Those are mountains that extend into southern Utah and just happens to be one of Utah's top limited entry elk areas.
Since I deleted all the photos for my ogrinal posting of this hunt, I will never be able to remember exactly the photo's I used in every case, but will try to post most of the same photos.
For those of you who never were around when this happened, I hope you enjoy it, and for those of you who read it and followed it, please bear with me.
Have a great bowhunt. BB
I will start it out with a bull I passed on well into the hunt, in fact, with only four days remaining.
I wittnessed mamy great sites, sounds and experiences. In the days to come I will share a small part of that with those interested, via the pictures I took. I am sure I took well over 1,000 pictures. My card was not large enough so I deleted many of those I took, keeping, what I felt were the best. I hope some of you enjoy and are able to understand what a great experience I witnessed.
I hope those of you whose hunts are over had a great time and for those of you hunting now or soon, I wish you the same.
I am very tired, with lots to do after being gone so long. I also have a good friend coming to hunt mule deer with me on Sept. 22, so I will add to this thread as time permits.
I hope you will enjoy my hunt..
Have a great bowhunt. BB
This was opening morning and I was alone and would be that way for a least a week. Because of back problems I just watched him and his cows saunter off.
This first week would be for picture taking only!
Opening evening I decided to walk to the close stand and see what was going on.
I was disappointed with the results, as I did not see one critter with the exception of this little guy who paid me a visit and let me take his picture in the low evening light.
Any of you bird of prey lovers know what kind of hawk it is?
One such guy I shared the area with took this fine bull on the second day of his hunt. It roughed scored 359 and some change.
This was a picture the guy had emailed me and I have since deleted it, so can't post this one. Sorry...
I sat all morning without seeing one single elk. The wallows had not been used, but it was still early and my hopes were high.
Here's a picture of how those wallows looked that morning. Keep this picture in mind as the rut grows nearer and see how it looks in a couple weeks.
Some mighty big mistakes were made by me in this location.
Here a Redtail keeps a close eye on me as I approach the Ponderosa snag it was perched upon.
When I saw this bull on the hill above I reached for my camera. I took several pictures of him standing with his antlers showing above the oaks. I truly believe he was on his way to water, but I used my scary moma and he just froze and soon turned and walked directly away. BIG BULL! BIG MISTAKE! I'm quite sure I could have got some pretty decent photos of this bull had I kept my calls silent.
Here's the quick snap shot I got of him in the low light of that dark recess as he past by about 30 yards.
Little did I know at that time, I would see this bull more often than any other bull. I would later nickname him the Brahma Bull.
I took a ton of pictures that morning, but deleted most of them as space on my card began to be used up.
He sure put on quite a show for a long period of time. I think he has great genes and wish him well. He was really a hoot!
Here's a few photos of what I got to watch.
Notice closely the vegation around the wallows, be assured that is to change big time as the bull head farther into the rut.
I sat well into the afternoon and for the very first time heard bugling all around me, and it occurred most of the morning and into the afternoon. I was pumped, as I felt I would get some great pictures.
Soon I could see ash falling from the sky and could smell smoke. Within minutes a strong down hill wind filled the canyon with dense smoke. I bailed out of my stand and headed up hill the 3/4 mile to my bike. I was worried I would never make it before the fire got to my 4 wheeler. But the fire had not yet reached my canyon and I got to safety in smokey skies.
It had been a re-flair up of an older lighting strike. Within a couple days they had the fire out.
I hurried down the trail that lead to my treestand location but I was a few minutes too late. A nice bull and his cows departed in fast fashion. I saw another nice bull cross the canyon below my stand later that evening, but it was too late to take pictures by then.
But just before the last os shooting light (camera wise) this critter came in for a drink. In the next few posts I will show several pictures. What species is this animal?
bb did you have trouble with elk spotting you in that stand? Was there a significant hill by you?
In areas where I was that open and there was a hill elk usually spot me coming downhill at me. Just curious how that stand worked out. Also, it loks about 20 feet high right?
I am waiting for the one that got away that should not have. I really can close my eyes and still see it in my mind, I remember that picture very well.
Don, elk of all critters, don't look up much, so if one stays still and quite, and moves carefully, you can get away with a lot. ----- But when the wind is wrong they will smell you like no other, as they have such long necks and good noses and when they put them in in the air, the ball game is close to over.
Thank you and I hope that this brings back all the great memories you have from this hunt. I know I enjoyed it the first time and will enjoy it again. I wish there was a way for Pat to archive this, so it can always be enjoyed.
Here he is! A spike by 3 point!
Matt, it does bring back some great memories, and it also lets me know I've forgotton a lot already. I feel very grateful I took the effort to take photos, as without them, much would have been lost forever.
If this thread does nothing more than to stimulate a few Bowsiter's, to purchase and carry a camera and use it when on their hunts, this re-run will have more than served its purpose.
His body was very blocky, one of the biggest body bulls I laid eyes upon, but at the time I did not realize he would soon become the Brahma Bull.
Here's a picture on the second occasion I was able to take his picture. At that time I did not realize I had already taken a photo of him days earlier.
Late one evening (photo wise) I got this picture of the blocky bull. Notice his body size. He was a tank.
His antlers were short and busted and the rut had not really even started.
Remember the bull that had left his cows and just past through. That was him.
His name was taken from his drooping ear and the look on his face. He was indeed a warrior.
Here's the picture that put the puzzle together.
Here's a bull in the meadow at Pine Wallows after drinking and wallowing some 15 yards from me.
When I originally did this thread I only posted one or two photos of this bull, but I think it might be enjoyable to some of you, who have never witnessed a bull at a wallow, to take a glimpse at the whole sequence. With that said, let me apologize for some of the poor photos. I was hand holding the camera, in low light, with a subject that just wouldn't hold still and thus some pretty blurry photos.
I hear many guys say that unless you are calling in a bull with a call, you have never really experienced elk hunting. I would like to add to that, that until you have sat a wallow and looked into the eye of a wallowing bull and watched him throw mud over everything, you have never really experienced elk hunting.
