Em's Elk Journals 2014: Day 17
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!
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From the Draw
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