Tag Archives: Elk

Montana Shoulder Season

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.

I Shot the Same Bull Twice In Six Days: My 2011 Bull Elk Bow Hunt

We are excited to share this throwback hunt, from a friend of ours,  with you today.   It’s an exciting story and we think you will enjoy it.

By: Christopher Burns

Antlers

It was a cool-crisp Saturday summer morning on September 3rd 2011, the first day of Montana bow hunting season. My friend Matthew Phillips and his brother Joel accompanied me to the Highwoods National Forest in search of elk. We had gone out a few times the season prior and had seen plenty of elk but we were never able to get close enough to get a good shot off on one. The archery bull tag for the Highwoods is a special draw elk tag for bow hunters. We got up to the spot where we would hike in at dark. First shooting light was around 6:13 am. So we wanted to be in position far before the elk started moving around for their morning feed. The first thing we did which we always do before the hike up was say a prayer for the Lord’s blessing on our day, for our safety during the hunt and, God willing, a successful hunt. The hike in was short and easy as we got into position in the pitch dark under a small patch of pine trees. As soon as the darkness started to turn a dark blue tint Matthew gave out the first bugle of the morning to see if there were any answers. The first one fell unsuccessfully without any reply. The elk talk very little in the beginning of the season before the rut starts. The cows were not chirping nor were the bulls bugling. 

After a few more minutes in just the waning moments of darkness early on this cool clear morning we could still see glimpses of stars shining when Matthew let out another bugle. This time we got several replies in about two or three directions. The farthest bugle was so far up the mountain that it was hard to tell just how far away it could have been. The closest reply sounded like it could have been within 300 yards away which this early in the morning on opening day is extremely close to the bottom of the mountain and quickly forced the adrenaline through our veins. As subtle light began to illuminate the peaks of the surrounding mountain tops to bring separation between darkness of the ground and the lighter tint of the sky, we waited for shooting light to arrive. Sitting under the low hanging branches of a large pine we sat in anticipation of the chase. Around five minutes to shooting light we headed in the direction of the closest bugle. We had heard what sounded like a cow chirp responding to nearby elk. 

Nearing a patch of Aspen trees, Matthew made the motion for us to trek around the aspens by just hugging the tree line. I made a quick suggestion that quite possibly changed the course of our entire day. I motioned that we cut straight through the middle of the aspens. This was a very risky move because rustling the branches or leaves through the thick of the aspen trees could very quickly and easily scare off any elk that may be close by. Matthew checked his watch and the very minute of shooting light had arrived. We slowly started making our way through the patch of aspens, which was possibly eighty to a hundred yards thick, avoiding every branch and leaf that we could. About three quarters of the way through the aspens all three of us stopped dead in our tracks because we each immediately saw the same thing. A head with a mass of antlers appeared through an opening through the aspens. It was a beautiful 6X6 bull elk and at that moment it seemed almost too perfect to be true. As it was now just after shooting light his body created a perfect silhouette through the break in the trees. Quickly following close behind him was a slightly smaller rag horn bull and two cow elk. Matthew and I both immediately nocked an arrow. I was holding my Mathews Reezen 6.5 as I could feel the adrenaline welling up within me. I intended on watching Matthew, who was about 5 yards ahead of me, draw back his bow and take a shot but he quickly turned to me and said, “I don’t have a shot.” He had no shooting lane from his vantage point and there was no time to move or reposition because the slightest move would spook the small herd and they would be gone in no time and so would our hunt. 

Here was my moment, that moment that every bow hunter dreams about all year. Remembering back, it seems to have happened in slow motion from this point. With my bow nocked with an arrow I made a range calculation instantaneously in my head that the bull could only be a mere 40 yards away. I had been practicing for this scenario the whole year in the off season. In moments like this sometimes there simply is no time to take a range measurement because if you even stop to take that moment to make the slightest movement then that window of time to take the shot may just as quickly be gone. I drew back the bow and placed the 40 yard pin of my sight in the vitals area just behind the front shoulder of the bull. By this time the bull was peering directly at us with his body perfectly broadside with his left side toward me through the opening of the trees. He looked majestic with his antlers broad and tall which were beautiful beaming brown towers that made him have such an appearance of power and grace. This was the perfect scenario…opening day, opening light, with a 6×6 bull elk in my sights 40 yards away. What an amazing thrill and pleasure it is to have the opportunity to be this close to such a beautiful, yet powerful, creature. When all seemed perfectly silent and still, I released the arrow on its flight. Instantaneously the bull bucked his fore body upward thrusting his horns straight ahead and began a full sprint to the left around and behind the aspens and eventually out of sight. We stayed still and could hear him as he ran down a wooded coulee across the stream we had trekked up and then up a wooded hillside. We could not see him but could hear his fleeing charge. There was a brief moment after I took the shot at him that Matthew could have taken a shot at the rag horn but his initial concern was tracking two bulls at once. After all it was opening day, at opening light and Matthew chose to pass on the shot. 

