At camp with my bow in the antlers.
This is a picture of my bull where we found him.
And the work begins..... Actually this is the end. Jim and I had already packed out all of the meat. I carried the horns out last, of course.
The end of the work. It felt good to get this done.
Jim with a picture of "the rock". I don't know if I'd have found this animal without Jim's help. See story below....
Another staged photo at camp.....
This was my 2nd year hunting elk with a bow. I picked up a bow April of '01 and fell in love with it. I like the challenge and thrill of getting in close. This year I had every intention of taking any elk that got within 30 yards. I'd gotten within 30 yards of a cow elk Monday and Tuesday mornings of this week and couldn't get a good shot at them. The wind was swirling on us all week and running us crazy. If you managed to get close you couldn't be there long before the wind would change direction and give you way.
Jim and I have Garmin GPS V's. They have a hunting and fishing time chart as one of the "extra features". Jim had been watching the times that were supposed to be good hunting with some amusement all week. He'd found he was actually seeing animals during the times the hunting guide was saying would be good. I was teasing him over a beer on Tues evening telling him I didn't believe his magic 8-ball. The next time that was supposed to be good according to the magic 8-ball was 9:30 - 11:00 the next morning. I told Jim that if I got a bull to bugle at me at 9:30 the next morning I'd never doubt the power of the magic 8-ball again.........
I'd spent the morning taking my time working up an area that was new to me. I'd bugled to a bull on the top of this ridge the morning before and almost got a cow for my work. Unfortunately, a doe deer came in behind and to my right to see what all the noise was about. I saw a brown rump and thought I had a cow elk coming in and drew my bow. Once the deer stepped out I knew I was in trouble. I didn't have a deer license. If she was an elk I'd have had her cold at 25 yards, but now I had a curious deer staring at me, at full draw, and she was stomping her foot with elk just of the other side of the trees. She messed the whole thing up. I did have a confused cow elk run within 30 yards but she stopped where I couldn't get a shot through the trees, then winded me and that was over too. So, I was working my way up under where I'd played with elk the morning before.
I was having a hard time of it. It seemed like I was walking up on game but the wind kept giving me up. No matter how slow and careful I was and how much I paid attention to the wind I kept pushing game. I pushed elk and a couple big bucks. Next I managed to waste about 30 minutes stalking up on beef cows I kept hearing but couldn't see. It's frustrating to know you wasted 30 minutes on a beef cow but you have to pretend everything is an elk or the one time you don't it will be.
It was getting close to 9:00 and I could hear a little wimpy bugle just over the hill. Jim and I carry HAM radios to be able to help each other out should we need it. We try to hit each other on the radios on the hour. When we talked at 9:00 I told him about the little bugle and said I thought it was a hunter learning to bugle. No bull would start getting excited at 9:00 when it was starting to get hot. Jim reminded me about the magic 8-ball but I just laughed at him. I was going over to see if I was hearing a bull or a hunter. I figured I could at least play with someone's mind a little.
I hiked up over the ridge and down into a nice little meadow. It was about 100 yards at the longest part away from me and kind of circled the ridge I walked down. I sat about 5 yards higher than the meadow on the last of the ridge as it melted into the meadow. There was only a small ground-cover juniper in front of me. I was not hidden well but at 9:15 I didn't really expect much. I sat down on my butt and pulled out a Powerbar. I was thinking about the bugles I'd heard. I hate to just blow bugles around I think you tend to push animals away rather than toward you. I thought what the hell I'd try a little scaredy bull bugle. I've been busted before when I wasn't ready and have made myself promise to always be ready when I bugle. I got an arrow ready and laid my bow where I could reach it easily.
