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!
From the Draw
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