My 2015 Elk season was one for the record books in my opinion. But to get to 2015, we need to look back to what brought me to this point.
In 2010 I was able to go on my first elk hunt in Wyoming, after 12 straight days of archery hunting without even close to an opportunity, rifle season rolled around on October 1st. On the second day of rifle season I was able to take my first bull, a nice 6x6. I drew the tag again in 2011, and once again spent 13 days archery hunting. On the 6th evening, my buddy Brad called in a great 6x6 to roughly 25 yards, as I drew my bow the bull caught movement and spun. I quickly reacted and let out a cow call with my mouth and the bull stopped at 47 yards. I took the shot and felt I smoked the bull. We trailed blood for over 400 yards, before it ran out. We scoured that mountain for the next three days without avail of finding that bull. On the first afternoon of rifle season, I was able to take a great old 5x5 bull. After that I was hooked, and bound and determined to move to Wyoming, so I would have an opportunity to hunt elk year after year.
In 2014 I was finally able to make out my way out west, but had to wait the standard 365 day wait period to apply for resident tags. So, 2015 rolls around and I’ve finally got my first resident tags in the state of Wyoming. Shortly after, I decided to go back to school, and I moved to Bozeman, Montana to pursue a degree at Montana State University. With the added stress and work load of going to college, I knew I wouldn’t have as much time as I liked to hunt; not to mention being in Montana meant I’d have a minimum of a 5 hour drive to hunt anywhere in Wyoming. So, I quickly started plotting out different dates where I could utilize time off from school, and maximize my time in the woods. After looking into it, I realized my first opportunity would be September 11th. September 10th quickly came, I loaded up the truck and headed to Wyoming to meet my buddy and taxidermist, Brad, at the trailhead to hike into our hunting location in the Shoshone National Forest. We were able to get to the camp site with about an hour or so of daylight left, and setup camp all while hearing bulls bugle in different directions. It quickly boosted our spirits for the next morning to come.
September 11th, first morning, we woke up to cool weather in the high 30s and could hear three different bulls bugling before we ever got out of our tents. After making some quick oatmeal and getting our gear in order, we decided to head out in the direction where we heard two different bulls bugling. After crossing the creek and heading up a hill roughly a half mile from camp, we stopped in a small meadow and bugled the first time. Instantly a bull bugled back fiercely, further up the mountain. We quickly covered another four to five hundred yards and found a long meadow where we thought we could call the bull into. I proceeded another hundred yards up, while Brad setup behind and started calling and working the bull. With every bugle Brad made, the bull continued to bugle and from what sounded like a little closer each time. After about ten to fifteen minutes, I caught movement in the timber across the meadow from me. A small raghorn 5x5 bull walked out to the edge, 42 yards away from me. Now, never taking a bull with my bow and having lost a bull back in 2011, it was a tough decision to pass that small bull, but we could still hear the other bull bugling further up the ridge. After a few minutes, the small bull left. At this point, I eased my way back to Brad and made a game plan. The other bull was bugling his head off, but just not closing the distance. So, I told Brad to just keep him bugling, and I would make a big loop to keep the wind in my favor and just try to slip in on him.
As I headed out on my “grand plan”, I made about a 200 yard loop, which included walking up a ridge and dropping in to where I could hear the bull. Brad kept him bugling every 3-5 minutes, which gave me a great way to keep track of where I needed to go. As I slipped into position, I could see another small meadow below me, and hear the bugle coming out of it, and periodically see some legs through the timber. I was trying to be as quite as a mouse as I eased down the hill and closer to this meadow where he was. About 50 yards from where the bull was, I tripped over a blow down and snapped a few branches, instantly my heart sank. But, to my surprise, the bull fired off with a deep guttural growl bugle, and instantly turned and started walking my way. I quickly covered another ten to fifteen yards, and got ready, the bull was coming right at me. The bull started into the timber, and the thing I remember most is he turned his head to get between some trees as he came up the game trail, he’s now within 25 yards. As he got through the trees, he let’s out another bugle, and turns up the trail directly below me. After that, things just ran on auto pilot, I’m at full draw, the bull is walking now within 20 yards, and he takes a few more steps. As he walks, and is in such close proximity, I didn’t even want to make a peep or try to stop him. I settled the pin on his front shoulder, and as he takes a step, I touch off the release. The arrow zips through him like a knife through warm butter, and the bull bucks and takes two bounds and stops. The bull isn’t but 30 yards away, and just stands there. I think both he and I are in complete shock, he obviously doesn’t know what just happened, and I’m in disbelief. We hadn’t been hunting an hour, and I just slipped an arrow through a great bull. The bull takes a few more steps, and is standing on the edge of the meadow; I look through my binoculars and can just see blood pouring out both sides of him. As I try to ease into position to grab my arrow, I fall again over some blow downs; I blame it on my shaky legs from the post shot fever I was experiencing, and the bull starts walking across the meadow. I find my arrow, it’s lodged eight inches into the Earth, absolutely dripping with bright red blood. I quickly go back and find Brad, and can hardly contain my emotion. He’s looking at me like I must have screwed up, because all he knew was the bull stopped bugling. I show him the arrow and we quickly have a little dance party on the mountain. I tell him I just shot my largest bull ever. We go find where he came out of the timber into the meadow and start blood trailing him. The bull didn’t go but 75 yards and piled up.
A beautiful 6x6 bull, that would end up grossing 302 2/8 inches. To say that I was overjoyed would be an understatement. After losing that bull in 2011, I couldn’t get it off my mind. It felt like this black cloud hanging over my head, I dreamt about it for nearly four years; wanting, needing, to make it right. In 2015, the next chance I got, I did. In less than an hour.
I LOVE ELK HUNTING!
Becoming a hunter is a personal experience. It is bittersweet. It is emotional. It is so much more than just the act of killing. It is challenging. It is rewarding. It is a blessing.
This is my recent experience in the woods.
Hunting, for me, has become a release. I look forward to each season and the excuse it brings to escape to the woods, allowing me to simply sit and enjoy the peacefulness of the morning awakening. I'm finding more and more, the end goal of a bloody arrow isn't the sole reason for the passion I have, named hunting. The possibility of arrowing an animal and bringing home fresh steak is only a bonus, a small piece of it all.
The best I can put words to it ...
The crunch of frost laden grass beneath my boots breaks the silence of early morning. My footsteps find a methodical rhythm, slow and steady, with the hope of fooling any deer nearby. Kneeling down in the darkness, I break a small branch, open a container filled with the scent of a doe in heat, and coat the edges of my soles. There is a mature buck in the area, who has alluded my stand, staying just out of effective bow range. He is smart, as evidenced by his large antlers crowning his head, allowed to grow larger year after year, upon successful escapes from each deer season. Maybe today he will slip up, give this hunter a chance to pierce his lungs, and lay his antlers down one last time.
