Well, after 13 bonus points, multiple scouting trips,
practice upon practice,
12 days of hunting( spread over 3 weekends), up at 3:45am, down at 9pm, over 75 miles of walking logged on my GPS, here is my success story:
I was fortunate to draw an archery bull tag for a great area in Nevada.
My brother Jeremy had the same tag the previous year. On his hunt, we scouted and hunted hard for over 2 weeks. Though we had many wonderful close encounters with big bulls throughout the season, we didn't shut the door on a bull he wanted. (you can see his story under hunt challenge 2010) http://www.monstermuleys.info/dcforum/DCForumID50/7.html . This created a huge advantage for me this year. I was able to concentrate my entire hunt on an area I knew had lots of elk and was already familiar with the terrain.
Opening weekend I was able to bring my 13 yr old son and my 13 yr old nephew and share the excitement of hunting elk up close during the rut.
He's ready to get a bow and start his own quest. We had multiple encounters but could never get a big bull to fully commit as the rut was not in full swing yet in late August.
Labor Day weekend My brother and I hit it hard again. His sweet cow calling had us in the thick of the action most mornings and evenings.(see BIG5 bull video in monster clips) http://www.monsterhuntclips.com/video/1588/BIG5-BULL . One particular morning it all came together on a nice 6 point except for the branch that deflected my arrow...twice! The last deflection did hit the bull and we went from hunting to tracking.
Not knowing if we hit the bull good or not we waited about 1/2 hr and started to track. Found small blood at first then nothing but tracks. The entire time the bull was just walking. From 6:30 am until 4 pm, and 6 miles later we followed the tracks until we couldn't go any further. I followed up the next day again looking for birds or any sign that the bull could have gone down to no avail. After this exhausting search I was pretty confident the bull was still alive and felt justified hunting again.
The last weekend of my hunt I was determined to get it done if I had to stay till the last day of the season. I was able to bring my wife out for a morning hunt so she also could see the magic that happens during September in the woods. She now understands a little why I do what I do. My brother was off to guide his son for muzzleloader deer, so my good buddy Shaun would work the calls for me on this weekend. Saturday and Sunday we were into the elk once again, even found a great pair of sheds side by side.
A little frustration set in as we never could seem to get them to come all the way in or the cows seemed to be leading them away from us. Saturday morning the elk seemed to bugle later into the morning. We were set up on a sagebrush flat with a creek running through it. As my buddy called 50 yds behind me, I could hear one coming in. A decent 6 point came out into the sage, sniffed and turned and left. I did not want him and stood up to move, unknown to me the BIG5 bull had, at the same time, come to the creek to drink. There he was 45yds with sagebrush covering his vitals. I know a 5 would not score that great but he was heavy and those huge fronts and tails had my heart pumping. I ranged, drew and held for him to move, when he finally did it was further than I calculated, and I clean missed as I watched my arrow explode on a rock.
Monday (3 days till season end), we pulled out all the stops and brought Crystal, my floppy eared montana cow decoy.
As we began to call we had several bulls screaming behind us as we had one on the hook coming in. Well the wind changed directions and off he went. The other bulls seemed to be moving further away from us as well. I told my buddy "let's chase em, get close and see what happens". Off we went at a good clip towards the bugles. We came to a small ridge line with a hot bull in the junipers out in front of us. we cow called and immediately the bull answered. he turned from about 150 yds out and made a beeline for us. My buddy hunkered down behind "Crystal" about 20yds below the ridge and I set up behind a small pine right on the ridge. I could see the bull coming fast up the slope towards us so I drew my bow. He stepped out 10 ft in front of me slobbering and staring at my lovable "Crystal", screamed, and I guess turned to go in hopes "Crystal would follow. As he turned broadside at 10 yds, I let out a MEH and let my Tekan3 fly. I would have preferred the shot to have been 3" further back , but as it went right into the shoulder with half my arrow sticking out. I'm nervous about the shot and figured same story chapter 2. I called my brother back in Vegas and he and another buddy Rob, left work and headed my way. He told me "We're gonna get this bull if we gotta stay out all night!"
Everything happened so fast we did not have time to really look at his horns though we knew he was a good bull. We cautiously went to where I shot and instantly found blood.
Slowly we made our way out to about 100yds following blood and found my arrow. Excitement and dread all at the same time. wanting to follow but knowing we should wait is one of the hardest things to do. The blood had bubbles but began to peter out. What should we do? Well he bedded about 300yds from where I shot and we bumped him. As I glimpsed his rear end disappearing into the thick Junipers, I'm getting sick to my stomach. We followed his tracks a short way with no blood and decided to leave, go back to the trailer, eat lunch grab the pack frames and come back later. That 2 miles back to the truck was the longest of my life!
We GPS'd the location,read discouraging forum posts online about 1 lung shots on elk, checked our maps and headed back to track. We also were able to get our vehicle about .75 miles closer to last location ( a big deal if were packing meat!) . With the midday sun beating down on us, no shadows and a slow go following tracks, I was ready to pack it in and give up bow hunting. As we are bent over trying to find any sign, I look up ahead and see something out of place. I put the binos to my face and sure enough...the image of a big bull taking a dirt nap vividly snaps into view 200 ft from where we last saw him!!!!!
Talk about a relief and making a fool of ourselves for a few minutes!
The BIG5 bull is down and I could not have been more happy. If I would have had 30 minutes to study his horns I still would have taken that shot.
Let the work begin!!
Thanks to my wife Michelle, my son Logan, My brother Jeremy, My buddy Shaun, "Crystal", and all the others for sharing my time in the field and helping a dream of mine come true!