Pictures from the '11 Archery Elk Season
Good picture of my 5x5.
Picture of my bull where we found him. About 150 yards down hill from the shot.
My hunting buddy Jim is standing next to the tree where the bull stopped for my shot, 10 yards.
This is a good picture that shows the body on this monster. He's the largest bodied elk I've ever taken. It's too bad his rack didn't match.
This is the first time I've rented horses to get an elk out, and the plan from the start with how far back in we hunted. Worth every penny.....
Here's the story......
This year Jim and I decided to spend the first week of elk season high and way back in, about 6 miles. We both bought Gortex bivy bags ( basically a waterproof bag to sleep in ) and were planning on sleeping under the stars in the back elk country for a few days until we found elk this early in archery season and work in among them.
The first afternoon of elk season at about 17:30 I finally got to the park I’d "way pointed" as Rub City the year before. Jim and I have spent a lot of time looking over the maps speculating about where the elk were coming off the top of the mountain and I was convinced this high and long meadow was one of their first stopping points because of the location and all the rubs from many years. This was where I wanted to be the first afternoon.
I never got(?) to spend the night in the bivy because once I got to the top of this park at about 10,300ft I slipped off my pack, got as comfy as is possible on a 45 degree slope and let a little bugle go. Jim was about a 1/4 mile away in his favorite honey hole watching bear walk through the rocks above him and he heard my bugle clear as could be. He called me on the radio and asked if it was me.... I said yup and told him I'd gotten a bugle back interrupting me. I was close; I'm guessing about 100 yards. I put my radio away and started grunting to the bull, he went crazy screaming back - I could hear him coming. I'd already knocked an arrow but I was on the top of a very rocky and very steep slope. There was no way to be comfortable shooting on my knees but there was no way to stand and not give myself away.
I could hear him in the rocks on the other edge of the park about 50 yards away. I grunted at him again, quietly. He screamed back and I could hear him coming through the rocks again, then I could see his antlers, then his head just below me down the slope. He wasn't the monster I'd promised myself I was going to wait for this year but I guess I'm just not good at waiting.
He stopped about 15 yards below me with only his head and neck showing with me in full view of him. I hadn't had a chance to draw and knew it would be over if I tried to draw now. I was doing my very best juniper bush impersonation when he turned to look down the meadow and let out a big bugle to the cow elk below as if to say watch me kick this guy's butt - I drew my bow. He turned back from and kept coming into view.
Now I could see his entire body to his knees. He was only 10 yards away when he stopped fully broadside next to a tree to look for that other bull that had insulted him so badly. My arrow hit him with a loud CRACK! He spun and ran down to the bottom of the rock slide and stood there for a few seconds. I could see the arrow clearly just behind his shoulder midway up and knew it was a good shot ( 10 yards - remember.... ). I could see he was already getting dizzy but he got it together and ran into the trees a few yards away. It was only a few more seconds when I heard him crash in the trees and I knew the easy part was over and the hard work was about to begin.
I called Jim on the radio. He was still excited watching the bear sow and her cub. I let him tell me about him making the sow mad with a bugle and how he was getting a little uncomfortable with how close she was getting when I said, "Well then... How do you feel about helping me track an elk...." After a little pause where Jim must have had to let that sink in a little he said "Absolutely, that's why I'm here!"
We found my elk right where I'd heard him crash and got to work. We boned the elk that night on the hillside and got done a little after dark. We built a log table and lined the bottom with pine branches where we stacked the boned out bags of meat. We then covered the meat bags with more pine branches. The idea is to let the air get completely around the meat and protect it from sun, flies and hornets.
Ok, now it's about 22:00 and we're spent. We're above 10k feet over 6 miles from camp with a bull bagged and tagged. Jim and I had planned on getting an outfitter to help us with the packing job and had packed cash for the trip but I needed to get that bull out fast this time of year so that meant I had to get down and get them on the phone 1st thing in the morning.
