Moultrie Products
2013 Flashback
Elk
Contributors to this thread:
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Guardian hunter 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Bowboy 21-Dec-20
sticksender 21-Dec-20
Franzen 21-Dec-20
Old School 21-Dec-20
Scoot 21-Dec-20
From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
Merry Christmas to everyone! I never posted this story from several years ago. Hopefully it isn't too long and you enjoy it. Some might even find something to learn.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
A Solo DIY Hunt: 2013 Wyoming Elk

It all started about three years ago. In 2010 I finally followed through with my urge to head out west. I'd always thought I would enjoy the western mountains. Thus I pointed my Silverado that direction, and made my first trek into the Rockies, or as Del Gue would call them “God's Finest Sculpturins”.

That first year was supposed to be nothing more than a scouting trip for the mighty wapiti, however I soon discovered that my elk scouting skills were not up to par. I was also extremely humbled by the steepness of the mountains of western Wyoming. Somehow, even though I had read and heard about the tough conditions in the high country, I was a bit skeptical. After strapping on my lightly loaded pack and heading straight up the side of a mountain, I quickly learned that I had absolutely no reason for skepticism. I was not well prepared to physically handle the rigors of elk hunting. Good thing this was only a scouting trip, and partially, this was the reason I came out a year before actually hunting.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
That day I huffed and puffed my way up the side of that mountain. I considered it a challenge to make it to the top of the ridge, which I did, but with very little left in the tank. After taking a break to rest my weary body, I set up camp a couple hundred feet below the ridge near the upper part of that high country bowl. After trying to nap for a bit, I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening glassing for any signs of elk in the area, to no avail. I did, however, glass up a couple of fairly nice mule deer bucks up high.

I spent the early part of the next day checking things out up high and doing some glassing on the opposite side and lower portion of the basin. Nothing was found. I went ahead and packed things up and headed down the mountain. Although no elk were seen, all was not lost for the day, as I discovered a moose as I walked along the trail that paralleled the drainage at the bottom of the basin heading for the truck. The rest of the trip was spent checking out a few different spots around the area, as well as spending some time relaxing around some of the local towns. Although I didn't find the elk I had hoped to, that trip was the beginning of the learning curve.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
The next two years I visited the Rockies in search of elk. The first year was a return trip to Wyoming with a friend and the second trip was solo into the wilderness of southern Colorado. Success in terms of finding fresh elk sign and the presence of elk was minimal. Actual encounters were next to none, but each of those years I vowed to return the following year even more prepared for success.

Fast-forward to this year. I really felt that 2013 was going to be my year, but was aware that it might take a few breaks along the way. My physical preparation was better than ever, and I felt like I had gained enough knowledge through various sources over the last couple of years to have a legitimate chance at scoring. My approach to the elk hunting learning curve was slightly different than many of those coming from the eastern flatlands to hunt these majestic animals. My style is definitely DIY, and I wanted to get it done based mainly on my own personally-gained knowledge. I spent only a little of my preparation time practicing with calls and technique, thus my calling was probably well below average in comparison with many of the other hunters chasing September bugles.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
In the months leading up to my trip I spent a fair amount of time mulling over the exact timing which I should head out for my hunt. I decided that I would try the last week and a half of the month of September, regardless of when the rifle mule deer season was taking place in my chosen area of western Wyoming. So on September 17th I hit the interstate after putting in an uneventful day at work.