And I think these series of pictures will help prove my point.
So the next time you look up on a hill and see a muddy bull, at least you will kind of know what he's been doing, if you haven't had the opportunity to watch one in person.
Hopefully you will understand the thrill of being there and witnessing first hand, this special behavior of bulls in the rut.
It pierces my soul with the same power of a close bugle. They are both very special and to me can’t be separated. They in essence are rutting bulls!
Here's the picture of the waterhole Gary and I built. It turned out to be quite a pond, but due to all the available water, someone else will have to gain from our hard work.
I am one that believes too many elk have a very detrimental effect on the deer herds. I think this unit is a prime example. I saw very few nice bucks.
Here are a couple little ones.
"You may recall that after the fire eposide I was late getting to Aspen Wallows and scared the elk that were already at the pond and wallow. So the next afternoon I vowed to get there early so that would not happen again.
About 2:30 the next day I headed for Aspen Wallows, after doing a ground hunt in the AM. I wanted to be in the stand by 3 pm.
As I walked down the trail towards the wallow, I jumped a cow elk that was lying in the oaks some 100 yards above the wallow. The wind was in my face, but I jumped her just 10 yards in front of me. As I watched her run through the oaks to safety I noticed a huge set of antlers turning some 20 yards to my right. It just happened to be one of, if not the largest bull I saw on my San Juan adventure. Immediately I came to a stop and set my bow on the ground and grabbed the camera from my "gay" bag,that was hanging around my neck, but by the time I got it turned on and pointed he was on his way to safety too, and I never got a chance to get his picture. But he was one mighty big bull. As the saying goes, he was high, wide and heavy. He probably was the biggest bull I saw on the trip and had I been more careful I could have either arrowed him or at least got a good picture. I ended up with neither, but I will never forget seeing that huge set of antlers turn as the cow ran past him in his bedding area.
Needless to say I never used that trail again until I removed and packed out my stands."
I remember Shane making a remark like "Wow, this is a neat set up if they come in!", and it was. All we needed now were for the elk to co operate.
Getting a little out of order but since I can't post any pictures until I get my computer back, I will tell this story since I have no pictures to really go with it anyway.
We arose early one morning to a bull bugling just across from camp. He had been doing that for several mornings so we decided to make a try for him and at least see what he looked like.
He continued to bugle as we made our way towards him in the dark. Soon we were within 100 yards of the screaming bull. I told Shane I felt we should sneak in as close as possible while it was still dark and then wait it out until we could see what kind of bull was making that great sounding bugle.
We stopped some 70-80 yards below his position. The skies by this time were starting to lighten slightly and one could make out the form or trees ---------- and of an elk heading right for us. An elk's outline with huge antlers was walking right towards me. I knocked an arrow and on he came stopping broadside just yards away. Shane, who was right behind me thinks he was 10 yards or less in front of me. I thought more like 15-20. We both agreed on one thing, he was close!
His body was broadside, but his head was turned looking down towards me. I froze and watched and listened to his breathing, his moans, his bugles and his glunking. After a minute or two he turned his head and I could plainly see his 6x6 rack. His fronts were great, his thirds were great, his fourth's were huge as were his 5th and 6th points. He was a shooter, probably a 360-370 bull.
After all this time the real time had finally come. I pulled my bow and tipped my eye to my peep. I could see nothing. Not a pin, not a bit of light, but I could plainly see the bull standing just in front of me.
I began bowhunting in 1959 with an old Herter's recurve. I took quite a few deer back in those days shooting instinctive, but that was many years ago and since shooting a compound with pins, I had shot instinctive on very few occasions. As bad as I wanted to release that arrow I had this little voice in the back of my mind telling me I should let down. I listened and let off.
The bull continued to stand there, totally unaware that his life was in big danger. It was beginning to lighten and I could plainly see his tan body and dark mane, face and legs. I can't say for sure how long we both stood there, but it seemed like an eternity. Perhaps all together it was near 10 minutes. It had now lighten considerably and I could plainly see the bull. Again I drew my bow and again could not see my pins through my peep. I looked off the side of my peep and could barely see my 30 yard pin. I had not shot around my peep for many years and could not remember which way I had shoot to make sure the shot hit where I wanted. Again the voice said to let off and I did. The bull continued to stand and it continued to lighten and just as I began to think about pulling once more, the bull turned away and walked off into the trees.
The evening before, I had past on a bull at Pine Wallow that originally I was going too shoot, but had decided at the last moment to just take his picture and let him walk. Now with this happening I could hear Shane say "I guess he wasn't big enough either!" I told him, no that was not the case, it was just that I could not see my pins on his body and although I wanted to shoot him, I was just waiting for better light. (Incidently I suffer from severe night blindness--It is one of a hunters worst nightmares). Shane thought I made a big mistake as the bull was so close he felt I could not have hit him bad from such a short distance. I wished he had stayed there a minute or two more, but I do not have any regrets on that one.
We had a great morning once it got light, with some close calls, but no other real opportunities.
In this picture you can see a few of the birds fighting.
I think, as you do, that a camera is an essential piece of equipment on a hunting trip. Don't leave home without it. I am enjoying this rehash all over again! Keep 'em coming.
Ten days later while hunting the same area, I had a great chance at a 6 x 7 bull, had I decided I wanted it, but again I chose to pass.
For those asking about cameras, and I've received quite a few PM's on camera questions, all these photos were taken with a Panasonic FZ-20. Remember these photos were taken about 3 years ago and Panasonic and other manufactures have improved their products a great deal since that time.
For those just starting out and wanting to take wildlife photos at close range of truly wild critters the new point and shoot cameras are what I would suggest you get. I like Panasonic cameras because I have had great results with them, but Cannon, Nikon, and host of others are great too. I just personally have more experience with Panasonic in the high mega pixel-optical zoom point and shoots.
For those interested in a good camera I would suggest you talk with Joel at Cameraland and if you tell him I sent you, he will give you a special discount on top of their already competitive prices.
