When I first started hunting elk, it was totally new. I hunted them like Whitetails , which consisted of ambush, tree stands, and of course areas where they concentrate. That my friends = wallows and waterholes.
Later on in the season, if I still had a tag, I would chase them when they’re rutting. As we all know, this is a lot of fun, but as I had no real partner, and everything was self-taught, it consisted of a lot of head on shots that I always passed on. Still, with all that aside, I managed to kill an elk most years. Nothing big, but still, elk were tagged.
One of the not so lucky guys I stumbled into.
Anyways, I found myself hunting alone the last part of the season and by chance a guy named “Rob”, who I befriended through our kids soccer team, asked if he could simply come along for the ride. As some may recall, I wrote a quick summary of this "First date" right here on Bowsite called “Nonhunter Hunting”.
On that hunt, I ended up killing a bull within an hour or so of first light with "Rob", the Non-Hunter. Here he is packing.
Little did I know at the time, but Rob, a guy that I took from a Nonhunter to hunter would eventually reverse the teacher/student role. All I had to do was sit back and learn.
Nothing really changes out there, so it’s just getting the time to go hang a few stands before the opener. As this area is very easy to access, and gets a lot of pressure, it’s pretty much a first week hunt, and then all the elk are gone.
One of things I love about this area is a group of guys from the South we meet each year. For them it’s elk hunting. For me, it’s hanging out with them until we go on our “real hunt”.
These guys have become good friends, and I find myself packing 2 or 3 of their elk every year. I guess that's a fair trade for all the whiskey they provide.
As the summer comes to an end, my "Southern" friends call me just about every week to see how things are going. They mentioned it was a gazillion degrees where they were and they couldn't wait to get out elk hunting.
As we were hanging stands that week, I figured I'd send them a photo of "Colorado Beach". Tons of hot chicks on this piece of coastline.
How does that go?
"I got my toes in the water, my ass in the sand not a worry in the world a cold beer in my hand life is good today......... Life is good today"
As long as I've lived out here, this drive never gets old. Funy how I drive through some of the best elk country the state has to offer, along with the views, to get to an area that is about as ugly as they come.
We get camp set up in a hurry about 50 yds off the main road and go up the hill to meet our friends. We eat, BS, and talk about all the elk gone by.
So, after our dinner with our “Southern Folk” we get back to camp and discuss the opener. Rob says, “Dude, don’t shoot a bull up here, we still have our real elk hunt”.
I think it over, and agree, unless it's a nice bull its "cow and bear time" and just hanging out with our friends for a few days.
Rob’s concerns are warranted, as 1) I don't pass many elk up, and 2) my opening morning spot is as much of a guarantee in elk hunting as one can get. It’s just a great spot. Here is a bull Rob killed his first year of hunting it.
Here is photo of Rob’s spot next to the burn. We put a treestand in the spruce to the center left. Notice the wallows in this place.
This area gets better and better as the days go by, but still, after the first week, it too is a ghost town. You will come to know this area shortly!
We haven't been here for a few weeks, but as the season has started a little later this year, I assure Rob these areas will be covered in mud from all the elk coming in.
Rob goes to bed but I stay up. It's quiet, the wind isn't blowing at all and the hiss from the lantern is almost overpowering. The sky is lit like it always is up here.
Its funny at times when you have a few minutes alone, your minds starts to drift. I've spent a lot of time up here over the years but it doesn't call to me like it once did. I've seen people come and go. I've seen my girls that used to hunt grouse up here with me move on to other things in life. It sure has changed and a part of me feels like the actual "hunt" has faded a bit.
But! as sure as the sun rises tomorrow, there will be action, and we will be in the middle of it.
I don't think that's gonna be a problem ! Bring it on !
Rob is getting up, and will be making breakfast. If there is one thing he doesn't skimp on, it's food.
I grab a couple bars, an apple, and I leave wishing him luck. He says “You leaving already” I said I know I know, see you later. And I drive off.
The location of the drainage I hunt is shaped like a Horseshoe and until now, I never thought of it but maybe that’s why the area is so good. One of the problems I’ve had over the years is a road goes right above it and I have had people drop in on me. I’ve always went back and forth about parking right above the drainage and dropping in, but 1) I'd be coming down slope with the wind at my back and 2) sometimes there are elk right under the road.
