Elk Double Down - Part II
Arriving back in camp, packs were immediately prepared for the morning. Encouraged by our bull encounter that night, it was now time to get serous. No more FUNTS. Come morning, tennis shoes would be exchanged for boots, and packs would be strategically loaded with gear needed for hunting the DMZ. Everything was inspected and ready to grab in the early morning hour: water, rope, GPS, food, knives, rain gear, etc.
With packs neatly lined up by the camper door, we were restless but not quite ready for bed. One of the bonuses of hunting from a camper is having the luxury of watching movies in camp. I know, I KNOW... some may frown upon this, but honestly, it is sometimes nice to cozy up in your camper, and fall asleep to a hunting video or movie while the rain dances down on the camper ceiling.
So there we were, three hunters sitting on a couch, anticipating the next day, eating bowls of steaming soup, and watching a movie. You are picturing this in your head, right? The movie we were watching?
RED (Retired and Extremely Dangerous)
The levity of this movie was just what we needed. Rudy, Troy and I laughed until our stomachs hurt. During the last scene in the movie, Frank asks Marvin after shooting a bad guy, "Feel better now?" Marvin promptly responds with, "Yeah. You guys want pancakes?"
Heading to town for a hearty breakfast of chicken fried steak and eggs after a successful hunt is a tradition that has developed over the years. The one criteria ~ Whomever shoots the elk is buying! As we all went to bed this evening with thoughts of killing, pancakes and the sound of rain sprinkling down on the camper roof, a new tradition might be in the works. Mmmm... pancakes!
The next morning, rain continued to threaten our planned hunt, but we were determined to make something happen. We made our way to our familiar entrance to the DMZ. The hope was that we could catch some elk on the top section and maybe not have to test the strength in our legs. As the fog rolled through the top pasture, we found ourselves at the DMZ overlook waiting for a break where we could scan the section below.
If my memory serves me correctly, Troy was a little grumpy this morning. The deal he made with Rudy and myself was that IF we heard or saw elk in the bottom section, we would chase after them. (Confession: We may have prodded him a bit and encouraged the grumpiness.) So we waited for the fog to lift and strained to hear any answers to our bugles. Silence. While Rudy and I gave each other looks, we would tell Troy, "Bugle again." All was quiet. So we waited. Then without saying a word, we would give Troy puppy dog eyes as if to say, let's just go down there. We promptly received the answer, "NO." Troy is an experienced elk hunter and is often my voice of reason when I push him to do crazy ideas. If there aren't any elk in the area, there's no sense in wearing ourselves out.
After an hour or so, the fog lifted and we crept a little further down to where we could see the terrain below us and scan the trees. Troy ripped off a bugle, and we received an answer!
Rudy and I both immediately looked at Troy, and he replied .... "Let's go!"
We hustled down over a ravine, and through an open section to find cover in a grove of pines. We would set up, bugle and wait. Each time, an answer was received. Bugles were exchanged back and forth. In what seemed to be a stand off, this bull was stubborn and standing his ground. He wasn't getting any closer. After fifteen - thirty minutes in each set up, we would hustle to the next location to see if we could call him up. However, he was happy down in the bottom and wasn't going to budge. So we would advance further and further down the mountainside. Once we were near the bottom, there was one final large ditch between a line of aspen and a section of pines. We decided to make one more move. We could tell we were close.
Just as we crossed over to the section of pines that marked an entrance to a nasty sequence of beaver dams, the fog increased and the low-laying clouds couldn't hold the rain any longer. We were about to get soaked. A grove of three pines huddled together with a downed tree in front of them became our shelter. We had made it this far, so we decided to wait out the rain. As Rudy broke down his camera equipment to shelter it from the downpour, Troy and I took off our packs and settled in on the opposite side of the pines.
Just as we inched as close as we could under the shelter of the huge pine boughs, Troy mouthed the words, "Don't move!" Elk had ambushed us.
A cow elk was now practically sniffing Rudy's backside ... a foot or two away!
As we tried not to laugh at Rudy's expression, Troy found himself slowly reaching for his bow. A bull was not far behind the cow. The whole experience was comical to us because 1) Rudy had just put away all his camera equipment, and 2) everyone else had seen elk so far this year, except for Rudy... and now one was sniffing his neck! After what seemed like forever, Troy was finally able to get his bow. He quickly stepped up on the downed tree and drew his bow back. The bull was now at around 40 yards, but didn't give Troy a good angle. A quick warning bark from the bull was let out and the elk disappeared back into the dense fog as quickly as they ambushed us, leaving us with a reminder of why elk are often referred to as ghosts of the Rockies.
By this time, the hours in the day were building up. As the rain continued to come down, we made the decision to begin the long haul back up the mountain. It was a good hunt, and we now had a very good reason to try again in the morning. You see, what I didn't tell you earlier, is the fact that we had definitely heard more than one bugle response. There were multiple bulls in this hole, maybe four.
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From the Draw
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