2013 Any Bull Elk

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derekp1999
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2013 Any Bull Elk

Post by derekp1999 » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:39 am

After a very successful muzzleloader deer hunt, I had a short break before my first general rifle elk hunt in nearly 20 years. I did the November muzzleloader elk hunt last year and was looking forward to doing that again, but my fourth son would be arriving late November & the muzzleloader hunt would be cutting it way too close for comfort. I entered this hunt with these goals as a measurement of my success and a way to temper my expectations:
- If I were to see elk… I would be satisfied.
- If I were to see a bull… I would be ecstatic.
- If I were to actually harvest a bull… I would achieve “hero status” within my family (especially by my grandparents). Over the course of 30+ years hunting the area NOBODY has harvested a bull in this area.
The plan was to head out Sunday afternoon & to begin hunting Monday morning. We arrived at the cabin at about 6:00pm and quickly unloaded our gear. We spent the evening glassing & getting the two other guys hunting with me this year (Jared & Clint) acquainted with the area. Immediately I was able to glass up a little herd of about 6 elk, all cows & calves. We were optimistic as we made our way back to the cabin for the night.Image
Monday we made our way to an area where Jared & I placed a couple trail cameras late in the summer but none of the cameras had picked up much elk activity. As we dropped into the bowl, we spotted a small herd of cows & calves. We were watching this little herd of elk when another hunter slowly stalked across the bowl 40 feet in front of us. With every step his barrel would pass right over us. I finally couldn’t take it anymore & loudly said, “Hey, Buddy, watch your barrel please!”
He waived at us as if to say, “Sorry, I knew you were there but I thought if I didn’t look at you I could just sneak on by.” I’m not sure how he couldn’t see three guys sitting on a nearly bare hillside decked out in hunter orange… but who knows. He then hurried down the hill right into the area that we were working into. We made up various derogatory names for him.
Anyway… our focus returned to the small herd of cows. I began to feel sick to my stomach, my head was pounding, and I needed to lie down. I realized that my binoculars were making me motion sick! I bought a pair of Bushnell 16x50s off the Wal-Mart shelf when I first got back into hunting about 5 years ago. I had the “bigger is better” mentality… and obviously that is not the case. I have a birthday coming up & I think a new pair of 10x42s will be on my wish list. I found a small spot of shade under a scrub oak and slept it off for about an hour while Jared & Clint hiked up and down the mountain. We stayed out all day & for the rest of the evening we saw no more elk, only deer and moose.
Tuesday morning we decided to try the opposite side of the canyon, an area where I saw elk on the muzzleloader hunt last year. We spotted a pair of spikes down in the canyon and the race was on! Jared & I sprinted down the saddle in front of us to try to catch up. This is a quick picture of the spikes that I took before taking off... it's terrible, but one spike is center of the picture just below the pine and the second is to the far right between the trees.
Image
Clint stayed high with the spotting scope & radio to provide us directions. As Jared & I hit the pines, Clint breaks over the radio and says another herd has come over the ridge & joined the spikes… and there was a big 6x6 with them now. We found a break in the pines just in time for Clint to notify us that the entire herd had gone back over the ridge. Jared wanted to keep chasing them, but something inside me said to stay put. Within a couple minutes elk were again filing their way back over the ridge, it was the pair of spikes and a handful of cows/calves. The big 6x6 was nowhere in sight but I was able to locate the spike just as he passed through an opening in the pines & took the shot. It was wishful to say the least, but I still hiked all the way across the canyon to check things out. No blood, no sign of a hit, so we moved on & headed back to the cabin for lunch.
Tuesday afternoon we found out that Clint’s wife had developed a staph infection in her foot & we decided it would be best for him to head home that night. So just to make it a little easier we would drive to another glassing point & spend the evening there. Jared dropped down the hill a little bit and spotted a spike, cow, and calf bedded in some pines. I hustled down to his vantage point & discuss a plan of attack. Jared is an archery hunter & has the mentality that he has to “get in there and get after them.” His plan was to drop down to the bottom of the canyon and sneak up on them from there. I told him that he’d be giving up his advantage by losing sight of them while trying to close the distance. I’ve been a muzzleloader hunter & value getting as close as possible, but I also understood that we had an advantage by being able to keep them in sight. I proposed that we keep our elevation and slowly “sidehill it” one ridgeline south, which would put us in a perfect position for a manageable shot. Jared didn’t like my plan but challenged me by saying, “Fine, then let’s see you do it.” Challenge accepted and off I went. I made it to a lone pine tree and spent about 10 minutes glassing the pines but I couldn’t find the elk, so I continued walking across the open hillside. I found a comfortable rock and sat down. I wasn’t sure if the elk were still in the little draw but continued to watch. I spotted a couple of deer at the edge of the pines and they were looking into the trees… I figured something was still in there. Again, several minutes passed and light was fading so I decided to make my way back to the truck so we could get Clint on his way home. I stood and took three steps when I noticed a cream colored oval on the edge of the pines. Sure enough, it was the spike.
