Contributors to this thread:
This will probably take several days to get through with all of my Christmas obligations but I will try to tell the story of this year's elk hunt.
It had been 19 years since I had gone on an elk hunt along with my dad. It had also been 25 years since I had shot an elk. After two years of planning a group of us decided to apply for a unit in Colorado that my family has hunted since 1964. The group includes myself, my dad, his friend (who has bow hunted elk with him since 1989) Rusty. My friends Travis and Travis left for this unit about 4 days before Dad, Rusty and I did. I had an elk , mule deer, and a bear tag. Sept 11th at 2:00 PM we started that 23-hour drive from SE Ohio to our unit. This was a nonstop drive. One person would sleep while the others drove or navigated.
September 12th we arrived at our location. Because of some health issues in the group, we rented a cabin that had electricity. This was our first surprise of the trip. The cabin was much smaller than anticipated. Three of us could not stand up in the tiny space together. There were four bunks which worked out fine since we had rented two cabins. Rusty struggled with the size of the cabin and was getting Closter phobic. I had an overabundance of energy after spending 23 hours in a vehicle. We both got our stuff put together and out we went to test our legs. Rusty went up one drainage I drove the ATV to another location I had picked out on google earth and went for a hike. Three hours of just walking, I ran into a lot of fresh elk sign. At last light, I heard an elk bugle half mile away. This was promising to be a great hunt.
My dad wanted myself and him to go to a location that both of my grandfathers had either shot at and killed elk. My dad had killed elk at this location in the early 80’s with muzzleloader. I think he wanted to go more for nostalgia reasons. After some slight confusion that was cleared up with Onx maps we were able to get to the location just as daylight was starting to break. We were looking out into a park and both Dad and Rust saw what they first thought was a stump move. I was the only one that had binoculars so after looking at this particular stump it had a 5x5 rack. It was a bull bedded in the middle of the park. We made a plan of attack I backed up 30 yards while Dad and Rusty moved closer to the bull. I started to cow call. First time the bull just turned and looked my direction. He just laid in his spot. I waited a couple of minutes and tried another set of cow and calf calls. This time he got up and slowly walked off. He showed no interest in being social. What to do next??? Dad said there was a wallow not far lets go check it out. Upon arriving we found that someone had set up a tree stand over it and set up a trail camera inform of the wallow. I made sure that I had many pictures taken of me on the camera. Even a close up of me waiving. We continued about another mile before stopping to eat a breakfast of granola bars and decided to head back to camp and go to another side of the unit that has produced in the past.
PM Man things change over 19 years. The road to get to our desired location had been closed and a new forest service road had been made. After much deliberation, review of maps we found the location we wanted. It was late so we decide to drive back to the Cabin and check it out the next morning.
Sept 14th AM- went back to the spot we eventually figured out the previous night. Dad and Rusty went down some old logging roads that we used to run into some elk on in the past. Travis W and I worked our way up the main spine of the mountain. Travis and I would bugle into every canyon. The only response was cattle. This is not a good thing when elk hunting. Travis and I kept hiking and calling gaining elevation almost every step. This is when the conditioning was really kicking in. We did eventually run into some grouse. That is when the arrows started flying. I guess there was no direct hits though many feathers exploded off the grouse. It was the main excitement for the morning. Travis and I finished with a round trip of 8.2 miles covered no elk, some grouse and lots of cattle. When we arrived back at the truck Dad and Rusty reported the same thing.
That will have to be it for the night. I will pick back up tomorrow.
I'm back PM
I had also burned 5 preference points and had a mule deer tag. To be honest this was the animal that I wanted the most. I also knew that since I was hunting the last two plus weeks of season that it was a slim shot of harvesting a mule deer. Travis W had seen a large forky on a regular spot up on the continental. I really did not care about antler size and the pic he showed me of the forky more than met my standards. It was a good one as far as forky’s go. So i went to this particular spot and climbed high above it so the wind was in my face. I proceeded to bake in the sun for the next four hours trying to glass up this deer. At last light without seeing him I started heading down towards the truck. I ran into and stalked within less than 30 yards of a doe an fawn. Yet there was no buck. I worked my way toward the truck I heard a muzzleloader go off. My heart sank. When I arrived at the truck I found out thatTravis W ran into the hunter who had killed the particular forky I was going to try for. He was gutting the deer on the road ditch.