The darkness of night is now lifting, blackness giving way to shades of gray as the first hints of light swallow up a star blanketed sky. As I tie my bow to a rope dangling from the stand above, I stop and listen one more time before climbing 20 feet up to sit amongst the branches. Silence. The squeak of the ladder announces my arrival as I make my way up the base of the tree. I'm hopeful that the sound doesn't alert any deer.
As I sit in silence, the peacefulness of it all washes over me. A gentle breeze drifts across my face, reminding me of a drop in temperature on this early December morning. A face mask is lifted upwards covering the last bit of exposed skin, leaving only eyes unmasked, and I wait on sunrise, alone with my thoughts.
The glow on the horizon illuminates the earth below. Birds one by one begin to sing, then a blue bird glides into view and a voice echoes in my head. A number, still marked in a phone with a favorite star, no longer brings the cheery sound of a familiar voice when dialed; instead it has turned into a sweet memory of a loved one. Venison was one of Mom's favorite meals, or so she said. I think part of it was simply the joy she shared and expressed in telling others that her daughter brought home dinner by way of an arrow! This year would be different.
Often times in life we find ourselves looking for the next best thing - a new house, promotion, new car, more land, always striving for bigger and better. We constantly yearn for more. I'm reminded of the importance of taking a breath, slowing down and appreciating the blessing in today. While there is value in hoping for something better, as it is motivation to press on, a healthy dose of "putting on the brakes" allows for the genuineness of reality in today. It is easy to get caught up in the longing that we miss out in the now. What am I talking about? It's simple really - cherish the blessings of Now, aka Today. After all, life is composed of moments. Moments construct days. Days build upon days, which ultimately tell your life story.
I recently heard someone put it this way .... The secret to having a great life? Have great days, one at a time, then string them together. Live in the now. Cherish every moment you've been given.
A coyote howls in the distance, an eerie song of pursuit, interrupting my thoughts and the calmness of the morning. I've already released several arrows this year, one of them silencing a song dog and the others falling short of their target. Clean misses on a couple Pope & Young bucks, both due to my own error. In the heat of the moment, buck fever got the best of me.
Today is Sunday, December 6th and my hunting days are limited now, as whitetail season is coming to an end. I've held out all season, passing on younger bucks, hoping to get a chance at the big boy. Our freezer is in need of replenishment. Honestly, I'm hoping for a doe so I don't have to make a last minute decision on a buck. As the morning hours give way to the lunch hour, I escape back to the ranch house for a quick bite to eat, walk our new puppy and return back to the stand with plenty of time to sneak in undetected before the deer begin moving again.
Quietly anticipating what the evening will bring, I settle in and find myself dozing off, safely anchored against the tree. The sound of a vehicle driving down the dirt road, bordering the field blanketing my tree-stand view, gets my attention. As it disappears behind the ridge where my jeep is parked, I wait for it to reappear on the other side and continue down the road. The absence of a dirt dust cloud gives indication that they stopped and are checking out my vehicle. Why do people have to meddle!? Eventually the jeep appears and is now heading back from the direction it came. I make a mental note of their vehicle, as it seemed a little strange, but am ultimately thankful they left.
The dust cloud had barely settled when I see the same vehicle making it's way back down the road. This time, the driver parks in the wide open, along the fence line. At this point, I'm frustrated because I've been sitting in my stand all afternoon, and the prime time for deer movement is fast approaching. Two individuals get out, put on orange vests, and one slings a rifle over his shoulder. Over the fence they come, onto the private property I'm hunting on. I'm thinking maybe they don't see me, which would be strange because I also have orange on since it is rifle season. Standing up to give my location away, I waive my orange hat. They continue to walk straight towards me. Since I'm by myself, I immediately call my husband, feeling the need for some back up. No answer. I call another land owner. No answer. Great!
They've now crossed the ditch, and I can clearly see it is a guy and a girl. The girl is in the lead, with her attitude spilling out in her actions, she blurts out in her first breath, "Do you have permission to hunt here?" I respond quickly with, "Yes, and you don't. Please leave."
Here we go ... she didn't like that and challenges me, "Whose property is this?" Again, I tell her it is private property and I've been hunting here for several years. I have permission and it is leased. Since she is talking loudly, I'm getting more and more annoyed, thinking my evening hunt is ruined. She doesn't like that I didn't immediately offer up the name of the land owner, so I finally divulge the name in hopes she would quiet down. She then disagrees and tells me it belongs to someone else. (Um, no it doesn't)
I can't believe this is happening!
As she calls her dad to confirm she is right (which she wasn't), I will admit to letting a cuss word slip out, apparently loud enough for my trespasser to hear. She whips around, boisterously pronouncing, "You don't have to swear! You don't have to swear!" In my head I'm thinking, "yeah and you don't have to be a loud mouth trespasser either!" Instead I bit my tongue, saying nothing, because I didn't want to argue further and was trying to figure out how to simply shut her up, short of me jumping out of the tree. Finally she realized her error and proceeded to leave, talking loudly and continuously all the way across the pasture.
As their vehicle made it's way down the dirt road one last time, I contemplated leaving the stand early. Surely every deer in the area is now gone. I decided to wait and see what happened. There was still two hours left of day light, and I was curious ... what if.
It didn't take long for the peacefulness of the woods to calm my restless heart. I resolved to simply enjoy the last few hours in the stand, waiting for evening to paint a sunset display across the Kansas sky. If a deer walked by tonight that would be a bonus, but I was doubtful that was in the cards. I had reached my daily dose of adrenaline, and with no more room for Buck Fever to rattle my rhythm, taking aim at whatever crossed my path would be as easy as target practice. Or so I thought ...
As the blue light of twilight sunk down, a sound caught my attention. Turning slowly around the base of the tree, I caught movement. It was low to the ground. Coyote closing in, heading straight down the path! I reached for my bow, keeping my eyes on the song dog. If he comes to 30 yards and stops on the path above, I resolved that I would shoot him. I've already silenced one a couple weeks earlier on the same path. If I'm not able to fill my deer tag, I might as well do some predator control to balance things out. As I slowly stand up to get a clear shot, I simultaneously draw my bow, placing my 30 yard pin on a tuft of fur, marking vitals. *THWACK*! My arrow splits in two and looks to have fallen 2 feet behind the coyote. WHAT the ??? I look again through my binos and discover a small branch that my arrow must have caught. Miss!
I am now completely frustrated and with under an hour left of daylight, I desperately want to climb down, throw my bow on the ground and pout. How could I miss that shot? Granted the small tree branch "jumped" in front of my arrow, but I should have seen that!
I'm not sure how I talked myself into staying in that tree. Actually, I don't think it was me. It was more like a whisper from within to "stick it out."
