An opportunity to hunt with “ELKNUT” aka Paul Medel S.R., does not come along but once in a lifetime. I was one of the lucky few who have had the privilege and I hope to share with our bowsite family what an incredible and enlightening experience it was. I cannot thank Paul Sr, Jr, and Clayton enough for their patience, friendship, and camaraderie. For the next six days, I will submit a daily entry to this thread in an attempt to convey the day to day trials and tribulations that we all faced during this 6 day hunt. This hunt was performed on public land that was steep, and incredibly rugged. I watched these men navigate near vertical forests of downfall without even cracking a twig at speeds that most people could not cover on flat ground. I have profound respect for the ELKNUT crew and they are as rugged as the country they hunt.
Day 1- Arrival
Upon final approach to Boise I noticed the “smurf turf” that has become the symbol of Bronco football in Idaho. Unloading my gear and making my way through airline security I was greeted by Paul Medel Sr. and Jr. in the outside terminal. Both Paul Sr. and Paul Jr. helped me load my bags and we made a two and a half hour ride to McCall, Idaho where we were to hunt the next day. Originally the plan was for my brother and I hunt with Paul Sr. and Paul Jr., however, God intervened and my brother was blessed with a 9 pound baby boy just two weeks before our departure to Idaho. With his wife recovering from what can best be described as a “difficult” childbirth, there was no way my brother could attend without receiving divorce papers and or Tiger Wood’s golf club upside the head. I was even questioning whether I should even go, however, Paul Sr. assured me: “Noah come on out- you will learn more about elk hunting than you have in your entire lifetime”- that would turn out to be more prophetic than any of us could have imagined.
We reached McCall just before sunset. We stopped at Paul Jr’s house to pick up some last minute odds and ends and with a quick check to make sure that my bow was on, we headed to camp. McCall like many towns out West is a tourist destination, has all the beautiful elements of nature to make it a quaint, quiet retreat. It also has elk hunting and some of the most rugged landscape anyone could imagine. As sunset faded into darkness I noticed the steep spires back lit by last light and wondered” What the hell have I have got myself into? This was going to be a hardcore hunt with hardcore hunters who can be best described as the tip of the sword when it comes to elk hunting. Oh, I had trained diligently at every opportunity throughout the year, riding my mountain bike at 20 mile clips, but nothing and I mean nothing can prepare one for what was to come.
At camp, Paul S.R., took me around and introduced me to the rest of crew and served up a late night dinner. We ate by firelight sharing stories of past exploits and hunting bloopers that countless others had in centuries past. By the time the night’s festivities had ended it was midnight Western time. I had been up since 4:00 AM Eastern time so I was literally dead on my feet. I was also well aware that in five hours I was going to be humping it up the mountains. We settled into Paul’s S.R.’s pop up camper and I was fast asleep…..
However somewhere in the middle night I unexpectedly awoke… Some faint noise like a muffled radio had disturbed me out of a deep slumber. What was….. and then it was clear as day- a bull was bugeling in the distance. I reflexively sat up and from across the tent, Paul S.R. acknowledging that I was awake whispered “Yep, they have been doing that for the last hour. This has not happened in 15 years.” Bull’s began to bugle in concert all over the mountains surrounding us. In the cool night air we could hear the whole universe move and the bulls were low on the mountains.… They were close. How could someone sleep with the anticipation of the coming morning? Needless to say we were going to have an early start…
Tomorrow’s entry will be: Day 2- Indoctrination
What time of year was this? Thanks for the story.
Paul -n-crew Rock!
Good luck, Robb
At 5:00AM everyone arose like clockwork. If anything the ELKNUT crew is the definition of efficiency. Packs prepared, cloths organized, bows checked, and broadheads re-sharpened the night before even if they needed it or not. After coffee and preparing the day’s meal we all slipped our Badland 2200 packs into the truck and we were off. The plan of the day was for us to take it easy to accommodate acclimatization for me. We would start 2/3 of the way up the mountain and then traverse to the top bench of the mountain. Our goal was to ambush the bulls as they made their way up the mountain. Listening to the bull’s bugle for half the night had my anticipation at crescendo.
NOTE TO SELF: If Paul SR, or Paul JR say a hike is “easy” that translates to a flatlander- Tighten the shoelaces on your boots soldier and be prepared to navigate significant amounts of deadfall and some steep terrain. If they say “fair” Be prepared for climbing boulders soldier and navigating heavy deadfall and very steep terrain. If they say it is “difficult”- Bring ropes and carabineers ladies because you are way out of your league; It will include walking 10 feet in the air using deadfall as the major transportation mode on a near vertical route. In other words your neck will hurt just by looking up the mountainside. After forty five minutes of strenuous hiking aka “ELKNUT easy hike”- (understand I just came from zero elevation 24 hours prior to 8,000 feet) we reached our pre-determined location. We tried a set up for an ambush but the bulls were not cooperating. We ended up pushing deeper onto the bench and we had three bulls bugling 150 yards below us. As does happen unexpectedly, the wind shifted directions on us and the herd scattered on us. A cow popped out in front of Paul S.R. at 15 yards but he chose not to shoot- he was holding out for a bull.
