, but he just stands there, barking at me. He barked probably 20 times but there was no way for me to get closer so I just waited till the inevitable turn and saunter off happened.

What happened? How’d I miss? He was at 41 yards, broadside. That’s not a difficult shot for me. I pull my range finder to my eyes and find the area he was standing. 66 yards. Wait, what? I range again and again the entire area, 65, 66 yards. Then I realize it. I range the snag – 41 yards. The electronics are only as good as the idiot operating them.

I go down and recover my arrow. There’s brown hair on the sage above it. No blood on the broadhead or shaft. I missed by that much. Time to head back to dad.

Dad didn’t see anything. I tell dad the story and we both regret him not coming with that morning. He’d have probably arrowed that bull as I could have sat back and called him right into him. We talk it over. We have one day left in the hunt, but we decide to pack up. We’ve pressured this area a bunch and odds of seeing another bull here are low. I was done. I missed my kids. We were both tired, but satisfied. Time to head home.

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo

23-Mar-16
Another September elk hunt was over. I was happy to have another elk for the freezer and the wall. I was happy for the experience, for what I’d learned, and the time with my dad. It was bittersweet. Despite so many close encounters over the past few years, I’ve still yet to get my dad an elk and that’s one of my primary September goals; we’d come so close again. I’d also hoped for two elk for myself, as the meat from one never makes it through the next summer. On the drive home, I pondered the season’s highlights and disappointments as I always do. These trips, with their hopes and plans, goals and dreams, ups and downs, always come with a sense of relief and accomplishment, but also a healthy dose of reality and turmoil. They also renew the dreams for next year and start the process over, beginning with the hopes and plans. Over the past week, while writing this story, our Wyoming elk tags came in the mail. The feeling one gets when pulling that tag from the envelope is something only someone who’s experienced it can understand. Just like the highs and lows of elk hunting.

-Ike

23-Mar-16

IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo
IdyllwildArcher's embedded Photo

23-Mar-16
Some afterthoughts:

The bull was officially measured by the Pope & Young Club at 264 5/8ths inches net (270 3/8ths inches gross).

I struggled with telling the story of wounding the bear. Originally, I’d considered omitting that part of the story. In fact, I never told Will that I’d wounded a bear. I’ve read other stories where folks have told about wounded/unrecovered animals and I thank them for having the courage to set the precedent to do that which encouraged me to do the same and tell the whole story, as it’s part of the story. Still, it’s not an easy thing to do.

I would discourage anyone from taking a frontal shot on a bear that is on all 4s. An elk has a spot that is almost 90 degrees from the shooter that makes up the frontal shot target. That’s not really the case with a bear on all 4s. The target slants away from you a bit more and is very small. In the end, I believe I took this shot more so in self-defense, even though I’d planned on shooting him for meat. Still, I don’t think it’s the shot to take on a bear.

I realized the shooting mistake I’d made right as I released the arrow on that bear. When I made those two steps backwards to obtain a shooting lane, in order to hold my bow in let-off more securely and not draw down, I’d extended my wrist and the grip sat in the web space between my thumb and index finger, which of course torqued my bow when I fired, sending the arrow wide into his front leg. You can be the best shooter in the world, but when you release that one arrow on an animal, if your form isn’t perfect on that one arrow, you’re going to miss.

From: BULELK1
23-Mar-16
Great memories for you 2 !

Thanks for sharing Iddy---

Good luck, Robb

From: Rick M
23-Mar-16
Thanks for taking the time to write this up!! Nice CO. Bull and time spent with you father. Not a bad way to spend September.

23-Mar-16
Great recounting of your hunt, brother. I had hairs all over my body standing on end!

I had to share some of your story with those around me in an attempt to explain my outbursts of laughter. I think that I'll forever think of you as "the love child"!

From: sticksender
23-Mar-16
Congrats Ike on a fine bull and thanks for taking the time to do this story.

From: OFFHNTN
23-Mar-16
Epic adventures! Congrats in many ways! Thanks for sharing!

From: BobH92057
23-Mar-16
Wow neat trip and great write up

From: LINK
23-Mar-16
Well done!

From: AZBUGLER
23-Mar-16
Amazing! I decided to stop after the CO hunt and get to work but I've read every word so far. Loved your description of the pack out! Thanks for the great read.

From: Coolcop
23-Mar-16
Wow just finished your story. Couldn't put it down. Great job. I'm sending it to my hunting partners right now.

From: Z Barebow
23-Mar-16
I will be reading later tonight. Thanks for sharing Ike!

From: wyliecoyote
23-Mar-16
Great story....I loved every word of it...so real!! I didn't know what a "wimp" I am till I recounted your elk pack-out....OMG!! I think I would died on the mtn with load #2 !!

Thanks for sharing......

Joe

From: Scoot
23-Mar-16
Great story!

From: Destroyer350
23-Mar-16
Sounds like a great time and thanks for sharing! Awesome write up!

From: Dyjack
23-Mar-16
The clockwork orange reference cracked me up!

