I just returned from a memorable trip in the elk woods with good friend and Team Outback Outdoors founding member Adam Wells (who had already taken a great 6 point bull with his bow). Along with camera operators Jeff McNair and Sarah Murphey we arrived at Big Mountain Ranch late Sunday night with high hopes for the morning.
Monday morning’s sunrise blossomed with the ringing of lovesick bulls bugling in a draw below us, and soon the crew was bailing off into the thick of things trying to get in front of this herd of vocal elk and working to get the wind right for the first set up. The morning brought us much excitement and even an encounter with a young 2 1/2 year old 5X5 bull that I enjoyed watching, but let walk by unharmed. It was an exciting sequence but I figured in 3 more years that would be a good bull.
With the amount of activity we had the first morning my spirits were high and I felt it was just a matter of time. The problem I have is that I love hunting so much, (and I have never been known as a trophy hunter, I just like to kill critters) that I have a hard time letting the younger bucks and bulls walk. I was determined (along with Adam’s encouragement) to wait for a more mature bull. That afternoon brought the ringing of bugles in the canyons but no shot opportunities.
Tuesday morning found us fighting squirrely wind, uncooperative elk and thick nasty oak brush. While we did have some encounters, to quote Adam, “It was the toughest morning he had in seen in the elk woods this season!” With such a poor morning we couldn’t help but sing the famous pop song that the lyrics say, “I got a feeling, that tonight’s gonna be a good night, tonight’s going to be a good night” as we headed out to a new area for the evening.
At 4:30pm we found ourselves on the opposite ridge, of where we planned to hunt, and immediately glassed up some bulls (5-6 of them) that were already out in the meadow and screaming their heads off! This, in my book, is a good sign and soon we were set up on the ridge above the elk trying to second-guess what the wind was going to do.
As we bailed off the ridge and worked down to where we would be in position above some wallows in order to set up on the moving herd, the wind (as it does all too often in the mountains) never could make its mind up. Waiting for the thermals too change, and never doing so, we decided to press the issue and moved in for the first set up of the evening. As it does many times, the set up ALMOST worked until the wind swirled and the herd busted off in the opposite direction and into a draw below the park where we had set up on these elk.
Feeling as a child who had carelessly burst their new red balloon, we started to mope toward the trail that led us up and out of the basin as the evening was growing longer. After moving a couple hundred yards we were blown away to realize that the same herd with the VERY vocal 5 – 6 bulls and 25 or more cows was moving back up onto the bench that we were still on but this time the wind was perfect!
In a matter of minutes we found ourselves surrounded by bugles and cow calls and a juxtaposition of rutting bulls sparing and trying to win the favor of 3 hot cows. Jeff and I moved up inch by inch toward the largest bull in the herd as Adam continued to sweet talk and attract the attention of the rut crazed bulls with his Bugling Bulls elk call, grunt tube, and by occasionally showing them his Montana Decoy cow decoy.
After 8 confusing minutes I was able to maneuver to withing 59 yards (perfect distance for my truly accurate crossbow) of the 6X6 herd bull lazily hanging down by the wallow. He bugled and then turned broadside and I let the bolt fly! The broadhead found its mark perfectly and the mature bull ran 25 yards and started spinning in a circle like a drunken sailor. The blood grew rapidly on his side and the teeter-totter movements soon brought the bull down in short order.
To say I was excited would truly be an understatement! Soon Adam, I, and the whole crew were circled around this downed mature Colorado Monarch reliving the excitement. This hunt is one that will go down in my memory as a reminder of the saying, “it ain’t over, til it’s over!”
Team Outback Outdoors