WSP, good stuff so far. Please do us a favor and insert some paragraph breaks. Makes for a much more readable story.
Keep it coming!
Sept 15th. AM- I went to a spring that I had checked out on the first day. The spring had some mule deer tracks around it. I arrived way before daylight and made a ground blind near it. Right at first light, I saw mule deer feeding in the aspens and willows. None of them had antlers. I watched them for an hour. It was entertaining. The rest of the morning, I spent watching squirrels, birds and other forms of wildlife. At about noon I had about all I could of setting in one spot and headed back to camp to get lunch.
Dad and Rusty went on a scouting mission. They ended up hearing a bull bugle from the exact location that I killed my first bull 25 years ago. For some reason they choose not to make a play on him and left him.
View from the ridge top
View from the ridge top
I went up another gulch and when I crested the ridgeline, I found a lot of fresh elk sign. I slowly oozed my way towards a little saddle on the ridge and found some large game trails crossing. After climbing up hill for the last hour and a half, I choose to set with the wind in my face and try a few soft cow calls. 5 minutes after calling, I heard a large snap. I happened to look up and say a very large bodied mule deer heading my way. I positioned myself for a possible shot. The deer must of saw me move because it stopped and we had a Mexican standoff. It seemed like five minutes but was probably close to a minute, the deer moved, and it had a nice set of 4x4 antlers. IT started walking diagonally toward me. I had one opening that I was going to get a shot. I started to draw my widow but the buck never stopped or slowed down for a good shot. It was at the edge of my ability about 30 yards.
I am naturally a very aggressive individual what I did next would be classified as a bold move. I was the direction the deer was heading I pulled up Onx on my phone and saw the direction that the deer was heading there was a small park. I took off and jogged over to the park. There was a boulder at the upper end that I climbed up on and right as I was standing up the buck was coming into view. He was broadside to me but was 50 yards away. Might as well been a mile away with my recurve. The buck did not like seeing e a second time and bailed off it some thick nasty country. Man I was pumped up from that encounter. From the boulder, I actually had cell service. I sent a few texts to my wife and to mom to keep her updated on how dad was doing. I was in technology land and had not noticed some nasty gray clouds starting to roll towards me. As much as I wanted to go farther back, I did not want to be in a storm on the mountain. Been there done that, it is not that much fun. So I bailed off towards my ATV. I was drenched and getting cold when I arrived at camp.
Another view from the ridge top
Another view from the ridge top
Sept 16th AM
Travis Williams and I went out to where I had killed my elk in 1994. After 25 years things looked quite different. We found the parking spot and started walking up the valley. We had gone about a quarter mile when we heard a cow bark at us. This was strange. The wind was blowing from it to us and it was still very dark outside. With nothing to lose, we made a big circle up the side of the mountain over to where we thought they might go and bed. We got there and softly called for about an hour with no response except from the pine squirrels who were reminding us that we were in their space. Granola bar break. After a snack we looked at our Onx app. We saw another location that they might go to bed and off we went. After an hour hike we started running into real fresh sign. The elk had been there very recently. Slow down time. We would sneak 20 yards and look with our bino’s trying to find any part of an elk. This lasted about an hour. Travis seemed to be getting frustrated and our pace picked up. As any experienced hunter knows a fast still hunt is no hunt. Travis ended up bumping a small cow out of her bed and she took the herd with her. We talked over the situation and decided that it was time to go back to camp and eat. The walk down the mountain I slipped and fell on my Widow recurve. The bow unstrung and I hurt. Frustrated I just started walking, Travis whispered that I should restring the recurve incase we ran into some mule deer. I did and kept on walking. I never thought to check my limbs. We made it to our ATVs and after a little malfunction of a 4wheeler, we were headed back to camp.
