8/25 Head out from home and get to my trailhead by 3pm. Loaded up and hiked back 2.5 miles to camp. Had to drop some gear short of camp at the last incline. I could have made it but decided no good reason to push and risk negative impact on tomorrow's hunt. I was really wasted by this point.
Got camp set up and went to glass at last light. Heard a bull raking trees below but he did not make an appearance. Back to camp and had a MH granola and blueberry pak for dinner. No sleep, toss and turn, too warm. Maybe got 2-3 hours of fitful sleep.
A few minutes later I decide to glass the log....its a nice mature 6x6.....easy 270" He is up in the blowdown eating and taking his time. I make the mistake of presuming he will work down to the wallow (which has grown in size substantially......and gained another wallow patch below it) and cross by my planned ambush position to go up over the ridge to dark timber. I should have stayed a few minutes and confirmed. I dash off and set up. He is not showing. I throw out some cow calls.....still no bull. 45 minutes later I call the ball...he must have stayed up in the timber and taken a different route to his bed. Time to move and hunt around.
I decide to hike up and drop into the dark timber behind me. Very young pine forest with barely enough room to walk between trees in some spots....not wide enough in many spots. Very steep. Lots of trails. I set up and call. Nothing. I rake a tree.......hear an elk below me doing the same but he ain't coming up. Thermals are not good to go after him. I head across the hillside and find a trail so wide it must have been an old road. I am angling towards a little opening I spied a water hole in while google scouting. I find the spring pond and it looks like a good spot to hunt. Late morning now. I hike up into the timber behind and find another old roadbed and hike out up to the drainage where I started.
I decide to go over to where I left a game cam on a timbered hillside above a spring that was littered with old rubs. I managed to get the pic of an elk butt passing by in 2 weeks....nothing more. Hmmmmm....head back to camp and cook up some nasty alpine aire chicken gumbo. Choke about 2/3's down and feel nauseous. I am way hot.
Damn its too hot. I can't drink enough water. Keep going to pump more and its gone in no time. I get some shade and take a nap. That evening I decide to set up below my glassing spot near between where have been hearing bulls rake and the wallow. About 8pm I hear the bull raking above me....wind is good...but the bull takes his time and I run out of shooting hours. He is getting excited....I hear him groaning and whining as he rubs the trees. He is not far and I don't want to bust him out so I grab my gear and run down and away into the timber and start my ascent to camp hoping against hope that he only heard me and didn't spook. I still manage to bust two elk in the dark on my way to camp. [
I see a headlamp in the forest with with the light pointing this way and that as I wait for dinner to rehydrate. I first thought he might be tracking an elk in a spot I just hiked out through and busted two elk in the dark.......but the light keeps pointing up into the trees like he is looking for a reference. I thought about going over to see if I can help but I'm too tired and not real happy to have this person messing around next to my camp in the dark. He finally disappears. Hope he found his way. He was not far from easily identifiable spots even in the dark. I know how it feels to be disoriented in the dark in the mountains.....only one way to learn. If he had started hollering I would have sucked it up and gone to help. I guess I was not in the mood for people.
MH granola and blueberries for dinner. This beats heating water and trying to wait to eat a dinner meal before bed......that works better at lunch. I am beat and actually get some sleep. It is too hot. There are advantages to camping above 10K I now remember........
In another area not very close to camp (unfortunately) the spring pond had no wallow on Saturday.....on Sunday there was a wallow. Another wallow below my glassing spot had grown a 2nd section and a whole new 3rd wallow had appeared below it over night. I take that as a sign they are starting to get fired up but still have a ways to go! I've never seen it like this before anywhere I've hunted.......exciting stuff.
However.....nada in the areas I can glass below. Nothing. Not surprised after I busted to elk in the dark and had the lost wanderer mucking up the woods on top of it. I decide to head back through the dark timber and over to the spring pond I confirmed the day before. I take my time, setting up to rub trees and cow call at various locations. Lots of birds and squirrels but not much else. I am seeing fresh sign though.
