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2020 Archery Season So Far

MTelkHuntress

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Joined
Mar 20, 2019
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306
Location
Missoula, MT
I thought I would do a little write up to reflect on this archery season before the final push in late archery. There have been some great moments....and some not so great moments.


This year I was extremely tired of not finding elk so once again I took matters in my own hands and scoured the maps for areas to scout in the summer. I ended up setting about 5 trail cameras and it was a lot of work to check them but it was a great excuse to get in shape for the season. Opening day, I chose an area that I had been to 2 years ago but never really explored until this year. The smoke was horrible from all the fires but I pushed on hiking hard. I found new water holes and tons of rubs but no elk. Second day of the season not far from the truck, I got a bugle back from a bull. I was shocked and my dad and I tried to set up before we realized the bull wasnt coming in. I tried to sneak in on the bull but I saw a couple cows that ended up winding me. They ran off and we went down to the fence line just to see where they jumped. We found one spot on the fence that was down and kind of noted the location before we hiked back up the mountain to make a plan for the day. Well, turns out those elk didnt go far and we bumped into a spike and saw the whole herd run away. I never got to see the bull but it was nice to see some elk. We went there second weekend as well but never heard a single elk bugle. We figured the smoke and hot weather had them quiet. I did manage to call a hunter off private property which was kind of funny. I suspected it was a person but I think I just really hoped it was an elk. He was very rude so I didnt feel bad one bit for wasting his time. We decided to move on from this area because we weren't getting responses and just weren't sure if the elk were rutting yet.
 

MTelkHuntress

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Joined
Mar 20, 2019
Messages
306
Location
Missoula, MT
The second spot I chose we had scouted a ton during the summer because it was a brand new area. I had almost given up on it since we didnt have pictures of elk on it until August. We were actually going to take the trail camera out and I'm so glad we checked it before we did because suddenly we were having pictures of elk herds coming by. I got a picture of the coolest bull I've ever gotten on the camera. He is a 7x7 with some character. I never saw this bull but I'm glad I had the picture. Hopefully I can find it again to post. First day we went to the new area, I bugled and got a shy response from a bull. We followed the bull as he walked away from us and he ended up on private. I bugled and three other bulls responded. We set up in hopes of calling a bull off private. I never go with intentions of hunting near private, but I feel like I always end up following the elk that way. Hopefully I can find a spot far far away from private in the future.
We walked a ways away hoping a different bull in the area would come in and I set up behind a tree and heard a really faint bugle. Then I heard my dad whisper my name and point to the left of me. A bull was coming in! I first saw his muddy legs and finally his head as he got closer. He looked my direction and I tried so hard not to look at him. I could hear him breath sometimes. His antlers were very dark and though he was only a 5x5, I thought he was amazing. He circled around us at 60 yards. I could only see his antlers through the trees. He put his head down to feed and I tried to sneak around for a shot. I think he winded us because he looked up and slowly walked away. I never saw him again so we just sat and ate lunch, hoping later on the bulls would move around off private. Occasionally I would bugle to see where the bulls were at and it was really fun to count the bugles that came after mine. 1, 2, 3 aaaand yup there's 4 a little late. For some background, it's been a very long time since my family was able to find elk more than twice a season. My dad had a great archery spot where we got into elk every time, but when I started hunting, it was sold off in a land swap. Since then we have struggled every year to find elk. So being able to bugle back and forth with elk was a real treat.
 
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MTelkHuntress

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Mar 20, 2019
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Missoula, MT
We stayed late but the elk never moved so we went back to the truck. I was shocked to find 10 cars in the parking area....we were the first people to get there I suppose. Immediately my dad wanted to go elsewhere because he hates hunting around others, but I was able to talk him into staying. Luckily some hunters left and the next day, we headed out before everyone else. We hiked in to where we last heard some bugles but before we got there, we saw the whole herd of elk coming our way. It was amazing to watch the bulls fighting over cows. There was an unusual amount of bulls, about 1 bull for every cow. Not sure why but I didnt question it at the time, just quickly got ahead of them for a set up. I hid behind some bushy trees off a trail, hoping for a close shot. My dad sat on a log to the right of me and began to bugle. Suddenly a bull bugled back and started raking his antlers on a tree. I could see the antlers tips and tree moving about 80 yards away. My dad bugled again and that bull ran right in. I've never had that happen before and it was awesome. I ranged all my trees before hand and I knew he was just under 30 yards. I drew back my bow and let my arrow fly. That whole thing is a blur and the next thing I remember was hearing the arrow hit the bull and saw the arrow barely stick out of him. I hit him! He jumped back and walked a little ways before stopping. He was bleeding a lot. I hit left of the heart...I knew I had to shoot another arrow but his butt was towards me. I nocked another arrow and started sneaking in. He just stood there bleeding and tilting his big head back and forth. I could see his antlers moving side to side and that image has stuck with me. My dad watched him, he was stunned. The bull jumped a fence and walked off. I regrouped with my dad and he said he didnt even hear me shoot but knew what had happened once he saw the arrow. Thinking I had made a great hit, we sat and waited before going after the bull.


