I attached my 2016 story (my first elk hunt).
You really appreciate a nice surprise release with a 9 month old on your back, gotta start em early!
Nate would be meeting us at my cousin's house who lives within a couple hour drive of the hunt area. Jake drove up from KY and we picked Doug up in SD on our way west. We had a few beers and game-planned for the next 11 days in the backcountry. I could. not. wait.
The bull was on a bench, and the wind was consistent enough where I felt we could get up to the edge of it and I could call him off for a shot. We snuck over there and I bugled back and forth with him for 10 minutes or so and Nate and I lost track of each other. I slowly crept in and all of a sudden a bull came shooting past me at about 40 yards. Nate had been close, but couldn't quite pinpoint the bull and we were 0/1.
Bulls were still screaming and we still had 3 hours of daylight left. We popped up in elevation and had another good bull going. We got to about 150 yards of this bull, had a good set up and I began my calling sequence. I cut him off and could tell he was splitting the distance. Within about 10 minutes I could tell he was close, but he was circling way above us to get our wind. I wasn't expecting him to get that high. Nate was relatively inexperienced and didn't adjust to get higher than the bull as he was closing the distance and I wasn't in a position where I could move him. The bull got above us and blew out of there.
That was it for afternoon one, but man what a first afternoon. Doug and Jake had gotten into elk as well but no dice. Still 10 more days....
The bull wasn't moving so I belly-crawled to the top of the crest and watched as the whimpy sounding 330 bull took his cows up the side of the next ravine and pop out of my life. I had a great view of him as he went up the side of the mountain and tipped my cap to him.
That afternoon we glassed 6 or 7 elk across the canyon and Nate wanted to go chase them. I didn't mention it but around now some wet heavy snow started dropping and it turned into a muddy mess. We got up to a nice clearing that split, I had Nate go above me in elevation and I dropped down to sit the meadow.
All of a sudden a bull fired off below me, I tried to maneuver myself to get the wind right but I wasn't going to be able to make it. It was too thick to see him, but I figured he was within 70 yards or so.
Nate was able to get to 70 yards of a 5X5 a couple different times that afternoon, but he had too many cows to make it realistic. I had hunted this spot before, but it looked a lot better than it had previously.
I went and got Nate and he was in a good spot to try and kill him. Nate was set up as caller and I belly crawled to a nice area with solid shooting lanes. After 5 minutes of calling back and forth I could see the elk wasn't moving. I slowly snuck forward, the thermals had been consistent all morning.
I needed 10 more yards and I would have an opening at 50 yards, he was a solid, not huge 6 point bull. All of a sudden I felt the wind shift and the gig was up. Another bull was screaming below us so I dropped on top of him which I also managed to blow out of the canyon.
I'm generally of the same attitude as HUNT, I want to kill em or blow em out of the canyon. I chose the latter on these 2 particular bulls :)
I slowly moved up and asked what was going on. He pointed at his quiver and an arrow was missing. He said he missed a cow that was standing above him. He pointed where it was at and I laughed and said it's only 25 yards how'd you miss? He said he thought it was 40 and shot right over her back (Nate has never killed anything with a bow so there's a learning curve haha).
Day 3 afternoon was pretty uneventful, we chased a bull across a canyon and am thinking now it may have been Doug Flutie. 3 days in and we had an amazing hunt thus far. No bulls killed but lots of interactions which makes me happy :)
Unfortunately Jake had missed a gimme 20 yard shot on a nice bull at 20 yards. I felt really bad for him, he had worked his ass off in rehab to get ready for this hunt and then his brain turns off at the most critical time. Jake kills a giant whitetail in KY every year, he can't think of what happened, he just knows something did.
That PM however I can only describe as the most amazing 3 hours of elk hunting I had every experienced in my life...
Nate and I split up (he met up with Jake) and I attempted to get on the east side of the mountain where thermals were blowing down consistently (it's now 3ish pm). A bull was firing off above me 300 yards every 2-3 minutes. I had blown some calling sessions, so my plan was to try and sneak in and kill him in his bed without making a peep. I crept forward and when I got to around 100 yards, I dropped my pack (marked it with OnX, which I'll get to in a bit). I started belly crawling my way up to his position. It was open enough to maneuver quietly, but thick enough to do it unnoticed. I got to 50 yards and stopped and glassed, the next bugle I could see tips of antler's behind a downed tree. I thought I could crawl up to that downed tree and get an arrow ready. I belly crawled 17 more yards. I had the perfect set-up I could see him from his 3rds up clear as a bell, when he stood up I would have a wide open 33 yard shot. I could hear cows mewing nearby but didn't actually see any of them.