I personally would suggest the Panasonic FZ-18 for most of you. It takes great photos, is small, light and easy to carry and use. And its easy to use too.
Here's his information: Joel Paymer
575 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10022
Sorry the link above did not work.
Here's the address of their website----------http://www.cameralandny.com/
Anyone looking for a good point and shoot for hunting, I have and would highly recommend the Pentax W-series. I have a W20. Light, fast, great battery life, great pictures, and waterproof and dustproof. Not water resistant, mine is waterproof to 5 feet, and the newer models go to 10 feet last time I checked. Also very easy to operate with one hand.
I took this picture just before noon, so I was able to use an 80 ISO setting. It's probably the best picture quality wise of any of the hundreds I took. Getting it was a great reward and an adrenaline rush. Getting a good photo is very satisfying.
He is not a big buck, but the biggest either Shane or I laid eyes upon. It's sad to know such a great deer area is really on the ropes.
But late that evening, and not long before dark, the winds died down and in the distant we could hear a bull bugling. Soon his sounds were heard from half the distance of just minutes before and he was coming from the direction, that most of the bulls that visit this water hole, in the evening, use.
His bugle was strong, loud, low and very mature. I knew Shane was ready for me to do something.
Soon we could hear the calls of his cows and calves and we knew, if the wind remained clam, we were going to be looking at a good herd bull.
The timber started to break and the both his and his cow's calls began louder and louder, and closer and closer, as they approached Pine Wallows.
Soon the cows were lined up, watering along our edge, of the three wallows directly in front of us. His bugles rang out from some 30- 40 yards in the dense timber, as he too headed for the wallow.
For the first time since sitting either wallow, I had my bow, not my camera, in my hand.
The bull pictured above is not the bull that came out, as I have no pictures when he broke the timber and came into view. I show this above picture because this is just about where that bull I'm talking about watered and near the exact stance. He was about 14 yards from my tree.
The picture above is the same exact photo I posted earlier in this thread. It more nearly simulates both the distance and position of the bull I was now watching.
As this bull entered the wallow opening, his cows split and watered in the nearby stream and distant wallows.
He had long antlers throughout his rack. He was a beautiful bull and my shot, should I decided to take him, could not be more perfect, as he drank some 14 yards in front of me.
My mind was going 80 miles an hour. Do I really want to take this bull? His antlers are not heavy and their not that polished and pretty. It's near dark and my trophy photos would be compromised is such poor light, and I still have 10 days of a once in a lifetime hunt ahead of me if I don't shoot. I looked to Shane for direction.
Finally I carefully placed my bow back in its holder. I had decided not to shoot this most honorable bull. Instead I would take try to take his picture.
I was amazed at what I saw. I placed my camera back in my bag and once again went for my bow.
I still had ten days to hunt!
The picture you will be looking at, in my next post is the picture that came up on my camera when I hit the view button.
Would you have gone for your bow with 10 days remaining and knowing from what you heard, that the last 5 days of the hunt, would be better than the first 2 1/2 weeks?
Looking at the photo, that appeared on my camera, made me realize instantly, that I was pleased and satisfied with the fine rack with which this ole bull was crowned.
(If you look closely, you will see that some of tips of his antlers are covered with mud and would otherwise appear longer if they did not blend in so well with the background.)
Here's the only other picture I have of that bull. It just happens to be the first picture I took of him. He got down and wallowed a bit, but finally stopped moving and took another drink from the wallow and gave me the first chance to take his picture. Had I viewed this photo instead of the one I did, I would have never gone for my bow as I don't think he looks that great in this picture.
Quietly and quickly, I put the camera back in the bag hanging around my neck. I reached over the my left and carefully lifted the bow off its holder. I moved it with care not to hit the stand or make a noise. I placed my release on the string and glanced down at the wallow.
The bull was not there, as he had began to head towards his cows. He was close but angling way at a very sharp angle and never offered a good opportunity. Soon he was on the hill just above us bugling over and over.
Soon it was dark and we headed back for camp.
I didn't get the bull, as I had waited too long to make that decision. The window of opportunity slammed shut right in my face. I had and have no one to blame except myself. I am still happy with the experience and hopefully I will learn from having gone through it. At least I brought it home for many others to enjoy. A bull like that is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of us. I had let mine slip away and deep down I will always regret my poor judgements.
Early the next morning was when I had the big bull walk up, so close to me in the dark. After those two sessions, Shane was fit to be tied.
But it seemed to me things were getting better. There were more elk and they were more vocal. They still could not be called, but I still had plenty of time left.
Another San Juan sunset.
Before daylight we headed towards our stands and before first light we could hear hounds on a bear chase heading right towards us. Soon the bear switched direction and noise from the barking dogs disappeared as they headed over a distant ridge.
Things were quite at the wallow that morning. Then above us we could hear a bugle and some cow calling. We knew it to be hunters. They stopped and rested and talked less than 100 yards above us. They spent about 1 hour there and so when they left we got down and went back to camp for an afternoon and evening hunt. We felt there was probably too much scent and commotion to spend more time there that day.
Here’s a picture of the general country we were hunting.
See ya in a month.
Gary W. was going to come down and spend the final days with me, but a boating accident which almost took his eyes site in one eye required him to be flown to a specialist and it looked as if I would spend the last five days alone. That would limit where I could hunt and where I could take a bull. Pine Wallows was definitely out of bounds without packing help.
I decided to spend the balance of Sunday at Pine Wallows with Shane. It was a windy day and things didn't look to promising, either on the ground or in a tree. Our feeling was right as the shifty winds kept any hope of a bull from the water or wallow. With little time left for Shane to witness what he had hoped for, the winds died and light, steady, downhill breeze gave way for the last half hour of shooting light. Soon a bugle and then some cows and calfs and then a nice bull. He was a 6x7. Not as nice as the 6x6, but nonetheless a very decent bull. Maybe a 340ish bull.
But he watered at the distant hole and then walked into trees and started to polish his antlers. Suddenly he walked out of the tree and right for the wallow below us. He pawed and wallowed but never gave me a good shot, and then walked right away from me, much like the 6x6 and back into the trees straight ahead of me.
