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Don’t Sit at Home This Hunting Season!

It can happen, but it shouldn’t. I’m talking about answering a question with:  “I didn’t draw anything.” Don’t let yourself come into a hunting season with no tags in your pocket. In this article we’ll look at ways to make sure you always have some opportunities to get out and hunt every year.

Get familiar With Your Home State:

The cheapest place to hunt is usually your home state. States also allocate the most tags to residents of their state, so your best and most economical options are going to be close to home. Be familiar with what happens in your state. Many states have over-the-counter opportunities where you can simply purchase a tag; some will only have a limited number of tags so be first to the counter or to the website to purchase them. Other states may not have much for OTC opportunities, so be familiar with the lottery systems of your state and don’t miss application deadlines.

There are many advantages to hunting close to home. Pre-season scouting is easier, travel is less expensive, and sometimes you can sleep in your own bed and still hunt. Know your home state, and those areas close to your home to make sure you have a chance to hunt it.

Mule Deer Buck

Buck taken on an OTC tag.

A Plan and a Budget:

Having an application strategy and plan in place will help you pull the trigger on certain tags when you know you probably won’t draw anything else. Your plan doesn’t have to be 5 years out, but that’s how I plan my hunts. I keep a simple spreadsheet that keeps my point totals, units I’m trying to draw, and how many points I expect it to take to draw that unit. It’s fairly easy to forecast draws in some states with preference point systems, so you can plan accordingly and fill in your gaps with something in your home state, or an OTC hunt somewhere else.

A budget is also important when planning hunts. You can figure how much you’ll pay in applications, OTC tags, and even those big trips that you have to save up for. Set aside some money and you’ll be surprised how soon you can afford some of those hunts you thought you’d never do!

Alaska black bear hunts are a great example of a hunt that doesn’t break the bank! Budget and go on out of state hunts!

OTC Hunting Opportunities:

There are tons of OTC opportunities out there for hunters – many of which have ample public land to play on. You can pick up OTC tags for most species, especially if you’re willing to travel. This can add some cost, but by planning your seasons in advance will help you reach your longer term hunting goals.

Sometimes OTC hunts can be a little crowded, and it can take a few years to really dial in specific areas that you like to hunt or find success. The great thing about a lot of OTC areas is you can scout them and if you don’t like what you see, you don’t have to pay for a tag. Other areas, like migration or rut hunts, it may just take a year or two of hunting to find out about certain areas. Or reach out to someone who has hunted it before or use a hunting consultation service to get an idea about a unit before you go there. Many of these services provide good overall information and will help you narrow down units that will meet your expectations.

Pay To Play:

There are a lot of opportunities out there where you can purchase tags, and access with a bit of cash. These hunts will vary from a few hundred dollars up to as much as you want to spend. Look at landowner tags in states that allow landowners to sell tags like Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, etc. Some states allocate tags to outfitters and you can purchase them directly from them. Other hunts, like some in Canada and Alaska are readily available, but you’ll need to pay for transportation, access or an outfitter to hunt them. All of these tags are typically readily available, but the logistics will need to be planned in advance.

Don’t sit at home next fall without a hunt to go on! Many of these hunts are great, and you can find some good quality, even on crowded and hard to hunt areas. Get familiar with the opportunities around you and you’ll be surprised at what’s available!

 

Nevada Sets Restrictions on Shed Hunting

Over the past few years, shed antler hunting/gathering seasons are becoming more common. arlier this year Colorado implemented a season and this week Nevada followed suit by passing a new season through the legislature that will make gathering shed antlers illegal from Jan 1. – April 30 in Elko, Eureka, Lander, Lincoln, Nye, and White Pine Counties. This impaces the central and eastern parts of the state and has gone into effect immediately.

Nevada’s New Shed Hunting Law:

Link to Bill:  https://www.leg.state.nv.us/Register/2017Register/R134-17A.pdf

Vortex Optics Fury Binocular

Vortex Rangefinding Binoculars

Vortex Optics will be releasing a new rangefinding binocular for summer 2017. While we don’t know much about them yet, we do know that they will be called the Fury and will be in a popular 10×42 size with the ability to range out to 1600 yards.

