My friend JP, (Mrelite), Zane (Da White Shoe) Gregg (GSelkhunter), Rod (slickstalker), otcWill, Bruce (beendare), Bob (Bob Muley), Steve (Telehog), Paul (Elknut1), Mike (5MB), Dennis (Colorado Hunter) Gabe at The Archery Shoppe in Albuquerque, and so many more for taking the time to share knowledge and answer my annoying questions on the different forums I've frequented over the years since I started bowhunting in 2008. All those I haven't mentioned mean just as much as those I have because we all share a great passion that is bowhunting and bowhunting elk.
This could take a few days so I hope you bare with me. Doing a story like this on a cell phone is not my favorite thing to do but here goes.
It all started last April when I found out I drew a NM tag. I had taken a short time off from shooting my bow after a successful January Rutting Mule Deer hunt. It was time to start shooting again. And I shot and I shot and I shot. At least 5 days a week anywhere from 30 to 100 shots a day. So much that I wore a set of strings/cables out and had to have them replaced.
I also started going to the gym about this time as well. When you hear guys mention getting in shape, it's true. The better shape you are in, the more enjoyable your hunt will be. Is it necessary in order to be successful? No but on day 5, 7 or 9 of hunting hard and eating dehydrated meals, your body will thank you.
JP and Alan drew the same tag so we decided to set trail cams in June and scouting some new country. We did a few good scouting trips over the summer and put the miles on the quads God gave us. Our own 2 feet. Got some great pics of some amazing animals and wildlife this summer.
JP is a well rounded and versatile elk killer who can call or go into stealth mode. While Alan is your worst nightmare. This guy cannot call. But he covers some serious ground. His tactic is to bust them out of there beds and hope for a shot. And believe it or not is successful at it! He is an equal opportunity killer. And I? Well I'm still learning. I can make most bull sounds very well with a mouth Reed and my Chuckler, while my cow calls need alot of work with a mouth reed. So I use externals for the majority of cow sounds. I'm also using sounds that not many use in the elkwoods. Sounds I've heard elk use between themselves that noone talks about. And some sounds that are loud and obnoxious that noone else does just because it goes against the norm. But you know what? I've had opportunities to kill big bulls every year using certain tactics and sounds that I won't get into today ;)
I hunted with my buddy Gregg in 2011 and again in 2013 when I came back from Hawaii. You wanna talk about a great caller? This man can do it all. And do it like no other. Unfortunately he's got physical issues that hold him back. But what I gleaned from hunting with him are locations when calling. Very important to call from the right locations. Especially when hunting solo.
We got his Sawtooth set up and got an evening hunt in. This was in an area where he killed on the second to last day the previous year. We were stoked because we'd had some bulls on trail cam as recent as the first Archery hunt and we had drawn the second.
I do this too, but not on purpose.
The plan was if he comes in from 1 spot, I kill him, or if he goes in the other direction, JP kills him. Perfect plan. Fool proof! This bull is taking a dirt nap one way or another!
This is where it gets good! By this time I'd been holding my D350 back for so long, I couldn't hold any longer and had to let off. I mean it's not like this is a 370 bull or something you'd be kicking yourself for the rest of your life for not working out a little harder leading up to the hunt.
Besides, JP was on the other side of that knoll undoubtedly with an arrow nocked and had a front row seat. Fool proof I tell ya.
I'd like JP to chime in and tell y'all what he saw (or herd) from his perspective. I've seen him shoot and had no doubt once I let off and the bull went in his direction, I'm fixing to help JP pack out his bull from almost the same exact spot he killed one last year. Fool proof plan! ;)
“following morning, JP heads one way, I go the other”
“Huddling up” didn’t go so well?
Huntcell, our scouting and trail cams said different. However the activity on the trail cams ceased during the first hunt. Hunters? Predators? I can tell you that big black bear was dropping huge black chits all over the area. He was definitely eating meat! And we know a lion was in the area. Either way we decided to pack up and head back to truck camp and deal with pressured elk and try to make something happen.
I'd previously been hunting the backside of a ridge and knew where some bulls were bedding, but I never pushed them out and figured they were still there. Per my earlier conversations with JP I also knew other hunters from below were pushing them into a few pockets from below and since we were gone for a couple days, wasn't sure what to expect when we got back into the area. JP had been camping on a ridge below dealing with all the pressure down there. We decided to hunt that stuff from the top from truck camp. JP was still on the fence about even coming out from where we just came but decided to give it a go.
I went on one side of a ridge where I'd heard bugling a few days earlier from their beds, and he went to the other side where I'd heard bugling from beds a few days before. He also tried to follow them up from below a few days earlier but the wind screwed him each time. But being up top was prime position to pounce. Or so we thought.
Come to find out, that terrible bugle I'd heard was a real bull that busted out of the area on the other side of the ridge where JP had been hunting. He did have a couple encounters in there but got discouraged when he also encountered those hunters. One of them even squatted and took a number 2 50 yards from him lol.
