It’s always interesting to look at the different conditions elk hunters experience in their geographic areas each fall. It’s also fun to hear about the diverse ways they overcome challenges and manage to fill their tags. From Oregon to Arizona, and from spot and stalk to aggressive calling, the Pro Staff at Elk101.com is a great representation of these diverse hunting backgrounds. Here is a report from their 2012 elk seasons.
Anticipation was high this season as I finally had a Utah archery elk tag in my pocket after 10 years of applying. I was also looking forward to spending time in the highcountry of Wyoming with fellow Pro Staff members Dirk Durham and Donnie Drake. Donnie and I started the season accompanied by videographer Ronan Donovan (Fencepost Films) for my 8 day hunt in the Bookcliff’s unit of Utah. The action started off with a bang, then quickly turned south. The hot, dry conditions had the elk living in completely different areas than they had been found in years past, and the first 6 days turned into a frustrating scouting trip. My dream of multiple daily call-ins turned into a reality of just 3 bulls being called in the entire trip. Fortunately, one of those bulls came in to 20 yards and I was able to put my tag on him just one day before the season ended.
After a week home with family, Donnie and I met up with Dirk and headed to Wyoming. Donnie ended up in the ER by way of a 2 hour ambulance ride the morning after we arrived, and missed the entire week of hunting after an emergency tonsillectomy. Dirk and I returned to camp and had a couple mornings of great action in some of the most beautiful elk country I’ve seen. On the 4th day, Dirk called a massive 6X6 bull in to 30 yards and we watched as he fell just 40 yards away. Two days later, I returned the favor and called in a beautiful 6X6 bull for Dirk, and after a day of packing and loading the truck, we were headed back to Idaho.
Opening week found me slowing down and spending time in the elk woods with my wife and daughter. We had many close calls, but Toni was unable to get an arrow in a bull. Following a few days at home, I ventured northeast in attempt to arrow a bull.
Hunting off of mountain bikes brings new challenges to an elk hunt – some predictable and some unplanned. On the first day of our hunt, I found a quality bull that I elected to hunt specifically for the next few days. After 5 days of hunting that specific bull, other hunters eventually moved in to the area and the bull moved to areas unknown! After changing locations numerous times, it became difficult to locate a good bull. After 9 days of hunting and my season quickly coming to an end, I decided to shoot the next legal bull that came in to our calls. That evening, I was fortunate enough to kill a spike and fill my freezer for the next year. Do I wish I was able to hold out and kill a branched-antlered bull? Sure, but I have no regrets!
Bowhunting elk in northwest Wyoming was tough in 2012. Drought conditions, high temperatures, and silent elk put traditional hunting strategies to the test. My buddy, Jason Stafford, and I chose to hunt a brand new area that neither of us had hunted before. This was strictly a wilderness backpack hunt, and to capitalize fully, we spent summer days packing in water to strategic camping locations where we had great views of the ridges and valleys. All of this water was hung in trees. If not, the grizzly bears would have destroyed our cache before we had our chance to use it.
Our first day consisted of a brutal hike, but near dark that night, we were able to stalk a large bull. Jason sealed the deal on a 350 class bull, a tremendous bull for any unit. After a call for horses to pack out the bull, we were hunting again two days later. Even by the 9th of September the bulls still weren’t talking, but I was able to coax in a nice 7×7 with a combination of calling and using a Heads Up Decoy. By using a combination of stalking, still hunting, calling, and deploying a decoy, we both were able to fill our Wyoming tags on great bulls, despite slow hunting conditions.
2012 was a great year to hunt elk. My compadres and I focused solely in UT and CO this year. Hunting elk this year was much different than the 2011 season where we had a very wet spring and summer which caused the elk to be very spread out and less vocal during the rut. 2012 was a typical, dry spring and summer pattern, which caused the elk to concentrate and compete for food. These highly concentrated groups of elk created more competition and the bulls were much more vocal during the rut. I didn’t have a big bull tag in my pocket this year, but I was able to arrow a spike bull at 40 yards on opening day with my son, then 11 years old, behind the camera. It was an awesome experience! In turn, he also shot his first cow elk on his 12th birthday with a youth model 270 rifle at 250 yards. I was also able to film several hunts for hunting buddies that had big bull tags.