PM I went back up to the park that Dad Rusty and I had saw the bull the first morning. As I was walking to the location, I found a place that actually had cell coverage. I sent some texts to my wife and mother. When I tried to stand up I was reminded about my fall early in the day by how sore I was and thought I should try a few practice shots. First shoot was a 2 feet to the left at 25 yards. I am not that bad of a shot so I grabbed my arrow and tried another shot at a little over 30. 3 feet to the left. I know I am not that bad of a shot. I started looking at my limbs and there was some damage from the fall.
Back to camp I go. The last thing I wanted to do was try and shoot an elk with a messed up bow. When I got to camp I pulled out my back up bow (my elite energy 35). Took it to the practice target. 35 yards dead perfect. 50 yards hit the 2 inch circle. I was ready to rock.
September 17th AM
I went to the location that I had the encounter with the nice mule deer. There was a lot of fresh bear and elk sign. I had a blast but it was a five mile round trip which I saw great elk country.
PM. I headed back to the destination I wanted to go to the previous night when I found out I had bow issues. I arrived at 2:30 Pm and settled in. At 2:45 a bugle. That is nice, I thought. 3:30 another bugle this time closer. This elk is ruining a great nap. I decided that I should do something other than inspecting the back of my eyelids. I start working towards the sound of the bugle. I set up where I could maneuver to my right or to my left whichever way the bull might come into the park. The wind was hitting the front right part of my face when I was looking down the mountain from where the bugle was coming from. The bull would bugle about every 45 minutes. I would call every occasionally but no really trying to get anything to hyped up . There were other bulls bugling close by also. This was giving me some hope this might be a great night after al
6:30PM the bull bugled this time it had a different tone/ emotion to the bugle. I knew thermals would be changing soon. I had to make something happen. I took off and ran 100 yards towards the location that I heard the bugle. I stopped and cow called this time the bull cut me off. It sounded like he was working his way to my left. The direction the wind was blowing. I also knew there was a wallow over there. My thought was he was heading to the wallow. I take off running to my left about 100 yards and the bull bugles again this time close and behind me. I turn around, step into the park, and look into the aspens and here he comes.
I give one last cow call directly behind me and the rips off with the most agitated bugle I have ever heard. I know he is going to be coming and try to get a range on a fallen tree. UGH!!!!!!! It is too dark to get a reading on my range finder. The bull is closing fast, I start crawling towards him. He stops to rake a tree looks back to where he came from and sounds off with another bugle. I crawl towards him faster. My DI from the military would have been happy with my crawling speed.
The bull steps up onto the shelf that I am crawling on making a semi-circle towards the last location I had called from. I get in a squatted stance and draw at the same time. He sees me move and turns towards me. He is not facing me head on but is about 20 degrees offset to my right. I mentally start judging distance, he is farther than 20 and closer than 35.
I start looking for an opening to the chest cavity from conventional methods. There are none. I look at the angle of his neck and shoulders. An opening will let me place a broadhead into the front part of his offside shoulder blade. My sights have already found the location. A check of the steadiness of my pins and breathing, this will have to be a precision shot. My pins are rock solid and my pin gap between my 20 and 35 yard pin are perfectly set. I start thinking about squeezing the release and
I have to got to go now, Christmas obligations. I will try to start back up tomorrow.
Keep it coming when you get a chance.
Now that was not very nice of you.
Great story and great story telling.
My white blazers hit right at the spot I wanted them to. I hear a meaty slicing sound but no loud crack of hitting a bone. I am confident in the placement. I see that I got about 19 inches of my arrow in him not including the broadhead. As he runs, I get the feeling like he is saying, I am tuff, I am tuff; as he stiff leggedly goes from a full run to a trot. Now my emotions start to go crazy. He runs into the woods then I hear cracking of dead trees. I wait a few minutes and run over to the place I last saw him and shine a light into the woods. I do not see anything. My mind is racing, I start self talking. I decide that I am in no shape mentally or emotionally to go after him.
