Got to go back on the elk hunt after a week Hiatus. I would have liked to be back on the hill that next weekend but my family took priority. My parents have been in Japan for 18 months as missionaries and they got home the 5th and had a family gathering on the 12-15th. I told them they should have consulted with elk season before making plans...............
Got to camp at 1AM after a 9 or 10 hour drive. Got as close as we could to the location I had seen that big bull over a week earlier. Went to bed in the cold rain and woke up to clear skies the next morning.
After glassing for 2 minutes I found several wall tents in the bottom of 'MY' canyon. There were no visible or vocal elk where there had been several herds a week earlier. We started glassing further up the canyons coming off the mountain peak in front of us. We started picking out a few scattered herds but they were 2.5+ miles as the crow flies. We pulled out the Vortex Razor Spotting scope to look at a couple bulls. Nice but not what I was looking for. About then my friend Ben tells me to look at the highest point on the mountain. Sure enough, there were 20 elk crossing the rock face at almost 11,000 feet. We put the spotter on the bull. Definitely didn't need a second look on him - even at 4.1 miles............
We looked at the maps, hiked back to the truck, loaded up our packs and headed up the mountain with enough gear for 5 days.
Didn't take the closed road long to change to our trail. Didn't take long after that to get put in our place as #2 on the food chain.
Couple miles in I had to take care of a HOT spot.
As we dropped over a ridge and into some dark timber, there was a couple bulls bugling under us. After 10 minutes it was apparent there was a herd with a bull in front of us. I poked along the trail as a couple bulls bugled in the bottom. The bull in front of us was pretty vocal to their calls and our soft, infrequent cow chirps. As soon as I was within 100 yards, I put it into 4x Low and just poked along. Glassing, looking and listening. Glassing, looking and listening..........
Pretty soon I had a calf at 31 yards with some tines visible behind it. The calf just fed patiently as the bull behind was in and out of the openings I could see bugling and chasing a cow. The calf haad climbed the hill to our level and decided to walk down the trail I was standing on. 30 seconds later a cow was visible from the roll of the hill. She decided to join the calf. Pretty soon the calf is at 12 yards trying to figure out what I am. After a 30 second stare down it slowly stepped off the downhill side of the trail and began feeding. The cow followed. WHEW!
By now the bull was on the trail heading my way. He was licking his chops, glunking and really sniffing for any tell-tale signs from this cow. He had a great frame on him but was short on several points. Ben was on the trail 30 yards behind and slightly above me - must have looked like stadium seating for the show! When the bull turned broadside at 23 yards I could feel Ben wondering out loud why I wasn't going to draw on this bull. He then turned and started back down the trail. He knew I didn't belong on that trail with him and stopped, lowered his head and began looking me over at 10 yards. Water droplets were falling from his mouth and nose as he moved his head slowly from side to side looking at me with his right eye, then his left, then both. He'd had enough and slowly turned and stepped off the trail to the cow and calf feeding 15 yards below him. It took almost 15 minutes for them to walk off. Ben slowly worked up to me and told me I was crazy............... I wasn't going to stick a 310-320 bull with his big brother still on the mountain.
We popped out on another saddle and continued down our trail. After a while we stopped to look.
He had dropped down into a few trees in a small canyon.
Back up the trail we went and pulled out the glass as we got closer.
We dropped our packs about 1 mile from him and dropped over the backside of the ridge to keep out of sight. When we popped over the top, he was bedded 600 yards away. Ben took this pic through his bino's so it's not great but shows some good tine length!
We had seen this bulls harem cross the rock face and bed in some scrub Krumholz while the bull and 2 cows stayed lower on the mountain. I knew it'd be easier to fool 3 sets of eyes than 20+. We crawled over the ridge trying to keep the elk hidden behind the krumholz. After 200 yards we got up and hurried to cross the 400 yards of small canyon in front of us.
Once that was succesful, we slowly picked our way up the other side trying to keep the Krumholz patches between us and the elk. As we were approaching the last patch, I hadn't seen him for over 15 minutes. I was hoping and praying he was still bedded within range of the patch I was about to step out from behind. Then I saw tines! He was up, broadside and feeding with his head down. Ben was right behind me and verified the range my Vortex Ranger had just given me.
