I scrambled on to option E with some additional help and an area I felt comfortable in. Only problem is the forest service road stopped due to a rancher owning 160 acres in the middle of the national forest, and it was clear you needed to walk around the small ranch, there was little access.
Our first camp spot as annoying as it was, was 200 yards from the entrance to the ranch (complete with POS trailer and land with little to no value other than to control access). My plan was to hike around the ranch, but I didn't want to backpack in until I knew we'd run into elk so I made due hunting from the truck and myself, my uncle, and a college buddy all split up to scout/hunt and find something.
I'm all smiles for the one and only selfie of the trip. A pretty cool lodgepole pine ridge led to a huge meadow that led to the burn. My plan was to get elevation the first night and glass/listen to see if I could find something worth pursuing in the next few days.
As I neared my goal glassing spot I did catch an elk butt through the pines at about 70 yards, I attempted to get the thermals in my direction and get ahead of him/her (I wasn't holding out for anything other than a legal animal). Never did find them again but I was less than 3 hours into my hunt and had already encountered an elk, I was on cloud 9.
Did find one pretty "elky" looking spot but most of the droppings/sign was few and far between. I hunted my way on the edge of the burn and did spot a raghorn working his way through, but with about 5000 2 ton toothpicks between me and him I knew it wasn't possible to close the distance.
This was also the first time hunting in general where I ran out of water, glad I brought some drops to purify some to get me back to camp. On the way back on the edge of the meadow I did spot a cow and a calf, but with 20 minutes of daylight left I knew I had no chance to get within archery range. Several times I got sucked too far into the burn and it SUCKED. Looked around and realized how easy it would be to fall off a blowdown and break an ankle, not good 5+ miles from camp.
We did not hear a bugle, didn't see another elk, and I never got the smelk smell that I had desperately wanted despite putting on some serious miles. I was able to take what I can only assume is a boone and crockett grouse, but I couldn't wait for the necessary drying period. I had 3 other close calls on grouse, but the elk hunting was poor.
On a side-note I had 6 different shot opportunities on mule deer (nothing big) on this hunt but I opted against the combo tag. Might be difficult to do that again.
We made the difficult decision to pack up and head to another area another bowsiter had recommended.
Morning plan was set, everyone pick a drainage and go chase elk! There was a private/public boundary that we needed to be aware of, but we were certain a lot of them were on public.
We found a small nob in the sage brush and glassed into private hoping the two bugling bulls would eventually cross into public and allow us to sneak behind them. After 3 hours of listening and catching glimpses of the two bulls bugling and hearing antlers hit we were met with a loud, earth shattering scream 100 yards.....BEHIND US!
I crawled to a knee and glassed as the big bull was standing 100 yards from us staring down into the valley, but he was walking with the valley, not coming down. I grabbed my bow and slipped to the bottom of the basin in an attempt to call the bull past my uncle for a shot.
I dropped down into some willows and began raking/screaming/cow calling and he was fired up, but didn't seem as if he was moving. As this was going on I heard another bull 5-600 yards away into the public answer one of my challenge bugles. 30 seconds later he wasn't 500 yards, he was 300, then 200, and 100. I was still in a good spot for my uncle to get a shot at the big bull and was hoping we could somehow pull of a double. I sprinted through the willows after my last bugle to get to the otherside in anticipation for a shot.
I could see rocks falling and antlers sprinting towards me before he began to slow, I had an opening ranged at 40 yards and came to full draw, only to have the wind shift juuuust enough for him to hightail it back up the mountain where he came from. I wasn't mad, if anything I was happy, huge smile on my face as he had just gotten the better of me this time.
The original bull was still screaming and wasn't coming down the ravine for a fight but instead walked with the side of the mountain. I sprinted through the willows and attempted to get my uncles attention, no dice. I knew I had to go after him alone and my uncle wouldn't be mad.
The bull was headed south to north and bugling at any peep in the woods. I thought I could stay down in the willows and sprint to get ahead of his position and call him in. I booked it through the willows 3/4 mile and popped up in elevation and thought I'd have a chance at him.
I cow called and the bull bugled...to the north of me. I was too late. This wasn't thick cover I was hunting either, sage with small pockets of trees. I knew I had no chance at dropping below him and getting ahead of him again. I attempted to just keep irritating him and thought at some point he will blow up and come charging at me.
He wasn't a "pretty" bull. He was a gorgeous 6 point on one side with one large brow tine and a thick rounded baseball bat club for an antler on his other side, he would've been awesome. I had him at 76 yards and within 90 yards 5-6 times, but could never get him to fully commit and eventually I just ran out of real estate chasing him. But I was able to hear him bugle 100+ times and saw him in close quarters. I had two nice bulls within 80 yards of me in the same morning, life is good.
Came back to my uncle glassing a couple bulls peacefully munching their cud on private land. They knew they were safe and there was nothing I could do.
I got to where I thought I had a chance at him and immediately he answered with a bugle, back and forth for 45 minutes and antlers crashing through the woods as the wind shifted and another opportunity wasted.
I went over the top of the next ridge to an area we had yet to hunt, immediately two bulls were bugling...and on the public. As I dropped down into the treeline a group of 15+ cows and 8 or 9 mule deer were scattering everywhere. I thought the gig was up, but then a bull cracked off again into the small patch of timber.
