Shane, our hunting partner, had waited 16 years to draw this tag and my son Cody and I both had 15 points.
Here's the story for those of you who want to come along on this Colorado unit 61 elk and bear hunt.
For those of you who need to have a kill to have a successful hunt, save your time and tune out now, but those that want to see and hear what happened between our hopes and the broken horns stay tuned and experience a bit of what happened to us during the past 30 plus days.
Hopefully the photos and a few small videos, if I can learn to post them, will bring an appreciation and some enjoyment for those of you who choose stay tuned.
Since I have been gone for so long, it may take a few days or even up to a week to finish this, but I will try to devote as much time as I possibly can under the circumstances.
I hope each of you can gain a small perspective of our Unit 61 experience!
PS: Pat has created a tutorial on the Bowhunting .tv tab to help with posting videos!
By about one that afternoon we had camp set and were on our four wheelers to scout and see the area.
It wasn't long before I learned how chuck full of bears the Ucompadre was, or at least the area in which we were scouting.
Here's a photo of the first bear track I saw and before the elk hunt even opened, I had laid eyes on 4 different bears and saw tons of other tracks.
Man do I wish I could bait there!
Again thanks to all of you who helped make this such a memorable experience for us!
Here's a photo of young retail hawk I took while scouting on the very first evening.
Here's a photo of Clint looking over the cliffs into one of the many very steep canyons. Much of the area is very brutal with steep terrain and thick brushy sides. In many areas it is not very bowhunter friendly, but it is loaded with elk.
Thanks for taking the time to put this together for us. I look forward to the story.
While looking for these waterholes one afternoon I came upon this recently shed velvet, not far from, which would soon become, one of the two waterholes where we placed stands.
I would learn later that it would turn out to be both a good and bad place as you will come to understand. Some of the stuff that happened at that pond is almost unbelievable; as is the stuff that happened at the other pond we called Lower Bear Claw!
Both Shane and I got into the elk early that morning, but two other hunters who came off a nearby hill jumped in ahead of us and pushed the elk up the almost vertical canyon.
Here's Shane early that morning as we moved towards some screaming bulls.
Meanwhile at the lower pond Shane saw a number of doe and fawn deer water.
Here's a doe we both saw in the early days that would let us walk right by her as we made our way to Lower Bear Claw.
Here's a photo of a bull in his bed we saw quite early that morning.
I sat the lower pond and here are a couple of the photos I took that evening. I only saw does and fawns that evening.
Here's the canyon I was looking down into as the elk sang their late morning serenades.
Early the next morning the four of us jumped on the 4 wheelers and took the long ride to the trail head. We arrived more than an hour before first shooting light and headed towards the canyon. We dropped several hundred feet before climbing another 500 feet only to loose that elevation once again and then have to climb the next hill. Just as daylight broke we found ourselves above the rim of the canyon we hoped to hunt.
At first shooting light a 5 point bull passed within 40 yards of Jeff and me. Bugles could be heard in the canyon below. As we hiked the exceptionally steep grade towards the bottom we could see a small bull wallowing some 100 yards below us. Then we saw more elk and more bulls, but the hill was so steep we just watched and waited for them, to pass on the shelf below us.
In about another hour and very near the bottom, we choose to split up and Jeff and Shane made their way up a side canyon and Cody and I headed for the bottom. Once in the bottom Cody and I headed up a small stream for about ¼ mile until it branched into several good canyons. It was there we chose to bugle as we could hear several distant bulls.
As we take a break, Cody lets out a bugle.
Here's a photo I took of the cow as she glanced a moment at us and then walked up hill.
We got back, had a quick late lunch and got ready for a sit. Cody had never been to either waterhole and since at this time there were only two stands a LBC and since Shane wanted to hunt the upper pond in hopes of the big bull coming back, we headed out for an evenings rest.
At the time we placed the first stands, hundreds of cattle were ranging east and south of our waterholes, but by this time they had moved north and west and were now everywhere. It too had a big impact on our hunt in several ways.
So Cody and I headed for Lower Bear Claw, Shane for Upper bear Claw and Jeff went searching the area in hopes he could find us a good place to hunt the following morning.
Not long into our sit these does watered.
And to answer the deer question above, no we never really saw many buck deer at all. We saw some before the season started, but very few after. But keep in mind the deer and elk were basically in different places and we tried to be in the places we would see elk. I personally would never burn 7 or 8 points to hunt deer there, after what I saw, but several hunters in our area did end up taking a few good bucks.
I was fortunate to meet two great guys from the Bowsite. Early on I meant Paul Vise (pav) and Dan Fox (bohuntr). Both had unit 61 deer permits and could tell you a lot more about deer hunting that area than I could, as like mentioned I spent very little time in prime mule deer habitat at the critical hour! It was great to meet both of you and when either of you draw your elk tag, you can bet I will have some good information I will be happy to share with either of you.
Meanwhile up at the other pond Shane sat and had a yearling steer chase off a decent bull that tried to water. We both had dozens of cows standing arounding and hurting our waterholes.
But for day 1 Cody could not have been more pleased or optimistic!
The moon would soon be full and add another challenge to the hunt. I took this photo just before we climbed down from our stands on Cody's first night.
That evening Cody and I sat the upper waterhole after Jeff had placed a second stand there. We only saw domestic cows but every evening one gets a great sunset from that stand.
The cow runs into the water.
The snake photos were taken with my DSLR and are much crisper. The Nikon just doesnt have a sharp focus and I really like a sharp focus. My Olympus on the other hand does.
In a while I will post some horny toads that I took with that camera and you will see the huge difference in detail when compared to Nikon photos.
Here's a few other photos I took while in his presence.
The next morning Shane and I went and sat at the big pond (UBC) and had quite a morning. Here's a photo I took that morning of a small 6x6.
Well I just got a call from a freind of mine who just shot a buck deer up on the Wasatch and wants me to go take some photos. I have to go walk the dogs and get up there. Hopefully I can get back to this tomorrow. By far the best is yet to come.
Have a great bowhunt. BB
Keep up the great story-telling!
Bill in MI
I can't wait to hear the rest of the story. The photos are great!
I took the two of them to lunch this afternoon before they went up hunting for the evening. They chose a stand we call twp ponds high. I found this waterhole many years ago and have taken number of critters from it as has my son and a number of friends.
Jeff and Cody decided that if a deer came in, Jeff would shoot, and if an elk came in it was Cody's shot.
About 7 this evening a four by four came running in for a drink and Jeff sent a snuffer right through him. They called and ask me to bring up some packs and also my camera.
Here are the results of Jeff's shot and my Olympus camera's work.
Congrats to Jeff on his very first 4x4 buck and thanks to Cody on a great tracking job in tough conditions.
Way to go guys! I am proud of both of you!
I will now get back to our Colorado adventure on my next posts.
Believe me things are about to get interesting, but that will have to wait until I get some sleep, walk my dogs and do some stuff the wife wants done. But I promise to get back to it as early as possible.
Thanks for all the kind words and talk to you later. BB
We were heading out in the dark and knew little about the area other than knew there was a four wheeler trail somewhere off the Divide Road. After finding it in the dark with my GPS, Shane headed down the steep, rough, hill. I follow some distance to stay out of his dust and while driving down the hill and trying to pocket my GPS my bike tire grabbed the steep side cut and before I knew it I had tipped over my bike. on its side, hitting and hurting my hip. Being alone and trying to get that heavy bike back on all fours with a bad back was tough chore, but I finally made it. I was in fear that I might have hurt my back again with the strain it took, but I lucked out with just a sore hip and some wounded pride.
