Sitka Gear Turkey Tool Belt

KHunter ID Elk bowhunt 2023

Day 6 continued

I get a good set up and as the bull is still in the timber and I see parts of him and real decent headgear at about 60 yards and closing toward the sliver of more open area and where I have ranged a few things at 40 (edge of the thick timber he is in), 35, and 27 yards I feel the distinct cool breeze on my neck and just like that anticipation of the shot become the sound of hooves from more than one elk heading away. In short order I hear addition bugles from the bull, and it seems the elk have moved only a few hundred yards or so best I can tell.

I take a few minutes to digest what just did not happen (groan) and check out a spring just downhill that I thought was a wallow but was not up close. As am doing so I am hearing an obvious hun ter bugling, terribly, ad repeatedly from top of the basin where a good sound bull and another bull have been bugling with some regularity. He sounds just like my grandpa’s old Faulk’s gas pipe bugle I still have and bring at least I the truck most elk hunts just for the mojo it may bring me given how many elk it called back in the day.

My Grandfather’s, and now my, Faulk’s gas pipe bugle that was so popular back in the 70s and maybe even the 60s. Gee, is that a freshly bloodied arrow in my quiver?

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To his credit the hunter is piling on a chuckle to each bugle attempt, halting, and with as flutey multi-noted absurdity as the bugle before it. In short, the chuckles were simply short bursts of the exact same flutey bugle in rapid succession. Hurts your ears to hear it knowing it is wrecking the situation.

It sounds like he is descending from the top of the basin (there is a pack trail just over the top) and getting closer to the elk. As I make my way up the ridge I was on while keeping the wind in my favor the other hunter is obviously pressing these elk hard. Not good! I had seen two cows grazing in the open on a broad sage slope at the head of the basin pretty late, relatively, with at least two bulls bugling nearby from the timber and this hunter is pushing right in on them and best I could tell working from the wrong wind direction.

As expected, the elk shut up shortly after this hunter has moved in closer and all that is left is the hunter continuing to call, I guess trying to relight the fire he just so successfully extinguished. A bit later, sure enough I see a hunter with a bow and another guy sky-lined at the top of the basin heading out, presumably in search of more elk that needed to be shut up to preserve the peace and quiet of the forest. Thanks guys for your strong work…Harrumph.

Figuring the elk, at least the ones on the far side of the basin are still there and bedded, I cross over the ridge just out of then basin but the wind is pretty strong and blowing my scent into the basin so I drop out further away on a sparsely treed finger ridge and take a nice break under a tree. The wind is string and precludes hearing much of anything on this exposed ridge for the few hours I was hanging out waiting hopefully for afternoon/evening action back in the basin.

After a wee nap and snacks I realize I can see my camp across the main valley perched on the canyon edge. The white spot in the middle is my 6-man-tent comfy atv camp.

A view of camp from across the valley

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Zoomed view previous photo showing my tent.

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Day 6, afternoon/evening

Well nature calls so I drop off edge of the finger ridge I had been sitting on for a couple hours at least into timber to take care of some serious bidness. I have dropped down maybe 75 yards into this basin adjacent to the one hunted this morning and…

WHAM. All kinds of bugling activity down there I was just not hearing because of wind just uphill. A whole new adrenaline rush as there is a LOT of bugling going on and it is about 11:30 am. By far the best/latest morning activity of the hunt. Seems clear that the bulls are still sorting out who gets which cows or at least warning off bulls from coming to them.

Well, that was kinda dumb sitting so long with the wind in my ears where I could not hear bulls within 800 yards and some closer! Anyway, I start working my way into the new basin, with challenging wind so head across the top of the basin to then drop into the bulls from a better angle. They are still bugling well as In descend. The wind is swirling and the right course is to abandon this but no, I am pretty excited and keep working it.

From the last bugles heard 5? minutes ago I think I am 200 or a bit more yards out from one bull. Nope, crashing timber 40 freaking yards away as I am sneaking along and catch a quick full view of the bull, a decent 5-point for this area trailing a couple of the 4-5 cows heading down basin. Me being me “foolhardy” I end up playing cat and mouse with the bull who actually responds and backtracks to within 100 yards of me for a bit before deciding to go back to the cows. Meanwhile I am hearing the other bulls' bugles becoming more distant heading away from me and this morning's basin where I presume, they had been bumped out by the other hunters only for me to bump them further. Talk about blowing up a great, elk filled basin in a single morning…Mission accomplished darn it. Fun stuff, but not sustainably in a manner that sets up an easy evening hunt. Well shoot now what.

