Summit Treestands
2020 elk season thus far
Contributors to this thread:
Lark Bunting 10-Sep-20
Lark Bunting 10-Sep-20
smurph 10-Sep-20
jordanathome 10-Sep-20
robl 10-Sep-20
Lark Bunting 10-Sep-20
maxracx 10-Sep-20
From: Lark Bunting
As always, I take every opportunity to learn. The 2020 elk season is no exception!

We drew a limited unit this year, same place I shot my bull from 2017. We had four of us with tags but one buddy from out of state decided to turn his tag in, though he still made the trip. He and another buddy have hunted this unit for the past 8 or 9 years. I believe between the two of them they have taken 6 or 7 elk, all bulls. My son and I are still learning the area but had encounters every day. A few details on what's happened so far.

Arrived to camp on Sept 1 and backpacked into our camping spot. We had a decision to make, filter water on the way in or come back to the water source after setting up camp. After careful consideration we decided not to add 22 pounds to our last half of the hike, we'd come back to filter water for camp.

The hike in isn't horrible. I should add I thought this pack in was going to kill me in 2017. I had over packed, and had not been doing any pack training back then. It sucked! This year however, I started pack training in early June. I started with a 25# dumbell, added another, switched to a 50# sand bag and added weights depending on what I felt like doing. I did this every time I walked the dog and every time I mowed the yard. It takes me an hour each time to mow, trim and leaf blow. I can't say enough about how much better everything felt on this trip!

Day 1: hiked to camping spot and set up camp. Hiked a half mile back to the stream and filtered water. Lesson #1...make sure your hunting partner knows how to use the water filter system! I use the Gravityworks filter system with 4L bags. After filtering the first 4L I asked my son to fill our Camelbaks. As I proceeded to refill the dirty bag I look up and my son is running the filters BACKWARDS into our Camelbaks. :facepalm: Lesson #2: I had watched something online about filtering water and the guy recommended using a disposable plastic bottle to aid in filling this type of system. Being our water source is maybe 1.5" deep this turned out to be a very effective method of filling the dirty bag. The disposable plastic water bottles weigh hardly anything and smash down flat. I was VERY glad to have it this trip.

As I noticed my son running the system ass-backwards into the Camelbaks I told him to stop, asked what might be wrong with what he was doing (arrows are pointing the wrong way), we rinsed out the Camelbaks as well as we could and moved on. Each with 11L of water in our packs we left and went back to camp. The first evening was uneventful and I was asleep before 10pm.

Day 2 (Opening Day): The weather forecast was expected to be hot and dry for the entire week we were to be on the mountain, plans were Sept 1-7. We left camp and each grabbed a pre-prepared food bag we had hanging 50 yards behind camp. Lesson 3: I told my son he was responsible to pack his own food bags this year. I shopped for the groceries and stored them in a huge cooler in the garage. My meal bags were mostly packed a week in advance. He packed his hurriedly the night before. We hit the game trail behind camp and headed up the ridge. 20 minutes into our slow hike we were into fresh hoof prints, green slimy poo, and elk. As we crested a small rise I saw antlers to our right and hissed for him to "FREEZE! Bull Elk!". My son spun around and asked why. :FACEPALM: The bull and lead cow spun immediately and ran out of our lives. I kind of gave my son that look, you know, like, "Really?!". The chin on the chest was enough to realize that Freeze means FREEZE. Within two seconds of the two elk sprinting out of there I began cow calling and let out one bugle. I heard branches break to our left, on the other side of a small stand of pines. I pointed that direction and mouthed the words, "knock an arrow". The next 30 minutes were hysterical, cow elk here, cow elk there, cow elk EVERYWHERE. Apparently when we crested the small knob in the dark timber we literally stumbled right into the middle of a small elk herd. I had a cow elk at 18 yards arrow knocked, release still attached to my bow. (I had agreed my son was first shooter that morning) My son had a calf at 16 yards, frontal shot. As he began drawing his bow it ran. He came to full draw on another cow but she only exposed her sexy front leg from the shrub she was behind, eventually turning and walking away. We had one cow messing with us, 10-12 yards behind a thick pine. I'd cow call, she'd reply. My son would move right, the elk moved left. I'd cow call and she'd reply, again. My son would move left she would move right around the tree. I was behind him calling running in huge arcs trying to draw her out. As soon as it all started it was over and we had blown them out of the area. I quickly realized three things; I had only been out of the tent for 45 minutes and my adrenaline was absolutely spiked to 11, I hadn't eaten anything yet, and the adrenaline dump left me needing to take my first sh!t in the elk woods. So, we stopped and rested, and grabbed some breakfast. Lesson...whatever, I probably should have at least double checked my son's food bags for this trip. At 18 years of age I figured he'd have been a bit more cautious as to what he packed. He'd be lucky to have 1600 calories in his bags for a day of hunting. Anyway we spent the rest of the day messing around near the site of my bull kill from a few years ago and hung out near a wallow. He slept for a while, I fidgeted around. Around 5:30 we had a bull above us sleepily bugle, we replied. 20 minutes later he bugled again and we could tell he was more awake. We got about 100 yards to his side and began making our way up hill. With as calm as everything was and thermals blowing directly up hill I figured we were in good shape, his next bugle was a long ways to the top of the mountain. I decided we'd come back the next day and approach from the top and work out way down, with winds in our favor.

