Getting “The Low Down” – Phase 2

Getting “The Low Down” – Phase 2

A north facing slope in elk country

Ok so we have all of our notes, maps, advice from former hunt tag holders and game biologists – it’s time to dig in deeper. I spoke last time of hitting the ground hard and finding old rutting grounds and other areas where elk frequent. Now Austin and I returned to those areas looking for current rutting sign. We checked our hunches and in no time at all we knew we were in the right places.

With bivy camp packed up we hiked a couple miles down a gated road late in the afternoon. Once we got away from the sounds of the main road we started seeing fresh elk tracks. We continued on and found a well used elk wallow. I was really wishing we had a trail camera with us to set up and catch some wallowing action.

Hammered out elk wallow

Right after that thought, we herd a bull cut loose a bugle. I responded, and immediately we had six bulls bugling on the ridge above us. We headed up towards the ruckus and dropped our packs. I had Austin start doing the calling, hoping I could get a close encounter while I got the video camera ready. The bulls stayed in the heavy timber and darkness set in before we could get any footage. Grabbing our packs, we continued to our predetermined camp spot and set up our tent in the dark. Eating a Mountain House meal under a clear star filled sky was a great way to end the night before bed. The next morning the bulls bugled for about an hour before heading to the thick, shady timber to escape the rising temperatures. With no elk sightings we wrapped up camp and made our way back to the truck and home.

Our next trip out we were plagued by hot weather and a full moon (I know, that sounds like an excuse) and elk not on the move. We continued our efforts of riding our mountain bikes out gated roads and trails. After much peddling we found ourselves in the right places again, with bulls responding to our calls. Unfortunately, they would only stay vocal a little past first light in the mornings, and just after dusk. Not wanting to push the elk, I was beginning to wonder if we would ever see any bulls. We would have one more scouting trip before season started and we were praying for some cooler weather.

bull rub

We didn’t get the cool weather we wanted but I did get a treat to finally see some bulls. Austin had school on Friday, so he couldn’t go along and missed out. Day break found me in a mist-filled meadow surrounded by elk. Six spikes and a four point responded to my calls by running out into the open.

spike in the morning mist

Four other bulls bugled just out of site in the timber. After the small bulls ran into the woods, I tried catching up with the nastiest sounding bull. But just like punching a time clock, at 6:50 they all just clammed up.

That evening found me racing my pedal bike down an old logging road, looking for Mr. Big. After several miles and close to dark, I finally got a couple responses from a growly sounding bull. Sweating and pedaling in the dark, I stopped for a breather and had one more bull bugle five or six times before I took off again. I arrived at camp and could hear bulls sounding off in the distance. I grabbed a flashlight and walked down a long ridge, set down and listened to the chorus of six bulls going crazy. The next morning I was up and hiking in the dark, armed with my binos, spotting scope, camera, and calls. As the sun began to rise, elk began responding to my calls again. Elk started appearing way across the canyon and I was treated to a show of bulls chasing cows and mountain music. Three six points, twenty four cows and some spikes entertained me for a couple hours before they headed into the heavy timber, but not before I snapped a couple pictures through my spotter.

Shot from a distance

bull toward top center

bull in center

That afternoon I went to my daughter’s volleyball game, picked up Austin, and were back at camp by dusk. The wind had picked up and the temperature was dropping. We had some dinner and hit the sack.

Bright and early we were up and biking again checking out a couple more hot spots. We found more elk sign, and more bulls returning our bugles. Back at camp we did some chores and locked everything up. We will be back in less than a week, rifles in hand, ready to lay the smack down on some bulls. Stay tuned!