He was a monarch, a legitimate 350" bull, I had over 10 minutes to sit and analyze him and had gotten to the point where I was comfortable and no longer shaking for a shot. He was still bugling constantly, but then it happened. A bull fired off about 90 yards away, he immediately got up and ran over there. I didn't even get pressure on my string it happened so quick. Immediately the entire herd got up and started wrapping around the south side of the mountain heading west.
I was still unseen, so I took off chasing the herd. The thermals switched when we got on the south facing slope and started going uphill but I had actually got to their elevation so it worked. I could tell the herd bull was 60-80 yards away, but I saw a nice satellite at 60 yards raking a tree. I sprinted up to get into position to shoot him. I got to full draw and attempted to sneak out to get an angle at the shot. The bull turned his head and had me pinned down. WTH!@!, you mother f*&(er, you were raking. You're not supposed to see me when you're raking.
I needed a solid 2 steps to kill him and he was staring at me. Around this time the herd bull bugled and came sprinting across the face of the mountain to run off this challenger. The bull snapped his head and went sprinting down the hill to avoid the herd bull.
He went sprinting down the hill at another satellite and the cows couldn't have cared less. I drew on him but he was sprinting, he wasn't stopping. Mind you this entire time all 3 bulls are bugling non-stop and the wind is blowing dust up the hill, it was mind-blowing. A once-in-a-lifetime elk hunting experience.
When the cows got to the next ridge I sprinted again to get to the last cow, I was set up with a similar situation again. I was at between 30-65 yards of all the cows. The herd bull came and walked with the front cow and I drew back. I attempted to stop him and knew he was at 65 yards, but he was just quartering too far. I couldn't ethically make the shot, too steep of an angle and too far for my comfort levels.
I let down and watched as he bugled and chased another satellite down the canyon. I played this cat and mouse game for well over an hour. It didn't end up in an arrow flung, but I didn't feel I didn't anything silly and I couldn't have done much different. I maybe could've called him in his bed to get him to stand up, but I felt what I was doing was going to work. It made the trip, I couldn't even really say I was disappointed, I had been within 70 yards of a giant bull multiple times, it just didnt work out. I smiled as towards dark I headed back to my camp, I hadn't drank anything in 4 hours and I was beyond thirst.
I stumbled around looking for my backpack for close to an hour before I finally got a decent read on it when my phone's bluetooth connected to my inreach. I quickly guzzled down a liter of water and met up with Nate and walked back to camp. He had an awesome experience as well having a tall 6X6 within 60 yards of Jake's calling, it didn't work out but everyone was happy.
We attempted to call the 5 point bull without success, he just wasn't fired up enough and the country was too open to really get him pissed off. We hiked up the mountain and the plan was to split off. I was going to sit with a favorable wind where the herd had came out the night before.
Day 5- PM- After sitting there for about 3-4 hours (may have gotten a small nap in), I could glass a bull and a few cows in the meadow below me. After about 10 seconds of thought I said to hell with sitting and off I went to go blow a few more elk out of the ravine. I dropped down to where I thought they were and could hear 2-3 bulls screaming as I made my descent. I walked across this large meadow and essentially dogged the backside of the herd, never getting closer than 200 yards or so. The wind was just too dodgy to make a decent play so I was hoping thermals would settle as we got closer to dark.
I eventually got to a spot where we were more north facing and the thermals were consistent. Only problem was there was a stream very nearby, which was really loud. I started going back and forth with 2 different bulls, he'd bugle, I'd bugle. This went on for about 20 minutes, eventually I knew he wasn't going to cross that creek, too open, and too steep, he won't have the high ground.
I only had about 40 mins of daylight left. I sprinted across the steep ravine (an awful 200 yard hike, steep, nasty, slippery). I got to the other side and bugled, no answer. I pushed in a little further, I bugled, no answer. 3rd time's a charm, a bull fires up 100 yards away from me. I get to the bottom of a small ridge, he bugles, I cut him off, and then proceed to sprint up to the top of the ridge in hopes he will come to see what all the fuss is about.
I set up for a south facing shot, thinking he would want to try and get my wind as he was even in the ravine than I was. All of a sudden he lit up 20 yards away and chuckled away. I was well hidden, but didn't have an immediate shot opening, I didn't really know what was going to happen. He walked down the ridge right at me and raked a tree at 10 yards. When he was raking I was able to re-adjust and would have an opening at 8 yards if he came either right or left, or it was going to be a frontal at 4 yards.