We don’t yet know what MSRP will be, although the email release does state that they won’t “kill your pocket book.  They are advertised as being an HD glass, and will, of course, be backed by their 100% lifetime warranty. This will be an interesting product to follow to see if they fall into a price point that isn’t being touched by most of the rangefinding binoculars that are available right now.

Image from Vortex Optics.

 

A Clearer View – Bino Adapters

We’re always being told that certain hunting items will make us better hunters; that we’ll kill bigger animals if we use a certain product. This product is one that has literally changed the method and duration of my glassing sessions. Introducing the binocular  tripod adapter. There are several companies making these small devices. My product recommendations will be listed at the end of this article (click here to jump right to them).

The bino adapter simply allows your binoculars to be mounted securely on a tripod. It’s popular among hunters to use oversized binoculars, with magnifications of 15x or 20x with 56mm objectives and larger. In order to effectively use these larger binoculars, you need to set them on a tripod, or a rest of some kind. These high magnification binoculars are awesome. They reduce eye strain, allow you to keep both eyes open, and stay behind the glass for longer periods vs. using a traditional spotting scope. However, you don’t need a pair of high magnification binoculars to reap the benefits of a tripod mount.

Glassingwithbinos
A few years ago, I started mounting my Vortex Viper 10x50s on a tripod and have been very impressed with the results. I didn’t realize how shaky I was. Even if I was leaning up against a tree, or sitting with my elbows propped up on my knees, I still shake and move. Setting these binos on the tripod quiets everything down. Movement is much more easily detected, and I was able to trophy judge animals much more effectively because I removed all of my movement from the equation. I also was a much more thorough glasser. If I got tired of looking through the glass, my binos stayed in that spot while I pulled my face away from the lens and took a little break. When I was ready to glass again, I was able to start from where I left off, and not miss an inch of the country I wanted to cover with the glass.

Do yourself a favor this season and pick up a bino adapter. You’ll be able to stay behind the glass longer, and in turn, turn up some more critters.

Recommended Adapters:

Uni-Dapter from Vortex Optics: This unit is reasonably priced at $30. There are two drawbacks to this design — the first being that the post stays on your binoculars, adding some weight. The second is that the post simply sits down in two grooves on the base so it could get bumped off, causing your expensive glass to fall to the ground. I didn’t have too much issue with it though and recommend this product from Vortex Optics. Retails for $34.00 on Amazon.com.

Field Optics Research Rapid Release Tripod Adapter: This unit does weight slightly more than the Vortex Uni-Dapter, however the reciever nut that stays attached to the binoculars is much smaller. This unit also snaps on, so your binoculars will not fall off of your tripod. Retail price: $24.95 on Amazon.com.

Outdoorsmans Binocular Adapter: This unit also uses a quick release that locks the unit in place.  The Outdoorsman’s adapter is available in 2 heights. I haven’t had a chance to weigh this unit. Retail price: $59.99 from Outdoorsmans.com.

binocular adapters

Hunting Big mule Deer Book by Robby Denning

Hunting Big Mule Deer – Book Review

I think most of us who are obsessed with hunting big mule deer love to find as much information as possible. Typically I look around online and find this information, but I’ve read a handful of books on mule deer, but there are several that stand out that provide awesome information for hunting the high country of the western states. (Backcountry Bowhunting – by Cam Hanes, Public Land Mulies – by David Long). When I saw that Robby Denning had recently published a new book, I figured I’d better get a copy to read. The book’s title is “Hunting Big Mule Deer: How to Take the Best Buck of Your Life.” Robby is a devoted mule deer hunter who runs a scouting and outfitting business as well. He focuses solely on mule deer hunting and has been very consistent in taking some very nice bucks. I was in the heat of scouting season for my upcoming Wyoming muley hunt, so this caught me at just the right time.

Without giving away too much info from this book, the biggest takeaway I took from him was that it takes persistent, dedicated effort to kill big mule deer on a consistent basis. Robby has stopped hunting elk and other species to focus specifically on hunting Mule Deer. His deliberate, calculated hunting style is clearly conveyed as he goes over his gear, tactics, and approach to killing the biggest buck on the mountain.