After the morning hunt was over the ELKNUT crew sat back on the edge of a bench to reflect on the mornings events. One thing that I notice that Paul S.R. always does is look back at each hunt and analyzes the lessons learned. He is keen to sift through any detail that might give him an edge on the next hunt. He discussed the wind and its ever changing movements in and around the mountain and then catalogued it as if by chance another perfect morning may come along with the same conditions and how he will take his approach. I learned quickly that hunting elk is about quickly processing a host of details into making right decisions.
After eating lunch we all snoozed in the shadow of Aspens and listen to what nature had to offer. Our choice of comfort could not be more ideal. We faced the panorama of the valley below. The Gold mountain side reflected its warmth on our shoulders. It is here where quiet reflection and peaceful relaxation meet and is something that is often forgotten in the pursuit. The ELKNUT crew had learned the patient approach to hunting elk. Believe me if any opportunity had arose they would have sprang into immediate action. With that said, there is a level of wisdom in their approach that allows them to hunt longer and harder. As the mid day heat increased, a young hunter in the below valley made his feeble bugle attempt to arouse a bull on an adjacent mountain. Paul J.R. remarked with a wry smile: “Another Yodeler” The bull was heading to bed. Paul S.R. perked up and said: Yeah, he is heading for the north facing side of the mountain. He is probably on the top bench. “Paul: why don’t you make a call?” Paul J.R. made an aggressive bugle followed by chuckles. The bull immediately answered aggressively. Paul J.R. wasted no time in following up and the bull showed himself almost a mile and a half away right where Paul S.R. had predicted. Then the yodeler who was on the far side of the mountain chimed in. The bull immediately disappeared without a peep…….
Watching father and son gently laugh gave me pause. They both knew the young hunter was clueless and did not have a chance and were not going help him anymore. If the kid had actually put his bugle down there was a very real chance that the ELKNUT crew would made him a very successful young man. I thought this was amazing. Here was a dominant bull a mile and a half away that ignored at least hundred feeble attempts by a multitude of different hunters but was mesmerized by one single call from the farthest reaches of his domain. My indoctrination into the ELKNUT crew was not going to be just about adjusting to the physical requirements of the hunt, but rather focused on the mental aspects of when, where, and how much calling needed to occur and quickly assessing the situation of what the elk were doing. Both Paul S.R. and J.R. demonstrated their prowess with deadly efficiency and it was clear they expected by the end of this trip that I too raise my game. Personal growth does not come without challenge. Though nothing had been dropped, I considered this day a valuable success, with many lessons learned and my indoctrination had begun.
Tomorrow’s submission: Day 3 “Glunking”
The one thing the ELKNUT crew is careful not to do is over work areas. They have multiple areas to hunt and judging by the conversation between them on what places to go, they could in fact hunt a new place every day for the whole archery season. Also, we were joined by the third tier of the ELKNUT crew- Clayton. Both Clayton and Paul J.R. grew up together and act more like brothers than friends. Most important they are both first to the top of the mountain with the lung capacity of a billy goat. You will not meet a more experienced tandem when it comes to navigating heavy deadfall. What seemed to take me minutes in finding routes up the mountain they both did instinctively and with little effort. Paul S.R. had told me before hand that both Paul J.R. and Clayton both had a knack for finding the fastest and easiest route to the top. They are also fearless. If a short cut brought them into situation where they were 10 feet in the air on a decaying tree that was creaking under stress, they continued nonchalant as if they were going for the mailbox. The rest of us would be butt hugging that limb across the ravine.
This brings up a very important aspect of hunting with the ELKNUT crew. Due to the nature of the terrain, only the best pair of hiking boots that go at least 10 inches up the side of the foot will due. I can only say that I was lucky that I did not break an ankle on this trip. I had a pair of Mendel’s Perfect Hiker and while I did not blister, (though both my heal pads on my feet did slough off by the end of the trip), I did not have near the ankle support I really needed. It is no fashion statement that every member of the ELKNUT crew has Kenetrek’s boots. These guys hike incredibly tough terrain and a 10 mile walk in the woods is par for the course for these cats. With one possibly doing 2,000 leg lifts a day over deadfall your chances of twisting something are very high, especially when you can’t see through the cover where your foot is going to land and trying to keep up with the pack. I am still pulling tree-bark out of my shins from some of the spills I took. It is not a question of “if” you fall, it’s “when”. During the time I was with the ELKNUT crew I witness everyone eat it at least once and twice on Sundays for yours truly.