After a night and day worth of travel and restlessness, the morning of the 19th I made my way north along the highway towards my destination. As usual the morning views were nothing short of breathtaking as I ventured toward the a somewhat familiar spot. I finally arrived near one of my pre-determined hunting spots by mid morning. As I was making my way down the muddy gravel road I noticed a group of hunters packing up camp along a short section of a dead end FS side road and decided to stop and inquire about their success. After a short discussion of how their hunt had played out, during which they indicated that they had only been targeting mule deer, I eluded that I was there for an archery elk hunt. They quickly pointed me in the upstream direction of the small drainage where their camp had been located, and indicated there was a nice bull elk just a few hundred yards upstream. Apparently they had come upon the bull several days in a row, but he had been quiet and was alone. I was assured I could make quick work of this bull; of course I knew better. I ventured up the drainage, but to my dismay, I never discovered any elk. I did however, happen across a hunter who had lost his mule-deer hunting partner and was firing his pistol randomly in the air in hopes of meeting up with him again. Okay... no surprise I didn't find a bull.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20

Franzen's embedded Photo
Maybe there are some elk in here?
Franzen's embedded Photo
Maybe there are some elk in here?
After my uneventful mid-day excursion in search of the bull that was hiding out in that small drainage, I decided to get in the truck and head over to my first chosen backcountry destination. The takeoff point for the hike in was only a couple short miles from my present location. After driving over to my starting point at the end of a gated road and conversing with the gentleman that was camped there, I began my trek up the closed section of the road towards my camp site. Once I got camp set up and settled in for the evening, I satisfied a substantial hunger with a warm Mountain House meal. The Big Agnes backpacking tent I had bought a few years earlier would be home for the next few nights. That first evening was spent simply listening for bugles around camp. As luck would have it, bugling activity in the area was high, and I soon realized that the elk in the vicinity were going to allow me very little sleep as they serenaded throughout the night.

The next day, Day 3 of my trip, was my first day of true hunting. As I arose in the morning, it became evident that a couple bull elk were bugling above me and working their way up the ridge to my north. I made my way across the stream, which was a small nearly vertical ravine near my camp, and headed up the ridge in hopes of intercepting a bull. I was unable to make any progress however, as the bulls continued up the ridge and eventually quieted. I ended up climbing to the top of the ridge in the morning and spending some time at the highest point doing a little reconnaissance of the area. After enjoying a snack and a little bit of a nap in the sun up top, I spent much of the afternoon working my way along the north-facing back side of the ridge, which was heavily timbered. I did not come upon any elk, but did come across a somewhat freshly killed mule deer. The carcass had been dragged and covered with dirt. At the time I assumed it had been a lion kill but didn't put much thought into other potential scenarios. Once I finally returned to camp, there was not a lot of light left for the day, so once again I decided to simply fill up on a good meal and fresh water and stick around camp listening for bugles. Action for the first hunting day had not been great, but I was encouraged by the all-night and morning bugling.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
After another night spent listening to bugles, I couldn't help but feel the anticipation for the next days hunt. For this day I decided to venture a little further down the drainage prior to crossing the stream. Soon after crossing I came upon a harem of a few cows feeding in a clearing above me. I decided to begin a stalk. As I was working my way up the ridge and through the trees, I suddenly heard something “blow” to the east. A female mule deer had become wary of my presence and decided to sound the alarm. Of course the elk heard this and became very alert and wandered off into the trees without hesitation. I decided not to closely pursue them at this point since the odds I would spook them became greatly increased.

Since my previous forays into the mountains yielded little action, I was pleased with the amount of bugling I was hearing, and I was getting into elk as well. What was to come? I sure as heck didn't know, but I was glad to be traversing the mountains in search of my quarry. I continued down the drainage, slipping between pieces of cover near the stream at its base. Suddenly I noticed a light colored object on a bare hillside above that just didn't seem to fit in amongst the landscape. I pulled my glass to my eyes and scoped out a young bull feeding his way across the opening. It was a raghorn, but he was unaware of my presence. In a matter of a few seconds, my mindset completely changed from calmly searching to kill mode, as I decided to put on a stalk. A finger of pines led uphill adjacent to the opening where the bull was located. I slowly worked my way into those trees and began ascending the hillside. At times I was able to view the elk, which was feeding its way towards me and quartering down the hill. When I came to a thick part of the timber, I felt as though the odds were not in my favor to continue towards my prey without spooking it. I waited. The elk, near the 100-yard mark, was working its way in my direction, and I had all day.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20