I walk back to my ATV and drive the 45 minutes back to camp. The entire time replaying the situation over in my head. I really have no second guesses about any of my decisions. I am about 85% confident that he was already down by the time I had left the park.
When I get back to camp. Rusty notices that I am shaking uncontrollably, he smiles and states you had an encounter. I just shake my head yes. He asked if I shot, I said yes. How big of a mule deer? Was his next question. "Not a deer an elk; probably the biggest that the 3 generations of elk hunters have ever killed in my family. I answered" I replay the whole story to him and he wants to go get the elk. I had already made my mind up on the way to camp that if the bull was already dead when I left he won’t be any less dead in the morning. He agreed then my dad came in and I had to retell the story again. They both were very sure the bull was already dead but accepted my wish to go back in the morning. It is amazing how when you are sure that you killed something and wait till the morning to track how little sleep you get.
We arrive at the edge of the park 45 minutes before daylight. I set at the base of tree and tried to soak in everything. Right at daylight a coyote sounds off right below us. I think that is a good sign. Then maybe not, I do not want to share any of the meat with coyotes. We wait till the sun is fully up and walk over to the place that I had shot the bull. I show Dad and Rusty were the bull was and the last place I saw him and the direction he was heading. Dad and Rusty star looking around the woods. I start following his tracks in the high grass. I find little pin drops of blood. I am getting a little concerned. Dad and Rusty are doing large circles around the last location that I heard the bull. Dad calls my name I walk over to him and he points down. I see this
Rusty calls out almost immediately afterward about 50 yards away. I run over to him and he shows me the blood. Rusty and I take off at a face pace following the blood trail. It was like a stream of blood the entire way. We traveled 200 yards from the impact location and almost in unison state “he can’t be far.”
His trail turns down the mountain and he goes right the edge of a rim rock cliff. My heart sank. Did he in his last effort do a freedive?
More tomorrow. Good night Bowsite.
Better take a shower and then after u dry off, take another shower. Cuz u dirty.....;^)
Got a feeling we are gonna see a dead elk pic next. Cuz nobody in their right mind would set anything else up this way....
Good stuff, keep it coming
Bastard... I’ll check back in the morning. ;)
I’m with stick and string and UCS, :^)
WTF... This should not be allowed... Start to finish- no "breaks"............. LOL
Come on ESP finish this story for us.
Looks like you'll have to have ESP to figure this one out...
Ha! FYI. This is his dad ( maybe I should not acknowledge that) ha works today then has to go see inlaws, so maybe he can get back to this later tonight. This was a great hunt!
Come on Dad!
You can jump in and keep it going while you’re son is out of commission!
Can’t just leave us hanging...
Heck, you were there too;-)
Yeah dad. Just tell us. We won’t tell him you told us!
You guys are like my granddaughters that want to open there Christmas presents early. I will just let him tell it. He is better with words. Merry Christmas
If you tell us the story, even just a little bit, we for sure won’t tell Mom!
You should ground him!!!! Im sure you've done it before..... for not telling the whole story the first time. LOL
Yes I have fields. But that was long ago. You guys are putting me in a tight spot!! Have fun
In all fairness, in his very first post, ESP did write that it would probably take several days to get the story posted because of Christmas obligations.....but his "pause points" are suspenseful, if not also humorous.
Jake, I am glad you get my sense of humor.
Let me continue.
Looking over the cliff we see no signs of a free dive. We start looking and the blood does an immediate 90 degree right. It heads down a little opening in the cliffs.
A few steps down the chute and Rust yells there is your bull. Less than 20 yards away. Emotions let loose. I take a good look and see that he has a 7th point on his left side. He was bigger than I thought.
