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So I'm not the story teller some folks on here are, but I wanted to go ahead and share my Wyoming elk hunt this year since I enjoy reading everyone else's. A little background first. I'm semi-retired for the first time this year so I could hunt all 30 days if I needed it. This was my 6th season hunting this area and I was solo since my usual buddy, Bowboy, was off chasing big bulls in an LE unit.
Day 1 - headed up from southern Utah on 1 Sep. Planned to be there before the opener, but some family things slowed me down a bit. No big deal.
Day 2 - I didn't get in any big hurry. Loaded my gear, shot my bow, and got ready to go. I was pleasantly surprised to only see a handful of rigs parked around the area. I thought Labor Day weekend would be more busy, but most folks must think the elk aren't ready to be shot yet. I talked with a few guys and it seemed like most were deer hunting.
Hiked a couple miles back to one of my favorite drainages. As I'm coming up onto the ridgetop where I camp, I could see some cow elk bedded in the meadows a few hundred yards away. Good sign. Seems they heard, saw or smelled me too though since they were all gone by the time I got the tent pitched and came back for a look. Here's home for the next few days...
Set up where I could see some openings that evening to look and listen, but only this suicidal spike showed up. Walked by me at 20 feet.
Day 3 - Got to listen to a couple bulls bugling during the night. One was really raspy. I went looking for them in the morning. The raspy one was a decent 5x6, but pretty young. Decided to call him Scratchy. I got within 100 yards of him and decided to give him a bugle, just to see what he would do. I let out a squeely raghorn bugle and he looked my way for a bit before taking his cows up and over the ridge. So much for my calling.
I headed down canyon looking for the other bull. Only succeeded in spooking some cows who took the bull with them. Heard him bugle a couple times as he departed. Never did get a look at him. That evening I sat up on the ridge Scratchy went over and got a little lucky. The herd came back out with 55 yards of me and fed up towards the top. As soon as I saw it was just Scratchy, I just watched but it was nice to be close to them.
Day 4 - Headed down the canyon after a growly sounding bull that I head in the night. As I was going down, I thought I heard a good bugle up on the left slope but wasn't sure. A few minutes later I heard it again. Sure enough, there's a bull up there. I eased down and spotted 2 cows feeding right on the edge of the timber and sage. I went ahead and committed and crawled up their side through the sagebrush until I was about 30 yards from the timber. I couldn't go any farther without exposing myself.
As I knelt on the ground, more and more elk started showing up. I had a couple cows to my right, several between me and the trees and several to my left. The wind was perfect blowing right downhill so all was well. I heard another bugle and finally spotted antlers coming out of the timber. Just a small 6x6. He eventually decided to round up the cows and he ended up pushing them all right in front of me. He walked by at 30 yards totally unaware. Slam dunk opportunity if I wanted it.
I should probably mention here that I've killed 4 bulls in this area, all between 280 and 300. I figured this year I had the time, I would hold out for something a little bigger. Passed my first real test letting this guy go.
That evening I stayed down the canyon all day. Had one tall spike walk by at 40 yards mid-morning. Nothing else until later. Heard a couple bulls bugling up a side canyon. Tried to find them, but they all went up and over. Long walk back to the tent in the dark, but I did hear a growly bull in the deep canyon behind camp along the way.
Did find this nice wallow while heading down, but doesn't look very used yet.
Day 5 - Heard a new bull bugling in the morning up the drainage. Headed that way before shooting light to check him out. Turns out it's a better 6x6, maybe 290 or 300 inches. He's alone, but moving in on Scratchy's herd and getting more interested the closer he gets. Scratchy is none too happy about this and takes the majority of the herd down canyon. Pretty good melee for a minute with lots of bugling and elk running around. Think I could have put a move on the 6x6 if I wanted to. He definitely was distracted and in a decent spot to stalk.
That evening I decided to go check out a different area that had produced for me. This was fun, but the big bulls clearly weren't in the game yet. New location is a bit sunnier...