Hunting is often a game of patience. At times, seasons come to a close the first morning of the hunt, as the hunter grabs opening day success. Other times, it is a season full of close encounters, endless hours of pursuit, waiting, hoping, and dreaming. I'll confess that the sound of opening day success intrigues me, but the long hours in the woods fulfill me, a collaboration of moments giving so much more than a mere red arrow. For me, the accumulation of time, building up to the anticipation for the moment marking the end of a season, becomes more important than the end result. It's hard to explain, unless you've experienced it. Somehow all of these moments combined give way to a bigger picture, giving focus. The reality is that my God speaks in the quiet moments, and often the difficult, frustrating moments. But the greatness is there, if you recognize it.
As I sit, head down, with bow in hand, I hear a strange noise behind me. It isn't a snap of a twig, but more like a hoof stumbling over a log. Slowly turning to the left I see a large doe. My heart skips a beat. I've yet to arrow a doe and I would be thrilled to come out of the woods tonight with my tag on her, especially after everything that has happened. As I watch, I see a yearling following close behind. My heart drops. This is the very reason why I've yet to arrow a doe. My heart melts.
Mere seconds pass and I realize a small buck, along with a bigger buck is in the group. I watch as the bigger buck takes the same path as the coyote. He is going to cross above in the open at 30 yards. Wait! I notice more movement and see a third buck shadowing the group. Showing me enough of his antlers to grab my attention, I know it is the big boy! I can tell by the path that he is taking, it is likely that he will stay out of range and not come in. I'm tempted to hold out, but force myself to look closely at the bucks in front of me. As the 2nd buck continues on the coyote path, I now have a more clear look at his antlers and am immediately impressed by the length of his G2s and the size of his body. He is a shooter in my book! I intentionally tear my eyes away from the buck out of my range and look at the one in front of me. He is now perfectly broadside at 30 yards. I draw and admit that for a split second think about the bigger buck. My buck takes one more step forward, stops and gives me a bowhunter's dream of a shot. I can't resist. It is gift and I'm taking it ... Now.
*THWACK* My arrow finds its mark.
Immediately, I see that the shot is a little forward, but feel confident that it is lethal. As I watch my buck travel down the path, taking my arrow with him, I wait for the crash indicating the end. Silence. My heart sinks. Knowing he may need a little time to expire, hoping my arrow didn't catch his shoulder, I back out quietly.
It is a long walk back to the jeep, especially by yourself. After what seemed like hours, Troy finally arrived to begin the tracking job via flashlight. Only finding a few drops of blood, the decision is made to back out and give him a little more time to expire. When we head back in a second time, the blood trail becomes more evident and I hear Troy announce up above, "Oh, Emily, that's a nice buck!!"
The reason I didn't hear him crash ... upon his final breath, he had jumped down into a creek bottom, a silent mud slide.
After a few quick pictures and admiring this gorgeous buck that truly felt like an unexpected blessing, we realized that we now had the task of trying to get him out of this mud hole and up the steep slippery bank. Oh how I wish I had video documentation of the event! Honestly, I'm not sure how we managed to get him out of there. After several attempts of pulling that buck up and sliding back down the muddy slope, I wanted to sit down and cry, scream or punch something. It was a slow process of inching our way up, laying in the mud, and bracing against trees. There was also a mixture of interesting sounds, grunting, and colorful language. Finally getting him over the ledge was such a relief, that it didn't matter we were covered in mud, blood and tears!
That wasn't the last trouble from this buck either ...
Somehow we lost the trail back to the truck and I agreed to stay with the buck while Troy went to look for the flashlight hung on a tree branch marking our entrance to the woods. As I watched Troy disappear over a bank, taking the light with him, the darkness of the night enveloped me. From crazy chaos to indescribable silence, the woods took on new light. I stood there still, taking it all in. The buck next to me, now lifeless, used to live where I'm standing. A deep gratitude washed over me. His death would bring sustaining life. The stars stood out in the night sky a little brighter. I can't fully describe in words the moment impressed upon my heart. It was beautiful. Again, I felt as if God was whispering to me ... each day brings blessings, it's up to you to recognize them.
I wish I could tell you that was the end of the story, but there is a little more worth telling.
After loading my buck up in the truck, and bringing him to a different section of ground to begin the gutting process, we noticed the smell. He was a little more rank than what I've experienced with other bucks. This awful odor, usually associated with a gut-shot animal, about knocked us over upon cutting him open, which was strange because I had made a perfect double lung shot. It was cold and he had only been laying in the creek for 3-4 hours, so that shouldn't have made a difference. I could see the heaves coming. As I stood over my buck, holding the brisket open, Troy launched to the side as a river of yuck gushed from his mouth. I about lost it, holding my breath to keep my stomach contents down. Now the smell was a mixture of puke and buck gut stench. A second round spewed out from Troy - vomit volcano! We laughed and cried as we finished the gutting process. Apparently my arrow had sliced his esophagus and the stomach gases had seeped up, causing the stench.
Even with all the trouble this buck gave us, it was worth the effort. We've already had several burgers and they were delicious!
Troy jokes that we should call this buck "Pig Pen" because of the mud hole incident, followed by the vomit. However, I smile when he suggests that because I know better. To me, he will always be a reminder of the blessing of Now, giving thanks for the gift of today.
In the end, Mom had a blue bird that visited each day outside her window. I think of the joy that it brought her - a simple blue bird that she called "hers." While she kept one eye on her future hope, she knew how to live in the now, enjoying each day. I want to live like that. Mom, this buck is for you ...
His name is NOW.
Each day brings blessings, it's up to you to recognize them.
"I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in Him." - Ps 40:1-3
The ultimate hide & seek game in the mountains
against timber ghosts
slipping in and out of the shadows,
only to let out a bone chilling bugle letting you know he
is still the king of the mountain "marco polo" challenge.
Elk Season 2015. It is now but a distant memory, but not forgotten. I'm left with additional stories, bugles that echo across mountains, and another year of close encounters. I consider myself an elk hunter, yet have not come home with bull antlers my own.
The years pile on, making this story perhaps continue to build with anticipation of a dramatic conclusion. It's a story still in the making, yet I'm weary of the writing and hoping for the final chapter to be written soon. It's only a matter of time. Each season I enter the game with new anticipation. There's a bull out there who will soon hear me say ... "checkmate."
I was recently asked by Lucky Shot (Realbullets.com) to review a few of their products. Are you kidding me? I was thrilled to offer my opinion! Jewelry and accessories made from real bullets, that is a combination that can't go wrong.
Lucky Shot brand, operated by Monkey Trading, LLC, is a family owned company and all products are proudly made in the USA. They produce bullet jewelry, bullet keychains, bullet bottle openers, and bullet pens.
