Stolen Opportunities....a very sad elk tale. We must do better!

Mtnhunter1

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Gazing out of the kitchen window, I notice a deer crossing through the pasture south of the house. I reach for our kitchen binoculars and I’m pleased to see a decent whitetail buck cruisin’ for the ladies. This pleased me because EHD has almost eradicated the whitetails around the house. While watching this buck, I noticed that he stopped to look at something ahead of him then, looking to avoid it, made a big circle and disappeared over the ridge. Curious about the bucks behavior, I jumped in the truck and drove down to investigate. Just as I clear the last little rise, four coyotes make a made dash for the cover. Yep, dead critters will lure in scavengers. Dead elk will lure in ALL the scavengers.



I mutter a few cuss words as I get out of the truck to investigate. Clearly gut shot and lost by a hunter. The coyotes found the carcass that night and had just started in on the rear end. I could see two elk beds against the brush along the fence line. The tracks showed the elk had come from the east and bedded down. They then got up and one jumped the fence before heading for the timber. The other got out of it’s bed, walked about 10 feet, and tipped over dead. More cuss words and I head for the house to gather my camera and a pack. I would be backtracking the two elk, trying to figure out where the elk was shot.

Gut Shot.jpg

I back tracked the elk, half mile, over the east ridge to the neighbors fence. So far, both elk were just walking. As I continued onto the neighbor’s pasture, a few hundred yards revealed where the elk had slowed to a walk. The running elk tracks paralleled our fence line approximately six hundred yards. At that point there where multiple elk tracks. Seems that the two elk had friends and they had come off of our ridge, jumped the fence onto the neighbor’s land and made it several hundred yards before being shot at. Clumps of hair on the snow along with a few faint pink spots confirmed the hit location….but no boot tracks??



From the tracks, there were multiple elk that had gone east, down hill, and separated from the two that ran north along the fence. So I decided to track the other elk which eventually lead to the hunter’s boot tracks and a kill site. Two sets of boot tracks, two hunters. The hunters did a very good job in the meat removal department, no problems there. So I decided to track the hunters to find out where they shot from. I found the shot location- the hunters where shooting a very long distance.



The neighbor confirmed that he had a local hunter who shot a bull a day ago. A buddy had accompanied him on the hunt. Being acquainted with both of the local hunters, I spoke with each of them by phone.

Here is their story:

They had spotted the elk bedded on our ridge and maneuvered to the closest position that cover would allow to wait them out, hoping they’d cross the fence. Just before dark, the elk made their way downhill and jumped the fence onto the land that they had permission to hunt on that day. The elk seemed to be in a hurry to reach the better feed lower in the valley. With that, the elk moved out further than the hunters expected, but in their words, “the elk were still in that completely doable range”…. My guess here: The first shot was around 480-500yds…. In reaction to the shot, that elk turned straight away and ran north providing zero follow up shots. The other elk continued downhill and provided MANY, MANY additional shots in the fading light. One of the final shots connected and the shooter had his elk.

Neither hunter could tell me how many shots were taken but assured me that they were all within the shooter’s “doable range”.

Both hunters were ecstatic about the bull that was tagged and texted me a few photos.

Here is the bull that was tagged, a nice solid bull with long tops and short bottoms:


The Bull 2.jpg

Both hunters were shocked to find out that they had hit multiple elk and that I had found one dead just south of our house. The hunter that tagged the above bull then admitted that he wasn’t proud of his shooting ability that day. His buddy admitted that he should have jumped in and said that the distance was too far. Both said that they got caught up with getting close to mature elk with big antlers just before it was too dark to shoot. Both hunters were now not sure that the other elk escaped unscathed.



I asked if both of them had been shooting and was assured that all the shooting was done by one. Seems that the other had already tagged his elk earlier in the season. Then the hunter who did the shooting asked what the elk was that I had found? I replied, “A BULL.” He asked, “Was it one of the smaller ones?” My response, “NO.” He then stated that they had roughly scored his bull at 320 inches and asked, “How does the other bull compare to his?” My response, “BIGGER!” His response, “GODDAMMIT! What are you going to do with the rack?” My response, “It will be turned over to the Warden.” He asked, “WHY?” My response, “BECAUSE IT IS THE LAW!”

The Warden stated that you can’t charge a hunter for being a horrible shot or for having less than stellar hunting ethics.

AS HUNTERS, WE HAVE TO DO BETTER FOLKS! This is the eighth lost elk that I have found this year. One from archery season and the rest from the general.

PS: If interested, you will probably be able to bid on this bull at the next FWP’s auction! The Warden recommends bringing more than $2,000, though.
 
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Big Sky Guy

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Looks like wheat stubble. This sure looks like @Greenhorn ’s honey hole.

