Sept. 12, 2011
I was able to go back out on the Monday. I got to camp about 2 pm. I checked out the waterholes that the elk we had seen earlier in the season use,and saw no fresh elk tracks. The elk had definitely moved on. I decided to go to a different part of the unit that had been productive in the past. I arrived to the area and started walking up a draw I knew held a wallow. I had just started walking up the draw, when I saw a buck feeding up the hill from me at about 100 yards. He was a pretty nice buck. He had four on each side and was about 24” wide. I retrieved my wind tester and noticed that the wind was blowing straight up the hill towards him. About the time I finished checking the wind, his head came up and his nose went into the air. He looked in my direction and since I was in the open he picked me out. He took off stotting along the hillside, blowing an alarm call as he went. I thought, “Great, good luck seeing anything now”. I was also disappointed because I forgot my camera. I could have gotten some really good pictures of him. Oh well, it was nice seeing him anyway.
Despite the deer making all the noise, I decided to continue up the draw. I was almost to the wallow, when I heard a bugle come from the next draw over. I climbed to the top of the hill of the draw I had heard the bugle come from. I called from the top of the hill, but saw and heard nothing. I knew there was a waterhole in the bottom of the draw, so I decided to walk down the hill to inspect it. I cow called as I was walking down the hill. I stopped about 60 yards from the waterhole to make sure there was nothing currently there. I was watching the waterhole when I heard a noise up the hill and to my left. I took a quick glance, but did not see anything. “Must have been a squirrel”, I thought. I decided the waterhole was clear. I took two steps and saw movement out of the corner of my eye. To the left of me at 30 yards was a nice 5 pt. bull elk. We saw each other at about the same time and he exploded down the hill. He crossed the draw and stopped part way up the other side. He was about 100 yards away, so no chance for a shot. We had a staring match for about 5 minutes, and then he continued on his way up the hill. What happened was, I had come down one side of a little rise and he had come down the other. He was probably following my cow calls. We happened to reach the bottom of the rise at the same time and surprised each other. I hate when bulls come in silent!!!
I checked out the waterhole and continued up the draw to the top of the ridge. At the top of the ridge there is a meadow about 150 yards by 150 yards. On the other side of the meadow is another ridge. Along the tree line on my side of the meadow is a fence. The year before me and my brother Aaron had called in a raghorn and a cow from this location. I was hoping to have the same luck as last year. I started calling pretty aggressively. I was calling for about 5 minutes, when I heard something coming down the fence line towards me. Oh no!!! My bow was hanging on a limb about 10 feet away from me. I started to crawl towards my bow. Just then I saw a spike elk walking down the fence. I froze, not daring to move a muscle. He continued down the fence until he got 20 yards away. He stopped and jumped the fence. He continued my direction until he got to within 10 yards. He looked my direction and wasn’t quite sure what I was. He started to circle me, trying to get downwind. As he went behind a fir tree I retrieved my bow. When he emerged he stopped and looked in my direction again. I did not have enough time to draw. He started walking again, and as I was about to draw my bow he caught my wind. He whirled and ran back in the direction he had come from. Ohhhh, so close!!! I made the ultimate rookie mistake, never setup to call without being ready. I know that if I had been prepared, I would have got a shot. Oh well, that was an awesome experience anyway. It was getting close to dark, so I called it a day.
Sept. 13, 2011
The next morning, I decided to go to an area that I had gotten trail camera pictures of elk earlier in the year. A well had been placed in the area last fall, so I was hoping this would attract some elk and deer. At first light I checked the well to see if there were any tracks around it. I saw a few deer tracks and one set of elk tracks. A short distance from the well is a fence line the elk like to walk down. I walked to the fence line and immediately started to smell elk. There were fresh elk tracks along the fence. I walked down the fence as quiet and as slow as possible. When I reached the cover of the aspens I began calling. I started calling and immediately started hearing bugling way off in the distance. I had a feeling the calls were coming from some elk coming off of an alfalfa field about a mile away. There was no telling where those elk would end up. I knew there were elk closer than that, but they were not making a sound. I continued calling while working my way along the fence staying in the aspens. I again could smell elk, but could not see any. I got to a corner in the fence and stopped. I made a few cow calls and heard cow calls coming from about 200 yards away. I decided I needed to cross the fence. I stepped out of the aspens to cross the fence. 15 yards in front of me stood a 5 pt. bull. He saw me the same time I saw him and he took off. Did I mention I hate when bulls come in silent. I heard him crashing through the brush, and he stopped about 200 yards away and started barking. I was mad at myself, “awesome way to mess that up”. I cow called and he stopped barking. I could hear him continue to walk away from me in the thick brush. About thirty seconds later the cows started calling again, this time closer. I slipped back into the aspens not daring to cross the fence. They continued to call pretty fervently. The next thing I know a calf walks out just on the other side of the fence from me. I didn’t want to shoot a calf, so I let him walk. I thought for sure more elk were going to follow him, but they didn’t. I could hear the herd slowly moving in the opposite direction. I tried to get around them to cut them off, but I was too late. They stopped calling and I lost track of them. I had a pretty eventful morning, so I headed back to camp. I had to get back home that afternoon anyway.