I plopped down, ranged him at 357 yards, steadied my gun, and my shot was on its way. Nothing!
Okay, a second shot was then turned loose… but again nothing!
A third shot followed shortly… yet another miss!
I worked the bolt back and heard an unfamiliar click. I was out of bullets! Wait… there should be one more shot?!? I was one short! I remembered the single shot that I fired earlier that morning… NO! I couldn’t believe it, this was really happening to me. I finally had a bull within range and was out of bullets! My pack was up with Jared which had several bullets in the small front pocket, but right here & now I was sunk. Then I had a brief moment of clarity & I touched my left chest pocket… and pulled out a fresh cartridge. At lunch I had swapped out the mornings spent casing for a new bullet and I’d forgotten about it! I had one more bullet and one more chance. Now the scramble was on & I was looking for anything that would provide me with a good steady rest. There was nothing to my right, and only a small boulder to my left that I just couldn’t make work. So, I sat down again, took as solid a rest as I could, and settled the crosshairs on the bull. By now the bull was moving back toward the pines and I was talking out loud to myself. “You got one shot, Derek. This has to be good.”
I took two calming breathes. The trigger broke and the bull dropped & began rolling down the hill! I stood and realized what I had just done… I’d accomplished something that nobody in my family has done in this area EVER. I was absolutely overcome with adrenaline and excitement & I ran over to where I could see Jared and started waiving my hat while yelling at him to bring me my pack (little did I know I had a radio in the cargo pocket of my pants… go figure). Then, there came the realization that it was nearly dark and we had already committed to getting Clint home. The emotion swing from “Oh, yeah!” to “Oh, crap!” occurred quickly. Jared and I ran over to the bull to assess the situation. Image
I’ll admit that I was fully unprepared for the scene that I encountered. I’m not certain what I was expecting, but I was NOT expecting to walk up to an animal that size. I was completely taken off guard at how big this little spike was. I’m used to deer, an animal that I can drag & move around by myself, throw in the back of the truck myself, etc. That would not be happening with this creature. We did our best to orient the spike so that we could at least get it gutted then return the next morning to pack out. We finally got the bull positioned to gut him and I was again overwhelmed by the sheer size of the animal. I can gut a deer within a couple of minutes & I know that the process is exactly the same, but the scale of the task was frightening & I didn’t know where to start. Forty five minutes later the bull was cleaned out (probably not some of my finest work… but by this time it was completely dark) and we were on our way back to the truck. This is where we started glassing that evening & when I shot he was where the white arrow is pointing. Image
I was on cloud nine and “hero” status was mine, but we also had the daunting task of packing the meat out the next morning and both Jared & I were uneasy leaving the meat on the mountain overnight. We would also be down to only two of us doing the packing instead of three, so we would either make extra trips or our packs would be a little bit heavier.
We arrived Wednesday morning to find the meat cooled & in great shape. We finished with some last minute butchering and boned all the meat out. Image
We made two long, heavy trips each and were back to the cabin and resting by 2pm with all the meat hanging in the shade with a nice cool breeze. ImageImage
With the thought of doing that whole process again with just two of us… we decided we would split the meat and head for home a couple days early. Not only would I have hero status for harvesting a bull, but I would also have husband of the year status by coming home a day & a half early! By Wednesday afternoon I was ready to check elk hunting off my bucket list and be done with it forever! But I guess it’s like childbirth… given a little bit of time the memory of pain fades and the excitement remains vivid.
This was an amazing experience. All the previous big game animals I’ve harvested have been near a road or easily handled with an ATV. This was my first time skinning, quartering, deboning, and packing an animal out. It was very much a learning experience.
We ended up seeing about 40 head of elk. We also saw a great number of deer including a couple of really nice bucks and many small 2pt and spike bucks. Moose are in full rut and we saw no less than a dozen mature bulls every day… a handful of those were very respectable bulls, two of which I would have harvested without a second thought. ImageImageImage
What a great experience the 2013 season has been, hunting with family and friends & enjoying modest success. Now I have a freezer full of wonderful meat & am looking forward to see what 2014 holds for me.
Last edited by derekp1999 on Thu Oct 24, 2013 8:53 am, edited 2 times in total.
“The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.”
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MuleyMadness
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Re: 2013 Any Bull Elk