Do you think possible that the hunter was shooting at 2 bulls thinking he was shooting at one? Not really any excuse for this though, but the bulls are both solid 6 points and from 400+ yards may have appeared the same and the hunter may have not known he was shooting at 2 different bulls? If they were in view at different times and dusky dark could see the mixup.

Kudos to you for getting to the bottom and following up with neighbor. Bummer for the elk and situation all around.
 

Pagosa

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That is too bad, such a beautiful, once healthy bull left to the critters. I’ve taken marginal shots in the past and have always felt better about not pulling the trigger. Anytime multiple shots are fired at stationary target is one thing, but once they group up they need to stop shooting. I had my boy not shoot at a bull similar size this fall, because of a unknown distance and a walking bull. As soon as we left to walk back to the truck we knew we did the right thing.

Do you think any of meat is salvageable?
 

elkduds

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CO Springs.
Man I'm tired of clicking the angry emoji for slob hunting, road hunters flock shooting, and poaching posts this year. The animals and the sport as a whole deserve far better. Keep telling the stories. The only thing that catches slobs and poachers is witnesses who drop the dime. Thanks, @Mtnhunter1 for being one of the good guys. Dinner and drinks on me if we ever cross paths.
 

Mtnhunter1

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That is too bad, such a beautiful, once healthy bull left to the critters. I’ve taken marginal shots in the past and have always felt better about not pulling the trigger. Anytime multiple shots are fired at stationary target is one thing, but once they group up they need to stop shooting. I had my boy not shoot at a bull similar size this fall, because of a unknown distance and a walking bull. As soon as we left to walk back to the truck we knew we did the right thing.

Do you think any of meat is salvageable?
No meat was salvaged as it would have been borderline at best. The scavengers now have a few meals. Moved the carcass a few miles south in an area not likely to be seen by others. No need for all the phone calls about a bull with his head cut off.
 

Valley1320

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East central NM
We just had a buck poached this evening on the land we hunt. The guys walked in at least 3 miles. My buddy was hunting with his little boy and watched them do it caught them red-handed at it. Watched them shoot the buck and all. Game warden is citing them for trespassing and poaching. Sadly the one of the two guys (brothers) the one that pry instigated it and the worst of the two wasn't the one shooting. So he'll pry only get a trespass fine on himself. Glad we caught them tho. Sadly I don't think this is the first one they have snuck in and shot but hopefully the last. So glad we have a game warden stationed here now! IMG-20221116-WA0069.jpg
 

Dsnow9

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I wish I could say that this surprised me but after this season nothing will surprise me. Found these two cows and half a bull left in the field to rot during first rifle in Colorado this year. The three were shot at the same time over 24 hours before we found them. Cows were bloated and starting to stink. Was able to track them down and get enough information to the warden to prosecute. Still haven’t heard on the final situation as the hunters were from out of state and left before the wardens could get up there. The bull is less than 50 yards from the cows. BD60A876-6297-4FBC-B79B-CA6BAC398E36.jpeg 53894DC3-0461-4CFC-820B-53CD034AE7BE.jpeg F9A0A99A-2EA1-40BF-955B-5323F98E012A.jpeg
 

Mtnhunter1

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Unfortunately, the bull above was not poached. The hunters got caught up with the big antlers and lost their common sense. They were shooting too far in the fading light and the elk weren't dropping. I did not follow the other elk tracks but wouldn't be surprised if there are others that were hit. Both of the hunters were oblivious to the fact that multiple elk were shot. They just went straight down to the elk that they saw fall. Beyond poor all around!
 
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Bullshot

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Need a new law. You are allowed to shoot AT only one animal in a day. Period. That way there is no question of “i though i missed so i went after another”.

Two+ dead animals….. clearly you shot at more than one.. summons and seizure.

This law would barely affect ethical and proficient hunters, but would be often easy to catch such slobs with.
 

BZNHNTR

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Apr 25, 2021
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I don’t see how there isn’t something illegal here, similar to the story below I recalled from a few years back. They reduced the fines on this which makes sense as he self reported but the original charges seem like they would apply to this situation.

Did this guy call the warden once they discovered what happened?

 

thomas89

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If you shoot, wound, and cannot find it, you are done. Too many hunters will shoot or arrow a critter, know they hit it, lose it, and then resume hunting. One and done.

First off, WE didn’t do this and shouldn’t be lumped into the same camp as those yahoos.

And B, I shot and wounded a bull this year, tracked that sucker for hours, hands and knees, probably close to a half mile. I disagree that I should have had to fill my tag, although I definitely thought about it. I haven’t looked super hard in the regs this morning, but if memory serves, the law states that a reasonable attempt be made to follow up and retrieve wounded game. I certainly feel I did this. Group shooting elk at long ranges and wounding/killing more than one is way more egregious than a “sh*t happens” situation, but I imagine it depends who you ask. I am fairly certain as well I read somewhere that game and fish commissions take into account lost game when setting season structures, though I could be mistaken.
 

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