Day 6 - Heard a few bugles in the night. Nothing talking when I got up though. Started to rain and continued for most of the day. It finally let up the last few hours of the day and I made a loop around the mountainside looking and listening, but nothing. When I got back to the saddle by camp there was a small herd feeding in the clearing. It was almost the end of shooting light, but I only saw a small 5x5. I wasn't nearly sneaky enough trodding back to camp and sent them all into the timber never to be seen again. I did hear a better sounding bugle back towards the truck that I might check out in the morning.
Day 7 - I didn't hear anything during the night to chase so I decided to give the backside of the mountain one more good look. Headed out nice and early. Got around to the edge of a big burn a mile or so from camp and saw a couple young bulls below at about 150 yards. Moved a little more and saw a raghorn feeding down the ridge at 70 yards, then another following. That many young bulls means there's a herd around somewhere.
I headed downhill where the rags went and spotted a cow and calf. Once they moved off, I peaked over the edge and saw about 20 cows and several small bulls. I heard a good bugle, but couldn't get a look at him. A minute or so later he stepped out. Nice bull. Wide, heavy, good fronts, not the best tops. Probably 330 or so. Shooter for sure. I had only looked at him for a minute or so when he decided it was too late in the day to be out in the burn and rounded up the herd. They dropped down into the timber with the satellite bulls in trail. I followed them until it got pretty thick. Could have shot this little 5x5, but never did get close to the herd again. Backed out to leave them alone for another day.
I decided it was worth a try to sit down there on the edge and see if he would come back out in the evening. No luck though. Just a calf wandering around for about an hour. No bugles.
Headed back to camp after shooting light and heard a couple bulls talking in the canyon bottom paralleling my path to camp. Just for fun, I tried to stay even with them. Seemed like they were headed for the saddle. After a bit, it was obvious there was a high bull and a low bull. They would bugle back and forth some and I heard plenty of breaking sticks in the burned and partially fallen timber.
The moon was a little over half full and I could see fairly well. I used my red light to help keep quiet and eased up to the saddle below camp just as the bull walked out of the trees at 45 yards. Looking through the binos, he was either a big 5x5 or little 6x6. He hadn't detected me yet and fed and rolled in the grass at the top for a bit. He eventually wandered into the timber and I went ahead and walked up to the tent spooking him. Not a shooter, but cool encounter.
Day 8 - Started raining hard around 4 AM and didn't let up until 9 or so. I just stayed in the tent. When it finally broke, I pulled up a fresh forecast and saw that I had a few hours before about a solid day of rain hit me. This camp is pretty high and I've ridden out some bad storms up there before--it ain't very fun. Decided to head down to the truck and sit it out a little more comfortably.
Day 9 - The rain finally let up during the night. I took a casual morning, packed up my stuff, shot my bow and headed back into my first area. There were bulls in area 2, but they were way down in the bottom and not as talkative. Figured my best bet would be to stay by the more huntable and active elk in area 1 and wait for bigger bulls to show. It was 9 Sep, so it's gotta be getting close right...
Evening - Watched an interesting bull and some cows up on top of one of the local ridges for the last hour of the day. He wasn't real but, but unusual. He had 5 on one side and 6 on the other, but his G-4s on both sides forked heavily and I think he had some more stuff going on at least on the right. He was pretty talkative. I didn't have time to get over there and harass him, but started calling him Trashy.
Day 10 - Heard some bugles heading down canyon early in the morning so I headed that way. About a mile later I could tell one was in some timber and aspens about 100 yards up on the left side. The wind was good and the elk usually go up that ridge and over into another nice series of drainages.
I eased up the hill closing within 100, 75, 50, 30. He was right there in the trees, but I didn't dare go any higher on the hillside or the wind could get me. I was sure he would eventually go uphill so I just hunkered down to wait. About 10 minutes later a cow and calf walked down through the opening in front of me at about 40 yards. They headed towards him, but so far nothing else. He was pretty talkative and kept bugling so I knew he hadn't moved. I must have been there 30 minutes when it finally sounded like he was going away.
