Use Promo Code Randy for 20% off OutdoorClass

Our first ever elk hunt!

Kalvin

Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2020
Messages
15
My brother and I have never been elk hunting before. We have been putting in for the Wyoming reduced cow/calf tags for three years. I was always in charge of the research, so I was looking for a balance between drawing odds, hunter success, and access. This year we finally drew.

From our research, we knew we needed weather to push the herds out of the mountains and down into the unit. Due to that, we waited as long as possible. Kevin flew into Arkansas last Friday afternoon and we started the 20 hour drive to Wyoming. The last 10 or so hours was slow going as a snowstorm was moving east. We eventually got there around noon on Saturday.

We started out by driving around the eastern portion of the HMA. From what we could tell, there was only one parking area there. There were plenty of elk tracks in the fresh snow, but Saturday was really just a scouting day after making the long trip. After that we checked out the western side of the unit. We were fortunate enough to come across a couple of successful hunters who had just finished packing their cows out. They gave us a good idea of where to look for the herd the next day. We continued up the road and into the national forest. The snow was about 20” deep and we quickly had to turn around before we got ourselves into too much trouble. On the way back down we ran into another hunter who had stalked a different herd to 300 yards but decided not to shoot since he was solo. He wasn’t hunting the next morning and encouraged us to be there glassing in the morning.

Day 1: (Sunday morning) We woke up and headed to the spot where we had ran into the solo hunter. When we got there, there were already two four wheelers. We went back down the mountain to where we met the pair of successful hunters the previous day. After putting on way too many layers, we started following the guys tracks. After about 3 miles, we ran into the carcass. From there, we attempted to decipher which direction the herd had went. We may have got turned around a couple of times, but eventually figured it out. At the 5 mile mark, we split up. Kevin headed back to the truck, and I planned to follow the tracks east until they crossed near another parking area. About an hour and a half before dark, I turned around and realized I had lost everything on the sled. I left the sled there and started backtracking. A half mile into the backtrack I found a rifle and a pair of overalls. Another quarter mile and I found my backpack. Lesson learned. I got to the other parking area after dark and having hiked almost 10 miles on day one. I could barely move.
Kevin said there was no way he was going out the next day. He had slipped and hurt his leg the first day.

Day 2 (Monday morning): I woke up and Kevin dropped me off where I had left the tracks the previous day. Change of plan today: one rifle, a small backpack, and no sled. I walked about a mile up the ranch road until I found where the herd had crossed. While crossing a frozen creek, the ice broke and my rifle took a hard fall. Luckily it was only a few inches deep. I began following the tracks again. By 10:00 I had traveled almost 3 miles and unfortunately they crossed onto private I didn’t have permission to hunt. Feeling discouraged, I decided to skirt the private fence in the hopes they had crossed back onto the HMA. A little while later I stopped on a high spot to take a break. I put my stuff down and went pee. Not knowing anything at all about elk, I had been looking below me towards the private the whole time since that’s where the tracks had went. When I went to grab my bag and rifle, I just took one little glance at the mountains above me. I couldn’t believe it, but there were 200+ elk sitting just 700 yards away up on a bench. They were looking right at me. I quickly scanned the surrounding landscape and picked a knob I thought would get me into range. About an hour later, I was looking down on them. Unfortunately, my range finder (which I use for bow hunting) wouldn’t give me a distance. Using OnX, I approximated them to be about 500 yards. That was a distance I was comfortable with, considering my Oklahoma antelope success earlier this fall. I picked out the biggest cow, and settled my crosshairs. I took the shot, but she didn’t fall. I quickly reloaded, and again shot for 500 yards. Again, nothing. I realized I was shooting over her back. By this time, the herd was on their feet. I aimed for 300 yards, and this time my shot hit its mark. The herd took off running, but there was one cow who was quickly falling behind. After the herd was out of sight, she laid down. Success! IMG_2362.jpegIMG_2365.jpegIMG_2367.jpeg

I called Kevin and gave him the good news. By the time he met me out there with the sled, I had one side processed with the other side still to do. We got the other side quartered using the gutless method and started the long journey back to the truck. Just kidding. Fortunately, I had shot her just a couple hundred yards above one of the ranch roads. Once loaded in the sled, it was an effortless 2 mile drag to the parking area.

