Caribou Gear Tarp

My CO Archery Bull

Iron Buck

New member
Dec 27, 2003
Pittsburgh ,PA
I am new to these forums and have liked what I have seen here. I thought you guys might enjoy the story of my archery bull that i took the season before last.

I have always enjoyed hunting the Colorado high country but have hated the crowds on public lands close to the roads. For the 2002 elk season my buddy and I decided to hunt the archery season in a wilderness area in early September. This is the beginning of the season before the elk get stirred up buy other hunters. We wanted an experience that included elk, beautiful mountains and no other hunters or motorized vehicles. We picked an area that would require hiring an outfitter to haul us and our gear (80lbs a piece) 5 hours on horseback to a high alpine valley that I had found while back packing in a previous summer. We would use the outfitter only for hauling gear or meat. We would go this hunt alone and self guided. Just the way we like it. With the destination chosen in early April of 2002 we had 5 months to get in shape for the upcoming hunt.

I have hunted and hiked the Rockies before and knew that you must get your cardiovascular system in top shape and develop your leg and back muscles for hiking. My routine consisted of 5 mile runs daily and weekend hikes in the local Pennsylvania hills with a 30-60 pound pack on the weekends. I was mostly concerned with the fact that we would be camping at 10,500 feet and hunting up to 12,000+ feet. Where I live we are at about 1200 feet in elevation. Altitude sickness was a serious concern for such a physical hunt. All I could do was try to be in the best shape as possible, there is no way to condition for actual altitude short of spending time there. Not an option. I would only have my 10 vacation days at altitude. The training would have to be at my local East Coast elevations. Time would tell if this would be enough. I spent most of the time running up the steepest hills I could find locally. And going on several long backpack trips to the North Central Mountains of PA.

Upon arrival the excitement was high. Just being around those mountains is good for the soul! I had made arrangements with an outfitter to pack us into the area where we wanted to camp….I may be crazy bit not crazy enough to hop off a plane from the East coast and then try to hike 15 miles at those elevations with full packs right out of the gate. The outfitter picked us up and drove us to the trail head. We packed up the horses and were off for a 5+ hour ride to our base camp. It was a great ride in with a bright sunny day and spectacular mountain views. I had 5 hours to pick the brain of the outfitter for pointers on the ride in! This would be my first outing for elk with my bow. The outfitter was very generous in offering advice as we climbed up the trail from 7000 feet to base camp at 10500 feet. All was going well with no signs of altitude sickness. Upon arrival at base camp we ran into 2 sheep hunters who had scored on a pair of very nice bighorn rams. The outfitter unpacked us and said to call every other day so that he knew we were still alive or if we got something so that he could haul it out. If he did not here from us he would come back in to look for the bodies! The sheep hunters shared camp with us that night. They were a couple of local guys who had lots of good information about the elk movements in our valley. We took the advice and also listened to the stories of their Rams as we sat around the fire eating Sheep ribs! They pulled out in the morning at day break as we got ready for hunting. They would be the last hunters we saw the entire time we hunted the valley. This is just what we wanted!

The first 2 days of the hunt we spent mostly glassing. We were new to hunting this area and needed to get a feel for what was around. We saw plenty of elk, but they all seemed to be staying at or above tree line. If we wanted them we would have to climb. Good thing we had spent several months working out! We also saw many sheep and mule deer. The valley was so rugged that I guess most hunters avoided it so the game felt safe there. It the words of our outfitter “I don’t hate elk that bad to hunt them up there!” he thought we were nuts!

The 3rd day of our hunt I spotted a nice bull from 2.5 miles away with my binoculars as he crested the top of the mountain and dropped into the area that I was hunting. I could tell he was a bull, but I was not sure how big his rack was, but I knew that if I could see it at that distance that it must have been big! He had 15 cows in tow. He stopped at a perch at tree line and bugled from 10-11am. What a sight! When he bedded at the top of the timber my buddy and I made our move and hiked (jogged) into position while working the wind. We got within 2 drainage's of his location undetected and waited for the sun to start heading down so the thermals would pull our scent into
the valley. We started moving slowly at 5:30pm while each cow calling. At about 6:00pm we had 2 lesser bulls answer our calls from about 100 yards away, at the main tree line. This was in very steep and rugged country. This pissed this old boy off to no end! He ran back and forth from well above tree line bugleing, chuckling and grunting. I could see him tear a pine tree
apart! The 4x4 and 5x5 that were closer to us just kept calling and coming in. The 5x6 herd bull was crazed when he thought 2 underlings were going to take away 2 of his cows (us calling). He came CRASHING down the mountain side screaming the whole way. He smashed so many trees that it looked like a D-9 tractor coming our way! The satellites got out of town fast. He was raking
a tree about 50 yards into the thicker pines when I moved closer. He was grunting the entire time and giving full forced bugles! Finally after 30 minutes of this he offered a 28- yard shot and the arrow hit home. What a hunt. What a bull! I boned him out and my buddy and I began the work of hauling the meat 2 miles to the trail so the outfitter could pick it up. For some strange reason we smiled the entire time!

We got chances at 3 other bulls later in the week that were all 6x6's but the wind blew each chance. They were bigger than the one I got. We saw a 7x7 that was outstanding, but we could not get closer than 200 yards of him because he was in an open alpine basin. He had 30 cows with him..... ..well above treeline! He never did go into the pines below as far as we could see! All of this was on PUBLIC LAND! We had togo high and go deep to get behind the other hunters but is was awesome! I will be sure to be back in the Colorado high county next September. This is to much fun to miss out on! With some luck I may chance into one of the bigger bulls that I saw. At any rate....I AM ADDICTED!!!!

Awesome story on your elk Iron. Sounds like you had a hunt of a lifetime. Are you planning a return trip? You mentioned you saw some mulies, any bigun's?
I will be backe there again this coming September. It is a GREAT place. We saw some outstanding mulies above treeline. Some were real wall hangers. Thay had to be at or close to 30+ inches. They were pretty much in the wide open rocky areas. I stalked a few for the fun of it (no tag
) that ran about 27-28 " and was able to get within bow range. Maybe I will go after them on purpose one of these years........for now I just LOVE elk. They are like hunting great big turkeys during the rut LOL
Iron Buck, Big Congrats to you man! You've done what many many guys dream about doing. Plus you proved it can be done by an out of stater. You put in the work and you got your reward. I know none of our congrats can come close to your own personal feeling of accomplishment though. Just put in for the points and you'll get your deer tag. Congrats and welcome to the addiction.
Congratulations!! Now, for some real fun, try to get a sheep permit! One time I got a bighorn sheep and my buddy got a real good bull when we were hunting timberline in one of those CO wilderness areas. Isn't it great to be in a place like that with no other hunters!
Thanks for all the guys. It was such a fyun hunt that I will be back every year until I can't climb anymore........hopefully I can make it another 25 or 30 years


Those Bighorns are some DAMB fine animals. After seeing them up there I stated to apply for the tag....Big$$$$ but if I get drawn it will be a dream come true. This will be my second year. I here that it is not until after your 3rd year that you even have a chance. But I'll keep trying.

I will most likely never go back to one of teh EASY access areas. The crowds of hunters kill me. One time in unit 74 I was 10 miles in from any paved road and a Lincoln Town car with 2 hunters in drove by on a BLM road............I knew then and there I had toi find a new spot!
biggrin.gif will be wilderness for me until I can draw a limited access tag somewhere.

Nice bull, and a great story. I'm sure you can understand why we "greenies", are a bit on the prejudice side, sometimes!