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Author Topic: COhunter14's 2019 Archery Elk Hunt  (Read 1539 times)

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Offline cohunter14

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COhunter14's 2019 Archery Elk Hunt
« on: September 27, 2019, 01:51:13 PM »

Well, my 2019 archery elk hunt is in the books. Like any elk hunt, this one had it's ups and downs along with plenty of learning lessons. It also had a new camp - this year we decided to give a travel trailer a try and rented one here in town. We loaded up the trailer on Friday evening and Saturday morning, then headed out. We got in camp Saturday afternoon and got the trailer detached and setup. Quite a bit of time savings from the traditional wall tent camps that we use!


We didn't have a ton of time for a hunt, so we decided to drive to a high point and do some glassing. Right off the bat, we see a couple of hunters way back in where we want to hunt. We also knew of at least another hunter who was in there with horses or llamas as his truck and trailer were parked nearby. Not the news you want to get for your 'A' spot. We watched the sun set and headed back to camp for dinner: huge loaded baked potatoes with shredded chicken, green chili, bacon bits, and all the other fixings. Having a microwave and an oven was also nice. Travel trailer 2, Wall tent 0. That quickly switched to a 2-1 score after realizing how uncomfortable my bed was. Although it was big, the padding was terrible and I longed for my XL cot and cot pad. Oh well, I still slept.

Offline cohunter14

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Re: COhunter14's 2019 Archery Elk Hunt
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2019, 02:03:59 PM »

The next morning we were up early and ready to roll. Coffee from an actual coffee pot, which brewed in minutes, and breakfast burritos heated in the oven made for a more enjoyable morning. Off we went, with two of us making a loop to the south and two making a loop to the north. The idea was to cover some ground up high where we could call into valleys and also check for sign. Although we weren't heading to our 'A' spot, we figured this was an area where the elk could get moved to from the pressure in our 'A' spot. Halfway through the hike as we approached what would be our 'B' spot, we spotted the hunter with llamas. Two llamas and a camp setup overlooking our 'B' location. Well, there that went. We continued on our loop, adjusting to avoid the camp and not encroach on the other hunter. Seven-plus miles later and we quickly realized the elk hadn't moved to this area from the pressure. Very little sign and nothing very fresh had us heading back to camp and looking for another plan for the evening.


After arriving back in camp, another hunter drove by and stopped to chat for a bit. He gave us some intel on another area to check out. Apparently him and a buddy hunted the area the week prior and his buddy took a good bull out of there and he bumped some cows. Fortunately for us, he was back up hunting with a few more friends and his buddy didn't want him to hunt the same spot. That ruffled his feathers a bit, so he disclosed it to us, hahaha. I had looked at the spot on a map, but it wasn't in our initial plans. But what the heck, we figured we might as well check it out. So off we went and 40 minutes later we were in that spot. It was steep and thick and you could easily see why there were no other hunters in the area. Two of us made a long loop through the area and into some good areas to call while the other two hunted a little closer to the vehicle (old age kicking in). Long story short, very little sign was seen and no responses to calls. We made the long drive back to camp and discussed our options for tomorrow. Another fantastic dinner and off to bed fairly quick.

Offline cohunter14

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Re: COhunter14's 2019 Archery Elk Hunt
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2019, 02:58:12 PM »

Monday morning we decided to go hit another area we were familiar with. It is the exact opposite of what you would expect when you think of a good area to hunt elk: close to a road, lots of roads in the area, low elevation, and, quite frankly, it just looks different. There are no towering pines or aspens in the area. Instead, it's heavy pinion and juniper trees. But, we saw elk moving through the area last year while glassing the area, so we said what the heck. We looped through the area starting at first light and, once again, we saw some sign but nothing terribly fresh and nothing responding to calls. We did run into another hunter and apparently a herd of elk had been running around in there last night screaming their heads off. Obviously they didn't stay long, but it was something to think about at least: where did they go?


Because it was still fairly early after swinging through the area, we decided to jump in the trucks and head to another location 30 minutes away and give it a shot. I had drawn up a couple of different paths to take that would allow us to hit a ridge line and do some calling and glassing. Unfortunately as we went along, the boot tracks were extremely thick. The area had obviously been hunted fairly hard and there was no real way to escape the pressure in the area. A quick two mile loop and we were headed back to camp for a late lunch and a nap.


That evening, the other three decided to head up high to glass again and to check on the pressure back in our 'A' spot. I decided to take a gander off the back side of the glassing hill and circle it back down to camp. We had seen some tracks on the road first thing on Sunday morning, so my curiosity was still up as to where these elk had come from. The loop would take me into what I would consider to be a bit of a hell hole, but I figured maybe that's where those elk were hiding. Unfortunately I was wrong and I just got to bushwhack for a couple of hours through some thick and nasty crap, eventually making it back to camp right at dark. A cocktail, glass of wine, and a good dinner and it was off to bed again, with another plan of attack for the morning.