IMG_2368.jpeg

Day 3: (Tuesday). Our plan was to start where I shot my cow on Monday morning and try to find them from there. Our plan changed real quick when they crossed the road in front of us before we ever got to the parking area. Although they were on the HMA, they were on a closed portion. We opted to drive up to the parking area and try to get in front of them. By the time we got there, they were nowhere to be seen. It was cold as hell, and the wind was blowing a little too hard for us Arkansas boys. We figured they were on the private anyways. We hiked back to the truck to warm up. Due to the long drive back, today was our last day. We decided to man up and give it one more shot. We drove a few miles away to a different parking area. From this area, it’s about 2.6 miles just to get back into the foothills. I’m not sure why, and I clearly have no idea what I’m doing, but I stopped to glass the mountains to locate the herd. My method was start at the highest ridge I could see, back and forth, then go down to the next level. Well that was the plan, but unfortunately they were literally at the highest ridge I could see. They were a thousand feet and 1.5 miles above us. Screw it, we’ve got the time. I guess. Once we got to the base of the steep stuff, we were out of sight for the rest of the stalk. It took us an hour and a half, and the $10 trekking poles saved our butts multiple times, but we did eventually make it to the top. We crawled the last 20 yards to crest the final ridge. From there, we had all the time in the world. There were some cows and a few small bulls bedded on the hill above the bench where the rest of the herd was bedded. We were hoping when Kevin shot, they would run downhill. Wishful thinking. At 200 yards, it was a chip shot. Kevin squeezed the trigger and the big cow just dropped her head. It took the herd a solid 10 minutes of us standing up before finally moving out. Maybe there was no reason for all the sneaking and crawling after all. IMG_2374.jpeg
Too bad the sled was 4 miles away in the truck. I got to work cutting up the cow while Kevin hobbled back to the truck to get the sled. I packed the backstraps, bag, and rifle down the mountain and grabbed the sled from Kevin. I’m not going to tell you the story of how I attempted to use the hide as a sled while waiting on Kevin to get back. Long story short, it didn’t work much better than a boat anchor. I got the sled, hiked back up, and loaded it with bags. Getting it down was a hell of a lot harder than getting it up. It kept sliding off the side slope and down into the ravine. With that much weight, on that steep of an angle, there was little I could do to control it. In hindsight, I think packs may have been a better choice in that situation. Regardless, we did eventually make it back to the truck after dark, and our hunt was over.

We learned a lot. We probably didn’t hunt them the way you’re supposed to, but it worked for us. It was cold, miserable, and probably way too much work for a couple of cows. But I’m already looking forward to my next western hunt.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_2368.jpeg
    IMG_2368.jpeg
    2.1 MB · Views: 43
Last edited:
Congrats on your success. I wouldn't give up on the idea of using the hide for a sled on future endeavors. I have 3 quarters plus backstraps and other loose meat inside this one (4th quarter on my back). Some paracord to "sew" it together. Pulled as smooth as butter and saved many miles of return trips.

1701446091661.png
 
Congrats on your success. I wouldn't give up on the idea of using the hide for a sled on future endeavors. I have 3 quarters plus backstraps and other loose meat inside this one (4th quarter on my back). Some paracord to "sew" it together. Pulled as smooth as butter and saved many miles of return trips.

View attachment 304210
That’s awesome! I also used paracord to sew it up but it was less linear and more bulky. Yours definitely looked a lot better lol
 
Congrats! Pretty excellent to fill two tags on your first elk hunt!

(obviously it worked out fine, but maybe more for others getting into this and reading it - I think taking a shot at what might be 500 yards without a good known range is a bad idea - just my opinion that there’s too much margin of error at that distance.
 
Congrats! Pretty excellent to fill two tags on your first elk hunt!

(obviously it worked out fine, but maybe more for others getting into this and reading it - I think taking a shot at what might be 500 yards without a good known range is a bad idea - just my opinion that there’s too much margin of error at that distance.
You’re absolutely right, which is why my new rangefinder shoots out to 1000 yards no problem!
 
CONGRADULATIONS on a good hunt! I have only one suggestion for future reference; try adding a couple of skies to your sled making it a SMITTY SLED. It really helps!
 
If properly mounted to the bottom of your sled, the clearance should help with the sagebrush. The secret is to use risers between the bottom of the sled and the skies. The risers prevent snow buildup in front of the sled and will help clear small brush. All you need is snow for the skies to ride on. Alaskan snow-mobilers swear by them. My Smitty Sled has 6" clearance underneath. I simply added wooden blocks shaped as needed.
 
Use Promo Code Randy for 20% off OutdoorClass

Forum statistics

Threads
110,382
Messages
1,917,922
Members
34,727
Latest member
Clifford Radcliffe
Back
Top