2021 Recap. A rollercoaster of experiences and emotion.

nolanjs55

Active member
Joined
Jan 28, 2019
Messages
68
Well i have been insanely bad about posting or chiming in on here so I wanted to do this write up. I have communicated with lots of members over messages and I am thankful for all your input and help. It’s great to be able to have a place to come and chat elk when we want to.

My season ended in October and was one I’ll never forget. Especially given my wife’s patience to let me pursue my passion of chasing elk while she was 8 months pregnant! I told myself I was going to take it easy this year but who was I kidding. I ended up with 3 elk tags and an antelope tag in my pocket. Anyways I’ll do my best to recap and chime in more as I remember things. As far as elk are concerned here it is…

2021 was an interesting year. Had 3 elk tags in my pocket and was going into the season maybe a bit over inflated in how I thought this would play out. I remember thinking to myself and even making plans as to how I would fit all this meat in my freezer and what family members I was going to ask if they wanted to take some off my hands. Classic counting chickens before they hatch.

Tag #1 special cow tag in CO. I put in for a second choice cow tag under a special program. This tag was a cow tag that if drawn you enter a lottery to hunt some open space in CO. I was fortunate to draw and was also selected for a week of hunting on the open space for archery as an alternate. I was beyond pumped and really thought this was going to be a slam dunk as far as opportunity and that I would have a decent chance to put a cow in freezer before my “real” tags even opened up. My first dose of reality this season set in as the parcel I was allowed to hunt wasn’t even holding elk, they were on an adjacent open space with no need to leave. So the week came and went and I ate that tag. No big deal, this was a bonus tag in my eyes. Good practice run in august and a chance to make sure my gear was organized.

Tag #2: CO Archery.
This was one I was very exited about. I was hunting an area I know very well with my buddy who I discovered this place with. My best friend and I carved out a week and went in with one cow and one bull tag in SW co. We cut our teeth on this mtn and knew every drainage like the back of our hand. This would be our first time in 4 years we could hunt together. We usually hunt early or late as far as season dates but as our schedule would dictate we could only hunt wk 2 of archery this year. We had never hunted the mtn during this time before, to our surprise we rolled into camp to find not a single camp set up. This side of the mtn normally has lots of pressure. We couldn’t believe it, we thought how could this be, we have the mountain to ourselves! Well the first two days were awesome. Elk everywhere and they were vocal. Multiple opportunities and some rookie mistakes. Day one had a cow at 32 yards but my buddy missed, he’s hunting a recurve. Day 2 were were neck deep in elk again but couldn’t get them into a shooting lane within the thick new growth aspens. That afternoon we moved to the fringes of the new growth that had some more open lanes. I started calling pretty aggressively much more than I normally do, lots of cow calls and bugles with some weak chuckles. We thought we heard something but couldn’t tell. Normally if I do call sequence I force my self to set up and not move for at least 30 min. This time I broke my own rule and wanted to move down to the edge of the bench we were on after 10 min. As I creeped forwarded around the spruce tree I was by, I locked eyes with what appeared to be a nice 270 class 6x6 bull. He was coming in silent and perfectly to my set up, had I waited he would have been less than 30 yards in front. I spooked him and he was gone. As fate would have it that would be our last day hunting too. On the hike out we would encounter our first real emergency in the woods. While hiking out we were traversing deadfall and we both ate it. Sprained ankle, broken bow etc. By the time we got back to camp with phone service, we were humbled and beat up. We contemplated staying but the sick toddler at home was the icing on the cake. I’ve never cut a hunt short before but sometimes I guess you have to do what’s best and hope there are more opportunities. Besides I could get home make the wife happy and focus on my next tag, the one I had the most stock in. Onto New Mexico for first season rifle!

Tag 3. New Mexico Rifle
I’m not much of a rifle hunter. I love shooting my guns but my obsession for archery far outweighs my rifle. In 2020 I began reloading and this helped increase my passion for my rifle. I learned a lot and developed a load for my 300win that I was very confident in. I decided I wanted to hunt bull elk with this rifle but I couldn’t bring myself to not get a CO bull tag during archery. I then made a decision that I wanted to try and grab another tag outside co so I could increase opportunity and have a chance to hunt bulls with a rifle too. I applied in many states and did not draw. As luck would have it I did have an opportunity to obtain a landowner tag in NM. Full disclosure here I hunted on a unit wide elk tag. I know this might rub some the wrong way, but I could not pass up this opportunity. I knew I had this tag since June and the suspense was killing me. I had dreams and visions of chasing 300”+ bulls every day. This unit was open country and I thought I would be taking inventory of bulls through my spotter. I wouldn’t be looking for elk, I would be trying to decide which one I wanted to shoot. Or at least that’s how it goes on the TV shows and in my dreams.

