Wyoming Elk with my Old Man Part 2

jlong17

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 21, 2019
Messages
435
Location
'Merica
Well, I have returned after 2 weeks of hunting my butt of in the mountains of Wyoming. For those of you that didn't read part 1, you can catch it here Wyoming Elk with my Old Man . If you don't feel like reading that thread, I can summarize really quick. I drew a Wyoming General Elk Tag this year, and I was supposed to hunt it with my cousin. Unfortunately my cousin got the news that his wife was diagnosed with cancer, and his world was quickly turned upside down.With no-one to hunt with, I turned to my Dad. He answered the call with excitement. He had never been hunting, never seen a wild elk, and never heard a bull bugle. My goal was to change all that, and show him why I love the sport so much. He doesn't (didn't) care for killing animals much, so I wasn't raised hunting by any means. I was raised catch and release fishing, and was blissfully ignorant to the reality of mass produced food. This is the recap of the last 2 weeks with my Dad. The adventures, the highs, the lows, the lessons learned, and the memories made...
 

jlong17

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 21, 2019
Messages
435
Location
'Merica
I had originally planned on jamming to Wyoming solo. I was to do my normal thing. Drive 16 hours, listen to podcasts, talk to myself, practice my calling, eat bad food, and drink good coffee. I wanted to stay light and fast. Find a spot to pitch a tent that was charming enough to stay a few days, but not so nice that I'd grow roots there and never move. That's my normal style. Well... my Pops was coming. I couldn't force a 65 year old man with Parkinson's to sleep in the dirt, eat Mountain House, and freeze. So, I decided it be best to travel in style and bring the travel trailer along.
The morning of September 14th we hooked up the trailer. My Dad pretended I was in High School again. He checked my tires, examined the fluid levels in the truck, and gave confusing hand signals while guiding me into the trailer hitch (only a small dispute was had). We were locked and loaded. Ready to go. Ready for adventure. Ready for the hardships we would most definitely face, and ready to learn more about each other.

tempImage1YTuSw.jpg
 

jlong17

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 21, 2019
Messages
435
Location
'Merica
To be honest I was fully expecting the drive to take 2 days. I was prepared for 10x as many restroom stops as I normally take. However, we made really good time. I downloaded all the good podcasts with @Big Fin talking about forage, and Chris Roe talking about set ups. We discussed tactics, practiced calling, and before you know it we were pulling into our campsite at 1030 that evening. I was insanely excited to say the least. We found a great spot by a water source and started the process of moving in. I started leveling the trailer while my Dad walked over to the well to hook up our water hose and fill 'er up. Introducing hardships #1 & 2: My Dad walks over and says "Hey, the water source that we planned on using to fill up. Ya, that well is out of service. She ain't working bud." I said "Oh yeah, I'll one up you. The slide to the trailer is not working. She stuck, Dad". Just like that. The trip started off with some pretty bummer news. My trailer isn't big by any means, and the slide is the dinette. It's situated between his bed and the bathroom, making the squeeze past a retracted slide a rather big pain in the butt. The water tank only had 10 gallons in it because I like to travel light and fast, remember? We knew this meant no showers, maybe no dishes, and drinking water would have to be filtered from the nearby lake. What can you do? We weren't going to drive home. WE were going to stay flexible (both figuratively and literally - getting around the trailer). We both jumped into bed at midnight, with alarms set to wake up the next morning to hunt.

The alarms went off at 4. We jumped on the 4-wheeler - another luxury I was not used to. We drove to the first spot I had chosen by e-scouting. We turn off the ATV and turn on the headlights. I look at my Dad and say "Hey, Happy Birthday". He says "Oh ya, 65.". We take a few steps onto the trail and we quickly check off one of my goals for the trip... my Dad hears his first ever bugle. A bull sounded off into the cold, rainy, dark distance. We set our bearing and off we went to chase the Birthday Bugle.
 

