Enjoy your elk hunt,
Good luck on the hunt
Both of our jobs alow us the flexibility to usually hunt 3 or 4 day trips , and a 7-10 trip somewhere around the middle of september. On the shorter trips if we do kill a bull, neither of us HAVE to be back home. This allows us to hunt hard all the way up to when we head home the last morning of the trip. We don't mind the long drive back and forth each trip for just a couple full days of hunting. More often than not this strategy allows one of us to fill our elk tag by the time we do our longer 7-10 day hunt.
Our goal each year is to have a lot of fun, hunt hard every day like its opening day, stay positive, and for BOTH of us to get a bull. Unless one of has a once in a lifetime, or really limited entry type of tag we are not trophy hunters, and will shoot any legal bull.
Tim arrived at my house at first light, and we hit the road. Later in the afternoon we arrived where we park to hike out to our camp and we’re kind of surprised how few people were there. The amount of people hunting this area have really increased the last 5 years. That was exciting to see less rigs parked in the area than last year.
We were hoping to get out to our favorite spike camp location, get camp set up real quick, and then hike to the top before dark to do a little glassing.
We really like this location. There is a tiny spring, a soft dirt bank above the spring we can shoot our bows out to 50 yards, and we have killed bulls in about every direction from this spot!
We got some water from the spring nearby, and headed to the top to check for sign on the way and do a little glassing.
We decided to head up to the top before first light. There was so much fresh sign we wanted to see if the elk might be there right at first light, and maybe we could call a bull in with some cow calls or intercept it heading for the timber. For whatever reason the elk in this area don’t like to be out in open during daylight much.
Also we hadn’t seen another person or camp since leaving the truck the day before. Some years a couple brothers with horses come in the day before the opener, or show up mid day Saturday. They camp just past the big open grassy top in the timber. We kind of figured this would be our only chance at catching these elk up there before human pressure drives them away.
We made our way up top before light, and glassed as the sun came up. The elk either already got down into the steep nasty timber, or just didn’t go out there the night before.
We decided to quickly hike about 30 minutes away to an area that has tons of timbered finger ridges, small open feeding areas, a couple springs.
We got over to the start of all these fingers, and dropped about half way down the hill in elevation. The thermals were still dropping, and we were hoping to be below any elk. Our plan was just to stay put and do some calling, hoping a bull would come sneaking in. After doing cow and calf calls, kicking some rocks around, and breaking some sticks nothing had came in yet. Tim let out a high pitched bugle , trying to sound like a young bull if that makes sense. About 30 seconds later a bull answered from across the canyon.
We dropped 400-500 yards down to the next spot they like to bed. Tim killed a 5 point at this spot in 2018. While calling a bull bugled on the next ridge over. Nothing came in, and we didn’t have time to go over to that bull before it would be dark. It would probably take 45 minutes at least to get to him, and we had less than 30 minutes of shooting light left.
The bull that bugled was near the end of a ridge that runs about 2 miles. There’s several spots between camp and where the bull bugled that we have gotten into elk. We would head out there in the morning for day 2.
We got up at 430 am and had some oatmeal and coffee. We stopped and called at a couple spots where we get into elk on the way to where the bull was the night before. At the second spot a bull came in silent behind us and across a small draw about 90 yards away. He didn’t see us, but you could tell he was feeling uneasy about not seeing any elk where we had been calling from. After about a minute he walked off. I moved about 70 yards over and out of sight to start doing some cow calls, Hoping to maybe get him to come by Tim. The bull never did come over.
The rest of the morning was pretty uneventful. We set up in Multiple spots where we thought the bull from the night before may be bedded, but never had anything come in.
The evening hunt we went out a different ridge, and had no action. There was plenty of sign, but no bugles and no bulls came in.
Not a super exciting trip, but we called in one bull and heard a few bugles. There was also a lot of sign in most of the areas we checked, so we’re expecting a good season. We never saw another person this first 3 days, and we didn’t spoon any elk so the elk didn’t get pressured at all.
We got up at 430am to eat, pack up, and head back to the truck. About half way back we ran into a guy and his wife heading out to hunt for a week. They saw so many people the 3 rd week , they were just to g the first week this year. The. About a mile after that we ran into 3 more guys heading out, and shortly after that another guy!
Hopefully they all used their vacation time up for this early trip. Maybe there won’t be many around when the hunting gets good!
