Raking Trees for Big Bulls

As Corey said in Tip #5 “An 18 yard, quartering-away shot on a bull that has no idea you are there is something we dream about.” Let’s turn that day dream into a real-life, action-packed elk hunting situation!  In the mid-nineties, I attended one of Randy Ulmer’s seminars on elk hunting.  One of many great ideas that stuck with me all these years was “there have been times when I will run right to them while they are raking”.  In 2004 on the second day of the Nevada elk season Randy’s words came rushing through all the cob webs in my head as I watched a nice 6×6 start raking, whipping, or just plain trashing a pinion pine. I quickly set up the video camera on a tri-pod and started filming.  I then grabbed my bow and took off down the canyon, circled around a small ridge, and worked my way to within 20 yards of the bull.  The bull never looked up. As a matter of fact it was at this point that I noticed each time the bull brought his head down into the tree he would close his eyes. I can’t speak for all bulls, but this one did each time he lowered his head into the tree. 

With two of his olfactory senses occupied – his eyes, and his ears from all the noise he was making whippin the day lights out of the pine – all I needed to do was worry about the wind.  I drew a couple times and settled my 20 yard pin behind his front shoulder. He was a beautiful 330-class 6×6, but just not what I wanted.  I had waited 16 years to draw this Nevada tag and was hoping to have an opportunity at something much bigger.  I made my way back to the ground blind and turned off the video camera –  over 20 plus minutes of video were recorded before he finally lost interest.

 A couple days later I was off scouting a new area when I jumped two cows with calf’s. I bugled to calm them and as I did a bull bugled up the ridge.  The wind was perfect and I headed up the ridge after him.  I grabbed a stick and started whippin my own pinion pine, then stopped and bugled. That’s all it took. I got the bull fired up to the point he bugled, grunted, and started thrashing a tree as well.  It was late August and I knew the chances were that he would not be coming to me. As he continued to rake I RAN up the ridge in his direction. I was able to close the distance to 70 yards. I couldn’t believe how big this bull was and I knew I wanted to take him. 

At 30 yards I was looking for a shot when he stopped and walked straight away. I needed 10 more seconds to get a clean shot off.  As the bull moved off I followed and was able to get within 20 yards and send an arrow perfectly through the boiler room.  He piled up less than 60 yards away.  He was a tremendous bull. 


Tony's awesome Nevada bull from 2004

Tony's awesome Nevada bull from 2004

I told a friend about how close I was getting to the bulls while they were raking and it wasn’t long before he was doing the same thing.  Since that time, on several occasions I have slipped in on raking bulls.  So the next time you hear a bull start whipping, raking, or thrashing a tree, make a move with the wind in your face. It might just be the bull of your dreams.  This seems to work best during the early part of the rut. One caveat as the season progresses is the bulls start collecting their cows. The rules of the game change so make sure you adapt with them.


Lost your password?