jlong17

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 21, 2019
Messages
435
Location
'Merica
A little further down the trail the mystery bull let out another birthday bugle. My dads eyes went from sleepy and unimpressed, to wide open and ready to race towards the sound. I took the time to tell him a story(s) about all the times I thought I could cheat the downhill morning thermals, and slide into a bugling bull. I told him how many times I tried and failed, and that we had to be patient. I tend to hunt slow and methodically, sometimes to a fault. I'm definitely not the type to let off frequent bugles, or to race into a situation. I have only been elk hunting for 3 seasons, and only shot 1 archery bull. All I have known is CO OTC, and I know how few a far in between bugling bulls can be. I didn't want to waste a chance at tagging out day 1. I decided we would get as close as possible and then wait for the first cracks of sunlight to see what we were working with. Well, the sun came out but the bull seemingly left the state. We didn't hear another peep from him. All that was left to show he existed was his tracks, some scat, and the evidence of a few cows that were with him. I could see my Dad was a bit bummed. His excitement quickly wore off. He was expecting some action, and the morning fizzled out quickly. We pressed on into the unfamiliar area in an effort to gain intel. I showed my Dad what elk tracks looked like, what rubs looked like and why they do it, and how I determine if an area is worth sticking around based on the freshness of the previous. It was fun teaching him all the things I've learned from folks like you - reading this thread.
Before we knew it, we were 4 miles into the morning hunt. The excitement of the first day had pushed us a bit further than I wanted to. My Dad also seemed to get a pep in his step as he was eager to find some fresh sign or maybe even hear another bull pipe off. Unfortunately neither was had, so we made our way back to the trailhead to regroup.
tempImageqP1i1i.jpg
 

jlong17

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 21, 2019
Messages
435
Location
'Merica
After the day 1 morning hunt we decided to take a midday break and come into the area from a different angle. I wanted to make the best approach based off what I thought the prevailing winds would do. We marched into an "elky" area to setup for the evening play. The wind was doing exactly as I had planned, which caused my Dad to be quite impressed. Side note: How cool is it when you impress someone that you admire? It was a great feeling to see my Dad look at me and acknowledge the effort I spend honing in this craft. Back to the story. We start sliding into this area that HAD to hold elk. After all, it looked elky, remember? We crept through the thick timber when I got a big whiff of elk. I said "Dad, you smell that?!" He said "No, you know my nose don't work". I took a second to explain the smell I was getting, and how it meant we were right where we should be. I let out a few cow calls, but got no response. I started to slowly continue into what appeared to be a bedding area when suddenly that terrible noise erupted from 50 yards out... elk crashing into the opposite direction. Remember that proud moment I had earlier from playing the wind just right? I was brought back down to earth and put back into my place. The wind had began swirling, and the elk surely got our scent. I explained to my Dad how these animals absolutely rely on their sense of smell, and how keen their senses are. He couldn't believe that a brief shift in the wind was all it took to finish the evening hunt, but thats the reality isn't it? We walked back to the 4-wheeler in the light rain, and I told him that I had a nice birthday dinner planned for him. He loves german sausage, so I made sure to break out authentic German Brauts, sauerkraut, and German mustard. A nice side of potato salad replenished the calories that were burnt on day 1. Birthday Bugles started the day, and Birthday Brauts closed it. My pops was definitely excited to see where things would end up...
tempImageUmTuuc.jpg
tempImageDaQguv.jpg
 

jlong17

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 21, 2019
Messages
435
Location
'Merica
Days 2, 3, and 4 were honestly kind of a blur. I reinforced a lesson that I thought I had already learned, but obviously not. Have you ever gotten into an area that looked really good, had some sign, maybe even heard a bugle or bumped into elk, and you just stayed there hoping to force something to happen. Well thats what I did for several days after our day 1 events. The action had slowed wayyyy down. We didn't hear any bugles, didn't see any fresh sign, and didn't put eyes on any elk... at all. But, I was convinced things would change, and we'd have elk in our lap any minute now. That just never happened. I really liked that the terrain was fairly gentle for my Dad, so that played a big role in my decision. The end of day 4 came and I told my Dad "Hey, you feeling like pushing yourself?" He said "Whatever you want bud. I know you do". He was referring to a conversation we had earlier in the day. I let him in on my ridiculous pre-elk season ritual that I have been doing for a few years now. For the full month leading up to my elk hunt I take nothing but cold showers. No warm water at all. There are plenty of days that I want to cheat, and feel the comfort of hot water. I won't even wash my hands in warm water. I do this to help me mentally. I believe that life has gotten so easy and comfortable here in our country that it has led to weak minded people that use all of their free time bickering and complaining. I don't want to become that. I want to be resilient, and isn't that what it takes to be successful when chasing elk with a bow? Maybe part of it is some deep down feeling of inadequacy, and the need to prove my "manliness"? Side note: I am sterile. Yep, I said it. I'm a 34 year old man that cannot have my own biological kids. Don't know why, Docs don't know why, just one of those things? After finding this out years ago I have developed this drive to push myself. To reexamine my motives, set goals, and be a good man to my wife (and now adopted daughter). So, throughout the year I choose to do hard things, and before elk season that hard things is a cold shower. Ok back to the story, sorry about that. My Dad hesitated, and then said "Ya, I think I could push myself. Let's do what it takes". It was awesome to see him put himself out there. To accept a challenge. It was 9 pm and we both agreed that we better get some sleep, we would need it! tempImageZJ7LzG.jpg
 