I didn't feel like I had hit him, but there was nothing I could see that the arrow could hit and make that kind of WHACK!
We both got down and searched for my arrow, blood, or any sign, but nothing could be found. Finally in the dark we headed for camp.
I remember Shane saying in a sad way, "Do you know how much work you saved me!"
The picture above shows where the 6x7 crossed out that evening. The spike just happened to be a picture I took in my first week at Pine Wallows. I just posted this so you can see the big bull's route and my shot.
Several days later I found my arrow sticking in the grey log near the top of the picture. I had shot over that bull by over a foot. I shot him for 40 yards and later my son range found it and it he was only 23 yards away. Truly a rookie mistake!
Evidently the picture I posted at the time I orginally did this, has since deleted, as I can find no photos that I can show where the arrow was found. Sorry about that, but its not big deal anyway.
Here's a picture of some of the best halibut I have ever eaten. He fixed this meal the night before he departed.
At that time I was not sure if anyone else (Gary W.) was going to make it for sure or not. so that determined where I would be hunting.
I left camp an hour before first shooting light for a morning at Aspen Wallows. We hadn't been there for quite sometime, and last year that place was getting pounded (although on Shanes hunt we never had it set up.) I just had a good feeling that morning that something was about to happen.
As I made my way to nearby Aspen Wallows I could hear the elk bugling all around me. I had definitely come to the right place.
I climbed into my stand while it was still pitch black. A big sounding bull screamed bugle after bugle less than 50 yards from my stand. In all directions and at close range different bulls bugled. It was a sound to behold.
But as it started to lighten the bugles became distant and finally by daylight faded out of hearing range. I saw not a critter with the exception of a few birds and a squirrel or two. Both ponds were crystal clear and was the morning air.
I sat until 10 AM and by that time had decided I had too much work to do as the hunt was now less than five full days, so I made the decision to take down the stand at Aspen Wallows. By 1 in the afternoon I had all my gear back at camp and Aspen Wallows was just another wet spot among the many in this great elk country.
In my mind I could still see the nice 6x6 I had let slip away. For the first time I was starting to have some regrets.
Here's an early morning veiw from Aspen Wallows.
I didn't quite understand, but just after checking my messages the phone rang and it was Gary. He said my son Cody was going to come if he could get his shifts covered and wanted to surprise me. But Gary wanted me to know that in case I came upon a bull I wanted that evening. It might make a difference wither I shot him with a camera or an arrow.
It did! Here's one of four bulls I could have had good shots at that evening. Things were starting to get wild!
I pulled my bike off the side of the road and headed up hill. Soon I heard a bugle and put the sneak on the bull making the noise. When I was about 60 yards from him and readying to take his picture, the wind switched and he was gone.
For several hours I hiked and listened for bugles but could hear none, so I headed down hill to an aspen draw I knew the elk used each evening to acess the higher country where I had been hunting.
As I neared the draw I look ahead to see two nice bulls walking side by side. Little at that time did I realize they were doing the parrell walk. In fact the thought went into my head as to why they were together and did not have cows.
The bulls were heading up hill towards me and were now about 40 yards away. All of a sudden both bulls whirled towards each other and charged. They locked horns and the smaller bull pushed the larger bull back. They unlocked but still faced each other. The more aggressive bull charged and the other bull backed up.
Mean while I closed the distance to about 30 yards and began taking pictures. It was now late in terms of photography and the shudder was very slow even at the 400 ISO setting. I honestly beleive I could have easily arrowed either of those bulls but my son and Gary would be in camp around 2 AM and so that would have to wait until tomorrow. I continued to take pictures.
The bigger bull, backed off and both stood looking at one another. I took advantage of the moment and got each on my camera. The wind then switched and both vansihed.
I began to review my pictures and found all the movement while fighting caused major blurring, so I deleted the fight picture by picture. All that remained were the bulls standing in the Ponderosa's. But I was hyped and couldn't wait to tell Cody and Gary that things were really starting to heat up.
The picture above is of the smaller but more aggressive bull after he first spotted me and just before the wind switched
Here's a picture of that bull as he worked over the small aspen.
Make sure you bring your camera when I see you at the show. Want to see it hands-on if you don't mind.
Although he had great front, his back end did not match. Nonetheless he was a great bull, but I had four more days and in the morning I would be joined by my son Cody, and my friend Gary. I was not about to end this hunt before they got there!
Here's that bull again and this shows his weak back-end. Nonetheless he was a great bull and stood there and let me take his picture in low light for several minutes. I deleted many of the pictures I took of this bull but still got a few good ones of him. I especially liked this one for all different fall colors. Look closely at that forest. One can't help but fall in love with it.
The day that God created the San Juan, he spared no beauty.
Earlier that evening I snapped this shot of a blue grouse feeding in the aspen canopy.
Here's a picture of the two (Cody right, Gary left), taken early the next (Tuesday) morning.
It didn't take Gary or Cody long to find out that these elk could not be called. It seemed no matter what call you used, they detected human and were on their way. We would hunt them sielent and hope for the best.
The morning was a bust so to speak as the elk were not in the area they were the night before. I felt bad as I had Cody and Gary all pumped up for wild morning. But that did not materialize. We did have this little guy come running in to one of our earlier calls.
It just so happens that Ralph and John had been hunting in an area with a lot of elk. An area that Shane and I had camped by last year and an area that I planned to hunt. But early on I realized those guys were hunting there, so I went elsewhere.
That area was now opened up and that's where we went that afternoon.
Gary's father in law tagged along with us that afternoon.
We headed for the area where Ralph had killed his bull. We no more than got to edged of a big aspen canyon and a long, loud bugle rang out just over it's edge.
Cody and I edged forward, while Gary took up the rear with his video camera. Just in front of us was the bull that had bugled. He was a nice 6x7 probably about a 330 type bull. Cody range found the feeding, quartering away bull at 42 yards. I looked him over closely and decided that was not yet the bull I wanted to take. For the first time on this hunt, my camera was in my pack and my Ziess 10x40's occupied it spot.