Mean while down in the bottom, Shane waited and wondered what in the heck was I doing as we wanted to be in some distance from our bikes before shooting light. That did not happen.
While hiking in we saw a nice six point bull, but he saw us about the time we saw him and you already who know won that battle.
In an hour Shane and I split up and he headed north and I went south. I found a great wallow and decided to build me a make-shift blind; all the while a giant sounding bull bugled above me. By 11 AM it was quite and I headed back for he bikes, but I knew I would return to sit the wallow at a later date.
I meant up with Shane and as we were heading out he went through some heavy oaks with me behind him and there just so happened to be a hornets nest in the oaks. I timed it just perfectly to be on the receiving end of their rage. I was stung several time around and above my eyes.
I have quite a severe reaction to stings, so I knew I was in trouble. My eyes began to swell and by the time we got back to camp, after the long bike ride, this is what I looked like.
Tough break Bill. I feel your pain...as my body reacts to bee stings in the exact same manner.
I just returned from hunting 17 straight days, 23 out of 30. Great to be able to "hunt" along with another friend after the fact! Looking forward to the rest of the story.
I saw several elk that evening but so late the photos were terrible. I did take this sunset photo and although I enhanced it a bit, that evening the pond and sunset set looked more like a painting than the real thing. It was kind of eerie.
After a long walk and little action we hit the bikes to scout some low country we were told got better as the elk got pushed around.
Here are a couple photos I took that morning with my Olympus camera. Notice the difference on the quality of horny toad photos when compared to my first posted photos.
I love taking photos of critters when you can get close.
Anyway back to the elk stories.
I would be alone only for a couple of hunts as two friends were coming to be with me on Shane's departure.
That evening I decided I would just hunt one of the ponds. It was a beautiful evening with little wind, a condition that does'nt happen often in the area we were hunting.
I chose Lower Bear Claw. I iced my eyes good and they were now both opened a bit from how they had been earlier. The stings effects were slowly wearing off.
Here's another photo of LBC on an earlier night. I posted one of these photos earlier but it did not come out like the orginal. Hopefully this one will be better.
Great post as usual Bill, keep it up!
Anyway I headed for the lower pond. It's less than a half mile, easy hike from where I park my bike. I walk across a flat for several hundred yards and then drop off into a small funnel like canyon, that widens the deeper one goes.
When i was about halfway to the pond I could hear a short bulge that sounded very near the pond. I was now on alert. As I approached the pond (50 yards or so) I could see antlers just over the burm. There were three or four sets and they were close. I mean real close!
Luckily they were feeding most of the time with heads down and for the most part I could just see their backs and antler tips.
I snuck to my tree, but I knew if I climbed it I would go above the burm and be in their vision. My mind was going a million miles an hour. Should I just chance staying on the ground and leave my and their fate to the fickle winds, or should I chance getting in my tree. Several minutes past, as I debated the pros and cons.
I now knew there were four bulls and one or two were shooters. Their heads were all down feeding and from past experiences with the wind , during transsional periods I made the decision to climb the tree.
All heads were down so it was now a go. I quietly hooked my bow to the bow rope and laid it against a small bush and began to climb the tree. When I was about halfway up the tree one the bulls raised his head, turned and headed for the far end of he burm. We were almost eye for eye and he walked up onto the near end of the burm. I froze and viewed him with him bee stung, squinted eyes.
What a stupid position to be in! Why hadn't I remained on the ground?
Then all of a sudden he turns and walks but 10-12 yards from my tree and begins to rake his antlers in the nearby oak brush. His butt was quartering to me and he was in his full fledge raking mode. The hunting gods had blessed me as there was not a better time to get up the tree and into my stand.
The cover noise was perfect and the three other bulls were still feeding with heads down.
I made it into my stand, got my day pack off and hung my pack, and now all I had to do was get my bow up the tree.
I reached for the rope as he nearby bull continued to rake and the distance bulls (30-35 yards) continued to feed.
My bow hung up just a tad on the bush, but finally swung free. At that very moment the biggest of the four bulls (320ish type bull) turned and headed over the burm to drink. When he walked over the burm he was greeted at less than 20 yards with my bow, acting much like the pendulum on a grandfather clock.
Immediately he froze in his tracks, realized something just wasn't quite the way it was suppose to be. He turned, and diagonally headed up the hill and into the oaks without breaking into a run. Soon the raking bull would head in the same direction, as did the others, and what once was a great opportunity, turned into turds!
A few cows watered that evening and a small spike by two, but I was just minutes too late to have had a 15 or less yard shot, at a very decent bull for the unit.
I had promised myself that I would not make the same mistake I made on the San Juan. I planned to shoot first and take photos later and that was my plan that very evening, but it turned out I was a few minutes late!
I made the promise to get in my stands at least 30 minutes sooner from that time on. As you will see later down the line I should have made that an hour sooner!
Of course with what happened, I did not get any photos, but here's a photo that shows that end of the pond and what I was up against. I have drawn in a thick red line the path of the bull and the approximate area he stopped when he saw my bow swinging. I also drew a bow to depict the swinging pendulum. I bet my shot would have been less than 15 yards!
A great heart break, but a memory I will cherish forever. It was one of the highlights of my Uncompadre experience.
Got to cut the grass and do a few things. Hopefully I can make it back later today.
Have a great bowhunt BB
Dan, yes that's a hornet's nest and that's what Shane brushed or disturbed.
Previous to daylight I climbed up into my stand. It's a very comfortable stand I built years ago and I have taken a number of elk, deer and bear from that stand. I have a built in bow holder on the stand, but due to a nearby tree that was almost touching the front part of the stand, I could not use the bow holder. So I had a screw in step on which I hunt my bow. But before I hunt it I would rap it with the bow rope. It served a dual purpose. It got the rope out of the way and at the same time made the holder very quiet as it cushioned the bow.
While rapping the rope I bumped my bow off the stand and it fell about 25 feet, landing on a big old limb at the base of the tree. It was still dark and so I climbed down the tree to retrieve my bow only to find the quiver had broken off the bow and the bow had come unstrung.
I climbed back up the tree to enjoy the morning. I knew a huge bull would come in under the circumstances, but that did not happen. I did have a cow feed right by me and water and later saw small bull water. Then the fog moved in and at times the visibility was near zero. It was a good time to hit town and get my bow fixed.
Here's the cow that came by not too long after daylight.
I will continue this tomorrow.
Have a great bowhunt. BB
But one afternoon just as I got ready to go hunt the skies clouded. I jumped on my bike to head for one of the water holes, but as I drove several miles south of camp and looked at the sky, I turned my bike around and headed back to camp to get my rain gear. I no more than got to camp and it put it down for several hours. After it quit and before I went hunting that evening I took these photos at camp.
On the way back to camp I ran into these fellows. Again I only had my Olympus camera with my close up lens, so it might look like I am far away, but I was within 15 yards on most of these shots.
We decided to head out early the next morning to go hunt the ground blind I mentioned earlier. It was over a 1 hour, rough drive but we got there and settled into the wait.
Clint had never seen a bull wallow or even sat a wallow before. But both of those things were about to change.