Post by MuleyMadness » Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:13 am

Great stuff Derek, I enjoyed all the photos and story to boot! Well done on the spike, that's pretty darn cool.

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Re: 2013 Any Bull Elk

Post by BOHNTR » Mon Oct 14, 2013 7:02 pm

Way to go, Derek.......that will be some fine table fare this winter. That lightning strike is one in a million capture.....awesome!
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ABert
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Re: 2013 Any Bull Elk

Post by ABert » Mon Oct 14, 2013 7:26 pm

I truly understand the "HOLY COW THIS THING IS BIG!!!" sentiment when walking up on your first elk. Happened to me with my first, a rag horn 5 point. Now, when I get an elk down I know the fun is over and the work begins!

Congrats on your first elk and those spikes make some FANTASTIC eating.
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kchesley
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Re: 2013 Any Bull Elk

Post by kchesley » Tue Oct 15, 2013 9:09 pm

Awesome story. I feel bad that I didn't go into as great of detail but was on limited time and I too came home a day and a half early only to cut and package back straps and tenderloins before I went on the road to Colorado. Excellent story and awesome job. Congrats

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derekp1999
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Re: 2013 Any Bull Elk

Post by derekp1999 » Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:01 am

@ kchesley... a couple years back I started writing up all my "stories" so that I can re-live them myself. That's the reason for the detail, in fact my write-up from the muzzleloader deer hunt last year (2012) still makes me sick to my stomach thinking about losing that buck. Additionally, all the detail helps me remember the things I learned during the hunt & re-read everything before each hunt as a refresher.
Overall, it's been pretty gratifying as I reveiw them periodically throughout the year.
“The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.”
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PhillyB
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Re: 2013 Any Bull Elk

Post by PhillyB » Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:15 am

Great story... congrats.

Hope to have similar luck with my archery any bull tag on the extended in the coming days
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Re: 2013 Any Bull Elk

Post by treedagain » Sat Oct 19, 2013 9:27 am

congrads on your 1st bull you did good, great bull after 30 years of trying.

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Re: 2013 Any Bull Elk

Post by hound_hunter » Thu Oct 24, 2013 8:19 am

Awesome report man! Getting me pumped up for my Utah Muzzy Spike tag in a couple weeks, nice post.

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derekp1999
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Re: 2013 Any Bull Elk

Post by derekp1999 » Thu Oct 24, 2013 9:21 am

PhillyB wrote:Hope to have similar luck with my archery any bull tag on the extended in the coming days
hound_hunter wrote:Getting me pumped up for my Utah Muzzy Spike tag in a couple weeks...
Best of luck to you guys on your hunts. I would have loved to do the muzzleloader again, we saw so many amazing animals on it last year with the mulies starting to rut & the moose being in post rut. Just the variety & quality of animals that we saw last year was worth the price of admission.
ABert wrote:I truly understand the "HOLY COW THIS THING IS BIG!!!" sentiment when walking up on your first elk. Happened to me with my first, a rag horn 5 point. Now, when I get an elk down I know the fun is over and the work begins!
Yeah, I can't wait to get a mature bull on the ground... I'm sure I'll be overwhelmed by that as well! My cousin sent me a text congratulating me & made this comment, "Congrats on smokin' a bull! Nothing better than that... and nothing as horrible as the work after!" He's right... but it's oh so worth it.
ABert wrote:... those spikes make some FANTASTIC eating.
BOHNTR wrote:...that will be some fine table fare this winter.
We had a couple smaller pieces of meat that wouldn't hang, so we grilled them that night. We had a regular old beef steak (petite sirloin cut) as well as a side-by-side comparison. Put a little Montreal Seasoning on those bad boys & grill them to a medium/medium rare... OHH, LA LA! I'll be taking elk over beef every time. My wife has already used a couple pounds of the ground meat in dinner & the kids love it, clean plates of spaghetti & meat loaf are proof enough for me. My wife told me that I need to get another one (or two) next year. I smiled & asked her if she'd put that it writing.

I'll be looking at putting in for New Mexico next year, my long time hunting companion moved to Albuquerque a couple years back to open a dental practice but has come up to hunt with me each year. I figure I can return the favor and put in to go hunt in his new backyard. I'm also hoping that my grandfather will finally draw his limited entry elk tag. We've applied as a group but I'm a handful of points behind him so I reduce his chances greatly. He's 73 years old & sitting on 14 points. I have a unit picked out that he should draw that also seems to have pretty good access and I'll go with him & play guide. I want to have this experience with him before it's too late. I'm also sitting on 3 antlerless points & I've been aching to go back to the Book Cliffs, so I think I'll put in for the McCook Ridge hunt & go out there in late November, try to shoot a cow early then spend another day or two just driving around looking at the deer during the rut. If none of that pans out... I'll do the general any bull again and hope for the best.
“The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.”
-Albus Dumbledore

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