This year we were at it again and she was feeling a little more confident, after all, she had 1 whole elk season under her belt. I believe that qualifies her as a “seasoned hunter” ...errr huntress.
So let’s call this elk recap the Redemption Train. Oh and I have a tag too, so let’s not make it all about the girl!
The plan was to shoot lots of arrows, go to a bunch of 3D shoots and build up that muscle memory. Of course, life kicked in and between kids doing school from home, work, etc we struggled to get in as many shoots as we planned. We did make it to Glenwood springs for the TAC. What a blast! She lost 3 arrows, and by some miracle I made it home with a quiver full of arrows.
A few more shooting sessions and somehow the slow summer turned into a lightening fast month and it was the night before the opener!
What do you do 5 minutes after shoot time on opening morning?!! You blow your bugle and wait for the answer to come! 11 months I’ve waited to rip off that first bugle in the pre-dawn darkness! Here goes nothing!
An IMMEDIATE answer. Ha! It never works the first time. 150-200 yards up the hill. It was go time and we were only 5 minutes into opening morning! Hell, I could barely see my pins!
None of that seemed necessary as the antler tips made their way to the top of the hill. One tip became 2, then 3, then 4. It quickly became obvious this wasn’t one of the raghorns I had on my trail camera 100 yards down the hill sitting on the wallow. Finally, ears and a head emerge as the big 6x6 got to the top of the rise. I could see Steph, bow drawn 12 yards away on her knees. She almost looked like she was cowering under him.
The bull stared down the hill toward me, I ranged him at 47 yards. He was frontal with no shot. I had an arrow nocked but I had the bow dangling from my fingers by the string. The bull whipped his head to the left, staring at Steph and my buddy. Uh oh...
I called and he looked back down the hill, then back to Steph. 2 more times of this and he bolted. He ran 60 yards and stopped broadside to them. He was now standing staring, 70 yards from Steph and 100 from me. A couple barks and he finally took off.
That was weird. Did he see them? Seemed unlikely. I trudged up to them, just a little disheartened. It was 20 minutes into the season, but we just don’t see bulls like that.
From their perspective the bull needed to take 2 more steps to clear the rise and expose his vitals. He was somewhere between 10-12 yards and they got quite the show as he screamed above them. I guess my buddy didn’t see him come over the rise and dropped his cell phone which is what alerted the bull to their presence. Damn! We almost had a bull down, and a good one at that!!!
We worked our way up the canyon, nothing playing at the moment. As we went through a meadow, a stick breaking, or maybe it was a wood pecker caught our attention. As we strained to decipher the noise, my buddy called it first. Antler on antler! They were within 100 yards and we snuck up the hill with the wind in our face.
Steph said she was shaking the whole time with excitement. I bet a lot of us on here wish we could bottle that and drink it. I remember my first bull elk kill with my bow. My back leg was shaking uncontrollably to the point I was scared I wouldn’t be able to shoot.
Guess Imma go shoot a bit....
What is that black in the last pic? or is it just a shadow?
We played cat and mouse with the bulls for 45 minutes and the wind started to get squirrely. We made the decision to back out slowly to play another day. It’s not easy to back out when you’re 50 yards away but getting winded and blowing them out of the drainage was a real possibility.
We headed for camp and an afternoon nap. What a morning!
Opening day....evening hunt!
It was a bust. We heard one bugle way up on top. At least we knew where we’d go tomorrow morning!
We headed for the bugle we heard the evening before, but stopped at a little meadow that sometimes holds a bull. We were an hour before shoot time, but the moon made it feel like it was almost go time!
I let out a bugle, and bam a bull! Then another! Now I know how Cory Jacobson feels. We backed out slowly and made sure they couldn’t get down wind before shooting light.
We laid there listening to absolute silence (minus a bugle from our new friend every few minutes), gazing straight up threw the aspen trees at the stars and the full moon. Elk season is truly special!
