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A story of success: Successful Elk Hunt
The first Saturday of the hunt we only saw three or four cow elk where we hunted. We never saw or heard a bull elk. We decided to go to a different area the next day. We rode horses for about 12 hours that day. We rode through the brush, the creeks and up the steepest mountains. We finally heard a bull! We dismounted quickly and quietly and weren’t even 25 feet from the horses when not one but two bulls jumped us! It was completely unexpected by them and us. The second I saw them I raised my rifle but they were gone in a flash. I didn’t get a shot. We continued on that day and saw three more bulls but nothing I could get a shot on. They were all in the thick, thick timber and hard to spot. We sat and listened as the bulls bugled and chuckled until dark. No elk were answering to calls and none seemed to even be moving. The ground was hard, leaves crunchy and stalking would be difficult. That first weekend gave me nothing, but I was still pumped for the next weekend to come.
The next weekend we woke up at 2:30 in the morning. We ate a light breakfast, drank our coffee and saddled the horses. We headed up to the trail head in the dark. I knew it would be cold. As we rode, I took note that I had three layers and was still chilled. We rode for three hours to an area where we had seen elk the weekend before. We stopped and waited at the edge of a meadow for daylight to come.
I stood there and shivered. My toes were cold in my 1000 gram Thinsulate boots and my fingers were frozen in my gloves. We remained quiet and watched and listened as full light came. We saw nothing. We heard nothing.
As the sun rose, we warmed up a little. We began our hike in search of elk. We jumped about five cows and then tried to quietly look for a bull. The snow was frozen and crunchy. We crossed fresh elk tracks, coyote tracks and bear tracks but never did see a bull. We made a large loop and finally came back around to our horses. We mounted and hunted our way out. We found game trails in the snow from large elk herds on our way out. We were pumped! We studied the area and made a plan for tomorrow’s hunt.
We arrived back at the truck at 3:30 in the afternoon to see the temperature was barely 39 degrees. Back to base we headed to warm up from the day, relax and get a good night sleep. Tomorrow would be the last day and another early one.
Last day of season, and I hadn’t even gotten to see a bull through my scope yet.
We woke up at three in the morning, saddled and headed to the trail head. Today I had on an additional layer of everything. I knew it would be a long day. I was going to get something today, or at least stay out until shooting light was gone trying. The extra layers did the trick. It was still cold, but I wasn’t shivering!
We headed to the area we knew the large herd of elk had been. We were set up before light and were ready. We saw four cows, and then later we saw six cows, crossing through the thick timber. Never saw a bull and never heard a sound. The elk still weren’t talking. We waited there as long as we could and then started our hike, looking for a bull. We found plenty of fresh sign, but in this snow, we could not stalk quiet enough. Today we were at least warm from the hike, but I knew it was frigid out because of the icicles that had formed on my eyelashes. We pushed on and found another good spot. We sat to wait.
We could hear the elk walking over the ridges and up the hills. We stalked; moving in very short spurts, stopping and standing, moving again. We crossed our tracks from the day before, and right across those tracks were the fresh tracks of a mountain lion.
Obviously we weren’t the only ones hunting today. These elk were getting a lot of pressure. We headed to a meadow we knew of to have lunch and make a plan for the rest of the day. At the bottom of the meadow, we came across a fresh elk rub. There were pine needles and elk urine everywhere. This bull was mad. Still, there was never a bugle or cow call the whole morning.
We stopped to eat lunch and I consulted with my guide. He asked my opinion and we debated on what to do. He gave me two choices of meadows to set and wait until dark. The snow just wasn’t going to let us spot and stalk anything. We were going to have to play the odds and go with LUCK.
We decided on another area. We packed it up, hiked for a couple hours back to the horses and rode out of there.
Despite the cold (it was 38 degrees today when we got to the truck) we were soaking wet from hiking and riding by the time we got back to the truck. We decided to stop at base and change into dry gear. We didn’t want to get chilled waiting until dark in wet clothes.
After that, we rode up the trail to go get me my bull!
Sure enough we saw a bull. We stalked up through the trees.
He was in the middle of the clearing waiting for me. My guide verified he was legal, suggested the spot and BAM! There he was. The last minutes of the last day! After hiking, riding, freezing and waking up before the roosters, we found him. It was hard work, but it paid off! There is nothing more rewarding than an elk hunt!
Mia Anstine is an outdoor writer, licensed outfitter, hunting guide, life coach, keynote speaker, and range safety officer, firearms instructor, and archery instructor. She is the founder of MAC Outdoors and Host of the MAC Outdoors Podcast.
Mia Anstine strives to encourage others to get outside, hunt, fish, shoot, and survive life with others in a positive way.
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