I explore some new nearby country ‘scouting’ and bide my time till later afternoon hoping to get on the remaining bulls in basin from this morning.

The hunter with the pathetic flutey is back this evening making his ,awful, repeated bugles. AS I am more ‘up basin’ he is quite a bit closer to me. I keep quiet so as not to encourage him to come my way.


I hear a couple bugles in the basin, well away from flutey bugle boy and me that evening but true to form for this hunt, hardly enough and not early enough to pursue so after a great day with a couple close calls and lots of elk spotted, time to hoof it down the mountain and then back up the other side to camp for a mountain house dinner and prep for morning.

Need some rest and to decide where to hunt in the morning, knowing the basin I had a great moring in and around is probably heavily compromised but still holds some elk.

The views certainly never disappoint
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Some things always stay the same and so far Khunter has done a great job validating everything I’ve experienced.
  • Entitled quad queens! violating OHV regs
  • The really, really dedicated bad caller!
    • Seriously, at this point, who doesn’t have a phone that can record yourself
  • Finding a Mylar balloon (thought I was the only one who noticed this)
  • Quality hunting in the same areas others have a hard time with.
    • This area is VERY heavily hunted most of Sept. Knowing where they go with pressure…or where to be as the pressure ramps up can make up for that. I find they end up in unique areas that are easy to access.
    • Also knowing where they WANT to be as soon as pressure easing up is key.
I enjoyed helping out and using that knowledge. Aleviates the frustration of not getting a tag…again. Plus, we all know how those long days solo can beat ya down.

I’m just going to sit back, eat some elk jerky and wait for the rest of this recap.
 
Day 7, “Oh where has the time gone”, 3 days left in the season.

Breakfast had been various mountain house items most days. Today is energy/granola bars and hiking before first light. Based on the wind I determine I could access yesterday’s basin from the north side. There is also great looking broken up heavy timber mixed with meadows territory north of the basin so with mixed feeling I decide to hike the north rim of the basin to see what may be going on. And play it by ear, literally.

It is a steep climb down to the bottom of a drainage then super steep climb up the target ridge. Having started well before shooting light, the bow is strapped on the pack and the hiking poles are being used. Once I can hear into the basin it is QUIET. Too darn quiet. Shoot. At least the flute toting hunter is not around or at least not calling.

From this north ridge line, I am able to glass a lot of country to the North and west. Spotted a nice bull and 8 cows just a mile north of my camp that were working down of that ridge into some timber to bed. Mental note for later on that.

Finally, about 8:15 am I hear a bugle up basin. Not particularly ‘hot’ but a bugle that was repeated a time or three over 45 minutes. After not seeing/hearing much of anything, I decided to dump off into the basin and explore it for future reference while working toward the bugle that was way up basin. Not expecting much of a hunt and I had inreached Jason the spot is a ‘dry hole today, no big surprise in that’.

Found a spring/wallow/mud bath in the lower basin. Unfortunately, someone had a game cam on it and boot tracks from a few days to a week ago. And lots of fresh elk sign. You can see where an elk left a body imprint in the mud in this photo.

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As expected, lots of elk tracks everywhere in this basin as I make my way up the middle of the basin along game trails wind in my face checking things out. I have a target in mind of getting close to where the bull had bugled earlier and to a confluence of a couple streams that form a whale tail shape on the map. I know there is plenty of water up there and @YZF-88 had mentioned wallows along one branch of the whale tail I wanted to check. I had marked a distinct ponded water spot from satellite imagery in Onx so kinda had an exact spot to at least get me close.

When I get to the destination in the ‘whale tail’ sure enough with some searching about I find a couple wallows. There are not looking active over that last day but there is a deadfall on the edge of one with plenty of mud slung onto it.

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Initially I brush up within brown range and take a break and have a snack. After 20 minutes I cow call and immediately here a bugled response a 200-300 yds north of me on the north slope of this basin. Sounded liked a bedded bull, kinda halfhearted. Not really seeing a promising stalk opportunity up that timbered slope so I do not give chase.