I had a small rise about halfway between us covering the bottom portion of his vitals but in no way would it interfere with my 58 yard arrow flight. I stood, drew, relaxed, picked a spot, settled pin and..............
And then I punched my trigger like I've never punched it in 25 years of bowhunting. I was cringing before my arrow was even halfway there but I couldn't make it stop........ It deflected off the little rise and went sailing over this awesome bulls back. I've killed 20+ animals with a bow and had never done that before. I was excited but my pins weren't jumping. I don't think it was nerves, I just think I shanked it at the worst possible time.
Over 6 miles, 2500 vertical feet, 9 hours and I shanked it. Not much else to say. I'm not sure how many miles I've walked the last few years looking for that opportunity to kill a super Public Land DIY bull with my bull..........and I shanked it!
We headed back down the trail to camp and a long, long restless night.
Not even a hot Mtn. House and dry tent (Easton Kilo 3P) was going to help me sleep tonight.
At sunrise we were on the Razor and Outdoorsmans Tripod but I didn't have much hope of ever seeing that bull again. My only prayer was that his 20 cows that had been further up the mountain would be hesitant to leave if they weren't the ones we spooked.
We couldn't believeour eyes when the whle herd was back on top of the mountain.....and he was with them. They fed over the top so Ben and I hustled to get to a spot where we could make a move if one presented itself. We hadn't seen elk for 30 minutes so we were continuing down the trail to have a look at the backside of the mtn. I happened to look up at the right time and saw a cow feeding over towards us. We hunkered down until part of the herd was 290 yards above us. We were trapped on a finger ridge and couldn't move anywhere.
We just laid there admiring the view and hoping they would make a mistake for the 2nd day in a row. One of us owuld get up every 3 or 4 minutes to look at the bedded elk above us. The wind was pretty consistent blowing across us but every now and then it would do something crazy. Ben got up to peek at the elk and couldn't see any of them. We slowly hiked around the bowl in front of us to look over the other side. Our worst fears were confirmed.
We hiked over the top and spent all day glassing the drainages on the backside of that mountain but never turned them up.
My Heli'm was gasping for Oxygen at that elevation.
We turned up quite a few bulls and even a few sheep, but never found that bull again.
Wilderness Athlete Hydrate and Recover to the rescue!
The next morning it was snowing and COLD. Yes, that rock is as uncomfortable as it looks but atleast I'm out of the wind! The C4E Torrent gear performed awesome.
We glassed lots more elk including this tempting bull, but nothing I was going to chase.
Later that evening we still hadn't found the bull again. We both were pretty sure which drainage he was in. We were already in about as far as we were willing to go. I don't think I could have packed an elk out of the next canyon over. I'm not sure we could have gotten horses over there. I hope we made the right choice.
We loaded up that evening and headed off the mountain. I had a plan B that we were going to spend a couple days in. This young bull was bugling in the canyon as we hiked out. A few cow calls later and he was at 40 yards.
The next day we do an 11 mile loop glassing and calling into LOTS of country. Saw 1 small 6, 2 rags, 2 spikes and a handful of cows with the 6. There were no fresh droppings, tracks, rubs, etc..........
We decided to head off the mountain as the public/private issues with this unit had severely limited the places I thought I could go to get away from the quad crowd and find a good bull. On the way off the mountain we saw another possible source for our lack of elk........... Those are Ben's size 13's for comparison.
We decided to make the trip to my deer unit and see if I couldn't stick a mulie in the next 2 days. We saw this buck at first light from a vantage point. I told Ben I was gonna pass with his short forks. Several hours later I told him we should go shoot that buck so I could free up a couple personal days at work to take my girls. Both of them have the same deer tag and we were planning on an October rifle hunt. After 5 or 6 hours of searching we found this buck in his bed. I could see part of 1 tine...................
I got the wind right, made the stalk and was perched 18 yards above him when he decided to get up from his bed to change positions. My Injexion tipped with an Ulmer Edge found it's mark and he went 75 yards down the draw....... First critter I've ever shot with a mechanical head. The Carnage was more than impressive.
Outdoorsmans Optics Hunter Pack loaded for the trip out.
He is my widest mulie. 29 7/8 unless I get to measure a little velvet fuzz, then he'll tape a touch over 30".
I think I'm more exicted to take my girls in October with the rifle. I'm still debating going back with the rifle for elk. I'm sure I'll find a way to go for a day or 2..........