Above us somewhere, not too far, a huge bull continued to let out his bugle. We sat for about an hour as I raked and we waited. Then movement, a patch of gold and brown and out walked this spike.
I did catch a small part of his reduced actions and now I need help to post the video. So if any of you know how to post a video, made with a point and shoot camera, please send me a detailed pm or email. My email address is [email protected] I think most of you will like what you see. Thanks for your help.
I did catch some of the action with the stills and here are but a few of those.
It is far more than chasing a bugling bull with your only intent to kill. Few guys had anymore blood lust than I did in my time. Through the years I have learned I missed out on so much that I can never recover. It's kind of like raising your kids. If you don't take advantage of it while it’s there, it will pass you by.
Although I discovered much of this too late, I am very thankful that I did discover it before it totally passed me by, like it does many guys.
Well I am going to go walk the dogs and hopefully I can get this video thing figured out. Again any help will be appreciated. Remember I am computer illiterate! I know my friends would say I didn't have to put computer in front of illerate!
Although by the time I decided to video, and this little guy was just about done, I am positive many of you will enjoy the small bit of video I did get of the last of his performance.
Thanks little guy you truly do get a standing ovation from Clint and I. You were outstanding!
Have a great bowhunt BB
One of many good thinks to come out of the hunt is maybe that all those bowhunters holding out for 2,201 and 10 want be jumping ship and going to 61. At my age I don't need the extra competition.
I wish you many more great bowhunts and thanks again for sharing. DD
Hey Bill, remember the old Whitey Whiskers cartoon character? LOL!!!!!!!
I don't let mine grow so you guys can't poke fun at me. Keep up the good work Bill.
Like the dummy I am I let this little guy do his thing for a long time before I tried to video him. I missed a lot of what he did, but got just a bit at the tail end of his performance.
With two guys there it was much easier to get the bike back on all fours. I was lucky I was not hurt worse. In each case I was only going 2 miles an hour or so.
I got very close to what sounded like a large bull that evening, but never got to lay eyes on him, even though he bugled at less than forty yards. That unit in many places is so thick its tough to bowhunt.
With my sore hand and my sore ribs, I didn't take any photos that evening.
Here's a photo of our camp. We were camped near Cold Springs but on the 61 side of the unit.
Early the next morning we got up early and headed for the ground blind I built. It was the day before the muzzleloader season opened and I wanted to try to get that big bull that always seemed to be bugling just above the wallows.
The three of us, (Clint, Pete and me) headed for the wallow after the long four wheeler ride. As we neared the wallow (100 yards or so) we could hear what sounded like a nice bull bugling and he had to be very near the wallow.
I ask the other guys to stay where we were, as I tried to sneak in for a shot.
As I made my way towards the wallow I saw a very respectable bull (early 300's) come walking from the timber just above the wallows and heading towards them. Then all of a sudden all hell broke lose and huge (340ish) type bull came running at the other bull in a very unfriendly manner. The crashing was deafening! The small bull headed away from me to the west with the big bull in pursuit. Then he turn and ran 15 yards broadside to me to the east. The big bull stopped just 20-25 yards from me and stood broadside, but he was standing behind a willow bush.
It was a perfect setup. No matter which way he walked out I would have a great shot. I had an arrow nocked, a big bull at close distance and he had no idea I was there. The wind was non existent!
Meanwhile down he hill Clint and Pete listened to all the noise and assumed I had arrow a bull. So in order to try to get the wounded bull stopped, Pete bugled. At that instant the big bull whirled and ran back into the time. Chalk up one more close call!
The guys came up and we sat the ground blind until the wind became a concern and then went back to camp.
Clint left that afternoon and now Pete and I were there for a few days. We had one last evening before the muzzleloader hunt began.
Glad to see the videos on bowhunting.tv as well. Cant wait to hear about the arrow sniffing.
I just sent you an e-mail.
One evening before Clint left, Pete, Clint and I went down into the dry country to check on a waterhole that gets good with pressure. Pete did a few cow calls and a big sounding bull growled quite close. I set up but we think he came in so fast he saw us setting up.
A few minutes later we check out the water hole shown in this photo.
Here's one of a small bull that came into the pond that morning as we sat. In the background we could hear bulls just screaming and hoped others would come in, but no such luck.
It was opening day of muzzleloader season and we had seen several hunters in the general area on our way to the stand. As I recall we also heard a shot that morning not too far off.
Here’s a photo Pete took that morning at the big pond. Keep in mind he has a great camera that he loves, but it only has, as I recall, a 6 power zoom lens, so you know this bull was close. (Great photo Pete!)
We were pretty much surrounded by cows and here's a photo Pete took of what we both thought had very unusual, but pretty coloring.
We got down and took a good hike, getting just above them as the bugled non stop. There were three or four very mature soudning bulls, but our bugles and cow calling sent then farther down the near vertical canyon. Soon their bugles were in the far distance.
We walked out to the end before it fell into Mesa Creek. We were hiking the norht ridge line of Beaver Dam Branch for those familar with the area.
Here's a few photos Pete took that morning.
I had just added my rock to monument.
We decided to find a good elk trail and trim some of the oak braches out and see if we could make eaiser access that way. It took a number of hours but with both of us working we were in the bottom by late afternoon.
This is a photo Pete took as we trimmed the trail.
For those of you who have hunted the area or will soon, here's a photo of the infamous Windy Point, taken from its the northwest side.
Add some Benadryl to your first aid kit for those stinger incidents. Although my sensitivity to stings has declined with the years, Benadryl will knock down the swelling in a hurry.
As we hiked up the bottom towards that point I watched a crow fly by and I could see he had meat in his beak. I mentioned that to Pete and soon we came upon the boned our carcass of what looked like a good sized elk. It laid no more than 70 yards from where Cody and I had that close encounter on his first morning.
Bulls were bugling and so was a hunter than had come down from the divide road. We talked to him briefly and then headed back down he canyon.
Soon I was heading up the north facing slope in hopes for sneaking in on a good sounding bull. I hiked way up as Pete stayed in the bottom. I was gone for several hours and got into his cows and had a decent 5x5 walk by me. At times I could hear the herd bull bugle not more than 40 or 50 yards from me, but I never got to lay eyes on him. I had pushed my luck and finally the winds switched and the gig was over.
I headed back down to Pete and we headed out as this was he last morning he could stay and needed to get back to his wife and work.
There are many great wallows in Unit 61 and here's a great one on UC Creek. Pete took this photo that morning.
I forgot to mention in he last post that on the way down UC Creek, after trimming the trail, dI jumped a bear out of the creek bed. It stopped about 25 yards from me. It was only about a 225 lb. bear, but very good looking. I motioned to Pete to come and see him, and me moved up behind some brush and stopped again at about 35 yards before melting into the forest.
Had I wanted to fill my tags with marginal animals, I had now had my chances at both elk and bear.
Mine look like yours do when reduced. It's frustrating when you have supposedly "upgraded" to a nicer camera.
Are you still getting unsatisfactory results with full sized photos?
I have noticed, especially the ones taken in low light, that when I post them, they come out much poorer than the orginal. One of my favorite photos, the camera took, was of the moon shinging in Lower Bear Claw. When posted it looks like crap.
The camera has some great features which I like, but it does not take the quality of photo that is taken with any of my other Panasonic cameras.