About 30 seconds to a minute after I took the shot we heard what sounded like my bull give a gurgling attempt at a bugle from the other side of the coolly which was just on the other side of the stream that ran down the center of the coulee. We all three believed that this was the sound of blood building up in his lungs and we thought we would possibly hear him collapse in the trees at any moment. By this time the rag horn and two cows that were accompanying him had vanished out of sight around the aspens just as quickly as he had. After giving it several minutes we decided to survey the location where the arrow had impacted the broad side of the bull. I had very high confidence at this point that I got a very clean and good positioned shot on him. Upon examining the spot where he was standing there was no blood and no arrow.

After some time we walked down to the bottom of the coulee where we believed he had ran but there was no sign of him and no blood. With nothing in sight we did not want to push him any further than he had already gone so we decided to hike back to the truck for the game cart in case we did find any sign of him. After a while at the truck we set off to find some sign of where he had gone. We came upon a path in between the aspens that we were in and the creek bed. It was a small open field. After sweeping and surveying the area we finally came upon some hope. We found my blood stained arrow which was covered from G5T3 broad head tip to nock end. It was very exciting to find this and it picked my adrenaline back up. From the spot of the arrow drop we discovered that the blood trail began. We followed the faint blood trail up the creek a ways, across the creek, into the trees, up the tree covered hillside which switched back and forth all the way up. Half way up the hillside we came upon a paper plate sized pool of curdled dark blood which was a sign that the blood was building up in his lungs. Most likely this was the spot where he had stopped to give the blood curdling last bugle after he was shot. 

We followed still a faint blood trail up the rest of the way, across a small clearing, into another thick tree line which was just the beginning of the thick of the forest. We followed the trail for hours and at some points we were even on our hands and knees looking for even the faintest sign of blood. By now Matthew’s oldest brother Jeff had joined us in the search. At times even finding a pin head sized blood spot kept us going to the next blood spot. After over eight hours of searching and tracking for the bull that I thought I was going to harvest, hope started to fade to a sickening feeling of defeat. The thought that I had lost this bull was overwhelming and frustrating. The perfect and ideal opening day hunt had turned into a nightmare. The last sign that we had of him was high on the mountain-side. In the thick of the trees it appeared that he had laid down and as the blood pooled underneath him it may just have been enough to clot the wound and enable him to begin healing. It was now evident that his lungs had gone completely unscathed. He was gone.

I went home that night frustrated and disappointed. Yet, I was absolutely amazed at the survivability of this animal. I had just shot an arrow completely through the body of this massive bull elk in what I thought at the time was a vital area shot and yet he had survived. Questions and doubt were haunting me and I had trouble sleeping for the next several nights. I have always touted my belief in a good, clean, ethical kill when hunting. The thought that I would merely injure an animal that I was hunting and not be able to harvest it is a nightmare because of those hunting morals that I hold true to. There was no doubt that my arrow had gone completely through his body because it was blood soaked from tip to tip. How could anything survive that? What incredible creatures elk are. If anything, this experience gave me much more of a respect for these animals. 

Five days later on Thursday, 8 September, Matthew and I decided to go out to our same spot for an afternoon hunt after work. We made it out to the woods at just after 5:00 p.m. which gave us just about 3 hours for the hunt. After hiking up a ridgeline halfway to the peak of the mountain top that we were shooting for we stopped to scout the open clearings. While we were glassing the peak top clearings Matthew immediately spotted a small herd in a clearing where we had spotted them while scouting before the season opener. We were in such a rush to get up to this point we never really established who would be taking the shot if we got within range. By this point we both had an opportunity to take a shot at an elk this season. We decided to take a democratic approach; we played paper, scissors, rock. I won. So, Matthew agreed to call for me if we could get in on the herd. By this point we had only about one and a half to two hours of shooting light. We decided the only option was to sprint to the top. We took off. It was like the scene at the end of Last of the Mohicans when they were charging up the mountain side. We had no choice but to push hard. We were losing light by the minute.

