Yeti

you got the "big bull" tag?

Luke_with_a_lab

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
270
Location
Montucky
I've been unsure if I should post my elk hunt from this year on here or not but decided why not, some of you hooligans might want to read it. Ill chronicle it the best I can.

I had posted on Hunttalk a little over a year ago asking if I should abandon applying for the elk unit I had dreamed of in favor of another one that would be easier to draw. Thankfully you lot convinced me to stay the course. As usual when draw results were posted this year I was expecting to log on only to be told that after my 14th year of applying I was again unsuccessful. However, once the page loaded I scrolled down to see that It said "successful" for one of the states most sought after elk tags! It was literally unreal to read. Immediately I called my fiancé and also my hunting buddies. It took a few days of me checking, re-checking and checking again the draw results before I actually believed it.

Next, its time to start the research. I already knew the general layout of the unit being I live quite close to it and also from poking around in it time to time. The upcoming summer was already packed full of work, a weeklong backpacking trip in Wyoming for my bachelor party and then a month later the wedding itself. I knew I could make time on the weekends to scout too, the problem was figuring out where to concentrate my scouting efforts. What the only logical option? Reach out to anyone and everyone you can find who has had the tag or has helped someone with the tag. As I contacted people over the next few weeks I was shocked and amazed how many people were willing to share their experiences and knowledge on the unit. It was truly humbling and I hope one day I can return the favor. A heartfelt thank you to Griztrax, Montanahunter and everyone else who helped.

Summer scouting, trail cams, hunting season etc to follow.....


Elk.jpg
 
Last edited:

Luke_with_a_lab

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
270
Location
Montucky
First Scouting trip of the year was just my dog and I. Went into an area I knew wasn’t known to produce a lot of elk but I wanted check it out if for no other reason to cross it off the list. Mountain biked in about 2 miles then hiked around another 2 or 3. Not much sign of elk but lots and lots of moose sign surprisingly. Had a fun day and was ready to move on down the road the next weekend.

image_50408449.JPG


A couple weekends later and its early June. This will be the first area to put a trail cam. Head up with my fiancé and the dog. As were driving im seeing a fair amount of snow up in the mountains and im a bit nervous we might not be able to get where were hoping to go. About an hour later were up in the mountains parking the vehicle to start hiking. Snow wasn't too bad there, so in we go. Hiked/ post hole in about 4 miles over rock, downfall snow. The area turned out to be almost all rock. Not to optimistic about what we'll get on the trail cam but hey were here so might as well leave the cam and see what it gets.

IMG_0731.JPG
IMG_0742.JPG

Scouting Weekend 3: I convince my buddy to grab his mountain bike and come set some trail cams with me. Biked in about 4 miles before continuing on foot another 3. Along the way we set trail cams. As were nearing the point where we will turn around we hike across a meadow and in it are 3 bulls. Its still early June but all 3 look to be growing what will end up being mature antlers. At first they didn't see us but after a minute did and slowly walked off. We were beyond excited and decided we should put our last trail cam in the meadow they were in (this will turn out to be the best decision we could have made). Out we hike to meet our ladies and some friends for dinner. As were about out we also see some bighorn sheep, a great bonus. At dinner and we start to feeling something crawling on us. We proceeded to pull ticks off of us the whole time... I would like to take this chance to apologize to the restaurant (shall remain namless... ) im sure there were a few crawling around in there after we left.

IMG-0784.jpg

Scouting Weekend 4: No one wants to go out scouting with me. As Johnny Cash says "if a man has nothing else he has his dog". So off the dog and I go to set trail cams in one last basin. Bike in about 5 miles before continuing on foot another couple. At this point its hot, well into the 90's, both the dog and I are not enjoying the heat. The drainage is very timbered and its only near the top we start to find some meadows so this is where the trail cams will go. Set the cams and out we go. At this point Im starting to realize that eventually Im going to have to start picking all the cams up and putting them in as far as I did could have been a mistake. OH well nothing I can do now, at least the legs will be in hiking shape by the time the season rolls around.

IMG_1011.JPG

IMG_1006.JPG
IMG_1013.JPG

Scouting Weekend 5: Again, I am on my own... with the dog. We end up going to a different side of the unit via a tip from a very kind Hunttalker. No mountain bike this time just hiking. Hike in about 3 miles along a private/ public border. As I near the top of the ridge I look down and all over is very fresh elk sign. Another 10 yards, look up and there is a small herd of cow elk. They see me and just trot off. The dog and I continue on and crest the ridge. Once on top a bull jumps up, trots a ways, stop, turns and lets me get a few pictures of him. I couldn't have been more excited, this is obviously a good area and I dont want to bump more elk so I'm try to back out quietly. Go over another ridge and there are another 40 head of elk. They see me and bust.... Ok well so much for not blowing more elk out. Continue back down towards the truck, along the way the dog and I run into another herd of cow elk and also the find a nice shed!

