I took care of a couple of pressing work issues, fueled the truck and headed back after the 6x9. I was almost three weeks into this hunt and the pressure was mounting. I had had some real highs and right now, I was pretty low. Anthony had to work the swing shift for the next few days, so I wouldn't have his help. I was tired both mentally and physically after hunting this long. I was beginning to realize that very soon I had to go into panic mode If I did not want to eat tag soup on this hunt. There were a ton of things on my mind, as I climbed back onto elk ridge bouncing over the washboards. At least tonight, I had a spotter lined up. My nephew Tanner was headed up to help out. He had seen the bull, so he knew what and where I was hunting.
Once again, I found myself flying by Shawn's camp at the little notch. I wondered if he had been able to find the bull he had hit. I had stopped by and introduced myself before. Shawn had told me his story of getting on an awesome bull and everything had gone perfect. The best part, was that his son had been right there with him. As things go with archery, he was not able to recover his bull. I silently wished him luck as I cruised past, he seemed like a super guy and I hoped he could get the bull of his dreams.
I parked my truck in the same old spot that I had been in for the last five days. I cruised past the pond dropped down off the rim into the brush hole. It seemed like my own backyard now. I knew the best ways to move around and be unnoticed. I had found a great spot to glass a little bit of the area and be ready to move when I needed to. Tanner showed up not long after I was in position and started glassing. There was one bull bugling off and on, but Tanner could not pick him up and he did not sound like the 6x9.
I had my cow decoy with me, thinking it may make the difference in bringing the 6x9 into range. After awhile, I decided to set it up and call a little. Before long, I had company. A yearling cow came in. She had seen the decoy and was looking for company. I found myself messing around with her a little just for fun. I grew tired of the game before she did. I even stood up once and moved around, but she was here to stay. At that point, I figured that two decoys were better than one and that I couldn't get one more life like than her. Unfortunately, there only seemed to be one bull in the area tonight and Tanner could not get a visual.
I was a little too tired to want to drop into the brush and have to hike back out of that steep hole if it was not the bull. Besides that, I had to be honest, the light was fading too fast to get to the only bull talking anyway. I was pretty bummed out, as I packed up the decoy. I had chased that bull for five days and this area had been full of elk every night and morning but it was pretty quiet now. The young cow spooked off, when I raised Tanner on the radio and told him that I was going to hike out and hit the pond right before dark to see if I could catch anything coming in to water.
As I came over the rim, I checked with Tanner to see if he had seen anything. He confirmed what I already knew and said nothing was moving. I guess out of frustration I headed across the flat in the open right at the pond to get there quicker. Just then, I heard what sounded like a young bull not far away and it sounded as though he was headed to water. There were only two little ponderosa's between me and the pond. I hoped that I could use them as cover before the bull came out of the timber. I hustled and got there just as I could see antlers through a gap in the trees.
I crawled from one tree to the next about twenty yards to close the gap to the pond. I moved around the tree on my knees, until I could see, just as the bull got to the pond. A few minutes quicker, and I would have been in the blind at the pond and I would have a twenty yard shot. There was nothing between the bull and myself, except for wide open meadow. I did not have anything to really break up my background and didn't dare move a muscle. He was looking right at me.
He would lower his head like he was going to drink and then jerk it back up, all while staring right at me. I wondered how long this gig would last. I slowly removed the wac'em tipped easton arrow and knocked it. The bull looked good, but I wanted to make sure. I moved my hands for the bino's and got them on him as he started to drink. Split fourth, giant third, little points, holy cow, it is the 6x9! Unlike our encounter from 36 hours before, I was calm. I slowly lowered the bino's as I contemplated the range. Jerk, his head was back up and looking right at me. I froze and waited. He again relaxed, took two steps out into the water and started drinking again.
I eased my range finder out of my pocket and slowly brought it up. It read 71 yards. I did not want to shoot past 60 yards. I had practiced some at 70 off and on since April, but not with the intent of shooting that far during the hunt. I knew that with him looking at me every time his head popped up, that he likely would go any direction after watering but mine. I also knew that I could not get any closer at this point. I decided that If I wanted to kill this bull, that I would not likely get a third chance. I eased my hoyt from its resting place on its lower cam and drew it as I brought it up. His head was still down. As I felt tension in my back and the 60 yard pin rested on the top of his back, I slowly began to squeeze the release.
