With a very rewarding rifle deer season hunting with my boys and harvesting a nice buck myself, I was excited to go out after elk with my muzzleloader.
I haven’t been having a lot of success in the last couple of years with my muzzleloader. I was hopeful that would change this year.
With not having a lot of saved up vacation I was only able to take the last three days of the hunt off to pack into the backcountry.
I glassed and glassed on the way in but was unable to locate any elk. I did see a number of decent mule deer buck. Hmm…. I might have to put in for the general limited entry late-season muzzleloader tag next year.
There was a little snow when I got about four miles in but not much. I really needed a good amount of snow to really push the elk into this location but you never know what might be in there until you go look. One of the things I did like not seeing was any other hunters. Last year in the general area there were 10 horse hunters the spooked the six-point bull back onto the private ground before I could get into position for a shot.
As I got ready to crawl into my Alps Chaos tent I heard the distinct sound of antlers sparring and lots of elk mewing within a couple hundred yards of my tent. Awesome!
Talk about one dang cold night. I should have grabbed my really extra heavyweight sleeping bag.
So at first light the next morning as I was crawling out of my tent I heard the antlers and mewing again. This time even closer to my tent on the opposite side of the ridge. So I set out slowly going over the ridge looking into the distance when all of a sudden I realized they were right in front of me, a 5x6 and 5x5 bull elk. The 5x5 was quartering away from me and the 5x6 was broadside behind a little scrub brush. I have never taken a 6 point so I opted to wait out the 5x6 to offer a better shot. As the bull walked forward around the brush all of a sudden he stopped and stared right at me. Well, the gig was up so I centered the crosshairs on the front edge of his shoulder and sent a 300 Gr Aerolite his way.
As the smoke cleared both bulls ran off around the ridge and out of sight. I calmly reloaded my muzzleloader and started following the path the 5x6 had taken. And I followed and I followed but there was no elk to be found. Nor was there even a drop of blood. What the heck just happened? It was a 45 yard shot. The angle wasn’t perfect but I was shooting a 300-grain bullet. Well, long story short I hiked all over looking for him that day with no sign at all. The thought of hitting a bull and it getting away just made me sick.
To try and find closer I hiked all the way back in there a week later and hiked all over the place looking for birds and still nothing to be found.
So what happened? I would like to hope that I missed but that just likely isn't the case. Here’s what I think happened and what I am going to do about it for the future. Using 120 Grains of loose FFG Triple Seven powder I believe the 300 Gr Aerolite bullet just blew up in his shoulder. The 300 Gr Aerolite bullets shoot so very accurate in both Dallen’s and my CVA muzzleloaders but I’m finding out that although they are 300 Grains they come apart rather easily at high velocities.
When I went back and reviewed what happened with the young mule deer that Dallen shot this year with his muzzleloader at 80 yards I found that the bullet made it to the opposite side of the deer but it didn’t exit and it was just a pile of small lead fragments. My elk was much closer and I was shooting into the front edge of the shoulder of a large bull elk. I think the bullet didn’t penetrate and just exploded on the shoulder. I can only pray that he survived and maybe waiting for me next year.
Looks like I better find a tougher bullet for elk hunting in the future. I have a number of new bullets to try including Triple Shocks, 338 Platinum and 348 Copper bullets.
I did see a few bucks during this hunt. I'll include a few photos in this blog entry of some bucks I saw while out on this hunt.
This hunt really upset me, so much so that I have sat on publishing this article for many months now. I don't like having animals getaway. And to top it off this would have been my very first six-point bull elk. I'll be better prepared with a better bullet next time. Maybe next year I'll find a six-point.