Summit Treestands
2017 Montana DIY
Elk
Contributors to this thread:
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
Treeline 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
Tody 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
HUNT MAN 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
Tody 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
Treeline 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
grossklw 19-Feb-18
IdyllwildArcher 19-Feb-18
ohiohunter 19-Feb-18
otcWill 19-Feb-18
WV Mountaineer 19-Feb-18
APauls 19-Feb-18
The last savage 19-Feb-18
Ron Niziolek 19-Feb-18
elkstabber 20-Feb-18
SBH 20-Feb-18
Dino 20-Feb-18
Nick Muche 20-Feb-18
Scoot 20-Feb-18
sdkhunter 20-Feb-18
AT Halley 20-Feb-18
Beav 20-Feb-18
Barty1970 20-Feb-18
YZF-88 20-Feb-18
Old School 20-Feb-18
GotBowAz 20-Feb-18
c3 20-Feb-18
buzz mc 20-Feb-18
Drahthaar 20-Feb-18
From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's Link
In 2016 I was able to shoot a decent bull in Wyoming on my first crack at heading West from Wisconsin. Knowing I wouldn't draw the same elk tag that I did in 2016 in Wyoming, I looked at other options as I was officially bitten with the elk bug.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18
This is the story of my 2017 hunt in Montana, which was helped by more than a couple bowsiters. I'm not going to mention who helped me specifically to avoid excessive PM's to those involved, but a huge thank you to everyone who replied to my PM's and helped me head west once again.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18
Knowing Wyoming wasn't realistic I began figuring out which state to hunt for 2017 and my eye was drawn to Montana for no particular reason other than my retired USFWS biologist uncle thought he knew some people in Western MT that could help us. Once we already had tags in hand however, there was nothing about the area they suggested that excited me. Extremely easy access, a ton of road hunters, and sounded like low elk numbers. I began the process of scouring maps and looking into other areas.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
One area looked promising going through OnX that had difficult access and good to decent elk numbers in talking with several biologists that worked the area. I came up with options A-D. Things were looking good other than a few fires in the area. Long story short 2 weeks before I was planning on leaving several of the fires blew up and made it very dicey to hunt some of the original areas I was planning.

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.

From: Treeline
19-Feb-18
Looking forward to your tale, Luke! Congratulations again on last year's success!

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18
Another thing that led me to this area was college buddy Jake coming along. I had wanted to hunt a different area that was easy to draw that myself and uncle had permits for however Jake's hunting partner bailed on him 3 weeks before he was planning on leaving so I switched areas and invited him with us. I was hoping karma would give me some luck for switching late again and helping a friend.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
We all picked different drainage's and the plan was to put some serious miles on and try t get into elk and see if it was worth backpacking anywhere. I picked a bigger drainage that had a burn that was roughly 10 years old, difficult to gauge the level of blowdowns on google earth.

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.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
I made it above my glassing spot and kicked a cow and a calf up as I made my way through the timber. I glassed until there was about 2 hours of daylight left and decided to check a few spots I had scouted on google earth and make a BIG loop back to camp.

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.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
First night produced 5 elk, was mad at myself for not bringing a packable rod. I had several opportunities for trout on some of the spots I was crossing, but oh well. Over the course of the next 4 days I had covered 55 miles on my GPS with little to show for our effort other than seeing 5 elk the first afternoon.

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.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
After not hearing a bugle and it was a several hour drive to our next option. We found a nice camp-spot and hiked out from there in the morning as we didn't arrive until late in the day the afternoon hunt wasn't possible. Next morning we all ventured out on our own, none of us saw an elk, but things were looking up. I found 3 solid bedding areas that I was convinced were holding elk. It had everything thick cover, food close, and water/wallows within 1/2 mile.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
A glassing spot was recommended and that was the plan for the afternoon. We weren't planning on hunting, just wanted to glass and listen and hopefully find something to go after in the morning. The afternoon was great, we had bulls bugling in 5-6 different drainages, and caught a glimpse of a gorgeous 300+ inch bull 1/2 mile away.

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.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
The 5 hours that following morning were the greatest of my short elk hunting career, and that's including killing my elk in WY in 2016. We left in the darkness and let out a location bugle that was immediately answered, but it wasn't apparent if they were on public or private so we dropped in elevation in an attempt to get closer.

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.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
What we came back to after the morning hunt.
grossklw's embedded Photo
What we came back to after the morning hunt.
The next morning we tried something similar but there wasn't a whole lot of bugling and elk were quiet, not to mention snow was now coming down...fast. Elk were bugling in camp all night more often than not, but were difficult to get on in the mornings.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
Almost forgot to post a cool pic, actually found some velvet underneath a rub from a bull earlier in the fall.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
After the morning hunt we had considered if we should stay in the area as we had a rather lengthy ride out to get back to town. Snow was piling up...fast. We cut very few fresh elk tracks that morning and it appeared that they had hunkered down as well.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
USFWS retired biologist uncle on the left and college buddy Jake on the right.
grossklw's embedded Photo
USFWS retired biologist uncle on the left and college buddy Jake on the right.
The decision was made with more weather anticipated the rest of the day we need to head to town and lick our wounds for a day or two. We simply can not get stuck up here. We headed to town and got things dried out for 1.5 days and decided we could leave really, really early on Sunday morning and we could get to the hunt area if we left around 2 am to hunt the morning hunt. There was going to be a 2 day break in the weather and we had to try and make it happen.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
We got to the hunt area early Sunday morning and decided to all split and explore some more. I went back to the same area I had the encounter with the old ugly bull the previous day. The winds had stabilized and a bull was bugling far enough into the public at first light that I thought I had a play on him.

