We’ve had success in the past on our elk hunts, but with hunting a new area you never know what to expect sometimes. Living in West Virginia it’s definitely not easy to get out there for a weekend scouting trip.
When we put in for the draw in March we knew we were almost guaranteed to draw. The spring through the summer seemed to fly by. It consisted of a lot of running, shooting, and packing. We knew September would be here quick and our goal was to be at our peak physically to be able chase Elk through the mountains for two weeks.
When looking at the dates for the Colorado Archery season we decided we better take advantage of the later dates, so we planned to leave home on September 12th and we were planning to hunt all the way through the season and return home on October 1st.
Before you know it was September 12th and we loaded up the truck to head west on I-70 for 25 hours. Driving straight thru is always fun with two people, especially when I always end up with the 12am-4am shift!
Every year in the past we had packed in to setup camp 3-5 miles in Wilderness areas or spots we thought most people wouldn’t go. Out of recommendations from a few different people we decided to start out in a campground that had good access to several trails close by. I guess our main goal was to cover as much ground as possible while being as light as we could with our packs.
So we arrived at this spot around 5pm on the 13th and that evening we just set up our camp and got all of our gear laid out and ready for the next day.
I will say this area was infested with moose as we had encounters close to the campground almost every day.
Once we got up there we were seeing a lot of sign so we hung out and listened for bugles. Around 11am we had several bulls start firing up, and we had the wind in our favor so we started to move in on them. As we got to around 125-150 yards of the closest bull we started to call and he answered immediately. As Dad was trying to get setup the wind just shifted slightly and we see some cows blow out, but the bull followed them continuing to bugle. We moved down the ridge to circle around where they were headed and I happened to look over the hill and see a nice 6x6 just below us. I moved down as he was paying attention to the other bull bugling and got a range of 52 yards on him, but no clean shot. He ended up dropping down the drainage following the herd and could never get a shot at him just due to being in thick timber.
Soon after it they bedded back down, and shut up for a while. We decided to hang out and try to make a play on them that evening once they fired back up.
Thanks for bringing us along
Good luck, Robb
The wind was out of the west and sucking down into the drainage. This let us begin closing the distance as he kept bugling. We ended up getting to about 90-100 yards of him and his cows. Once Dad got setup, I got ready to cut him off during his next bugle. As soon he bugled, I hit him right back with a bugle of my own. He answered immediately and it was probably one of the meanest dinosaur sounding bugles I’ve ever heard. The thing that sent him over the edge was when I started raking, he made a noise that I can’t even hardly describe, but he just sounded pissed! I thought we had really good chance of him coming over to whoop us.
He began to close the distance and was tearing up every tree in his sight. He closed to about 75 yards and we finally got a good look at him and he was a giant. (I’m guessing somewhere around 340-350” bull with massive 3rds) Like so many times before I felt the wind switch ever so slightly and he got a whiff. He took his cows on down the ridge, and still bugling as they were moving. We decided to leave him be for the next day to try to make a play on him.
It seemed like we waited for these bulls to get up out of their beds. They didn’t want to work or respond throughout the day. At around 6 pm we heard the herd bull sound off across the drainage. He came out of the timber at about 300 yards, but he was headed straight up the drainage above timberline. We didn’t think we would be able to beat him up to where he was headed.
We ended up circling around and to a lower meadow on the mountain and got into several bulls bugling right at dark but ran out of daylight.
We planned to get back in that drainage the next day and hopefully catch that bull going to bed or getting back up in the evening.
The rain ended up quitting around 12-1230. We loaded up and were headed back up the mountain. Now if you remember the last 2 days the same big bull had been hanging in the same drainage. Usually after they were getting up they headed up above timberline to feed for what we figured all night during the full moon. There was pretty good spot in the bottom of that drainage where we felt like one of us could setup and wait on the bull to make his move with his cows. We made the decision that Dad would slip up the drainage to try and head off that bull. I was planning to take on the stew part of hill to get on top of the ridge and work that ridge and be able to hear over into the next drainage as well.
We finally reached the spot where we were gonna split up. What could go wrong right? We told each other good luck and I started climbing this beast of a hill.
It really didn’t take me long at all to decide. These elk were making way too much noise for me not to make a play. Up on top of the ridge it seemed like the wind kept swirling in every direction. From the night before though the wind in the drainage kept sucking straight down. As I made my way up the ridge my game plan was to get even with the elk and then move down into the drainage. They were making so much noise it was easy to slip in on them, just having to keep the wind in my favor. I knew these elk were going to continue to go up the drainage, but I was afraid to get above them because the wind kept sucking down. I was hoping to at least be even with them and be able to call something over to me in the middle of this herd.
