Elk wounding question

TNHUNTER

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I will apologize for the length of the setup in the question but I think germane to the question. Short version is I had a dozen elk come by me Thursday that were shot out lower on the mountain (I found out after). I was on my way back to the truck when I heard elk up and to the right of me and ran/walked 400 ish yards back up the hill to a bowl approx 400 yards across just in case. 2 minutes after I got there I saw the lead cow for about 20 yards to my right then behind brush. 10 other cows/spikes followed and the lead cow crossed in front of me between brush (3' opening about 100 yards away) just as I saw the bull take up the rear. to the right. Counted points and small 5x5 and figured they would all follow the lead. They did and all moving quickly. I waited for the bull and thought he may have taken a detour as there was clearly more time between him following and the rest of the heard and he trotted quickly across the opening. I fired, saw blood in my scope and his momentum carried him through the opening while he spun. I could see his right neck and part of his head and he was turned almost directly away from me but obscured otherwise. He then stepped to his left and I could not see anything. That felt like forever but in reality 1-2 seconds. At the shot the herd ran back towards the bull.

Everything else that follows I could not see and where my questions comes in. Within about 30 seconds or so I heard something large fall and 2 loud groans in quick succession. I processed in my minds eye a bull down and death groan(s). I waited 10 minutes and snuck up the 100 yards.

As I got to the opening in the brush and about to enter the opening I thought 2 things - I wish the sun would not be in my face and visualized where he should be laying. I snuck around the corner and no bull. I looked up as I saw the bedded bull turn his upright head 30' away and took off like a loaded spring. No struggle and full speed. He went around the bush he was bedded and I ran up to see pieces of his antlers glistening in a thicket as he left and he was gone.

Backed out and gave it a few hours - literally could not find anything after the bed when we returned (no blood at all). I've beat myself up over this and 2 things. Should have made a better initial shot and should have assumed the elk was not only not dead but would run and prepared accordingly.

So the question is - what did I hear? Obviously the falling was the elk bedding down hard. What were the groans? Is that indicative of a certain shot or hit? Should those sounds told me of the type of hit? Appreciate any help/thoughts anyone can provide.

Thanks.
 
My guess is a gut shot. Very little blood except when they bed down or jump a fence/barriers of some sort. They can go miles on a gut shot and bed down when they start to feel sick. I would grid search the direction he headed for at least the next mile. Look for any obstacle that would change the elevation of his body causing some blood to come out or an area he might bed again. The sounds could be air escaping his stomach when he bedded down. Give it everything you have.
 
No. Groans aren’t going to tell you anything other than he was not shot through both lungs and he is in a lot of discomfort. I bet you hit back in the gut area.
 
Trotting at 100 yards?
ditto, off topic, so apologize, but what made a 3 foot wide gap with a bull trotting through seem a viable shot option? What fraction of a second were the vital exposed as it trotted through 3’ gap and how on earth could you recognize vitals were in your cross hairs and then get your trigger finger to pull the trigger and get a stable shot off, accurately, while vitals were still exposed. I could not pull that off on my best day. Seems unlikely that could yield a clean kill shot in vitals even 1 try out of 10. Were you shooting free hand?

To your question… Not sure what you should have made of the groan you heard other than you had a live elk and no reason to assume he was dead. That would probably indicate to me to sit down and wait a good long while before tracking, especially if I had no idea where he was hit. “blood in scope” does not indicate where on the body you thought you saw 🩸. Were you uncertain where on body you saw 🩸in such a brief glimpse compounded by recoil recovery etc, In my minds eye I can’t imagine seeing anything with certainty in that situation after the shot. Every situation is different but sounds like you maybe saw nothing of the entry wound location so safe to assume a trotting elk in BRIEF glimpse in a 3 foot gap at 100 would most likely be shot back of where I was intending so guts or in the hind best guess.

A lot of folks, absent seeing a critter fall and seeing them lying there dead from shot position, will wait a long while, 30 minutes or a lot more depending on a few factors before picking up the trail. to avoid jumping a wounded animal.

Question your “should have made a better first shot” as an appropriate lesson learned from this. From your situation description you should possibly should have learned to never shoot at at a trotting elk. Even if in wide open it seems foolhardy to fling lead at a trotting elk, but a 3 foot window is begging for things to go western on you.

Feel for ya in this situation. Sucks.
 
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You say you saw blood in the scope when you shot, also that he was lagging further behind the rest of the herd, and that the herd had previously been shot at down lower... Is it possible that bull was already hit poorly by someone else and you missed completely?
Seems like for blood to have appeared so quickly for you to see it in the scope at the shot, that there should have been atleast some small amount on the ground somewhere, unless what you saw was dried blood from an earlier wound? Just an idea. I hope you find him!
 