Afraid I was about to lose my chance, I went ahead and slipped forward to the last tree. Just as I got there he walked through a small opening on the other side. It was Trashy. I ranged him at 67 yards, but by the time I got my bow back he was gone. I followed his bugles for quite a while and actually ran into another hunter from Oregon who had zeroed in on all the chatter. He said he had the bull at 15 yards for a while, but no shot. I went high and he went low. Things got quiet after a while and I gave up not knowing how things ended.
Day 11 - Woke to snow. Not a lot, but the world definitely went white. Seemed like the elk were loving the change. Scratchy, the little 6x6 and Trash (he was still alive) were all on the hillside across from camp screaming away. The rain/snow/sleet cranked up again and I headed back into the tent. Think I heard another bull join in on the action at some point, but not certain.
Evening - The weather let up around 5 PM so I went out for a look. I hadn't heard anything, but was surprised to find a nice shooter bull bedded about 300 yards from camp with about 10 cows, a rag and a spike. There's a pretty good ditch leading to within bow range of them and the wind is decent so I hustle back to camp to grab the bow.
The stalk went great until I was probably about in bow range of him. Then the wind did a 180 on me. I just held my breath and hoped. When I peaked up over the lip a few minutes later, however, the clearing was empty. So close...
Day 12 - Woke to more bad weather. Light rain/snow and fog. Tried to follow a bugling bull up the mountain, but never even got eyes on him. I was running low on food so I decided to do a mid-day truck run to resupply. I did find out what one of the noise makers around camp was on my way down...
Gonna have to pause here for a bit. Will try to finish up tonight...
Great stuff Jason! wish I had a month to spend in WY, beautiful country and great people. Loving the story so far!
So far so good. I’ll check back later. Gotta love Wyoming. Not many elkless days.
Great read so far. Keep going!
Great stuff! I have a sneaky suspicion this story will end with a grip and grin picture.
Great story so far!!! I've got to cash in these points and get to WY.
Man, you are certainly blessed to be able to have a long, relaxed hunt in great elk country! Tuned in for the “rest of the story”!
Okay, back at it...stand by.
Day 16 Evening - Got back from the truck with 4 more days worth of food. If nothing else, I figured that should increase my chances of killing something since I would have to haul it all back down. Anyway, things took a bit of an odd turn here. While I was getting up from the tent or something, my right knee made a couple really loud pops and felt weak. Did it again about 10 minutes later. Then again about an hour later. By now I was really paying attention to it and could tell it happened when I had my feet in and my knees out and rose up. The motion you would use to get up from a cross-legged position.
From then on, I started being really careful about how I loaded up my knee. Of course, it felt pretty wiggy by now too. Never really hurt, just felt stretched out or something. I was thinking I do a lot of getting up off the ground when I'm backpacking. Don't do too much of that at home. Gonna have to incorporate some sort of training for that into my summer next time. Anyway, the knee was sore, but I could walk with a little tenderness.
Didn't hear anything worth hiking after that night. Heard some bugling up the drainage right at dark that might be worth checking out in the morning. I had also noticed quite a few more rubs around during the day's walking. Bulls were getting ready for action.
That last one should have read day 12...
This is what I love about bivi/spike camping right with the elk. You just become part of the scene. my best, Paul
Day 13 - I was going to head up the drainage, but actually decided to sleep in and rest the knee. I didn't want to really hurt it and shut down the rest of my hunt. So I was laying in my bag at shooting light and there was a lot going on outside. Scratchy was screaming his head off and it sounded like he was only 100 yards away. I thought maybe a bigger bull was stealing his girls or something and I better go check it out.
I went outside and looked around the meadows, but didn't see anything. I did hear a nice-sounding bugle up the drainage again so I decided what the heck. I put on enough clothes to stay warm and grabbed the bow and binocs. I didn't bother taking the pack or anything else.
I was going through strips of timber and some small clearings and I heard a bugle again. This one sounded smaller and farther away. I thought maybe the bull wasn't as close as I thought and just then the bigger bull answered--and close. He was probably 150 yards and he sounded good.