Just keep in mind this whole time I have no clue where Dad is, but I hope he’s getting to witness this. As I begin to call I get responses immediately and I call in a cow and 2 spikes to 13-15 yards. I finally get a glimpse of our big herd bull at about 100 yards and he’s running cows every which way. He’s moving up the drainage and I don’t think I have a shot at getting him to turn back. I continue to call and finally one of the bulls is sounding like he’s starting to come back, but he’s on the opposite side of the drainage. I’m stuck on the side that’s in the sun and can’t really move much because the cows and spike that are around me.
Something about this time catches my eye, it’s Dad! He’s slipping up the other side in the shade within 50-60 yards where the bull was bugling. In my head, I was thinking we’re in business!!! The cow and spikes finally move back up the drainage enough for me to move slightly. I’ve got this bull screaming, but I’m trying to drag him back just a little further. I move back 10 yards or so and start raking as loud as I can. It sounded like I heard him start tearing up a tree so I continued to call.
After that other bulls continued to bugle, but I never heard the close one. Next thing I know I see Dad slipping back down to me with a huge grin on his face and giving me a thumbs up.
We debated whether or not to try and get me a shot at another bull, but we decided one bull would be enough work for the both of us. After waiting about 30-40 min we got over to where he shot the bull and I ended up finding blood within the first 10-15 yards. We kept following and it was really good blood. Our plan was to follow the blood for 100 yards and then make a plan depending on the sign we found. The bull starting angling up the hill but we continued to find good blue blood. We got about 70 yards into the trail and we both look up and see tan further up the hill! There he lay about 100 yards from where Dad shot him! We were both pumped up and I couldn’t be happier that we got Dad a bull.
We ended up packing meat out the whole next day. I think we started up the mountain at 7am and we got finished around 7:30pm. It wasn’t easy getting him out of that hell hole of a drainage, but all we kept saying is the pain is only temporary!
After this quick day to rest our legs, we needed to get back focused because we still had 8-9 days to fill my tag. There is nothing I wanted more than to have both of us head home tagged out!
Looking forward to "Part 2"...
Z Barebow's Link
Our plan was to get back up where all the chaos was happening on Tuesday and hopefully Dad’s carcass wasn’t bothering them or moved them too much. During the all day pack out on Wednesday we were still hearing bugles in that area.
The other thing I want to mention are the words that drove me the most as we were headed back to camp. You know when we were in town we were sending out pics to all of our family and friends back home. My father in law texted me back and he was pumped for us. He knows how hard it is to hunt elk with a bow. After several congratulatory messages he left me with “50% that in itself is a successful trip”. I don’t know what it was this time about hearing it. I’m super competitive in anything that I’ve ever done from sports to academics to you name it. I obviously know the statistics in Archery Elk hunting success is never a high number, but for some reason his words just stuck with me this time.
In the afternoon we finally found a spot for a decent wind break and hung out there for a while. The wind finally laid down some what around dark, but still didn’t hear much noise from the elk.
That morning we got a bull working early on and I thought we had a good chance of getting him close enough for a shot. Like so many of them do he hung up about 80-100 yards and he eventually lost interest.
For most of the midday we set up on a wallow that we had found when packing out Dad’s bull. We hadn’t been hearing much after our one encounter, so we decided that was our best option to pass time throughout the day.
Next thing we know at about 80 yards we see cows filing out of the timber followed by a 6x6 taking up the rear. They were headed up above treeline and we couldn’t get out in front of them without getting spotted. They ended up getting above us and were about 110-115 yards and the bull is starting to get cranked up. Dad decided to drop back and start calling at least to keep the bull making noise so I could try to move on him.
As I was watching these elk, my game plan was to sneak up and close the distance any way I could. Throughout timberline there was a spruce tree here and there and my goal was to try to keep getting a spruce tree between me and the elk and continue moving up. Dad kept calling behind me and he called down a 4x4 and several cows and spikes. I had my goal set on this 6x6. My plan was working out better than I thought I ended up closing into about 75 yards, but the bad news is that I ran out of trees to continue my stalk.
