Elk Hunting

1998 Bowelk

Colorado Hunt September 1998

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In September 1998 myself and 3 of my best friends travelled to Steamboat Springs Colorado on a bowhunt for elk. We had planned for an entire year and now it was all at hand. We left Georgia and after two days driving and a stop over at Cabela's we arrived in Steamboat Springs Colorado. The first day on the private 10,000 acre ranch we only scouted. After determining a location to hunt we decided to hunt in pairs: Franklin and Dwayne would hunt one area while my Dad and I would hunt another. We heard elk almost every morning. At the end of the first week I called in a very nice 6 X 6 that would probably have made Pope and Young. We had just previously called in a cow and witnessed three spikes rubbing their antlers on trees. We had worked the bull which we knew had cows for over 2 hours. When we were almost ready to give up he let a scream out at less than a hundred yards. I readied my bow and as he approached I knew where I would try to take him. As he approached I slowly drew and held awaiting him to take just a few more steps. For what seemed like eternity, I held until I knew I was going to have to let down. The Bull got a little nervous as he stopped where I had sprayed some cow scent to cover where we had walked. As he turned to retreat I slowly began to let off. Dad sitting only a few feet behind me cow called to stop the bull but as he did the bull caught my movement and the gig was up. He bolted a few feet away and looked back but wanted no part of my cow calling at this time. What a disappointment but at the same time we were learning what elk hunting was all about.

We learned on the previous outing that if teamwork was going to payoff we had to separate far enough to distract the attention of the bull from the shooter. The caller would also have to know where the shooter would need the bull to be for an open shot. We returned to the same spot 2 days later and heard what we thought was the same bull. Although we could not call him in, we did call in a raghorn 4 X 1 bull. His right antler was mangled and formed down the side of his head. I immediately told Dad that I didn't want him but he could take him if he wanted. He agreed that we would both wait on a better bull. I took my still camera out and took pictures. Several times he would turn to leave and I would call him back. Only after I ran out of film did I get him to within 15 yards. He finally left before I reloaded my camera.

At the end of the second week several bulls had been taken by other hunters on the ranch. Franklin and Dwayne were having a hard time spotting and hearing bulls so Dwayne decided to catch a flight back to Georgia to reserve some of his vacation time for the Georgia deer season. Dad and I hunted the opposite side of the ranch and was on three bulls one morning and had one within a hundred yards but couldn't get him in. In trying to relocate on the other two we saw them cross an opening at about 500 yards. Three cows, a 4 X 4, and what we thought to be a 5 X 5. We began another rigorous hike to try to get around the bulls. As we approached a hillside overlooking a valley where we thought the elk would be, we paused to catch a glimpse of another hunter. We retreated and after about a half hour heard the hunters working their way through the woods on a four wheeler indicating they had taken an elk. We approached them to give them a hand. The hunter had taken one of the bulls that we had watched cross the opening earlier and instead of a 5 X 5 it was a 5 X 6. It was the hunters first bull and not a bad one.

Dad and I knew that there were still a couple of hot bulls in the area so we decided to give this area a rest and come back in a couple of days. Upon returning the elk were bugling an hour before daylight. There were two bugling below us in the pastures. Dad and I separated to try to intercept each of them. Dad's bull worked around him by the waterhole below him. My bull worked around me and probably came nearer to the truck. After I figured how my bull was travelling, I immediately worked up two immense ridges to get ahead of him. When I got there it was too late. He immediately bugled ahead of me and farther up the ridge. I set up but couldn't call the bull in assuming he had several cows with him. I worked my way back over and ahead of where his last bugle came and called for a couple of hours. After contacting Dad on the radio we decided to call it a morning and go in. As I retreated down the mountain, I found a heavy trail and began following it cow calling intermittently. I knew the bull Dad was working was somewhere down between him and me. I would stalk several yards and cow call especially if I made any loud noises. As I approached a small opening in the heavy timber I spotted an elk standing behind a tree. I eased my monocular up and waited for a movement. He finally turned his head and I could tell it was a bull. Now, was he legal, 4 points or better on one side? He turned to retreat down the path so I cow called and got his attention. Yes, now I could tell he was legal but a far sight less than the bull we had called in a week earlier. My thoughts were, If I could get a good shot, I should take it. He was heading straight up the path I was on and I would not have a shot unless he turned broadside. I watched him for a couple of minutes before he decided to retreat again. This time he bolted several yards but when I hyper cow called to him this time I turned my calling to the left hoping he would walk in front of me giving me the shot I needed. He stopped and began coming up the trail again. This time at about 30 yards he turned and as if it were written in a text book, walked broadside at 20 yards in front of me. I slowly eased my High Country Safari up with the Easton XX78 2312 arrow tipped with a 100 grain thunderhead. Before I actually started to draw, the bull stopped and looked right at me. With nothing between me and him I'm sure the Realtree Xtra Brown camo was doing its job because he just started walking again toward where he thought he heard the cow. I completed the draw and released the arrow. The hit appeared slightly high behind the shoulder but nevertheless a good shot. The bull retreated back the way he came and I immediately gave some hyper cow calls. He stopped less than 30 yards and turned to look at me. Almost instantly he fell and slid down the embankment he had started up. It was totally amazing, that such a large animal could be killed so cleanly. Before I could get to him he was completly gone. His estimated weight was around 700-800 pounds. For two weeks we had spent searching and hunting for a bull to make the right mistake and so much had transpired but in less than 5 minutes I had found success. I called my Dad on the radio and he couldn't believe I had stalked, called, shot, and killed an elk in the few minutes that had transpired since I had talked to him. Now the tough part, getting him out. Not thinking I was out of hearing distance from my Dad, I told him where I was and to listen as I bugled. He couldn't hear me. As it turns out I was probably close to a mile up the draw from where he had been. He worked his way up the draw and finally heard me and we field dressed the elk and went back down to the truck to get help. When we arrived, we found Franklin waiting on us. What perfect timing! We spent most of the day getting the elk down the mountain and loaded on the truck. We carried the elk to a processing plant in Craig Colorado.

I spent the following week videoing and trying to help Dad get a bull. We had several close encounters but couldn't connect. Franklin had a close encounter with a 6 X 6 but couldn't connect either. Franklin left a couple of days early so he could take his time on the ride back. Dad and I hung with it the last couple of days and hunted the area where Franklin had saw the nice bull. We each took a stand overlooking the same waterhole on the last evening. We heard three different bulls and thought of pursueing but anticipating their eventual arrival at the waterhold, we sat it out. They never showed but a nice black bear gave us some good video. We hunted the following morning at the waterhole near where I had taken my bull. He was bugling an hour before daylight in the pastures below. We thought he would take the draw near the waterhole so we set up overlooking it. We were right but he came through before daylight and we didn't try to call him. We circled around and set up a couple of times but decided to give up the chase and head back to Georgia.

It was a tough three weeks and we gave it our best effort. The hard work we put in eventually paid off. Although some of the morning hunts were fast and furious, there were also those cooler mornings and afternoons where we were able to sit back and relax and just enjoy the scenery. We had an excellent trip and look forward to returning again. Although we haven't booked a trip as of this writing, we may still go out and hunt public land. I think this elk hunting is about as addictive as turkey hunting!

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