So I stick with what I’ve done for years, and walk it in from the opposite direction which is about 2 miles. Hmmm. ¼ mile vs. 2 miles? Old Habits are hard thing to break and I park.
I get out of the truck, and It wasn't until then that I noticed a tent and trailer parked about 50 yards away. No lights on yet, I get my stuff, breakfast will wait a few minutes.
I continue walking through the area down the road and crest a well known hill. I get to the top of the hill, and I see horns sky lined! Two bulls dump down over the side and I'm saying to myself, maybe I need to change my entry. Anyways, I'm still a ways from where I need to be and keep walking.
I get to the spot I always hangout at to let everything wake up, and on queue I start seeing lights appear way off in the distance as people are getting up. I sit down and have breakfast in the dark looking up into the the money drainage.
I take a bite of my apple and at the same time, I heard something. You know that sound when it's so quite that when you bite an apple, it's louder than the surroundings. I'm sitting with a chunk of apple in my mouth waiting to confirm what I think I just heard. Nothing, I swallow, and there it goes, a whistle from the drainage I'm heading into.
I get halfway through the "gauntlet" and I hear sticks breaking down below me. Shit? Bear? elk? I can't see anything and don't have my light on and keep pushing through until I get into the tree.
"Dude don't shoot a bull" goes through my head, and I'm hoping for that 1-2 year old cow will come through.
A little bit about this spot. When I'm in the tree, the areas where I normally shoot are way below me, but due to the slope, behind me an elk is level with me. There is a big dead spot behind me. It's real dark dirt, with soft pine needles and elk come through under 10 yds and you don't hear them until they make it through. I've actually smelled elk, turn around, and elk are eye ball to eye ball with me. It really is unique.
I hear some rocks roll, and he appears.
It's not even the 1st of September, and this guy is rutting. He looks to be a nice 5x5 and he's big, and full of mud. He's rubbing on a tree about 400 yards straight up from me. Normally, I'd be on him, but there is no way I'd get to him so I just watch, and boy does he put on a show. He's chasing cows, and bugling, rubbing trees as I can see an Aspen about the size of your calf just whipping back and forth.
I'm glassing him when I hear this slight sound, almost like sand falling. My first instinct is to look behind me as that dead zone has cost me before. Nothing, I look down slope nothing...... Back up and around, nothing, back behind me again and a bull, a decent one is 10 yds away, level with me, and has caught movement. He doesn't see me, but he saw something as I had cut out an opening as a few years before I had a nice bull walk 200 yards right to me and then cut behind me and I had no shot. Now, the opening I cut has a nice bull in it not looking at me, but looking my way.
I'm kind of a movie scene guy, and can relate a scene from many different movies to every day life. In this scenario, I felt like Charlie Sheen in Platoon in that scene where he's looking at the Vietnamese soldier, and his rifle, back and forth. My bow is hanging in the tree, the elk is staring my way, and I'm wondering how this is going to play out. What about Rob? "Dude don't shoot a bull" Well, I talk a good game, but that was then, this is now and I'm excited.
Thanks for sharing
Good luck, Robb
He sticks to the left, and I have no shot, same as before. He's feeding in the grass about 25 yds away, but still no shot. He makes a right turn and it puts him right where the blue dot is in this photo. I'm at full draw, but I don't know the exact yardage, he's 35+ and I let down.
Clear wide open shot, but as long as I've hunted this spot, that shot is deceiving as hell and it's hard to tell 30 from 50.
About an hour later, right in front of me there is the thickest 150 yd by 50-70 yards of choke cherries and alders I've seen in Colorado. You can't get through it. I see the tops of the trees moving, and hear branches snapping. Over the years, I've had bulls come out of it and many bears. This sounded like a bear.
About 30 minutes later, the branches are snapping much closer to me, and I get a glimpse of a bear. He's up there feeding making all kinds of noise. I do have a tag in my pocket, but the opener is a couple of days away.
It's been a great AM hunt. The good thing is I can tell Rob "I passed a bull up" ensuring, our backpack hunt in a few days will be for bulls only!