For some reason I told the guys that I wanted to go hunt the area where John had taken his bull earlier that day. I knew that area better and I knew there were nice bull there.
So we hiked back to the bikes and headed in that direction. We parked by a pond that the elk use regularly and made the big loop around the edge of the wilderness that feed the elk into this area. We did not hear or see one elk that evening with the exception of some elk spotted by glassing deep in a canyon. I was dumbfounded. As time past I put it in gear and we covered a lot of country. It was the last Dion wanted to hike with us as it was pretty hard on him. He is an older guy with a few health issues and felt sorry to do that to him, but time was running out.
Here's a bull I past earlier in the hunt. The 6x7 I passed that afternoon was a better bull than this one.
I now had 3 days left.
We ate very well that evening, with Dion and Gary doing the cooking.
Cody, Gary and I talked things over after their first evening. We made the decesion to return to Pine Wallows early in the morning.
There were only two stands at Pine Wallow, so that meant we would have to carry in an extra stand and get it set up by daylight. It would be an all day ordeal, but I felt my chances were as good there as anywhere, and probably better for taking a bull.
I was very optimistic and we carried not only a stand down, but two freighter frames, game bags, and sheets to keep the meat clean. The time to quit passing up elk had finally come. It was time to fill my tag.
Just after first light we were all sitting in three stands. Cody and I were in the same tree and Gary was a handshake away in an adjacent tree.
By good shooting light the winds were blowing hard and changing directions. My hopes for that dwindled as I have come to know that shifty, windy days put the already good odds even better in the elk's favor.
We heard several bugles, but I knew with the winds no elk would be seen. My only hopes for that day would be for the winds to die down or at least be steady from one direction. That didn't happen.
I felt bad for Gary and Cody as I knew somewhere things were really hot and I was torn to get out and go someplace else, but we endured the day.
Finally in the late afternoon we heard a bugle and it sounded like the bull was coming. He in fact did pay the wallow-waterhole a visit, but watered at it far reaches, back in the thick stuff. He then ambled off to do his thing. At least the day was not a total bust!
Here's a bull watering back at the far reaches of the wallow, in about the same area where the bull described above watered. It is not the same bull, but a bull whose photo I took much earlier in the hunt.
Again we heard a bugle and again a bull was coming.
When this one showed up, he stood on the back wallow, about 30 yards away and bugled, it was during his bugle I took this photo.
Cody whispered to me, "Dad he's 32 yards." "What do you think?, I ask.
Cody's reply was, "Dad we have enough points in Colorado to draw an area where you can take a bull like that."
That was all it took, so again I let another bull walk.
Here's a very poor photo of the bull as he watered.
Two days remaining.
But PLEASE tell us more !!!! I'm on the edge of my chair and gasping here at ever one you let walk by.
2 days to go ..... AND ?????
It was time to put the camera away for the most part and start hunting to fill my tag. I mulled over and over what I should do and finally decided my best chance, this late in the game, would be sitting another day at Pine Wallow. If only the wind would just be normal (if there really is such a thing as a normal wind).
They supported me in my decision, so early the next morning found us back at Pine Wallows. The elk around camp were going nuts so I had a good feeling.
But it was different at Pine Wallows, not a single bugle could be heard. But I had hunted there enough times to know that many times the elk don't hit that area until after 8 AM. We all anxiously awaited their arrival.
By 10 AM there had been not an elk and not a bugle. I felt I didn't have the option to wait them out. I decided to take down the stands and pack them out so we would have one less thing to do as my hunt ended.
We all packed a stand and the climbers and our gear up the hill towards our bikes. The wind again was blowing hard. It was frustrating.
We headed back to camp and dropped the stand and gear and then road the bikes down to the low country. Gary's father in law road with us and took one bike back to camp while Cody, Gary and I hiked the low country. Our plan was to find and hunt elk wherever they were. We were up and down as the remaining time dictated we waist not a second. Hardly before we knew it we were below Aspen Wallows. As we approached that area I was amazed at how it had been trashed by the elk since I had removed my stands. What a big mistake! It was plain to see there had been many more elk at Aspen Wallows than at Pine Wallows.
In minutes we were back at camp. Dion seemed surprised we had covered so much country so fast. There was no time to stop and so we headed south to the area where I had my close encounter with the big bull in the dark. The balance of the evening was spent over there with the shifty winds.
Finally we heard a good bugle far below us. It seemed to becoming from the area of the aspen draw where the elk travel to the higher country from their bedding grounds. We all hustled down to try to intercept that bull.
By now the wind was more steady. There was a steady downhill draft. The only problem was the bull was below us. So we kept to the north and headed towards him. Louder and louder his bugle became and closer and closer we got.
Finally my son says, "There he is Dad". He was a very nice 5x6 bull. Much like the one Shane had taken last year. He had huge whale tails on both sides with a smaller sixth point on one side. I would be happy with him.
He had just come out of the south side of the aspen draw when Cody saw him. He was now heading pretty much west in the large Ponderosa pines. He was about 125 yards out in front of me and some 60 yards below me. Gary set up his video camera and Cody and I headed for the bull. He would walk s few paces, stop and bugle and then move on. When he did that, we would line ourselves up behind the big trunks of the Ponderosa's and move forward.
We were now just 60 yards from the bull. I wanted to be 40 yards or less, so we moved forward as our paths were taking us on a collision course. At about 40 yards the bull stopped and bugled. I made another move towards the bull, hidden by a larger Ponderosa. I was going to get a shot. Cody stayed put at our last stopping spot. As I snuck up and as Gary bugled, the bull took off and my hopes for that evening slipped away.
Gary who had stayed back over 100 yards caught this all on video. When you view it, it looks like I was only 10 yards from the bull when he ran.
Darkness set in and we headed back to camp. I was now down to one final day of what had been a fantastic adventure.