As we approached the clearing that was through the tree line where we saw the herd we heard a bugle call out and we could tell it was somewhere within 150 to 200 yards away. Chills ran down my spine. Matthew explained that he would stay at least 80 yards behind me before starting to call to the herd. We spotted movement through the trees. Matthew got into position while I positioned myself further up in the trees edge by the clearing. I now was in full stalk mode. I knew that every movement, sound and breath I made was crucial. Matt gave out a few cow calls. A bull started barking back. Not giving a full out bugle but instead small short barks. Yet, they were loud powerful barks that emanated through the trees. As I quietly hunkered down inside the tree line I finally spotted the bull that was calling back to Matt. He was a nice mature looking bull. There was a patch of trees that the bull was hugging. This patch of trees was only a few hundred yards from the top edge of the mountain ridge in a beautiful clearing cradled in the midst of the thick forest pines. I could just make out his figure and then he walked out from behind the trees and stopped to look in our direction. I made no movement yet because he was out in the open and still about 100 yards away. Matthew did an amazing job of keeping this bull’s attention and curiosity up. It was as if I was listening to a conversation between a bull elk and a cow elk.  Bothered by the call he walked into the thick forest tree line. Now out of the bull’s line of site I took this opportunity to advance my position. I gained a few more yards. Matthew continued his talking back and forth with this bull. I will never forget the resonating sound of the bark that the bull would let out. Being so close to a bull elk and hearing the sounds that they give off truly sends chills down the back of my neck making every hair stand on edge. There is no other sound like it.

The daylight was quickly fading, as was my window of opportunity. I watched as the bull walked back behind the small patch of trees. At about 80 yards away, I knew that I had no choice but to try to get within shooting range if I was going to get a shot at this bull. With my Reezen nocked with an arrow I began to slowly creep up the steep incline toward this small group of trees. Moving slowly up, my thighs were burning; not just from the hike up but also from slowly creeping up at a snail’s pace trying not to spook this bull. Adrenaline was keeping me going as I continued to stalk forward. I approached the edge of this group of trees and the bull was staring in my direction. I finally got right up behind and against a tree on the edge. The bull jerked around to the right in a short charge as if he was about to run away but he stopped. He was curious and did not know what I was. He turned back to the left with his left side facing me. All I was waiting for was for him to walk a few yards to the left and I would have a clear broad-side shot through the trees. He began to walk to the left as if he was going to head into the thick forest tree line and into cover. As he began to take his first steps to the left I drew back on my bow. Light was fading and I knew it was almost last light. If not for the fiber optic pins on my sight I would have had trouble sighting in on him. After taking a few steps he curiously stopped and looked directly at me. He was majestic, just like the bull I faced five days before. It was a perfect opportunity, as if the Lord was giving me a second chance at success in one week. Just as before, I had ranged him in my head. I put him at 60 yards. He was now perfectly broad side and looking at me. With my 60 yard pin on the same spot as before I relaxed, took a breath and let the arrow fly. It felt like minutes before the arrow reached him, the moment that took only seconds felt like forever.

The arrow penetrated his side, he immediately charged to the left and into the thick tree line of the forest. After seeing him run into the tree line about 80 yards away all I could do now was listen. I heard him stop, followed by a short pause. Next, I heard branches rustling, crashing and then silence.  I knew that I had just shot and taken down a beautiful bull elk. Matt was still down the hill. I wanted to yell for excitement at the top of my lungs but I composed myself. I called out to Matt and said, “Matt, I got him! He’s down. I got him!” Matthew later told me that at that moment when I called out to him he looked down at his watch and it was 8:12 p.m., the last minute of shooting light. I shot a bull at the bottom of the mountain on opening day, just after first light and lost him. Five days later I shot a bull at the top of the mountain at last light and this time I got him. We walked into the thick tree line and found my bull with his 6X6 rack up against a tree. 