jlong17

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 21, 2019
Messages
435
Location
'Merica
So we went to bed that 4th night fully prepared to embrace the suck the following day, and push ourselves physically into some promising areas. As I drifted off to sleep I started dreaming of bull elk and screaming bugles. I dreamt of loud, high pitched bugles, and deep growly ones. I then dreamt of an elk tapping on my feet to wake me up...wait a second. I wake up to my Dad shaking me at 330 am with as much excitement as I have ever seen in him. "Did you hear all that last night?!" he yells. "What?" I respond, not sure if I am still dreaming or in the present. "Those bugles man!! They were going off last night only a few hundred yards from camp!" He yells, and this time waking me up to the point where I'm confident I'm in the present - which is always a good place to be. I then realize that I was not dreaming at all last night, but was hearing that beautiful orchestra that we all dream of hearing each September. Just as my Dad starts to explain how he had been up since 2 am sitting outside the trailer listening to the bugle fest, we hear Ludwig Van Bugle-thoven start sounding off again just across the drainage from the trailer. He goes off, followed by another, and another. Oh boy. It's gonna be a good morning. We fire up some coffee, and get geared up to hike a 'grueling' 300 yards from the trailer. "Turns out that testing and pushing ourselves physically can hold itself off for another day" I tell my Dad. He gladly nods his head but doesn't say a word. He is laser focused on the symphony of elk. He, nor I, had ever heard such a thing. I heard more bugles in that one morning than I had heard the 3 seasons of elk hunting combined. It was spectacular, and we fully soaked up the moment together.
We start to close the distance silently as the sun crept over the horizon. We chose to follow the bugle that sounded most mature, and most pissed off. As we approached the bull his bugle became one that you simply hear, to one that you could feel. My Dad later said that he could feel it from his feet, through his body, and out his ears. Strange explanation, but it did sum it up. Anyways, just as shooting light came we decided we were plenty close. We were within 60 yards of him. I let out a single mew from my cow call. He didn't let the sound sit for more than a second. He immediately let out a demanding, growly bugle. I look at my Dad and say "it's game time!" I set up in front of some cover and knock an arrow. The sound of several elk approaching sends my heart rate through the roof. I could feel it pulsating in my throat, and the cold fingers I had just a second ago was no more... I was sweating. We see 2 cows coming strait towards us, followed by another, and another, and another. His entire harem starts making their way directly towards us. I begin to have a serious dilemma. I am a meat hunter through and through. I have never in my life passed the first legal animal I see. Dink buck - dead. Cow - dead. Don't matter to me, I do this for the meat. But I start thinking about how I had been having so much fun on this hunt with my Dad, and didn't want it to be over so soon. And frankly, I had a mature bull bugling and coming right for us. I draw my bow on one of the cows without a calf, and I contemplate the shot. I decide to let down, and wait for the bull. A decision that I regret. While focused on the intial "wave" of cows, we failed to see a separate small group of cows to our left, our downwind side. The cows were locked on us at 20 yards. The wind lets them know that we were foreigners in their forest, and the mountain erupted. Elk scatter every which way and in the commotion we see our target - a big, beautiful 6x6 Wyoming bull. My heart sank. I felt defeated. I had come so close to accomplishing a dream. My Dad on the other hand was amazed haha. He was so excited to have been so close to so many elk. "Did you hear those cows mewing? It sounds nothing like your call!" He yells with a smile. "I had no idea those animals were so darn big!". To my Dad, it was a successful stalk. We had done more than he was expecting, he later admitted. I guess on the bright side I had accomplished another goal I had set for myself. I wanted my Dad to see a bull elk, and we definitely did. We walked back to camper with fresh legs and enough energy to come up with another game plan.
B28FB083-3BB1-4993-8F84-EFF04D3EF3F7.jpeg
 

Wallydeuce

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 24, 2021
Messages
1,351
Location
NV
Listen for a "popping " sound. That's a bull tasting the air for a hot cow. One of the coolest things ever if you're close enough to hear and see it.
Great story!
 
Top