Shane took this photo earlier in the hunt, as I stood on the edge of where the high country falls off to the lower country. It was this area in which we had spent a good portion of this day.
Back at camp we ate and talked about the day. I now had less than 24 hours before my hunt would end. I needed to choose a good plan for the last day.
I was aware of all the elk around Aspen Wallows. I was also aware that the elk from Pine Wallows and other areas would come together after dark and rut. Dion told us of all the elk just below Aspen Wallow that he had seen while out riding his four wheeler. After much discussion, I decided we would start the morning hunt at the foothills below Aspen Wallows.
I wanted to be there early and make sure the elk were there. There would be no time to make a mistake and hunt an area without elk. That's okay on day one, but not on the last day, when you have yet to fill your tag.
Shortly after 5 AM we parked the four wheelers, just off the main road and started hiking to our pre determined destination. Bugles broke the silence from the moment we shut down the bikes. It was like nothing I had ever heard, in all the 35 years I have hunted elk with my bow.
Soon we were surrounded by screaming bulls. We could hardly whisper to one another. I would not be exaggerating by saying that 5 seconds was a huge lapse between bugles. Most of the time it was non stop. One bugle after another. The rut had officially begun!
It was still several days before the full moon and by this time the moon had set and it was pitch black. Using this curtain of darkness we moved to the middle of the action. It was electrifying to say the least.
Horns clashed as bulls fought and the noise and non stop commotion left one spell bound, while your ears were filled with the constant ringing of screaming bulls gone rut crazy!
Fifty or sixty different bulls, perhaps more, screamed their war calls and battled for cows. There were animals running all around us and it was actually spooky.
We had moved to the center of the action and were standing by an old fence. It was still pitch black. Hoof sounds echoed around us and glunks, bugles, moans, and all sorts of rutting sounds could be heard. Things were nuts.
Then all of a sudden there was a loud clash of horns just a short distance away. Hooves grabbing dirt and a fierce scramble for the winning push, could be heard just yards away. Then the fence we were standing by sounded as if it was hit by a thousand cars at one time. I remember my son saying, "We've better to get out of here or were going to get killed."
It was like nothing that had ever happened to me. It was scary, but totally awesome. We were all shaken to our core.
But as the eastern sky started to lighten the commotion lessened even though the bulls continued to scream. But they were leaving. Bugles began to distance and the elk were leaving their rendevous site. They dispersed in all directions. And soon the elk were on their way to their bedding areas. And for the first time in over a half hour we could actually hear each other whisper.
Which herd do I follow? The one with 20 bulls above us, or the one with 10 just under Aspen Wallows, or should I go for the easy country just to the north of Aspen Wallows where at least 15 or more bugling bulls were heading.
The elk had dispersed and were now heading, in their separate herds, to their bedding area. We now had to decide which way and which group to follow.
There were bulls bugling high on the hill just south of us and so we choose to head in that direction. It was a high hill with a roll of cliffs near its top.
The bugles were still ringing, but only a fraction of those we witnessed just one hour prior.
It was now light enough to shoot but the few elk that remained were high on the hill above us. We made our way towards them. I could hear a nice bull bugling in a high basin so I made my way towards him. Cody and Gary lagged behind to bugle and call. The bull was in a frenzy, pushing his cows and running off satellite bulls. Soon he disappeared over an eastern ridge.
Finally Cody and Gary joined me and I ask Gary to bugle. He had taken off his bugle when he shed some clothes and forgot to pick it up. He said he would drop back down and get it as Cody and I headed for the elk. He would rejoin us around the mountain.
The elk we were following had crossed into a major canyon south of us. This was going to be an all day ordeal, and a tough one at that.
We headed back for the bikes and left one where we thought we might come out. We then got in Gary's truck and drove it to the bottom of the canyon and began a hike towards the elk.
There was little sign in the lower elevations of the canyon but as we gained altitude we began to get into sign. Soon we could hear distant bugles, but the ugly wind was now strong and shifty. That is exactly what I hoped would not happen.
Cody spotted a nice bull on a nearby ridge but it had already seen us and disappeared down a south slope. We topped out on that ridge and could look to the south and see elk. Faint bugles could be heard, so playing the wind, as best we could, we headed in that direction.
By now it was late morning, perhaps noon. We were nearing the half way point of our climb from the bottom to the top. To our south, elk were bugling. We headed in that direction. Although I had only been through this country one time on Shane’s hunt, I knew were nearing Pine Wallows. I pulled out my GPS and checked and it was less than 1/2 mile to our south. That is exactly where the bugles were coming from. I began to wish I had not made the decision to take down the stands, just as I wished I had left the stand in at Aspen Wallows. Both were very poor decisions.
The bugles dictated where we headed and soon we were on the door step of Pine Wallows. As Cody neared the edge of the meadow opening that is adjacent to the wallows, he could hear and see a nice bull wallowing less than 30 yards from the tree that held our stands just days before. The bull finished and moved off.
Elk were bugling all around the trashed wallows. We moved in to inspect. I most certainly had removed the stands prematurely.
We knew the bulls were coming to the wallows and we knew more would be coming. There was no doubt of that fact. The question was what should we do?
Hurriedly we made a ground blind and began our wait.
The picture above is the ground blind we made. Gary had a whole for videoing and I had a good shooting whole. If only the wind would co-operate, we should have a chance.
Here Cody looks out my shooting hole while Gary sets up his camera.
Thank you for sharing!!
We decided to do this and the winds were just to shifty. This area seems to have some protection from the wind.
I knew the fate of my hunt now laid in the hands of the wind more than in my own hands. And of that I had no control.
After an hour or so the winds seems to die some and a nice sounding bull was coming to the wallow. One could trace his travel route by his endless bugle. Soon he was well within 100 yards and still coming. Then the wind switched and he went quite, and soon started to bark. As time past a few others tried to come in but went silent.
It was now late afternoon and my time had come to bid this special place a final farewell. But my experiences here will forever keep this place very close to my heart. It has to be the most elky place I have ever been! I hope to return some year again if only to take pictures.