The most amazing part of the story is what we discovered next. While field dressing the bull we pulled out the front half of my arrow that had broken off inside him during his fall which penetrated his lungs and brought him down. Less than two inches from my arrows entry point, in his left side, was another entry wound just an inch outside of the lungs. The other wound was recent but older by only a few days. There was an exit wound on his right side that clearly was the exit wound from the older entry wound on his left side. This was the same bull that I had shot five days prior on the same mountain. I shot him twice on the left side but only the first shot from five days prior had an exit wound on the right side. Not only did the Lord give me a second chance at success, he gave me a second chance at the same bull that I had shot just days earlier. I was exuberant with joy. I would not have wanted it any other way. What a blessing this was. This truly was a hunt of a lifetime. This is one I will never forget and maybe never surpass. This was my first bull to ever harvest and what a special one to start off with. It took Matt and I all night to drag him out of the woods quartered with our friends Dale Langendorff and Adam Reathaford. I will always be grateful for Matthew’s help calling in that bull and sharing that experience with me. What a great hunt.

Elk Hunt 6x6

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Kevin’s First Archery Bull Elk

Every year there is a place in Montana where I apply for an archery permit because it has 75% draw odds so I can draw it and hunt with the rest of the crew.  This is one of my favorite hunts during the year, as we are able to see elk and every once in a while be able to get within bow range.  This is a public land hunt, but sometimes it can seem as if it were not a public land hunt.  This year I invited a friend, Kevin, to come along on this hunt and put in for the same draw for a permit.

This year ended up a bit differently.  We applied  for the permits and then came the long wait.  The months and weeks seemed to crawl by, waiting to see how our crew did with the lottery.  One day, while on Facebook, I saw someone post that the permits had been drawn and were available to look at on the Montana Fish Wildlife and parks website.

I went to look and after a couple of minutes, my hopes were dashed.  I ended up not drawing the elk tag.  After a few phone calls and text messages, I found out the rest of the party had.  Since I didn’t want to miss out on this hunt though, this would essentially make me the caller for this trip. * On a side note, I would end up drawing a cow tag for the same unit, but that tag would not be a priority during bow season.

Opening weekend

Elk Tines Imagery

Kevin (my friend who I had apply for the unit), Henry (my father-in-law) and I packed up the camper and Kevin’s truck to go see what we could find.  We pulled into the spot late on Friday and got  ready for the next day.  That first night is always a restless one, with the all too familiar dreams of grandeur and excitement.  The morning also came with the familiar feeling of grogginess from the lack of sleep.

This morning was one of a close call.  We were in position for where the elk were heading when a couple of hunters walked into the elk and they split and we weren’t able to get

back into them that day.  The one good thing was as we split up and walked back to the truck.  Henry found the best dead head of a 6X6 I have ever seen. He initially saw just the top two tines sticking up out of the mud, but as he pulled, the antlers just kept coming!  It was a neat find.

Dad with dead head e

The next day we saw more elk, but no luck in slipping in for a shot.  That afternoon started the rain, which would continue throughout the night and into the next day.  We decided to pack up the gear and headed out since the rain was really coming down.  The area we were in could become a giant mudhole and we could potentially get stuck in there until it dried out some.

The Week Long Trip

The next week at work was fast and furious as I was attempting to get everything done in four days that I would have to take care of to be gone for 10 total.  Finally Thursday night rolled around.  Kevin and I would be taking his camper out so we met at his house to get all of the final items ready for us to get on the road.

Once in Lewistown, we decided to check out a piece of private land that  I had permission to hunt antelope on.  This time there were antelope on it, so what was supposed to be traveling to our elk hunt quickly turned into an antelope hunt.

Kevin and I got my bow out and started to pull a sneak on.  I ended up seeing a buck chasing a doe and they were not really paying much attention, so I got into the irrigation ditch and snuck in.

I kept as low as I could and eventually they turned broadside.  The only issue, they were at 90 yards and I had no way of trying to get any closer.  I knew we should get going, so I pushed it a bit and tried to belly crawl.  Their eyes were too good and I ended up spooking them on to the neighbor’s property.

We loaded up and got ready for another 2 hour drive to get to our camp.

We arrived later to camp without a problem and began setting up for the week.  Later that evening, Henry made his way into camp and gave us a hard time about not being out yet.

We hunted that Saturday and we saw elk, but it didn’t end with a shot.  We talked about the plan for the next day and went to bed, ready to try and execute the plan.