Lots of pictures and stories were told. He was starting to smell and it was apparent that he had died very quickly after I had shot him. I think the arrow staying in him kept him moving until he bled out. It took 3 hours to cut him up into packable portions. We had him back to camp by 1pm and to the processor by 3 PM.
A picture of my dad and I in 1994 with my first elk
Picture of my dad and I in 2019 25 years later
I have to leave now. I hope this is what you guys and gals were wanting. I will continue later tonight.
Congrats on a great bull. I'm sure the icing on the cake was your Dad was there on the hunt.
awesome.. all those branches/trees in the background- is that all beetle kill.. Not much sneaking going on there Id guess.
Love those two pics with you and your Dad. Thats wicked cool. Helluva bull too.
Awesome bull. Great story, but sorry, I have to be that guy.. These are not white tail. If you shoot a bull in the evening and you are sure of your shot, go find him that night! There is too much thick hide and body heat to sit overnight in September temps. I would never want to eat a bull that was "starting to smell". Again, sorry to be "that guy"..
He does taste good butI have eaten some nasty things in my life. The human stomach can handle more than most give it credit. Most people I have shared him with love the meat.
I did want to go get him, but ESP talked me out of it. Looking back I don’t think we would have found him. We lost the neck meat and about 5 lbs around each hip socket. To me most of the smell was just a rutting bull. We were lucky that was all we lost . It sure went farther than I would of guessed with that shot.
Spectacular! Great bull!
Love the picture with Dad, even though ‘ol Dad was so tight lipped and wouldn’t spill any beans! Good job telling the tale... Just some of us might be antsy for more time in the elk woods:-)
I’ve left a few elk overnight. Most times the meat is just fine. The neck area seems to be the first to go. You can trim out any funkiness if you are cutting it up yourself. Bet the majority was excellent!
Getting the feeling this story has a ways to go...
Dad? You gonna just hang on the sidelines? Jump on in with both feet!
Y’all obviously had a spectacular hunt!
Thanks treeline! Yes I will wait till he is done, then may add a thought or two. Yes it was great. Just a note, where this bull was when he shot it was within 30 yds of where I shot a small bull shot n 1982 and my dad was by my side when I shot it.
Mine in 82 was with muzzleloader
Dang, with just a little more poking, we might get ol’ Dad to open right up!
On the way to the processor, I did happen to send a text to family and a bowsiter Michael Arnett to let them know.
PM I buy Dad and Rusty dinner for helping me pack the elk. Sleep came easy this night.
AM I stayed in camp cleaned up my equipment, done some laundry and made lunch for Dad and Rusty. I also was physically hurting a lot. I have a condition that causes muscle deteriation when I put forth too much effort. I consumed as much fluids as I could tolerate to help flush the enzymes out and help the kidneys. By noon, I was feeling much better. Still sore but felt like a human again. I asked my dad to go on a great grouse hunt the following morning. He had a big smile on his face when he said yes.
PM I tried to stalk into my carcass to see if I could find a bear to fill my $100 bear tag. I got within 100 yards of the carcass and the smell was horrible. I started to get the feeling that vomiting was about to happen. I did not need a bear tag filled that bad.
AM Dad and I went to the place that Travis W and I ran into all the grouse several days earlier. As much as we tried, we could not locate a grouse. We had a lot of fun talking and looking at the changing colors of the aspens. We did run into another hunter who had a mule deer tag. He had only seen one forky in a week of hunting. He made the statement “ I did not burn 5 points to shoot a forky”. By this time of the hunt, I knew that there must have been an extreme winter kill for muledeer.
PM Tried stalking into the carcass of the elk. The smell was significantly better. I was able to make it to the carcass. The only tracks that were around it were coyote. I worked my way back to the ATV taking pictures as I went.
AM I stayed in camp and made a laundry run for Dad, Rusty and myself. I made lunch for the guys. No encounters or bugles heard GLP will have to start adding his and Rusty's adventures
PM Hoping for a mule deer encounter, I set at the water seep from the 15th. A relatively uneventful evening. Just some pine squirrels. There were some fresh tracks around the spring, by their size I assumed elk. Dad and Rusty are really starting to look tired.