Now I have not seen a cow in 3 weeks or more. But I know the elk are here....just not where the cows are hiding. I get to the spring pond a little later than planned. Its about 8 am. Late in the day for the elk to be very active I think. I'm hot and tired. I find a shady spot well above the pond.....I range it at 122 yards from where I sat. Time for breakfast. I toss off the gear to cool down and relax and have some justin's honey peanut butter and a Be Kind bar.......a little jerky and alot of water. Gonna need to pump more soon.
Its about 8:20 am and I decide to throw out some blind cow calls for the heck of it. My calling sequence is immediately followed by a crash above me. Oh boy......that's an elk and I think he is coming. No time to think....only to act. My biggest reason for 10 seasons without punching a tag has been hesitation. This year I resolved to not hesitating but acting first. I grab my bow and run down to a pine tree to stand in front of with nothing between me and the spring pond but grass and thistle.
I have the ultimate predator bow decoy deployed on the front of my Bowtech Carbon Knight so I feel like I have something to distract the elk from the hunter behind and justify the cow sounds. I failed to grab my range finder. Panic ensues......how far to the front of the pond.....back of the pond.....that log up in the timber.......where will he come from.......holy crud. I remember I ranged the pond at 122 from above and I figure I covered 1/2 the distance....ok......60 yards...I can do that.
I see the bull. It's like a TV show. I called. He comes down through the timber taking his time....not a care in the world.....grabbing a bite here and there along the way. Nice 6x6. Not super long. Not super wide. Solid though and not a dink even if he is one of the smaller bulls I've seen here. Good 'nuf for me. He finally steps out on the levee of the pond and down to grab a drink. I hear him slurping up the water and smacking his lips. How freakin' cool is this???!!!
He keeps looking at me/my cow decoy but not concerned. My legs are jelly. I keep telling myself to be calm.....focus. Freak out later. He steps up on the levee having satisfied his thirst and starts chewing on a willow. I draw. He takes no notice. I settle in on 50, hold high, and let fly. I see and hear the arrow clatter into the willows behind him. Damn.....I shot high. Wrong distance. He jumps and I hear another bull behind him in the timber I never saw crash off. Done deal.
I forgot mention he gave me a 2nd shot. He jumped about 10 yards, or so I thought with my apparently less than superior distance judging skills, which previously had been good, and stood there stomping his right front foot. I figured a clean miss. I knew I was high. I decided a 2nd broadside shot was manna from heaven and pulled the string back. I'm not so good at math but figured I needed to hold lower. I did.....and the arrow sailed right at his chest.......yes.......then dropped and disappeared. I figured another clean miss.
He trots off with his head high and his legs kicking like a show horse........I can see he is wondering what just happened. He and the other bull are gone. Its over in under 5 minutes from my call to my miss. I wait 15 minutes then creep down to look for my 1st arrow. I find it just past where he stood in the ground under a pine. It has some greasy fat and elk hair and a very little dark blood. I figure it was a non-lethal shot just above the shoulders. Thankfully I did not spine him as he would have likely ended up in the pond and I'd be screwed. No way to get him out and not a great location to break down a bull in festered pond water.....yuck. I did pump some water from the pond....it clogged my filter so it got pretty hard to pump. Crap.
I never found arrow #2 but the grass and weeds were super thick and dense in this area with all the water. I really don't think it is in the elk. I found one spot of bright red blood where the 2nd shot occurred. 20 yards away I found a similar amount. I watched him prance into the forest below that and behind the initial layer of 2 or 3 trees it was a very steep open hillside of pine with no undergrowth. Just pine needles, cones, and fallen timber. Perfect for a blood trail. Not easy going even for an elk. Straining to climb would pump out blood and keep a wound from sealing up with stretching and straining.
