Caribou Gear

T Bone's report on Idaho Elk

T Bone

Well-known member
Jan 8, 2001
West Slope, CO
Here's my story:

Thursday Sept 5th.

Alarm clock goes off at 0300. I'm on the road from Reno, NV to Lowman, ID at 0330.

I see about 70 head of lopes on the way, I stop and glass one exceptional buck just south of McDermott NV. He is about 16" with some serious mass. He is chasing off other bucks.

I meet my Dad at Lowman at 1400 we continue north and east to "old reliable". I've taken 5 elk in the same years out of the same drainage.

We backpack in and set up spike camp as the storm clouds are rolling in. We set up the tent, put on the camos and war paint.

The bulls aren't talking at all. We sit and glass and locate 2 herds each with mature bulls. It starts to get cold and starts raining. We head back to the tent knowing where to go the next morning.

Friday Sept 6th.

It rained all night. The weather has turned the bulls into talkers. We slowly (Dad recovering from major back surgery) move to the closest herd. We soon find ourselves about 50 yards from a cow elk in thick brush, low light and lots of rain. Dad nocks an arrow, I back up 20 yards and cow call. The whole stinking herd of elk runs right to us as if we were their lost sister. Dad is at full draw for over 20 seconds as he waits for the bull to clear some brush about 30 yards away. Then a cow barks and the whole herd busts out. We grin at each other and work over the ridge to the other herd.

We had two raghorn bulls come into the bugle but neither offered Dad a clear shot. By evening we are wet from head to toe and the rain is turning to snow.

Saturday Sept 7th

At first light, we get right in on a NICE 6x6 but he hangs up at about 80 yards.

Dad leaves Saturday evening back to Rigby.

Warren, my good hunting buddy (Oscar's neighbor) shows up at camp. We head out for the evening hunt and bump right into a 5x5 and spike. The were coming into our the cow calls but they caught us moving. They take off and that was it for that night. Warren went back home. The rest of the hunt I'm solo.

Sunday Sept 8th.

I take a day off and rest up. I roll down to the Sourdough Lodge for breakfast and eat until I hurt.

The evening I spend glassing, specifically for a 7x7 that I found last year. At last light I locate him clear at the top end of the drainage. He has two cows with him, and a nice 5x5 chasing the cows all over while he sits and eats. He's not agressive at all. The cows always come right back to the big bull. I guess they know the better gene pool. They are my target for Monday morning.

Monday Sept 9th

Daylight finds me right where I last saw the the big 7x7. He shows up on schedule. The closest I get to him is about 80 yards. His two cows have phd's and don't like any call I make nor will let me get any closer. The big guy completely ignores everything I do. Maybe he's deaf. Finally the thermals start switching and the cow winds me. She barks constantly for the next 30 minutes and clears the entire drainage of elk.....

I head back to camp for a mid day nap. About 1400 a bugle wakes me up. Must be a hunter right? I go back to sleep and there he goes again, then another bugle from the other side of the canyon, then another.

Weird I tell you. 2:00 pm and the bulls are screaming. I scramble out and get a game plan to get in close to 2 big sounding bulls that are close together.

An hour later I find myself in the "zone". I've got one bull uphill to my right about 150 yards, the other uphill to my left about 50 yards. Both of them screaming and chuckling at each other. I sit tight after 10 minutes I see the left hand bull. He's a good 300+ 6x6. He steps in the clear, I draw and put the arrow exactly where my pin was on his side.

I wait 30 minutes but hear no "crash". I replay it over and over and know I saw the fletch disappear mid-body. I go up to where he was standing and immediately see my arrow. Its covered from one to the other in blood. There is an easy blood trail. A double trail at that. Chunks of blood. I follow it about 125 yards into a thick brush pocket and that sucker stand up not 15 yards from me. No shot, all I can see is the top of the rack. He runs straight up the hill.

I walk up to where he was bedded and find a puddle 3' in diameter and an inch deep of coagulated deep red blood. Must be a liver hit, a lung hit would be dead by now, I think. It's still a dead bull!

And that my friends is where this hunt ended for me. I didn't find another drop of blood outside of that brush patch. I followed his hoof prints another 20 yards but lost them when they mingled with other tracks...I looked until dark. Then all day on Tuesday Sept 10th. I find nothing...I look the morning of Wed Sept 11th with the same results. I combed that entire hillside and know I had to of walked right by him.

I called off the hunt bummed out. Don't know what else I could have done. That bull is dead, and likely isn't more than 300 yards of the bed. The lessons I learned and maybe you can learn from this is

1) My arrow hit exactly where I was aiming. My aim was too far back on the body. The bull moved into and paused in a small opening, and I hurried the shot.

2) When I didn't hear the bull "crash" I should have read that as the bull not being dead. Instead of the standard 30 minutes, I should have waited a few hours. Had I done that, I'd be showing you pictures of a trophy bull.

Well thats my story, not exactly a happy ending, but I tried my best, but made two costly mistakes.

Happier Hunting.

T Bone
Sorry to hear about the bad luck! I've had that happen on whitetails and it will just make you feel sick. :( Any who, sounds like you had one heck of a time. I guess that's why they call it hunting and not shooting.
T, Sounds like a liver shot, like you said, but I wonder about him running uphill. He must not have been feeling too weak. I wonder if he turned and went downhill after he was out of your sight. Sometimes those shots that just clip the edge of the liver take a long time to kill an elk. I also wonder why you weren't seeing any birds on him after a day. I suppose he could be in some real thick stuff where they didn't find him yet.

Anyway, I'm sorry your hunt turned out that way. I always tell myself that nothing is ever wasted in a situation like that. The coyotes and birds and insects will have a banquet.
That really sucks T Bone. I alos know how you feel. You had a good hunt and did your best and as they say, Chit Happens. It may not be what we want, but it does happen.
I re-read the post and don't get me wrong here, I had an awesome hunt! I especially enjoyed hunting with my Dad again. I can never thank him enough for teaching me to love the Idaho mountains and the critters that run around in them. I hope to be able to take my boys hunting with him.

This hunt was exceptional. I've had plenty of elk come in to the call and killed a few of them, but this trip was something else. It was like the videos you see, Primos, Glen Berry, etc. The elk were coming in very easily. I can't think of anything I like better that bowhunting rutting bulls.

Thanks for the sympathy. Like you've all said, it happens.

Unfortunately, that is the only elk trip I'll be able to make this year, due to work and my brother's untimely wedding in Idaho Falls.

I'll be back for sure.

T Bone
Tyson.... LIKE I said on the phone.... BUMMER !!!! But unfortunately that's hunting... ALL we can do is put in our best effort and move on...

DON't LET it eat ya BRO !!!!!
Great story, despite the unfortunate outcome. Sounds like there were plenty of adrenaline moments. I know how it feels to loose one like that.... I experienced it for the first time two years ago. And that was after the elk received a 250 grn Nosler partition!
Well I want to say congratulations on an exciting hunt, sorry you didn't recover the bull, but I know you tried your best.