From: Jaquomo
23-Mar-16
Great job, Ike! Loved it. This year we've had three of the best elk hunt recaps ever on the Bowsite. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

From: Fulldraw1972
23-Mar-16
Thanks Ike for sharing. Great story and good pics. Makes a guy want to go elk hunting even more.

From: Ron Niziolek
23-Mar-16
Ike, great writing. Love the picks of your WY hunt. Seems familiar to me!

From: HUNT MAN
23-Mar-16
Ike , that was a great read. With a few classic lines. I was laughing out loud.

I had the same deal with my Dad . Lots of blown chances. Lots. But then it all clicked and he killed 4 in a row. And a couple of big ones. It will happen this year. Best of luck and enjoy the time In the field with your Dad. Hunt

From: uteangler
23-Mar-16
That was a fantastic read. Great writing, awesome descriptions of every situation, and great humor also. I especially enjoyed the pack out part, as that hit very close to home...... Great job! And congrats on an awesome bull!

From: trublucolo
23-Mar-16
Thanks Ike, that was great.

From: ElkNut1
23-Mar-16
Yes sir, definitely an awesome read! Thanks for taking the time to share your adventures! Lots to read but well worth it sir!

ElkNut1

From: Lost Arra
23-Mar-16
Terrific story of a great hunt(s). You are a lucky man to get to elk hunt with your dad.

From: otcWill
23-Mar-16
Hell yea buddy! You're the real deal even if you won't admit it. I'm proud to call you a good friend and look forward to huntn together.

From: Z Barebow
23-Mar-16
Great story Ike! Thanks for taking the time to share. I know it takes time to put these stories together.

23-Mar-16
This was an awesome read. Great stuff. Congrats to you both.

FWIW, I'd shot that bear too. And, never lost a second if sleep about it.

You did a great job of writing this. My wife now thinks there is something wrong with me. I laughed out loud, belly laughs at that, all through this thread. Good stuff.

God Bless

From: APauls
23-Mar-16
What a job writing!!! Great story telling, and congrats on your bull!

From: JohnB
23-Mar-16
Outstanding I could almost smell the grizz poo! Great job of telling the story of your hunt. I appreciate all the time spent recapping your hunt and would imagine you inspired a few of the people who have not tried a western hunt to give it a try. I agree to on the wounding part, we have all been there before and telling like it really is should be what these political candidates do: Ike for Prez! One other thing I lost my dad to cancer when he was 45 years young you have your priorities straight. God Bless!

From: CO Elkaholic
24-Mar-16
Great read! Thanks for taking the time to do this. Makes me anxious for September!

From: AZBUGLER
24-Mar-16
That was a long 11 hour work day but I was sure anxious to get home and read this all the way through. Thank you again! Awesome story. The best I've heard in a long time.

From: Trophy8
24-Mar-16
Great story, congrats on the bull!

From: Nesser
24-Mar-16
Outstanding read! Thx Ike

From: elkstabber
24-Mar-16
Thanks for sharing Ike. You actually checked the temp in the middle of the grizz poo? The steam coming off of it wasn't enough for you? The surface temp wasn't enough? Man, you are thorough!!!

From: Whip
24-Mar-16
I just read this entire thread from start to finish in one sitting - I couldn't stop! Your wit and detailed writing is spectacular! Great job, and thanks for taking the time to put it all down for the rest of us to enjoy. Your style makes it seem as if we are walking in your boots but without having to go through all the pain and suffering. Well actually, I even felt some of your pain!

From: Franzen
24-Mar-16
You had me at Day 5. I thought something BAD was going to happen.

Well done.

From: Bowfreak
24-Mar-16
What a cool hunt! Thanks for sharing!

From: Ben
24-Mar-16
Great read! Once I started the only thing interrupting it was supper. Could quit! Super hunt and story.

From: ScottTigert
24-Mar-16
Great story. Congrats on your hunt.

From: buckfevered
24-Mar-16
Thank you! That was great. Once again, I was right back in the mountains. Felt like we were right next to your side. Great attention to detail in telling your story. Sounds like great memories with your dad. Congrats!

25-Mar-16
Great story!!! Thanks for sharing.

From: JLeMieux
25-Mar-16
Enjoyed every word of it! Thank you for taking the time to write that up for us.

From: HUNT MAN
25-Mar-16
Ike , that was a great read. With a few classic lines. I was laughing out loud.

I had the same deal with my Dad . Lots of blown chances. Lots. But then it all clicked and he killed 4 in a row. And a couple of big ones. It will happen this year. Best of luck and enjoy the time In the field with your Dad. Hunt

From: Carnivore
25-Mar-16
Good story well told! Laugh out loud funny, too. It's pearls like these that have kept me active on Bowsite for so many years. Thanks.

From: easeup
25-Mar-16
great read. Awesome hunts. more congrats to you and Dad.

From: BOWNUT
25-Mar-16
Great read. Thanks Ike.