Well season opened and I was due to receive a swift kick to the nuts. 50 mph winds, cold days and lots of pressure made for tough hunting. I encountered so many “helpers” on this hunt that it felt Like the public grounds were crawling with people. Over the next few days the elk we’re sparse and the hunt was very challenging. I would locate them miles away but most of the time on closed private grounds. Day 3 I did find one nice bull in an open flat. I ended up driving 4 miles to get into an area where I might be able to stalk him only to find another hunter in the flat belly crawling after them. I decided to do the ethical thing and back off and watch his stalk.

The hunt would finally come down to the last day, I found some elk in the am and was feeling good. The winds died down and I had some elk in my spotter. Luck needed to be on my side here as I had no chance to make a play on them in am. I would watch them all morning and make a pm play. At 2pm I decided I would make my way down to where I thought the elk would feed into at night. I would be at their mercy and as has happened many times before I would hope and pray they feed out before last light. As I sat under a cedar, my mind was racing. Was this the right play or would I be sitting here till dark without every chambering a round on this hunt.

Just as this thought went through my head my buddy tapped me on my shoulder and said hey look across this flat what are those brown dots out there. I couldn’t believe it, there were elk in a small green up across from where we were set up in broad daylight! They were about 2 miles away but it looked like maybe 30 cows and a bull or two. My 10x42s couldn’t make them out very clear. After some dialogue we said we have to go after them and fast, I wasn’t going be passive and wait on the possibility of the mornings elk coming out when we had elk in our binos. This would be risky and would either be sink or swim. I’f this didn’t play out we would be out of position and would have no hope of getting back to our original spot before dark.

Over the next hour we would take a big loop to get into a mesa so we didn’t spook the elk and could get into position. We stalked in quietly and set up 350 or so yards up on the elk. There was an extremely broken bull in the meadow with the cows. I was deflated, I thought damn I’m not gonna get a shot here. As soon as I said that I heard a whisper. Good bull on the hill. Across the canyon was a good looking bull. We ranged him and set up. 418 yards. This was longer than I wanted but it was last day. I had to take this opportunity. I settled in, made my adjustments and got steady. I let one go and chaos broke out. I managed a follow up shot but shot high. The elk began taking off towards the direction we just came from. The elk were 1500 yards into the flat in a second. We could not tell but we were sure we hit the bull. There was a dark spot on his stomach and he was trialing the herd slowly so I thought must be a gut shot. I was beside myself and began thinking I screwed this up. We would keep eyes on the elk for the next 45 min. The cows wanted to get up into the trees but the rut must have still been going on. Anytime the cows would try and move the broken bull would circle them and round them up. Finally, the “good bull” and the broken bull squared up and briefly tussled. I then knew I had to have missed him.

It’s now 4:30pm and I have about an hour and a half left. These elk were still in the open but there were some folds/hills in the topography that would lend themselves a chance for me to get on them. Over the next 30 min we would play a cat and mouse game. We would move through the open bumping them a few times. Finally I got into the strip of trees and luck was on my side. There they were and they were back to being calm. The good bull was feeding 330 yards in front of me and he had no clue I was there. This time I would relax and make it count. After a weird and long season, I took my best bull to date a 5x6 New Mexico bull. I was on cloud 9.

Sure it wasn’t a 300 class bull or the bull I “thought” I was going to kill but in a way I was probably more satisfied. It was a hard hunt, I worked hard to stay mentally focused even when I was complaining and down in the dumps mid week. On the last day we had a crazy stalk with luck on our side and I was able to get it done.
 

nolanjs55

Active member
Joined
Jan 28, 2019
Messages
68
As I type this extremely long post, I have so much more to add etc. but I am resigned to sum it up to this. This season has taught me to allow reality to outweigh your expectations. I’m more grateful for the experience and the realities of this season. I didn’t kill 3 elk, I didn’t get one with my bow and I didn’t kill a 300”+ bull with my rifle. What I did do was enjoy my time hunting and rolled with the reality of the challenges each hunt brought me. In the end I took a 250ish class bull and the reality is I couldn’t be happier. despite my expectations my reality is far better.
 

swhunt21

New member
Joined
Jul 29, 2018
Messages
21
What a journey! congrats on the success. As hunters, we could all use a little more of this mindset. I takes a wise man to let nature present itself as it is, and just be happy to have the opportunity to be amongst God's beautiful creation.
 

JAG

Active member
Joined
Mar 2, 2020
Messages
217
That's a great write-up. After getting skunked last year, I have a new appreciation for the really hard stories. Grateful that you were able to finish with a bull.
 

ILbowhntr

Active member
Joined
Apr 24, 2021
Messages
146
Thats a very nice bull! Sounds like a rifle hunt any bow hunter would enjoy. Thanks for sharing.
 

khalid

New member
Joined
Dec 19, 2014
Messages
1
Greeting Hunters,
I am in Aurora, CO - spent the last 5 days in unit 211 but no luck, as the weather has not been optimal for Elk movement. I am looking for Colorado (or Wyoming) Cow Elk Depredation tags for my twin boys and myself.
Please let me know if you know of any ranchers that may be willing to offer such tags?
Thanks in advance for any pointers,
Regards, K
 

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