Man, it’s good to get the camo out of the closet and dust off the cow calls and bugle tubes! It’s been a busy summer and hectic few weeks getting prepared for the fall hunting season. We got to check some of our trail cameras last week and see what’s been roaming the woods over the summer. I was very pleased with what I saw. Lots of elk, some really nice mature bulls, and lots of calves, not to mention some really nice buck deer and a few moose as well. One trail cam on a wallow we call “Brooklyn” took 281 pictures of elk!
To kick off the season, we had some return archery hunters from Michigan in camp, John Heslip, Bret Doud, and Tim Lesneski. From the first day of the hunt, hunters and guides were into the elk action every day! Whether spotting elk in some of our favorite hunting spots, or being right smack in the middle of bugling bulls, there was lots of action all week. On day three, John, Bret, and I ran into a bugling bull in the dark on our way out of camp. As we waited for the sun to rise, the bull gathered his cows and slipped into the timber before we could even make a move on him. Just minutes later we heard a different bull bugle just a couple hundred yards up river. We soon jumped up and started our stalk to get within bow range. This bull was also on the move and led us on a wild goose chase over several miles of dark, nasty, elk country. After an hour and a half of stalking this bull through the timber, we finally got close enough to get in his personal space and do some calling. I let out a bugle, and instantly this bull was on his way in. John and Bret set up on two different angles of approach while I slipped down the hill 30 yards to call him in closer. It took only a couple minutes and he was in sight, raking trees on the way in. As he neared 8 yards, Bret placed a perfect arrow right behind his shoulder! The bull took off through the timber and went less than 130 yards before piling up! Wow, what an exciting hunt and well worth all the hard work.
Now that Bret had filled his tag, I had the opportunity to guide Tim the very next day……and what an exciting day it was. We left camp to head to one of my favorite glassing spots to try and locate elk for the next morning. As we sat down to glass we heard a bugle in the distance. A few minutes later the bugle was closer. Then a different bull chimed in even closer. I told Tim that even though the bugle was over a half mile away, if that bull bugled again, “he’s going to die”! Sure enough, the bull bugled and we gathered our gear and took off down the mountain. After closing the distance a few hundred yards, we realized it wasn’t just one or two bulls bugling, but four! We almost got busted by a couple deer, and a few cow elk on the way in, but a few cow chirps saved our butts, and the stalk was still on. Soon we were within 150 yards of the four bulls and who knows how many cows, but no cover to get closer. We made the decision to run down the hill making lots of noise and cow calling along the way to sound like a herd of elk coming down the hill. It worked!! We were right on their back porch and in position. Tim set up next to a big pine and I slipped back to continue calling. 30 seconds later, elk started filtering out of the woods. After two other bulls walked by without presenting Tim a shot, the third stepped out and Tim made a great 45 yard shot. The nice 6 point bull only went 50 yards before falling dead! Man, it can happen fast!!
Over the next couple days guide Rod Piper and John did their best to arrow one more bull, but couldn’t quite get things to work out. They were into elk several times and John even snuck into bow range of a nice bull. The elk was just a little farther than he thought, and his shot ended up coming up a little short making a clean miss. They got into several other bulls, but couldn’t get them to respond to the calls. On the last day of the hunt Rod was able to call a nice bull into 3o yards. Unfortunately, as soon as he got into John’s sights, he busted and took off out of sight.
It was a great week altogether, with great people, great cooking by Cherri, and lots of good hunting. We saw lots of wildlife, several black bears, and even had some serious close encounters with some moose. Congratulations to Bret and Tim and we look forward to going back in this week with deer and archery elk hunters.