Wyoming General Elk Recap - Ultimate highs, lows, and in between. Oh - and MEAT!

JoMo

Active member
Joined
Oct 30, 2016
Messages
119
Location
Colorado
Here is the recap my wife would lovingly and mockingly give:

"Lemme guess - you hiked a lot, got close, whispered, walked around some more, woke up early, got close, saw some animals, eventually got one, hiked a lot and then drank some beer and whiskey?!" Well, she's not too wrong. Here is the longer recap.

Wyoming General Tag - Rifle. Early into mid-October. It was the first time either my buddy or I had ever set foot in that area. Thank you to the Hunt Talkers who allowed me to reach out and bounce ideas off of you to make sure my plan was sane. The thoughts, advice and help went a long way. I went with one other guy who did not have a tag and we car/base camped and hiked in/out each day.

After ~8 hours of driving, we showed up, set up a base/car camp along the road and then hit the hills to get to a glassing point I identified from e-scouting for the evening to help get the lay of the land. The plan was to have a central car camp and mobilize from there as we learned the land a bit more. While I always tell myself to not fall victim to getting sucked into google earth and thinking the terrain is easier than it is, I definitely did but had also been doing a good amount of training this summer in anticipation of some steeper terrain than I typically hunt. The first hike out that evening to our glassing spot was only a mile but ~1,600' up - definitely a butt kicker. Thankfully we got eyes on four different groups of elk that evening and had a great idea where to head for our first morning out.

Example of some of the terrain
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OnX What?! Why use that when you have a map that "shows you where your camp is and where the elk will be for Dada" drawn from your 4 year old daughter? Looks spot on to me. IMG_6269.jpg

Over the next five days, we spent each day hiking up different drainages in the same general area finding some vocal bulls and plenty of elk. We were waiting for them to shut up any time, but thankfully they mostly continued with talking during the mornings, with some occasionally rattling off midday and in the evenings. From the truck, the hike was generally steep for the initial 1-2 miles before leveling out up top. For the most part, the elk were all tucked into timber pockets pretty early in the morning, and would bugle back and forth until we got close. I could never fully figure out the right cadence/language to use to actually call any in, but we were able to keep some in their general areas as we moved in. We saw elk every day and had a few opportunities at bulls that either broke down in the last second or I decided not to shoot based on the bulls being smaller than I was hoping for – at least early on in the hunt. There was one exception. A big exception. On the evening of night #4, we were posted up on a point way up above a handful of different meadows. Right at shoot-thirty (less than an hour of shooting light left), we started hearing bugles below and to the south of us. We closed the distance as fast as we could through a very steep chute and stream bed and got to the edge of the timber where we expected to see some elk on the other side. Bingo. Up above us and only 150 (156 to be exact) yards away was a nice 6x6. I slid my pack out, rested on it and squeezed the trigger. Click. CLICK!?!?!? No BOOM?!?!?! WTF? Thinking it was a misfire, I cycled another through and same thing happened. I couldn't believe it. I break out my leatherman, take apart the lever and the bolt, move things around and put it back together. In the minute or two it took to do that, the bull continued to mill around above us. Thinking it would be good, I reloaded, aimed, CLICK. Completely demoralized, I looked at my buddy and signaled to him that we needed to ease out to try and get out without spooking them. As I did that a bugle rips off just below me so I get to the timber, move slightly only to find a small group including a larger 6x6 feeding around ~100 yards below. Turns out the solo 6 up top was a satellite. Further demoralized, we hike a pretty massive loop around and back down to the truck. Back at camp and in a slightly better headspace, I completely break down the rifle, check all of the components, clean it and put it back together. Working through the motions, it seems like things are back in working shape so I take a round, find a safe spot to aim and fire. BOOM.

We are a circle of trust here, right? Well, what I am about to share will hopefully save someone else the same pain. Well, turns out I officially suffered from my first ever experience with buck (bull) fever. Yup - it pains me to even write this but turns out I had my safety on the whole time. The click was simply the hammer striking the safety and never hitting the firing pin... Bring on the jokes, jabs, etc. I know I deserve them. In that moment, I went through my entire shooting motions, broke apart the gun in the field, etc. but never thought to check my safety. Wow. Like I said, hopefully me sharing this will remind someone, some time in the future, when they too have an animal in front of them and they cannot for the life of them find out why their gun is not operating as expected. CHECK YOUR DAMN SAFETY!
 

