Back to 2014 during my last year of graduate school I spoke with my cousin who lives in Wyoming(yes he helped some with getting started in a location, I'm not going to ignore a good local source). And myself, my brother in law Mitchell, my uncle doug, and my Dad all agreed to put in for points and draw a general tag in two years with an GEN tag.
Two years came and went and I spent as much time as humanly possible this summer either researching, shooting, or doing some more researching as well as how to hunt elk.
There is a shameless plug for elk101's online course, but they are a sponsor and am happy to promote them because I truly do believe they were the difference in me coming home with antlers in back or no antlers (hint hint). I read through the course about 6-8 hundred times to come up with a plan of attack once we got out there. The distant scouting came in handy, and helped us get into elk on several occasions and know what to do with them when we did get into them.
The area my cousin was sending us had lighter hunting pressure, but the trade-off it was some ungodly steep country and not for the faint of heart, I was sold.
We left on September 2nd after work, plan was stay at my uncles in Eastern SD after leaving from western WI, a 5 hour drive. On Saturday the 3rd we drove the 12ish hours to my cousin's house in Lander, then on Sunday with ambition we were ready to head to the hunt area which was another couple hour drive Sunday morning.
I'm all smiles, first time elk hunting, lovely weather, and had no idea what it meant when a local tells you that an area has light hunting pressure, but brutal terrain, ignorance is bliss.
First afternoon was fantastic, we heard what sounded like a young bull on our way in to set up camp bugling (first time my ears had ever heard it), and this was at 1:00, I thought this is going to be great. Our original spot we were planning on setting up camp already had a tent in it, damn, oh well it's big drainage and other areas to hunt. We moved a few hundred yards, ended up chatting with them and they stated elk have been getting more active, and they were planning on taking off the next morning and we were welcome to their camp-spot, sounds good to me.
Mitchell and I headed up the mountain in pursuit of our first bull. Our first time at this elevation, we quickly realized we were in flat-land shape, but this sh** is steep. I ran/packed/lifted like crazy this summer, and was as prepared as I could have been, and good god I was worried I was in trouble. I'm a physical therapist by trade so I keep in good shape regardless, but this was a different animal all together.
We stopped on a bench where we had marked as a bedding area and started just some cold calling. Instantly a bull fired up less than 100 yards away!! I was the shooter, so I moved in a little bit closer, Mitchell gave some light cow calls and he answered again, this time he interrupted him with a challenge. I could hear him tearing apart some small saplings and could see movement headed my way. I had a nice opening at about 30 yards and could see legs moving towards it. I drew, not knowing what it was and out steps what looked like a yearling cow, the first wild elk I'd ever seen. I smiled as I zoned in on her vitals and thought to myself, next week you're in trouble. I had two weeks of hunting left and my plan was any bull, and after the first week any elk. We bugled back and forth with the bull for another 1/2 hour, but he didn't want to leave his cows. Looking back we probably should've gotten more aggressive, but this was literally the first time I'd ever hunted these things, mistakes were going to happen.
We chalked day 1 as a success and headed down the mountain excited for the morning, we thought that was easy we should be into elk everyday with as much action as we had (we were wrong).
Day 2 Mitchell and I heard some faint bugling, chased across a giant ravine, only to realize one was bugling his head off where we had started our morning, several 1000 ft climb's later we were no closer to killing an elk. We were going to hunt all-day for sure this day as they appeared to be active at least. We took a longer trail to get to another bench that had looked promising from aerials as well as on topo maps. Ended up glassing the other ravine and saw a nice 5 point that we would've been happy with, just feeding in a medow. We both realized we needed to hunt smarter and quit walking around with no plan in place, we were wasting calories as well as blowing elk out. No bugles were heard that night. We got back to camp and my uncle did have a bull at 60 yards bugling and ornry, but a quick wind shift took care of that.
That afternoon we got moved into the area where I thought we were going to have a chance at one of those bulls, I was up to shoot, and Mitchell was the caller. We did some light cow calling and got an immediate response, but 150' lower in elevation than where we were set up. I snuck back to Mitchell and we both agreed we needed to drop down further, wind was actually consistent for once, with thermals going straight up. We got down to his elevation set up within 150 yards, did some cow calling and got another response. Mitchell interrupted him with a challenge bugle , and this went on for 3 different sequences for about 20 mins. All was quiet and I was debating if we should move across the shelf when all of a sudden I picked up antlers at 45 yards, I had one decent opening at 40 yards and readied for the shot...
What happened next was the stuff of dreams...or I mean nightmares. I drew, stopped him with a nervous grunt, put my 40 yard pin a hair high and slowly squeezed the release. I felt great, relaxed, not rushed. In my head I watched as my arrow sliced through his vitals, but in reality my arrow hit about 4 feet short and was no where near where I was aiming...God da*%#$. I replayed it in my head 100 times, I was relaxed, I was calm, there is no way I should've missed, something has to be wrong. Mitchell let me have my adult temper-tantrum throwing everything unimportant. I thought something had to have went wrong, but that answer didn't reveal itself until the next morning.
To say I was distraught was an understatement, 2 years in the making and I completely blow it on not just a bull, but a for sure pope and young animal; you've got to be kidding me.
Only thing that saved me that day is I did get to call for Mitchell 20 minutes after and had a bull screaming at 60-80 yards, but he wouldn't cross a small drainage and leave his cows, but an awesome close experience none the less.
This is a pic of me just pondering my thoughts and wondering what the hell went wrong.