I grabbed my bugle tube and let out a little bugle. I never got to the 2nd note before a bull started to just scream at me. He was close. He let out another bugle. Jim hit me on the radio and asked me to bugle again. The bull was so loud he thought the bull was closer to him, who was really .8 miles away on the GPS. I picked up the mike and said, "quiet" and shut off the radio. I like to chuckle at the bulls rather than just bugle so I let out a big chuckle. That REALLY pissed the bull off. He screamed at me and chuckled back. I swore I could feel his chuckle as well as hear it. It was like a thumping subwoofer in that little meadow. I started to hear thrashing trees and realized he was coming. I was sitting there almost completely in the open with only my little juniper to hide me. I thought I'd made a big mistake because I couldn't believe a bull would walk across an open meadow at almost 9:30 in the morning. I wanted to move but knew I didn't have time.
Suddenly he walked into the meadow at the farthest corner from me. He was coming right to me. He never stopped. He didn't look around, smell the wind, nothing. He meant business and was coming to kick the ass of the bull that had been talking so dirty to him - me. He came straight across the meadow toward me. When he got to the little ridge I was on he turned broadside to me and walked up the ridge. He almost disappeared from my sight as he started up the rise. I drew my bow. I could see his antlers, the top of his head, neck, then body. He was less than 20 yards. I was still on my butt. I was having to twist to my right as far as I could and wait for the shot I wanted. By the time his body was above the rise I was twisted farther than I thought possible. My bow was also starting to hang-up in the juniper. He was still walking to my right looking for trouble. I shot him broadside at less than 20 yards. He never knew I was there. When the arrow hit him he took off like a train with my arrow sticking out of his side. I saw clearly where the arrow hit him and knew it was to far back and I was in for a long morning. I just couldn't twist anymore. I thought I had a perfect shot but I must have moved when I shot.
I quickly grabbed my bugle and bugled after him. He bugled right back. I grunted and be bugled right back. He sounded like he was in about the same place I heard him in the beginning. He grunted and bugled again. I was starting to worry more about my shot. Why was he still all stirred up with an arrow stuck in him? My hope was that by talking to him I could hold him there until he started to get tired and he'd lay down. I bugled again and pulled out my mouth reed and blew some cow calls but he never answered me again.
I shot the bull at 9:24, just 6 minutes before the magic 8-ball said it was going to be a good time. I'll never doubt the hunting and fishing moon stars horoscope again! Waiting for 10:00 to talk to Jim on the radio was a long 30 minutes. I was filled with joy and fear. Joy that I'd shot such a nice mature bull with my bow, and fear that I made a bad shot and would come to find my worst fear - a wounded animal I couldn't find. I bugled in Jim's direction 3 times. I figured I could shoot 3 arrows in the air but bugling might work better. Jim hit me on the radio at 10:03, three minutes late. I told him I'd been waiting for his call and slowly gave him parts of the story, having fun pausing at the good parts. I told him to head my way because I was going to need his help tracking and if all went well I'd need help getting this animal out FAST in the heat of the day. I gave Jim my GPS coordinates and he started me way.
Jim showed up about 30 minutes later. I was trying to relax. We talked and I told him the whole story, the shot I'd made, and the worry I had about it. I told Jim I wanted to wait 2 hours. Where I saw the arrow and the bugling and grunting afterward had made me doubtful of the outcome. Jim had helped me track a bull 3 years ago. It was the biggest bull I've ever seen myself. I've seen larger elk in videos, but not in person. I'd bugled him in just like this bull. I shot him broadside at 25 yards with a 50 cal. muzzleloader. I'll never forget that image. He came in screaming and grunting in the evening cold. I could see the steam coming out of his mouth. It reminded me of Bugs Bunny when he was fighting the bull in the stadium. That bull also bugled at me a few times after the shot. I didn't wait long enough, about 30 minutes, because I was worried about loosing the light and loosing him to the night. I ended up pushing him off a bed about 200 yards. Jim and I tracked that bull all next day, we followed the blood for about 11 miles on the GPS and found where a bear and a cougar had followed him and gave up. We finally lost the trail above timberline in the tundra. That bull I'd shot years ago and lost had haunted me since, now this day was looking far too familiar.