This weekend Tim and I were supposed to be meeting up with a friend of mine Troy, to hunt for a couple days. Tim had to cancel last minute so I headed out in the long drive to meet up with Troy, he lives a lot closer to where we are hunting.
The weather forecast had changed pretty drastically in the few days leading up to this trip. Originally it was supposed to be cooling down quite a bit, and possibly rain a couple days into the trip. That would have been great early season elk hunting in this area. It changed to increasing heat, HOT, HOT, HOT!
In this area the elk hunting is pretty tuff when it’s abnormally hot. They seem to not even want to come in silent to calls, unless you happen to set up or call really close to a bull(under 100yards). These encounters happen really fast, and it can be tuff to capitalize on them.
We set up and did some calling in several locations with lots of tracks, and where we have called bulls out of bedding areas before with no luck. Right before dark we got to the end of the ridge. I snuck up to the end, and there was a bull raking a tree below. It was pretty dark, the bull was standing in dark rocks, and he looked black like he had been wallowing. Some of the branches were also blocking his vitals. I turned back to Troy to tell him a bull was below, and when I turned back to the bull he was staring up at me. He must have stoped raking right when I turned my head back, and caught the movement when I turned back to look at him. He would have only been able to see the top of my head. He looked my way for 30 seconds and then slowly walked off.
In the morning we worked our way across a steep hillside that has some open feeding areas, timber, and several large Boulder fields. The area is typically betters little later in the season, but some years there is a herd using it early.
We made our way through calling with no response. We also setup in a few spots that have been good previously and called for 20-30 minutes. The elk didn’t seem to have been using this area yet this year. The whole morning we only saw one area where it looked like a few elk had passed through recently.
For the evening hunt we decided to head over to a ridge Tim killed a bull on the last year. We made our way out, and set up to call in a couple different spots where I had bedding areas marked. After the second set up we went about 100 yards and I cow called a few times. A bull immediately responded very close by. We guessed 200 yards or so down the hill. I move up about 15 feet to where I thought I would have a shooting lane. Troy backed off about 80 yards to call. There were a few branches in my way, so I quickly needed to move so I could get a shot. Just I I moved the the bull came around a tree at 60 yards…busted
It was a really nice 6 point. He was coming in perfect, must have been closer than we thought. It was probably 10 or 15 seconds from when he bugled to when he popped out 60 yards away and caught me moving. I was pretty disappointed.
It seems like early in The season these bulls either sneak in silent, answer calls if they are a long ways away like across a large canyon, or wait to answer when you are less then 100 yards away.
For the am hunt we were going cross a draw next to camp, and then side hill out to the end of the ridge where we saw the bull rubbing the tree the first evening of the trip. We were trying to stay around the elevation Of some benches on the side of the steep hillside where we figured the elk would bed, keeping the wind hood. There was quite a bit of tracks and rubs in the drainage right next to camp. We set up and called a few different times with no luck. Next we continues across the hillside making our way to the edge of the finger. This was another uneventful hunt.
We packed up, and headed down the hill. We got to the base of the ridge I wanted to hunt and set up camp. We worked our way up the ridge line for the evening hunt. Nothing ever answered, or came in silent on this hunt. Once it got dark we made our way back down to camp. We needed to get up at 430 am to hike back to the trucks, so I could make the long drive home.
It was a pretty boring trip, but at least we had a couple close encounters with bulls. There was also pretty good sign in most of the areas I like to hunt.
With plenty of fresh sign in multiple different areas, and a really good weather forecast for the next trip I’m hoping to have some more exciting stories and 1 or 2 dead bulls after the next trip. I’ll hunt by my self the first day or two of the next trip, and then Tim will meet up with me. 9 days straight of elk hunting during prime time, I can’t wait!
Good luck next trip!!
On the road right now heading out for a nine day trip. My pack has nine days worth of food and all the gear all need for any weather. Not planning to come back to the car until we kill at least one more or run out of food.
Hopefully my next updates after this trip are a lot more exciting in the first couple trips.
To start the trip out, we were hiking back out to the area we hunted opening weekend. We have been hunting this unit since 2013, and this area has produced very well for us over the years. The trailhead parking lot was packed. There are a lot of different directions you can go from here, and I was pretty happy it looked like pretty much nobody had been out where I was planning on going. There was a very heavy rainstorm the day before I arrived, so it was pretty simple to tell fresh elk or boot tracks.