We were glassing a different ravine and BOOM, bugle about 100 yards away, I was still frustrated from the miss so I told Dad you're shooting, not me. Warning he was hunting with a crossbow, so shield your eyes if you must. We went back and forth with bull #1 of the night and I could see antlers moving our way, should end up being a nice 30 yard shot for my dad. And around that time lady luck shifted the wind and ended that hunt, but we had 2 other bulls going at it in a giant bull, but we were going to have to drop down into some awful sh*^ to make it happen. We went sprinting down off of the ravine to get to the two bulls bugling. 1/2 down I look at my dad who still has his glassing clothes on and is soaked in sweat, I slyly asked him,"You look cold, do you want to burrow my jacket" I got a smack in the back of the head and directions to keep getting closer to them smarta#$. We got within 100 yards a couple different times but they just kept moving further and further away, we ran out of light and snuck back out to camp.
This is him coming up the hill the first time, kinda steep if you ask me.
Hiked back out tho the truck, tightened the sight, put a string on an old log at 50 yards the size of a quarter and grabbed my backup arrow. Split the string in 2, and now I have my answer. that afternoon was more quiet bulls, nobody in camp heard a bugle, the decision was made everyone was going to either sit a medow or wallow the entire next day. I wasn't wild about it, but they weren't bugling, not much else I thought we could do.
Worked out great because the one I was answer would answer the bull working the opposite ravine so I got a pretty good idea where he was. I walked up to this drainage you see here, but was another 100' up in elevation from the picture point. I debated, do I cross? Or do I set up here and call, he can't be further than 100 or so yards right now but he's been quiet for about 15 mins so there is no for sure way to know.
I started ranging different spots where he might walk to, 40, 55, 45, all makeable shots. I had a giant tree right in front of me, and could just see his butt sticking out the back of it, leaned to the left, huh, he's drinking, and calm, and not that far away.
I quickly range his butt (he can not see me at all at this point), 49 yards. I can make this shot, shooting 4" groups at 60 all summer with broadheads. I look to my right and see an open spot to step to, so I slid to my right just a hair. Still can't see his head, doesn't matter he's a bull and I'm shooting him, but vitals were WIDE open.
I draw, settle my 50 yard pin 1/3 way up, take two deep breaths and begin to slowly squeeze. The arrow releases and it sounded good, like through a watermellon. I don't have lighted nocks and I'm color-blind, very rarely do I see precisely where I hit, no matter how bright my arrows are. Couldn't get decent groupings with nok-turnal's before I left so they stayed home.
I go down to where he was standing after what seemed like an eternity, no arrow, no obvious blood (I rub leaves on my hands and see if it looks reddish), damnit. Go back to where I shot, looking in the wrong spot dumby. Go to where he was standing and I find my arrow sticking 6" into the ground and it looks good.
I sneak over the top of the hill and I see this at last point I heard him, only 30 yards from where he was standing at the initial shot.
I grab his antlers and quickly realize he's not just an average bull (for me remember), he's a really really nice bull, a 6X6, not by much but he is a 6X6.
Of course is the day we decide to split up, but the plan was to check in at 10:00, bull dead at 9:30, found him at 9:45, I get on the radio and call my bro-in-law. I just let out a loud manly girlish squeele, his response is I bet you need help then huh?
My dad was fortunate and decided he was going to hike out and get small case of beer to improve camp morale, and he was leaving camp at 10:00, needless to say we didn't catch him and he was gone already.
My dad isn't one to get sentimental or anything, but you could tell he felt poorly that I had missed, I can honestly say he didn't care less if he shot one, but he damn sure wanted me to get one, I just left him a note for when he came back.
Pictured is my brother-in-law caping while I worked on straps and shoulder meat.
I didn't start cutting right after I shot him as I wanted decent pictures, I knew where he was, and I wanted someone else to take them, temp's were fine to leave him for an hour and a half until I got back.
We got quartered, deboned, and everything packed ready to go. I put way too much in my pack the first trip, lesson learned. I started happy.
Obviously a crappy cellphone pic, but I'm glad I packed a decent camera for the other ones.
At least Mitchell is in good spirits during the snow, I'm doing everything I can to get him a bull.
Last afternoon we heard 2 bulls bugling in the same spot I missed the 1st week, Mitchell and I were in. We got to 70 yards, and it's difficult to describe what happened next. We had 3 bulls bugling within 75 yards, could see legs, but none presented a shot despite only being 20 yards from Mitchell at one point. I had a raghorn in my lap of course that I could've shot, I needed Mitchell's attention, but wasn't possible. I saw tall tines moving in as well form only 50 yards away, headed right for Mitchell, but of course the wind switched yet again.
This is my little set-up, was tough to find a stick to rake as we had got pounded with rain and snow.
My hike out was a happy one, antlers, and only 3 hours from a shower :)
We ended up with 280 pounds of boned out meat, myself and taxidermist scored him at a gross 276", and a NET 267", which would put him at the minimum 260 score Pope and Young, very excited with him.
Sorry it got a little wordy, thanks for tagging along and I can't wait to get back to WY.
Please don't PM me with where we were hunting, I'm willing to help anyone else if they have questions with planning, but my assistance stops at location; as it does with most people, it was a general tag.
Thanks for sharing
I love hunting Wyo--bow elk!
Good luck, Robb
BTW Is that a Hoyt Faktor? I shoot a Faktor 34 [125 Slick Trick Magnums]..I've yet to get in to elk country myself, but I'm taking your success with the same bow and same make of BHs as a good sign!!
How'd you like that ILBE Marine pack?
On my death-march out with a ton of weight I was struggling, but in my opinion even at the time the extra comfort wasn't worth an extra 400$'s.
Glad everyone likes the story, I may do a more finalized edited version of it somehow and see if I can get it published somewhere for giggles.
Good luck, Robb