One feature I like is the ablitiy to crop and border a photo. The camera does that very easy, much eaiser than with photoshop. So it does have some great features, it just doesn't seem to have the quality of photo I thought I was getting. You can bet I will return back to Panasonic very soon.
Here's an example of a photo with a border I did while sitting in my treestand. I quite liked the results but not the quality of the photo.
Mine look great when printed out on photo paper but it takes such huge pics that when I shrink them for web use they just suck. That is counterintuitive as you'd think you'd loose quality when enlarging, not shrinking. Not sure why that is.
Here is a pic that looks similar to yours. It just lacks color, crispness and clarity. Please forgive the weeds in the the foreground. My mistake, it was getting dark and starting to rain so I was in a hurry.
So someone explain to me how a 6mp camera that is 4 years old takes much sharper and clearer images (at least after shrunken down) than a new, supposededly top of the line 12 mp camera.
Off to scout another premium LE elk unit here in Utah for our UEA weekend with the family.
Look forward to seeing the rest of the story when I get back on Monday! Great stuff as usual Bill!!!
It poured just after Pete left and I hunted out of camp that evening. I heard some elk bugle far off, but nothing close and it was one of the few nights I did not at least see one elk.
Clint arrived and the next morning we headed for Upper Bear Claw. It turned out to be quite a morning. We could hear elk bugling north and west, but we didn't see one elk that morning, but that did not mean we didn't see anything. It was truly one of great times in a tree as we ended up seeing three bears and seven different coyotes.
Here are but a few of he photos I took that morning as Clint and I enjoyed the show.
Who sees 3 bears and 7 coyotes in bow range in 2 hours?
It has never happened to me before and I am sure never will again.
Here's some of the proof from that mornings sit!
Back to the awesome animal pics! Yea!
For a second I was thinking this was going to be Broken Hopes and Broken Bones...
Thanks BB, your making my day.
Once again you have taken some very cool photo's. I understand what you mean about the quality being off, as I can see it in the posts, BUT they are still very cool to see and go along for the ride of your adventure.
Man, that Sow blackie is beautiful! If she did not have cubs I would of had a hard time passing that bear! Can't wait to see the rest of your adventure! Keep it coming!
That night Clint and I returned to Blue Creek as I recall with no results other than hear bugles. It had been hit hard by the muzzleloaders and it was becoming very obvious that the muzzleloaders were have a big impact on the elk in the area I had been hunting. Most of he hunters I had talked with said they would have no effect, and in some areas I am sure that is true, but in the are I was hunting I pretty much saw ML everyday.
The next morning Clint and went down to sit LBC. Buy this time I was pretty much discouraged with my ne camera and left it at camp, and just carried my DSLR in case I got one. It only had on a close lens and its too noisy to shoot close critters, so my photo opportunities pretty much were non existent for a few days.
The wind blew hard that morning, but when an elk bugled on the ridge I let out a few call calls and soon the bull was on his way. I took a photo with my close range camera, but he looks like he is mile off. He was not a bull I wanted to shoot, thus I took the chance of scaring him with the shutter noise.
About 5 minutes or so after the bull left and what seemed like in a line he was traveling, we heard a muzzleloader shot. Then in another minute or two we heard a second and that time you could hear the whap of the slug hitting a critter.
Not long after that we headed back to camp and Clint left as Cody and Shane were coming for the evening hunt and to spend the rest of the season.
Here’s the bull that came down that morning and the one we suspect didn’t live long after he left the pond.
The evening Cody and Shane got there was no doubt our very best outing for calling. We had orginally decided to go sit the stands as the ML had things pretty much stirred up. But when we got off the bikes there were bulls bugling just several hundred yards away, so we went after them.
On our first setup a nice looking 5x5 and cow came to within 40 yards or so but none of us wanted him so we just shut up let him walk, cut in front of him and headed for a larger sounding bull who was bugling pfarther uu the mountain.
With about 1/2 hours shooting light I spottted a pretty good 5x6, but he too was not the bull making big sounding grunts, so we snuck around him and headed on.
Near the top we saw the herd bull. He was massive, long, wide and truly a 340-350 type bull. We kept after him as he moved his cows and finally caught up with him just over the top. It was the most open area in which I had seen a bull. He was broadside at what I estimate was 60 yards. He was impressive to say the least, but I limit my shots to about 40 yards. My son was to my right and closer than I was, but he was still 52 ranged yards from the bull, so he too let him walk over the hill. Once he went out of sight the two of us hustled to the top, but he had walked into some oaks. Another smaller bull was heading to our calls but he was too small and it was now getting to be last shooting light so we backed off and headed back to meet Shane.
Here's a photo of a small 6x5 walking away, but this was earlier in the week and not on this evening as I had gone into hunting mode and left all but my DSLR at camp.
We got up early the next morning and drove our bikes to the same area we had parked the evening before. It was just prior to first light, and we could hear bulls bugling all around us. It was the last day of muzzleloader season and we were quite suprised they were so vocal as things had really quited down in the previous days.
We decided to split up and Cody and Jon would go hunt the area where Cody and I had seen the big bull and Shane and I would hunt the big flat where we had heard the muzzleloard shots several days previous. There were several bulls bugling in that direction.
We hunted the morning out, hearing but not seeing any bulls. They had moved off the flat and into the very steep canyons. We did find a good waterhole with lots of elk tracks so Shane decided he would set his double bull blind at that pond that afternoon.
When we got back to the bikes we learned that Jon had cow called the big bull from the evening before to within 20 yards of Cody. He was knelling at full draw, partically hinden behind a clump of brush between he and the bull. The bull was walking broadside to him when Jon call called again. The bull stopped. Cody held hoping he would walk out from behind the brush, but the time came when he had to do something or let down. He leaned as far as he could to his left to try to clear the bush and released, but his arrow deflected off the brush, scaring rhe bull. To say he was disappointed would be a big understatement. It was a great bull for any unit and especially for that unit. It was as nice of bull as any of us has seen on the unit.
That afternoon Shane headed with his blind for the new water hole, while Jon and Cody sat at UBC and I hiked down to Lower Bear Claw.
When I was less than 100 yards from the pond, I noticed a huge Choclate bear just leaving the pond and heading into the nearby Aspens. Again I was just 10 minutes late of filling another tag at the same pond.
The bear had not seen me so I snuck in after him, at one time getting within about 40 yards, but soon he had doubled the distance and I turned back towards the pond as I could hear bugling bulls below it.
Nothing came in to any of he ponds that evening. We all heard bulges but no one saw an elk.
That was the 9th and final bear I saw on that trip and I had I been to that stand a hour earlier each evening, I could have filled both my elk and bear tag with a great animal on both counts. It would have been a small price to pay!
Did I mention how thick it was in many places?
The wind blew bad that morning and other than hearing some distance bugles my morning was waisted.
Here a few does and a fawn head for water in the early days before the cows took over LBC.
I discovered I had cell service from that tree, so I called a few friends that evening as the wind howled. It was another wasited evening and time for this hunt was getting away. We had five tags to fill and had filled one of them. I began to wonder if we should change areas and try sonething new. It was hard as I was beginning to know this area and a bit about the elk. But the cows and muzzleloaders had a big negative effect. I was just thinking those thoughts to myself.
Then the wind turned off like some one had turned a switch on a fan.