Finally, it was time to go. We hadn’t heard the first bull bugle in since his initial bugle so I threw out a locator to see if he was still on the hillside above us. He didn’t respond, but our other friend gladly gave us a response.
He was close, maybe 200-300 yards. I shut up and we made a plan to close the distance. Once we got to 100 I’d hit him again and we’d get setup. We came to a big open meadow, 100 yards across. I paused for a minute just as he bugled. Uh oh...here he comes!
He was still walking and I had to do something. I hit him with a hard cow call. He immediately stopped, but as he stopped he took a step toward me. Now he was quartering to me, 42 yards. I had dialed my slider to 40 yards. I held at full draw, needing him to take one more step.
We turned our attention to a bugle across the canyon back toward where we were earlier in the morning. Long story short, we played cat and mouse with a bull for the next couple hours in some deadfall. It was too thick for him to get to us and for us to get to him. He lost interest and headed out.
We decided to call it a day and head home, knowing we were coming back in 2 days for the weekend. What an opener! Lots of bugles and full draw 2 times in 2 days!
Back into the first little honey hole with HIGH expectations. Complete bust. No elk seen or heard. We made the death march to another spot trying to get there before the sun started beating down on us. Nothing again. One more spot, but it was getting warm and I was sweating like a little pig. Steph was about done with me running up the mountain trying to get to the elk before it got hot. At 9am we called it a day. It was time for some pbj sandwiches and a nap in the hammock.
About 5Pm we both had it with the damn hammock. We got on a knife ridge that run about 1/3 of a mile. Steph stayed 300 yards up the ridge and I went to the point. The plan was she would come get me if she heard a bugle. “Blow your hoochie mama and I’ll come running!”
About 5Pm, I hear “meow” “meow” “meow”. Everyone knows the sound of the hoochie! I grabbed my crap and headed up to her. She “thought” it was a bugle. She heard it 3 times but it stopped when I got there. It was almost go time, as the sun was dropping below the ridge. 15 more minutes and we’d have a consistent thermal.
I ran back down to the knife edge and told Steph I would work my way back up bugling. She stayed there listening. As I bugled my way back to her I saw an elk down in a meadow below us. Steph saw it too and we met up to come up with a plan. The elk was heading out way, it was a cow. She was ready to kill it. If it’s brown, it’s down. The elk was heading right for us and we got set up. By now the elk was on a dead run! She really liked my bugle!!!! I’ll let the video tell the story!
She came over and as I laughed about how I could have speared the elk and she needed to pay better attention the bull she heard earlier bugled! Oh man!!!! Let’s go!
We closed the distance to what we thought was 100 yards and we heard a stick snap right in front of us. I ran back and started calling. After a couple minutes the bull bugled again about 200 yards away. I rounded up Steph and we headed for him. As we snuck through the baby aspens I spotted his cow in a meadow 102 yards away. Steph dropped back and gave the “meow”.
The bull bugled and came into view. 92 yards. She meowed again and he bugled back. Here he comes. I was kneeling at this point, arrow nocked, thumb release dangling from the d loop. I decided it was time to stand up and when he disappeared behind a tree, I stood and drew my bow. We were on the same trail and he was on a collision course with me. The “meowing” was incessant and I gave her a wave to stop.
Here he comes, up the hill with one tree between us. He cleared the tree, 10 yards and still coming. He stared through me at the patch of trees that hid Steph. 9 yards, not sure what to do now. At some point he’s going to stomp me or see me. 8 yards without a worry in the world. There was no “sneak” in him. No cautious approach. He came plodding along. 7 yards...
It sounded like I hit a 2x4 and he spun. I immediately called and he stopped 15 yards away. I could see my arrow sticking out of him when he spun and my heart sank. It looked like I got about 50% penetration. As I stood there thinking about the worst case scenario, I heard him crash. Wow! He’s down.
We went down and saw the aftermath. It looked like a horror scene. Blood was everywhere. I had a sevr 2.0 in my quiver to go with my german kinetic xl’s. I pulled the sevr thinking it was going to be a longer shot. It ended up going through the shoulder but missing the ribs.