The next morning we headed out and parked the truck.  We moved to the top of the ridge and I let out a location bugle.  To our surprise, three different bulls sounded off down the canyon.  From this reaction, I figured it was going to be a good morning.  We then split up from Henry and moved in closer.

As we got closer to where the bulls could be, I decided to adjust some gear.  Kevin was new to bowhunting and all he had this year was a hiking backpack and with every step he took, it was making a swishing sound.  I had him take it off in order to kill some of the noise we might make.  He grabbed a few items and we moved on forward.  We moved to the edge of a field and I put Kevin into a spot I thought would be perfect if the bull kept coming.

I moved off about 75 yards and set up my decoy.  During this whole time the bulls were screaming bugle after bugle, getting us excited about what may be coming.  I thought they were within about 150 yards and so I started cow calling since we heard a couple of cows in the mix.  After a few minutes of calling, one bull seemed to be moving away , but the two other bulls were still bugling.

We decided the only way to get him to come in was to get closer to the action.  We pulled the decoy and moved about 300 yards down the ridge to where the drainage we were on opened up to another drainage.  I then set out the decoy and started cow calling again.  While I was calling this time, after about every third call, I would hear what sounded like a hoochie mama from primos.  Kevin and I talked about this for a moment and we decided that we should keep calling and that the primos call  was maybe a hunter but hopefully they would stay were they were at.  After about 10 minutes, the bull seemed to be moving further away again.  This is when I went to desperation mode and I decided to rake the tree.

When I raked the tree, the bull lit back up and I started into my cow calls again.  I sent Kevin down across the other side of the draw.  I ended up cow calling a couple more times and then the surprise of the day happened.  What we both had thought was a hunter calling using a hoochie mama, was actually a cow!  She appeared over the ridge to our right.  She saw the decoy and I called again and she started coming.

It was at this time I saw the bull, his antlers coming over the top of the ridge.    From where Kevin was sitting, however, he couldn’t see him coming.  I cow called one more time and he ripped off a bugle, which let Kevin know he was almost there. 

It was just after this bugle, the bull saw the decoy (which I was sitting behind).  Once he saw the decoy he lost his mind and he moved quickly toward the bottom of the draw and was 32 yards in front of Kevin.  I saw Kevin draw and heard the bow go off and the great thwack the arrow makes when entering the body.  The elk ran up the ridge a ways and then coughed out blood.  I kept calling and he stopped one more time.

Kevin was jumping around with excitement and as he looked at me I signaled him to calm down and that I could still see him.  I cow called one more time and he disappeared up over the top of the ridge.

I then packed up my gear and took my bow and strapped it to my badlands diablo dos pack.  I moved across the draw and got up to Kevin.  He was beside himself trying to decide what to do next.

From what I had seen I told we should wait about another 15 minutes and that we should go take a look at the arrow.  We found the arrow in a bush and Kevin was worried as the broad head didn’t look like it deployed.  I had him hand it to me and I opened it up, to which we saw it had blood and hair on the inside.  This told me we probably were going to find the bull not too far away.

We moved up the hill to follow the blood trail (although it wasn’t where I last saw the elk).  When we moved up to where he had coughed, there was a good amount of blood. So we kept moving.  At the top of the hill, there was an insane amount of blood and I absolutely knew that the bull was close.

But for Kevin, he expected the bull to keep moving, as this was his first elk ever (and with a bow).  As we approached the top of the hill, in a dip to the left I saw the bull upside down.  Just as in the hunting shows, I ended tapping Kevin on the shoulder and pointing out his bull to him.  It was at this moment he lost his mind.

Bull Elk e.jpg

The bull in the end ran about 200 yards but ended up only being about 100 yards away from the initial shot.  Kevin had hit the main artery in the neck with his frontal shot (which we discussed a few months earlier about where to aim).  I gave him my phone to take pictures with and I used my GPS to find where we left his pack.

Elk Selfies

We took a couple of pictures with Kevin and his bull and then we started to work.  We tried to call Henry on the radio, but he didn’t respond.

From where he was located in relationship from the truck we determined to gut the elk, cut him in half and then go get the cart.  The cleaning was probably the least bloody one we have ever had as most of the blood had come out of the neck.  We cut between the third and fourth rib and moved the bull in to the shade.  Just as we started heading up to the pickup Henry called and said to come pick him up.