It had been too windy to nock an arrow so I decided to nock an arrow. I notice that the two ears of my nock were touching. I swear the wind blew so hard that night it blew them together. With my finger nail I tried to open the ears, but one side busted off.
I carry four arrows in my qiver. I had been carrying them the whole hunt and had not so much as use one of them, so certianly the remaining three would last me the rest of the hunt.
I nocked my second arrow, and placed my broken nocked arrow at the back of my quiver. I hung my and learned back in my stand. It was like there was no such thing as wind!
A bugle rang out across the pond. It was only about 100 yards away. I could not belive it. In less than a minute I could see the bull heading towards me. He was almost straight across the pond and heading for the water fast. I grabbed my carmera which this night I happend to have and took several photos of him as he watered head to me.
Here's what it looked like from my stand.
I put my camera down and reached for my bow. I needed to be ready in case this bull offered me a shot. He drank for a long period of time and all the while he was face on, not offering me a shot.
Then he turned to walk away and I reached out with my bow arm to draw, but the stand behind me was in the way so I had to slide forward on my stand. My body was somewhat concocted. So as I started to draw I looked at my bubble to make sure my bow was level and somehow I hit my release. The arrow with very little push behind it arched to about the middle of he pond and fell into the water 20 yards my side from the bull.
He had now started to wallow and he was totally oblivious to what was happening. I stood up and turned around towards him and drew my bow. He as about 40 yards and standing broadside, but he was splashing the water with his near side front foot, the leg I use to take my aim. I waited at full draw and he changed splashing legs,. I settled my 40 yards pin slightly into his chest and released. The arrow went right underneath him and he knocked it over as he splashed.
I was now down to my last arrow, but I knew where I had to aim. I felt calm and confident. I was shooting from an elevated position and so I decided to aim higher than I normally would to buy me some insurance, since it was last arrow. I placed my pin on what would be his scapula and I just as I was releasing, but to late to call the arrow back, the bull laid down in the pond and my arrow sailed over his back, hitting the bank behind him. Still he had not a clue at to what was happening. I reached for my arrow with the broken nock and placed it on my string. It stayed there, so I tired to draw, but it slipped off the rest and fell down the tree. I hung my bow and picked up my camera and began to video the end of this fiasco. Here's what it looked like from my point of veiw. You can only imagine how I felt?
Since I don't video much I really goofed up on this first video. I didn't think it was going so I shut it off when he was most active. That's why its so short. By the time I got it figured out he was basically done.
Thats awesome you got to have Cody and a few good friends to be down there all together. Those are the best hunts regardless of whether we take a critter or not. It is too bad that Nikon isnt taking a good pic.
Looking forward to hear more.
Hope all is well with the family, and the Newlyweds 8)
As soon as he left I climbed down the tree, went over and got the arrow that shot over his back as he lay down and came back and put my good broadhead on that arrow just in case another bull showed up prior to last light. That didn't happen, but I soon found out all the excitment wasn't happening just at Upper Bear Claw.
They both related to me how the winds blew down there and how they thought their evening was ruined because of the wind, but once it died down things soon changed.
As the winds died down they heard the most gawd awful noise. It was loud and both said it made their hair stand uo on the back of their necks. Jon ask Cody what it was and Cody said I think it was a bear! It was a strange, loud noise and it was close.
Earlier that evening Cody took out a granola bar. It was the very hard kind and it broken in its package, but Jon and Cody shared what remained in large pieces, but he poured the crumbs down the tree and put the wrapper in his pack.
Suddenly over the burm of the pond on the far side a bear appeared.
Here's a photo with the red mark about where the bear stood.
Cody recognized the bear immediately from my previous encounter with her. It was the sow with the two cubs. Soon all three were on the bank.
Her nose was working and for a minute Cody felt like she was picking up his and Jon's scent. But Cody has sat enough baits to soon realize she was smelling food. He whispered to Jon that she smelled the granola crumbs he hap poured down the tree. Jon smirked at that idea, but she was on her way around the pond and head straight for their tree.
Jon, who had never been around bears before, started to breathe harder and harder. In fact he about crapped his draws from excitement. The sow and the cubs were now at the base of their tree, sniffing and eating the granola crumbs.
The sow heard Jon’s breathing and looked straight up the tree. She did not like what she saw, and gave a bear woof and up the neighboring tree the cubs climbed, to about Jon and Cody's height.
"Hi, I'm Cody and this is; Jon, Cody said, as he reached over to shake the nearby cubs paw!" That was enough; the sow popped her teeth and departed fast with the cub in follow.
All in all it was a great night for all of us. But none of us had an elk on the ground and time was running out. The muzzleloader season was officially over now and we had one week to get it done. Shane saw nothing but a big Brahma bull that tried to get in is blind that evening. So all in all it was an exciting night for all.
It just so happend that Dan Fox was camped in Long Canyon that evening and we stopped and said hi and talked for a while.
Here's a photo I took in Long Canyon.
Great stories! I feel your pain... almost! :-)
It seems on this trip so far if it were not for bad luck you would not have any luck at all.
Luckily, I know you well and you enjoy the hunt and all the wild encounters with those critters more than the actual kill. Can't wait to hear about the last week! I can tell the pressure is building!
Thanks again for taking us along on your hunt!
With just Shane, Cody and myself there for the remainder of he hunt, we hunted hard and in different places. It was now very cold and windy. We hunted most of each day in many different places but with the same results. We saw and heard a few elk, but calling seemed to be a deterant rather than a help. The elk in the area we were in seemed to be very educated by now and the winds seemed to be non stop and in every direction.
Here's anotheer photo from our outting in Long Canyon.
It was now Thursday of he last week. We had also hunted Mesa Creek and the Tongue and on Thursday morning we decided to head back to U C Creek. We came into it off the Divide Road, a way we had never gone. We got into several herds of elk, moved in close only to have the wind switch.
Late in the morning we heard a good sounding bull bugle for atop an oak ridge. We decided to spilt up and all head towards him from a different direction. I heard him bugle at a close distance, in thick cover and headed his way. I saw a cow make her way down hill and she and several other cows went right past Shane. The bull seemed to be following and Shane was sure he would get a shot, but after the cows past him, for some reason they turned around and went back up hill in a different direction, taking the bull with him. He ended up going up by Cody through a quakey grove, but it was too far for Cody to get a shot.
We headed back for camp to get lunch. With much discussion and thought, we came to the decision that we were not going to fill three elk tags in the time remaining in the areas we were hunting. At about one that day we decided to move camp to the southern part of the region. We knew by the time we pulled the stands, got camp ready to leave and did the move we would be way to late hunt that evening. But we felt it would be a good move overall, so that's what we did.
Here's a photo of our new camp! We camped on Ray Road in the southwestern part of the unit.
We got up early and took a road heading east. We would stop to listen for elk but heard none. Finally after daylight and looking for elk, we heard some bugling below us. We parked our bikes and head down after them. We got close and decided we would be more aggressive in our calling that we had been. The country seemed much more bowhunter friendly in most respects and we hadn't even seen a camp.
Cody and I moved close to a nice sounding bull, while Shane kept the wind in his favor and moved underneath him. I bugled and raked and bull came close, probably no less than 20 yards, but it was too thick to see him. He then went silent.
Meanwhile Shane had moved underneath him. He had chosen the perfect spot it seemed, as the bull headed his way. When the bull got within 15 yards and was heading straight into the small opening in which Shane occupied, his antlers became so tangled in he thick oaks that he could not get through, backed up and changed course. ----- Yet another so close call for Shane that went bust.