Franzen's embedded Photo
Steep sides at the base... good for elk, but bad for me.
Franzen's embedded Photo
Steep sides at the base... good for elk, but bad for me.
Suddenly I heard a bugle on the opposite side of the drainage in the dark timber. At first the young bull paid no attention. In short order I heard several sequences of cow calls. The intervals in calling and the change in location was fairly consistent, meaning one thing to me: another hunter. As the hunter moved his way parallel with the stream and almost directly across from my location he let out another bugle. This time the elk was listening and he let out a bugle of his own. By this time the bull had reached 60 yards and was well within view from my location. Little did the other hunter know, but I was in position to the intercept the elk for a shot if it chose to pursue the calling. Right away the caller let out another bugle. This time the raghorn bull decided it wouldn't be a good idea to move any closer to the source of the calling, and instead he slowly took off in the opposite direction. Nuts. How did I let this situation go sour?

After things settled down at this location for a bit, I continued on down the drainage. Once I neared the confluence of the small stream I was following and its larger collector stream, I decided to work my way up the north-facing slope with dark timber. It seemed several elk were bugling nearby, but I figured one, if not more, were other hunters. At one point, something ran up to my location, but I was unable to identify exactly what it was due to the thickness of the vegetation covering the sloped hillside. I went ahead and made my way up the ridge because soon the thermals would be rushing up hill and my scent would alert anything that had moved up the hillside towards bedding. As I worked my way across the slope parallel with the drainage, I noticed movement through the thicker brush ahead. It appeared to be a few cows. This area was likely bedding, thus I decided to move out of the area and head back towards camp. I didn't want to ruin future hunting opportunities by carelessly hunting through bedding areas during the mid-day hours.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20

Franzen's embedded Photo
Future 6x6 for sure! ;>)
Franzen's embedded Photo
Future 6x6 for sure! ;>)
I returned to camp and had a nice lunch with fresh clean mountain water. For the afternoon and evening hunt I decided to climb the ridge to my southeast. Two long finger ridges extended from the main ridge, forming a shape that somewhat resembled an “F”. The draws and north-facing slopes were timbered, and the southern slopes were grassy. This appeared to have the makings of great elk habitat. I climbed the back side of the main ridge, or the back side of the “F”. Once I reached the crest, I took a few photos and began glassing down into the draws. It wasn't long before a couple elk made their way out of the pine forest. I looked them over closely with binoculars and discovered they were calves. They made their way up the draw and I silently closed in on their location. Eventually the wind began to swirl over the top of the ridge and they caught some of my scent. Even though they were calves, their senses told them that something wasn't quite right. They nervously trotted back and forth, and finally worked their way away from my location. I decided not to give chase, and headed back in the direction I had came from. Night fall was approaching.

After descending the ridge and returning to the trail below, I ran into a mule deer hunter on horseback. We talked hunting for a brief moment and then he made mention of a local grizzly. Apparently a couple of other hunters had spotted a grizzly high on the ridge above my camp within the last couple days. This wasn't exactly the type of news I was wanting to hear. As I left that hunter glassing the darkening open hillsides for mule deer, I thought about what my game plan should be. After reaching my camp, re-supplying my water, and having a wonderful Mountain House meal, I made the decision to hunt the next morning, then pack up camp and try another area. Not expecting grizz to be in the area, I hadn't brought a sidearm, and was feeling a bit vulnerable. Nor did I have any bear spray. While I laid in my tent that night, tired but restless, I couldn't sleep. My mind kept telling me that every twig or leaf that moved with the slight breeze was an eight-and-a-half foot grizzly coming to knaw on me. The decision to leave the area would be a good one.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20

Franzen's embedded Photo
Can you skin grizz pilgrim? Damn grizr was up there some where.
Franzen's embedded Photo
Can you skin grizz pilgrim? Damn grizr was up there some where.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
As light approached the next morning, I left my tent and began working my way down the main drainage. As I was slowly working my way through the area where I had the experience with the raghorn the previous morning, a bugle rang out from above. This area had a knoll that was a couple hundred feet in elevation rising from the stream. The south face was mostly bare, while the north face was timbered, and dropped down a couple hundred feet prior to rising again toward the main ridge. It was an area I had previously identified from Google Earth as being a likely elk hangout. The area didn't disappoint.