Up to our "Southerners" little villa, and we learn they have shot two elk. One bull, one cow. So, as always, I offer to assist and help pack one of them out.
Normally Rob would be in on this, but his back is killing him. He's been really struggling. I tell him don't push it and relax. We'll get the elk out.
Here is the road I get to walk down. It's closed, and has one of the nicest Aspen groves you can walk through. This year, there was a disease or parasite eating all the leaves, so it was a bit like an aging women, still pretty, but better at dawn and dusk.
This is the exact location where I heard the bull a 100yds from the truck earlier in the AM.
I'm relaxing, getting cooked in the sage, when I see two people walking out of the drainage back towards the truck. One is a guy, the other a girl. She looks to be dragging, and they're heading the wrong direction for an evening hunt so I just sit back and relax waiting for the sun to drop.
There could be elk up in the drainage right now, but the winds are iffy, and even if you hear them splashing up there (like many years) I don't head up after them as the wind will get you no matter how tempting.
So, I move down and sit in this little corner. When you sit here, you can't feel the wind at all. It's like you're in a pop-up blind and it's a great ambush spot until everything calms down.
The wind is calm, so I start my way up. This is a good sign for things to come.
Not 5 minutes later, and just a few days before bear season this guy shows up.
Hopefully all newbies will pay attention to your comment about not going in to a hot spot until 5:30-6:00. IMO, more good spots are wrecked by guys going in at 4:00 or earlier before the thermal settles.
Good advice! More!
So the bear has enough, and decides to walk off down drainage. I figured he may pick me off, but he heads up slope back to "Berry Land" just before he would have hit my wind.
As the evening progresses, I hear what I believe was a whistle from over the ridge. The sun is behind it now, and it's the witching hour.
It isn't long, and I have another cow and calf come down and start drinking out of the lower pond.
He's licking is lips, and I reach for my bow. The cow and calf don't want anything to do with him, and they come up drainage and they're now right under me.
They're right below me eating grass, and the bull is drinking. I can hear him panting, and the sound sort of reminds me of "Lord Vader" when he's drinking.
I have two elk below me, the bull down low, and he raises his head up and starts heading toward me. If he continues his forward movement, he's dead. In reality, he came from down slope, and unless he turns around (highly unlikely) there is no place for him to go. It's simply a waiting game as he is no more than 30 yards and his forward direction is putting him in that sub 25 yds which I prefer.
Clop clop, the bull is moving forward, but more foot steps can now be heard. Here comes some more elk from down drainage. One of them a cow, and she isn't particularly big followed by some monster cows.
It's a traffic jam downtown Denver, and I'm right in the middle of it. The wind is calm, thermals blowing down but none of them have picked me off.
He starts walking forward, and he now turns to his right up toward a cow. He has just opened up his whole left side at 15 yds. and I am locked in on the pocket. Like a mountain lion ready to strike, I draw back 15ish, 16ish yards head down, slight quarter away...............
Even though no blood trailing is needed, I always like to see what I have on the ground.
When I first saw the bull, I was actually a bit let down, but when those cows started filtering in behind him, my heart started racing and I knew it was just a matter of time.
In the end, I wasn't going to deny Rob his back-country hunt, the one he loves dearly over this gentleman's hunt but I'd soon be faced with another situation that could change all that.
As I was pretty much standing where that bear walked up, I was a bit concerned about what may happen to the meat, so I knew once I got quarters off, I would need to relocate them away from the carcass a decent ways.
With the elk broke down, a smile on my face, I started hiking out when an Owl, a crazy old dude started strafing me. Nothing crazy, but he would fly a few feet above my head and land in a tree in front of me. As I would pass, he'd do the same thing over again. This continued for more than 1/4 mile. Finally he ran out of trees.
It was a great night, there was a bull bugling a drainage over from the one I just came out of. I wondered if it was the 5 point that I somehow just gave the "Pass" to? It didn't matter, and neither did time right now. I was going to sleep in tomorrow.
Two kills today would have denied me the season I was about to partake in. How can "Semi-old dogs" learn new tricks, if they're always in the kennel?
As his back was still really bothering him, I told him don't worry about the pack out in the AM, I would handle it. Besides, it wouldn't take long as I was going to sleep in, let everything come and go, and pull the quarters out the easy way.
