Elk Archery SeasonAs a wildland firefighter, fire season only left me a few days to hunt elk during archery season. Five days to be exact, and only three, being consecutive. Being an avid hunter, this was one of the hardest things to endure, yet there was nothing I could do about it. I would get text messages from my buddies saying: "Bulls were screaming this morning." or "Big Bull Down." and I all I could do was dream. Finally, it worked out, and I was able to hunt. I backpacked in solo and stayed overnight. I had checked the weather the night prior and knew I was going to endure a downpour, but the next morning should hold high results.
Skre's Never Let Me Down
I made it through the night, with what seemed like an hour of sleep, due to the rain beating on the tent all night. I woke that morning to a bugling bull above camp. I rolled out of my sleeping bag, put on my SKRE, grabbed my bow, and started after him. Once the sun came out, the bull shuts up, and I chalked it up as nothing more than a close call. The rest of the day seemed to be pretty quiet. I wondered if these bulls had been getting heavily pressured, as you would expect on Public Land.
Heard Our First BugleMy brother Garrett would later meet up with me the next day, and I had my fingers crossed. As we were walking up the trail, it was the perfect morning. Cloudy, overcast, the temps were cooler than they had been all September, and I was with one of my favorite hunting partners, so I had zero complaints. However, we were confused at why we hadn't heard a bugle that morning yet. We kept up the trail, and as we crested the saddle we were working toward, we heard our first bugle. And after that, the whole mountain lit up like a firework show in "elk-talk." We got close without making a noise, making sure to check our wind often. Garrett would later rip off a challenge bugle, which resulted in the herd bull coming into 55 yards, only to stop behind the only bunch of scrub pines that wouldn't give me a clear shot. So, I was stuck at full draw, waiting for him to make a mistake. It didn't take long for him to figure out something wasn't quite right and he trotted off. I didn't get the shot, and it felt like lemon juice in a freshly made wound. He was a gorgeous 6x7 that would've made an excellent decoration in the home. But, that's why it's called hunting, not killing.
No Shot at 70 YardsWe left the mountain and weren't able to hunt again until the following week. The night before this day trip, I spotted a respectable bull with his harem of cows in an old trusted area. So that morning we woke early, started up the mountain, and once again, the mountain lit up. We had a close call at first light with a raghorn at about 70 yards that just wouldn't give us a shot. So we kept up the mountain towards the head of a small mountain spring. No longer than 10 minutes had gone by and we heard him. He had that deep growl to his bugle. He sounded like the king of the mountain. Like many times before, we got close without making a sound. Again, once we got in his kitchen, we let him bugle one last time before cutting him off with a bugle of our own. This fired him up. I heard branches breaking; he was coming. However, the patch of trees he was in was so thick you couldn't see sunlight through the dense grove. He got close. REALLY, close. But we couldn't get him to expose himself in the opening we needed. Yet again, the day ended with just a great "close-call" story. Having more close calls this season than ever before, I had one final evening to make it happen.
Closing Day of Elk Season
Closing day of elk season, my boss let me off a few hours early and I was contemplating if I had time to do one last hunt before dark. Everything I had ever read and learned about Public Land elk hunting had a huge play in my decision. I simply couldn't let myself give up without giving it 100%. So, I grabbed my gear, hopped in my truck and headed to an area less than an hour from my house. I knew there had been elk in this area, and just hoped I could get into them. I was sitting down, eating my pop tart when I heard it. The sound that keeps me up at night.
A Bugling Bull
A bugling bull a few hundred yards away. So, of course, I had another stalk in me. You can't say no to that sound. I got to within 100 yards and slowed my stalking to a creep. It felt like I was barely moving. I knocked an arrow and threw out a few cow calls. No response.
They weren't that interested in what I was doing, so I was going to have to do it spot and stalk. I looked at the sun; I had about 45 minutes of shooting light left. This was it. I crept over a small rise in the ridge I was on and saw a spike feeding. I knelt back down, pulled my rangefinder from my hip, and ranged the young bull. Blowing this young bull out of the area would mean not filling the freezer with anything because it was the final evening of the season. So I said a short prayer in my head that my shot would fly true, drew my bow, and slowly stood. As I stood, I settled my pin behind his shoulder and slowly pulled the trigger of my release. I saw my arrow go all the way through him and saw him pile up less than 45 yards away. This bull was the answer to my prayer and the end to an amazing elk season.