The first evening was very uneventful. No elk seen or heard, zero fresh elk tracks seen.
The next morning we would have a little more time to get higher up in the drainage, it’s about 3.5 miles from the bottom up to the top, so plenty of pockets for the elk to hide in. This is all north face timber, with some small openings. If the bulls are quiet, or not coming in silent to calls, it’s pretty tuff.
That was exactly the case. About half way up the drainage we did start to get into some fresh sign.
We decided to head up top to our other camp spot. If the elk are quiet we know where multiple specific bedding areas are that we can usually get one to sneak into us with some cow calls.
We did have a bull, a cow, and a calf feed up out of the timber onto a open ridge top right at last light. The bull stood perfectly broadside at 70 yards, not a st I was interested in. Tim slid back about 80 yards, and did some cow calls, but the bull had zero interest. The bull, cow and calf all slowly fed away as it got dark.
We had covered lots of areas that have been great year after year, and we’re pretty confused on why the elk had seemed to of vanished from all this area.
Once again, areas that were good in years past didn’t have much sign, and couldn’t locate any bulls or call anything in silent.
We only made it about a 1/4 mile down the middle finger ridge and started seeing very fresh tracks, poop, and rubs.
We finally found an area that seemed to have at least one herd of elk using it heavily.
Shortly after that a bull responded to my bugle, and he actually sounded pretty fired up unlike the other bulls so far this year.
We were in the thick timber full of blow down and small trees. The bull was bugleing in his own after we got him going, so we just snuck into what we thought was 80-100 yards away.
The next morning there were two bulls bugling on that ridge. Basically the same thing happened as the night before. The bulls wouldn’t come in, and then went silent.
This season was very odd this year up to this point. Bulls may answer, mostly only to bugles. They didn’t seem to care about cow calls, and we couldn’t really get them to get fired up, or even just come sneaking in.
I kept telling Tim I felt like I forgot how to call in elk!
It was obvious to us we needed to pack up the tent and all of our stuff in the bottom of the drainage, and bring it up to the top where we could hunt the different finger ridges that the elk were using this year. We basically had about two days left on this trip. Then would have to go home to work for 4 days.
This upper camp location had us almost 8 miles from the truck, but the good news is I knew of a different spot to park that would cut it down to 4 or 5 if we got something, or when we returned for the following trip.
I think I’m getting there :)
Recapping 20 days of elk hunting takes a while
On the way back up to the top where we were going tjj on set the tent up we heard a bull bugle. It was around 1130, and pretty hot out. We were hiking towards the direction of the bugle, so we just stayed quiet and kept heading that way. We got about 200 yards below him and he was still bugleing every 5 minutes or so.
He was up a steep hill we have been on before. It is all big timber, but is full of tag alder or willow type stuff. It is about 8 ft tall and almost impossible to get through. The way he was acting I hoped he was trying to attract some cows, and maybe we could get him to come down to us where we would actually be able to get a shot in a few different shooting lanes.if we went any closer to the bull you would even be able to shoot 10 ft.
He was getting g pretty fired up as Tim was cow calling, but just wouldn’t come down, no suprise.
There was no way to be quiet going up, so I was trying to sound like one cow moving up to him, away from the cows and bull below(Tim calling). I did one or two cow calls every once in a while, and kept closing the distance. Just the sounds from me moving through all the thick crap was getting the bull extremely fired up. As I was going up , he was actually staying put. I was about 60 yards away at this point. I could see about 25 yards above me the crap opened up a little bit and it looked like that could be the spot where I could actually get a shot. For about the next ten yards the it got so thick I would even be touching the ground. I had to hang on branches, and walk on top of them. I was worried the sounds would spook the bull.
I got to the bottom edge of the small opening I would be able to shoot in and couldn’t believe this was all working! It sounded like the bull was just in the other side of a couple large trees at the top of the opening, maybe 30 yards above me.
I was still in the thick stuff on an almost verticals hillside. If I could get the bull to take a few steps down hill I had just enuff room to draw my bow.
As I cow called I snapped a branch in front of me, so I had about a 4 in opening through the brush and tree branches. The bull screamed and chuckled. I let out a couple more cow calls. All the calls I did from this spot I was directing the sound away from the bull. I was hoping this would make them sound a little farther away than I really was from him.
