Well, it’s the end of an eventful, fun, incredible, yet disappointing archery elk hunting season. I saw some cool stuff and learned a lot. Things started out fast and then they got interesting. I guess I’ll just start from the beginning.
Finances and time were an issue this year (aren’t they always?), so I decided before the season that any archery elk would do. On the first hunt of the seasons, I hunted with Ty and Greg Cameron. Ty had already shot a small six-point on opening day so Greg and I hunted one of our honey-holes while Ty glassed from the road. Right off the bat I called a spike in to less than five yards. We stared each other down for what seemed like forever and when a big ‘ole drop of snot dripped out of the little bull’s nose, Greg started laughing and the gig was up. While we were discussing our close call and how funny it had been, we were snapped back into hunting mode by a bugle. Amazing how effective that is.
Greg set up in a meadow and I started calling and before long we had three different bulls calling back at us. One in front of Greg and two behind me. The front bull hung up, but the other two were coming in fast. Suddenly I had gone from “caller” to “shooter”. As I was finding a place to set up I could hear them crashing through the timber just above me and I was caught with my pants down so to speak. I had my bow drawn, but the bull (a nice one at that) was staring a hole through me and there was a pine tree over his vitals to boot. I thought it was all over, but he took a slow step forward which opened up his vitals. At twenty yards I can hit that every time and I did. My arrow hit exactly where I had aimed, but he wasn’t there anymore. Bummer. I just had to sit there and watch him run off with the other bull and a cow.
So now it’s almost dark and we’re thinking that the day’s done, going over what-if’s, feeling sorry for ourselves, excited about what had happened. The highs and lows are what it’s all about right? Anyway, we heard a new bugle. Well, more like a roar. No, make that a ghoulish, bloodcurdling scream….
So now it’s almost dark and we’re thinking that the day’s done, going over what-if’s, feeling sorry for ourselves, excited about what had happened. The highs and lows are what it’s all about right? Anyway, we heard a new bugle. Well, more like a roar. No, make that a ghoulish, bloodcurdling scream. We jumped and saw an absolute monster of a bull working toward us with his nose was on the ground like a bird dog. I instantly knew that this was the biggest bull I had ever seen and I could tell that he was trailing the elk that I had just missed. I told Greg, “I know where he’s going, I’m going to ambush him” and took off. There was no time to explain.
I made it to my ambush spot, but I was too late. He was already past me and walking away from at thirty-five yards. I cow-called and he stopped and turned back to look, quartered away pretty hard and it was almost dark. Not much time left. I drew my bow, aimed, fired and… I missed. Again. I couldn’t believe it. The biggest bull I had ever seen at thirty-five yards and I missed. Heartache. Little did I know that I had just started the best and worst season I had ever had. Plus, my standards for the year had just gone up. Way up. “Any elk” wouldn’t work anymore. Finances be damned, and I suddenly had lots of time.
The next week, my buddy Mike and I packed in to a different area where I had gotten a nice bull a few years before (don’t ask me why). We had a few close calls but just couldn’t close the deal. Plus there were hunters everywhere and we were having mule problems. The highlight of that week was an incredible sunset one night. A vivid orange glow that I had never seen before or since. Coming home was almost a relief. It was frustrating and I couldn’t get that big bull out of my head.
With just over a week left in the season I went back after the big bull and my son Webb went with me. Driving in to camp we glassed from the road and spotted a bunch of elk down low near a hay field along the river bottom so we decided to start there in the morning. I wouldn’t have to climb 2000 vertical feet. WHOOHOO! When we got to the campground after dark we ran into my buddy Carey Craner. He was camping there too, so we decided to hunt together the next day.
At first light we saw and heard elk in the hay field across the river from us and a nice bull was working his way down toward us through some rim-rock. We thought we could intercept him at the river, so we snuck down and set up. It was quiet for a long time so we moved accross the river only to see him cross right where we were set up. What did I learn from this? Be patient… I struggle with that sometimes.
Minutes later, we heard another bull screaming about 200 yards away and that scream sounded very familiar…
Continued in The Heartbreak Bull Part II