Jim and I headed down about a mile to the creek. We found a nice camp area where Jim could bivy overnight and I took off for the trailer. I was walking out a different way than I'd gone in and was regretting it. With all the record snow last winter that trail was more creek than trail and my boots were sloshing full of water. Getting your feet wet is no fun anytime but when it's getting close to midnight 6 miles from the truck it just plain sucks….
I got to the truck at 2:30, got my wet cloths and boots off and into bed by 3:00. I had to be up at 5:30 to head into down to where I could get cell phone reception to talk to the outfitter. By 7:00 I had the outfitter on the phone and they had a pair of wranglers that were able to come up and help get my bull out that morning. Whew, it was a relief to know he wasn't coming out on my back this year, first year by the way – I’m getting too old for some of this crap ok…. Unfortunately the horses had to stop at the creek and the elk was close to a mile from the creek and just shy of 1,000 feet up. You NEVER get out of all the work. The worst part was that both Jim and my pack frames were up at our drop camp about 2 miles in from the truck and I'd have to run up and get them before the outfitters got there. A quick 4 mile run/walk in the early morning will wake you right up even if you didn’t get any sleep the night before.
The outfitters worked with real time and not “cowboy time” and met me right as I got back with the pack frames. We quickly saddled up and started up the trail at about 10:00. It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden horseback and I have to admit I’ve never really cared for the rodeo stock I’ve rode before but my horse was great and I really enjoyed the ride up the trail, maybe it was just being off my feet for a while?
When I reached Jim on the radio and told him I was on my way but we’d have to get the elk to the creek he was relieved I was coming with horses but worried about getting the elk to the horses and started heading toward my elk right away. The outfitters stopped at the creek as planned and I ran up the mountain toward my elk with the pack frames. Jim met me there and we started loading up for the slow trip back down.
Once we were loaded and started heading down the sky opened up. To say it was raining hard would have been an understatement; it was more like packing an elk through a swimming pool. We tried to hide under a tree, but there wasn’t anywhere to hide from that much water. After we were both soaked to the core we decided to make the best of it and pushed on as carefully as we could.
I was carrying the antlers as well as a full meat bag so I was really loaded. On the steepest part I slipped in the mud and the antlers hooked on an average sized aspen tree. It got me a little off balance so I reached out and grabbed the aspen. That was too much for it and it came over right on top of me and almost pushed me head first down that steep section. I managed to keep my feet until Jim could get me untangled and free of the tree. The worst part was that the tree was shaped like a hook on the bottom where it had grown into the steep hillside and that hook caught me under the arm in the ribs knocking the air out of me adding injury to the insult – ouch. It took us forever to get down that steep, slippery hillside to the horses. By that time it was just too late and too dangerous to make another run up on that slick muddy hillside. We’d have to come back the next day and try again.
On the way out the horse I road in on was packing meat so I walked out again with wet boots and soaked from the heavy rain. The pack out was uneventful without the slightest rodeo so we got to the truck with enough day left to make a quick dinner, set our boots to dry and hit the sack! We were spent and we knew had to do it over again the next day. The pictures of the wranglers and horse ride in was from the 2nd day heading back in. Again, good horses and a real pleasant ride. I enjoyed letting the horse watch the trail and spent a lot of time looking over the country and meadows still full of wildflowers. It was a beautiful ride in!
We knew the drill, pack frames and a steep climb to the elk, then a heavy pack down a slippery mountain back to the horses so we got right after it. Again, once we got loaded it started raining right on queue. This time we’d gotten past the steepest and most treacherous parts before it got too slippery. The sky didn’t open up on us like the day before and it didn’t take too long to get back to the horses. I had to get into town the next morning to get the elk in the locker and Jim still had a tag to fill. We’d pushed elk both trips into Rub City retrieving my elk so Jim was planning on staying and hunting the back country and staying a couple days as we’d originally planned. I headed down the trail with the horses and my elk and Jim headed up to work on filling his tag.
I never did get(?) to bivy on the mountain in the back country as planned. I’m honestly a little disappointed in that – yes, I guess I’m a little crazy too. Next year I hope I’m watching bear the first afternoon and Jim gets to hit the pause button on my hunt so I can repay the favor for him!
What a great hunt!