Heading back to camp we found a seep behind camp so we stopped to filter water. Pitch black out and a really fun day, it was time for a meal and bed.

Day 3: We were expecting my buddies and one of their son's to arrive that evening. My son and I were up and at 'em at 0'dark-thirty and were on the trail behind camp pretty quickly. No elk where we found them opening morning. I wasn't surprised but this trail would wind it way to the top of the ridge and that's where I wanted to be when the thermals changed. Along the way however, my son realized he had two bars on his phone. My thoughts, "f*(# me!", 18 years old with a pretty steady girlfriend, we're done.

After threatening to leave him on the top of the mountain he reluctantly said 'good-bye' to his girlfriend and we were off to hunt. We made it to the top of the mountain and around the bowl in pretty good time, just as the thermals switched. We had to cross some open sage and scrub oak country and then we would be in the dark timber. 100 yards into the dark timber and off goes the first elk. This thing had a huge ass and antlers to match! Okay, nobody to blame but myself as I was leading, and I was going too fast. I take a moment to breath, and think. Time to slow down and hunt. We calmly walked the terrible blowdown, and stayed on the elk super highway that lead us in there. We spent most of the day in this hidey-hole trying everything we could think. Unfortunately, the only thing we mastered was spooking elk and watching them run away. A little frustrated and lot exhausted. We took a break on the bottom by the wallow again, then proceeded to hunt the area behind camp. We filtered water again and arrived at camp around 8:30. Our buddies were coming up the trail and joined us at camp. They had come in the mid-afternoon and went out exploring and filtered water. We exchanged stories and headed to bed.

Day 4: We slept in an extra 30 minutes as we stayed up later than expected catching up with old friends. I told my boy it was his turn to decide what we did that day. He led the way and I followed, directly to the spot he had a phone signal. :FingFACEPALM: I agreed to stay long enough to grab a quick bite to eat but then he had a decision to make. Either find his own way back to camp while I went out hunting or pull his head from his rectum and get serious about being on the mountain. He begrudgingly agreed to hunt and stop #2 (again, I wanted him to take some initiative) led us directly to a south facing bald spot on the other side of the mountain. Trying not to lose my cool, I asked what his thoughts about this "Open, we can glass". Ugh. After an hour I asked if we could get out of the sun, and maybe find some dark timber. He agreed it was hot out and off we went. We climbed the ridge behind camp and walked it for a while. Thankfully, there was some semi-dark timber up up there and we jumped a couple elk. After a few cow calls we heard them coming back, my son whispers, "Bull!". I knock an arrow, and see an elk coming out of a thick patch, I draw back......Spike! F*(#! This is a 4 point unit. I let down my bow and hear another approaching, thinking to myself, 'Come on, please at least be his big juicy momma!'...nope, another spike. So, we watched these two spikes walk around, feed on the aspens, run away, we'd call them back. We messed around with them for a while.

After a quick snack I persuaded the boy to head back over to where we were the day before, up to the top, around the bowl, and into the dark timber. Figured it would be several hours later and maybe we could find one bugling.