I decided to climb the south-facing slope and try to get in front of the bugling bull. After making it approximately half-way up the knoll, I suddenly heard crashing through the trees and sliding rock. The bugling bull was chasing a smaller elk around the hillside. First, I identified the elk being chased as the raghorn from the previous morning. I was caught out in the open on the hillside, but the elk were too preoccupied to identify me at first. I slowly worked my way to a small pine tree on the hillside, which offered pretty much the only cover within a good distance. I intently watched as the elk ran back and forth and finally learned that the chaser was a small but symmetrical 6x6. Anyone would be happy to take this as their first elk, and I was stoked. After the larger bull was satisfied that the raghorn was outside his territory for the time being, he worked his way uphill into the timber. I tried to follow, but made too much noise as I worked my way up the steep hillside in the loose rock. When I reached the timbered area, I decided to let out a bugle. I was hoping the 6x6 would think I was the raghorn coming back for more, but the plan didn't work. I neither saw nor heard that bull again.

21-Dec-20
Cool. Keep writing

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20

Franzen's embedded Photo
Not much of a camp, but it's too much work to set it up like the Ritz for 1 guy.
Franzen's embedded Photo
Not much of a camp, but it's too much work to set it up like the Ritz for 1 guy.
After waiting the bull out for quite some time, I decided the effort was fruitless and went back down to the stream and continued working down the drainage. I had a couple other encounters with bugling bulls in some of the thicker timber towards the mouth of the stream, but nothing was very intent on commiting to any of my calls. Nearing mid-day, I decided to head back towards camp and pack things up. After shouldering my loaded pack I headed down the trail towards my pickup. The weather was great, but I had a feeling of disappointment for leaving the area. However, there was still plenty of time in the hunt, and I had other spots to try. The temperature was in the upper 40s, but it felt warm as I neared the gate to the closed road.

Since I returned to the truck I decided to re-fuel and get a hot shower. That night I stayed in a hotel and gorged myself on some fine eating.

After a night of well-needed rest, I drove to another spot that I had previously virtual scouted and received some positive intel on. I set up a camp with my Outfitter Lodge tent near the road, which happened to be beside a river. The area I intended to hunt was on the opposite side of the river. The first evening I didn't have a lot of time to head back in the forest, so I simply hiked up to the nearest ridge and glassed for the evening. This was of course after I had to wade the calf-high river in my leather boots. The evening of glassing didn't produce any sightings, but I didn't lose faith, since my vantage point wasn't the best for glassing over the entire area. As darkness approached, I made my way off the ridge and again crossed the river. Even though this was a truck camp, I again had Mountain House for dinner.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
The next morning I awoke to a chill; it was September 24th. I knew the forecast was calling for approaching cold and inclement weather, but I wasn't expecting this night to be very cold. I tried to put on my boots, but they ended up being frozen solid. There was just no way I was getting my foot in those boots until they thawed. Luckily I had a backup pair in the truck. I guess this was a good simple lesson to always expect the unexpected in the mountains, especially when it comes to Mother Nature.

