"Another September" – Bo Bonner | Elk101.com | Eat. Sleep. HUNT ELK!

“Another September” – Bo Bonner

My lovely wife rolled her eyes as I seized one of our spare bedrooms for the 2009 Archery Elk Hunt staging area. It begins in July as I start putting my gear together for the backpack Archery Elk Hunt. Everything is laid out and accounted for so that when September rolls around I am not scrambling for gear. Some people call it OCD, I like to call it well prepared. I made plans with my brother, Ryan Bonner, and my cousin’s husband, Ryan Davenport, for the big hunt. The unit we hunt holds some nice bulls if a guy knows where to look. I hit camp 3 days early (OCD) and did some hunting/scouting by myself before the other two arrived. I located a big group of elk with 8 bulls and 30 cows. One bull caught my attention immediately through the spotting scope and was named “Big Boy”. He pushed the other bulls around and had an impressive set of antlers. Over the first three days I passed on 3 younger 5 and 6 point bulls. One evening “Big Boy” passed by my setup at 65 yards, dogging a cow, not offering a good shot. He was truly an impressive sight up close.

The bull Bo nicknamed "Big Boy" (for obvious reasons)...

The bull Bo nicknamed "Big Boy" (for obvious reasons)...

On September 13th the hunting party was assembled and plans were made for the evening hunt. I showed them the picture of “Big Boy” and excitement was high in camp. We hit the hills for our evening hunt and as the sun sank behind the mountains a single bugle caught our ears from a well known bedding area up the valley. I held my binoculars tight to my eyes and told both Ryan’s to get ready. Then another bugle, then another, until it sounded as if someone turned on a skipping DVD of elk bugling. My brother Ryan had never taken a bull elk with his bow so I put him in a funnel where the elk should pass within shooting distance. Davenport and I stayed put to watch the action and look for our opportunity to, as Ted Nugget would say, “cleanse our innner soul.” I spotted a beautiful 6×6 pushing some cows out of the draw and away from the herd. I gave chase and headed them off over the next ridge. I set up in the direction the lead cow was moving only to watch as they all passed at 79 yards. When I returned to our vantage point Ryan Davenport said he shot a nice bull that passed at 60 yards just below where we were sitting. Davenport said he was watching “Big Boy” pushing some cows down the funnel right into Ryan Bonner’s shooting area. Davenport said he was intently watching when he heard something coming and collected his bow just in time to knock an arrow and send it right through the boiler room. He said the bull ran down the hill and quickly laid down to die. We made our way down the hill to meet up with Ryan Bonner and share the good news. Ryan said he was still shaking from his close encounter with “Big Boy” at 38 yards. If only those darn cows would look the other way Ryan could have drawn his bow and put his first elk on the books. We laughed and congratulated Davenport as we made our way to his fine 6×6 bull. By 12:30 am we had the bull hung, skinned, and back at camp.
Ryan Davenport's great Idaho bull

Ryan Davenport's great Idaho bull

September 14th was uneventful as the group of elk were now scattered. On the morning of the 15th I was able to locate the group two drainages over and the chase was on. I took time to video the group of elk and one very nice 6 point before I decided to make a move on the bull. I went up the ridge and dropped down a gully to try and intercept the bull as he made his way up the canyon. He passed by just out of range and the chase was on again. With the wind in my face I pursued the bull up the canyon to their bedding area. I watched him enter a triangle shaped patch of aspen and brush to bed with his cows. I planned my angle of attack and the stalk was on. I planned to stalk to the edge then crawl my way in looking for the bull to be bedded near the edge. As I got to the edge of the bedding area I heard some snapping and then what sounded like the running of the bulls in Spain. I quickly jumped to my feet and ran 20 yards up the hill hoping to see the elk exiting. As I got to my vantage point in the ravine I noticed cows running out the top and two small bulls exiting from the middle. I knocked an arrow and looked back up to see a large antlered bull coming out behind the two smaller bulls. I set my release and drew my bow to full draw and cow called. The bull stopped broad side and looked back at me. As I judged the yardage I noticed he was missing some of his right antler. He had a large left but I made up my mind that he would do. I tripped the trigger and buried the arrow right behind the shoulder. He ran 20 yards and stopped. Slowly he turned down hill and the blood was running like a fountain. Ten minutes later I heard the brush snapping as he fell to the ground. I made my way to the fallen brute and was pleased with my goofy 8×3 bull elk. The hunting party and pack frames were gathered and after 6 hours we had him packed out and on the way to the meat cooler.
Bo Bonner's awesome "freak" bull

Bo Bonner's awesome "freak" bull

September 16th is not only a great time to be hunting bull elk, but it is my birthday. With video camera in hand I told my brother that I had put some tree stands on one of the paths to an elk watering hole. We were in there an hours before light and could hear the elk bugling in the valley below us. As we sat there I could hear some elk already above us. I told Ryan I was going to cow call in hopes of pulling a bull our way. I blew on the hyper lip single and immediately got a bugle. After a few more calls over the shoulder the bull was headed our way. He appeared around the ridge and made his way down the draw. I looked up at Ryan and said he is coming, get ready. Soon the bull was standing 50 yards out looking for that lone cow. I turned my head and called back over my shoulder to my right and he walked to our right for a perfect shot. I whispered up to Ryan that the lone bush was 55 yards. I saw the bull pass through an opening and then back behind some brush. I looked up at Ryan and saw him draw. Was it really going to happen. Was my brother going to take his first bull with me on my birthday. Swack, I heard the arrow hit the ground and the bull jump forward. Ryan slowly reached for another arrow. I called again and the bull did not move. Ryan drew his bow again. I whispered up to Ryan, take your time and place the pin. Thump, this time his arrow found the mark and as the bull ran away I could see it was painted red on the right shoulder. Ryan looked down at me and said with excitement; I got him, I got him. We watched as the bull attempted to make it back around the ridge where he had come. We climbed down from the stands and returned to camp to collect our hunting partner, Davenport, and tell him the good news. We returned to the sight and collected Ryan’s 5×5 bull elk. Not only was it another great hunt, but what a way to celebrate a birthday.
Ryan Bonner's first archery elk

Ryan Bonner's first archery elk

September 17th we collected our gear and laughed about our good fortunes. 3 nice bulls in 4 days. Well, with God’s good graces there will always be another September with bugling bulls.

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