With that said, we gave the area we were hunting the day before a rest. Today, was a new lesson- we would be traveling from a third of the way up the mountain to the top. Bull activity in this area was hot; in fact it had kept us up all night long. Bulls were bugling above and below us. Clayton chose to start his way from the bottom- “he needed to stretch his lungs”. Our goal was to sandwich the bulls between us and see if one of them messed up. As soon as we stepped out of the truck, a bull bugled not 250 yards below us. “Paul S.R. whispered: “dammit! If I knew he was that close, I would not have parked here.” With luck, though the bull seemed unfazed. I was thinking “OH JOY! A BULL CLOSE TO A ROAD!”
Paul S.R. and J.R. quickly moved me down the road and away from the truck so that the wind would not give us away. We ended up drawing the bull closer and moving away to keep the wind from betraying us. Just when we thought we were going to kill the big boy, another hunter “actually a young kid” blazed in and blew the elk out. We headed back to the road and Paul J.R. “with a wry smile” ended up calling the kid out of the willows.
By this time Clayton had made his way to us. He had covered a mile of the thickest vertical country in less than 30 minutes and just quietly appeared on the scene. I was thoroughly impressed. With Bull’s bugling above, we chose to make some ground.
When ELKNUT crew decide they are going to make ground think semi run up the mountain. After a quarter of a mile they showed compassion on me and took a one minute break and then it was off to the races again. Being the Omega of the group provides you with a certain view of how the lead pack animals traverse heavy downfall. I noticed that all were stepping or jumping to the next set of downfall or “walking the plank” of a dead tree to the next down fall. Rarely did their feet touch the actual ground. This made them fast, quiet, and very efficient going up the mountain even while carrying 35-40 pound packs. It’s like picking a line to ski in a mogul field. Learning this skill set is absolutely critical and I continued to push myself to become better at it. It was also very painful if one made a mistake and one had to approach it with a fearless attitude if they were going to succeed. We continued our upward push until we reach an alpine meadow. The bull we were chasing had already made it to a secure spot where we could not approach. So we decided to descend after a brief lunch. Once again I watch everyone utilizing the same method going down and that was even more difficult for yours truly. I have never been a huge fan of heights, hate to fly in airplanes, and don’t particularly like to hang over railings. The steepness really comes into perspective when facing downhill and the fear for me was there. Paul Jr. continued his travels looking at his Rino 130, almost oblivious to what calculations his feet were making. I was envious.
We had made it half way down the mountain when Paul S.R. heard a faint bugle to our right. With a simple hand motion the group froze. (These guys do little to no talking when they are in the woods. It’s all hand signals and it is your job while navigating Sherwood Forest to be on constant alert. Paul S.R. spoke specifically to me about paying attention to your team members. If one stops, all stop.) The bull bugled again. We cut to the right and set up for an ambush. Paul S.R. could tell another hunter was pushing the bull and made the best call based on the wind to set up. He had predicted that the bull would head up the mountain so we a set up as close as we could without compromising ourselves. Paul S.R. gave out a bugle and then chuckles, The Bull responded and was thoroughly pissed. Only 70 yards away you could see the willows moving our way. Understand the farthest anyone could shoot was 30 yards with a clean shot due to thick cover.
And then it happened- The bull began to Glunk! It is a strange and wonderful sound to hear and this bull was in full on Glunk mode. The best way to describe it is like an acorn hitting the bottom of a five gallon bucket. Paul S.R. being the set up maestro began to tap against his bugle replicating a dead on Glunk sound. It was eerie to listen to sound and it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Everything was working to perfection accept for the unseen hunter to the far right decided to push him. The bull and his cow immediately cut across the mountain instead of up and winded us. The game was over but once again more valuable lessons were learned.
We headed to truck and back to camp. It was decided that the following day that Clayton and Paul Jr. were to tackle a “difficult section” of a mountain and that Paul S.R and I would hunt together. We would cover more ground and more importantly it would allow for Paul S.R. to mentor a good friend.
Next entry: “Mentorship on the Mountain”
Fact is it's pilot error here more than anything else! (grin) So feel free to yodel away! (grin) A yodel is most effective on satellites!
Seminole, good job!
Thanks, and a giant good luck!
