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Colorado Elk Hunt - 2018
The second leg of my 2018 western hunt plan landed me back in Colorado, this time for elk. The elk hunt was the original plan prior to learning about my good fortune in the bighorn sheep draw. Never actually considered turning this tag back in because this hunt was not really about me, but more an effort to get a good friend, Troy, an opportunity at his first elk. Due to Troy's work schedule, we only had a week to get it done. When we arrived, the golden aspens were in full display.
This was my fifth elk hunt in this particular unit. It was a bit disappointing to learn our typical campsite was occupied...along with every other campsite in that general area. For the first time in my experience, the unit was packed full of campers, hikers and ATV / motorcycle riders. I had planned to check out a couple secluded meadows some 1500' above my usual haunts anyway....so that is where we pitched camp. Notice the beetle kill has virtually wiped out the dark timber in this area.
Meet Troy! This was actually Troy's second elk hunt. Brought him to this same area back in 2011. He had two close encounters with bull elk on that trip, but was never offered a shot opportunity. Hopes were high for a different result on this trip.
Turned out, the secluded meadows were not secluded enough. We encountered other elk hunters on consecutive hunts with only one spike bull sighting to show for our efforts. We decided to retreat down the mountain and try a different area....hopefully one with less competition.
Our first morning at the new location, we got close to a herd bull and his cows. The herd bull did not wish to cooperate, but I did bugle a 5X5 satellite bull within 22 yards of Troy's position. Unfortunately, Troy got busted attempting to draw his bow. Elk: 1 - Bowhunters: 0
The next few days were warm and relatively uneventful. We even took one evening off to give our legs a break and do some trout fishing. Finally, the warm weather pattern broke and it felt more like elk season. The high country even received a new blanket of snow. We were running out of time, but had high hopes the cooler weather would kick start some elk rut activity.
The last morning of the hunt, we hiked more than two miles from the trailhead in the dark. This was an area our other hunting partner, Gerald Eads, had encountered elk a couple days earlier. At daybreak, we spotted a small group of cows and spike bulls feeding on the ridge above. Troy said he was willing to take a cow late in the hunt...so up we climbed...and climbed....and climbed. Of course, once we got up there, the elk were nowhere to be found.
While trying to figure out our next move, a bull bugled in the drainage below. Through the binoculars, we could see he was a very good bull....estimated to be in the 320" range. He was moving his cows into the timber to bed for the day and we had the wind on him. We quickly cut the distance on him and set up.
The bull responded to my first challenge. A few minutes later, he responded again...but was moving away. We got aggressive, moved with him and challenged again. This time he bugled back directly below us....and again began moving his cows. This time Troy was in a good position...but the bull passed by just out of his effective range.
Last day of the hunt....so we remained aggressive and moved again. When I bugled again, the bull's attitude had changed. He was done retreating from the intruder and began closing the distance....answering every challenge I threw at him. Troy was set up roughly fifty yards in front of me...on the same level as the approaching bull. I have a front row seat and expect him to go full draw at any moment.
Just then, a satellite 5X5 walks in above Troy and offers a 35 yard broadside shot. Troy takes the "bird in the hand" opportunity and lets an arrow fly. The satellite ran down the hill, past the herd bull (spooking him) and all went quiet. Troy gave me the "thumbs up" indicating a good hit. We waited 30 minutes before taking up the blood trail and a short time later, Troy was wrapping his hands around the antlers of his first bull elk. Mission accomplished!
I was forty years old before ever setting foot in the Rocky Mountains. Troy is the third elk hunter I've had the pleasure of accompanying on their first successful elk hunt. I can assure you, that is an experience that never gets old! Thanks for following along!
This thread would not be complete without a shot of Gerald "First Mate" Eads! It was Gerald's scouting efforts that put us in position to make Troy's dreams come true. The "First Mate" tag was Troy's humor and he often referred to me as "The Guide". Of course we both told Troy that made him "The Client"! LOL
Congrats to you all! I had heard a rough version of the story from my dad but your account with the pictures was great.
Sounds like a great time through all the adversity. Congrats.
Wow, congrats to all on gettin' er done!
Love those white tips! Great job getting Troy his first elk!!!
Congratulations to everyone. Great trip!!
Beautiful bull. Nicely done.
great outcome guys
excellent photos as well