When we started trailing, I saw the big 4 piles of blood where the bull had stopped.
20200919_092436.jpg

Definitely lung blood. We went on the other side of the fence....no blood. My heart sank. We walked into the trees and eventually my dad found a tiny drop of blood, but it wasnt looking good. I got my map out and started doing paths back and forth. My dad went to the bathroom and apparently made some friends because he came back with 3 other hunters, all with wildlife PhDs. They offered to help me find my bull. We looked together but no luck. They told me stories of their lost animals as we searched. We thanked them and told them to keep hunting because we had eaten up enough of their time. They were extremely kind and we ended up running into them again every time we came out.
 

MTelkHuntress

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Mar 20, 2019
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Location
Missoula, MT
I looked at my dad and I could see in his eyes that he didnt think we would find my bull. I didnt want to give up so I kept searching for hours. I didnt eat the whole day because I just wanted to find that bull so badly and kept walking. Eventually my dad talked some sense into me and we went back to camp to continue the search the next day.



I felt horrible for the bull, the first elk Ive ever shot....and I couldn't find him.


We met an old hunter and his friend at camp and apparently the guys that helped us search had told him what had happened. He looked at me and told me he had the same thing happened and he understood how horrible it feels. He had hunted this area for 43 years and it was awesome to ask him a bunch of questions about the area. He told us about how many elk used to be in the area and how it has changed so much. They also offered to help us look for the bull but we declined and just asked if they would keep an eye out for him. We didnt want others to lose hunting time for us.


The next day we searched, but no luck. I thought I would feel worse but after the kindness of so many other hunters, I realized stuff like this happens. I couldnt go back in time, I can only take what I've learned and apply it to next time. I did everything I could. I wish it had ended with me packing out that bull, but it didnt. We think I hit the bottom of one lung. My dad 100% thought that elk would die because he was bleeding so much but we were all kind of dumbfounded. I felt really bad when my dad blamed himself. He had a shot at the bull but didnt take it. Now we have a better plan in place and some changes for next time. This failure sucked so bad but I learned so many lessons. I'm extremely humbled by the kindness of other hunters and I'll keep that with me in the future. I would like to think that bull lived, but who knows. I've heard some really amazing stories of how tough these animals are.
I always kept my eye out for him, or the crows.

We continued to hunt the same area, but due to pressure, the elk stayed on private and spread out. The bulls began to push their cows away once they heard a bugle. One herd bull did come back to public, but they stayed in some thick blow downs. I went after him and it was awesome to get within 60 yards of him. He bugled constantly and I could see him moving through the trees like a shark, back and forth. I could see his antlers clearly once in a while and watch him bugle. My luck ran out when one of his cows spotted me. They ran off but not very far. We went to the other side of the blow down and we could hear him bugle once in a while. We waited hoping they would come out of the thick stuff, but they never did until dark.
 
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MTelkHuntress

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Joined
Mar 20, 2019
Messages
306
Location
Missoula, MT
We tried this area again last weekend, but we only found one bull with some cows on private. It seems like this area had run its course and even the old man knew not to come back. We decided to go up the road from where we were hunting because we found some fields (turns out it might have just been rocks) on the map. Turns out the area was extremely rocky and thick with blown down trees. It was not a very fun hike and we honestly didnt expect to see anything. We got to the ridge top and suddenly I heard the unmistakable sound of hooves pounding the ground. I think my dad swore something and I looked up and saw why. The cows went to the left, but the giant bull came towards us. He came within 50 yards in the one opening in the thick trees. I could see his long tines and mass. Probably the biggest bull I've ever seen on public. We cow called and he stopped before walking back into the blow down with ease. I wish he had bugled before they ran. It was awesome to see him though, especially in an area that I certainly didnt expect to see any elk after seeing no sign the whole way in.
IMG_20201006_083945_922.jpg


I'll be trying a different area these last two weekends. I feel absolutely spoiled getting into elk more than once and I think I'm a little over confident about finding elk. I'm sure this weekend will humble me back down....its a very long hike. Usually we spend the last two weekends kind of scouting around for rifle, just hoping to bump into an elk along the way. I learned a lot this season, some very painful lessons but hopefully it works out.

I'm still extremely determined to not only get my first bull, but my dad's as well. I hope he is feeling strong that day if we get a double 😂
 
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neffa3

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Apr 17, 2015
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4,379
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Wenatchee
That's the kind of blood trail that make you want a tracking dog. That thing is dead in a thicket somewhere.

Happened to me two years ago. Happened to a buddy this year. His elk we tracked for 3.98 miles, almost all of it with a great super easy to see blood trail that ended is a bed full of blood and no elk. No idea what happened. I guess that point is, shit happens. Glad you're still out there.
 

Mtnhuntr

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Sep 26, 2017
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1,358
Great story and wish it had the ending you hoped for. Much respect t for how hard you worked to find him. Next time. 💪
 

old school

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Jan 15, 2019
Messages
35
Sorry you didn’t find your bull. Sounds like you did everything within your control to find it. Every hunt is a learning experience.
 
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