Pictures from the '08 Archery Elk Season
Craig's 5x5 elk (left) and my 4x3 crazy racked elk (right)!
Pictures of Craig's 5x5
My 3x4 bull above. He'd died at the very top of a steep hill and fell/slid about 25 yard to where he is in the first picture against the tree. The 2nd picture is after a lot of work to get his head uphill to make the cleaning/boning easier.
What a crazy rack! His left antler comes out of his head going forward and has to do a 90 degree turn to go back and match up with the other antler. I'm guessing him at a 2.5 year old bull and he was pretty tall for that but no brow tins because of this defect. He tastes just fine....
Here's the story......
What a great hunt! Craig and I went back up the last 4 days of archery elk season and had a blast! The first day up I kept running into the same group of cows but wasn't seeing anything that really made me excited. The next day we decided to go back in to where we'd seen a lot of sign the first trip up.
At 17:00 the 2nd day I turned my radio on for the check in at that top of the hour and found that Craig had been trying to get a hold of me for about an hour. You see just after 16:00 he'd started bugling to 2 bulls and managed to stick one with an arrow. He was sneaking through some North facing timber when he heard something. He decided now was as good a time as any to bugle so he let one go and was answered right away by not 1 but 2 bulls, 1 was above him and the other was below him.
He bugled to the bulls long enough to get them mad at each other and when they started coming in he shut up and let the elk do the talking. The bull above him crossed the trail he was on at about 35 yards. He paused behind a tree for a moment, just long enough for Craig to draw and get ready. Once the bull stepped clear of the tree Craig shot. He said it was amazing watching the arrow fly true and stick in the bull, almost surreal.
Well now I was on my way to help out with the tracking and the rest of the work. I found Craig just after he'd walked up on his elk. This was his first archery elk and only his 2nd year hunting with a bow so he was very happy. He teased that he'd always thought that being an archery hunter was just another way of saying you were a vegetarian so he was pretty happy it all worked out and he felt like he'd achieved a new challenge - he had.
Well now for the bad news.... We were 3.9 miles from camp and about 2,000 feet above the camp staring at a dead elk. Ok, no time to waste.... We got it quartered, bagged and up off the ground to cool just after dark and headed back to camp.
The next day we headed up at about 7:30, boned the quarters and took the first load out. I think it was about 80 pound packs, maybe a little more. It actually felt pretty good. We made the 2nd trip right away and made it back to camp at about 18:00. That was 2 trips each, almost 16 miles, 160 pounds and 4,000 feet up and back down in 1 day. We were fairly tired.
The next morning I headed out at about 4:30 to get to the top of the mountain at shooting light. You see I'm a little hard headed and don't give up easy, my buddy Jim would give me the understatement of the year award for this line...... I still wanted to get my elk and I only had 1 last day to get 'er done. Craig said he'd leave the radio on just in case and was planning a leisurely hike up the mountain to collect his ivory he'd forgotten but was planning on a relaxing day.
As I got close to my favorite hunting spot I call "my office" I could hear 2 bulls bugling and some cows talking. I snuck as quietly as I could to my office and got ready. My office is a great natural blind by a couple beaver ponds and has a heavily traveled elk trail on each side of it. I have excellent cover and can move without being seen until an animal is right on top of me.
Once I got ready I let out a bugle and was immediately answered by both bulls. They weren't bugling back but screaming at the new intruder that was all of a sudden in their territory. The cows seemed interested and started to mew at me which made the bulls even more upset. After about 5 minutes of the elk threats 1 of the bulls started getting farther away, that wasn't a good sign, and the cows seemed to be going with him - crap! The other bull however hadn't moved. I switched to cow calls and started chatting up a storm. He couldn't take it and started coming right in, still screaming.
I was ready, actually I'd seen this all before. The bull was getting close so I shut up and let curiosity take over. He came in just as I thought and as he walked into my shooting lane and stopped I let the arrow fly - CRACK. Off he ran with my arrow resting just where I'd wanted it......
When I said I'd seen this all before I had, almost exactly. It was really an incredible case of Déjà vu. You see last year I'd called in a bull to my office, just as I did this bull. They both came from the same direction, came down the same trail, stopped in my shooting lane because of a big fallen tree in the path, carried my arrow off in what appeared to be the same spot, and ran off up the same trail. Wow! Lightening really can strike the same place twice. Last year my friend Jim and I tracked my bull for a day and a half and I don't know how many miles. We slept on the mountain under the stars on the top of the cold mountain and did everything possible to find the elk but it wasn't to be. I still don't know what went wrong as it looked like a good shot, but obviously is wasn't. Anyway, now I was hoping for the happy ending this year that I missed last year.
I waited about 20 minutes and started tracking him. There wasn't a lot of blood but that didn't really worry me yet. I could see heavy elk tracks in a hurry most of the time through the timber so I had a pretty good idea where he was headed without the blood but I was still taking it slow and easy.
It took me about 20 minutes or so to find him all the time trying to get Craig on the radio. I'd just topped a little rise when I heard him reply and saw my dead elk at the same time. The radios were not working well because of the distance and the mountains in the way so it was very hard to communicate. I finally managed to get a "I need help" message to him and he knew I had an elk. After a bit more trying he heard "pack frames and saw" and "my office" and had everything he needed to know. I'd just gave him a rude interruption to his relaxing morning and he couldn't have cared less, he was on his way!
Well from here it was pretty much just like what we'd done the day before. My elk was 3.6 miles in and 2,000 feet higher than camp. It took us 2 trips each and this time the packs where even heavier. This time we had to carry my day pack back along with the heart and liver. We'd left Craig's elk on the mountain and carried our day packs and the heart and liver out the first night, but with my elk we'd do it all in 2 trips. We were already sore from the day before but we loved it. How often to 2 archery elk hunters kill bulls and get them packed out in a 4 day hunt. NOT OFTEN, we'd definitely beaten the odds on that trip.
We finished the packing at about 18:30 Saturday afternoon and where very happy with the trip and the hunt. We were sore, our feet hurt and we loved every minute of it. I took my camera up for the last trip and even managed to take some pretty good pictures of the Aspens. Believe me you don't take a lot of time for pictures with a HEAVY pack on so I'm surprised they turned out as good as they did.
The only thing that could have made the trip better would have been if our hunting partner Jim could have made it up the last part of the season but it was just not to be. We missed ya Jim, next year it's your turn!
Craig's elk was a 5x5 taken on 9/25/08 a little after 16:00.
My elk was a non-typical 4x3 taken on 9/27 at about 7:15.