IMG_1119.JPG IMG_1089.JPG IMG_1158.JPG IMG_1159.JPG
Scouting Weekend 6: Previous weekend the finance and I were married. No time to dwell on that, another new area to check out. Dog and I alone again, at this point that's becoming the standard. Luckily my new wife is very understanding being that she loves to hunt to, unfortunately she has to work. We dont get but a half mile from the vehcle and there is a small herd of cows, we watch them walk across a meadow about 70 yards from us and never knew we were there. On we go, about another half mile later I glass 2 small bulls laying under some trees. Luckily they dont see the dog and I and we go below them and continue on down about another 1,000 vertical feet. Get down to a spot where we can glass and low and behold more elk about a mile away. I decide im happy with what weve seen here and head home. IMG_1334.JPG
IMG_1353.JPG
IMG-1364.jpg

Next up will be gathering the trail cams and seeing what is on them........
 

Luke_with_a_lab

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
270
Location
Montucky
Its now Early August and its time to start getting the trail cams. Gathering all the cams is really a daunting endeavor because I had spread them all over the unit and in some very remote spots. I knew the rest of my summer scouting time would be out gathering trail cams. After some thought I decided to wait to look at any of the pictures on the cameras until I had collected all of them. Over the next couple weeks the dog and I went all over the unit collecting cameras and in doing so put on another few dozen miles. At this point I am confident that the legs will be in adequate shape once archery season rolls around.

Finally all the cams have been collected and its time to see what's on them. I get a six pack of Sierra Nevada one evening and sit down to begin going through them. At first there are some cow elk and deer, then a few small bulls start to show up. Ok... at least all this effort hasn't been for nothing, there is some bulls in these areas. As I progress through the pictures the rate at which I am consuming the pale ales increase as what is on the trail cams becomes more and more intriguing. I've only ever hunted general units so I am beyond excited to see what is rolling in. I'm only one trail cam in and already half the 6 pack is gone.

IMAG0583.JPG
IMAG1061.JPG
IMAG0567.JPG
IMAG1863.JPG
 

Luke_with_a_lab

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
270
Location
Montucky
After the first trail cam spirits were obviously high. I went through another few cams. Overall the following cameras were slightly disappointing. They had some cow elk on them and a few smaller bulls. It was becoming clear that with the drought this year the elk would be super concentrated on water sources. I had one last camera to look through... As I scrolled through the pictures there was bulls, followed by more bulls and more bulls... Ive never seen such a thing..it was unreal. Most of the bulls kept returning to this spot over the course of the summer, it was incredibly rewarding after all the scouting to be able to look at these bulls at different stages of the summer and slowly see what their antlers were becoming. Below are a few of the pictures.

DSCF0329.JPG

DSCF0875.JPG

DSCF0307.JPG
 

Luke_with_a_lab

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
270
Location
Montucky
After seeing Zeus my mind was consumed with how to possibly go about trying to find this bull. My hunting buddy and I decided the best plan of attack would be on opening weekend of archery to backpack in to the area where he had been. Perhaps we can catch him before he has a whole harem of cows and he may be vulnerable to calling. Opening weekend was still a week and a half or so away... waiting was pure torture. I took that time to go through my gear, get the pack loaded, make sure the bow is still dialed in, etc etc. I had been shooting the bow almost daily since draw results had been posted in the spring and knew if we could get in range there was a good chance he would hit the dirt. Only thing left to do now was to wait for opener...
 

Luke_with_a_lab

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
270
Location
Montucky
Finally its here. Opener of archery. My hunting buddy and I decide to pack in a day early to set up camp and do some glassing. We are carrying gear for 7 days/ 6 nights. Spirits are high, weather is good and we expect the hike in to be about 4 miles and take roughly 2.5 hours. The plan is to gain about 500 feet of elevation up to a predominant ridge, from there is seems easy enough to follow the ridgeline back into the basin we want to be in. The thinking was we didn't want to take the route from the summer scouting which was up the bottom of the drainage as we didn't want to bump any elk out while packing in.

IMG_1480.jpeg

About an 45 minutes later were on the ridge. We've made a huge mistake, the entire ridgeline is pure boulders. The satellite view had looked very different. We realize this may take longer than expected, especially due to the fact we have too heavy of packs. We never weighed the packs but pretty sure both packs were well into the 70lb range plus water for 24 hours. We know where we want to camp night 1 there will be no water.

IMG_1481.JPEG
IMG_1484.JPEG
IMG_1485.JPEG

After 5.5 hours of rock scrambling we finally make it to where were going to camp..... Shit... its all rock. This is going to be a fun night. We get camp set up, have some dinner and go decide to glass until dark. The final hour of light does provide us with a brief glimpse of some elk but we could not see what they were as we were looking into the sun. Oh well at least there are elk here still. As a last bonus of the day we do hear one bugle down below us. We go to bed excited for what opening day has in store for us.
 