Offline cohunter14

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Re: COhunter14's 2019 Archery Elk Hunt
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2019, 08:58:30 AM »

Tuesday morning we took another 45 minute drive to another location we had checked out the year prior. This area was absolutely gorgeous and was loaded with elk sign last year, although we never saw or heard anything. But we do know someone pulled a 330" bull out of there last year, so how do you not check it out?


This year provided similar results. We got on a bunch of fresh tracks and extremely fresh scat, but we had no responses to calls. It's an area that gets a decent amount of traffic, primarily from people moving through the area on hiking trails, so I'm wondering if the elk just stay silent and watch all the commotion from one of the north facing slopes in the area. Either that or they head out well before sunrise and cover some steep ground to get out of the area. It's the most sign and most fresh sign we had seen so far, but even after multiple calling setups and location bugles, once again no elk.


We hopped in the trucks and headed back to camp for a quick lunch before heading to the area we hit Monday morning. The legs were a little sore, so this would provide an easier hike and a chance to see if the elk had returned to the area. We decided to spread out and have three of us traverse through the area at different points while one drove around to the other side and waited for us. I took the low spot and, being the primary person who was calling, was occasionally stopping to throw out some cow calls followed by a location bugle just to see if we could get something to respond. I was feeling pretty dejected as I was walking and was debating on stopping to facetime my wife and kids since this was one spot I had decent cell service. I decided to throw out one more location bugle before doing so, starting with a couple of cow calls. Before I could even get my second cow call out, a bugle ripped off from just in front of me and down the hill. It caught me so off guard that I didn't even think about cutting the bull off.


Now is a great time to pause this story to talk about a couple of my learning lessons from this year. Our plan was to hunt this same area for archery and rifle this year, so we all applied for cow rifle tags so we could go either sex for archery. Well, after the CPW decided to make a huge cut to the number of cow tags, I somehow didn't draw the cow tag while everyone else did. So, if I wanted to do both hunts, I had to get an over the counter cow tag for archery and then go OTC bull for rifle. I am 99% sure I will never do that again! Mistake #1. Mistake #2 is to be calling elk, particularly bulls, when you are by yourself with a cow tag, especially when you have three other guys in camp with either sex tags. We had hunted together basically the entire trip, primarily in groups of two, but sometimes all four of us, outside of Monday evening when I decided to drop into that hell hole. So, here I sit with my cow tag and a bull rips off below me...and the story continues.


After being caught with my pants down, so-to-speak, and not thinking of hitting the bull back with a bugle, I waited a minute or two and setup. My thought was, get this bull to respond and come in and hopefully some cows will join him. So, I setup, ranged everything, verified that the wind was still good, and started cow calling again. After a handful of calls, he started chuckling. I immediately ripped off a bugle right over the top of his chuckles. Within a minute, the biggest bull elk I've ever seen in my 24 years of elk hunting shows himself, 50 yards from me. I'm not one to randomly throw scores at elk and say he was xyz big. All I can say is he was huge. I'd easily say at a minimum his 4th's were 15" and his 5th's were 12", leaving another 12" coming out the back. Sorry, sidetracked...back to the story.


So, this bull walks right up to my shooting lane and stops at 50 yards. I'm watching him when I hear this 'thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump' from behind me and up the hill. I turn around and see a spike running straight down the hill right at me. Apparently one of the guys up the hill from me must have jumped him. He runs within a few yards of me, and then sees me move as I looked to see what the noise was. He stops and stares at me for a second, then takes off running. Meanwhile this bull is watching this whole thing happen. I turn and re-focus my attention on the bull. He is staring a hole through me, then he goes back to looking for the source of my initial calls. The whole time I'm just hoping to see some cows come through. Finally, the bull had enough and he turned back and trotted off. I called as he ran off, but he never returned and I never saw a cow.


Shaking like crazy, I put the arrow back in my quiver and decided to back out as best I could, moving uphill in hopes of them not catching my scent as I headed towards our meeting point. So much was running through my head. Anger that I didn't have an either sex tag and have a shot at the bull of a lifetime, and on the flip side such joy of seeing a huge elk like that, and knowing I had called him into my lap. I could have setup a little better than I had, but other than that I played the situation well and I was happy about that. After being a rifle hunter most of my life, that was the first real call-in encounter I have had and man is that an addicting feeling!