When someone asks why I shoot 84lbs and a 565gr arrow, here’s a pretty good reason. I think with my german kinetic the arrow would have been sticking in the dirt, but either way, a dead elk is a dead elk!
We got a good nights rest and made it back for the second load the next morning.
We need to figure out how to kill them closer to the truck.
It’s a nice luxury to shoot a setup that pretty much eliminates the worry of angles and hitting shoulder bones.
I gather you didn’t figure you’d have a shot if you gave him a few more steps, then?
Not suggesting you did anything wrong, but I am trying to figure out exactly how it all went down.
That’s some great looking help you got there on the butchering detail!
We headed back up Friday afternoon with the plan to hunt Friday evening, then Saturday and Sunday.
We headed up into our little “honey hole” to find it covered in cattle. Mother effers!!!!!
I let out a bugle and got a response across the small canyon. I glassed it hard and I didn’t see the bull. It appeared that he was up on top, perfect. We dropped down and across. I told her, “climb up the hill, when you get 20 yards from the top, stop and get ready. I’ll call him to the edge and when he looks over to see an elk you’ll have a chip shot! Go slow, take your time, don’t make any noise, and make sure he doesnt see you!”
She takes off, louder than a herd of buffalos. 30 seconds later she’s climbed what should have taken 5 minutes and she turns to me and throws her arms up in the air. Apparently, while she was looking at her feet, the bull was looking at her. He busted her at 20 yards.
“I told you to go quietly. That wasn’t quiet! I told you to go slow. That wasn’t slow! I told you to stop 20 yards from the top. You’re 10 yards from the top!”
She reminded me in a very curt tone that she has never done this and she’s trying her best. Ok fair enough. Let’s go find another one.
We stumbled upon a couple spikes and a lone cow. A bull bugled but we never caught up to him. I think it was the same one that busted her.
I could tell for the first time this season she was discouraged. That bull was in a perfect spot and he should have died. We headed back to camp with the plan to go all day the next day way up on top.
Day 2....chugga chugga...
We made it up the trail and bugled into a spot that usually gets a response. Nothing. Lots of people in the area, more than I’ve ever seen. Awesome....
We keep pushing up the hill, the wind is crap and inconsistent with a storm rolling through. We work our way up top and get a bugle from a dark timber, north facing slope. It’s a bedding area and I do my best to stay out of it, especially with shifty winds. We set up for a long afternoon siesta and hope for more luck in the evening.
That night we had to come up with a hunt for tomorrow. I wasn’t too excited about going back to the “honey hole” since we had just hit it the day before, and the other areas were getting a lot of pressure. I guess the honey hole it is.
We finished our dinner as it started to rain and we climbed into our sleeping bags, exhausted.
“John, John! I hear an elk bugling outside.”
Puuuuuurfect. I know where we’re hunting tomorrow morning.
We actually got to sleep in. We drove down a mile below camp so we could work into the wind and uphill. I bugled in the predawn darkness, it’s amazing how dark it is without a moon! A response! We got setup and he bugled again. I raked and called. He shut up. Is he sneaking in...or moving out? We cold called for 10 minutes. He was gone.
Another half mile down the trail and a bull grunted from the bottom of the canyon. Urgh... that’s a LONG way down. He didn’t respond again and I wasn’t about to drive 1500 feet for a bull that wasn’t excited to talk to me.
We kept working into the wind, bugling every 100 yards. Finally, a bugle. A good one, 200 yards ahead of us. We shut up and moved in. After 125 yards I cow called, he bugled...200 yards ahead of us. We moved up again. 100 yards later I cow called. Again, he was 200 yards ahead of us. We were busting our asses trying to keep up with an elk moving uphill. One more time! We charged ahead! I bugled and he responded 100 yards above us. Now we’re talking!!!!