He came off the tree and bugled and chuckled right in my face, I slowly got to full draw and he was taking the left route, which would give me an 8 yard quartering too shot. As he met my opening I thought it'd be better to sneak behind the shoulder instead of in front of it. I slowly squeezed the release and watched my arrow sail towards its target...
I snuck up to the first spot he was standing and found my original arrow, it looked good. Second arrow was still lodged in his spine but was broken.
I smiled, was he the 350+ bull I almost got? Nope, couldn't care less. Western hunts are expensive and I'm expected to come home with something for the freezer. It is about the journey, but the journey is better when you kill something (I don't harvest, I KILL). He was a pretty cool looking 5X4, with a little funky on the one side. I sent out some "meat rocket sent" inreach's to my wife and an anonymous bowsiter that may or may not be named later. I don't have an idea what I'm going to shoot when I head west, if it was a cool set-up and the animal got me excited, I'm going to try and kill it, simple as that.
I started the process, my plan was to get him broken down and meat away from the kill site and come back with the group tomorrow. I sent out an inreach to Jake and Nate wanted to come help. I told him not to bother as he wasn't going to fine me. If Nate would've used the inreach to locate me he likely would've, but he wanted to use OnX. Long story short, he got to within 300 yards of me but couldn't fine me.
I put music loud on my phone as I had zero bear protection (we aren't in grizzly territory, but there could be a straggler). I shot him with about 20 minutes of daylight left and had him broken down by about 12:30, which took me about 4ish hours. It was honestly kind of relaxing, no talking, just methodically breaking down my bull just how I wanted to.
side-note always bring extra batteries in your daypack, I ran out about 1/2 way through the breakdown process and have no idea what I would've done without a fresh set. I started the trek back with a front quarter in my pack and bow strapped to it. I had to traverse the extremely steep, and now slippery drainage, as well as about 3/4 miles of deadfall before I would be back on the trail and headed back to camp. I also ran out of water as I was chasing this bull, and the idiot in me didn't get some when he crossed. I hadn't had any for about 7ish hours and I needed some. I drank a full 2L right after I filled up.
It was a sight. I get bloody noses really easy, especially at elevation. I had blood all over my face, but that water never tasted so good.
On the walk back as I was going through a group of willows I heard something get up and start running. I actually sat down and just thought, this is it, this is how it ends, what a stupid way to die on the side of the mountain with meat and no bear spray. Expecting to see a bear around the corner ready to maul me I see a cow moose shoot out of the ravine. It was a new moon, absolutely no moonlight.
I told the boys that they should hunt the next AM, I was sleeping in, after the AM hunt we could go get my bull. My body was ready for a morning off, even if it was for a couple hours. Next AM they wanted to go get the bull so that we did.
There was one point when crossing the ravine when Jake actually got stuck, the mud was slick, but I was able to pull him up with a trekking pole. It really was a beautiful site hiking out.
We got my bull packed out to the truck and in coolers (forecast was cold and our ice jugs were still solid). We had everything in the truck by around 1:30 and were ready to head back to camp and hunt the PM. Nate could only stay for the first week and he would likely be leaving the next day.
We head to the north where we had ran into bulls the very first day. First location bugle and a bull pops off right above us only about 100 yards away. I tell Nate to head towards the bull and I'm going to call literally right on the trail. The bull gives a soft bugle again and I popped off and interrupted him, I started raking trees and doing the normal loud mouth things. After about 10 minutes I see Nate sneaking towards me. I mosey over and he is pointing to his ribs and saying "the shot looked good!". I hadn't heard anything for 10 minutes, I looked up and he said the bull is still alive. The bull is standing 20 yards from him I quickly tell him quit looking at me and put another arrow in him!
You'll remember I had to loan him a broadhead, arrow #2 promptly hits a tree square, and arrow #3 finds it's mark and the bull drops down. We go up to the bull and he's still gasping for air, the arrow is a bit forward. I tell Nate to shoot him again and end it and his only arrow he has left has a small game head. We walk a short distance away and let him expire.
It wasn't a big bull, but boy did he look delicious. Nate had never processed an animal before so it was a really good learning experience for him so he could see it first hand. He enjoyed the process I think and learned a lot in the meantime.