We hunted the balance of he morning and then headed back to camp. We decided we would head to an area where Dan Fox told us he and his friend Leon has seem quite a few bulls.
We road he bikes to the road closure and then began to hike. After heading up the closed road for about 1/2 mile we headed south and east. It was still early afternoon and we covered quite a bit of ground. We heard no bugles but we were seeing fresh sign.
At about six that evening, after walking some miles, we began to hear distant bugles. In there pursuit we came upon a great pond that I sure wish I had known about. It was in a great area, with lots of elk, and would have made a great set up if one had time, but it was now too late for that.
We past the pond with bulls bugling above it some distance, but as we hiked the bulls seemed to be moving about the same pace as we were and heading up and they seemed to remain the same distance even after 30 minutes of hiking after them.
Here's a photo I took of Cody at about that period of time.
It was a much more bowhunter friendly area than we had been hunting.
Finally their bugles got louder and closer as we move in on them. And with just a few good minutes of shooting light left, we were in their zone.
A bull bugled and headed our way. Cody was in the lead with Shane following him and me bringing up the rear.
Cody motioned he spotted a bull, Shane range found it at 37 yards. Then I could see the large antlers heading our way, then the full head and he body.
By now Cody had an arrow knocked and soon he was at full draw as the bull moved up. When he clear a few thick aspens and walked out into a small opening, I lightly cow called him and he stopped perfect.
Cody released and bull whirled and ran back in the direction from which he had come. He said his line was perfect but feared he had under shot him. He felt like the bull was 30 yards but it turned out he was about 40 and he had undershot him. I found his arrow buried into a fallen quake at ground level. His arrow was low as were Cody's spirits.
By now it was too dark to shoot so we headed the long trip back to our bikes.
with my GPS, which has a map on it, we headed for a lake that showed the close road we had originally started walking when we left our bikes.
It was about a 2 1/2 hour walk back to the bikes, but our sports were high as this was much easier country to hunt and it seemed like the elk were not so educated and spooky as those in the area where we had spent so much time.
WE got back to camp very late that evening after the long walk and bike ride.
We were hiking long before light he next morning. It was tough going as the dead fall was terrible and to make matters worse we could not hear one elk.
But neither lasted long as we hiked out of the deadfall and right into some bugles.
Near the top of the mountain we were climbing we stopped and let it lighten. There were several good sounding bulls and we were now with several hundred yards of them.
After it lightened enough that we could see we headed their way. We saw a nice bull with some cows, but the cows hung us up and we were unable to get near the bull who so happened to be on the other side. Soon they winded us and moved off.
We tired a setup on another bull, but he went silent too, as he probably also got our wind.
We then hiked down the back side of the mountain and hit a huge beaver dam. Bulls were bugling up the canyon so we headed that way, but by nine that morning they had shut up with the exception of one and we knew that was a hunter. We gathered together for a morning snack and watched a hunter bugle and cow call non stop down the canyon.
We had seen and been quite close to elk that morning, but ended with the same results we had been having.
Back at camp we studied the maps more and decided to take an early afternoon hike about a mile west of the small piece of private land and then head its way as it was a small narrow (1/2 mile wide piece) strip and we could hear bulls bugling in that area from the road above.
We hiked down early that afternoon, but all was silent so when we hit a good shelf with a good trail, we all took a rest and an afternoon nap.
After our nap and letting time pass it remained silent but we headed east towards the bottom side of he property. Then we busted a good herd of elk with a good bull, but they ran down the steep canyon towards the creek in the bottom. Soon elk began to bugle and the chase was on.
We all had close encounters that evening, but again we came up empty.
Here's a photo looking southwest of camp.
We were on the shelf by shooting light, but most of the bugling we could hear was to the west of us, but we still went east!
Long story short we wasted two very critical hours in no elk and had to hike back to where we started and then west about a mile. By now it 9 am and the bulges had pretty much shut up. But Cody and I got to watch several good bulls cross the bottom and head into a quakey strip on our side but west of us about 1/2 mile. We waited and watched until about 11 that morning, but it was all quite. Where the heck was the rut I had been expecting to happen any day?
That question would be answered later that same afternoon when Cody, Shane and I experience close hand, the full frenzy of the rut. It's an experience few hunters ever see or get to be a part of.
Its time to walk my dogs, but when I return, I will try to describe the greatest elk experience that Shane or Cody have ever been a part of. It was truly an amazing afternoon.
Have a great bowhunt. BB
Next the story of the broken horn!
Once again, I have benefited from your hunting experiences and lived thru the bowsite of being in CO.
Your detail to the summary of your trip is awesome and I know very time consumming.
I haven't been on Bowsite for a long time to post because I haven't taken time to locate my pin number.
But your post gave me reason to look it up.
You deserve a great pat on the back for a job well done. I enjoy your insight and wisdom you bring to Bowsite.
Thank for your postings and I look foward to seeing your remainder post on this hunt.
C'mon BB, you've built plenty of suspense here... spill the beans!!!
We wanted to be on the hillside early, even earlier than we had yesterday, so when the bulls started to bugle, we could try get ahead and below them as they moved to the bottom of the valley for water.
We headed across the flat that would take us to edge of the canyon where we had been hunting. But as soon as we walked off the edge, we could hear the bulls screaming and they had moved down to about the center of the hill. There would be no nap today, as we waited on the bulls.
We found a good cow trail that angled across the steep hill and headed in the direction we wanted to go. It was non stop bugling, like few hunters ever get to hear or witness. There must have been 20-30 different bulls going at it. And I mean non stop!
It brought me back, to a few times in the Hoback in Wyoming, in my early bowhunting elk days, when I got to witness the rut frenzy. It is a spectacle few hunters and even less humans get to ever witness. It happens every year in elk country, but unless you can witness it first hand, in an area with lots of elk, there is no way to explain it. There are lots of guys who have been in on screaming bulls, but I really believe that very few guys ever get to witness and watch the full frenzy of the rut. If you are one that has, you are blessed, if are one who hasn't, you are missing one of the greatest shows on earth in the wild kingdom.
Cody had never witnessed it, with the exception of night time experience I described in my Season on the San Juan. Shane had never been witness to it in its present magnitude either.
We were hearing what we had hoped for and were waiting upon. It was totally unreal and now we were less than 100 yards from all the commotion. Bulls were screaming, antlers were clashing and the frenzy had begun!
We were now heading right into the middle of it, as non stop bugling continued and one could hear the clashing of antlers.
The frenzy we had waited and hoped for was now in progess. At 11:00 am this morning, this hillside was quite. And now just past 2:30 pm all hell had broken loose!
I was leading the way with Shane in close follow and Cody lagging about 20 yards behind. Just then Cody lets out a little grunt to warn us about something. We both froze and turned towards Cody to see him pointing up hill.
It just so happened we were passing a very neat and higly used wallow. Mud and water was everywhere and for good reason. My eyes searched up hill in the direction Cody had pointed. I notice the huge rack of a bull elk heading our way! He was at 30, then 20 and stopped at about 15 yards above Shane and I. Cody was behind us about 20 yards and slightly up hill. Shane was slightly above me and in the way of the bull so I had no shot as he stood there starring at us. Shane was looking through some thick brush that blocked any shot that he might have. I could see that from my vantage point.