For whatever reason, I just don't see many elk down there these days. I thought it would be a good place to relax this evening. There is no way I would hunt down there now, but it's a place I would come back to as the season progressed.
So, with a cold beer in hand, my binos, and about 1.5 hours before dark, I decided I would hang out and glass. I would not be hunting, a simple scouting mission if you will.
Through the course of the sit, I didn't see much, but did see a decent bull and a bear. Pretty uneventful.
So, for the mornings hunt, I tell Rob to go down to "Old Money" and I will go down to a set of beaver ponds and see what it looks like.
This set of beaver ponds is a great area. If you found it way back in a Wilderness Area, you'd kill an elk off of them every year. The problem with this set of ponds is they're are visible from several roads. You still have to drop down to them, but as pretty as they look, a person who's never hunted before could see this is a good spot.
So, I get down to the ponds at first light, but I know this isn't the spot to be. There is nice trail up on a wall just above the ponds. This is where you want to be as you can see everything. Most importantly, as the wind in the early AM is coming down, I set up down slope from the trail, and as the sun comes up, I simply walk up, and camp on the up slope side.
Its barely light, and I see a group of elk running across an opening heading my way. One of them is a bull. I wait to see what they're going to do. As they approach from the bottom, they cross the ponds, come up the hill I'm on and hit the trail. Too easy! So they say.
The cows work there way up slope of me at exactly 30 yards. The bull is in the rear, and he's not bad. As he's walking across the slope I shift my bow ever so slightly and he saw it! I mean, pegged! He's now burning a hole in me, and decides he should go up one notch on the hill and although nervous, he does make it to the timber where the cows went.
In the oak brush and sage, they are monsters! When I see them I want to dig a hole and get inside of it as no matter what, they not only see me, but they start to blow, hop a ways, blow some more, and just really make you pay to be in their presence. They are unforgiving. I guess you know where I'm going with this.
Two bucks come down the trail, and although up slope of me, they pick me off instantly. That shape next to the pine tree wasn't there yesterday, or last year for the matter and from there it turns into gong show.
This was encouraging. I had a carcass, a hillside full of berries, water, things were looking good for the opener.
This spot seems to get better as the week goes on as there are three huge drainages that join right next to this draw. As the elk get pressured from other areas, they simply jump a drainage, and if they don't feel pressure, they may stay.
I've actually seen elk in "Old Money" that end up here. As I arrive at the spot, the horizon doesn't look good. It is black, and lightening is raining down from the sky.
This isn't your normal 15 minute Western shower, but a drencher. I get out of the truck and keep looking to the West, this storm is huge but looks like a huge portion of it could pass North but the rain, and lightening isn't good that's for sure.
Here comes the rain.
I get out of the truck, get my stuff and start to head down, and Bugle! Nasty Bugle! You got to be kidding me!
I head down the old road as fast as I can. Depending on where that came from, I may be in good shape. Bugle again, this time I have direction, and I realize right then and there, my delay has cost me.
I get down to the corner where I can see the wall, and wallows, and there are cows all over the hillside, and a bull rolling around in the lower wallow, and a nice bull (for me) is just coming out of the wallow that I was going to set up on!
I sit down and watch the show. Here is what I see.
Now a ton of things are going through my head. There isn't anyone here besides me, watch the show, come back tomorrow and sit the wallow?
Two years ago, we saw a huge bull in here, doing the same thing. We pushed it, went after him but the wind got us and he was never seen again. Looking back, if we would have sat the wallow, I think our odds would have been better.
I leave him, someone could be in here tomorrow. He's making a ton of noise, anyone within earshot can hear this his for sure. This also happened to me several years ago.
I know this area very well, I could sneak way around, come up the back side where I found an old aluminum arrow years ago with a big blue Zwickey on the end?
It's time like this I'm such a rookie. If Rob was hear I know what he'd say. Throw the calls away, lets loop around and stalk that guy, we got him.....
(let see if this video works)
So, I'm sitting exactly 229 yds away from the bull I want. The hill is full of cows, they're spread all over, and he's running back and forth between them when he stops for a second, and starts to take his frustrations out on an Aspen the size of my thigh. That's about 2 liter bottle size for those not in the know.