Like clock work Paul S.R and I pulled up to a pull out on the Mountain before day break. We spent the first 15 minutes listening to the mountain. Quickly we heard two separate bugles. Paul whispered: “The bull to the left is a satellite. He may only one or two cows with him. The bull to the right is the herd and is much higher the mountain.” Lets go… We proceeded straight up and today I felt more acclimatized. My cadence and ability to navigate the terrain had drastically improved and it made ascending smooth and quiet. Paul kept the pace perfect and we were making good ground. After a solid 45 minutes of climbing I noticed movement against the sky line and I froze. Paul froze instinctively and looked back. I looked forward through the timber and mouthed cow elk. He looked up and confirmed. Our approach slowed, and utilizing the downfall as an aid for quiet accent we started slipping up the mountain. Again, I froze and Paul stopped immediately, He looked back and I mouthed “Bull, moving right to left 75 yards” He looked and nodded. He then motioned with his hand behind his back to get low and nock an arrow. He then began to traverse to the left slowly and silently. Though we were exactly 15 feet apart every step was a calculated move. Paul then cut hard left in an effort for a set up. Unbeknownst to us a cow was actually lower on the mountain and to our left. She reflexively barked and Paul just as quickly and instinctively let out a nervous grunt. The elk above and to the side us froze. The cow had seen movement but did not get our wind. This made for the perfect illusion that two herds were close to each other. He wanted me to move up but I could not. From my vantage point the bull and cow were in plain view 75 yards above me and to the left. I was kneeling next to a small spruce and they had no idea I was there. Paul 15 feet to my left was obscured from the lane that I was looking through. He quickly let out a strong harassing bugle and the bull broke out in a slow but determined trot right to us following the lane. If he continued on the expected trajectory he was going to offer me a perfect shot and if he broke left Paul was going to smoke him. Right before he reached the bottle neck not forty yards in front of us, the cow that was to our immediate left broke into a dead run straight up the mountain and blocked the bull from entering the bottleneck. She instinctively knew. She actually hooked him away. That nasty little blonde! She had saved his life and there was absolutely nothing we could do. Just five more yards and would have been too deep for her to work her magic. He would have faced a withering crossfire with no chance of escape. Welcome, to elk hunting. The fact is if it were not for Paul making the best of a tough situation we would not had even got that close. It also showed me the importance of the nervous grunt and it is a tool that is permanently set in my arsenal of calling techniques.
We quickly changed our focus to the herd bull. He had led his harem into a place where we could not follow without getting busted. Paul led me up the mountain careful to keep us out of site by using the contour of the land. We made a large hook around the bull’s line of site. Paul whispered “The bull is going to bed on the north facing side of the mountain. He will be cool in the shade and there will be no chance of us approaching him from below.” Paul’s cadence slowed and we push through onto a high mountain alpine slope. The grass was tall and we came across a wallow. Paul whispered: This wallow has not been used in a while. See the water is clear. Water flowed both in and out of the wallow from a small trickle stream. We soon found the beginnings of two dry wallows and Paul took his time explaining how they are created and what they will look like in as the rut progresses. He also started explaining when, how, and what calls I should make when we are hunting together. For example, if we are close to a herd of elk and someone slips on a log, breaking twigs and making noise, the guy in the back should make some soft elk calls. The herd will think it just other elk moving through the area. I was being mentored and was doing my best to make like a sponge. We stopped and took off our packs under some widow makers for some rest and lunch. We had gotten as close as we could to the bull without exposing our position. For those of you who do not know what widow makers are they are trees that were scorched by fire and yet stay erect to fall on some unsuspecting hunter or hiker long after the fire had occurred. Paul had explained to me that this mountain was not always like this. It was free of deadfall and pretty easy going before the Chicken Roost Fire of 1993. I thought to myself “Oh great these dead trees swaying in the wind above me have been rotting for 16 years. Eventually, they will all fall, but when you hear them creaking something is always in the back of your mind…. When? The fire was left to burn on its own and it was very intense. On the lip at top of the Mountain, where the wind whip the flames into an inferno, the soil looked like volcanic glass that I had seen in Hawaii in my youth. I imagined the temperature here must have exceeded several thousand degrees. To date there are still patches of earth where nothing grows because the soil was literally cooked and probably nothing will grow there in my life time. I saw wolf tracks, and they are much larger than I imagined. I had seen wolves in Yellowstone, but these tracks were well, more robust in size.
Paul and I had decided to make it a day on the Mountain and shared his knowledge freely on elk as well as the mountain. In the heat of the day we took the opportunity to crash on an outcropping. An afternoon siesta was exactly what was needed to waste away the mid day heat. About an hour into the siesta I heard what sounded like the tearing of a shirt through the wind. I looked up to witness two crows diving down at Paul’s head with the intent to feed. They had apparently thought Paul was, well Dead! Paul quickly pulled his hat off and swatted at the lead raven that was within arm’s length of him. I knew we had not taken a shower in four days and that Paul had been lying relatively motionless for the last hour. When you stink so bad that something mistakes you as dead carrion that is pretty funny. We had a few laughs and then decided it was time to see if the herd bull was where we left him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t. We did have a close encounter with a mule deer but even that did not pan out. The sun was setting and mountain felt like a large microwave reflecting the sun’s radiant heat back at us. We decided to call it a day. I had learned more today than in previous two years hunting elk and I have Paul to thank for that.
Each day we had been getting closer to the kill. Little did we know how just how close things were really going to get. I will forewarn all, the next installment is not for the wine and cheese crowd but for those who like beer, MMA, and movies like “300” and “Patton”. Be prepared to enter Cinderella’s rabbit hole and I hope enjoy the twist and turns of the:
Day 5- “THE THREAT!!!!!!!!”
Seminole, Great story. Thanks for taking the time to share it.