After taking a very short ride in the truck down the road and warming up for a bit, I got out and crossed the chilly river. My plan was to head up an intermediate drainage that split two larger basins and ended in somewhat of a saddle near the headwaters. I worked my way up the south-facing bare side of the ridge, and slowly followed the spine to the west in hopes of seeing or hearing elk. With the clear and cold morning behind me, the sun was now in my face, and I had the now rising thermals at my advantage being on the top of the ridge. Man was I glad to have that spare set of boots! Mid morning came and I started hearing bugles on the timbered opposite side of the drainage, unsure if it was elk or more hunters. I decided not to make an immediate play, as the thermals were all wrong for heading straight down and back up the drainage at them. After a fair amount of time listening to the bugling, I decided that it was likely elk based on the calling patterns and ground covered between bugles.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
As mid day approached I had reached a nice vantage point on the ridge, where there were actually mixed-size groves of trees on my side of the basin. I decided to stop for a lunch break. With no gps in my possession, I didn't know exactly where I was, but as it turns out I was near the saddle at the head of the intermediate drainage. There had been quite a bit of bugling on the north-facing, opposite side of the drainage. However, for whatever reason, I felt no pressure to make any attempts after my rather vocal prey. It had been an eventful hunt up to that point, and I guess I was just basking in the sights and sounds. As I ate my sandwich; I think it was peanut butter and jelly that day, I heard a bugle ring out a little closer than some of the others I had been hearing. "Hey, that wasn't all that far," but I had all day.

The second bugle rang out and it was substantially closer... okay gotta move. I immediately jumped up and grabbed my bow, working my way down though the groves of trees, with my hat and gear remaining at the top. When I reached the edge of a large clearing I could hear the elk running on the mountainside. Along with the bugling, I knew they were within approximately 100 yds or less, and closing it seemed. Suddenly, a cow elk burst into the opening; wow do these animals cover a lot of ground effortlessly. A spike was on her heels. My thought that instant was that the spike couldn't have been the source of the bugling, but I'd be happy shooting either. Then the bull appeared behind the spike, apparently he wasn't too fond that the latter was making advances toward the ladies. He was intent on whipping that spike's butt, furiously bugling every few paces.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
Initially the three elk were angling away from me in the clearing, but that all changed when the lead cow turned my direction. I knelt down beside the grove of trees, heart pounding. Geez, that bull looks huge! The cow came by me at a light trot... my focus was on the bull. The spike flew by and it barely registered. The trailing bull reached approximately 20 yds from my position, very nearly broadside. In hindsight, I should have held off on the shot or attempted to stop the bull, but I was on auto-pilot and the arrow was already in flight. It struck the bull in stride, and he spun around toward the direciton he came from. Holy shit, I just shot a pig!

The bull did appear to have a record-book rack. I don't know if it was the fact that he had rather impressive front end tines, amplifying his antlers when his head was up in the bugling position, or if it was simply the fact this was my first encounter at close range with a relatively mature bull. After the bull made his way downhill some distance, he slowed to a walk facing directly away from me, coming to a halt shortly thereafter. It was at this point that I came to the conclusion that my shot was likely not 100%. The bull had the body expression of a hurt animal, but seemed to have no idea of what happened. He was now at a point about 60-70 yds straight downhill from me, and slowly walking away. I contemplated going for a follow-up but decided I might be able to sneak in closer for a more lethal attempt. Hindsight being what it is, sending an arrow may have been the better decision, but there really is no way to know for sure.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20

Franzen's embedded Photo
Franzen's embedded Photo
Franzen's embedded Photo
Usually pools like this are a pretty good sign, but I'm used to whities.
Franzen's embedded Photo
Usually pools like this are a pretty good sign, but I'm used to whities.
As I sneaked my way toward the bull, I was never able to close the distance. I believe at some point he realized that danger was on his tail, as he picked up his pace a bit and disappeared into the dark timber on the north-facing side of the drainage. Time to re-group. Back up the hill I searched for my arrow; found in pieces. Not the best sign. The two pieces I found were smaller and covered with dark blood, but the business end was never found. After a little extra wait and some contemplation, I took up the trail. At the bottom of the drainage where the elk had stood for some time I found two good-sized pools of bright, somewhat frothy blood. Okay, maybe there is hope. There was a trail to follow, but it wasn't obvious and heavy by any means.