I don't have enough pins to reach him, so I sit back and anxiously put a plan together. For me, this is my biggest problem when elk hunting. I think to much. I'm not even a smart person, so I don't even know why I worry about it.
This hill he's on has a back door, I could easily get over there and get on him. At about that time two cows head into the back, and one comes out. The hill I'm on is bare, but I know I can still get down there as elk sure aren't on the same level of deer as far as picking you off but again, I wonder if I can let him come to me.
It starts to rain, I decide I will wait him out, and come back tomorrow and try to get him in the wallow.
Then these guys show up. Same hill! One of them is already looking at me??? How in the hell?
I sleep in, and get up around 8. Have some coffee and put my rain gear on. I figure I have time to kill, feel more than rested so what the hell, I will do something many guys don't like to do on an elk hunt, and that's fish. As mentioned, I'm killing time, having fun with our Southern neighbors, and tomorrow is the bear season opener.
Rob isn't seeing much, and really wants to get into the back country. I get it, I tell him give me a day or so on the bears, another night where I saw the bull last night, and we're gone.
It doesn't seem like it rained as much in this direction, and a few Brook Trout were caught.
With the weather that occurred out here last night, he looked "Shell Shocked" and I could have killed him with a rock. I let him be and continued down.
my best, Paul
One of these days, I'm going to dig a pit blind in here and be done with it, but seeing how my back country hunts are getting better and better, this may be the extent of it.
I'm not sure one can classify habitat that elk use, but I like to think of this spot as a true wallow setup. The elk can and do drink out of this spot but wallowing seems to take precedence over a simple drink here, Unlike "Old Money" which is a watering area/travel corridor. I've never seen an elk wallow at "Old Money".
If I had to pick between the two, I will take a "true watering area" over a wallow. They seem to be more consistent.
One time I was napping on an old forest service road, heard something, looked up and there was a giant bear less than 10 yds looking at me. My bow was about 10 feet away. That one still haunts me.
One of the things one has to consider in Colorado, is the fact if that if you do kill a bear, you have to check it in. The hide can't be frozen etc.
As we normally hunt this easy spot, and then go to our back pack area directly afterwards, it has made me a bit picky as I don't need the long, did I say long drive to check a bear in.
So why do I have a tag? One asks? Shouldn't I just shoot any bear? They do prey on elk calves? Truth be told, I'm bending a little bit for my partner. I know he's chewing on nails to get out of here and actually "elk hunt" and I guess, there is a side of me that's happy to have him around, so I confess. There is the "it has to be a big bear" and too, there is the fact I don't want him wasting his vacation days on me. If Colorado ever moves the bear season to coincide with the opener of elk season, things would be much different.
Early AM has me in "Old Money". I have berries in front of me, water, and a dead elk carcass down slope, but not visible. I'm not in the stand long, and I hear branches snapping in front of me. This time I get a good look at the offender right away and sure enough, it's a bear.
The funny thing is, he's climbing up these trees until his weight pushes the tree down and as he keeps his balancing act going, the top of the tree snaps. Then he eats his treats, and repeats. Ha! Child book material.
About an hour goes by, and this happens. Testing me to the limits!
Here is the shot.............
As he leaves, I question the pass, but it isn't over, he's heading to a carcass if I wanted round two. I'm good with my decision, and leave him be.
Up to my right is a huge hill that I can sit on and see the carcass area pretty easy. I decide, since there is more than one bear in here that I will go have lunch, watch the carcass from afar with good wind. I know I should give this area time, but I want to give that wallow one more chance prior to our departure tomorrow for the back country. I would very much like to shoot that bull!
Bingo, movement, I look, and can tell it's a bear, but can't say how big it is as the bushes are a bit tall. I take off, this will be a spot and stalk run, and the first I've done in Colorado for bears.
It's pretty much a walk in the park and I'm within 75 yards of where the carcass should be. If you remember that "gauntlet" from my earlier posts, (about 100 or so back) I forgot to mention it's black dirt and pine needles. It's like walking on a sponge. Well, there are no "boogie monsters" in the daytime, and I use this nice tight lane to my advantage.
Binos up, where is he, wind is good....... Ah, there he is, about 50 yds away. There is not only good cover between him and I, but better yet, there is an elk trail that goes up the hill toward him that will put me close.