Jason and I had just shared via inreach text stories of elk we killed at wallows by rolling rocks, slapping the water, etc. He had killed one that way at 15 yards right in here very nearby a few years ago. I noted to him maybe I found the lower jaw of his bull within a hundred yards of this spot:

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Since I had decided to take a break near this wallow, I trotted out to the wallow and with a dead branch slapped the water and the mud as loud as possible for a couple of minutes then retreat to my hiding place and rolled a few cobbles.

Maybe 10 minutes later as I am kinda dozing, I hear an obvious vocalization of a bull? From 60 or so yards just inside the tree line the other side of the wallow that is 25 yards away in an opening. It is that short note you hear when calling one into close range and they hang up and ‘demand’ you show yourself before they will come in closer. A lot like a ‘bark’ just a little different in sound. Well, I was kinda stuck with no good answer to this other than to make some elk sounds including rolling rocks, light raking and display my extreme predator bow mounted decoy. To no avail and never heard from that elk again but was still a fun encounter knowing my working the wallow darn near worked!

After hanging at the wallow for a good while, decided to work my up to the south ridge of the basin ad do some scouting and see if perhaps the bulls that were last seem/heard on the south side of the basin were active.

Every step was torn up by elk along the wayand found a few additional wallows. Albeit not active.

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Day 7, three to go, continued

Once at the head of the basin, the views were great and as it was kinda chilly, it seemed a great spot for a nap in the sun and to kick off the boots to relax. Unfortunately, there was no audible/visual elk activity.

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After an hour or so rest, lunch and nap, bushwhacked to listen and lightly call in a few pockets below some saddles along the ridge.Ultimately I cranked out some miles before evening and the evening was not productive, per usual, leaving a good hike down then up to camp after last light.

Easy decision to give this area a rest and hunt north of camp the next day as I had seen the bull and 8 cows and expect there should be more elk over that way with the incredible habitat as well.

More fine sunset views as start the hike to camp.

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Day 8, two days left in the season. As in get it done today or tomorrow!
Woke up and stayed with the plan made the previous evening to hike north from camp, up the ridge line/Valley rim I was camped on. Could be elk on either side of the ridge so the plan was hike, listen, glass and call a bit. Had seen a good bull and 8 cows yesterday that looked to be about. mile north of camp so hoping see some elk. Thus far have at least seen elk every day and usually each morning and evening. Finding elk has not been a problem but calling them has been a lot tougher than most hunts.

A pretty cool setting moon caught my eye along the way.
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Pretty darn quiet to start the morning hike. There was one bugle back toward the basin I had been hunting but not enough to change the morning plan. Nothing like a nice long, steep predawn hike with no audible elk activity to keep ya motivated. LOL. At this point the thought of going home empty handed is starting to creep in but I am still putting in the effort knowing there =really are elk all over just need the right break or the right set up to put it all together.

Once I top out on a tall knob I am in a perfect spot to hear 4 directions and glass same so get to it. First thing I see is a bull with some cows just north of the basin I had been hunting heading into an aspen patch. I can see him raising his head and bugling just cannot hear it at this distance. I tuck that group in the back of my mind for perhaps and afternoon hunt. This group was heading to bed in this timber patch circled in red best I could tell but did not track them any longer than when lost site of them in the timber heading from right to left.

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Spot a couple cows crossing over from a saddle in the ridge I am on ¾ mile further up and watch them cross a broad mostly open slope into timber below but see no bulls.

Also spot a good looking bull way up that general direction and at least 3 cows, also heading to bed below. I can hear this bull bugle occasionally. There are two other bulls I could never get glass on out across the valley I am perched on the lip of. This is the terrain the cows, bull/cows and unseen bulls were in.

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All great things but not conducive to putting on a stalk from this spot and time in the morning. But, seems a promising place to try a morning hunt by hiking up the gut of the valley rather than hiking a ridge line. Gee if only I had a few days left to work this area….
 