So it was up to Cody to get the job done. I waited and waited for Cody to shoot, but nothing and soon the bull turned and faded back into the black forest above, as just ahead of us at least 20 bulls screamed in an almost non stop manner and on occasion one could hear the clashing or antlers.
Cody moved down to Shane and I and I ask why he hadn’t shot, as that was a super bull. But the bull had stopped with his vitals covered and he too had no shot.
We moved on slowly now as we were close. A spike stood just 30 open yards above us and starred at us. Forget the spike and just keep going I said, we can’t wait on him. He whirled and ran up hill as we moved forward.
Bulls now were screaming below us, in front of us and above us. I noticed Shane head down hill as Cody and I moved parallel to the hill. In front of me was a large torn up area and to my right I could see what I thought was shed antler. I didn’t have time worry about a shed, but I wanted to see how big it was, so I bent over and lifted it up, discovering instead of a shed, a freshly broken antler. I bet it had not been on the ground more than 5 minutes!
I’ve done a lot of elk hunting in my time, but that just happened to be the first broken horn I recall ever seeing. I whispered to Cody and told him I wanted to put it on his pack. I took a few moments to attach it to his pack and we moved on as the bulls screamed and antlers clashed!
Here’s a photo of the antler on the ground.
It would later prove to be quite the find!
Compared to where we had been, it was far more easy going area, with much less brush and way more bowhunter friendly. In retrospect we should have spent a lot more time in this area, for a multitude of different reasons. Some of them being------easier terrain, more elk, larger bulls, and way less hunter interference.
I could hear bulls screaming below us in the area where Shane had headed. I told Cody it as the time to be aggressive. He had several very close calls, but still no shots. We pressed on and now the wind was becoming more of a factor.
By now most of the bulging was below us and so we headed down. There were many times we had wait on elk in fear of scaring the huge herds in which we mingled. It was almost deafening as he bulls continued to scream, fight and chase.
One could see bulls going in every direction, never stopping, just running to make sure they didn’t miss the ride. And quite a ride it was becoming!
Finally the bulls had reached the bottom and water. It was now open and most were out of the heavy timber corridor they had used to get to their present position. We were perched about 100 yards above them, unable to move because of the bad wind and now the open area in which the trees were very sparse and gave little cover. It was a mixed blessing as it allowed us to watch first hand all that was happening, but would not allow us to move in for the kill. Our only hope was to stay put and watch this spectacle in hopes that one of the bulls below us would chase another bull past us and make a fatal mistake.
As we both huddled to the ground, side by side, we watched as big bulls fought violently in what seemed to be a fight to the kill. A broken horned, smaller bull defended his harem with vigilance against every ravel bull. The cows and especially the calves seemed confused and bewildered, with all the commotion. They milled in circles as bull antlers clashed.
Across the small creek bottom two mighty bulls clashed antlers. A charge and push sent the back end of one into a rather large tree which bent like grass in a wind.
On the peripheral satellite bulls circled trying hard to get in on the action.
We were so close and yet so far away!
As several bulls clashed a big bull ran in and herded up the main body of cows and calves and pushed them up the other side, while the fighting bulls were oblivious to what had just happened. Once they broke loose and realized the cows were now gone, their noses went to the ground like a dog chasing a bear and off they went to re-capture that for which they fought.
Cody whispered to me, “Dad, what I have experienced this afternoon has made this hunt all worthwhile, no matter whither I fill my tag or not.”
I felt the same!
The evening was not over yet but dog walking time is here again.
I will try to finish this up tonight or early in the morning.
Have a good one BB
Then a bugle rang out just west of us and another far up on the hill we had descended. It seemed so vacated, but we were really just back to normal with a bugle here and one there.
Cody and I moved towards the near bull. He was only about 100 yards ahead of us and on our side. There was cover for a sneak but it was open enough for a shot.
Suddenly a small heard of cows passed 40 yards in front of Cody, followed by a herd bull. Cody nocked an arrow, took aim and let it fly. Immediately he told me his shot was short and had gone under the bull. We searched for his arrow but never ended up finding it, but there was so much ground cover and low brush in the area where it would have hit it would have been easy to never see it. He was most certain he undershot it, but we searched and searched and I had watched the path of the bull in case it was hit and so then I went and followed that but there was no evidence. Finally after a considerable search of both the area where the arrow would have gone and the path the bull took leaving I felt certain Cody had indeed missed the bull.
There was still a bugle from high on the hill above us and so we headed back up hill. Cody looked out and saw a small bull, one of the few small bulls we had seen through all the excitement, walking some distance through an open meadow. I took off my pack, grabbed my Olympus E-3 camera and took this photo. Remember the bull is much closer than it looks, but I only had my short range lens on my camera.
Never been there to that degree with 20 or 30 bulls, 8 or 10 had me spinning. But I imagine I couldn't have put it any better. As a hunter rather than a human. =D
You do know you're killin' me here BB? LOL! No walking, let's jog the dogs tonight.
I told Cody to run as we were 70-80 yards from where he would pass. "Don't sneak I emphazied, just run, run, run!" He did and the bull kept coming.
As he passed into the trees where I thought Cody would be, I bugled. I soon saw the bull running and I wondered what had happened. Had Cody arrowed him? Had my bugle scared him, like bugles had so many times on this hunt?
I headed his way and I could see Shane walking towards Cody. Shane was discussed as he told how he had watched the cows come off he hill and pass within yards of him and the bull was following the same path. And then I bugled and scared the cows which in turn took the bull.
I told Shane I had no idea he was there or I would have never done that. I was just trying to get Cody a shot. I really figured the way he went he had killed a bull as there plenty of bulls bugling his way shortly after he headed down hill.
It was getting late and we could hear a bull bugling some 400 yards up the stream so the three of us headed for him. When we got about 100 yards from the bull Shane took the bottom near the creek and Cody and I remained about 50 yards out of the bottom. Cody was positioned and waiting near the most likely opening of travel should the bull stay above the creek. Shane had it covered below, and I just stayed back to watch both.
Both had arrows nocked and Shane was kneeling on a cow path that angled down to the stream. Cody was back of a good opening that the bull would surely take should he stay higher.
I then saw the bull through the oaks, and he was heading straight for Shane. I watched Shane as the bull moved closer and closer. Then all of sudden I could see Shane's head slump in disgust and looked to see the bull had changed directions and walked be hind a willow. From our close position we could hear him drink, splashing and wallowing, but the willow hid his presence. But if he walked out either side of the willow Shane would get about a 30 yard shot. He bulged several times and he was so close. Then things went silent again and I watched Shane only to see his head slump even more. I watched him range the critter, but the bull had walked straight away and the first time Shane saw him he was almost 70 yards. The bull bugled as he walked up the far open hillside,---- a cake shot for a rifle or muzzleloader, but out of range for a bowhunter.
We headed for yet another bugling bull but there really wasn't much daylight left. We would have to hurry.
We got to small funnel that opened into a small meadow. I backed up and began to call as Shane and Cody set up. Each time I bugled I would back up 10-20 yards and it sounded like the bull was coming. I raked a bit and so did Shane or Cody, and I kept backing off and the bull kept coming closer and closer but so did darkness.
That night ended with the bull some 15 yards from Shane in too dark of conditions to shoot. Shane had not fired one arrow and yet had had the most real close, almost, opportunities. So many close calls and yet not one shot opportunity!