I was making quick time across a clearing when I saw a tan body slip through a gap in the treeline ahead. He wasn't much over 100 yards and heading for edge of the trees to the left. I closed to about 80 yards and he went through another gap. I saw good antlers, definitely a shooter. I needed to get closer though so I trotted for as long as I thought I could before he would pop out of the trees.
I knelt down behind some greenery in the wide-open sage clearing just as he came out of the trees. I was only about 50 yards from the last tree, but he was quite a bit beyond so I ranged him. 81 yards. Long, but I practiced it all the time. I was willing to try. I drew back and gave him a soft mew. He stopped right on cue and I settled the pin. It looked a little back, but otherwise good when it went off. I never saw the arrow in flight, but heard that nice watermelon thump when you hit the chest.
The bull headed into the trees and I saw him go through one more gap before he disappeared. I cow called a couple times to try to keep him close. Then just a few seconds later I hear a terrific crash and branches breaking. Then I hear him coughing. I couldn't see him, but he couldn't be 100 yards from me. Pretty cool.
I hiked up to where he was standing when I shot and looked for the arrow a bit. Couldn't find it, so I just eased up the ridge where he went. I didn't find much blood, but there he was about 30 yards away. He was laying with the exit side up and had sprayed lung blood all over his back. Exit hole was high, but about the back of the rib cage. This is what he looked like when I found him. Not sure why his antlers look so big in this pic. He isn't a 400 incher, promise...
I just admired him for a minute then I had to head back to camp. I didn't have my knives, game bags, or anything. Got all that stuff rounded up and came back for some pics. He was in a really tough spot for pictures. I don't carry a tripod so I always have to improvise by sitting the phone on my pack or tying it to tree branches or something. Anyway, it wasn't easy on this one. Here are a few angles...
So, as they say, now the work begins. Took me 3 hours to get him cut up. I boned everything out right there and hung it nearby. Decided to carry the antlers back to camp since I usually take them out with camp as a last load. The meat was in a decent spot to drop right down onto the main trail in the area.
I took 2 loads of meat down to the truck that day and spent the night at the truck. I was hoping to get the last 2 loads down by early afternoon and head home. My knee didn't appreciate it, but held up. Not like I had a choice. He was coming out on my back even if I had to crawl. Entry hole pic just for reference...
I guessed he would score about 320. I have a couple NM bulls that are quite a bit bigger, but this one definitely made the cut for this hunt. I might try to hold out for 20 more inches next time. There are probably only 2 or 3 bulls in the area that would go 350 most years though, so it might be asking for tag soup.
Anyway, sitting at home letting the knee rest and getting ready to do some cutting and wrapping. Gave the antlers a quick scoring and got 313 gross, 303 net. He is nice and heavy, but not real long-tined. Still my 3rd best bull and I'm very happy with him.
I know that area pretty well and can generally find elk pretty quickly. Don't get discouraged if you aren't in elk like this. Like I said, this was my 6th year hunting here. I do highly recommend packing in and living as close as you can to them. I learn a lot listening to them talk at night. Good luck to everyone. Jason, out.
Great story & Hunt!! Awesome bull!!!
Thanks for sharing
P.S. forgot to mention that I had adjusted my sights a couple days earlier. I was hitting consistently low when shooting at the truck. I hated to do it, but figured the lesser evil was move the sights. Might have almost bit me. I called the right part of the point of impact on release, but it shouldn't have been that high. Got a little lucky.
I guess hard work pays off. 2 weeks out of a spike camp is not easy....physically and mentally. My hats off to you.....congratulations on a hard earned trophy.
Great shot, and an awesome bull. Congrats! Thanks for taking us along!
Super adventure and great trophy !! Thanks for sharing your story. Get that knee checked out !! You can't afford a "flat tire" on the next hunt.
Congratulations on a fabulous elk hunt! Doesn’t get much better! Love it when it all comes together!
Great write up! Thanks!
But.... I would prefer shooting low when shooting at my truck too. :>)
Excellent hunt and very well told.
I hear lots of people say don’t camp too close to them. But if you are solo and quiet and take care in picking the exact spot nothing is better.