I sneak in, closer and closer. I'm on the elk trail now, and the brush is high, so the only thing thats going to blow this now is the wind which seems to be holding very well. I now see him, his rear end is to me, I move up, I'm now sub 20 yards from a feeding bear, and now its time to judge him and wait for the opening.
I'm sitting there right next to him, and decide I'm going to pull my camera out to get some video of him. The camera is out, one hand on my bow, other on the camera, oops, he sees me! He has that "What the hell is that look on his face" I don't move.
All of a sudden, he starts doing the "Antelope at the waterhole trick" where he pretends to eat, but then pops his head up to try and catch me moving. No dice, I'm not falling for it.
I've already judged him now, and decide I'm not going to shoot him, but I do have a bear to contend with here so I need to make sure I'm not on the wrong end of the stick. He decides to walk at me. Ah, shit, camera is back in my pocket now, and he's closing towards me. I raise my bow up level now, I would simply have to draw and shoot him through the chest. He still can't smell me, and decides he's going to get down wind of me and cirles down the ditch towards the "Gauntlet". This is my chance to exit, but at the same time play with him a bit. As he gets into the "Gauntlet" I run down an elk trail retreating, but at the same time, I want to watch him.
Sure enough, he thinks he is far enough down wind and starts walking to where I was. Again? What the hell? His head is going in circles, he's looking, but nobody is there. He now starts to walk down slope and I figure since I will be hunting in here for years to come, I want him to know what humans area about, so as he comes out the back side of a tree, I throw a rock at him. And then another. I let him see me now and I start walking at him fast throwing another rock. He gets the picture and moves out at a quick walk, not running, but he knows.
The bear is gone now, I walk down slope to where he was standing as that's the way back to the truck. I look up, and we traded places! He is on the exact trail I was just standing on. All is good, and I walk out.
As the evening is winding down, I hear water splashing in the upper wallows. I'm looking up there bow ready, but can't see the source. Then I hear it, that woof, woof, and can't believe it. Its another bear. This one too is a cinnamon and unlike the others, after passing this one, I do have some regrets. He came from the ponds, directly in front of me and I could have shot him at ten yards.
Today was a good day, well worth the cost of my bear tag. Tonight, we will go up to visit our "Southern Neighbors" I'm hoping they haven't added to their meat pole for selfish reasons as I'd like to sit with them, have a few drinks, talk about years gone by, and most off all, just talk about things that hunters talk about. I can already see Rob dosing off in the corner of the tent as we continue to talk. He can take the truck back. I'll walk. It will be the last night we're together this year, and just like last year, time has gone by too quick. I will skip the morning hunt and prepare for our departure into the back country. Before I go, I will tell them all good bye.
They've done good this year as they have 3 elk and one deer. For a bunch of grown men, it always seems weird when we say goodbye. We're all smiling, talking about a get together down south to do some fishing. In the end, it's all small talk to somehow comfort one another. Those last handshakes are given, behind the smiles you can see a slight sense of sadness. Hopefully, they will all be here next year. Another one in the books.
Its place we found a few years ago and right from the tent you can be into elk. The view from this place is excellent, and there are many little pockets you can see right from this one flat place on a series of slopes. At first I thought it was too close to the elk we will be hunting, but after a few years, that simply isn't the case.
We begin our climb.
The view going up.
Down, across, and up we go. Every fall I tell myself we need to come up in the summer and cut a trail so it will be easier in September. Well, it's September, and still no trail.
I drink some water, figure out where I'm going to setup and start the process. We did get in here late so there will be no hunting tonight, and we may not even get a chance to glass with the way things are going.
After a few minutes, with dark closing in, I get up, "Tin Man walk" over to a small opening next to the tent, and glance down into a small opening right below camp.
I can't believe my eyes, there are three bulls right below us. All 3 seem to be at least six points. One is laying down, the other two just feeding. All 3 are nice, two being real nice.
I run back to Rob and say "You're not going to believe this xxxx, there are three bulls right below us. Three big bulls"
We walk back to the opening, and he gets a look at them and says "Unreal, well we know where we will be in the morning". I look at him and say "The morning? We got 15-20 minutes of light left, I'm going now.........."