BULLET JEWELRY FOR WOMEN
The women bullet necklaces offered by Lucky Shots are reasonably priced. I opted for the 40 caliber pendant necklace. The moment I received this necklace, I put it on and basically haven't taken if off since. In my opinion, it is easily transitions from the office to casual wear. The chain is not bulky, yet has a sporty feel. I like the fact that the bullet charm will not fall off the chain if you forget to fasten it. The chain is constructed nicely to prevent this. One difference in the necklace I received vs. the one pictured on their site is that it doesn't contain the extra clear glass crystal. I actually prefer it better that way.
BULLET JEWELRY FOR MEN
One of their most popular products for guys is the .308 Paracord Projectile Necklace. I think it looks great on my guy! Troy likes the fact that it is light weight and easy to adjust. With different paracord color options (black, woodland camo and olive drab) this would make a great, unique gift for the special guy in your life!
BULLET KEYCHAINS & BOTTLE OPENERS
Various caliber keychains are available through Lucky Shot. And if you are looking for one of the coolest bottle openers ... you can even order a keychain .308 bullet bottle opener keychain. A steal at only $10.99!
But wait ... it gets better. They have a 50 caliber bullet bottle opener! What? Yes! If you've never held a 50 caliber bullet, you will not believe the size of this thing. It is awesome. You will be the hero at the next tail gate party, when you break out a 50 caliber bullet to open the next drink. Yes, you need one of these!
One more novelty item I need to tell you about is the 50 caliber bullet pen. You heard me. There is no longer any question on whether or not the pen is mightier than the sword. How about using this to take notes at your next meeting?
For a full product listing of the various bullet products available, check out Realbullets.com!
My Kind of Date Night
Sharing the thrill of a first turkey kill with someone is exciting, and when that someone is your spouse, it's the making for a perfect Friday night date.
Kansas has great hunting opportunities for Spring turkey. Beautiful Rio Grande turkeys can be found throughout the state and hunters are allowed to kill two birds, an alluring offer to those traveling from out of state. Driving to Kansas is feasible for a weekend hunt for my husband, Troy, and myself since we live one state away.
Last year we took several weekend road trips to hunt Rios in the eastern side of Kansas. Our friend, Jeff, filled his tags and I took my first Rio, which I may spend the rest of my hunting career trying to top. I came home with a 25 lb turkey, 11 1/2 inch beard and 1 1/4 inch spurs. It was a memory that I will always cherish. (Thank you, sweet Kansas!) Even though Troy did not fill his tag our first year of hunting turkeys in Kansas, he shared in my turkey success excitement, and feigned ambivalence to going home empty handed. Convincing us he was not disappointed, was an easy act to play.
You have to understand that my husband is an elk hunter to the core. Almost every elk season, he kills an elk. He knows and understands how they think, can talk like them and by the end of season even smells a little bit like one. When turkey season rolls around each Spring, he mildly complains while Jeff and I chat incessantly about how excited we are to hear the first gobble. It is common to hear statements uttered from Troy's lips such as, "An elk feeds me all year, and that bird is good for one meal, maybe too" or "All of that work for one or two birds," and there's even this ... "I don't understand what all the fuss is about over a bird!"
Each time these statements are made, Jeff and I try to convince him that turkey hunting is like elk hunting. Turkeys are vocal, allowing you to call and locate them, and sometimes even spot and stalk - if you are very sneaky and have luck on your side! At this point we usually get eyeballs rolled clear back to Colorado's Western skies. Jeff and I look at each other, smile and quietly whisper the words, "wait until he shoots his first bird. He'll be hooked!"
Now you understand a little why it was our mission this year to "hook" him.
Our car was loaded up like a turkey hunting toy-chest. Open the door wrong and decoys, camouflage, bows, arrows, shot guns, and more would spill out. As the horizon slowly swallowed up the mountain silhouette behind us, we pressed forward towards beautiful Kansas land. Turkey discussions filled the hours as the highway miles piled up, and it was easy to come to an agreement - Troy gets the first shot this year!
Late Friday morning we arrived on Jeff's family's ranch. We are fortunate to have private land for our turkey hunt. It is a rare treat, since we are used to hunting public land in our home state of Colorado. After a quick scouting trip, we quickly realized the turkeys were hanging out on the opposite side of the ranch, a different pattern than last year. Bountiful rain showers this spring changed the vegetation and the section to the west of the ranch house now offered the best strutting ground, but that also means less cover, making it a little more tricky for a set up.
Parallel narrow tree lines separated three open fields. The turkeys were congregating on the northern section. We snaked our way carefully along the south end, hopscotching between each tree. Jeff was in the lead, Troy and I following behind, each grabbing the person's shirt in front of them. With a heads up decoy at the ready in case we needed to quickly stop and present some type of cover, we navigated our way closer to the middle tree line. As a soft rain slowly started to fall, enriching the smell of the pasture around us, we dodged cow pies and mud puddles.
Finally reaching the largest tree in the middle tree line, we waited behind it until the last turkey head on the opposite side of the field ducked down out of sight. As Troy and I moved around the trunk of the tree to set up, Jeff swiftly moved out into the pasture and set out a few Avian X decoys, a jake and a hen. Let the games begin!
When turkey hunting, it is extremely important to keep your movement to a minimum. We knew that at any moment we could now get "busted." Now that Troy and I were concealed against the base of the tree, sitting side by side, we slowly moved our shot guns into position. Jeff and Troy began calling, a sweet turkey cadence of calls that immediately got the attention of the turkeys in the next field over. It was only a matter of minutes and I saw a head pop up in the tree line across the field. Cows to the right started mooing, and I began to worry that their curiosity would cause them to interferre with our turkey ambush. Luckily they went back to their grazing and fertilizing the pasture, staying a safe distance from what was about to happen ...
Continue reading on Kansas Travel website.
Troy and I have sore feet, new friends, and knowledge of exciting new outdoor products, compliments of attending the Archery Trade Association show the last couple of days. What an experience! Thank you, ATA, for exceeding our expectations.
After attending Shot Show last year, we had an idea of what to expect at an event like this ... aisles and aisles of outdoor industry leaders showing off new product for the year, along with upcoming companies looking to gain visibility, sales and make an impression in the industry. While Shot is an amazing experience, ATA has an unique lure in that Bowhunters / Archery enthusiasts are the target audience. Music to my ears!
We have several products / companies that we would like to highlight. Here are the first four new products for 2015 that captured our attention:
First Lite Merino Wool Base Layers - Women's Line
RAM CAT Broadheads / Quivers
We've been shooting Ram Cat broadheads for several years now and can testify that they truly are king of the kill. The cutting power of these blades are amazing. With the chisel tip and back cut technology, I'm never nervous about whether or not my broadhead will get the job done.
