First of all, sorry it has been awhile, but I’m ready to tell some great stories of the fun which was had during the 2017 hunting season.
First hunt of the year – Montana Elk shoulder season
I wasn’t able to go out with my father in law in Lewistown the 15th of August as I was out of town on vacation with family. This was a trip we had been planning for a few years. However, the plan was to get out there the first weekend back and attempt to get out there and take another elk and put it in to the freezer.
The first thing which helped out is my father in law taking the time to get out in the field and find the elk and pattern their habits. We know from prior years, this state section of land is particularly green during this point in the year and the elk tend to be out there in the morning. They then move up after being spooked and cross a private section which does allow hunting – but only to certain people before the regular bow season opens. My father in law did ask and we had permission to hunt this area.
Earlier in the week when the shoulder season opened, they were able to get 5 elk out of the area in short order. We were hoping they would still be around during the weekend hunt.
Friday night was met with expectation and worry – excitement to start the next season, but the worry the elk had moved on to another area to try and find feed. What would usually have been a 7 hour night turned in to 4.5.
The alarm woke me up with a jolt. I stirred my wife out of bed (she really doesn’t like the early mornings, but is willing to go for the food hunting provides). We made our way out and got dressed and ready for the day. My father in law met us in the addition and then we loaded up.
We got to the area where the elk were way before sunrise, but to our dismay another vehicle was on the road before us. We decided to hang back and hopefully they wouldn’t scare the elk out of the area.
When it was just about light, we moved up and started glassing. From where the elk had previously been, they were further up the draw. Seeing 300 elk in a group is a very rare thing, but is very inspiring.
As we were getting close, the truck which drove through the area came back, completely missing the elk to our right. We moved out of the vehicle to the edge of the bench and set up for a shot.
It was early, but legal shooting light. We watched as the elk were crossing the fence and trying to pick out one separated from the group so Katrina could get a shot. One finally separated about 300 yards out and Katrina steadied herself and took a shot. I saw the dirt under the elk fly and knew it was a clean miss.
The elk then started up the draw and we knew where they were going from prior years experience they were going to move around and be in the crossing valley soon. We moved back up to the truck and drove around.
As soon as we moved away from the vehicle. I felt we were getting close. Splitting up from the group I had moved up the draw and prepared where I thought I would see the elk. Then I heard a shot. I only heard one so I knew the elk was down.
In the stillness after the shot, I could hear some cows mewing out in front of me. Checking the wind again I moved to where I had the wind in my favor and pressed on. As I came up to the open field I glassed both directions and gave out a small cow call. I heard the cows respond and decided I needed to get to the other side of the field.
I ran across the field (only about 100 yards or so and came up to the first tree. I could see the last of a couple of cows moving in to the trees and I called again to try and stop them. They didn’t stop and kept feeding in to the trees.
Knowing the area also played well in to my next move. I figured if I could get through the trees faster then they could I would be ready for them in the next lane which should offer up a shot. I took off through the trees and when I came out the other side, I noticed the legs of the elk coming about 15 yards back in to the trees. I had beat them to the opening!
I snuck forward to the best tree which would offer a good shot, loaded my shell into the chamber, and waited. It didn’t take long for the first cow to step in to the opening ahead of me at 25 yards. However, the second cow was behind her and so I had to wait for them to clear and as soon as she did, I let my 30.06 ring out. She reared up and fell over. In that instant another 25 head of elk busted through the trees, one nearly running me over.
I pulled out my tag and put it on my elk and then went to find Henry and Katrina. I got to them just as they were done dressing her elk and so I helped them get it to the pickup, a measly tenth of a mile.
We then loaded back up the cart and took it in to my elk. .3 of a mile away from the road. We dressed out my elk and got it cut in half and got the back end out to the truck.
Katrina stayed behind for the last load and Henry and I went in for the front half. It took us only 18 minutes to get back to the truck with the front half! We were excited the season was off to a great start. 2 elk in the freezer to start us off. On to the freezer we went.