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Day 8, two days remaining continued

For the first time in days I have pretty good cell cover, so check in with my wife, also call the outfitter to confirm if I kill a bull today or tomorrow (last day of season) in this area that they will in fact have resources to pack it out. He confirms yes, good to go. Also talk to @YZF-88 and among other things he mentions if I kill a bull today he would make a 3.5 hour trip (including driving and a lengthy ATV ride, plus whatever hiking time) with his teenage son to help pack if I want. So, I have great options for an end of season harvest with ability to get it o packed out and just need to get one on the ground. Heck, getting a bull in bow range would be an awfully good start! 🫤

I kill the rest of morning on my glassing knob and head back to camp with a plan to wash up, change to cleaner clothes and hunt the bull and cows spotted north of the basin and across the valley from camp I had hunted last couple days. Sneak in some napping at camp, a first for this hunt, take a luxurious 3-cups-of-water head to toe spit bath, and make a mountain house meal to recharge.

Mid afternoon I head out for a spot mark on Onx to set up for the bull and cows hoping to make a play this evening. I am booking it down the trail to the bottom of the valley, bow strapped on pack eating cookies…and maybe ¼ mile from camp (easy pack out!), 5 elk, including a 5-point bull, bust out maybe 40 yards from the trail. Crap! Not paying attention. The bull responds to cow calling and hangs sloes for a biut but it is a no go of course so, bow in hand continue the hill to this morning's elk.

Oofda, what I had called ‘the great wall’ which is the long/steep 700 foot elevation climb from the bottom of the valley into the area the elk were in was a good workout, but I ground it out. I am in time arriving to what I think is the right spot only to realize I probably goofed a bit on marking the location. Anyway, I am on a great looking saddle with plenty of elk sign and install the extreme predator decoy on the bow and wait for, hopefully, some bugling.

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Once it gets close to sunset, I do hear some bugling from a raspy bull that tacks on chuckles to each bugle but too darn far away to the west/Northwest to make a play. I would have to push through a lot of timber and do some climbing to even get to a spot to possibly see the bull much less put on a stalk. Frustrating! Also hear a couple bugles from what sounds to be inside the basin I had been hunting.

I am pretty hard charging and optimistic for most every hunt till last light of the last day but admit starting to hear the fat lady warming up to sing, as they say about the impending last act and end of an opera, as I just do not seem to be getting on the elk that are literally everywhere. Having fun but sure frustrated at not making more close-in opportunities and at the lack of afternoon rutting activity. Had been communicating via inreach with a few hunters in other areas of the unit and they were experiencing same.

Tomorrow morning will be my last chance—given as poor as evening hunts have consistently been, I figure a better use of time after the morning hunt will be to pack it up and head home.

Well I made two hard hikes today without a lot to show for it other than elk sightings and begin the trek back to camp. That steep hike down the ‘great wall’ was tougher than the hike up but not a big deal, slow and easy. Plenty of time on way back to camp to think about what I might have done differently over the last week to turn the tides of this hunt. During dinner I take a taste or three of the last bit of bourbon I had stashed in my Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society life member tumbler.
 
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Day 9, Sept 30th, last day of season with planned morning hunt only then pack it up for Colorado.
Another setting of nearly full moon on hike and a gorgeous view in all directions

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Decided hiking down into the valley from camp, then hiking up the basin toward where I spotted and heard various elk the previous morning would be my best last option for this hunt. Get a predawn start into quiet woods devoid of bugling. Feeling a little lazy perhaps and mostly follow an unmarked pack trail. Instead of going up valley as originally planned, I work my way up valley a ways and then up the opposite side. No bugles till about 8:15 am and of course they are from across and further up the valley. Looks like poor fluffy got eaten on the trail.

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I had seen a lone cow in an open patch over that way earlier but saw no other elk. I put out a locator bugle and get immediate response from one bull, then another. I actually spot a bull with what is probably the cow I had seen earlier, working down off the ridge into the gut of the valley. I am thinking, dang that is too far to make a play and plan to keep on my path up my side of the valley (despite no elk sounds coming from that direction, not sure why) Here is that bull, the cow is behind a tree.

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I hike up a bit more but look back at the bugling bull and I see a second bull bugling and following the bull and cow. Then the first bull reverses course and heads for the 2nd bull screaming some awesome bugles and challenging him up close. The 2nd bull heads into some trees as the first bull goes back toward his cow. Now I am thinking, dang, that is exactly the sort of action that facilitates a stalk in close—preoccupied rutty bulls. And get to thinking, wisely of course, that these are a much better option than heading where I was. Start planning where and how to approach and pull out the range finder. Well I can get 800 yards in the foreground and estimate the bulls were no more than about 200 yards past that and mark the spot in Onx. Cripes, that is a LOT closer and easier to access than originally thought so start hauling butt back to the bottom and working my way up toward the bulls and a hopefully accurate location I marked in Onx.

