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Thread: Hunting Elk

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Kootenays
    Posts
    4,132

    Hunting Elk

    I hesitate to post a new post on here, but thought with the elk talk going on, instead of derailing other threads, I'd share my most recent hunt. Sorry for the length, my passion and my want to share the details, was getting the best of me.

    I spend a lot of time in the area we hunt our elk. My wife says I hunt year round. Watching the forest change, making strategy adjustments based on natural factors. Monitoring the ebb and flow of predators, bears, cats, wolves. Forest ingrowth, roads that are getting grown in, blow downs that change the habitat, and access. We set camp early so we can immerse ourselves in the days before the hunt. Prior to day one the opening of BOS (Bow Only Season) we had an idea of what our objectives might entail. It was my Fatherís 90 birthday (August 31st) and he has long been the mentor to many. We celebrated in camp having him with us. He hasnít missed many hunts in his 90 years.

    Day one, in the dark, we climbed hard through the west slope big timber to gain the elevation (approximately 500 metres) we needed, to be in close proximity to elk at daylight. Our approach was from the west into a primarily north facing basin, the wind moving favourably downhill concealing our scent. Our packs average around 30 pounds. Frame packs that contain everything we need to take an elk, deal with it and come out in hopefully one trip. Or at least make the first trip a load.

    The wind is, the most important consideration in route finding and approach on an elk. We spend a few hours moving through active elk country at elevation, elk are everywhere as we explore the first pocket. The going is tough, the blow downs many. As we move through the terrain, I use an old hand held cow calf combo call and make quiet soft mewing sounds. We set up on the edge of some grassy opens against the timbered area. Calling (bugling) we had elk respond, but none coming in. We know itís early in the hunt and we donít want to push the elk out of their area, so our approach is more cautious. Back to camp, we climb a hill and glass the zone we think holds the elk and consider a strategy for another day.

    Day 2, up early and hiking in the opposite direction into an old pocket we refer to as the Dragonís wallow. Still taking an inventory of elk in the area. This pocket always holds bulls. We decide on two teams coming from opposite directions, one team from the east, one from the west. This allows us to assess the wind and the team with the wind in their favour makes the move. We spotted a solo big bodied bull on the eastern flank, but couldnít reel him in. He was moving away, faster than we could keep up and we couldnít turn him. We leave him be for another day. Later we spot mule deer and elk high up on the ridge above us.

    Day 3, back up on our north facing slope. We decide on a route that will take us up under the original pocket we had identified on day one. This will be a much further distance to hike, but we feel the approach is justified. Still in darkness, about 30 minutes before daylight, the elk in the basin start to light up. We are not far from a bull with cows located over to our east. We set up quickly, cow calling, raking and bugling. The interaction between ourselves and the bull sets off a cascade of bugling bulls in the basin. Never be fooled by the sound of a bugle. A 2 year old raghorn can sound as big and tough as a herd bull. Although, the real growlers represent the true ancients. Big majestic bulls that rule the mountain.

    We fanned out, everyone aware of wind, and we give the low elevation person (my son) with the wind mostly in their favour, time to move forward. This is intended to guard against a bull trying to slip downwind or an escaping bull, slipping out the back door. We fan out from the point of contact, we want to advance quickly. One caller in back, and two moving directly toward the bull. We always go right at the bulls. Itís pre rut, youíll know when a bull is coming in. Itís a beautiful thing Ė a bull coming in Ė with intent to hurt you or mate you. The hairs and nerves on your body alive, and you might start to consider your own safety. But at this time of year, they need a little motivation. The chance to steal a cow, they want to protect their honey hole, they donít like trespassers. Watching the wind, we advance. He slips away. We reconvene, bugle and identify three more bulls bugling. Obvious choice, move in on the closest one where the early morning downdraft is still in our favour. We need to move through a back draw, and weíre aware the wind will be different in the draw, and once on the other side the wind may shift again. I take a stick in the eye and my son is concerned. We all take cuts and bruises. It isnít easy country. But weíve never felt so alive. We move quickly along active elk trails, moving as quietly but quickly as possible through big alders. We hustle up a steep bank to get off the alder trail. The bull moves off to our east into a little back bowl. As we move, we keep him engaged with bugling. We again, decide to fan out and move directly at him. One person high, one in the middle and another lower down. Keeping the wind in our favour meant each of us dropping in altitude and eventually about 75 yards out, being directly below what turned out to be a bachelor group of bulls. We played them for a while and they eventually squirted up and around to the south. Giving our shooters on the top side, ranges of just over 50 yards. As I spotted the bulls leaving I pulled out one of my loud cow calls and get on it steady. Thinking my buddy just needs a bit more time to get the shot off. Eventually the bull turns and I think heís coming in. He takes a few steps directly towards my partners and then turns and moves off away from us. A departing bull is crazed by the loud cow call and bugles repeatedly. A good gauge of how close they might be to coming in. Next time perhaps.

    Evening. We are back down the mountain and a short ways up the other side on the south facing slope of the mountain to the north. Still good elk country in open rocky ridges, but our real intention is to spot elk back in our north facing basin. With 3 or 4 good bulls identified, we make a plan for day 4.......