Shane had to leave early the next morning but Cody and I would give it one more try.
We left camp long before first light and we headed to all the close places where we had seen or heard elk. We would listen and bugle and wait, but all was silent. We tired some 4 or 5 different places, where if we got an elk, we could get one out, but it was not to be.
So as daylight broke we found ourselves heading right back to where we had been the afternoon and evening before.
But it was very unlike the day before. It was silent--- not a bugle to be heard. Nonetheless we headed back down the hill and stopped about halfway down the hillside. We found a good place to glass and we started looking. Elk could be seen in almost every opening on the other side, but it was deadly silent. By now the sun had broken over the horizon and still no bulges and yet between us we were viewing at least 10 mature bulls. Many were loners in larger meadows with their heads down eating. How could 12 hours make such a difference?
As we watched and as time past, we began to hear a few bugles and we would search for the culprits. They were all across the drainage and on the opposite hillside.
Here's a cameras view of that hillside. Mind you in many of the openings you see there are bulls or even a few small bunches of elk. Most had their heads down feeding.
By 10 am that morning we had spotted around 30 different mature bulls. And one of the last bulls spotted, was the bull whose antler we shared. His 5th and 6th points were in our trailer and soon to be on Cody's wall in his new home!
We watched as he made his way through the small aspen trees located just above the pond near the middle of the photo (in the photo in the previous post). Some where between the evening before and now, he had lost his cows and was now just another solitary bull.
Somewhere in the near future, I knew and understood the real rut, and the real frenzy would soon happen. It was just too late for us. We were as the saying goes, just a day late and a dollar short.
We had found a great bowhunter friendly area with lots of elk, few hunters and a frenzy on the verge but neither time nor season would allow that to happen this year.
I shook my son’s hand and thanked him for all he had done and for all we had experienced together. I told him this would be my last major elk hunt after 40 straight years. It has been a good ride and one I will never forget. Few guys will ever be lucky enough to experience what I have been privileged in all these years.
I put on many miles this season in very steep country with absolutely not one bit of knee or joint pain, and although I can still walk with most guys, when I got in dead fall I noticed a huge difference. My flexibility is poor and log walking balance has gone south. The hours I spent on my haunches and sat back on my heels waiting for a shot is now non existent. My knees just won’t let that happen any more. But more than anything else I hate knowing that if I kill an elk, I can no longer take care of it alone. I must depend on others for help and that just drives me nuts.
I have lost my hearing and my sight, and I have lost my arm strength, and I have lost my balance and many other things, but I have not lost my spirit and I promise I will never loose that! I will continue to hunt and photograph, but I will now spend my time with critters like deer and antelope for I still know I can handle them without having to depend on someone elses help.
I have been blessed more than I deserve and I will always feel a reverence when in God’s great creation. It has treated me well and hopefully I have treated it well as it deserves all of our respect and honor.
A great thanks goes out to all of you here at the Bowsite who were so kind to have helped me on this hunt and a special thanks to Clint, Jon, Pete, Shane and Cody for always being there for me when I needed them. And thanks to my loving wife who has allowed me to chase my dreams and bugling bulls for so long for so many years. Her birthday is Sept 20th, and becasue of my elk passion, I have missed so many and she has complained so little. You are turly one of a kind!
May the elk frenzy continue forever and ever amen!
May you all have a great bowhunt. Buglinless Billy.
P.S Here's the baton!
Your willingness to tell your stories and experiences have inspired many of us.
You have blazed the trail, we will do our best to follow your lead.
I would be honored to be your pack mule anytime!
Many are amazed that we did not fill our tags with lesser bulls as the seasons end grew near. I can only answer that by saying that if we just wanted to fill our tags, there is not a one of us, who during the course of the season, could not have filled our tags with at least a marginal bull. But when one puts in for 16 years as was the case with Shane, and 15 years for both Cody and myself, it felt better to walk away not filling our tags, then to have filled with a lesser bull knowing we had given up any chance of the bull for which we dreamed.
It’s a great unit with lots of elk but it certainly is no push over if you hope for a 300 or better bull.
Cody has been blessed at his young age to have taken a few nice bulls and so has Shane. I have been blessed to have killed a number of bulls on opening day of the season and few on the last day. I have had two days in which both my hunting partner and I have taken bulls on the same day. Shane and I one year in Colorado took bulls within minutes and yards of each other.
I promised not to make the same mistake this year that I made on the San Juan and I feel like I kept my promise to myself and to you. On this hunt I tried for every single bull I really wanted or would have been happy with. Such was not the case on the San Jaun. It just so happened that on this hunt things just didn't work out, usually because of my fault, or that of Murphy. Do any of you guys know Murphy? Ha Ha
Here are a couple of photos from past hunts that I shared with Cody and Shane. They are both dedicated, hard working hunters who love the outdoors and relish the experience almost as much as the kill. I think I enjoy it more at my age and I think someday they will understand with the passage of time.
Here's a bull Shane took on the San Juan a few years back.
For those of you who have hunted there and know that unit, there are very few guys who hunt it who will ever take a bull that size. So we have all been blessed and our Colorado hunt, even though we didn’t fill one tag was a blessing too!
Have a great bowhunt BB
Thanks a bunch for sharing your adventures with us. Sounds and looks like you had a wonderful experience, minus the wrecks and stings!
Something tells me that won't be your last elk hunt.
This thread and others I have checked, read and re-read. They have both kept me going and have be an a pain in the elk hunting heart. I was to go on a solo hunt this year and it was a good thing I had chest pains and ended up having a by-pass in mid-August. There will be next year . . .
Again, thanks for a great story, Michael
Don't give up on the elk hunting. I don't think I could ever do that. When you get a little age on you like we have, we just have to hunt a little smarter. I know you have the experience and know how to do that.
The good memories you had on your hunt will be with you always. I to have seen the rut frenzy several times. What a kick! I feel blessed to have seen it also.
Keep the hunt alive!!!!!!!!!!!!
What a powerful statement!May God bless you as a Husband,father,story teller,and Elder for many more hunts my friend!
Thanks for the ride and adventure. Thank you even more for teaching all of us that the hunt is about much more than the kill. A successful hunt is not determined by the number of inches or the punch of a tag.
To me, it is about how much valuable time we get to spend in the outdoors watching wildlife live, spending time with loved ones, and sharing in the experience.
You once told me in preparation of a major elk hunt of my own to "take time to smell the roses". I did in fact do that and have tried to ever since. My hunts have been much more enjoyable and the kills that much sweeter.
You are a fine example of how to be as a Bow hunter. Thank you Bill. Keep up the great work and know that if the itch comes to shoot another elk, I am only a phone call away and I would gladly pack out your elk. My back is good and my knees are strong. That offer stands my friend.
Thank you and Good night!
You've been blessed as have we with your posts.
Thanks again and seeya' soon. Frank
Best of Luck, Jeff
I sent you a pm a couple weeks ago. Did you get it? I have the BLM maps that you used that my friend Jeff loaned you for this hunt. The maps are nicely marked up and just wanted to pick your brain. I have a tag and have been scouting but have some questions. Any help is appreciated.
BB was quite the combination of archery, storyteller and photographer- An all time great - and bookmarked as a favorite. I once dreamed of hunting Colorado 61 for elk.