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Author Topic: 3rd Time’s a Charm - Our Elk Success Story  (Read 1250 times)

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Offline HikingWithMyBow

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3rd Time’s a Charm - Our Elk Success Story
« on: October 12, 2019, 11:15:48 AM »
My best friend, starting in our early thirties, got a wild hair to start archery elk hunting after seeing some Cam Hanes videos. He got a bow and kept asking me every fall to come with him. Not ever having hunted growing up, I didn’t understand the appeal, let alone why shooting a bow would be fun after I had shot nearly every weapon in the US Marine Corps arsenal, in a former season of life. Long story short: after enough of his attempts and me hearing some podcasts of guys talking about bow hunting, I decided I needed a new hobby and this would be a worthy distraction from the usual grind of life. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

We went to the pro shop, picked out my bow, and I was immersed from there. I quickly acquired all the essential gear and we began planning scouting trips, and non-stop were studying strategies, listening to podcasts, and trying to absorb every piece of helpful information available.

Our first elk hunt was 3 years ago in the northern Colorado Rockies. We had scouted the area twice that summer and had high hopes based on the incredible amount of sign and elk we saw. The hunt was the most excitement I had felt in several years. We were chasing bugling bulls left and right. But we had no idea what we were doing, just learning through trial and error and doing our best to apply what we learned from the Elites on the interwebs. I got real close to killing a bull on the second day of that hunt. Had him full draw at 20 yards but a couple of small trees were between me and his vitals.

We did not kill any elk that first year, nor the second. But the thrill of getting in close to a screaming bull, and simply being in the wilderness for a week without cell service was enough for me to know I would be doing this for as many years as I could still pull back my bowstring and carry my loaded pack uphill.

This year, our third attempt together, would bring success. We had continued to look for solutions to the sticking points we’d been getting hung up on during our previous hunts, and felt ready with a refined strategy. Before, we had hunted close to peak rut. This year, mainly due to both of our work schedules, we would be starting opening day of archery season. Anticipating warmer temperatures, my idea was to start by getting above tree line. This would allow ample glassing opportunities to hopefully get a good idea of where the elk were right off the bat. We would limit calling at first, and mainly just watch and listen to the wilderness and let it tell us what we should be doing.

The 5.5 mile hike through the wilderness to our base camp led us to see some fresh sign, and even a rag horn bull, who we caught peaking in on us through the trees. We set up the tent at about 10,600 feet. My hunting partner wanted to take his boots off and dry his feet for a bit, and I decided to hike up to the ridge above us, where I knew I could glass into at least two large basins. I planned to stay up there for several hours until dusk.

Shortly after I started glassing, I heard a bugle from deeper into the bench I was on. I put away the binos and tripod and attempted to still-hunt towards where I heard the bull. He sounded off about a dozen times on his own, and the wind was good, but he seemed to be working away from me. Eventually I lost contact and so I continued working my way along the ridge and glassing from different points.

Eventually the sun was getting low enough I decided to start working my way back towards camp, and taking the long way across the bench to see more of the terrain. I had no idea at the time but I believe this positioned me where the wind blew my scent across the entire bench, which triggered the events which led to our early success, detailed more below.

As dusk was setting in, I approached the ridge which looked down on our camp, and I had a view of a couple of large, high meadows. From here I was blessed to be able to watch a group of bulls, cows, and calves feed through a wide meadow for the better part of an hour. The bulls were showing some early rut and posturing behavior towards one another, and the larger of the two thrashed his antlers in a wallow and laid down in it. Something I had only heard about them doing. Getting to watch all of this would have alone made the trip for worthwhile for me.

As darkness fell I decided I’d better walk back to camp. As I arrived I saw my hunting partner’s bow, but he was nowhere to be seen. I started making my dinner and he came walking in about 15 minutes later. His words were “dude, I let us down. I put an arrow thru a cow and I can’t find her.”

[He had come up the ridge a few hours after me, I think right about the time I traversed the bench with the wind pushing my scent across the entire landscape. He heard a stampede coming towards him from the scattered trees, and a group of bulls and cows ran in front of him about 50 yards away, looking like they were spooked. He got an arrow knocked but they were too far away at that point, and moving fast.

Shortly after another group of cows and calves came close enough and stopped in front of him. He drew back on one of the cows, but a calf walked in the way of the shot. They saw him and ran the other direction.

A few minutes later, yet another group of cows ran out in front of him. One stopped 18 yards away, broadside, with a 12” X 12” opening in the brush right at her vitals. He drew and shot. He thought the arrow hit in a good spot, though slightly high. He quickly found his arrow. It was fully covered in blood, a complete pass through. Excited and having the highest hopes, he waited for thirty minutes and started trying to trail the blood. The only problem was there was not even a single drop of blood on the ground! He searched down the hillside trying to guess the path they took, dropped his bow at camp, and went back up again and continued to look until it was dark. He was confused and felt hopeless. We were a team with the goal of bringing home an elk together and in his mind he blew the shot and let us down. I told him not to worry, that we’d scour the mountain tomorrow together and we’d find that cow.

The next morning we took our time replaying the shot and meticulously gridded out a wide swath of ground along the path he saw the cows run. An hour of looking and literally there was not a single drop of blood we could find. I thought this would be a long day. Then from out of a patch of trees I hear him call my name in an excited voice, and I knew he’d found her. He had hit her high in the right lung. The arrow deflected off a rib and sent the arrow out of her intestines. She ran 112 yards and fell before any blood could fill her lungs and drop to the ground.

We gave each other a big hug in the moment of excitement. We said a prayer of thanksgiving over the animal. What started 5 years ago with an idea, all of the research and knowledge gained, the hours of looking at maps and satellite terrain, the arrows we built and the countless number of times we shot them. The missed opportunities and mistakes and lessons learned finally brought us to this point of success, and in a completely different way than we expected. We dreamed of calling in a monster bull right into a textbook setup just like Corey Jacobsen teaches it. Instead we got lucky, in the right place at the right time, but of course we wouldn’t have gotten here without our preparation and hard work.

The next three days would be the hardest part. 2 days of packing meat down to the truck, which was a grueling 5.5 mile (one way) trip through trail-less wilderness, littered with deadfall. A third trip was required to get our bows and our camp. We were exhausted at the end. We took one day of rest at home and acquired a meat grinder and some other processing supplies. Then two days later we had a completely processed elk that we split 50/50 between our two families. That first half-pound burger on the grill was the best meat I’d ever eaten, largely in part because it had the taste of an earned success in the face of hard work and determination. Success in the face of several moments of failure and learning.

Next year we will be ramping it up and trying for the big bull. And we will have to think about how we can get two tags filled! But for now we have meat in the freezer, and I am content.

Thanks Elk101!

Offline cohunter14

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Re: 3rd Time’s a Charm - Our Elk Success Story
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2019, 08:48:13 PM »
Congrats, awesome story! And a great reminder that a cow is as much of a trophy as a bull  :upthumb: :upthumb: :upthumb:

Offline ‘Ike’

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Re: 3rd Time’s a Charm - Our Elk Success Story
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2019, 09:19:16 PM »
Great write up...
Pro Defiant Shooter #Bowhunter

Offline Ol Arky

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Re: 3rd Time’s a Charm - Our Elk Success Story
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2019, 02:47:04 PM »
 :upthumb: :upthumb: :upthumb: :upthumb: :upthumb:
See ya and God Bless;
Phil "Ol' Arky" Weaver

Offline sjl2012

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Re: 3rd Time’s a Charm - Our Elk Success Story
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2019, 07:10:28 AM »
That's an adventure! Nothing like putting in the effort and getting rewarded!