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JoMo

Active member
Joined
Oct 30, 2016
Messages
119
Location
Colorado
With my tail tucked between my legs, I knew I had to redeem myself. We headed back up the next day as we had all other days and got into elk right off the bat. We were never able to get eyes on or close to any outside of cows during the morning but made our way back to where we had the group the night before. While not thinking they could come out in the same spot, the vantage point up above would provide us a view of close to 10 different meadows within ~3/4 mile. We posted up by 2pm about 100 yards apart so we could see different drainages and the rain moved in in fits and starts as we got closer to evening. About an hour before dark, my buddy comes charging over waving to me with his hands above his head like antlers. I grab my pack and head over. He lets me know that a herd of ~30 animals were feeding in just below toward the bottom of a meadow with a nice bull in the mix. The wind was blowing directly uphill at us so we move down and toward the top of the opening. As we get through the thin band of trees up top I ease out and rest my rifle on my pack. I check my wind and it hovers, moves slightly down then seems to go straight up. Not great. I ask my buddy for his pack to make the rest slightly higher and he ranges them. 375 yards. I get settled and feel a slight breeze on the back of my head/neck. Crap. As I settle my scope on the bull and calm my breathing, two cows in the group close to the bull lift their heads in the air. Knowing the gig is up I know it’s now or never. The bull is still facing straight at me – leaving me with him perfectly in the sights with a frontal shot. Not comfortable with that shot at that distance, I am willing him to take a step one way or another before fully bolting. During this fit of wishful thinking, two separate cows tear off down the back of the opening and the entire herd lifts their heads. The bull takes two slow steps to the side as if to start swiveling to leave and I fire. Thank goodness the glorious sounds of the BOOM. The entire herd erupts and disappears, including my target. I watched where they funneled off into the trees through my scope and replayed the shot in my head a handful of times before standing up. I felt really good about the shot but couldn’t help but think I maybe rushed it. Did I flinch wondering if the gun would actually fire? Time to find out.


We headed down to the bottom of the meadow knowing that light was fading. Starting small, we did half circles out and down from where we thought he was standing. Finding nothing in the initial ~10 minutes in the sagebrush, I decided to leap frog out and into the trees hoping I could find the trail they took in their escape. As the rain came down slowly, I was really worried and really questioning the shot. Finally, I found a tiny, I mean tiny, speck of blood on a pine bough. Game on (and headlamp on bright to help as light fades). I followed the tracks down and found some pinkish spots on a log that looked like waterlogged blood. Another drop on an aspen leaf. A few on some rocks. While I was excited to have found blood, it was not the volume I was expecting or hoping for. It was clear the elk had moved into what seemed like a single file line and were funneling through the timber along a path so my head was locked down looking for sign. My buddy would jump up and stand in the last location we found the blood until I found more and I was marking each spot on OnX. We follow this for about 200 yards from where I first found the drop finding a speck, drop or maybe 2-3 drops each 15-20 yards, fairly consistenently. Then I hit a cold streak. Nothing. Turning back to go back to my buddy to re-evaluate, my buddy yells “holy sh*t” there he is!!!!” I had walked right past him with my head down. He had veered just off the trail and expired in a depression just off the game trail. I had walked within 10 feet of him and right past him as I looked for blood. It doesn’t help that I still can’t really smell after my tangle with COVID in August so I couldn’t smell him until we were cleaning him up. As if someone was looking out for us, the rain stopped and held off for most of the hike back to the truck.

Completely relieved, we got to work. We were back at the truck by 2:30am, each with a front shoulder. The hike out ended up being 4.1 miles and 1,700’ down. The next day we did two trips each to get out the rest of the meat and the antlers and were back to camp by 8pm that night to celebrate. The hike out day was pretty tough as it rained most of the day making the mud the perfect consistency to stack up on your boots. We powered through and filled the coolers and our heads with plenty of meat and stories to tell for some time.


Selfie with my buddy after we found him in the fading light.
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Remaining bulk of my .338 bullet lodged on the opposite side from impact between the ribs and skin.
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Pumped!
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Meat pole ~250 yards from the gut pile. Set up for the next day's retrieval. We ended up putting a tarp over the meat expecting rain through the night and next day.
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Me with my largest bull to date. Likely would have been a nice 6x6 had he not busted off the top of his right side.
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Hind quarters back at the truck.
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Final load back at the truck around 8:30pm
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My buddy nick-named him Mongo.
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Enjoying a fire and some celebratory whiskey after some grub back at camp.
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Initial boiling to get everything out to be able to drive back to CO.
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Backstrap chunks ready for freezer
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Daughter with me at the meat processor to drop off the quarters. Brought her last year and she was pumped to go again. The guys there are great and let her check out the cooler. Even through her face does not look like it, she likes checking it out and talks about the "butcher" and elk frequently. She is checking out some moose ribs here.
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rwc101

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Feb 9, 2019
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3,440
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WY
Bull has more character broken that way. Will make a cool mount.
 

rtraverdavis

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Oct 20, 2016
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3,017
Location
OREGON
Great story, nice bull. My five-year-old made me maps for my Muley hunt this year. Worked out great for me as well. Thanks for the great post.
 

Sytes

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Joined
Sep 25, 2009
Messages
10,187
Location
Montana
WOW! What a fantastic adventure! What a heck of a lot of great times! Dig the Pops and Daughter pic! Grats all around!
 

2rocky

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Joined
Jul 23, 2010
Messages
3,552
Great Story. That bull deserves it too.

Gotta respect another hunter who takes his kid's drawings in with him for good luck. (all the best do right?)
 

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