A new feature that Ram Cat is introducing is the tips of the blades will be trimmed slightly, which will help in preventing them from getting bent. In addition, they will now more easily fit in an arrow quiver. Speaking of quivers ... Ram Cat has designed a quiver specifically shaped to their broadheads. Smart!
QALO ~ 100% medical grade silicone wedding rings
Initially, you may be wondering why silicone wedding rings made our top outdoor archery products for 2015. However, let me convince you .... What is the first thing you do when packing for a hunting trip? I know for me, I make sure my wedding ring is tucked away in a safe location. I don't want to risk losing it up on the mountain, or have my diamond ring catch a ray of sun just at the wrong time, alerting a buck of a life-time that I'm at full draw. QALO has solved that problem for the serious sportsman, outdoors man, hunter.
In their words, "After getting married we realized what a nuisance wearing our traditional wedding band was. While we love our wives, and love being married, the reality was that our ring was getting in the way (literally) of our active lifestyle. The married men we talked with shared the same frustrations. ... we searched for a solution that would allow us to show our commitment of marriage, and wear a comfortable wedding band that could withstand our active lifestyle."
This is where QALO was born. A 100% medical grade silicone wedding ring. I can get on board with that and support a company wanting to help husbands and wives display their commitment to each other while enjoying an active lifestyle. I have my camouflage QALO ring, do you?
Quality * Athletics * Love * Outdoors
Saturday, September 17, 2014
Yes, I am purposely skipping ahead in my journal. Please know that we hunted hard this last week, and got into elk most days, but I've been waiting to tell this story. Trust me, you won't even realize you've missed a day. Saturday was one for the books!
Today I asked God to bless us with a good day of spending time together in the woods and maybe get a chance at an elk. Our bodies were growing tired, muscles ached, and spirits in need of being lifted. Wow! He continues to amaze me. Troy keeps casually mentioning how it would be nice to shoot our elk early and be able to give back some vacation time. I smile each time those words escape his mouth, because secretly I know that God has other plans. It's the time we get to spend together in the woods I cherish most, and I have a hunch we have a couple more days together up here. The more time we spend hiking around, the more opportunity for experiencing great moments together. Moments like this ...
Before the sun had a chance to awaken the sky, we found ourselves driving to the top of mountain. Luckily for us, we could enjoy a bumpy ride and didn't have to test the strength in our legs, yet. Coffee lazily bounced around, safely contained within the confines of our coffee containers, and I struggled to time a sip between each bounce. Upon reaching the top, we unloaded quickly and worked our way down to the first open meadow on the mountain. We crept slowly into the edge of the dark timber and began to cow call quietly. No bugles this morning. Another thirty minutes passed, and I received a look as Troy realized he left his gps in the truck. Back up the mountain we went! In an effort to not break a sweat, we moved slowly, snaking our way to the first big pine in the open meadow.
As I stopped in the shade of the pine, Troy froze and said, "Elk! She's staring right at me." For some reason I really thought he was joking, responding with, "Are you playing with me? Are you serious?" Troy continued to stand motionless, so I knew he wasn't toying with me, as he stated, "serious as a heart attack."
We watched her walk around a pine and make her way below us. Troy ranged the spot and said, "she is going to come out in those aspen, forty yards away." Sure enough, she came to the spot, I drew and Troy cow called. She stood broadside with an aspen tree perfectly blocking her vitals. Ugh! I needed her to take one more step. I stood there motionless at full draw and waited, and waited. Finally she walked past the next section of trees. I let down, then drew again. Troy cow called and she stopped again with no clear shot. Seriously!?! Sooooo close! Finally she caught our wind, turned around and the timber swallowed her up, where we originally saw her.
Up to the truck we went to retrieve the gps. When we made it to the top, we decided to walk a ways and see if we could kick up any grouse, as we waited for the heat of the day to pass. Every once and a while we would cow call and bugle over the ledge, not really expecting a response. Of course, that is exactly what happened. A bugle from the side of the mountain we haven't hunted before. It's the steep side of the mountain, and not a lot of cover, giving the advantage to any bull in the area. This bull was definitely at the bottom of the mountain. I could see a small open meadow at the bottom with dark timber creeping up the other side, a perfect elk hide-away. I was sure he was bugling from his bed. We bugled back and forth a couple times, then let him return to his slumber.
After splitting a beef stroganoff mountain house meal, and taking a nap, it was time to make our way down the mountain into the timber to wait for the elk to start moving. Keep in mind, we were working our way down the side of the mountain that had open meadows ... not the steep side with the slumbering bull at the bottom. Troy convinced me there were plenty of other elk on the mountain; however, I couldn't get that afternoon bull out of my head. I agreed to journey down the other side into the dark timber. We found a cozy spot and leaned against our back packs, staring up at golden aspen leaves twinkling against a bright blue sky, a dazzling contrast of colors. It was as if God was smiling down, as we sat in the middle of the woods. My heart was full in that moment.
Then three consecutive shots were heard nearby. Black powder. It was a bit strange considering they were spread apart, equal distance. Not long afterwards there was a single shot closer to us. We looked at each other and I shrugged. Troy shook his head. It appeared that someone was "party hunting" or pushing the timber. It was disheartening. We loaded our gear and headed the other direction, through dead fall littering the mountainside. Finally, we reached a spot that had okay shooting lanes, so we decided to sit and listen for a while. As we got comfortable, Troy looked up on the slope above us to glass for movement, and I heard words escape from his lips that didn't make sense, "There's a MOOSE!" I laughed, "what?!?" Sure enough, a big leggy animal was making his way through the timber. Troy let out a moose grunt sound, which immediately got the Moose's attention. He grunted back and started coming toward us on a beeline!
I watched in disbelief for a few seconds as a bull moose headed started toward us, and then realized ... there is a 1500 lb animal coming RIGHT AT US, and we can't shoot him. He crossed over some dead fall at forty-five yards when the words finally spilled out of my mouth, "Troy! Are we okay? He is coming right at us! Do I need to get my gun out?" Troy then stands up, waves his arms and says, "Hey!" The moose stops, looks at us with a puzzled moose look, as he realizes ... hmmm... that's not a moose. He is now at thirty yards away. Again, I ask, "Should we be worried? Should I get my gun out?" Expecting to hear something like, "No, we'll be fine" but instead I get the answer, "Yah, that might be a good idea." Immediately, I drop my phone, as I had been videoing the whole thing, and dig for my pistol in my back pack. No warning shots were needed. He simply moseyed along in bullwinkle fashion, seemingly knowing that being within bow-range was no big deal. We didn't have moose tags.
