Elk hunting is one of the greatest hunting adventures one can experience of all time. The elk rut is like no other; with it’s excitement and adrenaline fueled ragging bulls fighting and going haywire for a cow in heat. I want to share with you my first elk hunting experience, where the outcome would be something most people only get to dream about.
It was a crisp September morning, with the slightest hint of frost that has settled on the grass over night. A buddy of mine and his dad had permission on some private land that overl a river with breathtaking views. The river flats were filled with tiny meadows and mud holes, setting up a perfect elk rutting environment. The weather was clear that day, forecasting for a warmer than usual afternoon. My buddy was hunting with his traditional bow and we had made a deal that if the situation arose that a bull came in and he didn’t have a shot, I could take the bull with my rifle, which was a 30.06 win at the time.
We set out from our camp about an hour before day break so that we would be set up along this one ridge where we had been bugling with a few bulls the evening before. We arrived at the ridge about 30 mins before legal shooting light and already spotted the herd down below us at the river. We counted about 6 bulls in the herd with two that looked like shooters. We began cow calling and immediately the herd bull and one other took notice. They called back and we played the game of cat and mouse for a while. But they seemed fairly content with their harem of cows unless we “the other cow” wanted to go to them. They moved back up into the trees across the river from us and bedded down. We decided to stay put for now and continue calling, hoping there was a satellite bull near by.
It was about 10:30am now, and we still were calling back and forth with about 3 bulls that were scattered around the valley, but nothing was really moving towards us. We decided that we would head out and come back mid afternoon for the evening hunt. My buddy wanted to give one last parting call, I was like “whatever floats your boat”. Then out of nowhere, a raging satellite bull let out a scream like I’ve never heard before. We all stopped and looked at each other kind of confused. I immediately thought it might be another hunter moving along the river, but then it let out another scream and we knew right away that this animal was closing in on our position fast.
We made a snap decision to jump and slide down the steep ridge to reach the river flat in hopes to conceal ourselves for a better shot. As we reached the bottom we could now here the footsteps of the bull gaining on us, and like a ghost he appeared on a small, 12 foot high ridge, just downwind of us. We were all frozen, completely in the open, not moving a muscle. I can’t remember even breathing. Here was this 700lb plus monster 6×6 bull locked onto us. Snot and foam dripping from its nose and mouth, heavy breaths; it seemed like it was ready to fight something fierce. My buddy, ever so slowly raised his bow, the issue was that the shot was a quartering to shot and he whispered to me to get ready. As I mentally prepped to take the shot, the bull bolted; it must have caught wind of us and he was on the lamb. My buddy reach for his bugle and just blew into it as hard as he could. I was following the bull in my scope as he came to a complete halt 60 yards in front of me and looked back at the sound of the bugle, a settled, took a breath and squeezed the trigger. You could hear that 180gr. bullet smack the bulls’ chest as he humped up and took off.
We all looked at each other for reassurance of what just happened. Within 10 minutes we went from packing up, to drilling a monster bull. What. A. Rush. We decided to give him a 30 minutes to bed down and die before going after him because the last thing we wanted was to push him across the river. After that time, we began to follow the blood trail, we knew he hadn’t gotten far and we heard him crash for only a few seconds before we knew he bedded down. And sure enough, about 80 yards from the spot of impact, there he laid. A giant, old, beat up, bull.
We began the task of capping him out as the weather was getting increasingly warmer. The plan was to cape him, quarter him, and hang him, hike back up to camp, grab the quads come down and around from our position and cross the river to the flat where the bull was. The time was about 1pm when we reached camp and the quads. But there was a problem, we couldn’t cross the river. The one spot that we need to get across; the channel was about 1 foot too deep.
Now what? My buddy’s dad’s farm was not too far from where we were and he had horses. So off we went to get the horses to pack the elk out. We arrived back at camp and began the lead the horses down a game trail to where the elk was. We deboned the back straps and tenderloins, and loaded the quarters on the horses. Interestingly enough we found an old bullet in his neck, barely mushroomed at the tip; looks like someone must have took a long distance pot shot at this bull a long time ago. The rack was on the pack and back up we went. By the time I reached home and got the meat into the cooler it was about 10:30pm.
A few days later we enjoyed a few ribs and had shared our experience on the hunt. After dinner we made our way to the shop as everyone was dying to know what he scored. Unofficially, he grossed 367.25 inches. Monster bull in these parts for sure!
What a day, what a rush, what an unplanned hunt of a life time! How can you not be hooked after that! To this day I have yet to shoot another bull, just taken cows during antlerless season. But every time I go out with my buddy hunting elk, this story ends up around the fire one way or another. You just never will forget a single detail of a hunt like that. This hunt will always last in my memory and I will never forget how blessed I was that day in September 2010.