Article contributed by Field Staff Writer G. Thurman.
It was warm with the sun shining, a perfect blue bird day. The weather was a stark contrast to just twenty four hours before that included; snow, sleet and hail. It almost seemed surreal, this is not how elk hunting should be. It has always been a punishing endeavor against the elements every time I have climbed into the high country.
The old adage work smarter not harder can be applied to elk hunting in every way. This area was not remote or hard to access in fact we stayed in a motel every night. Having access to a hot shower and a bed while elk hunting is a luxury I have never had. We were certain there would be stiff hunting competition but this was not the case. During the four days of hunting we only seen a total of six other hunters.
The first morning out we checked a canyon on the back side of a private ranch that was on public ground. A very nice lady at a sporting goods store told us about the area as she and her husband owned the ranch. It quickly became apparent that we should be hunting waterholes as the temperature was going to climb to eighty degrees every day. There was a small seep spring in the bottom of the canyon which looked promising but based on sign, had not been used for at least a couple days.
After looking at topo maps of the area and using the best tool for the traveling diy hunter, google earth, we found an area that looked very promising. It had everything; water holes, oak brush for food, and it butted up to several large private ranches. That afternoon found the three of us setting on separate waterholes. It did not take long and I began to hear a bugle, I sat patiently and listened to this bull bugle over and over. At first I thought it had to be another hunter.
I grabbed my gear and headed off in the direction of the bugle just to check it out. As I crested a small ridge I was greeted to the sight of at least thirty cow elk. The bugle sounded again but this time from only one hundred yards away. Down in a small group of aspens was a giant of a bull screaming his head off. I would like to tell you how I kept it cool and got an arrow in this elk but I turned into a shaking excited mess. The cows eventually feed off and took the bull with them. I got back to the truck after dark where my friends told me that they had all seen elk and were now excited for this new area.
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The next morning found us hiking in farther from our vehicle to a series of valleys that held several small ponds. After scouting them from afar we decided to hunt them that evening when the wind would be a little more in our favor. That afternoon we split up to go to our waterholes for the evening hunt. As it grew closer to twilight, a herd of elk began filtering down the valley to where I was waiting.
I had decided to shoot the first legal elk that gave me the opportunity. She stood at twenty five yards broadside staring at the waterhole. My arrow hit the big cow directly behind the shoulder exiting cleanly. As the arrow struck, she sprinted quickly when ensued a search. Darkness came fast, she had fallen in some nasty thick oak brush a hundred yards down the drainage. Smiles and congratulations were had and we got to work as quick as possible, I wanted that elk quartered quickly as the temperature was still in the seventies. Getting the meat as cool as possible as quickly as possible is paramount to keeping is from spoiling.
On the way back to the truck, I met up with my friend who was excitedly telling me how he had shot a bull with his recurve bow. The bull had come into drink water from a pond with a cow and gave him a broadside shot at twenty yards. He decided to leave the elk until the morning as he was unsure if the shot hit a further back on the animal than what he aimed. That night consisted of a heavy pack out and the realization of what wonderful friends I have who are more than willing to share in the work.
The next morning we found my friend’s bull not even sixty yards from where he shot it. I couldn’t have been happier for him as we packed out elk until early afternoon. We were exhausted and elated at the large pile of boned out elk meat that was on ice in our coolers. Looking back on this hunt I feel lucky, blessed but also validated for the many years I have unsuccessfully pursued these amazing animals. I know this area will not always be a sure thing but come next September I know exactly where I will be.