All the pre-season scouting, early morning workouts, hours flinging arrows into a target, and especially spending time in the woods with friends and family is what makes elk hunting so cool. I’m already scheming my game plan for next year. The draws are right around the corner so start your research now. Successful hunters from units you might be considering can be a great starting point as you look at where you want to hunt in 2013. I hear UT, CO, & WY calling my name for 2013!
My 2012 elk season was fantastic. I only had a tag for my home state of Idaho, but got to share some very memorable hunts with friends and family. Even though it was good, the weather and extremely dry year proved to be an obstacle. Fires had consumed a large part of the unit we were hunting and the air was smoky and many areas were closed to access. The season still started off with a bang as my dad was able to harvest a nice 6×6 bull within the first hour of opening day. We hiked in roughly 4.5 miles the night before season and spotted his bull. We spent the night on the hill and were able to close the deal shortly after daylight. A tough 2-day pack topped off what I call “earning his trophy.”
A few days later, after waiting out a few days of high wind and rain, friend and fellow pro staff member Jody Cyr harvested a bull. We had lots of help on his 1500-foot, steep, descending pack. It was a great hunt and memorable experience.
The next day, I headed into an area I had never hunted and was lucky enough to harvest a nice bull as well. We were also lucky enough to have nice weather for the 4-mile, 2-day pack. All in all it was a very short, but memorable, 2012 elk season. Elk season seems to get shorter and shorter the older I get. These are all hunts and experiences I will never forget. The true measure of success is measured by who I am with and how we get it done, and this was definitely a season to remember.
Smokey and dry would summarize the Montana archery season. There was no measurable rainfall during the entire month of September. It wasn’t until mid-October that any substantial moisture fell. The dry conditions made for a subdued rut and noisy hunting conditions. Like most years, the bulls had periods of intense vocal activity and opposite periods of prolonged silence. The warm and dry conditions did make for pleasant camping conditions and lighter packs, though.
This fall, I rarely packed rain gear and never once packed a tent. It also made me rethink packing a 15 degree bag. Next season I vow to have an ultra-light 30 degree bag for warm conditions. With that said, all of my pack loads were not light. I managed to fill my freezer with a young bull elk, an antelope buck, and a fat, fall black bear. All were packed out on my back, making me realize how nice those lightweight early-season loads are. It also reinforced the importance of having a pack capable of hauling heavy loads of meat. With the quality gear available today, we backpack hunters have never had it so good.
This year started off as any other elk hunting season – high hopes and lofty expectations. After a day or two in the woods, however, I am always reminded of how hard elk hunting can actually be. To start the season off, I had a buddy come up from California to try and get a Roosevelt bull. We called in several bulls, including a couple great ones, but for one reason or another a shot never produced itself for him. After he left, I had several encounters with bulls, but nothing I was interested in until the last couple of days. I ended up coming to full draw three different times on the same bull and never let an arrow go. This was a very humbling elk season!!!
After archery season, I made a trip to Idaho to rifle hunt with Mark Cochran. We had a blast and ended up killing some nice bulls. Actually, Mark and his dad killed some great bulls and I killed “a” bull. It was great fun seeing new country and hunting elk with a gun, which I have not done in a long time.
After my trip to Idaho, I joined my wife and father-in-law on their annual spike elk hunt on the west side of Oregon. Sara was able to connect on a bull the first afternoon and Jake connected the second day. Pretty efficient use of our time as we had two bulls hanging and the weekend wasn’t even over yet. Once again, I learned some new tricks and am ready for next season!
The 2012 elk season didn’t find me drawing my bow back on a bull of a lifetime, or drawing back at all for that matter, but the memories of an eventful 2012 will last a lifetime.
Being able to tag along on Corey’s Utah elk hunt and sharing that hunt with cameraman Ronan Donovan, who had never before experienced an elk hunt, made for more than a successful season. Just seeing the look on Ronan’s face after calling in a screaming bull to 18 yards for the first time was priceless.
