The cloud cover from last night’s storm didn’t help cool things off this morning. It was warm. Even for August 31, it was warm. We knew we wouldn’t have a lot of time to get the bull fired up, so we were on the hillside across from where we had seen him last night before the first hints of daylight. I let out a location bugle and was immediately answered by the bull 500 yards down the canyon below us. The wind was going his direction, so we began a wide swing to the east hoping to drop down to his level without being winded.
He bugled again and sounded like he was in the same location, so we swung onto the backside of the ridge and made our move. I figured we were within 150 yards of him as we set up and got ready. It had started raining again and the rains from last night made sneaking around the hillside very manageable. I let out a couple soft cow calls and was met with silence. I tried again to no response. I let out another location bugle and he answered 500 yards farther down the canyon. We got up and quickly started making another move on him. Halfway there we walked right up on a small raghorn who had heard us coming down the mountain and came in to investigate. After a stare-down at 50 yards, he whirled and crashed off to our right.
We dropped down into a small draw and crossed the creek, then climbed the ridge in front of us. Another location bugle returned another response from the bull…again 500 yards farther down the canyon from us. It was already warm and he was moving quickly to his bedding area. The wind was starting to swirl, so we called back and forth to the bull for 15 minutes hoping the wind would start pulling up the hill so we could move in on him. With solid cloud cover, the wind was very inconsistent, so we decided to leave him for the evening hunt and work up the main canyon, hoping to hear another bugle.
We ended up jumping a single cow out of her bed in a thick alder patch and soon after found a good amount of fresh sign. Not hearing any more bugles, and not wanting to push the elk out of the canyon, we circled back up the hillside and began our climb back to the truck. As we got to the top I let out a final bugle and was answered by a series of excited cow calls. We set up hoping a bull might follow her in, but she wasn’t going our direction and continued down into the draw below us. We made it back to the truck around 11:30 and grabbed some lunch before a nice afternoon nap.
We were back on the ridge overlooking the bull’s bedding area at 3:30PM with a consistent wind pulling up the hill. I let out a few cow calls and the bull responded from his bed. We decided to wait for him to make his move that evening and hope he would feed up the ridge as he had done the night before. Finally, at 6:15, the wind direction began to change with the falling shadows and the bull began to bugle more frequently. We decided it was time to move over to the ridge and hope he would show up there before dark. We were about 500 yards above him and he was answering every bugle, but he was moving up the canyon, not up the ridge we were on.
As we moved across a small opening on the hillside the sounds of running elk came thundering down the mountain above us. A cow, followed by a small raghorn, came crashing down the hill and stopped 30 yards above us. I was in front of Donnie with nothing but the video camera, completely blocking Donnie’s chance at a shot. I whispered “30 yards” to Donnie and stepped out of his way as he came to full draw. Unfortunately, the bull busted at my movement and crashed through the trees above us.
We continued side-hilling up the canyon until the bull finally stopped moving and began feeding 400 yards across the canyon from us. He was answering our bugles and cow calls, but it was obvious he wasn’t interested enough to come up the hill. I began raking a tree and it worked! He was getting extremely fired up and we could hear the frustration and excitement in his bugles. We had about 15 minutes of daylight left…not much time to make something happen, especially considering we would have to cross the small draw we were standing next to, then drop into the canyon towards the bull. Not to mention the wind was steadily pulling down the hill towards the bull.
As we were standing there contemplating our options, Donnie spotted movement on an open hillside across from us. We watched as a cow, followed by a nice bull, fed through the opening and into the timber. A few seconds later we spotted another bull, a smaller raghorn, feeding across a different opening 300 yards lower on the mountain. The bigger bull moved back into the open and began thrashing a tree, still not bugling. The bull we had been chasing was still screaming his head off and I think the excitement finally convinced another bull down canyon to let out a timid squeal. There were at least 5 bulls within 500 yards of us, but only one of them was really even thinking about bugling. He probably bugled 35-40 times from where he had stopped to feed but with limited daylight and an unfavorable wind, we once again decided to wait for a better opportunity.
Tomorrow morning will be our last chance and with clear skies we’re hoping cooler weather will accompany us on. We also know there are several bulls in this canyon and hopefully a few more of them will start talking more in the morning. We hiked back out of the canyon guided by the full moon and encouraged by the continual bugling the bull was doing in the canyon below us. Tomorrow is going to be a good day.
We boiled some water and scarfed up our Mountain House dinners, then climbed into our sleeping bags and quickly fell asleep.
Click here for an update on Day 3 (our last day until Labor Day weekend)…