Sept. 15, 2011
My brother Aaron and I made it to camp around 10 pm Wednesday night. I told my brother I had a pretty good idea the travel route of the elk feeding on the alfalfa field. We decided we would try to catch them coming back from the alfalfa field in the morning. We got up at 5 am and ate breakfast and headed out. We reached the spot we wanted to park about 6 am. As soon as we turned off the pickup we heard elk bugling. We quietly got out of the pickup and got our gear ready. We hiked down the road about 100 yards and stopped. It was still pretty dark and we did not want to spook any of the elk, so we waited. The elk were bugling like crazy and it sounded like they were getting closer. It started to get light so we devised a plan of attack. We would slowly work our way towards them, not making any calls. As we started to implement our plan we heard a calf elk calling behind us. We debated what to do and decided to leave it and continue towards the majority of the elk calls. We got to where a good trail broke off from the road and decided to take it. It sounded like the elk we no longer moving towards us, but to our left, which was the direction the trail was going. We were slowly going down the trail when Aaron spotted a cow standing in the middle of the trail. Aaron tried to get into cover, but she saw him and trotted back down the trail. We walked to where she had been standing and talked about what to do next. We decided we would continue down the trail doing some cow calling back and forth. We had gone about a 100 yards down the trail, when we heard a bugle in front of us about 250 yards away. We crept closer to where we had heard the bugle, still cow calling back and forth to each other. We went about 80 yards and came to a dried up swamp. The swamp had tall grass and with a few willow trees for cover. The bull bugled from just on the other side of the swamp about 150 yards away. We kept cow calling, but he wasn’t coming any closer. By the sound of his bugle he sounded like a young bull to me. I decided to bugle back at him with the wimpiest bugle I could. I also put my hand over the end of my grunt tube to make it sound like I was further away. When I let out the bugle, he bugled right back more aggressively. I instantly responded doing the exact same bugle as before. He was really ticked off now. We could hear him about 100 yards away demolishing a poor helpless aspen. We watched as it swayed back and forth. We could still not see the bull though, because he was in thick cover. We were standing by a clump of willows, but there was a 35 yard gap between us and the next cover, so we did not feel comfortable closing the distance. We continued to call and my brother said, “He is right there”. The bull was walking just inside the tree line parallel to our position. He was a 4x5 raghorn. He stopped at about 40 yards, but his vitals were blocked. He let out a chuckle and stood there for a few more minutes. He walked back into the trees where we could not see him. My brother took the opportunity to sneak to the next willow patch. He got to the next patch, and I continued to call. My brother said he saw the bull again at this point. He said the bull was 20 yards away, but did not offer him a shot. Aaron motioned for me to come join him. I got to his location. He said the bull had continued to follow the tree line to our left. He said, “I will continue on. You stay here and call.” He got to the tree line where the bull had disappeared. He saw him again at about 35 yards, but he was walking. I walked to his location, and we could hear the bull starting to move off, still bugling every once in a while. We talked about our experience for a minute and how awesome it was. The herd bull was bugling off in the distance still, but we knew we could not catch up with him. We decided to head back to truck, eat some lunch, and take a nap.
We knew of a waterhole not too far from where the elk were traveling on their way to the alfalfa field. For the evening hunt, we decided we would go sit the waterhole. We started walking to the waterhole at about 4 pm. We had got about 150 yards from the waterhole, when a 2 pt. buck came around the corner at about 20 yards. He saw us, but wasn’t sure what we were. My brother was in front of me, so he knocked an arrow. The buck saw movement, but walked a few steps closer. He was facing us, so Aaron didn’t have a shot. He turned, quartering away, and Aaron went to draw his bow. The buck saw movement and took off like a bullet. He ran into thick cover and disappeared. That was a close call. That would have been my brother’s first deer with a bow.
We continued on to the waterhole. We reached the waterhole as some cattle were leaving. We set up in some rocks, on the southeast corner of the waterhole. Here is picture of the waterhole and a picture of my brother.