We responded that he should come find us and we  headed up to the pickup.  We got the back half loaded in to the cart and headed back up to the pickup.  Just as we were about a hundred yards away from the pickup, Henry saw us loading up the back half so he joyfully sat down and watched us load the back half.

He met up with us and said “Where’s the other half?”

We said down the hill a bit.  He loaded up his pack and bow into the truck and we finished the pack out process for the bull.

After he was loaded up, we took him into the processor.

 

Things we did right:

Kept trying to get close in to the bull even while he is moving

Didn’t give threatening bugles after we figured he had cows

Using the decoy – this provided the bull the confidence when he got within the view of where he was hearing the calls.

Kevin was in a spot that the bull had to come through when he would see the decoy.

Things we could work on:

Making sure that we all had a radio – Kevin left his in his bag.  Doesn’t help in that we split up at some point.

Don’t always assume that the calls being made are humans.  Sometimes elk will sound funny or just like a call.

Keep working on calling.  The more you practice, the more confident you can be at calling.

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2016 Fall Shoulder Season:Elk

In Montana the past two seasons, the state has opened up a shoulder rifle season for cow elk in certain hunting districts.  In 2015 I wasn’t able to take advantage and fill one of my tags during the late season.  However, I thought that this may be different this year.

shoulder-season-text

After playing bass for the church my family and I attend on Sunday, I packed up my hunting gear for the very warm start to the 2016 hunting season.  The season started the next day on Monday, August 15th and was scheduled to be  85 degrees.

When I arrived in Lewistown, my father and law and I hopped in the truck and took a ride.  After not seeing much that evening, we thought that there may be a group of elk that would come out on a certain piece of state property, which is irrigated and still very green.  We had our plan for the morning.

We woke up early about 4 am.  We got dressed and got all of the gear loaded up and headed out.  Along the drive about 10 miles away from the place we were planning to check out, we had 8 elk come up to the road to our right!  This is just what we were looking for.

We kept driving, hoping that they were going to go to the state land we were headed to.  I got out of the truck to open and close a gate.  As I stepped out of the truck, I realized the temperature was already balmy, I looked when I was back in the truck and saw it was 55 degrees.

As we continued forward, daylight was just breaking.  We rounded the corner and saw a pickup stopped in the road.  The driver opened his door and walked back to Henry and I.

This gentleman was a person that Henry knew, and he said there were about 20 or 30 elk in the field ahead of him and if we waited just a few we would all be able to get our elk.

We waited a couple of minutes to get us to the time where we had shooting light.  When it was time, we moved forward in the vehicles and then the elk saw us coming.  They started moving forward and away from us.  We all busted out of the trucks and the guy in the other truck got out and steadied himself for a shot.  He took a shot and was able to get his elk,  but we didn’t have a shot under 400 yards.

dad-with-cow

 

The elk were now running.  We didn’t have much of a chance for a shot.  We ran forward to a place where we had a chance to shoot.  I tried to get my rifle steady for the shot, but couldn’t get set up well, so I didn’t try for a shot.

Henry and I took a minute and talked about what we thought could happen.  We decided to hop in the truck and go around to the other side of the place we were hunting.  We figured that the elk were going to move to the private property on the other side.

We got in and started driving.  About 20 minutes later, we were on the other side.  We stopped the truck and get out and just started listening.  Right away I heard cows mewing.  I told Henry and we moved into the woods.  Not 200 yards in, we see the first cow.  Henry takes a shot and misses.  I hear them move to my left and so I break from Henry and get into position.  I hear Henry shoot again and about a minute later, I end up taking a couple off hand shots at a cow moving through the trees.  I missed!

I checked the area where the elk was and confirmed my miss and then I went back to check on Henry.  I found him looking for me and he said that he hit a cow well.  We then went and checked where the elk he hit was standing and found good blood.  We then followed the tracks and after a bit we couldn’t find any more blood.

We moved forward through the woods when all of the sudden I see an elk with her head hanging lower looking at us.  I didn’t have a good shot from where I was, so I tried moving to where I could get a good shot to get the cow down.  During my movement, she saw me and busted out of those trees.

We got up to those trees and found more blood, so we started tracking her and found her 200 yards away, dead.