As I’m sitting here watching this 6x6 with his 8-10 cows, I finally here another bugle coming out of the head of the drainage to my left. I finally get a look at the bull coming out of the drainage at 400-500 yards. It was our big herd bull, but he didn’t have any cows. (Which I’m still unsure why) He and the bull in front of me were bugling back and forth and he was headed our way. As he continues to come bugling the whole way the bull in front of me started raking the willows and continued to bugle at the bigger bull. So in my head the game plan I was now thinking was once the big bull got over to us I figured him and the other bull might lock up and fight over these cows. Whenever they locked up I was going to run as fast as I could to the closest spruce tree (about 30 yards from me). That would leave me about a 45-50 yard shot at either bull. I didn’t really care about spooking the cows because I didn’t figure the bulls would have a clue what was happening. Can this master plan actually come together??? I was sure hoping so
We might have to give you the "Scoot Award" on how to draw out an exciting story.
It felt like all of this played out in 5 seconds. The bull keeps getting closer. I range him 50, 40, 35. I was standing behind this tiny spruce and he was headed on a string down the hill. I wasn’t sure he was going to Dad’s calling or just afraid of the bigger bull. He’s still coming so I get drawn back. The next decision that comes in my head is whether to try and stop him or not. My fear was that if I cow called he’d pick me off immediately because the spruce tree is now on my right as I’m setting up for the shot to my left.
I made the decision to shoot him while he had this slow pace going down the hill. I feel very confident in my bow out to 65-70 yards so 26-27 yards should be a chip shot. As I was anchored I split my 20 and 30 yard pin directly behind the shoulder. If I hit a little back I was fine with that if I could catch lung/liver. I release my arrow and the shot felt great, but when I watched it hit the bull it looked a touch forward with little penetration. I see him run off and he gets about to 80-90 yards. I get binoculars on him and the shot was forward, but I can see blood just pumping out of him.
He slowly walks up the hill and stopping every 10 yards or so. He finally gets over a rise and I can no longer see him. In the meantime, the big bull is at 90 yards just screaming his head off with his cows. I’ve hit animals in the shoulder before and it’s never a good feeling. I’m honestly not sure what happened on the shot if as I was moving with him aiming I swung my arm to far at the last second. Still out of all the animals I’ve shot/killed it was one of the most relaxed shots I’ve had. I didn’t really get the shakes until afterward.
After he went over the rise, I slipped back down to Dad and explained what happened. I was upset with where I hit the bull, but I’m almost certain I would’ve done the same thing if I had to do it over again. The positive thought that was in my head was that I saw a lot of blood coming out, but you guys know how much elk can bleed and how much ground they can cover all while surviving. They are one tough animal!
We definitely knew what we had to do. We had to get back to camp for the night and pick up the blood trail first thing in the morning. It was gonna be one long night!
Z, ya damn whiner! My story this year was done in 2 days! lol
So I knew about where impact was and we were first trying to find the arrow to see how much penetration I got. We found the arrow after 10-15 yards or so and it wasn’t a good sign. The arrow was broke right at the broadheads and only had up the arrow for 5-6 inches. We started tracking and like I saw the night before there was really good blood every time this bull stopped. It seemed like he was stopping every 10 yards or so and that continued for 200-250 yards. That’s where we lost blood. We were on our hands and knees just trying to find a direction that he went with no success. When you were up the willows above treeline it was almost like a maze. They were anywhere from 2-5 ft tall. You could almost be 20 yards from something and have no clue it was there unless you walked right up on it.
Finally Dad and I sat down and were eating a snack. He really thought this bull was still alive and thought we should move on back down the mountain and see if we can get into some more bulls. I was feeling pretty down about the whole situation.
If you've never written one of these... they're a lot of work and take a lot of time. My last one took 24 hours of actual typing/editing time. But that's why I type them up and copy/paste or else I'd be worse than Scoot.
As I’m glassing I see a weird looking object, it looked like a dead branch sticking out. I’m looking everywhere else to see if I can find anything else that looks the same. I couldn’t. I had to double check and triple check to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating what I was seeing. I think I’m looking at a 6-8 inch piece of antler sticking out of these willows at 400 yards. I knew as soon as I started dropping down the hill I wouldn’t be able to see it anymore. I picked a dead tree on the horizon and started to head that way. I finally got to a point where I thought I should be close to whatever I saw from up above. I look over to the right and there he was at 15 yards!!! It was truly a miracle to find this bull and I couldn’t have been more pumped!
So, what is the report on the arrow placement/vitals hit?
I am assuming heart but maybe not full penetration thru heart? How far did the arrow actually penetrate?
Thanks for sharing, Congrats to you and your Dad!
That's great you kept looking for that bull and found him! Losing an animal is the worst feeling.