I assumed that would be the high-light of our day. However, the fun was only getting started. It was still early, so we decided that since we didn't hear any bugles nearby, and we were still relatively close to where the black powder shots were fired off earlier, it might be good to climb back to the top of the mountain and see if the afternoon siesta bull would bugle back again. Sure enough as soon as we reached the spot, a response echoed back when Troy let out a locator bugle. The look on Troy's face was priceless. The agreement we made moments ago was that we would drop down and chase this bull only if he bugled back. I don't think he expected a response. I smiled. He shook his head. Down we went!
Let me paint the picture for you ... This side of the mountain is steep, covered with obnoxiously tall ferns and random pine trees. Another thing lending to the bulls advantage, is the time of day and the fact that the slope of this mountain faces mainly west. The sun was shining brightly on us. We were basically, in the open, the sun illuminating every movement, and the ferns were loud. In order to chase this bull, it meant convincing him that a cow elk was making it's way down the mountain. Upon reaching the first pine tree, Troy let out a bugle. The bull bugled back, rather obnoxiously. Out came the Montana Cow Elk Decoy Butt and we crouched behind it, lifting it above the neck high ferns. I snuggled as closely as I could against Troy's back, as he held the decoy in front of him. Down we went, cow calling as we snaked through the ferns.
Upon reaching the next pine tree, it was time to try and see if we could pin-point this bull. I guessed he was in the edge of the dark timber at the creek bottom below. No sight of him yet. We worked in unison, moving through the now neck-high ferns, hopscotching to each pine tree below, hoping it would provide some cover. I knew we were exposed. The sun was shining brightly down and it was impossible to be quiet as we made our way down. As we neared the bottom, another bugle rang out. I looked at Troy and said, "I think he's right across the open meadow in the pines." Troy scanned the meadow below and quickly responded with, "He's right there in the bottom!" The bull was wallowing, raking the mud with his antlers. Troy made a dash towards the next pine tree, and I rushed to make sure I followed close behind, grabbing his First Lite shirt, which was now damp with perspiration from our quick descent down the mountain. I couldn't believe we were so close with all the ruckus we were making, and with hardly any cover! Every once and a while we could see the bull look up in our direction, and I now wondered if he was thinking,
Why is that crazy cow sliding down the mountain,
I guess he didn't care. We were now 100 yards from the bull. I spotted his cows across the meadow along the tree line. The bull continued to rake trees on the other side of the wallow, as we worked our way around the last big pine. We were now completely exposed and just out of bow range. We did our best to convince him to close the distance, but the allure of his real-life cows was too strong. He was now walking away from us headed towards the timber edge, with an entire aspen tree now hanging from his antlers. It was a sight that I'll always remember.
I tried to sneak down through the open drainage, across the wallow, but as I made my way out in the open, I think they winded me and ended up running up the mountain we had traveled down moments ago. They made it to the top within a matter of minutes. It is going to take us probably 30+ minutes to climb back up.
Troy was waiting for me by the last pine tree, marking the starting point for the climb back up. Upon reaching the tree, I put my hand in my pocket and I realized I lost my range finder during the excitement. Immediately, I read the look on his face.
He wasn't happy ... how in the world would we be able to find my range finder in all of those ferns!! I am usually the optimistic, glass half-full person out of the two of us, and I remember myself responding simply, "We'll find them!" Troy shook his head. I truly wasn't worried. You see, when you walk through thick ferns like that, it leaves a clear path of where you've been. All we had to do was follow our tracks back up the mountain. Sure enough! my range finder lay next to one of the pine trees we stopped at. I picked them up and smiled. Troy looked at me, gave me a cowboy grin and apologized for doubting. I think he also said something like ... you are so lucky! Now if some of that luck would help me with arrowing an elk!
I fell asleep tonight with a smile on my face. God answered my prayer. I had not one, but several amazing experiences with my husband on the mountain today. We chased after a rutting bull elk, and a bull moose also stopped by to say hello. I am blessed. What a day!
Sunday - September 14, 2014
This morning we let ourselves sleep in. We wore ourselves yesterday chasing after the elk herds yesterday. With two full weeks of hunting ahead of us, one morning of recuperation doesn't hurt anything. We woke up late, had egg and cheese bagels, sat in the sun, repacked our back packs ... water and food were depleted from the day before.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife guys stopped by our camp and checked our tags and bows. It was nice to see them on the mountain, and we told them we appreciated them being in the area (we haven't seen them many of the years hunting here). We chatted with them for about an hour discussing ...
We slowly began our hike. The spot we were headed to was a couple miles in. The temperature was warmer than optimal for elk hunting; therefore, we took our time, making sure not to work up a sweat. As we rounded the first section of timber, and made our way across an open track, I noticed birds circling above and thought maybe there was a carcass in the area. Sure enough, I looked up and saw two bears take off through the woods, a mere 50 yards above us. We crossed a wallow and made our way up to check out what had the bears attention. It was a young calf - really young. The front quarters were gone and the back quarters still partially in tact. Either someone shot the calf and took only a portion of the meat (hoping that's not the case), or someone shot it's mom and left the young calf to defend itself against the bears. Either option didn't fair well for the calf.
Again, bears are not our priority, so we continued down the trail, another mile to go until arriving at a wallow. Troy settled in on one side of a drainage, and I crossed over to set up directly across a trail, hoping to get a 20 yard shot. As the sun sank further down on the horizon, the temperatures finally began to decrease slightly and we were hopeful that a bull would make an appearance soon. Then I heard a twig snap. I quickly motioned to Troy that I heard something and scanned the thick brush, trying to see through it as best I could. There he was! Coming down the trail, but it was the WRONG trail! He was headed straight for me, headed down the trail I was sitting on. You might be asking at this point, "What's the problem with that?" Let me tell you ... This "trail" is not a trail as in a hiking trail, but a game trail surrounded by thick brush. The kind where you have to push through it, moving branches out of the way so it doesn't smack anyone following you in the face. So .... as he got closer and closer, then stopped at 7 yards away, I found myself drawing my bow back when he looked the other way. It would have to be timed perfectly and I'd have to find an opening through the branches. At this point he was still above me and I actually had a broadside shot, if it wasn't for all of the stinking branches. However, if he decided that he wanted to continue down the trail, he would take a 90 degree turn and walk over top of me. After a minute that felt like an eternity, he finally decided something wasn't right, did a 180 turn and disappeared into the brush. I now know what it feels like to be eyeball to eyeball with a bull elk.
I looked over at Troy, and he shrugged his shoulders, making a gesture indicating he didn't know what happened. I think from his vantage point, what played out moments ago must have looked a little strange.
Since we didn't spook the bull off, we assumed he was still in the area. Troy let out a bugle, and the bull responded back. Then two other bulls from below chimed in, and we could tell they were getting closer. We were about to be surrounded by three, maybe four bulls! Troy began cow calling and the bulls proceeded to "scream" back and forth at each other. It seemed like a stand off of sorts. We waited, ready to take aim at whichever one decided to commit. The young bull up above came in again, but nothing materialized. What an experience! It is moments like this that leave a grin permanently planted on your face all evening.