No freaking blood anywhere. No arrow. Tracks everywhere so no way to tell which way he went. I followed several trails, went up to where I heard some crashing a couple minutes after he entered the forest. NOTHING. I was in shock. There was no way a low shot would not leave some blood beyond 20 yards from the hit. I expect that was a clean miss and the first shot had bled some and the blood shook off his back then quickly healed which is what little blood I found. I don't know. I only know that my error in distance judging resulted in a poorly aimed shot that injured an animal that deserved a quick clean kill....not an injury. I am not happy with myself.
I spend hours looking for sign of blood, etc. in the area and find nothing. Four solid hours. I religously canvassed the area, high, low, back and forth, peeking behind any rock, log, etc. I wanted to find something....anything to solve the mystery......give me a clue where he went.....whether the hit was truly non-lethal as I believed. I believe he will survive but I can't believe I blew such easy shots. It turns out he was broadside at 45 yards then at 50 yards and I blew it misjudging him both times. Still shaking my head. Time to move on.....(I was back looking again the next morning and will continue to look every time I get in the area.....can't help it....it torments me).....I grab my gear and hike up and out. I decide to head to the truck about 1 pm to charge my InReach and let my wife know all is well. I thought it was fully charged from prior trips but it was stone dead.
Its hot. Hiking out sux a fat rancid ass. I get to the truck to find a note on my side mirror from a concerned citizen who tells me my license plate has been reported to the FS and that the old road bed on which I'm parked is blocked for a reason....they had piled some sticks up where it joined the FS road. I just drove over from the FS road in a different location over vegetation I was trying to avoid. I know I can park anywhere within 150' of a FS road as long as I'm not tearing up stuff and leaving ruts. The old roadbed is a perfect spot off the road about 30' and shady so my truck, and coolers of ice inside, don't get full sun. This owner of private property that boarders this area obviously does not understand the rules or the fact they can't unilaterally decide to block access to FS land.
I decide to head to town to get a burger and some gaterade and more snacks. My pee is way darker than I like due to dehydration. I can charge phone and InReach during the drive. I text the wife to let her know I'm okay and check in with a hunting buddy back in MO about missing the bull. I get back by and park on the old road spur in front of the bullshit stick pile and leave a note for the concerned private property owner advising of the FS rules for parking and that it is not legal to block access to FS property. I guess I have a feud now. I leave my name, address, and phone number. They didn't leave theirs. They can man up or not.
I hike back to the area and take a break in the cool shade of a drainage across from where I plan to hunt. Its 4p m. I've dropped my gear and stripped off my sweat soaked merino wool shirt to cool off. I hear plane after plane passing overhead. Sunday rush hour in the sky. I hear an odd noise after the air traffic calms down.
I'm 2.5 miles back in a roadless area closed to all motor vehicle traffic. But I hear an engine. I jump up in time to see an a guy on his 4 wheeler rolling down the drainage. I start waving my arms to catch his attention....I can't believe it. He turns up into the timber along an old roadbed and continues.
I throw in my shirt, leave my gear, and give chase. I am hot, tired and now in NO mood for this dumbass blatantly breaking the law. I finally catch up to him as he has turned around and started back.....I've chased him about a 1/2 a mile. He stops and grins and says hi. I stay calm and say something tactful to the effect I'd sure hate to see him get in trouble and did he know this was a roadless area closed to all motor vehicle traffic and that he had to have passed gates and signs. His response......really, that's interesting.....then off he goes.
He knows he is in the wrong. He has a bow on the front of his wheeler and camo on.....he is elk hunting from the seat of his 4 wheeler. He is a total loser. I later see that on the way here he went right past the spring pond where I missed the 6x6 and up into the timber. No freaking sense of morals or good sense. I wanted to slash his tires but I don't roll that way. I did call the ranger district Monday afternoon to report it but everyone knows they won't and can't do anything due to staffing and funding cutbacks. That is why people like the wheeler dude do what they want with no concern or regard. Anyway....I did what I could to set him straight and hopefully he won't be back....unlikely.