I spent the next number of hours slowly following the trail, at times at still-hunting pace with the difficulty of finding the next blood drop. It was an interesting experience. The timber was relatively open for the most part, with a moderate slope for the mountains. I encountered several different bulls in this spot as I was trailing; they seemed to be moving back and forth sidehilling the slope. This area must have been a corridor between bedding areas where the bulls traveled during the rut looking for love. A couple of the bulls were at comfortable shooting distance, but there was another task at hand. As I neared the top of the ridge, I came to a point where I just couldn't find the next drop of blood. If this elk was to be found, it would require a grid search. I'll never know if I made the right choice, but at this point I was questioning whether or not I'd been pushing the injured bull. With darkness near, I called the search off in lieu of pulling a solo night time grid, so I headed down mountain.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20

Franzen's embedded Photo
The hurt bull stood at the bottom of this clearing, before heading into the timber.
Franzen's embedded Photo
The hurt bull stood at the bottom of this clearing, before heading into the timber.
At this point I was pretty dejected, and ended up driving into town for a hotel stay instead of sleeping in camp. Weather was moving in and the hotel offered some comfort, and allowed me to process my thoughts and pour over Google Earth. Where exactly was I following the bull, and more importantly where was he? I didn't know what to do, but after some long range encouragement from my buddies I knew I had to head back up. So the next day I headed back into the mountains in the rain... which quickly turned to snow as I gained elevation.

I climbed up the mountainside from the drainage opposite of where I shot the bull, with the snow being about 4-5 inches deep and lightly falling still. Everything was wet, including me, even though I was wearing my "breathable" rain gear. After reaching the top of the ridge and getting my bearings on the area, I began a grid search. There is no easier way to make a grid alone than in the snow... I moved slow and methodical. I hadn't searched for 20 minutes and I saw something that looked out of place? No way I could have found the bull after only a short time searching. I move my way around some trees for a different vantage point. Holy cow, there he is! Unbelievable.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
There was probably a 2 minute celebration, but I basically wasted no time getting to work. With the lapse in time, getting the hide off and meat broken down was of paramount importance. I got the bull quartered, loaded up my pack with a large game bag full of the choice cuts and some trimmings, and made my way down to the truck. Going was slow, really slow, and the slopes were slick. With the conditions, I decided to get in contact with an outfitter to help me bring the rest down.

Sparing some of the unfortunate details, most of the meat ended up being unsalvagable. I was pretty devastated, and of course wondered what might have been. Should I have pulled that grid in the dark? I'm not even sure how I would have done it. Would the bull have been alive when I came up on him, and ran two miles away into the next drainage? The weather conditions were obviously not the best on the mountain over night; how would that have played out? Many of us are faced with these questions at some point in a long bowhunting "career", and they almost always go unanswered. From my perspective, the only thing to do is learn from your experiences and strive to do better when things go south. Most hunts generally offer something new, or something to learn. This hunt was certainly no different, with numerous lessons to be gained and applied to this lifelong pursuit we call bowhunting.

The bull was a nice 6x6 with good width and a well-above-average front end. He officially scored 283 and change, but this bowhunting pursuit was one that had a bittersweet ending.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20

Franzen's embedded Photo
Snow wasn't deep, but it was super wet and slicker than snot.
Franzen's embedded Photo
Snow wasn't deep, but it was super wet and slicker than snot.
Franzen's embedded Photo
It also sure was beautiful, but didn't help with meat care.
Franzen's embedded Photo
It also sure was beautiful, but didn't help with meat care.

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
Thanks for following along; I hope it was worth the read. Feel free to ask questions if you like.

From: Bowboy
21-Dec-20
Great story thanks for posting.

From: sticksender
21-Dec-20
Great bull.

Where did the broadhead enter & exit?

From: Franzen
21-Dec-20
Broadhead came in low and a little bit back, and did not exit; not mid-body, but not right behind the front leg either. Ideally I would have spent a little time investigating just what was hit, but in this situation I was more concerned about the meat and didn't give it a lot of thought at the time.

From: Old School
21-Dec-20
Thanks for the recap of your hunt. Glad you found your bull as well. Congrats on a successful elk hunt!

From: Scoot
21-Dec-20
Many congrats and beauty of a bull!

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