Here's another picture of the last bull I happened to photograph at Pine Wallows.
The elk were screaming as we hiked above pine wallow towards the top of the mountain.
Our plan was to line out 30 - 40 yards apart and just cow call as we headed up hill. It wasn't long before we had several bulls attention, and for the first time calling became really effective. Several bulls came rushing towards us to correl the cow they heard, only to be busted by the ever swirling wind. It was frustrating to say the least, but still very exciting not knowing the final outcome.
At long last the leaves were starting to change and the elk rut had begun!
But that quickly changed as we hiked towards the top of the mountain.
Gary and Cody were calling as we headed up the hill and I was too until a bull headed our way and then I went quite and slipped out in front of the guys. This tactic was working great. The only spoiler was the erratic wind.
Another bull answered and was heading our way and I moved out in front to face him. Suddenly the thick oak bush ahead of me sounded as if a bull dozer was headed my way. I took my stance and could tell from the brush were the bull would come. I was ready!
All of sudden an large black bear ran into the opening stopping just 15 yards away. It was beautiful and its coal black hide shined in the late afternoon sunshine.
I immediately went for my camera but the movement scared the bear and it was gone in a flash. At least I had finally seen a bear and for that I was grateful.
Now my camera was again hanging around my neck, a place it had occupied for most of this hunt, with the exception of the past two days.
We moved forward and up hill and again another bull tried to come in but winded us. I got a quick photo of him just before he departed. It's the picture with this post. Notice the limbs covering part of his vital's. I could get no shot before he smelled us an blew out.
We were now passing the old road where we had been parking our bikes when we hunted Pine Wallows. We left behind several bugling bulls as we headed up hill, hoping for a more forgiving wind and bigger bulls. Soon we were at the top end of the aspen draw where just the evening before I had come close to getting a good shot at the huge 5 point bull.
We could hear distant bugles far in front of us and it sounded like a great bull. We were now in the Ponderosa-Oak mix. The going was much easier, and far less steep, so we could make good time. It wasn’t long before Cody saw some cows and then we saw the bull. He was a nice 350 class herd bull, tailing the herd and bugling every minute or so. As we closed the distance a cow spotted us and off they ran.
In less than 15 minutes we spotted another herd, below and to our west. The winds had indeed settled a bit and my hopes soared. Cody and Gary would stay put and would move forward and towards the elk. Once in position they would begin cow calling and hopefully a nice satellite bull would come over to check these hot cows.
I got in position and the started to call. By this time they both were really with the program. Their calls sounded real and very enticing. They were in tune with what was happening.
The herd bull had had enough, and started towards the beckoning cow calls. His path would take him directly in front of me. For the first time since early morning, I felt is was going to happen. He was a very nice 6x6, probably a 340-350 class bull. He was much bigger than anything I had ever taken and I had no time left to be fussy.
The bull left his cows and started to circle down wind of me. If the wind would just hold, I would get my shot. It didn’t and he was gone. Hurriedly we headed up hill and to the north. We could hear no bugles. Time was now of the issuance. There was only about 40 minutes of shooting light left when we crossed into a large opening. Cody stopped and glassed the area he could see from that opening. Dad he said, “There’s a big herd of elk below the canyons of Aspen Wallows.
It was a long ways, but it was our remaining hope. So off the hill we fled.
Luckily, we had parked one bike near the top of the mountain and just 5 minutes away with a quick pace. We ran off the mountain and to my bike. I handed Cody my bow and he and Gary jumped on the back and away we sped towards the elk.
On the ride Cody had noticed I had broken or bent every single pin on my bow. It was just not be that I would end up with a bull, I guess it just wasn’t in the cards.
But as I continued on, he got my main pin, the 30 yarder, back in service. That was all I had ever really intended to use anyway. I had also busted the peep tube as I ran off the hill, but that too was an easy fix and I was back in business by the time I parked the bike.
Several rifle hunters, whose hunt opened the next morning, had scared the elk and they were in the opening with their spotting scopes glasslng for the bull they hoped would fill their tags.
Elk were bugling just above them, so we said hi and hurried up the hill. There was only 10 good minutes of shooting light left, but the bulls were coming and it still wasn't over!
I ran and got set up in front of a small Christmas tree, in the middle of a good opening. Bulls bugled immediately above me. I was cutting it short, but there was still time.
Cody and Gary settled in 40 yards apart, just to my right, in a thick patch of oaks and they began to cow call and rake and make all kinds of commotion.
Instantly a cow appeared above me and ran into the opening, and following her was an anxious bull. She kept coming towards the cow calls and bull followed her. He stopped forty yard up hill and in front of me.
I watched this smaller Colorado type bull for several minutes. Then they both become aware something was not quite right and headed back into the trees. The bulls above screamed as darkness enveloped the area. My hunt had come and gone and I would not fill my tag.
My son walked over and said, "Sorry Dad., but you made the right decision .” Gary shook my hand and we headed for the bikes.
For those of you who I let down, I'm sorry. I made many mistakes and at points, in time, acted like I had never hunted elk. If I had told this story without pictures, people would have called me a lair. But it was real and the experience was very moving.
From an old hunter ( I will be 65 in February) who once had so much kill in him, I was really starting to sense the real essence of bowhuntng is in the experience and not just in the kill. Oh, sure the kill is important, but I had experienced the most important part of bowhunting, the closeness of all the animals and I witnessed their means and their ways at close hand. And I was blessed not with a huge rack, but a hunt that few will ever be fortunate to experience and for that I am most grateful.
I'll end this now, but I will make a few more posts, one telling about what happened the very next day with Gary and Cody. That too is well worth keeping your dial set right here.
I will post that as time permits, hopefully today or within the next few days.
I want to thank all of you who have shown so much interest and for all who were cheering for me. I truly appreciate it. I've had people look up my number and call me. I've had emails, and I've had PM's. I know my story has touch some, much like it touched me.
Long live the great endeavor of bowhunting. Is it any wonder why it's my number 1 passion?