Regardless he had seen enough and headed back in to where the big black bear was living. Alan had to be back to work. All he took home were more great memories this year, while a few other hunters will have reaccuring nightmares with Alan haunting their elk dreams ;) And I stayed behind hunting from Truck camp.
My elk dreams were just getting started as usual. It's all I think about year round and although I'd had a few highs and lows, I never let those lows get to me. I learned early on that you have to live in the moment and what your next move will be. If you aren't staying in the moment, you are screwing up. At least for that moment until you refocus. We can't let blown opportunities haunt us or other hunters play on our phsyci either. Live in the moment and stay focused!
Sometimes you have to just stop and take in your surroundings. The sights, the smells, the sounds of the forest. It always amazes me when I catch the flicker of a finches wings from 300 yards away or a squirrel twitch a tail at 400 yards. The rest of the year i'd probably never notice that. But when your senses are hightened, you notice that stuff.
Never give up.... ever!
Remember I mentioned hunting with Gregg a few years ago and took notice on locations he was calling from? Well I have this one spot I like to call from. I've hunted this unit now 3 times since 2015 and have called in 3 big bulls from this spot and didn't close the deal for one reason or another.
Here I've been doing everything right, calling, stalking, scouting, finding elk, and calling in big bulls. Really coming into my own as a bowhunter and an elk hunter.
My biggest hurdle to killing respectable bulls has been me. I've called in more good bulls than I can count on my hands and toes since 2008 when I started this adventure and started talking to the guys I mentioned early in this thread and many of you I haven't mentioned. The biggest weekness has been hesitation and not trusting what my eyes are telling me when one of these big SOB's shows up screaming in my face! The one piece of advice i'd tell someone is "do not hesitate"! This is where you have to have "ice in your veins" boy I am getting nervous and slightly trembling just recounting and thinking about what happened next!
So I give one loud cow call thru my Gen lll ElkNut Chuckler and boom! A bull answers me back. But he was quite a ways off. I've had this happen enough times from this location and they not come that I figured, I'll wait 5 minutes and do another one. Which is what I did.
He answers back again! Only this time it was obvious he was coming! So I bailed off The Crows Nest and head towards the bugle. In the openings on the side of the canyon are these small sunflower looking flowers about 30" tall. So as I stop, suddenly I get a strong smell of elk. I had the wind in my face and figured there's an elk with the wind at his back and he's coming! He has nowhere to circle in from this time like has happened to me so many times in the past!
Now the smell is getting stronger! Since 2008 I have never smelled a lone bull that smelled like this. When he finally came into view at about 200 yards, the smell was even stronger, and getting stronger as he closed the distance! He'd come about 20 or 30 yards at a time and stop! He'd look around a bit, then bugle! My anxiety level was extreme! Should I call? Should I move? Still had cover, but haven't called since I bailed off the rocks! Then I remembered what JP had told me earlier in the hunt. "Less is better".
So I remained silent and made that bull search for that cow (me). He kept coming! He stopped at about 40 yards and bugles. I had a giant sneak in on me here last year at this same spot only I didn't see him until after he saw me and I blew it!
Now the shoe was on the other foot! Could this be that same bull who was over 350" last year, and even bigger this year? Could be I suppose. It could be his daddy too! Here I am witnessing a bull of a lifetime and knowing not too many people see bulls of this caliber in their lifetime! Let alone kill one. Is today my lucky day? 40 yards and closing but won't have a shooting lane unless he or I cut that distance in half. And trust me.....at this point I am not moving other than clipping my release!
Only the elk does not cooperate! He didn't give me time to hit him with that nervous grunt. He stopped on his own at a very hard quartering too almost full on frontal angle.
I'd killed a 4 point bull in CO in 2013 with a 30 yard full on frontal. This monster is standing in front of me at 16 yards! At this angle, the shot should enter the sweet spot and embed in his offside front shoulder. And that's exactly what happened! He raised his head and started to bugle when I touched off the shot! I had just arrowed a bull that dreams are made of! You talk about intense? I am here to tell you about it! My hands are sweaty just recounting this! To bad Alan had to leave. I called this bull over from the ridge he was camped in and had heard the lazy bugle from there on several occasions. I'm thankful for JP helping me track n pack! He did not tip over in 10' like my '13 bull but in the end it was a long night and got back to camp around 1 or 2 in the morning.
I feel very humbled to have hunted with such great people, and mentored by the best of the best, and thankful to the almighty that I am allowed to be here today telling you all about my Whale Tales! You all are awesome and I appreciate you taking the time to read this! I truly am blessed and the 1 thing I will say is "Never Give Up! Ever!"
Will, I am an equal opportunity killer with my bow. But you are right, I had several opportunities the couple times I've drawn this tag. I drew back on a cow in 2015 at 10 yards and then let it down thinking to myself "this is the Gila stupid" ;)
Great Story as well, you certainly earned those "Whale Tails"!