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Kootenays
    Posts
    4,132

    Re: Hunting Elk

    ......
    Day 4, same approach as day 3, hiking straight up into the basin. Each day, starting off a bit earlier, giving us more time. This was going to be, an epic day. It seemed everyone was encouraged and the hike in the dark went fast. Getting in better shape now. From our new vantage point, we had a bull bugling in the centre of the basin. Our first target…. Again, the wind was in our favour. We moved quickly directly at him. A general rule, if a bull bugles, cut the distance in half and bugle back to him. We moved quickly, fanned out, military style and approach him from below up some steep terrain. Is it the lungs that give out, or the thighs? The adrenaline messages the body with “don’t stop”. “Go hard”. We moved up the slope toward him and our fan formation expands, I moved east and toward a small draw. He bugles and I knew my decision to move in this direction was the right one. As I’m working to be quiet, he moves out of the draw and offers me a 60 yard shot. A 5 pt. The distance is to far for me. You have to be a special person with certain skills to be able to successfully arrow an elk at range. They are fast and tough. We don’t always see that small arrow deflecting branch at range. A poor shot only leaves you in anguish. Wait. My effective range, is 20 yards. The bull moves across the slope above me and offers my next partner a quick 50 yard look. Again, no shot.

    We re-group and decide we’re going to push this bull. He has cows and we can see he’s now gathering them and herding them across some small rocky outcrops toward the saddle between two small tops. We use the mossy rock to hide our noise. I’ve been a route finder most of my life and there are many factors that go in to route choice. You need to look long, far out and anticipate, and you need to keep focused on up close. As we move along the two of us up front spot elk. Two spikes, one a small bodied yearling still in velvet, the other a bigger bodied spike with the velvet rubbed off. We freeze in place. The elk are at 40 yards, they don’t see us. They feed around at that 40 yard distance and eventually move off. We’re following…. Down into the draw they went into and up over the small top. Coming over on to the west facing slope we hear a bull below. Finally, a bull below us.

    I wonder why many hunters are advocates for rifle hunting in the rut? This bow hunting experience for me, is the most exciting and spiritual experience possible. Using archery tackle forces us to use different skills and get in close. Words don’t describe the emotional uplift of pursuing bulls with a simple weapon. I grew up rifle hunting elk. I shifted 30 years ago, and haven’t picked up a rifle to hunt elk with since. The bow, simply provides a unique connection to the pursuit.

    To approach the bull below we curl down and around this small knob one might call a mountain. Again, paying attention to the wind. We’re tired, we’re thirsty and hungry. Ah, and the feet are sore from being held tight in the boot and side hilling. Good boots are critical. They must have extremely good sideways torsion stiffness. Function over comfort. No flip-flops up here. We stop for a bite. Whenever I stop on the mountain, I calf call. Constantly. And inevitably an elk will come in to investigate. This was no different. As we sat munching on an orange and a granola bar, sure enough, animal movement below us. An arrow nocked, it takes time to wait out the movements in the forest. Wildlife is never in a hurry. Only we have a clock and pay attention to time passage. Wildlife simply exist and live. Be patient.

    We eventually move down and close to the big timber. We find the bugling elk’s wallow and take a position with the GPS. We’ll be back.

    The next few days provided action on a constant basis. Hearing wolves howling, calling in 5 wolves while playing a bull. The bull going silent and the elk hunt turning into a wolf hunt. We changed locations and had three bulls bugling at distance and another that came in quietly and showed himself at 75 yrds.

    Not all hunts result in the taking of an animal, but all hunts can be rewarding. The bond between myself and nature, for myself with my son and my hunting partners is rich and pure. True character is found in the mountains. We don’t just put boots on the ground (as the catch phrase goes), we wear them out.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    3,231

    Re: Hunting Elk

    Awesome read. Really cool to have your dad in camp. Cant think of a better thing to share. Sounds like a great hunt. I know one of the hunters in your camp. Look forward to hearing his accounts as well.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Langley
    Posts
    38

    Re: Hunting Elk

    That was fun. Thanks for sharing
    Resident Hunter

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Burnaby
    Posts
    47

    Re: Hunting Elk

    Very enjoyable to read thank you

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Posts
    4,885

    Re: Hunting Elk

    Great stuff there JT!
    Some really great advice for Newbs, but also for the more experienced as well.
    I find it very interesting to see what others think/react and do pertaining to certain scenarios as compared to what I might do.
    Have to say, one can "always learn" new things and tactics.
    Definitely will give me more to think about as well.

    I know some get hung up on where to go to hunt/find elk, and forget that it is only half the battle.
    Once you find elk, it is experiences like the said above, that help one find full success.

    Keep posting stuff JT, you have some great experiences to share for sure.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Posts
    178

    Re: Hunting Elk

    That was great! Makes me wish I could get out more...

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    LML
    Posts
    977

    Re: Hunting Elk

    Great story and writeup. Thanks for posting

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    An Island in the Pacific
    Posts
    8,315

    Re: Hunting Elk

    I was able to wear my dress shoes today for the first time since the hunt! Every adventure is a learning experience for the ardent student and this one was no exception... movement at the wrong moment, making eye contact with the prey, failing to watch my rear guard and skylining myself screams for more situational awareness in the heat of the moment. On the plus side applying a previous decade plus of bowhunting experience was satisfying, confidence and skill grow not just with success! Bears under my treestand for the evening sit, screaming bulls, great meals, and shooting the breeze around the campfire for an hour before retiring for a four hour sleep then rinse and repeat. Another great hunt and can't hardly wait till next year. Thanks boys!
    If you don't have a seat at the table then you are probably on the menu!

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Squamish
    Posts
    4,799

    Re: Hunting Elk

    I always enjoy your posts J_T. Thanks for writing that up, it sounds like an amazing hunt.
    Is Justin Competent, or just incompetent?

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