Paul-the LOL meant I was joking with you. :-)
After having a cow save a bull from certain doom, both Paul S.R., and I both had our blood up for a kill. The next morning even though we hiked from daylight to dark the day before, we could feel a certain level of energy. I was fully acclimatized and my legs though a little tight were ready for putting in some miles. I had begun to travel faster over downfall and I now knew how to call when the time was right. I had spent many afternoons working my bugle and cow calls. The chuckle still escapes me, but I am still working on it. Paul S.R and the ELKNUT crew had honed me to a fine point; for the first time, I felt sharp. Maybe not as sharp as the ELKNUT crew, but at least able to hold my own.
Today we tried a new Mountain. The plan called for Paul and Clayton to start from the bottom and Paul S.R., and I to start 2/3 of the way up; reach the top and work down. Paul set the pace and I followed. There was no talking and no stopping. There was a strong determination in our step and we kept the pace high. We reached our predetermined listening post and waited several minutes. We heard a bugle and this was not ordinary bugle; it was a herd bull. Paul picked up the pace. We closed the distance.
Then we noticed that someone was calling to him. Paul whispered: “He is not going to kill him with that bugle, the bull is just going to keep on walking away.” As usual Paul was right. The Bull did continue on his route walking away from the hunter. Paul and I kicked it into high gear. Our goal was to intercept the bull where we thought he might cross down the mountain while the hunter was pushing him. When we got to our pre-determined spot we noted that the bull had changed course and then we doubled back right smack into the biggest labyrinth of deadfall anyone could ever wish for. There was no backing out either; the bull was close enough that any sound would be instantly picked up. The only thing Paul I could do was hang tight. Paul: whispered” Noah how far to the ridge on the right? I range it at 70 yards. “Good- if he comes down that draw- smoke him.” Paul had seen me shoot at camp and knew that was well within my comfort zone. “We sat tight and listened to the bull as he crossed over and down into a deep dark timbered ravine shaped like a bowl. Paul and I heard something to our left. Paul signaled he was going to climb out of the deadfall and that would include walking the plank six feet of the ground for about 50 yards. He made it look easy but at the last section he slipped and broke some branches. I reflexively cow called. He looked back nodded and smiled- I was getting the hang of it. Now it was my turn. I climbed up and rather than looking down concentrated on the next turn or route. I made it out cleanly and without noise. I don’t know if I was lucky or due.
What Paul found were black bear tracks and scat. Apparently a bear was only 60 yards away to our left while we were listening to the bull. Paul and I doubled back to where we thought we had last heard the bull. We sat on the lip of heavy timbered ravine and decided to eat our lunch. We ate in silence. Paul was deep in thought. I could tell he was flipping through that catalogue of hunts past. We wanted a piece of this herd bull and neither he nor I were going to call it a day. The yodeler hunter had long since given up and gone to his truck. We had only just begun to hunt.
……and then it happened. The same herd bull made a bugle about 500 yards away. Paul and I both looked at each other and silently started collecting our things. He whispered “I am going to let him know I have cows without using a cow call.” With his bugle, He chuckled and gave an aggressive bugle.” The bull responded and you could tell he was livid by his tone that some intruder had violated his space. Paul looked at me sternly: “Let’s go!!!!” he mouthed. We were now on dead run straight at the bull. Each time the bull bugled, Paul cut him up with something nastier and more intense almost a guttural bugle. The bull was raking and thrashing about. Down into the abyss we ran full throttle crashing through brush deeper into timbered inner chamber of this big herd bull’s domain. The bull had now closed the distance to 200 yards and had abandoned any pretense of just quietly slipping in. He was a thousand pounds of pissed off. We were engaged in death dance. We wanted to kill him and he wanted to kill the intruder bull. Herd bulls are not lovers, they are fighters. Every time he bugled, Paul would cut him off with even more intensity. It even impacted me. I was angry, I wanted to go on the attack.
Finally, we made it to a ledge with a forty foot drop off in front. Behind me a thirty foot drop off choked with deadfall. Paul stationed himself behind me, and up. We felt the bull probably would show up below us and give us an opportunity. To my right was a solid wall of willows that impeded us from going farther. Paul backed up and picked a piece of deadfall and started pounding the hell out it. The Herd bull bugled and was only a 100 yards away. Though I do not like giving anthropomorphic traits to animals: This bugle said “WHERE ARE YOU???? I AM READY TO KILL YOU!!!” Paul unleashed it all, pouring all of his emotion and strength into ONE GRUESOME, COME AND GET IT BIG BOY, BUGLE!!!
What I am about to explain only took 30-45 seconds but to both of us seemed like hours. We were bound by this hunt, totally focused and in a form of Zen that bow hunters only rarely achieve.
From the wall of willows to my right, what sounded like a derailed locomotive was on a collision course with me. In slow motion in the sparse light beams I could see shattered branches being tossed above the willows and they were being clipped by the tips of white ivory horns. Instinctively, I drew. I calmly thought: this is how it ends. I was totally committed. I was going to bury my arrow in his chest and then bail into the deadfall. The dark mass of a large bull stopped five yards inside the willows and motionless both us were staring at each other eye to eye. I could see his perfect silhouette: large rack, bulging frontal musculature and his dark penetrating eyes. I could see his hot breath and now I could even smell him. And yet there was no shot. With my pin, I traced every possibility and came up with the same firing solution: No go. He cut hard right and came up above us and bugled. Paul tried to stop him to get a shot but it was too late. The bull had doubled backed on us.