I dropped in elevation and the wind was perfect, I began with a series of light cow calls and the bull answered with every call. I was going to see if he came in with just cow calls before I'd hit him with a challenge bugle. I had a nice set-up, he would have to commit within 60 yards to see where the noise was coming from.
The next time the bull bugled I could see a brown patch headed my direction, where there two bulls in the ravine?? The small bull came in silently, slowly, and calmy and stopped at what I thought was 45 yards, I drew, relaxed and squeezed behind his shoulder in the small opening. Crack!! Did it hit a tree? The bull was confused and had no idea what had just happened. I drew another arrow and let it fly. He didn't act as a hit animal, he slowly walked off and I got the binoculars out and couldn't see a blood-spot.
Nice job idiot, you missed twice!!! The original bull was still rattling off, I knew I had to sneak up and find my arrows and make sure I missed before I tried calling in bull #2. When I got there much to my surprise my colorblind eyes could see a 2-sided bloodtrail.
I sat down and shut up not knowing in the slightest where I had hit this animal, and another bull was charging in. I needed another hunter with me this morning and we could've had another arrow on its way. I just smiled to myself as the small 5X5 walked to 35 yards gave me a nice bugle and kept walking on his way (touche my friend).
I waited 45 minutes and I followed the bloodtrail for 200 yards and still wasn't on a dead animal. I decided it was best to back out and come back around noon and investigate further. I marked the spot on GPS and we came back, but there was a problem the snow was melting. A BIG BIG problem for luck would have it 3 colorblind idiots trying to find blood.
There was roughly 6 inches so I was confident we'd have one full day of snow, but once the snow was gone, we were in trouble. Animal was shot at 8 am, we came back around 12-12:30 and took up the trail you see in the video. That level of blood never even slowed, but I was now 350 yards in on the trail with still....no elk. I was growing concerned and had no idea what I would've hit that had this amount of blood for this long, and no elk.
I stopped constantly and glassed ahead hoping to see an antler. Until there was more than an antler, the bull lunged out of his bed and headed towards my worst nightmare, private. He wasn't stumbling and didn't look all that injured, in fact I still couldn't see where I hit him as he went towards the public/private border.
With fresh snow I was concerned that he made the 350 yards to the private border, once he hit that it was over, I was punching my tag and I was done for 2017. Our plan was to have my uncle overlook the entire wood-line and Jake and I would loop around and walk the fence-line to see if there were any fresh tracks crossing into private.
Luckily there were no fresh tracks (other than the stampede of cows I jumped) crossing the fence line. We snuck up to meet with Doug and he also hadn't seen an elk come out of the public. What we did find however, was over 100 different elk on private bedding in the wide open with not a care in the world. At least 10-20 bulls and a few over 300 inches with one monarch in the 350 range. Only needed to call them 3/4 mile to public haha!
We went back to where I kicked the bull up the first time, now roughly 7.5 hours after the initial shot. I found his bed with plenty of blood, and found his foot-tracks where he left his bed. After 15 yards the blood immediately opened up again, and was just as strong as previously. I figured that had to be a good sign 8 hours after the shot.
I kept glassing ahead when I finally caught the very tip of an antler, I told Jake and Doug to stay back as they hadn't glassed it yet. I was going to sneak forward and make sure he was dead or follow-up with a shot.
The small bull only had enough adrenaline to get up and run 100 yards from his last bed, he died running. I was ecstatic, I was 2/2 on archery elk hunts as a non-resident, I'm guessing not many people can say that.
My wife laughs at this pic and says it shows me in my element. Said she wishes she could've got one of those smiles at our wedding :)
My last load out was heaven, could use the game cart the last 3/4 mile, felt like I was cheating it was soo easy. I actually considered riding the cart down to get some more fun out of the pack-out. I wasn't sure if it counted if there wasn't 3000 feet of elevation change and 6 miles to the truck.
We waited one morning for winds to stabilize as we watched a group get a response from a bull on private and then proceed to walk up to the line with the worst possible wind direction and then become surprised when the herd blew out of there.
I immediately said it is Jake and Doug's decision since I had tagged out, as long as they stay I'll hunt hard and call for them. With 4 more days of wet conditions forecasted and literally every single item of clothing we own soaked to the core they made the decision to head home early. You can only tolerate being wet and cold for so long. Will be spending a few extra bucks on boots and rain gear for my next trip :)
After coming home I had a great fall chasing whitetails in WI with the bow, as well as killing 25 pheasants in WI and SD with my golden Lambeau, number would've been higher if he had an owner that could shoot ;)
Hope you all enjoyed my story, will likely do one of these for every trip out west, which fortunately and unfortunately won't be 2018. You remember the thread about be careful what you do on Valentine's day? Well the same info can be said for early January. September 20th has recently become a very important date to be in Wisconsin.
Wife already asked me if we're having it's first birthday party before or after I get back from Wyoming in 2019 :)
I'd be willing to help on the first spot I went, more so as an area to avoid since this was completely my own spot anyway. The access issues with a small chunk of private blocking driving access to thousands of acres of NF just irritated me. Didn't help a bunch of guys from Colorado had permission to cross the private ranch and could drive 4 miles in before hiking (made the decision even easier to leave).
Be on the lookout for me in Wyoming 2019, shoot straight in 2018 fellas!