He was really fired up, but just wouldn’t budge. The next time he answered my cow call I cut his bugle off with the loudest bugle I could do, and I heard him moving down. I was just about to start drawing my bow, and he stopped just out of sight to destroy a tree.
I couldn’t move any closer, and he wouldn’t come my way either. We went back and forth for a while, and he finally started to move away. I tried everything I could think of, He almost came into my shooting g land twice, but stopped to rake trees at the last second both times.
I was actually surprised that turned into a close call, my plan almost worked.
I had been gone from Tim a little over an hour by the time I crawled back down through all the crap. He recorded me and the bull screaming back and forth at each other when I had gotten really close in that opening. That was cool to listen too.
It was about a 4 mile hike up to our sleeping bags where we were going to set the tent up for the rest of the season. That was the only bull we heard the rest of the day.
The whole season this year up to that point had been very odd. We were over half way through September, and that was the first bull we encountered that got fired up. Nearly all of our go to good areas had way less elk, and the few we got into were acting very different this year for whatever reason. Even other tuff years like this, we just keep plugging away and at least one of us kills a bull.
The next morning hunt we hunted a couple hours, and then headed back to our tent.
We had to head back to the truck, and head home to work for 4 days. We left the tent, sleeping stuff, and everything else we would need when we came back.
On the last trip we would only have 2.5 days to hunt. It was a long hike, and a long drive home with both of us feeling pretty down and out. The likelihood of us not filling our elk tags for the first time in a long time was setting in.
As we were waiting for him to bugle I spotted a cow in an opening across the canyon. Then another, then another, and then he bugled and stepped out. It was a long ways away, but with no bumps you could tell he was a big heavy bull.
We were all in on following this bull to where ever him and his cows were heading to bed.
After a couple minutes I thought I heard a chuckle way up the drainage. We went 200 yards up the ridge we were on, and I bugled into the drainage below. After about 30 seconds we heard a faint response. If it was the same elk they went a long ways down into this drainage. We basically were running after this herd for the last hour or so, and now we’re hustling down a steep hillside towards the response to my bugle. The bull screamed below us, then another bull cut him off.
Perfect! We can slide in on the two bulls without any calling.
It sounded smaller like a satellite bull, but the other two were screaming back and forth. I think the bull we followed with his cows pushed them into a drainage with another herd bull.
It sounded like they were moving towards each other to fight.
There was a small knob between us and the closest bull. I got right to the top of it and was just waiting to hear them bugle to figure out where they were. If they hadn’t moved I should be 60-80 yards away.
The bull came through chest on and then turned. It was a giant bull with huge heavy fronts, a once in a lifetime type bull for me.
I could only see his hind quarter at 30 yards, and the cows ahead of him were about to wind me. It is so thick I couldn’t see the cows or any part of the bull but his hind quarter through a small window. I figured if I could move foreword 4-5 steps I might be able to see vitals and get a shot. I made it about 3 steps and he tended up, then trotted off.
He went around 80 yards and bugles for his cows.
I’m not sure if he saw me, or maybe Tim that was around 30 yards bend me.
A really close call on a true giant for the area I was hunting. It was 1130 am, and we had followed him and his cows over 2 miles through 3 different drainages
That was the end of our 2021 elk season.
Now we have 11 months to get ready for the next season, and think about what we could have done differently.
Thanks for the recap and adventure. Paul
Thanks for sharing
It’s hard to say really. We used the various tactics that have made us successful previously. For whatever reason the encounters we had just didn’t pan out this year. Our instincts of when we should be aggressive, and when we shouldn’t typically serve us well.
We have hunted this general area since 2012. Before this year at least one of us always got a bull, and both of us got one many times.
The elk weren’t using the normal areas that we had learned to be the “good spots” over all those years. Also when we got on elk, they just seemed to be acting different this year. It didn’t feel like we were hunting the rut until the last few days of the season. Not finding aggressive bulls usually isn’t an issue. We just switch gears, and end up setting up near where we think a bull is and call them in silent.
Usually we call in our bulls, this year my close calls were the result of me aggressively going to the bulls that were bugling, and hoping to be able to get a shot in the thick brush and timber once I was in shooting range.
Hopefully next year the elk are acting a little more like “normal”!