I was never in my life more satisfied with a hunt than this. I stared at Paul and with a big smile he said: WOW! He quickly said: “Why did you not shoot?” I said: “I did not have an ethical shot.” He went to where I was standing and said: “You did the right thing. You could not have shot him with a 30-06 in that stuff.” “You know Noah I have called hundreds of bulls using the threat and that was number 2 on the list”. I was completely emotionally drained. I will have to say some of the details on this experience still escape me. You have to understand that once I pull my bow, I enter another state of consciousness where it is me and my target. I turn off all of my sensory organs and focus on the task at hand. Time stands still, I hear and taste nothing, I only see through a small lens focused on one thing. Make the shot.
We walked out the same way the bull left. You could smell the putrid fecundity of a bull in rut. I was completely drenched in sweat. The hunt had taken its toll on both of us, we were exhausted emotionally. It was fantastic, exhilarating, and brought me to another level of consciousness. It also served to test me as a hunter. I would not compromise my ethics for taking a marginal shot no matter how caught up in the moment I was or for the pure lust of a big bull. I felt completely satisfied as if I had killed the biggest B&C Bull. There was no remorse only the cosmic connection we had just shared through a rare encounter with a large herd bull. We walked to the truck with the sun our backs; wind in our face and most importantly a BIG smile. I have such a deep appreciation for nature. Just when you think you have seen everything, she throws you a curve.
For veracity sake: I think it is only appropriate that Paul please give his thoughts on this experience. It would be selfish of me to only articulate my own view of this experience. I think it also provide us value in how we as hunters can approach these situations in the future.
Please stay tuned: Day 6-Estrus Buzz is next and I promise it will not disappoint.
Man Noah! You are one heck of a story teller. You have the nack of a professional writer.
I certainly agree that this was not your normal hunter calls & bull comes in screaming type encounter, this was off the charts! As Seminole & I got to the setup point, which was all we had between the bull & us this bull was screaming as he could hear us going right at him doing a bit of calling of our own. We made it to a block of thick alders 12'-15' high & you couldn't see through them at all. This block was 20' wide by 35' long & slightly uphill, we were on the 20' side of the lower end of the block & the bull now was 100yds above us & hot. Seminole was setup on the left side of this thicket looking into the timbered/brushy draw pouring down in our direction. We had elevation on the bulls approach on the small bench we were on which was loaded with downfall. Seminole was in front of me 5-6 yds & slightly uphill. I was raking & stomping the ground while on my knees as I was right against a huge dead downfall with plenty of dead limbs on it & out of view of this approaching bull. The wind was perfect for 12:00 noon. I heard the bull coming hard & watched Seminole draw his bow & hold & hold & hold for nearly 45sec, I could see the angle in which he was aiming that the bull was right there in front of him, of course I'm expecting any second that his arrow will fly! (grin) I had no where to go in that tangled mess, I wanted to retreat as if I was leaving to draw the bull closer but could not so I growled & panted a couple times as I turned away from the bull, this is when the bull turned & slipped out of there almost like a ghost heading back the way he came! I saw Seminole let down his bow & then heard branches breaking on the opposite side of this alder thicket on the 35' end. That bull was trying to back-door us & he was circling this block of alders & coming at us from the opposite side right through an unreal amount of downfall, he wanted this intruder bull outa there bad!!! I could hear him coming right at me no more that 15yds away but couldn't see him, I grabbed my bow which had an arrow nocked, (yep I was ready) I was on one knee with my bow in the ready, the bulls head & rack came out of the alders only a few yards from me & he was looking right passed me actually a bit right of me, this is where he expected to see this bull, he stood there for a few seconds screamed a challenge & turned & walked off. I had no shot either! I tried stopping him but he wouldn't have any part of it. (grin) I don't think this bull ever saw us, at about 100yds out from us from where he originally came from he stood there & gave us the popping/nervous grunt, he wanted to see this bull this wasn't his 1st rodeo.
Actually that was the same bull that an hour & a half earlier the hunter was calling to & pushing him that Seminole was referring too. For the record, we did not intervene with this hunter & the bull he was attempting to work, we did get into position on the opposite side where we'd hoped this bull would escape as it was very apparent this hunter had no chance with this bull.
Funny thing was as soon as the encounter was completely over Seminole & I were just starting to head back to the rig which was 2 miles away & this same joe hunter starting his yodeling again, he was just above us a couple hundred yds & no doubt had to hear the bugling fest that had just taken place, this guy bugled a good 1/2 dozen times in hopes of a response! I will give the ole boy credit for negotiating that mtn top as it's no easy task! We had a ton of fun that day & it doesn't even include the bulls Paul & Clayton were on a mile below us. Anyway, that was my take on that encounter, great job Seminole!!