We had been sitting the waterhole for about an hour with no action. Then to the south of us, we heard a bugle. We hoped he was coming in our direction. A few minutes later we heard another bugle. This was a different bull though. It was the herd bull. We could tell by his deep growly bugle. The first bugled again, but closer. We started to get excited. It sounded like they were headed our way. Both bulls continued to bugle back and forth getting closer and closer. We were hoping they would come to the waterhole, before they headed to the alfalfa field. Then they started moving to the west and were no longer heading our direction. We knew where they were headed, so we decided to cut them off. We packed up our stuff and headed to where we hoped they would come out of the trees on their way to the field. There was a two track road that went in that direction, so we followed it. We were walking down the road in the open, and I saw a bull along the tree line to the north and east of us. He had not noticed us yet. We knelt down behind some sagebrush and watched him. (Here is a picture of him as he headed back to the trees.)
It was a 4x5 raghorn, the same one we had called in earlier that morning. He was about 120 yards away. The wind was iffy and was headed in his general direction. He got a little nervous and then walked back into the trees. The other bulls were still bugling and headed to the spot we thought they would come out. We decide to pass on the raghorn and try to get one of the other bulls. I think mostly we just wanted to get a look at the herd bull. We continued down the road to our destination. We came to spot where we had a dilemma there were two little draws they could come out of. We just had to choose the correct one. We decided to take the one farthest to the west. We went to where the trees ended and waited for the ambush. We could hear the herd bull bugling. He was calling like crazy. The calls were getting closer and closer. I then saw movement about 150 yards away. A cow and calf had emerged from the trees. Oh no!!! They were coming out a down a different trail. We could get to where they were or the wind would give us away. That’s when the elk started pouring out of the trees. A group of 7, 10, 12, 5, 6, 15, and then the flood ended for a minute. All the elk that came out were cows, calves, and spikes. They passed us headed to the alfalfa field. We did not see any branch antlered bulls emerge. The Herd bull was still about 300 yards away in the trees. It was starting to get dark we only had about 15 minutes of shooting light left. We started to hear cow calls coming from the edge of the trees and the herd bull was still bugling. A few minutes later more elk started coming out of the trees. We watched as 15 more cows and calves came out of the trees. Then right behind them was the herd bull. It was getting dark so we couldn’t tell quite how big he was. We knew he was at least decent. We thought we would sit, and wait for them to pass by before we went back to the truck. They got about 200 yards out of the trees, then turned around and ran back to the edge of the trees. Some of the cows went into the trees and disappeared. They remaining elk stayed on the edge of the trees acting confused. The herd bull was still in the open about 50 yards from the trees screaming his head off. I think some of our elk got our wind and that is why they ran back to the trees. The bull really wanted to head to the alfalfa field, but the cows continued to disappear into the trees. He reluctantly followed them. We packed up our stuff and headed back to the truck. That was a cool experience, and we knew where we were going in the morning. On the drive back to camp my truck started acting up. It would die every time I would slow down or stop. I was frustrated because we could not get to these elk without a truck. We made it back to camp alright, but we decided we did not want to risk getting stranded. We decided we would have to hunt somewhere we could get to with a car in the morning.
Sept. 16, 2011
The next morning we woke up to rain. We decided to go to the other side of the unit where I had my close encounter with the spike. On our way there the rain stopped. We arrived and started walking up the draw. The hike up the hill was uneventful and it had started to rain again. We reached the top of the ridge near the spot I had called in the spike. We setup in a thick little patch of pines and began calling. We team called for about five minutes when we heard a bugle come from the ridge on the other side of the meadow. We got to the edge of the meadow and continued to call. He bugled back again. He sounded a little closer. He was only responding to our calls he wasn’t coming any closer. He started to move away, headed into a draw. At that moment I looked down the hill and saw movement on the edge of the meadow. At first I thought it was other bow hunters. Then I realized it was a bull, cow, and calf moose. The bull was young and on the small side. I took out my camera and took a few pictures. The bull was raking his antlers on a small aspen. I watched them for a minute and returned my focus on to the bull elk. He sounded a ways off, so we decided not to pursue him. The rain was coming down pretty hard. We were in my brother’s car and the drive back was on a dirt road. I decided to have a little fun before we left and call at the moose. I started off with a cow moose call. As soon as I made the call the bull picked up his head and looked in my direction. He came about 50 yards closer and started to grunt. I grunted back at him and he began to thrash some willows. We called back and forth for about ten minutes and then the cow and calf started to walk away. He saw them leaving, so he followed them out of the meadow. We got off the hill and started driving back. On the way back we saw this cow moose standing in the middle of the creek. What a cool picture she offered me. We got back to camp and headed home. My brother had to work the next day. To be continued………
Enjoy the moment and relive the memories.