Go grab yourself a copy, it’s worth having in your hunting library.

Available on Amazon.com in hard copy and kindle editions. Price as of the publishing of this article is $22.95

Hunting Big mule Deer Book by Robby Denning

Documenting your Hunting Adventures

Humans have been documenting their hunts for thousands of years. We find cave paintings from many hundreds of years ago adorned with images of bighorn sheep, elk and deer. The hunting tradition must have fostered fond memories for those ancient hunters, much like they do for us today. Photos, videos, taxidermy, and found objects can all serve as great reminders and help us remember some of our hunts more vividly – and in today’s world of social media and internet connectivity – we can share those digital reminders instantly with friends, family, and strangers across the globe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today we have the ability to capture and view our photos and video instantly. Even our cell phones take better pictures than we could take on an expensive camera 20 years ago. Through this article, and subsequent articles, we’ll investigate how we can better document our hunts through photography and videography. While our posterity may not be interested in keeping around a bunch of our old dead animals, hopefully they’ll enjoy viewing our photos, videos, and reading our stories.

We’ll cover the following topics over the next few weeks, so subscribe to our inbox delivery and receive an email when we publish a new post.

Equipment:

We’re fortunate today to have literally hundreds of camera options, from micro cameras, to large cameras with expensive lenses –many of which will take fantastic still AND video images.  It’s really up to you in regards to which make and model you like best. Multiple cameras are a must, and depending on your style of hunting you’ll want options to both zoom to far distances, and quickly grab action shots  when needed. Take a look at the Canon G20, Canon G30, Sony FDR-AX33, and the Sony HDR-CX900. There are many other cameras that capture HD video and provide a decent  zoom lense as well. Of course, everyone needs an action camera  as well.

The leader in point of view (POV) action cameras is GoPro. Their latest offering is the GoPro Hero 4 Black which is one of the best cameras for most types of hunting. Remember these POV cameras lack zoom, but are fantastic to get close range, time lapse, reaction shots, and filler material for your hunting videos. Most of these cameras will also take very good still photos. If you’re looking for something on a smaller budget (under $150) look at the GoPro Hero, or the action cameras from Contour.

Cameras, however, are only part of the equipment equation. Tripods, pan heads, audio equipment, sliders, drones, battery chargers, etc. all play an important part in producing smooth and quality video and photos.

elk feeding

Tactics:

There’s a lot of ways to film and hunt, but realize that whether you’re filming yourself, or bringing along a cameraman — hunting and capturing it all on film makes the hunt much harder. A few years back, I was assigned to be cameraman on my father’s Wyoming bighorn sheep hunt. We purchased a new HD camcorder and thought we had it all figured out. We had no way to recharge equipment and thought we’d wait until the kill shot to start capturing footage. When it came down to the moment of the kill, I set up the shot. The wind was blowing and I started filming the sheep. I stopped after a few minutes to wait for Dad to be ready for his shot. He whispered over the wind and asked if I was ready. I wasn’t and replied that I wasn’t, but he didn’t hear me. He shot, the sheep jumped — but they were out of frame. I missed the shot he wanted most. While we had a great time, it would have been better if I would have nailed that shot on video.

Some types of hunting are much easier to film, like shooting from a tree stand or blind. Spot and stalk hunting is much more challenging to film. In the end, it is worth it.

Plan your Story:

Almost every production you see on television is created using a script and shot lists. While you don’t know the specifics of how a hunt will end, you can typically anticipate a scenario or two that will happen during the hunt. I find that creating a list of photos or video shots before the hunt happens will help you tell your story the way you want, whether or not the hunt ends with an animal on the ground. By planning what shots you want to take, it’s much easier to have the content you needed for the final edit of your film, blog, or journal entry.

htoad3

Shoot, Shoot, Shoot:

I’ve never wished I had taken fewer photos or less video during a hunt. The bad stuff can all be sorted and deleted later. I find that keeping my camera very accessible allows me to take a lot more photos. If it’s tucked away in your pack, you’re much less likely to get it out when you see something. Sometimes the best photos come at unexpected times, and of unexpected objects. That being said — take the time to set up your shots as well. When taking harvest (trophy shots) photos. Taking a few moments to clean and reposition the animal can create a much more respectful image. So keep your camera out, and be sure to share your stories, photos, and videos with us!