Your day 5 - the threat, is exactly why I can't get elk hunting out of my head 365 days a year. Those types of encounters are forever engrained!
He wanted all to know he hasn't forgotten! (grin) Thanks!
Day 6- Estrus Buzz
My past day’s experiences were without a doubt a major highlight in my life. By firelight each of the ELKNUT CREW recounted the day’s events the “THREAT” of course playing a major role. Paul J.R. though had called in a nice five point with a cow call known as the estrus buzz. The estrus buzz call sounds like a high pitched wine coupled with a voice induced high speed stutter that is irresistible to bulls and cows alike.
In this case, Paul J.R. recounted how he called the bull in for Clayton. Clayton took the shot at 15 yards and uh well you know missed. The bull not totally aware of what had happened circled around between Clayton and Paul. Paul not wanting to waste an opportunity winged one wide right. The bull, still clueless received another volley from Clayton which again flew over the bulls back and right passed Paul. The bull ignorant to the comedy of errors that was occurring around him finally wised up and left for parts unknown. Of course, Paul S.R. was just soaking it all up with a big Idaho grin much to everyone’s chagrin.
At this point, I would like to note for the record that the ELKNUT crew are actually crack shots. During practice sessions after each mornings hunt, I was thoroughly amazed at them stacking arrow after arrow with traditional equipment out to forty yards into a 3D deer. I with a modern compound bow had been accurate out to 70 yards but as we all know that is not much of a task compared to those shooting with trad equipment.
Since this had been a special day for all, earlier Clayton, Paul J.R., and I went into town and bought some steaks for the whole crew. Though we had some initial disagreement on what the true definition of a steak was (North/South thing), Paul J.R. and Clayton relented to my definition “Bigger IS Better” and that night we ate like Kings. I retired to the camper early; sleep came easy and my mind drifted off to a dark corner of the earth. I slept like a child, free from worry. Tomorrow held the promise for a new adventure and it did not disappoint.
This day would be a test of sorts. To date, I had the fortune of starting my hunts 2/3 up the mountain. That morning, I would be hunting Paul J.R. and starting at the bottom of the mountain. In early morning light I soon discovered the reason why. Though all were suffering with some form of leg fatigue from five days of continuous hunting, I found myself suffering in silence just a little bit more due to the nature of the terrain. This was testing my metal and I want to thank Paul J.R., for showing sympathy on me with providing small respites’ here and there. After a good forty five minute hike, we were half way up the mountain. We leveled off on a bench and Paul J.R. soon spotted a nice bull almost ¾ quarters of the way up the mountain. It was most likely my friend and tormentor, following his cows to bed. He was heading right at Paul S.R. and Clayton so he was not free and clear at all.
As we scanned the horizon, our attention quickly turned to some noise coming from our left. Quickly, we devised a game plan. I would run down a small notch in the bench and set up and Paul J.R. would call. Paul began with Estrus Buzz and soon the outline of 5 by 4 came into view. The bull was a satellite and was following the notch straight at me. However, at forty yards he cut left through the brush and now was following the ridge of the bench above. He followed the ridge until he was almost adjacent to me and obscured by a pine tree. I could not move or he would instantly pick me up below him in plain view. I also knew that in one more step he was going to wind me. Damn, I am stuck, I thought… and yes he took one more step and he was gone. Paul ran up to me and I whispered what had happened. He said: “Welcome to elk hunting with a smile.” We then heard more crashing coming straight at us. Paul ran back and I tried to set up closer to the bench but I could not make it to the top without spooking the whole place. An inquisitive cow popped out from above me. She immediately made me. She started to walk away and Paul stopped her with the Estrus Buzz while she was quartering away. I snap shot because she was literally about to take flight. The mystical flight of the arrow went straight over her back. I well uh, you know missed. Yep, it had been eight long years since yours truly had whiffed and as we all know you can’t take it back. There are rarely do over’s in bow hunting. We watched as the rest of the herd as it made its way up the mountain and away from us. This hunt was definitely over. After 30 minutes, we found my arrow buried into a pine tree and the only way we could retrieve it was to saw it out. I promise this will be the only time I complain about the penetration of Magnus Buzzcut. It was almost a pass through shot, but it was still razor sharp. It flew straight; this one was on user error.
We started to make our way up the mountain when we heard from Paul S.R. on the Rino 130. Apparently, he had cut one loose at a bull that was 40 yards away and whiffed. At least now I knew I was with good company even though his shot was on the outside edge of the possible.
Paul S.R. and Clayton were on the bench above us. To get there we would have to climb a pretty steep rock face something Paul J.R. and I were neither looking forward to. We had hunted six days, and were dead legged and downright sore. And this is when I got the opportunity to witness ELKNUT CREW humor at its best.