Time for work.
Great story! Thank you very much for taking the time to share it.
We have learned to do it well on Bowsite, on purpose or not.
my best, Paul
Thanks for sharing your hunt, This is awesome
We're standing close together with a wall of brush behind us for cover. I motion for him to lean towards me and I quickly tell him, "If we get busted, (my hands moving with the inflection of my voice) it will be the one that is bedded that pegs us, the other two are feeding and I'm not concerned with them."
I tell him to follow my every move down the hill, we'll make it, just keep tight and keep one eye down, and one eye on the elk. In actuality, it's hard to keep that eye pointed down as the bull that is bedded is huge. His fourth points resemble the configuration of a caribou rack, squared off at the ends. I hope we get him, or any of them for that matter.
We start to go down the slope. We've been here before, many times, but unlike those other ridges, we're past the witching hour. It’s funny how this all plays out in the end. Many times we as hunters try to speed the clock up. We want that witching hour upon us, why not, that’s when things come alive. In this case, if we could push pause just to get to the bottom of the hill, we would, but as they say, time waits on no man.
This situation is text book if there is such a thing. We have elk up in a small opening. No more than 70 yards off the floor of the crick bottom. It’s late, the elk are on the tail end of a drainage, above the junction of two small but ever flowing cricks. As we cross the crick, the air is cold, its very cold. The cold air from both drainages is coming down now in full force. There is no wind, but the evening thermals are pulling down in such a way, getting winded isn’t a concern. It’s cold.
I look to Rob, we have minutes, this is a great calling setup….. Call? “Hell no, lets move right up there and shoot one of them.“ I agree, there is no time to try and set up. I’ve never said Rob is stupid, hell he has a German last name, by default he’s smarter than me. He’s also from California originally, and I can’t help but stereotype him as a ground hunter. I can think of a lot of good hunters from California, and one thing they all have in common, they love to spot and stalk, and love hunting from the ground. Rob is no different. It must be from all those approaches those guys do on the beach during the summer months.
We spread out about 20-25 yards. I continue up, Rob swings to the right. We continue up, and the view is like a tunnel. We're in the dark, but the meadow is lit. I can't help but think it's like those days of my youth when I opened the door from the dark building to go play hockey outside. The sun would blind you temporally, and you couldn't see a thing.
There is no way these elk are going to see us as they are standing in a light area, and we're coming up and out of the dungeon. For once, the tide has changed, we have the advantage.
We have the wind, we have the element of surprise, we just need one last clue, direction. We continue going up. I look at Rob he can see me, barley. I point to him, then two fingers at my eyes, and then up towards that light spot. He points to his eyes, then to the spot, and then waves his hand under his chin. He can't see anything.
Then I see his head going up and down, he's rubbing on a tree. I quickly look back to Rob and tell him I see an elk, and tell him to hold.
I start moving up. He's about 30 yards away or so, but I can get much closer as he's thinking of better times ahead and most importantly I have cover, and a nice worn elk trail. Just as I'm moving up I hear a small stick crack behind me and see Rob is still coming up. I motion for him to hold up. What did I say about Germans?
I get there. The bull is still standing there rubbing the tree, and I'm set. It's pretty dark now, and judging distance is tough. I'm not a good shot, I can't shoot long ranges with any real consistency, and I've come to the realization, I like animals close. They don't seem to get away.
I'm struggling with the range to the back of the lane, about equal with the bull. I range it, 22 yds. I now know if the bull steps out in this lane, there is no guessing.
I wait........ and wait some more....... If the elk turns to his right, forget it, I don't have a shot. The same goes if he simply turns around. The only shot I have is if he goes to his left. I wait.
The bull steps out into the lane but instead of turning broadside, he's coming right at me, right down that nice 3D lane. He puts his head down, I draw. He continues walking at me head on, not something I want to deal with.
As if on cue, he turns to his left and his first step across the opening almost has him across the whole lane. Find that pin, I'm on him, don't just shoot as I'm all over him. I can feel the door closing and the urge to release an arrow. I cow call as he's about to step out of the lane, he stops crack!