Gut shot elk will not go farther than 200 yds. My bud is a guide. Every single gut shot elk he sees, beds after 200 yds. They cannot handle a gut shot like a deer. if you think you gut shot him look within 200 yds, you’ll find him
 
Gut shot elk will not go farther than 200 yds. My bud is a guide. Every single gut shot elk he sees, beds after 200 yds. They cannot handle a gut shot like a deer. if you think you gut shot him look within 200 yds, you’ll find him
Thats not always true. I made a bad shot archery hunting once. Gut shot... bull bedded down 1.5 miles from the original hit, then again almost 3 miles away. Almost quit archery hunting after that.
 
Gut shot elk will not go farther than 200 yds. My bud is a guide. Every single gut shot elk he sees, beds after 200 yds. They cannot handle a gut shot like a deer. if you think you gut shot him look within 200 yds, you’ll find him
That’s not been my experience and I have hunted elk for 25 years. Been part of a 100 or more elk harvests or wounds
 
ditto, off topic, so apologize, but what made a 3 foot wide gap with a bull trotting through seem a viable shot option? What fraction of a second were the vital exposed as it trotted through 3’ gap and how on earth could you recognize vitals were in your cross hairs and then get your trigger finger to pull the trigger and get a stable shot off, accurately, while vitals were still exposed. I could not pull that off on my best day. Seems unlikely that could yield a clean kill shot in vitals 10 tries out of 10. Were you shooting free hand?

To your question… Not sure what you should have made of the groan you heard other than you had a live elk and no reason to assume he was dead. That would probably indicate to me to sit down and wait a good long while before tracking, especially if I had no idea where he was hit. “blood in scope” does not indicate where on the body you thought you saw 🩸. Were you uncertain where on body you saw 🩸in such a brief glimpse compounded by recoil recovery etc, In my minds eye I can’t imagine seeing anything with certainty in that situation after the shot. Every situation is different but sounds like you maybe saw nothing of the entry wound location so safe to assume a trotting elk in BRIEF glimpse in a 3 foot gap at 100 would most likely be shot back of where I was intending so guts or in the hind best guess.

A lot of folks, absent seeing a critter fall and seeing them lying there dead from shot position, will wait a long while, 30 minutes or a lot more depending on a few factors before picking up the trail. to avoid jumping a wounded animal.

Question your “should have made a better first shot” as an appropriate lesson learned from this. From your situation description you should possibly should have learned to never shoot at at a trotting elk. Even if in wide open it seems foolhardy to fling lead at a trotting elk, but a 3 foot window is begging for things to go western on you.

Feel for ya in this situation. Sucks.
Never shoot at a trotting elk? Very doable shot in some situations.
 
I think you might could say that an elk usually won't go more than 200 yards before bedding if it is gut shot and it is not disturbed. Generally speaking. For sure exceptions to that. I've been involved with finding a whopping 1 elk that was hit pretty far back and that's what it did so that must be what they all do right?

Approaching it within 10 minutes and jumping it out of it's bed and who knows how far it might go. They are powerful animals and adrenaline can do amazing things for them.

You would think it would be easy to find such a big animal but I just went through looking for 10 - 12 hours of actively looking for a bull that did only end up going 200 yards. Not having a blood trail really makes things hard.

I think your best chance is to grid search.

A couple tricks I learned AFTER spending so much time looking for the bull we just recovered.

Stand where you are sure you saw the bull last and get your GPS mapping software out and draw a line in the direction that you saw the bull run off. Then draw a line on each side of that at about a 15 or 20 degree angle. That should give you a good direction to start your search. More than likely (not 100% for sure) the bull will be somewhere in that vector.

Then most of the GPS apps have tracking features now. Activate the tracking feature and use it to help you make your grid search. It is easy to get off line especially on steep slopes with thick brush or timber. It's okay to get bumped off the line a little to get around something, but the tracking feature helps you get back on track.

I think if we had used those 2 tips we would have found the bull we were looking for MUCH sooner than we did.

Good luck.
 
Gut shot elk will not go farther than 200 yds. My bud is a guide. Every single gut shot elk he sees, beds after 200 yds. They cannot handle a gut shot like a deer. if you think you gut shot him look within 200 yds, you’ll find him

Weird, I was guiding and my client gutshot a bull, I tracked him in fresh falling snow for over a quarter mile before I lost him in the dark and snow. We found him dead a couple days later over half a mile from that point back in the other direction...
 
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