Once I get to 500 yards it is obvious there is a group of bulls rutting hard. Constant bugles, screams, growls and chuckles. Constant! And the wind seems perfect for the route I am taking to them.
I make my first face plant of the hunt, tripping over a log in my haste. Bow goes flying and I crash onto a rock with my shoulder with a solid thud. Assess self and bow and all looks OK. Time to settle down and stay sharp and not blow this. Slipping in on a hard rutting herd in timber is the easiest thing in the wide world of elk hunting. Or should be. Getting pretty amped up but keeping it together as I close to 200 yards and the elk are in the thick timber just above me where I am in the open for the most part for another 10 paces.

Feel a stiff breeze shift from perfect to now be coming over my back to the elk. Crap, just not meant to be! But gonna keep trying. The bugle fest continues.
 

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Well, I have a lot of rutting elk a couple hundred yards away and the wind direction just went to hell… the elk are spread across a 90+ degree arc just above me within 100-200 yards. Utter pandemonium up there in thick timber. The adrenaline is flowing! I head up the steep hillside they are on, but cut way over to the left of them, thinking I might get on their level with the wind hopefully shifting as it was blowing up and down hill so that I might approach cross wind from them instead of upwind/downwind. Odds of that working are probably low I know…

Man, this hillside is TORN up! Lots of seeps and a couple wallows (no wallow photos while in urgent stalking mode, LOL).

In a few minutes I am on the periphery of the herd. I am variously within 50 to 100 yards or so and the herd is going nuts—apparently sorting a bunch of cows among a least 5 bulls maybe 6 or 7. I can see glimpses of elk, cows and bulls and they are running all over, cow calls, bugles, raking tree. Bull runs after and turns a cow and then here comes another bull to challenge the first bull. Loving it! Feel like I am keeping my cool despite the adrenaline I am feeling and think through the scene in front of me and how to close the deal. Decide I do not need to move at all other than a slight shift of 10 yards to provide better shooting lanes as surely a bull will be coming by me any minute given the activity. Again, seeing constant glimpses of elk in close from 25-45 yards maybe a tad further. I am IN the herd and they are not going anywhere. No better feeling than that after a long challenging week. Parts of the herd are moving back and forth within about a nearly 270-degree arc and mostly without a shot opportunity, yet. Just gotta be patient. A good breeze starts up slope from me to the elk more to my right. I hear a bark and what sounds like hooves running. Dang it. But the pandemonium continues in close, no major effect. As many folks know once you are inside a rutting herd, up close, it is amazing what you can get away with in terms of movement and scent. They, and this herd for sure, are too worked up and preoccupied and their defenses are down down down to my advantage.

Me and the elk are in THICK stuff with lots of undergrowth making anything more than 30 or so yards away hard to see.


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But I am able to see them as they pass though the few gaps. I have spotted what I think are 5 different bulls in this roving scrum, usually as they trail and seem to be hooking or at least turning a cow that has trotted off 50 or so yards and sounds like another bull or two are further out that I cannot see. The bulls I have seen and that are crossing back and forth in front of me include a +/- 320-inch 6 point and one pushing 300 and a few smaller bulls.
 
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I spot a cow in a shooting lane and range her at 25 yards. Here comes the big bull for her. I draw and wait for him to step out. And wait and wait some more. He is also 25 yards way and right of the cow and body covered in brush. I hold for a few minutes anyway, and the arms start to give out. I have to let down which I do. A minute later the cow moves to the left and the bull moves and stops broadside at 25 yards in a clear shooting lane. I draw, no actually I don’t. I try and try and try again but cannot get my bow pulled back. Are you kidding?! After a week of this I have a chip shot and cannot get drawn to shoot.

The bull moves out of the shooting lane to the left toward the cow that is 15 yards left of the shooting lane, I can barely pick her out through the brush and trees.

Now here comes the 2nd largest bull, the maybe 300 bull. He stops in the same open shooting lane short of the bigger bull, broadside. Attempt to draw and STILL cannot get the bow pulled back. I can’t even describe what I am feeling and the emotions…just can’t even get my bow pulled back on the best bulls I have seen on the hunt.