We got in and got to work.  We got her broken down into half and went to go get the cart.  We brought in the cart and she was only about 700 yards from the pickup.  We loaded up the back half as fast as we could and got it back to the truck and then went in for the front.  We were back at the truck about 9 am and 67 degrees, headed for the processor as fast as we could.

While heading to the processor, Henry and I discussed the fact that the cow was not dry.  We decided that we would head back out to the spot after we were done at the processor and try to get her 6 month old calf who would probably still be hanging out in that area.

After a long couple of hours back and forth, we pulled in to the spot where we had parked that morning.  We walked in and when we were 100 yards from where we got the cow, we saw the calf.  Henry tried cow calling as I moved toward the calf and a tree to get a shot.  I ended up setting up in a bad spot and didn’t have a shot and the calf ran off.

We talked about our next plan of action.  We decided to move and get our wind right and start calling.  So we get set up and Henry said, “I’m going to take a nap, wake me up before you shoot.”

I start calling a couple more times and then I hear the calf respond 100 yards away in another patch of trees.  I get Henry ready to call and i get my rest on a tree.  There was one window I had through all of the branches and said to myself when the elk hits that spot, I need to be pulling the trigger.  Henry called one more time and the calf trotted in to the opening and I pulled the trigger.  I hit the calf right behind the front shoulder and it went 20 yards and laid down.  I snuck over and took another shot to end it.

Bob with Calf.jpg

 

I got to work cleaning the animal and Henry went back to get the cart.  I moved the calf as far as I could by myself with the shade we had.  After 15 minutes, Henry made it back and we loaded the calf up.  We then were back at the truck in another 15 minutes.  The temperature then, at 11 am, was 77 degrees so we were in a hurry to get him to the processors as quickly as possible.

It was a great hunt for filling the freezer.

Things we did right:

We were in a spot where there was good feed during the morning (where most people wouldn’t go to)
We knew where the elk would most likely go after we had seen them.
We had the GPS chip from ONX Maps that  we were able to follow the fence line in to where we needed to be.
We did have ice to put on the elk if we did get it in the afternoon.

At least we had fun…

Well opening of rifle season was October 22nd and that marked the beginning of a week long “vacation” we take each year.  As some of you know, we homeschool, and one of the perks of homeschooling is determining when you take vacations.  A few years ago we started spending the entire first week of rifle season at my parent’s house in Lewistown, Montana.  The first year, I packed up all of our school books and supplies and tried to do school while we were there.  It was a flop.  So now we just look forward to a week of visiting with family and hunting.  My brother comes over from Washington and mom watches the kids some so I can go out and it’s a blast.

I decided I am going old-school and will set these up like a photo album and fill you in as we go.  Do you remember photo albums people?  That reminds me, I need to print pictures… I think I am behind by about seven years…

Anyhow, we started out the week by waking up early and heading out to some BLM land.  We had heard that the elk bed down there and sometimes you can catch them there before they head back over to graze on the N Bar Ranch in the morning.  Dad, Bob & I hiked up a large hill through the quaker trees and the underbrush in the semi-darkness while Jonas and my cousin-in-law, Raleigh hiked up a trail to the other side of the hill.  We knew also that my dad’s cousin Benny’s boys, Aaron and Logan, were up there somewhere too and found out later they were up a ways more and were overlooking the next ridge.

We got set up under some trees in front of a meadow we thought they might come through as light broke.  We almost immediately heard three shots further North of us and thinking that the elk might now get pushed down a coulee further that way, we relocated quickly.  We continued to hear a shot here and there, but unfortunately, we didn’t get into the elk.  Aaron and Logan(along with a couple other guys) had been able to see a herd of cows right below them once it was light and they shot a cow, which pushed the elk up Southwest of us, into a group of other hunters who shot their elk.  We never did get to see them.  Although once we were back at the truck and looked up the hill we had come down, we did see a large black bear run across a clearing and down into the trees.

No Elk.jpg
Here’s a nice picture of no elk.
Where's da elk.jpg
Where’s da elk at Benny?  (My dad is an ex-Hutterite, so make sure that’s the accent you read it in, ok?)