Jim was doing his best to make me feel better about the situation. He said my bull was drawing flies and would be easy to find. We were sitting 10 feet from a road so Jim was teasing me about killing the bull on a road so it would be easy to carry out. I'd told Jim about the arrow and how it seemed to angle back at about 30 degrees. The bull was perfectly broadside to me when I shot. I know he didn't jump the string. I think the Rocket mechanical broad heads I was using opened up on a rib and the opening blade turned the arrow, at least that's the only thing I could come up with. Jim was thinking and said, "that shot should work just fine, I bet you hit him square in the liver." I knew he was trying to make me feel better, but I had now idea just how right he was about everything.
When the time was up we picked up and headed to where I saw the bull run across a creek. We found blood there and started to track. There wasn't much blood and the tracking was going slow. About 50 yards in I found 1/2 of my arrow covered in the good clean blood you want to see. The bull had run to close to a tree and snapped my carbon arrow in 1/2. We kept tracking and it was getting harder and harder to find the trail. An hour had passed and we where only a little over 100 yards from the creek crossing. We had blood on a fallen log and that was the last place we could find any. We circled and clawed around on hands and knees looking over everything. It had been a hot dry summer and there was lot's of dust and dirt and little to help hold tracks. There were also other elk tracks in the trees to confuse things even more.
We decided to split up and follow paths of least resistance for a ways hoping to pick up the blood again. I found another old logging road on the far side of the timber from the meadow and started to walk the road the direction I thought I'd last heard him. Jim come up and started to walk the other way. Jim shouted at me, "look at these tracks, this guy was going somewhere in a hurry." Then he found "the rock". It had only 1 drop of blood in the middle and we knew we were on him again. He was headed the opposite direction I thought he was. I was taking my time looking over everything in the road trying to find more blood and make out his running tracks. Jim had wandered up the road a little to where a creek crossed it and was crawling around on the ground.
Jim was about 10 feet in front of me and shouted, "here he is, right in front of me!" Jim's quite a kidder but I knew he wasn't kidding me about this. I'd have to quarter him to carry him out of there for a joke like that. There right in the stream, 10 feet off of the road was my bull, very dead and drawing flies - just like Jim had said. I asked Jim to drop all his knives and game bags and grab my bow and pack and run to the truck for our pack frames. With any luck by the time Jim would get back I would have the elk mostly boned out. I was in a hurry because it was now 13:30 and the flies had found him first. I had to get after it now. Jim took off and I commenced to cut'n. As I gingerly pulled the guts out looking for the other have of my arrow I found out that Jim was right - I hit the liver dead center. Luckily I was able to save the liver but the loins were lost. I started cut'n and hack'n as fast as I could trying to get meat bagged before the flies could get to it.
By the time Jim showed up with the pack frames I had the pull in carrying sized pieces. Jim had also returned with my camera so that's when we took the first picture of my elk. I wish I could have gotten pictures of him in one piece but I just couldn't wait that long with the heat. I also wanted to shoulder mount this elk but it was taking time to cape him and the flies were getting worse and the yellow jackets where starting to show up. I decided to just take the head for a skull mount and gave up on the cape.
I carried 2 bags of meat and Jim took a hind and front quarter. Jim had used the GPS to find that the old logging road we were on took us right to the road we drove in on and was level all the way. It wasn't a bad pack at all. It only took us about 20 minutes to get to the truck but I was still very tired. We turned right around and headed up for the rest, another hind quarter and the head and antlers. The trip back down carrying the antlers was more like a victory lap than work. We'd gotten all the meat out and the work was almost done.
When we got back to camp we hung the meat on the meat pole and opened a beer. I had just been demoted from bow hunter to camp cook/beer taster and was pretty happy with it all.
I'll never again doubt the power of the magic 8-ball.
Troy Lass Sept. 4th 2002