As we were walking out, one of the screamer bulls had made his way to the meadow to the east of our path. Troy spotted him in the tree line at roughly sixty yards out. I couldn't see him unfortunately, so Troy backed up hoping to suck him down the path towards me. Either he spotted Troy or winded us because I heard him take off.
The bulls continued bugling to us as we made our way out that night. We were sad to leave the party, but daylight had given into the approaching darkness. It was time to leave. Oh, yah ... and the bears were feeding on the calf again. There was just enough light to make out a black blob on the hillside, forty yards above us. We could literally hear them ripping into the carcass. Troy got out his Hawke binoculars and confirmed what we already knew. BIG bear happily feasting away, reminding me that my stomach is also empty ... time to get back to camp, fill our bellies and crawl into our sleeping bags. Another adventure is waiting for us tomorrow.
Thursday, September 4
We got a little late start this morning because Troy was tired after helping pack out Curtis' bull the night before. After the tough day of tracking my bull, I guess the good Lord knew that Troy needed a little comic relief. As Curtis plowed ahead, anxiously looking for his bull, Troy walked maybe 100 yards from the wallow, looked over and called out into the darkness, "Hey Curtis, is this your bull?" They thought he was kidding at first, but as Troy once again said a little more serious this time, "No really, there's a bull laying right here. Is it yours?"
Since there was no tracking involved, Troy jumped in, helped gut and carry out the meat. The original agreement was simply to come find the bull. I think he arrived back at camp around 2:00 A.M. I let him sleep in until 5:30, which meant we left around 6:00. Since it took us an hour to get to our hunting spot that morning, we arrived a little too late. Funny - sometimes things work out when you least expect them to. Since it was light as we walked in, we could easily glass the open pasture before heading in. We ended up getting into elk. In fact, it was the same bull we chased the other night. He bugled at us a bit and then proceeded down the mountain. We climbed back up to the truck, looked for grouse, relaxed a bit, had coffee and then slowly made our way back down the mountain. A comfortable tree was located, and we easily dozed on and off. At one point, I looked down the lane of dark timber and stared at a strange blob. It looked like a huge turtle from a distance. Then a bird landed on it. Then another "camp robber" joined in, dancing on top of the blob. I had a feeling I knew exactly what it was, as I reached for my Hawke binos. Sure enough! There was an elk gut pile about fifty yards from where we were sitting. I looked back at Troy to whisper, "If we sit still long enough, we might fill our bear tags before our elk tags!"
A decision was easily made to move over several hundred yards. Elk meat takes priority over bear. After a few more unsuccessful set ups, we decided (or I might have convinced Troy) to try and go after the bull we heard this morning. He MIGHT head back up the mountain later that afternoon. We eventually made our way over to the same general area, but all was quiet.
On the drive back to camp that night, we came upon a 4-wheeler that was parked in the middle of the road. First instinct was to get annoyed. Then we realized another bow hunter had seen a deer just off the road, and decided to put a stalk on him. Not long after we sat waiting for him to return, an out of breath hunter emerged from the slope below us. Troy quickly asked, "Did you get him?" Skylark said, yes, I think so. He's a small buck, but I couldn't pass it up. We helped him track his buck, but unfortunately the blood trail ran dry.
So ... after helping another fellow hunter, we once again arrived back to camp late. Sleep came quickly.
Friday, September 5
The last couple nights took a toll on us. We were TIRED this morning. The combination of the alarm clock and uncooperative bulls wasn't enough to draw us from our slumber. We ended up sleeping in, then going to town to restock our ice, and get a few other "necessities" ... rope, donuts, apples, and a strong cup of coffee!
When we got back to camp, chores were started. Troy filled the water jugs from the fresh water pipe in the side of the mountain. A fresh water source that we learned from the PA boys. As I saw Troy, pull in with the four wheeler loaded down with water, he had a big grin on his face. As he sat waiting for the water to slowly filter out of the mountain side, he passed the time scouring the plentiful clover growing nearby. A four leaf clover was found, and he now held it out proudly, giving me a good luck charm for our afternoon hunt. Ahh.... so sweet!
We'd be ready for an afternoon hunt, after a few more chores: Camouflage sprayed down on the clothes line, torn pants stitched, a few rounds of arrows through the bow, and lunch made.
Since we slept in, we were ready to hunt early this afternoon. Arriving at our entry point around 2:00, we slowly worked our way in, sat through a small rain shower, and then moved further along the mountain side. It was quiet in the woods tonight. Finally around 7:00 we heard a chuckle from a couple bulls coming up the mountain. It almost sounded like a growl.
Heading back to camp under the cover of darkness, it was a slow ride up the mountain on the four wheeler. Tonight we simply enjoyed the time spent together in the elk woods, breathing deeply the experience of all it brings. With each September day passing, the rut action lay waiting for that magic moment to awaken it. Soon. Hopefully soon!
Saturday, September 13
We woke up early this morning - early enough to get ahead of the boom stick hunters. It's opening day for black powder and there are camps speckled with an orange glow everywhere. The plan is to drop in deep, find the nastiest part of the mountain where the elk will hide as soon as the first shots begin to echo across the mountain.
With headlamps guiding our foot steps, we journeyed down the mountain slope into a corner pocket of the mountain. An area that holds beaver dams, and steep drainages. It didn't take long before we heard the first bugle and we worried that we weren't deep enough in and others might hear the bugle, breaking the morning air. I was tempted to tell the bull, "shhh... we hear you, but do you know how close you are in giving away your location to the multitude above us? And they have guns!"
We dropped down a couple hundred more yards, quickly set up our decoys, then let out a few soft cow calls. He answered immediately. After a short call sequence we set realized he was gathering his cows and moving further down. We followed. Another set up attempt was made and with the wind not in our favor, we had to bid farewell to the herd, but we knew where they were headed. We paralleled them down the slope and waited.
At one point as we were making our way down through some timber, a twisted up limb lay broken and hanging across a beaten down path. An angry bull took out his frustration on a tree branch and it now lay twisted and raked to shreds. It was clear that bulls were in the area!
We could hear distant bugles below us - not far enough to deter us from chasing them, but far enough that we knew it was going to be a long day hunt (and even longer hike out that evening)! Glassing the mountain terrain below us, we spotted a bull emerge from the quakies. He was big! I could clearly see several inches of ivory tips ... 6 points for sure on one side and it looked like a messed up right side. I wouldn't hesitate drawing my bow and releasing an arrow if the opportunity presented itself. We watched him for a bit to see where he went, and felt confident that he made his way into a patch of dark timber directly below us, for an afternoon siesta.