Fantastic writeup and pics,,2 weeks in a spike camp is a great time!!! Congratulations.....as said get the knee checked out..
Very nice write up, congrats.
Great write up , solid hunt, congrats on great bull! >>>>~~~~~>
Hell of a story and thanks for sharing! Congrats on a great bull!
Great bull, Jason, and great story telling as well. Enjoyed it very much!
Great write up, thanks for sharing! Congrats!!
Awesome hunt and thanks for sharing.
I prefer to spike camp among them as well, just have to be smart where you setup. Nice bull and story.
Man was that enjoyable! Thanks for sharing and congratulations!!
Congrats! Great bull! Thanks for taking the time to do the story. Seems like you got a great spot figured out. Assuming it's a general tag which is even better.
Way to get it done I must say I am a little envious of that much time with all those elk!
Franklin - "I guess hard work pays off. 2 weeks out of a spike camp is not easy....physically and mentally. My hats off to you.....congratulations on a hard earned trophy."
X2! Well earned bull for sure. Congrats! Thanks for sharing!
Very nice job in the write-up and the hunt! WTG!
Congratulations... beautiful bull & a nice report.
Wow Congrats and thanks for sharing!
That's an awesome experience, the way it should be done. Nice bull, great story. That pack out with the antlers looks most satisfying!
Tremendous bull. Solo for 13 days is no joke. Great accomplishment.
Great bull! You were definitely in the elk!!! Thanks for the story.
Incredible hunt and story! Thanks for taking us along and congrats!
Awesome bull and write up. Way to earn it and thanks for sharing!
Just a Wyoming general tag. I also benefitted from plenty of years Bowboy hunted the area before I did. They still don't come easy, but they are definitely in there.
Awesome hunt and write-up! Not much better than that! Congrats!
Thanks for taking us along for the ride, Great bull, heck of a shot!!!
Great to follow your hunt! Great read, Nice work and nice bull!
Congrats thanks for the story!
Congrats! Well-earned and well told!
Great write up and bull, thanks for sharing.
Ya, I'd call that quality time alright! And a quality bull to boot! Nice job, and thanks for sharing your story and pics with us. Very nice.
Thanks for sharing and congratulations!
Went to the range this morning and, sure enough, hitting 6 inches high at 80. Shouldn't have made the adjustment in the field. I was just shooting off a bit for some reason. Good thing elk have big vitals...
That's awesome man. Great job! Really enjoyed the read!
Mule Power's Link
Very nice! Congrads!...Thxs for sharing.
Jason you might consider buying one of these since you solo hunt. Weighs nothing. Takes up no space. Priceless.
That's cool. I use my phone for pics. Especially like clipping it to your knife stuck I a tree. Pretty handy in the kind of places i keep dropping em.
On a knife stuck in a tree, clipped to a tree branch, clipped onto an arrow stuck in the ground.... very versatile. A tripod screw for standard cameras or the phone mount. Cheap too! The owner Lyn is a great guy and an elk hunter from NW Montana too.
Great story and a beautiful bull. Congratulations!
Mule power x2^^
Congrats on a great bull and an excellent write up as well. Thanks for bringing us along!
Awesome hunt thanks for sharing the story and congrats on great bull!
Great pictures and write-up Jason. Congrats on a great bull!
Some of those places look awful familiar.
Congratulations! Enjoyed that.
Congrats on a nice bull! Thanks for sharing.
Great story! Thanks for sharing.
Great adventure. Thanks for sharing.
Nice job, Jason...great bull !
Way to go. That was a great story. Congrats!
that is very nice! I assume the 6 years you have hunted there are not "in a row" lol. this was the first time i had the opportunity to elk hunt a LE area that i had hunted in the past. Very nice to know where you are hunting ahead of time.
No, 6 years over about the last 10. Sorry to say the days of drawing a general tag every year are long gone, even if you pay the special price.
Congrats on a fine looking bull!
You did great!
Good luck, Robb
Congrats, you did damn good! Thanks for sharing!