Have Fun!

The point of documenting a hunt is to remember it fondly. It’s easy to lose patience at times when trying to film or perfectly photograph a hunt. Don’t let it get in the way of having a good hunt. If you’re there to harvest an animal, or spend time with friends/family — don’t let your camera get in the way of why you’re really out there.

elkhair

 

Alaskan Solitude – Black Bear Hunt

Southeast Alaska is known for  black bear hunting. Her towering forests, and lush shorelines provide plenty of cover and food for big bears. As with most parts of Alaska, it takes some work and time to get there. One of my favorite things about southeast Alaska is that solitude is easy to come by. May 13th found the four of us (Dad, Ben, Ken and I), making the trip. We would travel by foot, car, boat and plane to get there. We landed on a commercial flight in Ketchikan, then boarded the Inter-Island Ferry and nestled in for the 3 hour voyage to Hollis. We chowed on some good food from the diner on the boat, along with a healthy helping of anticipation as we watched whales, sea lions, and fishermen out the ferry windows. We were blessed with a rare bluebird day.

We hit the island and traveled north via an old forest service Suburban. We’d be driving for a few hours and then embarking on a skiff to an isolated camp site, and hunt the beaches for big black bruins! The weather quickly turned Alaskan as we sped across the chop of the inside passage. After a few short hours of prospecting camp sites, we selected a nice grassy beach several feet above the high tide line and got to setting camp and eventually out looking for bears.

We motored through the bays for the next couple of days without finding very many stalk-able or shooter bears. Those that we made plays on fed into the trees. One evening we came back to camp and were making a very late lunch. Ken went for a stroll up the beach while Ben and I cooked supper. Soon I saw Ken come back around the corner of the bay waving his arms. We grabbed our guns and headed down. A lone boar was tipping rocks and eating crabs a few hundred yards away. Ken had seen him and quickly called us over. We also jumped another very young bear as we approached Ken. The tide was coming up and we needed to make our move. I joined Ken as we moved up the bay to get a better shot angle. The bear had gone behind a small rock outcropping, so we were able to move through the open bay as he crunched crabs behind the rock. As I saw him come out from behind the rock I dropped prone and motioned to Ken that the bear was coming back out. A few steps later, my .270 found it’s mark. The bear ran about 20 yards and piled up.

We approached the downed bear and admired his battle-scarred face and claws. I stood over the boar facing back from our shooting location and saw another bear. By then Ben and Dad had met up with us, so Ben and Ken took off after this bear. As they got into position to shoot, the bear re-entered the trees. It was starting to get dark, so I started processing my bear. Suddenly the other bear came back out into the grass along the tree edge. Ken shot and the bear turned, running straight towards them. Another quick shot dispatched the big boar and we’d taken 2 bears in about 15 minutes. One bullet struck the old boar right between the eyes.

Taking a day off from bear hunting typically isn’t part of the game plan. But we were able to meet up with a good friend, Bill Miller from Calder Mountain Lodge, to go fish for a few hours. The fishing was hot for Ling Cod and Yelloweye Rockfish (Alaskan Red Snapper). And I was able to pull in a single halibut. It provided us with a savory meal that night at camp and some of the best salt water fishing I’ve had in Alaska.

We were finally down to our last couple of days. Dad and Ben had yet to connect with a bear. We had a very large boar come out at dusk on our second to last day, unfortunately, he didn’t stay out feeding for long and Dad was unable to finish his stalk.

We finally located a bear, and the stalk was on. The bear was intent on rolling driftwood logs over and eating crabs and seaweed. He paid no attention as we slipped along the shore. We closed the distance to under 100 yards, and Ben put a perfect shot on the bear. He was face down eating grass as the bullet impacted him, he fell flat on his face and never twitched again. This bear was also missing a good chunk of his upper lip.

Sour weather was on the horizon. Getting stuck in a skiff in a nasty storm wasn’t something we wanted to mess with. Mother nature dictated our next move as we spent the next morning trimming and turning hides, packing camp, and motoring back to get the bears sealed and checked. We  headed south, stopping in Whale Pass for the night. The next day we made our way south to Hollis, back on the ferry to Ketchikan and the long trip home, bear meat, hides, and an incredible batch of memories in tow.