The woods explode, Rob comes out of nowhere and is rushing up to the meadow. He passes me and I don't say a thing. I nock another arrow and move up behind him. I get to the edge where I can see and can't believe my eyes, you're kidding me! All is quiet........
the girls I knew in high school were less of a tease
Its real dark now and I don’t know if he could shoot. I hold my ground as you never know what’s really going on. A short time later, I hear him coming back. I can't help but smile, and notice he too is smiling as I can see his teeth in the dark.
We still haven’t said one audible word to each other since the shot, but as his pace is picking up coming down a small rise towards me, he breaks the silence with “ Man! Man! That was intense! Man, I was right behind you, Jesus! I thought he was never going to turn”. Indeed wow, I too am speechless! Things like that just don’t happen, but somehow, it just did. Together we walk to the fallen bull; both equally proud to be elk hunters.
So with all the excitement of seeing these bulls, we had left camp with nothing but our bows. No backpacks, no lights, etc. We’re standing next to my bull, admiring his overall size, and we can’t even take a photo. So, just like days gone by, there is no rush, we simply sit down in the dark next to the bull and begin to talk. It amazes me how you can talk about the same thing over and over for 10’s of minutes and yet each time the story is repeated another aspect of the hunt is highlighted. “I can’t believe they didn’t see us coming down that hill”. “Camp is right there as he points up the hill.
An hour or so has passed since we sat down alongside the bull. I say “well, I suppose I should go get the packs no?” I know Robs back is bothering him so I mention, “Hey, give me your bow, and I will bring it up to camp”. “Dude, I’m sitting next to a dead elk, no lights, I’m keeping my bow here”. I give him mine, and take his and before starting the walk out. I ask if he’s going to be ok? He’s good, off I go.
It's a strange feeling that one has after killing an animal. It's a feeling without explanation. The act of "doing" is so simple, but explaining what has been done, well, to me, there are no words in the English language that can truly describe it. I mean, why does one get "buck fever"? Why does a 12 year old simply fall apart when that first big game animal is yards away? Why do I feel so happy after climbing this steep hill?
I reach camp and gather the packs, some water, and most importantly some food. Prior to dropping down, I hung a small light on a tree so we could see it on our way up a few hours from now.
Back down I went and within minutes, I was calling out to Rob to get direction.
We look at the shot placement and comment on how it's perfect. We both already knew that it was as the elk only went 15 yards after the shot.
It was a complete pass through, and although we had a tough time finding it, we did find the arrow about 25 yards behind the point of impact. The bull had actually run a short distance up the hill, fell and rolled into that big Spruce that Rob went around earlier. It looked like he may have gotten back on his feet, got around the spruce, and once again fell and rolled down to where we found him. I'm glad I did slow the shot down. It paid off.
If there was a mystery to this whole thing, for the life of me, I never did hear the other two elk take off. Strange!
So, I get to take photo of my second elk of the season. As this is a backpack trip, we will split the portions right down the middle as we've done in the past.
Breaking the elk down goes smooth, and I start to bring the quarters down to the corner where we crossed when coming down on to the elk. It's and ice box here and these quarters will be good to go! I'm starting to get tired now, and I head up to get that last quarter. It's been a long day, but I'd do it again tomorrow if I could. Be careful what you wish for!
Finally, we arrive. We both lay down on the ground whipped. It seemed we were just here, feeling the same way until I decided to take a look over the side, some hours ago. Just like before, I get up, "Tin Man Walk' over to a small tree where we stashed a small flask of "Old Charter" courtesy of our Southern friends. A toast was in order before we turn in for the night.
Rob says, "I think I will sleep in tomorrow. We can just glass from here he says" I'm not arguing. Off to sleep we go.
"Chad! Chad! do you hear that?" As I'm slowly waking up, still dark outside, I hear Rob say "Chad, Chad!" Yeah? "Listen!" Bulls are singing I look at my phone it's 3 AM.
Am I dreaming? Is this real? "Rob, I agree, that place does suck!" A magical day has just turned into a magical night. What I didn't realize, is how special the rest of the season would be. It was one for my special brown notepad for years to come. One I will look back on when seasons weren't so plentiful..............
Someone get this guy some Ritalin
My best, Paul
Excellent story telling friend. I am really enjoying this.
Alas, work calls.........
Yes, please...chapter 3...