SMACK! The sound that every archer loves. He jumped out of the water spinning to the right, ran twenty yards, did a 360, fell down, then jumped up ran 50 yards to the left across the pond bank and into the trees. The adrenalin was flowing now, I threw up the bino's and could see his legs through the trees. He took two more steps and vanished. Was he staggering or was I just imagining things. I radioed Tanner and told him that I had just hit the 6x9 bull and explained where I wanted him to meet me. I didn't want him to drive all the way up the road and take a chance on bumping the bull. I then realized that I was still on my knees and that it was more in thanks than anything else. I took in the moment and re-played what had just happened in my mind. I was sure that it was a hit and felt confident that it was on target.
I got up and was sneaking away putting distance between me and the bull. I wanted to give him some time. As I got to where I knew I could talk, I turned my radio from the talk around channel so I could hit the repeater. My in-laws have a construction company and there is a base radio at my mother in-laws house. I wanted to let the world know that I had filled my tag and I wanted Mickey and the kids to be the first to know. I whispered into the mic and raised my mother in-law. To my surprise my family was there eating dinner, so I told them that I was pretty sure the hunt was over. I was happy to be done, and my wife was probably happier.
I met up with Tanner and let Chai know what had happened. He was in the area trying to fill his spike tag. We headed up the road so that I could call Anthony. I was bummed that he and Tiff couldn't be there when I killed, after all the help that they had given me. We gave the bull two hours and then headed to look for him. We parked the trucks at the pond and walked right to where I had last seen the bull. There he was, I had witnessed some of his last steps, as he had only gone a few more yards. I was pumped. To think that I had hunted him for five days in that steep, brushy, miserable hole and now I could drive a truck right to him. It is better to be lucky than good.
Elk Ridge 6x9
Tanner and I
Chai and I
We found my bull about 9:45pm. Some of my in-laws showed up about 10:30pm.
Tanner, Tate, Myself, Punk and Quinn
Anthony got off work at 10:00pm. He and Tiff showed up at 11:45.
I have been involved with enough hunts to have seen some great pics and some not bad ones, or even no pics at all. I figure that this could be my only chance to ever hunt limited entry elk in my life. I wanted good field photo's. In my opinion, there is no such thing as good photo's in the dark. I opted to go to a ton of extra work and gut my bull, put rocks underneath him and sticks to prop him open so that he could cool and i could get some daylight pictures. Some would probably cuss me for it, but the pictures of this bull were more important to me than the meat. That being said, the meat was just fine and none of it was wasted.
Now I knew how Pete had felt less than a week before as he showed me his bull. It felt pretty good. I headed off the mountain behind my buddies late that morning just enjoying the trip. I did stop at Shawn's camp to show him and his family my bull. Just as a side note, Shawn worked his tail off for four weeks and missed out on hauling his trophy home, but was fortunate enough to have his bull found by some muzzleloader hunters. The DWR brought his horns to him later in the fall. The way I remember him telling me, he must have walked within 30 yards of his bull several times while looking for it. Good things happen to good people.
I always like to see horns strapped on for the ride home. I don't have a subaru, but I thought the picture turned out fine. I headed to town, knowing that my first stop would be CB's. I had a ton of texts and voicemail's all wanting me to let them know when I got to town. After that, I headed to the house to show the family. Lyle met me there and threw a tape on my bull. He came up with 365 and some change. I knew by watching him that he went too quick and that I could get a few more inches by taking my time, lol. After taking the cape to my buddy Kurtis at Ridgeway Taxidermy, I got the horns back and decided to throw a tape on them. Somehow I could not replicate the beam length that Lyle had gotten, but ended up 365 and change. Not bad for an archery bull and a ton bigger than that monster spike with eye guards that was my best bull to date.
Check out the thirds in the pics. This bull has something that I have never seen before. His third on the left is just over 20 inches. His third on the right is just over 16 inches. The interesting thing is that the one on the right has a stick in the horn. You can see it in the last pic that has me alone with the bull. He must have jammed it in the horn when it was soft. Anyway, something different than I had seen before.
Stay tuned, if you have the patience. I have had a few comments that I am long winded. I will try and post up some more video and story. My 2010 hunts were just beginning. Lyle's wife Cindy hunted the early rifle elk. Lyle's nephew/Anthony's cousin Chad from Nevada hunted the muzzleloader elk. My fourteen year old Ashton and I both had deer tags to fill as well.