I tried to get my mind back to being focused, but the adrenaline was certainly still running. After getting up the hill a ways and continuing my trek, I decided I might as well just throw some calls out to see what happens. I make a few mews and immediately get a mew back, probably 50 yards up the hill from me! I snap back into it and stood there, trying to decide what to do. Will the cow come to me? Should I try to sneak in? Is this another hunter or even one of our guys? The wind was good, but the pinion and juniper were thick enough that I couldn't see more than 20 yards that way. I knocked an arrow, waited for a minute, then threw out a few more mews. No response. A few more mews 30 seconds later and now I get another response from out in front of me, maybe 75 yards. Okay, definitely not hunters unless there are two of them. And definitely not the same cow as I would have heard her if she moved to that location that quick. I continued to tip toe around, trying to sneak in on where I heard the first mew. After getting to where I assumed that call came from and not seeing anything, I moved towards the second one. All the while, I'm putting a couple mews out every couple minutes with no responses. In the end, I never laid eyes on an elk and never heard another peep. I walked back to the meeting area and got to relive both stories again as I told our group. What a great day, with only a notched tag that would have made it better (especially if it was an either sex tag!).

Offline cohunter14

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Re: COhunter14's 2019 Archery Elk Hunt
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2019, 10:18:54 AM »

Wednesday morning found us back in the same area, hoping for another encounter. Long story short, we trekked through the area with the wind in our favor and didn't get any response to calls. We split up to walk back to the truck, which of course was in the opposite direction and downwind. One of our guys ended up jumping an elk out of it's bed, but never got eyes on it. It was a solo elk, so I'm assuming it was probably that same spike, but no way to know for sure.


After not having success relocating the elk, the decision was made to pack up and head north to another location that my dad and I had hunted a few weeks back. We went for a quick trip and had gotten on elk, so we figured why not give it a chance as we only had Wednesday evening and Thursday morning left to hunt. I hated leaving elk to go find elk, but away we went. The 2 1/2 hour trip took almost 4 hours when it was all said and done after stopping for gas and lunch and driving the winding roads with the trailer. We got in, set the trailer up real quick, and headed in for a hunt.


Unfortunately the wind was really swirly in our target area. We let out a few location bugles and tried a calling setup, but after awhile it was apparent that the wind wasn't going to cooperate, so we backed out in hopes of making something happen in the morning.

Offline cohunter14

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Re: COhunter14's 2019 Archery Elk Hunt
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2019, 10:36:32 AM »

So, Thursday morning, the last day to make it happen. We went back into our area and the wind was perfect. It was just a matter of if the elk were in there or not. And unfortunately it was the latter. We headed back to camp and, wouldn't you know it, a small herd of elk had literally walked right through our camp. You could have shot them from the front step of our trailer. Gotta love the irony that comes with elk hunting sometimes!


We did go after the tracks for a bit, trying to determine where the elk were heading to bed. We went and checked two north facing slopes, trying some location bugles and calling setups, but no responses were heard. We headed back to camp for the second and final time, loaded up, and headed home.


All in all, it was an unsuccessful hunt in the tag department but as always, such a great time to be in elk country. This year's archery season was awesome and gave me multiple experiences with calling elk, something I hadn't been lucky enough to do before in the limited archery hunting I had done. The ironic thing is both times I got in on bulls this year (the other one was our short hunt earlier in the year), I was less than a 1/2 mile from a road, places I rarely hunt. Elk are where you find them, and it's given me a different outlook on things for sure.


There were a number of learning lessons along the way and things I want to learn more about. For instance, trying to call in cows. Even if I have an either sex tag in my pocket in the future, I won't hesitate to shoot a cow. I posted a thread about that in the Elk Hunting Tips and Tactics forum.


Next up is our rifle hunt, which opens three weeks from today. We were supposed to hunt the same general area as this archery hunt, but we are thinking of pulling an audible and heading to some old stomping grounds instead. We'll see what happens!

Offline Bowhunter1

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Re: COhunter14's 2019 Archery Elk Hunt
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2019, 08:48:48 AM »
Thanks for sharing. Great story. I am sure you are hooked on this archery hunting after that bull screaming back at 50 yards   :-D
"What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - but the size of the fight in the dog. "

Offline cohunter14

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Re: COhunter14's 2019 Archery Elk Hunt
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2019, 09:42:55 AM »
Thanks for sharing. Great story. I am sure you are hooked on this archery hunting after that bull screaming back at 50 yards   :-D



Yeah, to say the least! That was a pretty cool experience.

Offline Ol Arky

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Re: COhunter14's 2019 Archery Elk Hunt
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2019, 01:39:51 PM »
Yep, it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck and I was a 1000 or so miles away... :-D :-D :-D
See ya and God Bless;
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Offline Ike

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Re: COhunter14's 2019 Archery Elk Hunt
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2019, 06:56:01 PM »
Great story, thats why we do it...
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