Hilljackoutlaw

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 15, 2019
Messages
3,863
Finally its here. Opener of archery. My hunting buddy and I decide to pack in a day early to set up camp and do some glassing. We are carrying gear for 7 days/ 6 nights. Spirits are high, weather is good and we expect the hike in to be about 4 miles and take roughly 2.5 hours. The plan is to gain about 500 feet of elevation up to a predominant ridge, from there is seems easy enough to follow the ridgeline back into the basin we want to be in. The thinking was we didn't want to take the route from the summer scouting which was up the bottom of the drainage as we didn't want to bump any elk out while packing in.

View attachment 204202

About an 45 minutes later were on the ridge. We've made a huge mistake, the entire ridgeline is pure boulders. The satellite view had looked very different. We realize this may take longer than expected, especially due to the fact we have too heavy of packs. We never weighed the packs but pretty sure both packs were well into the 70lb range plus water for 24 hours. We know where we want to camp night 1 there will be no water.

View attachment 204203
View attachment 204204
View attachment 204205

After 5.5 hours of rock scrambling we finally make it to where were going to camp..... Shit... its all rock. This is going to be a fun night. We get camp set up, have some dinner and go decide to glass until dark. The final hour of light does provide us with a brief glimpse of some elk but we could not see what they were as we were looking into the sun. Oh well at least there are elk here still. As a last bonus of the day we do hear one bugle down below us. We go to bed excited for what opening day has in store for us.
The good ol Google earth deceived another one. I hate when that happens. But ya made it that's all that matters.
 

Luke_with_a_lab

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
270
Location
Montucky
Opening day:

From camp we can glass down into the basin below us. We get the spotting scope set up, make coffee, have a freeze dried meal and wait for sunrise. Almost immediately we start seeing elk. At first there are 3 smaller bulls across the basin on the next ridge. None of them are shooters but still fun to watch.

IMG_1504.JPEG

About 15 minutes later we glass another bull about 500 yards below the 3 small bulls on the ridge. He looks to be a decent bull, we decide he may be worth investigating but for now to just continue to watch him and see if anything else will show itself.

IMG_1498.JPEG

We make another cup of coffee and continue glassing. We are in a tremendous spot for glassing but to make a move on anything would require us to loose 1k vert then gain an equal amount back so we are really waiting to see if we find anything else worth going after. The basin behind us is also somewhat glassable but so far have seen nothing back there. Another 20 or so minutes go by and another bull shows himself about 1000 yards to up the basin from the other elk. We like what we see, the problem is we are at least a mile away so its tough to get a really good look at him.

IMG_1528.JPEG
We watch him for the better part of an hour. Eventually he wanders into the timber to the right, likely to bed down. We can tell there has been no pressure in this basin so we are confident if we go over there those elk likely will still be there. The problem is that with the large vertical drop then gain its too far to go there and back in a day. We make the decision to leave the majority of our gear/camp and go do a spike camp over in the area where the elk were. Without all the needless gear we are fast and light. It only takes us about an hour or so to get down to where we will set up our spike camp. We are in no hurry as its around noon, we will set up camp, have lunch then hunt the evening.

IMG_1537.JPEG

Around 3pm we hear a bugle from camp. Ok! here were go. A minute or two later we hear another bugle and decide to head in the direction of it. When we get closer we throw out a locate bugle only to be met with silence. We continue on another few hundred yards and throw out another bugle... Again silence. We dont understand wind was good so there is no way it caught our scent. Then all of a sudden we see a hunter stand up about 50 yards away from us..... Dang it. Turns out the bugle we herd was him and his buddies. They had packed in to the same drainage from a completely different access point. This is unfortunate because we were hoping to hunt this exact meadow that evening, now its likely blown out. You couldn't dream up a more beautiful spot to hunt elk though.

IMG_1539.JPEG

We hunt the rest of the evening without hearing or seeing any elk. We decide we will pack out of here in the morning being that there are other hunters here and we didn't see anything that was without question a shooter.

The next morning comes and we do a quick hunt where we are but again see nothing. We return to our spike camp, pack it up and begin the 1k climb out of the basin.

IMG_1540.JPEG

After a couple hours were back up on the ridge we had glassed all the elk from. I cant help myself so I take a few minutes and glass back down into the basin we had just been in.... And sure enough right above where our camp had been was 2 bulls, one of which was fairly decent. Its a tough decision but we decide to leave them and continue over into the next basin we have not hunted yet.

