Elk Season 2017 – Preparation
Elk Season Preparation
The first time I heard a bull elk bugle at less than 50 yards was a moment that is seared into my mind! I can still picture the exact setting and the exact feeling I had during that moment. I have now had many close encounters with elk during my archery hunts but nothing compares with the first time. Every elk season has been a learning opportunity. I hope that as my knowledge grows I will more consistently fill my freezer.
This elk season I am bound and determined to finally close the deal with a bull. I have been very fortunate to be able to hunt these beautiful, eerie sounding animals for the last seven years. In that time I have been able to harvested one cow elk but I have yet to take a bull. This is the year! I am going to put in the time and effort necessary and I pray that an opportunity presents itself and that I can make a quick and clean kill.
In no way am I a trophy hunter, if I don’t plan on eating it I don’t hunt it. But if I could get a large mature bull not only is there more mass to them, therefore more meat for my family, there is also the perk of some antlers for the wall.
Reminiscing on Past Elk Seasons
As I am preparing for the 2017 elk season I reflect back on previous years… September 2015 was a frustrating, exciting, and exhausting month. Kristina was 8-1/2 months pregnant but she wanted to go out hunting. I had been hitting it hard scouting with a particular focus on trying to find a good area that didn’t require a huge amount of hiking (we didn’t really want to deliver a baby in the elk woods). Our goal was for Kristina to at least sit near a good trail and hopefully something would come by.
Opening morning we hiked in just a few hundred yards off the gravel road and sat. Right at first light we began to hear elk talking. First we heard some cow calls as the herd got up for the day. Soon the cow calls prompted multiple bulls around the area to let loose with their wonderfully haunting bugles. This really gets the heart pounding!
As Kristina stayed put, I circled down wind hoping to pinpoint where the elk were at. I soon discovered that the bugles were coming from a piece of forest with gravel roads on three sides.
Kristina wasn’t ready to hike into that steep and rugged section of property. I brought her back and dropped her at camp. From camp two buddies and I made a plan to try get onto the elk. Since the area we could hear the elk in had roads on three sides we decided to try go in from multiple directions. The hope was one of us would get a chance at an elk.
From where I was dropped off I went directly uphill through a twenty year old strip of forest before hitting the old growth where things opened up. The first 50 yards of brush were ridiculous! I couldn’t see anything two feet ahead of me. I was thinking that if the elk were anywhere close they definitely heard me and boogied off into the next county.
A few minutes later I entered the old growth. My excitement was growing as I slowly made my way uphill with the wind in my face. After a bit I decided to give a soft cow call. Just after the sound left my mouth a bull responded no more than 100 yards uphill! The hunt was on!
I could hardly breathe and my heart felt like it was going to leap from my chest. I had to get behind a tree, drop my pack, and take a couple deep breathes. As I peaked from behind the tree all I could see were the white tips of the antlers. He was searching for the cow! I had just called in my first bull.
Suddenly I noticed a slight shift in the wind, my heart skipped a beat. If I wanted a chance at this bull I couldn’t let him get down wind. When I saw that he dipped down behind a huge old growth log I took the opportunity to close the distance between us. Moving softly from tree to tree I managed to close the distance from 70 yards. When I pulled up my range finder he was TWENTY-FIVE yards!
I pulled back, leaned out from behind the tree, and let the arrow loose. As I stood there I watched in horror as the biggest bull of my life bounded off with my arrow sticking out of his side high up in “The Void”. This is the area between the top of the lungs and the spine. There is little there to cause an elk to die quickly. I was utterly horrified! How could I get bull fever that bad?
We spent the next couple of days searching and working our way around the area where we last saw his tracks. No blood was ever found and he never showed up during our time up there.
Wisdom From the Hunt
I learned some huge lessons on that hunt. Disappointment isn’t even the beginning of what I felt, I still have a sinking feeling in my stomach. I have regretted the mistakes I made and rejoiced the success of that hunt. Seeing our plan come together was a huge confidence booster.
I have been putting countless hours into elk hunting over the last couple years. I study the animals, scout, and learn as much about them as I can. My failure from the 2015 elk season will always haunt me, but it has helped to make me a better hunter.
Here is to a great 2017 elk season for all the hunters out there. Shoot straight.