We spent the rest of that day watching other hunters… Well that’s what it felt like.  It was really crazy, being the first day of rifle season.  Normally the guys go down to the river to hunt and they get way back into the backcountry where there aren’t so many people. But I didn’t have  a tag for that area and they were trying to let me hunt without completely abandoning my mom with the kids so we were doing more local hunting.  Thus all the people.   It’s hard to not have fun when you get to drive around Montana and hang out with other hunters though.   We spent awhile just watching all of the movement of hunters below us as we stood on a ridge and visited with Benny, his boys  and the others who had been hunting with them.  And we chased coyotes and saw lots of wildlife.

Coyote.jpg
Anybody know this song?  Mom? “I’m wild and wooly and full of fleas, never been curried below the knees… I sit and howl on the lone prairie!  I’m a _(What’s the answer?) !”

The next day we tried a different spot and ran into a whole lot of elk hanging out on private land which again was owned by the N Bar (it feels like they own everything over there now!).  I hear they don’t let many people hunt on their place.  But I am starting to think I need to call and ask for next year…

elk-way-over-there
Ok, over there in the middle of the side-hill… Do you see the herd of elk?  No?  That’s because my camera sucks.  If that bothers you, keep checking back, we have plans for a new camera and your continued support of the blog will help immensely!

Well, that morning we didn’t have any luck with the elk so we decided to go back over by the colony to look for deer.  We dropped off my brother, Jonas, at one end of the area we planned to hunt and we went to look up on the other end.  He saw some does and a few small bucks but the one we were looking for wasn’t there.  Jonas saw a few coyotes too so as we were driving to another spot dad wanted us to try we caught sight of one of the coyotes and gave chase.

coyote-chasin
This is what it looks like inside the truck when dad is blaring across a stubble field trying to catch up with a coyote and we are being flung wildly in all directions.  (*Note: My dad is actually a great driver and at no point during this trip did he drive me over a steep cliff even when it felt like he might.)

So the guys did end up getting a shot at the coyote but it made it to a den and dodged inside.  Dad and Jonas tried to figure out how to get the coyote out of it’s den and decided they didn’t want to stick their face down in there.  They dug out the front so they could look in without having to get too close and found the coyote.  Jonas decided to shoot him once more with the pistol and his front half disappeared into the den.  He pulled the trigger and WHUMP… the sound reverberated from out of the den and Jonas came out shaking his head.   As a result the coyote moved way to the back and we weren’t able to retrieve him, but on our way out we saw Logan and told him about it.  By the time he got back there, the coyote had come out and was laying dead at the opening.  Meh… At least I was able to glean some entertainment from the whole deal.

 

The next morning found us again looking at elk on the N Bar, I am serious, it’s everywhere… We were at their fence line looking back towards private land that we could hunt on the next day, but their family was hunting there over the weekend and we could go on after they had first chance.  In between the private land was some BLM and we were hoping that the elk might get pushed up through there on their way to the N Bar.  No luck.

n-bar-fence-post
This here is an N Bar fence post.  In those trees back there were the elk.  We sat and listened to bulls bugle and cows mew for awhile as we watched them through the binoculars.  It was beautiful and exciting and frustrating…
turkeys
The next day when we got onto the previously mentioned private land, we saw lots of turkeys, prairie dogs, and the back end of elk running over the hill into inaccessible private land.  But it gave us a plan for the evening because at least we knew they were in there to graze at night.

We set up in a meadow that evening to wait for the elk to come back in to graze.  Jonas and Dad went scouting around to see if they might run into them.  I found a lot of pretty mushrooms and took some selfies.  No elk.

mushroom-collage

 

selfie

Ok the days have all started running together in my memory at this point.  So here’s the wrap-up.  It was fun.  We saw and did SO much that week.  I am going to throw a couple more pictures at you including the one with the single critter I managed to harvest all week.  Thanks for joining me on my trip down memory lane!

one-shot-wonder
My  mama got this nice whitetail doe.  She was kindly pointing out that she got her with one shot so I could show my cousin Raleigh who did not get his deer with one shot.  Or two… We love you Raleigh!

 

Whitetail collage.jpg
Finally got something!  I got this nice whitetail buck on the last day we had to hunt.  I was really pleased with this guy.  He is a really nice size, antler-wise, for this area and he was a well-fed, big-bodied deer.  And it was a beautiful shot, if I do say so myself.  He never knew what hit him.  I made one shot and he just toppled down on himself.  When we gutted him we saw that the shot entirely disconnected his heart so I was really happy about that.

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