September 22 nd
AM Dad and Rusty went to another location that used to see elk in the past. No sign, no bugles.
PM Rusty goes off by himself. Dad and I drive around the unit trying to find a new place to hunt that were not covered in ATV or foot tracks. We covered all four corners of the unit. I enjoyed this trip. It seemed like every ten minutes we were passing a spot that our family had a history with. I guess that happens if you have a family that started hunting this place in the mid 60’s. In the end, we did not find what we were looking for. I was surprised by the total lack of mule deer. Even in canyons that used to hold many does and fawns there was no deer to be seen.
AM dad and Rusty go to another location, again no fresh sign and no bugles.
PM Rusty goes to the place I killed my bull and sets. He has no encounters and hears nothing.
Sept 24 th The same exact events. Nothing seen/nothing heard
Sept 25th Rusty and I go to a location that he went early in the hunt. We walk the ridge tops listening for bugles. We call with no responses. We see sign but nothing fresh. We stop for a snack break and talk for almost an hour. We make our way back to the ATVs and make our back to camp. Dad and Rusty call the hunt to an end. We spend the rest of the evening packing up our gear into the truck and go to bed for a 4 AM start to drive back to southeast Ohio.
Some questions that I have been asked since the hunt.
Would you have taken that shot on the elk with your recurve?
No, that was too small of a target for me to make at that range. I do believe that I would have had an opportunity to kill the bull. I would have waited for the bull to get past me before trying to draw. He was at my max comfort range with a recurve.
Would you go back to hunt that same unit?
I am not sure for elk. It was just a step above an over the counter unit. I ran into hunters who had drawn the unit with zero points. With that said I am familiar with this unit and that is a huge advantage. Cattle were in two of our favorite locations so it left us scrambling to find other spots.
For mule deer I would go back, but I would pay better attention to the snow levels. This area had over 500% snowpack last winter.
This past Saturday I received a call from the taxidermist. My wife and I are having discussions on where to place him. I would like to place him in my cave. She wants him out in the living space.
About the bull, he has 7 tines on the left side. He is a basic six on the right but has a 4-inch tine that is growing up between his brows.
"all those branches/trees in the background- is that all beetle kill.. Not much sneaking going on there Id guess."
Fields, parts of this unit has a substantial amount of beetle kill. I hope they don't have a major fire for the local residents.
I hope you enjoyed following along. I enjoyed sharing this little adventure. Merry Christmas, Bowsite.
An excellent hunt and recap! Congratulations again on a fabulous experience!
Thank you for taking us along!
Thanks for your your story and pics it made work tonight much better! Be sure and put those Dad and you pics on each side of your mount. I like the wife's idea on the living space that was a memorable hunt for sure!
Great recap! Congrats on a great bull and even better memories!
I forgot about this pic. Dad and his elk from Montana. I was hunting pronghorn and mule deer. We stayed in the same bunk house but did not hunt the same properties
Awesome bull, great story...Congrats!
Great adventure! Thanks for sharing!
Great Story!! and Congrats on a beautiful Bull!!!!!
Great story, thanks for taking us along! Congrats on the bull!
It's always fun to read what others have experienced, thanks for the write up, very enjoyable.
Congratulations, thanks for taking us along, great story. Forrest
Nicely none. This is a great time to tell the story when we are all bored with no hunting happening. Brings us back to reality and special times afield. my best, Paul
Awesome stuff! Congrats and thanks for sharing!
Thanks for sharing ESP! Sure seems like hunting with your Pappy is a big part of the experience for you. Very cool! Merry Christmas to you and your family
Love the story! Amazing how things come full circle sometimes!
what a great story and wonderful pictures! And an Awesome bull to top it all off!
Congratulations and thank you for sharing and taking us along!
God Bless, and Merry Christmas!