No amount of training or preparation could have prepared me for our hunt in Wyoming. Getting a glimpse of the spectacular scenery and setting up camp on the first evening left me filled with anticipation for the following morning. Plans changed, however, and my season ended with a lovely 2 hour ambulance ride back to civilization to have my tonsils removed. I was also the start of a weight loss program I wouldn’t recommend to anyone! I’m looking forward to the 2013 season for a little redemption, to say the least!
Each fall I find myself logging many hours behind the wheel getting to and from the country that elk call home. Sometimes it seems I spend almost as many hours getting to the elk woods as I do chasing bugling bulls! This year was no exception. I spent every weekend this past September with my son, Austin, trying our best to fill his Idaho tag, before and after my own hunt in Wyoming. Due to one of the driest years on record, elk, for the most part, were found in places not as easily accessed as previous years. They also were not quite as vocal during the early part of September. Even with tough conditions, we called in several bulls with the final weekend being the climax of screaming bulls here in Idaho. As every hunter new and old understands though, in order to successfully call in and arrow a bull elk, everything must “click”. Austin’s hunt didn’t “click”, and left him with some awesome memories to fuel the obsession for next year.
My Wyoming hunt consisted of MORE driving! Joining Corey and Donnie, we enjoyed the road trip to some beautiful country, laughing and telling stories. The hunting was marginal with the presence of ATV’s at almost every turn. Once we became familiar with the area via boot leather, and then moving to non-motorized trails, we found some small pockets of elk just as the weather changed to rain and the moon turned full. With the bulls getting quieter by the day, I was lucky enough to have Corey call in my best bull ever, which allowed me take him at a distance of about 18 yards. Primarily being a solo hunter over the years, this was the first bull anyone has called in for me, and I felt very privileged to share the moment with one of my oldest friends.
Looking back on the season, a few constants remained the same; lots of sweat, boot leather, persistence, and of course, DRIVING, provided for another unforgettable season.
When September hit, I found all my elk anticipation ready to rock, but had a decision to make. My addicted-to-hunting wife, Nicole, absolutely wanted to shoot her 1st elk with her bow. What’s a guy to do, right? I’ve killed elk and I live for it, and now my sweet wife is wanting to experience the elk rut in full swing. It was an easy decision to commit the 1st arrow of September to her. We have a great public ground area and I figured it was only going to take a weekend or two…I was wrong and I quickly realized I was probably not going to get a chance to knock an arrow of my own. However, I had a great time calling for my wife! Watching her experience elk in the rut and all that comes with it took me back to when I saw my first herd bull in full rut and I was hooked. She had the same look I had and man do I love it!
We had a couple close encounters, but struggled to get bulls into range. The one nice 6×6 we did get close to kept a heavily-branched pine tree between him and Nicole the whole time he was in range. We’ll have to flip coins for first shooter from now on and Nicole wants to learn how to call for me. She thinks it would be so cool to call a bull in for me and I don’t plan on arguing with her! I also spent several days in Wyoming calling for my brothers, Jeff and Rick, and we had some incredible rut action, including one setup producing SIX bulls and a cow elk that practically ate our Heads Up Decoy!
After archery season, I was excited to help my oldest son, Tyler, on his first big game hunt. Opening morning of the Utah rifle elk season came and we were on the mountain before light. As dawn broke, I bombed a bugle into a canyon and had 2 bulls instantly hammer it. We moved into range and got set up. We could actually hear one of the bulls breaking timber as he was coming in to my calls when another hunter shot him!!! Welcome to public ground hunting! We picked up and moved quickly down the canyon to the other bull and had the exact same thing happen! Although he did not get a shot, he was so excited to hear those bulls bugle and the crashing in the timber. Tyler took the next day off to heal some blisters which allowed my friend, Justin, get his feet wet. Justin was a first time hunter I had helped get started with hunter’s safety and purchasing a rifle and some basic gear. We moved into a canyon with some meadows as we approached the meadow, Justin spotted some cows moving our way. I set him up for a shot on the only bull in the group and told him I would stop him for the shot. At 65 yards, I cow called and Justin was able to harvest his first elk.
All in all, I had a great September. I instilled a hunting heritage in my son and lit a fire for hunting in a newcomer. I enjoyed helping my friends & family, and although I didn’t get to a chance to hunt the rut for myself, I was able to be in the high country and in pursuit of