As we were getting ready to sit down for a cup of coffee, we realized that in our excitement to begin the hunt this morning, complete inventory of our pack supplies had not been performed ... no COFFEE. We discussed trying to make tea from pine needles. H e l l o caffeine headache all afternoon.
We quickly forgot about the throbbing in our heads due to the lack of caffeine because a bull below us started bugling from his bed around 11:30 and proceeded to bugle all afternoon. It was most likely the big 6 I had spotted earlier. After the first 30 minutes, we decided that it would be worth it to make a move instead of waiting him out until evening. Each time we got closer, he would get more and more upset. A throaty bugle would emerge from the pines below us. We made it as close as we dared without him spotting us from his bedroom. Each cow call sequence was returned with a bugle. At one point we watched one of his cows walk just across the ravine, make her way down, get a drink of water, then mosey on back to the "bedroom." Once again it was perfect timing as we were in need of some comic relief. Before seeing Mrs. Bugle, Troy and I actually thought there might be other hunters working their way to the same bull we had been chasing all morning. In an effort to suppress our irritation, we moved in to "cut off" the new intruders and make sure they knew we were the ones calling back and forth to the bedded bull. Then we saw her and the strange cow call she was making. Simultaneously we looked at each other and asked, "was that really the cow?" Turns out she was the intruder ... a real live cow elk that now had us pinned down. The sounds she was making sounded like someone was calling through a bugle tube. We quickly realized she was not alone, as we watched several other cows mill around across the edge of the drainage we were now perched on.
Feeling confident that we were the only ones down in this hole, with an entire elk herd, we sat and waited. It was now 2:00 P.M. and everything turned quiet as the elk bedded down a few hundred yards from our location. The bull most likely decided it was time to get a little shut eye and we were content to wait a couple hours, knowing that it wouldn't be long before he decided to get up and play. We were in perfect ambush position. Wind was in our favor. It was only a matter of time. Snuggled in under a pine tree, we found ourselves nodding off as the afternoon sunshine warmed our faces.
Suddenly the peacefulness of the afternoon was broken. A sound, similar to thunder but more like a tidal wave of broken branches, erupted from the nearby trees. I nudged Troy, "Did you hear that?!" Before he had a chance to answer, the misplaced crash of thunder quickly gave way to the sight of the trees seemingly coming to life. As we looked across the ditch, a plethora of legs and bodies were moving quickly up the mountain. Something was pushing the entire herd of elk. Not yet sure what was happening, we cow called, hoping that they would run our way (and not run us over). They ended up skirting the ravine and making their way up the mountain. Then the reality of what happened became apparent ... florescent orange appeared and my heart sank. A guy with a rifle tag for bear was riding his horse RIGHT THROUGH the bedded elk.
I couldn't help but feel a bit frustrated and irritated that we had 1) hiked in on foot, 2) worked our way into a perfect position for ambushing a huge bull, and 3) now someone rode their horse right through the entire elk herd. We packed up our bags and moved up the mountain where we could get a good vantage point, hoping to see where the elk were pushed to. After a mountain house meal filled our bellies, and not spotting any elk, we were about to let defeat wash over us.
Then, a bugle was heard -- right in the same area the elk were pushed out of an hour ago!!
Our bull was back in his bedding area, calling his cows back to him. The hunt wasn't over after all! We quickly made our way back to the last spot we were calling from. It was now or never. Since he wasn't budging, we decided to get aggressive. As we inched closer, we learned why he wasn't crossing the ditch that separated us. It was more like a ravine. It was deep and steep. Finding some cover right on the edge, we quickly ranged distances. I'd have a 40 yard shot if we could lure him close to the ledge. However, he still wasn't showing himself. Troy looked at me, "Your call. Do you want to try and cross over to get closer?" I looked down and doubted if we could safely cross, then looked back at Troy. He saw the look on my face, and replied, "We'll be fine, just take it slow and we can cross over there." So we ventured down. It turns out that it looked worse than it was. Navigating down wasn't that hard, but climbing the other side, I quickly learned that it is better to get momentum and not stop. I told myself, "Think like a mountain goat."
We found a good spot to set up and saw a cow a hundred yards off, making her way down the trail. Unfortunately, the bull decided he didn't want to "play" and continued to move further down the mountain. Troy called him a "coward" out of frustration, and we decided it was time to start heading back up. It was going to be a long climb out of here! Plus there were still some bulls above us. If we started now, we could hunt our way back.
It didn't take long and as we followed a game trail up, I heard a bark and cow calls. We froze. After not seeing anything for several minutes, we decided to move up for a better vantage point. Slowly and cautiously we crept up the trail, then stopped and cow called again. Something was moving above us. I got excited when I thought it was the big lead cow, but after a closer look, realized it was a big spike (young bull). Since we can't shoot spike bulls in Colorado, we sat and watched him for a while, thinking maybe he'd lure in something else. I thought I heard more movement, but never saw anything. The problem now ... we didn't want to spook him off, giving us away, but also wanted to keep moving up the mountain, to hopefully get closer to a bull above us. Spikes are curious, and sometimes not very bright. He wouldn't leave us alone! Finally we had to start walking down the trail. He literally followed us for awhile before finally running up along he ridge to the right of us.
As we made our way through a patch of trees, we were about to walk into an opening. "Stop! Don't move. Cow looking right at us," Troy whispered authoritatively. She was 150 yards out and grazing along a pine tree. Unfortunately, we were stuck in the open. With a few aspen trees behind us to break our silhouette, we stood still and watched. Troy cow called with his mouth reed. She moved closer, then momentarily disappeared below us. I first saw a yearling cow dance right into the opening in front of us. She stopped at 30 yards and looked back. The cow I saw earlier came running up to her and stopped. I had decided I would shoot a cow if the perfect shot opportunity presented itself. However, I couldn't bring myself to shoot this cow. That calf was right by her side, and knew she was probably still wet. So I watched as they proceeded to walk right toward us. 20 yards. 15 yards. I heard movement behind her. We were now in close proximity to a herd of elk. The cows looked back over their shoulders and we watched what they were looking at ... several other cows with a bull following behind them. Unfortunately, the cow and calf spooked a little as we were standing right on the pathway they wanted to walk along, which contributed to redirecting the herd to cross right above us, out of bow range. The spike, that wouldn't leave us alone previously, then came trotting up the clearing, stopped and stared at us. Why couldn't YOU have been the bull, Mr. Friendly Spike? Oh well ... another close encounter with elk in the books. That is a good day in my opinion.
I'll get my elk someday. It simply wasn't today.
Btw - Here's your elk hunting tip of the day: Never. I repeat never go to the bathroom next to itch weed. Not only were my legs on fire from all the hiking today, my bottom was also burning due to not recognizing the obnoxious stuff.
From the Draw
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