Have a great bowhunt and may God bless each of you.. BB
And so the sunset on the San Juan with an unfilled tag, but such a small price to pay, for such an exceptional experience of a lifetime!
Many thanks to all of you for letting me string you along for so long only to find out I didn't get a bull.
Back at camp, the hunt over, Gary, Cody and I talked. They wanted to go back down to the rendevous area an hour or more before light and hear and watch that fiasco once again. They ask me to join them. I declined.
After what I had gone through and paid witness to, for the last 3 plus weeks, I could not bare to watch some rifle hunter down one of those magnificent bulls, as he laid his rifle over the hood of his truck.
Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against rifle hunting. I took more than my share of animals by that means while growing up in Wyoming. But as bad as I wanted to get more pictures, that was something I was not prepared to watch.
The other guys, including Cody, were sleeping in a trailer and I was sleeping under my truck shell. For years I have awakened long before daylight. Before 5 a.m. I noticed one head lamp and heard one bike start and drive away. I took for granted that Cody had decided to sleep in and that just Gary had gone down to watch and witness the elk.
I was up before daylight and got some hot water going and ate a small breakfast. I heated plenty of water so Cody and I could clean up before heading home, and then I began to break camp. There were very bugles and most of the ones I heard were very distant.
At about 8 I went over and knocked on Dion'[s door and ask him to tell Cody it was time to get ready to go. He said Cody had left to go watch the elk with Gary.
Ironically the morning was whisper quite. There was no wind for the first time in days. It was a most beautiful morning, and I was far enough away from the action that I could not hear one rifle shot.
Nine and then ten came and past. By then I had dropped the tent, and had things about ready to go, with the exception of Cody's personal gear for the trip home.
At about 15 past 10 I heard a cow call and looked up to see Cody and Gary come walking into camp on the trail I had used for my route to Aspen Wallows.
What they related was unbelievable to most, except to one who had witnessed about the same thing 24 hours earlier.
The difference on this day happened to be the elk had moved over and were under Aspen Wallows. The guys realized early on from the bugles and made their move to them in the dark.
They called in no less than 9 or 10 different bulls. Many as close as 20 yards, and few right up to them. Not one bull got their scent on that windless morning until after it would have been too late.
When they hit Aspen Wallows it was trashed and two bulls were there doing there thing. It was an another incredible morning for them. And as Gary put it, it was his finest hour in the wilds, he had never been witness to anything like that in his life, not even the morning before.
For years I have fought for better bowhunting seasons in Utah. It was not until the very last day that the bulls could be called. I vow to try hard to get at least 5 more days on the end of our elk bow season. That is something we all need to support.
On the way home Cody told me that I could have easily filled my tag that windless morning. How ironic that it waited until the rifle season opened.
Shortly afer pulling on the main road and very near camp, I pulled over to pass a truck with orange jackets. I rolled down the window and ask how the hunt was going. Unbelievably they had not seen an elk all morning.
In time I plan to do a bit of editorializing about what I think of the San Juan and the elk management there. Many will not like what I say.
Have a great bowhunt. BB
Like fine wine, this story has aged wonderfully. It is as good (if not better) today as it was when you originally posted it. As I stated in October at the end of my thread Photo Essay--A week in Wyoming, your words and photos are an inspiration to us all. My thread was a testament to the wonders of elk hunting, but more so a tribute to you. Your words and photos compell many of us to stop and reflect upon the hunt as not just a conquest, but as an adventure whose images line the hallways of our memories, to be cherished for a lifetime.
You always sign off with those familiar words: Have a great bowhunt.
I just did!
BB, you are a master story teller and photographer. I'm very jealous of your experience and talents. Thanks so much for taking the time to tell the story in the first place, let alone to retell the story. I greatly appreciate your effort and thoroughly enjoyed the tale. I wish I could have been there with you.
Thank you for taking the time to do it all over again for us. Must have brought back wonderful memories. Thanks.
Thanks for sharing!
BB, this might be another thread for another time, but I'm very curious what were your recommendations for the state to manage the hunt or area better?
In the original wasn't there a picture of a bull in the back of a pickup that looked very, very similar to the big bull you almost shot in the wallow?
With that said, it would be a good time to say to Pat, that a nice improvement to the site would be the ability to delete and repost the correct photo in cases like that. There are also several photos that look terrible posted, but looked much better. One is of a sunset and one is of the moon. I don't know what happened to those photos, but if I could repost them I sure would. Anyway, that is just an idea Pat.
I think in the first posting of this hunt, I showed two different bulls, taken by hunting partners, but I no longer have those photos, or at least can't find them.
For those of you who have an interest in taking more photos of your hunt, I highly suggest for you to get a Panasonic FZ-18 camera. For most guys, in situations like I get in, I don’t think there's a better camera around for that type of shooting. It's small, light, quiet, has a very large optical zoom and high on mp and for all it offers, it is very reasonable.
A few guys who read the original version of my hunt, and few who didn't, have ask if I had a link or a way for them to read the original postings, so the link with this posting will take you to it. But of course it does not have the photos, and that’s why I re-did it.
I hope many of you will get to experience at least one or more hunts like that in your lifetime. It does a man’s soul good.
Have a great bowhunt. BB
Bill, I am about to either buy the FZ18 or even the FZ 7. Both are great, one 12X the other 18. That 12X camera can be had for right around a staggering $200 right now! Incredible value...
Thanks man, hope all is well, and YES...please make this story a bowsite feature with all the non BB comments deleted out.
With all that said, this story is a keeper and I never tire of hearing and seeing it unfold. Interestingly enough the story has actually mellowed over time rather than being embellished. Pretty unusual in our day and age.
Thanks again BB for reminding me what its all about.
I had fun! JP
What an incredible adventure BB! I joined Bowsite in 2011 & wasn't aware of this story. I thought I would bring it up again, at least, for some of the guys who hadn't seen it before.
Hope you've had a bunch of great bowhunts since then BB! Thanks for sharing it!
Thanks T-Roy for bringing it back!!
Great post and pictures
What a stellar, stellar, MAN!
Thank you Bill.