The DIY Hunter

I decided I would have another go at archery elk hunting the same area I went the previous year. This time I had my wife drop me off on the other end of this public property. As usual I was going in as light as I could. I had my water pump and five to six days of food, prepared to spend the next four or five days in the woods.

Small spring to pump water from
Here is a small spring that I pumped water from on my second day on the mountain.

The first night I was able to hike in far enough to be in elk country. That night I was in the bottom of a canyon in some really thick maples and oak brush as it got dark and so I pulled out the sleeping bag and slept in this thick cover. As I was crawling into my sleeping bag I skunk tried to join me but I quickly let him know he wasn't welcome.

Before light I was up and worked my way around one of the larger canyons. I was running low on water and I found a tiny little spring around mid-day. It took me a good two hours to fill several quarts of water from the little seeping spring.

By that evening I had worked my way around and up on a ridge line. I had found some elk sign along the way but nothing really fresh. As I started up this ridge line I heard a single deep sounding bugle across the canyon. I tried cow calling but never got an answer. With about a half hour of shooting light left I found some cows and young bulls working their way up to the ridge that I was on. With the wind and amount of light left I decide it best to back off. I would try for them in the morning.

Three small bull elk
Three young bulls giving me the slip this morning. One of them is most likely the bull I shot the evening after taking this photo.

Early the next morning there was no sign of them in the canyon they were in the night before so I decided to work my way around into the next canyon, cow calling as I went along. I crested one finger ridge and cow called and the canyon erupted with crashing timber and hoofs blazing out of the canyon. I guess I was a little to aggressive with the cow call, because four young bulls and a couple cows headed for the next canyon when I blew the cow call. I did get one of the bulls to come back to investigate to about 100 yards then he decided he didn't like something and he left.

I made note of where two small groups of elk went as they vacated the canyon. I figured that maybe at least one of the four small bulls in these groups would bed down on the shady side of the next ridge about a mile away.

The rest of the afternoon I worked my way with my main pack up to my favorite base camp location. I filled up my two water bottles and a couple of two liter bladders from a spring and pond about 600 yards below my base camp. I setup my tarp system with parachute cord. Basically  I make a tent/bivy like enclosure by running and chord between two trees then drape a tarp over the chord and tie down the sides and corners. I don't like taking any more weight than I have too so a tarp does me just fine. Although I'm itching to try Tyvek sometime soon and make a bivy.

That afternoon I made my plan. I was going to hike about a mile down the ridge with the wind at my back. Once I got towards the end of the ridge I would then swing around the ridge and drop into an opening in the bottom of the next canyon. Once in place I should be downwind of at least some of the elk that should be up in the dark timber above me.

After I was there for a while, I very and I mean very softly would cow call with a Primos Hyper Lip Single with the sound chamber on it. After about a half hour I could hear something moving out of the timber above. It slowly worked it's way down and then around on a trail that I hoped the elk would take to enter the meadow. As the hoof sounds made it around to the opening I could see that it was one of the young rag horn bulls. He cautiously walked out into the open area and stopped at 42 yards. Unfortunately he had spotted me but, wasn't sure what I was. I settled the 40 yard pin low behind his shoulder and let it fly. The arrow hit home but the bull made a serious turn towards me with an about-face turn as the arrow struck.

5 point Bull Elk Taken with Browning Adrenaline SX BowI waited a good half hour then started to sneak to where I last saw him run. I bumped him and decided it best, as it was getting dark, that I come back in the morning.

The next morning I headed back down the canyon to pick up the trail. I followed his tracks for about another 100 yards into some thick under growth. I started crawling around following the tracks, as the blood had since dried up... hmm, something smells like a late. I was less that 10 yards from him and he wasn't finished yet. He bolted and I bolted to keep up with him. I got pretty banged up in the face going through the thick under growth. He didn't go far and stopped in the pines. I slipped around him and threaded an arrow through some dead falls and he was done.

My first shot the night before had entered nice and low behind the heart but when he whirled the arrow bent back and though the intestines then out and back into his hind leg stopping against his femur. At times elk can be very tough animals to bring down.

Boned out 5 Point Elk hanging in my canvas meat bags
Boned out 5 Point Elk hanging in my big game canvas meat bags.

I spent the rest of the day boning him out and hiking the meat up to a trail. I was able to get cell reception and I made a few calls to get some horses in the next morning to help haul out the meat.

After I had the bull boned out and hung in the trees I worked my way back to my bases camp and then down to the spring to get more water as I was now completely out. A light rain storm ensued as I was pumping water and a young bull moose came out and walked past me at 20 yards. And then the same bugle I had heard two nights before rang out within 150 yards above me in the quaking aspens. I thought the bull might come in to water while I was there but he never showed. As I hiked back to base camp I found the elusive bull. He was feeding away from me at about 80 yards, the wind was perfect and ground was damp and quite. Everything was perfect for me to slip in on him and seal the deal except my tag was already filled. Oh, did I mention the bull was a 6x6, I'd guess in the 330+ range. Just a gorgeous bull. Some day I'll get my nice six point, some day.

 Some notes and equipment from the hunt:

  • Modified Browning Adrenaline SX BowBrowning Adrenaline SX bow modified with half inch longer limbs and custom strings I made to get the 32" of  draw length I require.
  • Gold Tip Series 22 carbon shafts. The original heavy Series 22 shaft not the ultra light version they now make. I really like the performance I get with this shaft. I wish Gold Tip would bring it back it's a wonderful fat carbon hunting shaft.
  • Rocket Stricknine broadheads. I learned quickly that 90 pounds of kinetic energy can handle a very large cutting diameter broadhead. If you have the energy you might as well use it and the Stricknine has taken three bulls for me in the past five years with great results.