After giving me ample time to shoot either, the bulls head back to the scrum going on more to my right. I see the cow go uphill and catch a glimpse of her also heading back to the right.

I continue standing and listening and hoping my strength returns so I can capitalize on this golden opportunity. All the elk are still going nuts within 30-80 yards give or take and moving all around me on three sides

After about 5 minutes of this and no new shot opportunity I get worried this near perfect set up is going to fall apart so I makes a couple of cow calls to match the many cow calls I have been hearing as I see cows trotting and walking back and forth in front of me with bulls in tow. I spot two bulls at about 50 yards coming my way. I am again trying to draw and straining. The third try, by force of will I get drawn when the bulls are maybe 30 yards out ambling toward me. It is a smaller 5 point and the great looking 300? inch 6 point.

I am standing in the open next to a small spruce and the smaller bull is in front leading the way. I am still at full draw as he steps though a gap between a tall pine tree with a bare trunk and an oak bush and turns and stops broadside at maybe 6 yards with the bigger bull stopped behind him showing a frontal shot opp to his right at maybe 12 yards except the chest is covered by the oak.

Zero hesitation and focused! I know shooting the smaller bull is 100% what I want to and can do, I shift aim from the bigger bull to the middle, fattest part of the smaller bull’s lungs and let fly. All I see is a flicker of fur on the bull’s side, no view of the arrow in flight or entry point nor penetrating the bull, just the hide and hair on his side flicker. Definitely heard the hit, sounded like all flesh and no bone. Clearly a complete pass-thru at 6 yards.

The bull does not jump, just walks a few steps to my left then veers straight up hill slow walking directly up the very steep slope. What the? That does not seem good. Bull disappears from view within 40 yards and less than a minute after the shot I hear what I think to be a bull crashing to the ground. I make a mental and visually note of where that crashing sound came from and estimate maybe 130 yards or so just over the shoulder of the steep slope we are all on. Think so but not certain if it was my bull crashing at all because the the bigger bull had backtracked a little after the shot and then looped around from my right to follow the bull I hit up the hill and disappear in the brush and trees just before the crash. But the bigger bull then pops out shortly after the crash with a cow, and keeping his elevation, sidehills back to the right and into the scrum of still-rutting elk. As such, while I think my bull died quickly, I am unsure if the bigger bull made that crashing noise by raking or stomping or something.

Can’t spot my arrow from where am standing but it has to be close given the 20-foot shot and the steep slope behind the bull when I shot. I note the time, mark a waypoint and take a few minutes to think, run the scenario in my head, flag the tree I am standing next to and simply collect my wits and decide course of action. All the while bulls are screaming and cows are calling nonstop in close proximity and I still am catching glimpses of them. Quite the show!
 
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I inreach @YZF-88, Jason, and tell him I just shot a bull and the shot should be perfect but have not taken up the trail yet. He replies, “let me know, I can be there in 3 ½ hours based on your location if want help”.

I also inreached, and when realized I had a couple bars of cell signal, texted the outfitter to advise I should have a packing job for him if the shot was true as I believed it to be and would let him know ASAP ounce I tracked the bull. My thought was I have killed and will find this bull so better to get extraction lined up with the packer earlier than later.

I then take my time to give the bull plenty of time to expire. I had cow called starting immediately after the shot and occasionally afterward. More elk were moving around me at close range as I bided my time. After 20 minutes and despite elk being 50 or so yards away, I take the few steps to where the bull was standing at the shot. The arrow can’t be more than 10 yards past that spot given the steep slope. I see no blood and no arrow upon a cursory search. By now I had realized I should be running video to capture all the cool bugling and pandemonium of rutting elk so have phone in hand, video running, largely for the audio given how thick it is in here. A couple days later checking that video I realize I caught my bloody arrow on video deeply impaled in the ground under some brush when camera was in my hand pointing down as I was searching for my arrow. Ultimately, I find my arrow about 5 minutes later than the video under a shrub and as noted it went deep into the dirt maybe 12 inches. Arrow photos ATL.

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Video of unknowingly capturing my arrow stuck in the ground in the video.
 