We moved up 50 yards and I dropped back. I cow called and he bugled. I cut him off. I raked and he bugled, I cut him off again. This time a little more intense. He was quiet. A cow call got a deep bellowing bugle, followed by a series of chuckles. I gave him my best lipball and grunt, then beat the hell out of a baby aspen. He was close. He couldn’t have been more than 30 yards in front of Steph. The wind was perfect and would stay that way. He was fired up, but he wasn’t pissed. He answered every cow call, but ignored my bugles. After we went back and forth 15 or so times he bugled farther away. Urgh!!!!!
I went and grabbed Steph. “Let’s go!” She responded, “are we going to chase this elk all over the mountain?” I told her we were 75 yards away from a bugling bull...did she want to give up? Off we went up the hill.
Based on his attitude toward the cow call and bugle I decided to switch it up. I mimicked a cow elk that left her bull to go see the new bull up the hill. I called my way into him. He responded every time I cow called, with a grunt or bugle, calling us right into him.
His last bugle was close, too close to continue. He couldn’t hav been more than 35 yards above us. One more cow call. “GET READY!” I hissed.
Here he comes...I could see his legs coming through the underbrush. He wasn’t more than 30 yards. Right before he hit an opening “draw! Draw! Draw!” It was possible I was more excited than she was.
The opening didn’t provide a shot, but it provided a view of a big bull with long beams, big fronts that curled at the ends, and at least 6 points on one side. I remember saying to myself “oh shit!”
He stopped behind a fir tree. He would either come right at us and be straight on in the wide open, or keep going from left to right and stay in the junk. He kept going. Steph was still at full draw. Was she shaking from excitement or tiredness? When he got to a semi-Open spot I hit him with an aggressive mew. He stopped on a dime. She started to lean left and I knew she was about to let an arrow fly!!!!
The sound of a bull bugling is so amazing. I’ll never get tired of hearing that sound.
“Don’t move!” I whispered. She waited until the bull looked up the hill and loaded another arrow. Are we going to get another shot at this?! It sure seemed like it!
Her pins go green, green, red, green, green. It might help explain the video.
Also agree with trying to be cognizant to the many things that we assume they should know, but haven’t experienced yet. I almost ruined my wife’s desire to turkey hunt with me, by chewing her out for not doing something during a hunt, that seemed obvious to me. I’m thankful that she forgave me and accepted my apologies. I would have missed out on getting to share a bunch of fun hunting experiences with her, had she not.
Bring on the “rest of the story”!
At first I thought it was too high hitting an aspen limb. But it definitely sounded lick a hit. Fingers crossed
From the walking elk above us a crack as it stepped on a stick then a thud. That was weird.
“I see blood!!!!” Well she hit it. There was blood at the point of impact. We followed it down the hill for 10 yards, it was easy to follow, just spots but they were every couple feet. It was time to wait. I had zero confidence in where the shot hit and was worried that she caught liver/guts.
Antsy pants was ready to go. We settled on an hour wait time. 45 minutes into the wait I felt like I was sitting with a 5 year old waiting to eat a candy bar. Finally, an hour.
“Steph, lets go see what that thud was above us. That sounded really weird. Almost like something falling on the soft ground.”
Off we went. I made it 10 yards and put up the binoculars. I decided Steph should go first. Ya know....just in case he was up there and needed to be shot again! ;)
He either had cows up there or was still convinced we were elk and was trying to come back to us.
Great story I've enjoyed it thoroughly.
What a great Season for you and Steph, way to go !!
Oh, PS, bring John along also.
Be cool to hear what she was thinking before, during and after --- from the first shot till seeing it on the ground.
Or maybe even better yet - her thoughts all along? Like Paul does "Redemption train" part 2
She’s shooting gold tip kinetic 500’s with 75 brass up front and 125gr Magnus stinger 2 blades.
Whisker biscuit and wise guy release.
Now maybe the trees will get a break! LOL
A great story! Her excitement is priceless. Thanks for taking the time to write it up and share.
Thanks for sharing