Time to set up for the evening hunt below a saddle leading to dark timber in hopes of catching the bull who keeps raking trees as he crosses over that evening. About 8pm I hear him....only he came over the next saddle over and has gotten below me. I next here him blow hard as he catches my scent in the thermal.....off he crashes. Times up....head to camp.
MH blueberrys and granola and bed time. What a awesome shitty day. I'm beat. My feet are in agony from all the mileage. I can't drink enough water. I hate me. I consider hunting the next morning then heading home to recouperate and spend time with the family. My wife's mammogram a couple weeks ago showed a possible spot and they wanted her back to do a closer look on Tuesday.....so I need to be home for that, get oil changed in the truck, mow the yard.......stuff. M wife gets home while I'm mowing the yard.....they found something.....biopsy will be in a couple weeks. Fork me........I'm sure it will be fine but it sux not knowing. Her mom had breast cancer years ago, lumpectomy......had done fine.....so I have hope even if its bad news it will be manageable. This was supposed to be a season of joy and freedom and relaxation and all I've found so far is a muffed shot on a bull, a forktard wheeler violating closure rules, a forktard private property owner trying to be the FS ranger and wrong about the regs.....and now this. Trying to keep my head up but there is A LOT OF SUCK TO EMBRACE.....more than I planned or wanted......
Its funny/not funny to hear folks laughing and talking at full volume way over the other side of the drainage as they hike back in for their evening hunt.....this is at 6pm....not 3pm........hope they are cleared out when I return.
As far as Bowsite and editing, I usually do my write ups in Word. I then copy and paste from Word. (At least that is what works for me)
Unusual story. I'm not sure that I'm looking forward to the rest of the story though. Too bad the narrative is laced with insults toward the others in the area. I've had many hunts disrupted by the same type of individuals or events that you related so I know how frustrating it can be, but 'let it go' man! You're hunting in a public area; stuff like this happens. Is it right/legal? probably not. But the story should be of your successful hunt (not always measured in getting an elk) - not about the bad things that you have no influence over. Things don't always go your way. Every time a pitfall is encountered, you can be mired in the muck or remind yourself that regardless of how bad it is, you're still out in the woods hunting - to me, that's a great day. Enjoy it, don't let it be ruined. Don't be the victim, be the victor. JMO
I don't know if the "this post is so WRONG" comment is aimed at me or other posts....don't care. I'm posting to meet a promise I made to Will and I intend to keep by telling the unvarnished truth of this season's hunt.
No one is forcing you to read and I'm not editing to soften the truth....like misjudging and missing on those shots. I'm suffering for it....not because I didn't get a trophy rack....because I realize I drew blood and didn't get a clean quick kill due to my error. That is hard. That is the truth. I don't plan to make that mistake again. If I find that bull and somehow it was a lethal hit...and I won't stop looking in that area.....I'll gladly punch my tag and go meatless. I can't see how it was and I exhausted every idea I had on how to find him without any blood after the initial 20 yards. I'm not defending, I'm stating what happened. I have to live in this bed I made.
Prior seasons were marred by indecision and hesitation. I vowed to not fall into those patterns again. So I called the ball and made the call......and I muffed it. I had ranged the pond from my snack spot at 122 yards. I was convinced I covered 1/2 that distance to get in front of the pine. It turns out I covered about 15 yards more. It sucks. I feel horrible for that animal. I intend to learn from my mistakes and be better.
Put it all behind you and go stick a slammer!
As youhave stated: for those that want to read; read. For those that don't like what you have to say, exit and go to another thread.. To those wishing to give advice, refrain until the man asked for it, otherwise, just read his story... Not the way you would have done it, said it, went about it, felt about it, so be it; write your story with your own opinions, why hate on a guy for freely expressing his... Seems all it is anymore, negative, negative, negative!