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After about 45 minutes and having found my arrow covered in blood that was not especially foamy/bright/lung hit looking upon initial inspection I am concerned about the blood trail I will find. Decide it is time to initiate blood trailing, at least in close to where I shot the bull. I have been taping all the elk bugling sounds and whatnot but failed to actually get cool elk pics or video given the thick underbrush.

The first blood I find is a single dark spot on a log maybe 6 yards from the shot location. Not good, I think where is the lung spray from my supposed double lunger? I see what I think are the bull's tracks 10 yards upslope from the shot but no blood anywhere. Did the usual backtracking and concentrating on where I saw him travel and take up the trail again, slowly. Last thing I want to do is bump a wounded bull and other than the obvious (6 yard shot where SURELY I could not have missed the mark) I really have no evidence I in fact made a double lung shot, plus of course the crash sound that I hope was him less than a minute after the shot.

The thought of a possible liver shot, given the dark blood on the log and my knowing I aimed for the fattest part of the lungs mid chest—which is not terribly far from the liver in actuality. Also, the not-especially-bright blood on the arrow creeps into my thoughts. I still have that crash sound in my head and feel like I will find this bull but decide patience is the better course and park it for another 30 minutes and try to enjoy the rut display going on in front of me.

In the meantime, I text Jason and ask him if he would call the outfitter to ensure they were in cell cover and had received my messages as I was thinking a packer beats packing by a country mile. He is nice and does that for me confirming message receipt. He also notes that a look at the map and my location indicates if the bull is close, the pack out is not terribly far albeit straight up to where we can get ATVs and he can get to me in 3 ½ hours. He also mentioned his wife is itching to get out of the house and will also help pack out so just let him know.

Looked over my maps and he is actually right, and I tell him that sounds like a plan and I will let him know the second I have a dead bull at my feet.

I start working the trail in earnest and still not seeing blood other than the one drop on the log and one microdot. Taking it SLOW. Arrow knocked and glassing ahead a lot as slowly track the path the bull took uphill. I get a whopping 25 yards in 15 minutes and what do I glass but horns laying sideways by a tree! WooHoo!! Happy.
Obviously dead and only 35 yards away, so he dropped within 60 yards of the shot, not the 130 I had guessed. That is how thick the brush and. how steep the slope was. I had lost view of the bull within 40 yards. Texted Jason I had a dead bull and to come on out. A couple minutes later he actually called me and we were both surprised the call went through. We solidified a plan that included him and his wife popping by my camp to grab my ATV so we had two for the extraction after packing the bull up to the trail.

One hour and forty-five minutes after the shot, here is the first view of my bull from 35 yards away after glassing him up. It travelled a mere 60 yards, uphill, before collapsing after the double lung shot and sprayed blood all up and down the trees he died and fell against but otherwise left almost no blood trail.

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Texted the outfitter that it turns out I did not need a pack out as I had help coming and the distance was more reasonable than estimated. He replied ‘Sounds Good” and a couple days later he mentioned he was glad I got it done without him as they were swamped that day so not packing my bull was a help to them but he would have if needed. Cool.
 
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Congrats!!!! I am not a big poster, but really enjoy your writeups and taking us along for the ups and downs always. Way to grind it out and share the reality that comes in those moments. Congrats!
 
And how amazing is this sight? All I know is I was thrilled to see and meet Jason in person for the first time at my elk kill site. Jason and his wife, having travelled 2.5 hours by truck from out of state, then an ATV ride, snagging my ATV along the way and then hiking to a pin of this location I had sent, arrived in 3 ½ hours on the dot to help pack. I had just in the last 10 minutes finished boning out all the quarters and caping the head enough to facilitate skull capping (using a saw Jason brought for me).

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Hunting is a ton of fun and we all know the work starts when the hunt has ended successfully. What an absolute bonus to have two awesome folks show up and smiling as they load their packs for the heavy lift up to the trail and the ATVs. Can’t thank Jason and his wife enough for volunteering for a 7 hour round trip plus a couple hours of packing the elk up the hill in two trips. Thanks!!!!


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And here are a few photos of me with my first Idaho elk. Note the blood splatter on the tree, that was the extent of the ‘blood trail’ for the most part.

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This shows the shot location. Quick clean kill. I had removed the quarters from the other side and had flipped the bull just before this photo. The opposite side was facing sky after he dropped and had foamy lung blood around the exit hole.

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The bone pile:
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