From: Elkman52
27-Mar-16
Once I started I couldn't stop!And it's Easter Morning!Great read great detail! Thank You

From: razorhead
27-Mar-16
great post, thanks for sharing, this year I am going to take a lot of pics, and learn how to post them.....

From: elkmtngear
27-Mar-16
Helluva read, Ike. Top shelf!

Best Wishes, Jeff

From: Coldsteel
27-Mar-16
Thanks for sharing a great story!! Best wishes for 2016!! Happy Easter to you and your family!!

From: Bowboy
27-Mar-16
Thanks for a great story.

From: midwest
29-Mar-16
Good stuff, Ike! You're a good son. Really hoping you get to celebrate a dead bull with your dad this year!

From: HOOSIER
29-Mar-16
I WAS WONDERING HOW MANY TIMES YOU TRIED CALLING BEFORE A HERD SETTLED IN BEFORE YOU LEARNED WHAT WOULD HAPPEN I HAD MY FIRST EXPERIENCE OF THAT HAPPENING LAST SEASON AND I WASN'T SURE WHY THEY REACTED THE WAY THEY DID. NEXT TIME I WILL KNOW, THANKS FOR THE INFO.

From: JLS
30-Mar-16
Good for you and your dad to be able to spend the time together on this hunt.

Congratulations.

02-Apr-16
Thanks for all the kind words guys.

Hoosier, to answer your question, I don't really know. More than 5 and less than 10 I'd say.

10-Apr-16
TTT so a friend can find this easily, but I had fun reading it through again Ike.

From: pav
11-Apr-16
Not sure how I missed this two weeks ago?

Great write up Ike. Congrats on the solo CO bull and the WY adventure with your dad!

From: Bill in MI
11-Apr-16
What a great read. Thank you. Makes me wish my dad could come along with me.

12-Apr-16
Acting as librarian again.

From: elkster
12-Apr-16
I don't know how I missed this three weeks ago. Thanks for taking the time to compose the. You captured both the good and bad, thus "keeping it real".

From: tacklebox
14-Apr-16
Awesome! Thanks

From: krieger
16-Apr-16
Fantastic write-up! I couldn't stop, read it all in one sitting.

25-Aug-16
Had to find this thread and bump it to the top for my friend to read as well.

Do not drink anything that you don't want to clean off of your monitor. Ike has a way with words.

" I settle my pin on his heart and all the sudden, he gets up and starts galloping towards me. Not a bat-out-of-Hell gallop, but just a gallop. I start yelling at him, “hey, hey, hey, don’t do it!” My warnings went unheeded. I kept expecting him to stop or veer off, but he didn’t. Before I could even finish yelling, he was at 10 yards.

It’s funny, because it all happened so fast, but time slowed down to the point that I was able to consider a few things besides aiming my bow for a shot. First off, I considered the irony of the fact that I hunt Grizz country in Wyoming every year, but here, I was about to get mauled by a 130 lb black bear. And where was this bear’s fear? He “should” be afraid of me. I noted that I had neither bear spray nor side arm along, after all, this was friggen Colorado! The other thing I thought of was my next move after the bear and I made contact; what would be my next move? Could I grapple this little guy with both hands, or should I go for the Havalon?

This may seem odd, as most of you probably would have just kicked him and been done with it, but I’m a pretty slender guy. He was definitely a small bear, but I think that he and I both thought that he could kick my ass. Maybe he was just young and used to deer and elk running from him. But nonetheless, I’m no Hulk Hogan. To give you guys an idea, Bigpizzaman’s forearms are about the same diameter of my thighs. Imagine that Lou Phillippe and Dwight Schuh had an anorexic love child. Wait, don’t imagine that. That’s disgusting. Why would you imagine that? Gross. Get that out of your heads. "

29-Aug-16
ttt for a non-Bowsiter

From: APauls
29-Aug-16
lol, ya orion, too true. On a side note I grappled a caribou with a havalon one time...didn't work well the blade snapped instantly as I suspected it would. You're better off leaving it in it's sheath.

29-Aug-16
The tragic thing is that the non-Bowsiter misses the quality mental image of an anorexic Lou Phillippe / Dwight Schuh love child.

05-Sep-16
TTT for a great write up and story.

Great imagery while ready....especially the pain part and hopscotching the loads...

From: StickFlicker
07-Sep-16
Ike,

This is one of the most entertaining things I've ever read on Bowsite! Even though I was out hunting and was running the battery down to very low levels while reading it, I couldn't stop myself until I finished. Outstanding job of writing and hunting!!

Marvin

07-Oct-16
Bump for a potential new archery hunter to read

From: Barty1970
10-Oct-16
'I’ve had many elk in this close and I’ve killed elk in close, but to have him hovering over me and bugle right on top of me so that I felt as if the bugle would knock me over, then be able to rise, release an arrow, and watch him fall, was so overwhelming, that I tear up just writing the experience. There is nothing like hunting bull elk in the rut. There is nothing like it.'

Inspiration to keep us going until next September

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