IMG_1548.JPEG

IMG_1553.JPEG



IMG_1546.JPEG

IMG_1541.JPEG


We spend the next handful of days chasing bulls around in the thick timber without much success. They are bugling quite frequently but it seems like more of a warm up for the rut than the actual rut. We do call in a raghorn and a small 6x6 but pass on both of them. Each night the bugling really went to another level after after it got dark. Every night the bulls would be bugling only a few hundred yards from our tent for a good majority of the night. It was one of the most incredible things I've ever experience, but after a night or two it gets a little old because it makes it difficult to sleep... but where else would a elk hunter ever dream of being.

Its now September 8th and we have to pack out and go back to the real world for a couple days. No sightings of Zeus yet be he has to be there somewhere. Once home all I can think about is getting back in there knowing that the bulls are rutting harder every day.
 

Luke_with_a_lab

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Messages
270
Location
Montucky
Its September 11th and I'm headed back over. This time I'm pulling my camper and doing day hunts out of it. My dad has taken the week off to hunt with me and I am beyond excited to get to share this amazing place with him. We glass that evening and do see elk but nothing quite like we are looking for. There was one bull we were on the fence about but decided not to pursue him.

IMG_1575.jpeg

The next morning we decide to try a new area and go in blind. We hike for a little over an hour in the dark and get to a nice glassing knoll just after sunrise. We aren't there glassing but probably 10 minutes when a bull with about 10 cows and 1 spike are coming down the ridge adjacent to us. At first glance he looks small but as they get closer and closer he starts looking better. We are in no position to make a move on them currently so we just watch and wait. About 9AM they finally bed down in some juniper trees. The cows are dang near impossible to see in that timber but the bull beds in a spot where we can keep a good eye on him only 250 yards away.
IMG_1587.JPEG

I decide I am going to try a stock on him bedded. My dad stays put while I sneak around. After I had closed about 50 yards I herd an elk bark at me.. NO NO NO. I look up and the stupid spike was separate from the group and sounds the alarm! All the elk blow out. Following that we hunt the afternoon but see and hear nothing.

Next day we try a Block Management area that was recommended to me by a Hunttalker. We get there before light. From the second we got out of the truck we could hear multiple bulls bugling. The problem is that they were on the move, they had come down to feed and were headed back up into the dark timber for the day. It was a race against time. For the next two hours we played cat and mouse with multiple groups of elk. In the end they left the Block Management without us ever actually laying eyes on them. We decide we will back out, go to town, have a good meal, then come back here and hunt them in the evening.

A few hours later were back waiting for the elk to come down. After an hour of glassing we spot some elk coming out of the timber. One is a good bull. Not sure if he is a shooter or not but I figure I might as well go try to get into position in case he is.

IMG_1609.JPEG

I head to where the elk were. It takes every bit of 45 minutes to get into position. We get set up down hill of the elk as they are feeding and moving downhill. We hope if were patient they will move into bow range on their own. The plan is working perfectly until I hear a bugle down to my right. I look over only to see 2 other hunters moving uphill bugling towards the elk. We dont even stick around to see what happens.... we just leave... very frustrating.

The next day my dad and I decide to take the ATVs into a new area then hike from there. We see no elk but it was still super fun to explore the mountains with my dad.

IMG_1626.JPEG

We arrive back at camp that day before dark and decide to drive to a spot and do some glassing. As the sun sets we glass up a large herd of cows coming out of a timber patch.... There has to be a bull with that many cows!

Not a minute later out of the timber come a bull that is without question a SHOOTER. There is no where near time to go after them tonight so we watch them until light runs out.

IMG_1634.JPEG
IMG_1647.JPEG

The next morning I depart camp at 3:30AM. My goal is to get into position by sunrise. I end up not making it in time, it was just further than I realized. Around an hour after first light I get close enough to hear the bull bugling. The problem is that the wind could not be worse. It was blowing directly downhill towards the elk. Because of this I immediately retreat and make a giant circle around the elk. Because the bull has so many cows I am not optimistic about any calling working on him. My hope is that they will take the same path they had the night before. If they do that I can set up and ambush him as he walks by. On my way around I find a nice shed. Great little bonus.

IMG_1663.JPEG

Eventually I am around the elk and in position. Unfortunately, the elk bed in a small timber patch before they get to me. The timber patch is a small island of timber in a sea of grass so there is no way I can sneak in on them. All I can do is wait. They stayed bedded there until evening when they finally got up and started slowly feeding my way. This is it I think, they are going to walk right by me! Wouldn't ya friggin know it they deviate their path slightly and end up walking 200 yards away. I watch them until last light. As a last resort I tried cow calling and bugling. No luck, the bull couldn't have cared less. He had so many cows I don't think he gave a rip about what other elk were around. The day ends and I hike out in the dark.

IMG_1665.JPEG
IMG_1681.JPEG


My dad and I hunt another couple days without seeing what were looking for. The week ends and he has to go back to work. I head home to check on the wife and animals. Ill be back out in 2 days for another backpacking trip.
 
Top