We got to camp and a bull was screaming mid-day right west of camp, another miscommunication costed us. doug and I thought Jake was moving in on this bull, he was unfortunately moving in on a different bull. We never even made an attempt at a bull that was screaming his brains out from 10-12, in a killable stable winded spot. Oh well. That afternoon was a bust, we made a huge hike through some of the areas I had seen the giant and not a bugle to be heard after noon.
AB and Jake on the other hand had great experiences. There was some miscommunication with Jake being on the wrong side of a wallow when AB was calling in a mid-day bull. AB caught the mistake too late and when he attempted to get him to switch the bull was already in the open at 80 yards.
Later they have a great experience with a really nice bull at 8 yards but Jake is unable to get an arrow in the bull. Oh well, great day with great experiences, I just didn't get any of them ;)
Anyways, during mid-day nap a bull pops off 150 yards below us, thermals are great. AB and I start calling, silence for 15 minutes. Bull pops off again further to the north, we look at eachother and decide let's go chase em.
For the next 45 minutes bulls are firing off, one consistently and one not as consistently. AB and myself are both bugling and cutting each other off. The bull is screaming back at us and we moved perfectly in sync about 60 yards apart and sounded like 2 different herds coming together, it was a thing of beauty. Eventually we get to a point and AB looks at me and gives me the thumbs up and said we got a good shot I think! I see Doug there and he's giving me the thumbs up, I motion to him to quit moving as there was another bull bugling. He wasn't exactly doing jumping jacks, but another smaller bull was coming in towards Jake and did see something he didn't like and moved off. Who knows if it was Doug, me, or AB but he saw something he didn't like.
Unfortunately he was moving off in the same direction doug's bull had been shot. Talking to doug he said he was happy with the shot and hit right where he was after. I asked him if it was big and he just said he's beautiful.
You could tell Jake was frustrated with the situation. We couldn't go immediately chase that bull since Doug's may be laying there wounded. We waited an hour and AB found the blood-trail after a bit of looking (Doug and myself are colorblind). We follow the blood-trail about a hundred yards and AB says I see an antler!
Jake comes through after we find the bull and says congratulations, but I'm dropping down on the bull. I looked at AB and told him to get Jake back in and go kill that bull, Doug and I can handle processing his elk. Long story shorty, AB got Jake back in but he missed a difficult 45 yard shot, one he normally makes.
We got doug's elk taken care of and made the 1000' descent into camp and the plan was for the next day for Jake and AB to go hunt while Doug and I packed out his elk. I wanted Jake to kill one in the worst way, especially after everything he'd gone through.
Doug looked at me and said you're an idiot, there's no way you can handle all that weight. I just said I know I'm an idiot, but I'm not coming back up here again. I'll split it at camp and make two trips to the truck at that point but I’m not coming back up this mountain. Whatever the weight was, it was a lot; a lot heavier than the up to 90#'s I had trained with all summer. On the last hike down the mountain I managed to slip over a creek, fall squarely on my back, and kick like a turtle as I attempted to roll my way out of the river with who god knows how much weight on my back. It was all very humerus if you weren't me. I had a solid 3-4 seconds of concern as I rolled over and attempted to get back up to my feet and didn't know if I could get up. I looked up at Doug and just said, go around, this is no good.
We got Doug's bull back to the truck which took pretty much the entire day. According to my phone I had 14 miles on my boots and my feet felt worse on that day than they did after either of the marathons I had ran the summer before.
I gave Jake the option of hunting the next morning and then packing out. He was burnt out and ready to head home. We got up at first light and packed out and headed east. We ended up at Doug's around 1 AM. As a last parting gift I hid his elk around the backside of his house. He texted me about 3 hours later thanking me for the hunt and telling me he found it.
I rolled home at about 6:00AM, before my son was awake and was able to get him out of his crib. He did Dad a solid and took a 3 hour nap with me at about 8:30 so I got caught up a bit. I processed meat that night and the rest is history.
If you're a guy on the fence about heading west, do it. There are enough guys on here that will help you get started, but you need to participate in the community, tell them how you did after the trip etc. If you have no reputation on this site, saying you're not looking for anyone's honey hole is a bad way to start.
I'm not gloating, but I've killed 3 bulls on 3 trips, I'm guessing not too many non-residents can say that, and I am very proud of that accomplishment; but a lot of that success I can point to this website with the connections I've made.
Lots of fabulous memories and a big old pile of great eating elk meat!
Now go make it 4 for 4 next year!
Yup, totally agree, white tails are taking a back seat to the elk.
Congrats to all, again!
Thanks for taking us along
I really enjoyed your hunt and the pictures.