Our plan changed quickly when I turned on my phone and had a text from my buddies that they had a bull down! I replied but never got an answer. Message said they were breaking it down and would haul meat to the main trail. My son and I quickly made our way back to camp and dropped off the bows and emptied our packs of everything other than essentials. We grabbed another snack and hit the trail. We made it almost all the way down, we had traveled over 3.5 miles from where we were on top, and didn't see them. Knowing there's an elk down, my main priority was to assist in getting meat to the truck and hung to cool. We finally found them at 6:30 that night. It had taken them for ever to break that thing down and get the first load of meat to the trail. My son and I took the meat and my buddies son with us to the truck, while they went back up for the next load. Again, pack training...awesome! I hauled ass down that trail to the truck. We had some food, and I had a couple beers. I had the kids set up with Gatorade, water, snacks, etc. My buddies finally arrived at 11:30 and we planned to hike back up the mountain to camp.

Well, 10 minutes into the trek my headlamp went from being awesome to being a POS. I hate LED's in the fact they don't really just dim out, they go from full on to nothing. A quick battery change and off we go. Up to this point I hadn't really thought much of the Camelbak's being filtered incorrectly. Heck, we had been out for four days after the incident. Well, as I was trying to get the words out of my mouth, "I need to stop for a minute", what followed was pure hell for the next 10 minutes. I barfed up everything I had eaten that afternoon as well as what felt like 5 gallons of water, Gatorade and a couple beers. I had tears streaming down my face, and puke on my boots and was laughing. I don't know why but it caught me so off guard it was cracking me up. Once I was done and ready to continue hiking my subtle chuckles vanished as quickly as most of the elk we had seen on our trip. I could see my son up ahead in the headlamp on the side of the trail doing the exact same thing I had been doing a few minutes prior.

He and I stopped every so often on the trail back to camp. Once there, I was exhausted and went to bed. Apparently, he was up most of the night heaving.

After a quick meeting with the adults in camp the next morning we decided maybe it best to get him off the mountain and see how he did. Once back to the truck he was adamant we head home. Sucks cutting a trip short and I wasn't feeling too chatty on the 6 hour drive home other than to see how he was feeling.

I have no idea if it was the nasty water that ended up in the Camelbak's, or something we ate, or what it could have been but after getting home and some rest we seem to be doing fine.

All in all it was a great trip and we were into elk every day, with a buddy putting a bull on the ground. I am heading back up solo for another five days later this month and I can't wait. I have a couple weeks to put together a plan, areas to visit, and to practice my patience.

Good luck to everyone heading up and congrats to all those that have photos in the Meat Pole thread! I hope to join it soon!

From: Lark Bunting
My buddy that got the bull had a great story behind his success. As he was creeping along the trail after bumping a few elk he saw a big 6x6 up ahead. This area is known for a lot of elk but not huge. As claimed by the two guys there, this was the biggest elk they have ever seen in the area. A quick range of ol' mister Big Bull was something like 86 yards. Just as my buddy put his range finder down a 5x5 walked across the trail at 18 yards. Smack! I'd have done the same but now I know where a Big Boy is hanging out!

From: smurph
Good write up. I like the stories that don't always end up with a kill photo. Maybe cause I have lots of hunts like yours too!

From: jordanathome
Thanks! Great story and looking forward to the next chapter!

From: robl
Nice job, great story. Thanks for posting. Seems you got into lots of elk. Would you say your main strategy is to still-hunt dark timber, and that’s why you didn’t like when your son led you to glass?

From: Lark Bunting
robl, I'd say that after finding elk in dark timber exclusively up to that point it didn't make much sense to be on the hot side of the mountain at 9:30 in the morning "looking" for elk. We had them pretty well located, I think he was being a bit lazy and didn't want to make that hike to get back over to them. It was roughly an 1800' elevation gain and right at two miles from camp. Don't get me wrong, my son is a great kid and I am trying to adjust from him being that little guy that wouldn't leave my side in the mountains to an 18 year old young man that would have rather stayed home to see is girlfriend regularly. ;)

As for me, I am not great at still hunting...I get impatient. I like calling and locating and planning a stalk. But, as I mentioned, I'm always out there learning so maybe I'll slow down when I'm solo in a couple weeks and will try my hand at some still hunting! :)

From: maxracx
Great story, good luck on the next leg.

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