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).

From: Tody
19-Feb-18
Keep it going, nice story!!!

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's Link
The link provided has the initial bloodtrail that Jake took.

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.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
I had a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, but we were now 450 yards in and still...no elk to be found. I did hold out hope that the blood hadn't slowed at all and there was both an entrance and exit hole.

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!

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
After sulking at camp for the next 4 hours they made me make the decision, do we look now or wait until the morning. We had heard coyotes in camp every night that week, and Jake and I had also cut an extremely fresh bear track when walking the fence-line. I decided that we needed to go look before dark as I wasn't confident there would be anything left in the morning.

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 :)

From: HUNT MAN
19-Feb-18
Congrats Luke. Great story and it looks like a good spot :) Hunt

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
We had about 2 hours to get the bull packed, I was the only one that brought my meat hauler, but we were only about 1.5 miles from the truck. We made quick work of the bull and got him hung about 250 yards from the killsite. I'd help call for Jake in the morning and I'd come back and get my bull.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
Jake and I put another 5 miles on in the morning searching for elk, we went back up where we saw the big bull earlier in the week in the middle of public, but all we cut were bear tracks.

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.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
We hunted hard the next day and a half but we just didn't run into a ton of elk, most were on private, and in the rare cases they were on public pressure had mounted and it seemed like everyone discarded the wind.

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.

From: Tody
19-Feb-18
Where did you hit him? Across the face? Looks like it worked. Good thing you had the snow, would have been much harder to follow. Nice work.

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18
At this point the story gets pretty anti-climatic. We stayed in the drainage for 2 more days and were met with more wet, miserable conditions. After a morning hunt with 3 days left there was some discussion of leaving.

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 :)

From: Treeline
19-Feb-18
Congratulations! Glad you found him. 2 for 2 is pretty awesome in two different states - both as a non-resident. Young bull like that will be prime eatin':)

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18

grossklw's embedded Photo
grossklw's embedded Photo
Tody- If you look at the picture of the bull the arrow hit just in front of my arrow rest, which was low low low, and back. Got very lucky and clipped liver, but not pushing him I think did help me quite a bit. If he would've headed to public instead of private when we jumped him with the fresh snow I would've pushed him until he died/bled out since it was so easy to trail and he was bleeding so well.

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 :)

From: grossklw
19-Feb-18
Goes without saying please don't PM on exact locations or who exactly helped me, they helped me with spots on they've had success, and I'd like to make sure they have success there again someday. This site has been an invaluable resource and you'd be surprised how willing people are to help once you've been established some on this site.

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!

19-Feb-18
Grats on another successful hunt. GJ on the story

From: ohiohunter
19-Feb-18
Fantastic! Great story and congratulations! Way to set an example and not push the animal especially with the threat of private land.

From: otcWill
19-Feb-18
Enjoyed that. Thanks and congrats!

19-Feb-18
I love it man!

From: APauls
19-Feb-18
Very nice, congrats!!

19-Feb-18
Great job dude,,,I have hope!!

From: Ron Niziolek
19-Feb-18
Enjoyed the read. Congrats on back to back bulls!

From: elkstabber
20-Feb-18
Thanks for sharing your adventure with us!

From: SBH
20-Feb-18
Needed me an elk story today! Good job man, I think your right, 2/2 as non res is very difficult. Hell, took me 4 years to kill one as a resident! Good job on the story too. Congrats on the new baby, hope all goes well.

From: Dino
20-Feb-18
Great job and story! Thx for sharing!

From: Nick Muche
20-Feb-18
Congrats!

From: Scoot
20-Feb-18
Nice work and thanks for sharing your story.

From: sdkhunter
20-Feb-18
Great story! Loved that you guys hunted hard, kept going and going until the end!

From: AT Halley
20-Feb-18
Nice work and thanks for sharing!

From: Beav
20-Feb-18
Congrats and great story!

From: Barty1970
20-Feb-18
The Faktor in your success...outstanding!!

From: YZF-88
20-Feb-18
Nice work! Thanks for sharing and waiting until February to do so. Makes the off season a little more tolerable.

From: Old School
20-Feb-18
Luke - congrats on a hard earned bull! And thanks for taking the time to write it all up, it was a good read!

--Mitch

From: GotBowAz
20-Feb-18
Great hunt! great story, thanks for taking us along. Congrats on your bulls.

From: c3
20-Feb-18
Nice one !!! Congrats, Pete

From: buzz mc
20-Feb-18
Great story. I love these February fall hunts. Thanks for telling it.

From: Drahthaar
20-Feb-18
Awesome thanks for taking us along. Forrest

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