Clayton 200 yards above us gave a whiney cow call-that said “come on up guys!” Paul J.R. aptly responded with a nervous grunt. Then Paul S.R. gave a big course bugle…. Paul J.R. responded with a long chuckle. The whole time I was laughing under my breath, but that would soon stop when I had begun the trek up to the bench. In short it sucked and to add insult to injury we were greeted by Clayton in full grin sitting on the edge, reading “Elknut’s Playbook”. Clayton snapped mockingly: “What took you guys so long?” Which brought laughs from two very tired men. We unloaded our packs and recounted the morning’s events. It was fun to watch everyone interact. There is a special connection within the ELKNUT crew: They are truly brothers of the bow. We headed for the truck at the top the mountain, and along the way I was treated to a stump shooting contest. My hunt was over and memories permanent. I had been treated to one of the best hunts of my life and I spent it with some wonderful people. Once again, I cannot thank Clayton, Paul J.R. and Paul S.R enough. My Christmas had come early in September.
Epilogue : As I headed to Jackson Hole to meet my father, I had a chance to reflect on all the wonders I had seen on this trip. Many did not make it into this piece: Whether it was a pair of golden eagles dancing on the thermals against the mountain or the small mountain chuckers that puff up like little butterballs, too tempting for a southern boy to pass up. Regardless, I had a rich tapestry of images to draw from and hopefully more are in my future. I hope you all enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed writing this for you all. Before we meet above the tree line, take a child hunting and have a very wonderful Christmas.
The bull came down face to face with Paul jr the caller, he couldn't move. I got the bulls attention with a couple cow calls, when he turned Paul jr shot under him then the bull ran towards me, I shot over him, then Paul jr shot over him. It all happened so quik, all i can say is that bull had a horse shoe up his arse.
Great story Noah, Merry Christmas and have a happy New Year.
joe-H20, that is absolutely hilarious the way you put the sequence of events & the "luckiness" of that bull. I'm glad you didn't say that on the mtn when sharing the story or we'd of laughed so hard there wouldn't be any elk around for 10 miles! (grin)
For the record too, I had estimated the bull I shot at to be 35yds, that's within my killing distance. I gap shoot my longbow so use the tip of arrow, I misjudged the distance & the arrow fell short. My son had a range finder & hit the spot, it was 41yds away. Hey what can I say, I thought it was closer! (grin) Then there was a nice 6-point I tried calling to Clayton then the wind changed----oh that's another story! (big grin) Thanks Seminole (Noah) you did a great job!!!!!
Merry CHRISTmas to all of you!
Great story, even though I had to sit this season out, these stories will keep me going and looking forward to next year. I would love to hear more fist hand accounts from the ELKNUT crew.
Paul II: Good to see you here on the Bowsite. You'll have to bring the old man back to Colorado sometime. Maybe the weather will cooperate better next time.
First, you were into elk every day it sounds like, that would seem, to me, to be total success right there; connecting with an arrow is just icing on the cake. Seminole, it sounds like your hunting buddies this year knew where to go. ;o) Haha! If you had hunted a few more days I think odds were in your favor to connect. :o)
Second, you guys hunted amongst other hunters and still had these encounters. It sounds like knowing your calls (calling) and the terrain of the land makes all the difference in the world.
Third, you camped in a trailer and not eight miles in by horseback. Though I have this preconceived notion you have to get back "way" off the roads there are elk both close to and far from roads and trails. This screams "Keep an open mind" to me.
And finally, it sounds like when the action started you needed to act quickly. How were you able to read the situation and then find enough time to reference the "Playbook"....;o) Hahaha! Had to throw that last one in there!
Great story, great hunt, I'm glad you shared!
You have a knack for relating the hunt that few possess. I could even smell the putrid fecundity of a bull in rut right in my living room.
The elknut crew has been known to ramble over several mountians in a day and even have extended biveys. The area I am speaking to is 6 million acres and there is no way one could bring mules or horses into where we were hunting due to the deadfall.
Oh, I had the playbook with me and read it many times during the trip; but I think that Elknut DVD's provided me with the real scenario based training that one needs to be successful. The playbook serves as a great field guide, and the DVD's serve as great off season training. Really, you need both. This is not a sales pitch, its just a hard reality that I picked up from my personal experience. In fact I am about to watch one of the DVD's agian, and work on my chuckle.
If I had one thing I could pass on that I learned from this trip it this: "You should commit the same amount of time that you apply torwards your personal fitness to practicing your calling." Other wise you are just 50% ready for the hunt.
You have to understand that the ELKNUT crew have to overcome herds of sheep (protected by "DIRE WOLF DOGS"-major pucker factor) , wolves, steep rugged terrain,and other hunters.
They are successful regardless of these factors and it is because they understand the art of calling elk and quickly dicerning the scenario they are facing. Also, they are not affraid to hunt the stuff that everyone gives up on.
One more thing that is probably the most important: If something went terribly wrong, I could trust them with my life and vice versus.
Toddy: glad you enjoyed the article and hope to see you in God's country.