 

Scouting for September

By Ben Carter

I believe that hunting elk during the rut is the most fun and most exciting hunt when it comes to western big game. I played the application game with the Utah DWR until finally my name was drawn for a Utah elk hunt. I would be hunting elk in southern Utah in 2014. I had a pretty good idea that I was going to draw based on current trends so I also applied for a general muzzleloader deer tag for the same unit and same time. Luck was on my side and my brother and I both had deer tags as well. It was going to be an exciting year.

I was unfamiliar with the unit that I had drawn. This is not uncommon in Utah where you only get the chance to hunt limited entry elk every 15 years or more. I knew that if I was going to take full advantage I would need to put considerable time in scouting and learning the country. Lucky for me I had some insider knowledge. A good friend of mine, that actually referred me to the unit, accompanied me on my fist scouting trip in July to show me a few places on the unit and get me started in the right direction.

I mostly hunt DIY (do it yourself). Not to disparage anyone that hunts with a guide, but I feel a greater sense of accomplishment knowing I was able to be successful on a hunt on my own. I knew time in the field and on the mountain was going to be crucial to my success. I had just started a new job and had no time off to use, so my weekends were filled with long drives to southern Utah for a couple days of locating key elk habitat. Over July and August I covered most of the unit and was able to hike in and find nice bulls in several canyons. I hung a few cameras and was able to get some pictures of elk, but none of the bulls I was seeing were really what I was after. The big bulls I did see were on a couple large pieces of private property. These “once in every 15 year hunts” put a lot of pressure on hunters to kill trophy class animals. Some people feel cheated when they kill a bull that doesn’t make the record book, or worse eat tag soup.

As August was coming to an end and September was just getting started the bulls started getting more vocal. Some of the coolest encounters I have ever had in the woods happened during this time. Had it been my season I could have killed multiple 6 points, but just being close was an experience in itself. I took a week break off to go help a friend on a rifle elk hunt in a different part of the state, and then it would be time for my hunt. My hunt was set to open on a Wednesday. I got down there Sunday night before it opened to have a couple days to locate a shooter bull for the opener.

It rained pretty heavy Sunday night and when I woke up Monday morning the air was thick with humidity. It was well before dawn as I had an hour and a half hike in front of me to get into where I knew where some elk were and check my trail-camera. The moisture made the woods quiet, and I climbed the mountain in silence with only the wind in the aspens making any noise. This peacefulness was not what I had hoped for. It was September 22nd, the peak of the rut! There should have been bulls going crazy.


It was just getting light as I crested a knob about 2 thirds of the way in. I was right on time. Usually from this knob you can get a good view of the canyon and I had seen animals most times I had been there. Today it was covered with a misty fog. I didn’t even stop, I dove into the trees. My first stop was a deer kill that I had found 2 weeks earlier. I had photographed this deer early in the summer, but then found him dead during the archery hunt. It was the nicest deer I had seen in all my scouting and I was pretty bummed to find him dead. I was going to check the kill again and see if it was still there. The kill was empty except for one front leg. Coyotes or bears had drug the rest off. I then continued up the slope to an area where 2 large clearings meet. This was where I had hung my camera. It was now about 7 am and plenty light to see. Still no bugles. When I got to my camera and checked my pictures, there was one nice bull on there and quite a few small bulls. I was a little discouraged and decided to break the silence with a bugle. I bugled into the fog and a bull answered me from below. It sounded like a young bull. I decided to check a bedding area where I had seen bulls and sign before. There was still lots of sign but no elk. Discouraged I started my decent and heading back to the knob.

I was side-hilling across a large foggy clearing when I caught some movement in the tree line about 80 yards in front of me. I had been cow calling and wasn’t moving quietly, so it surprised me that an animal would be there. I was completely exposed except for the blanket of fog, but I decided to move closer. I got about 30 yards from the tree line and I could see fuzzy brown shapes moving through the aspens near me. Elk, and they were bulls. Five bulls in total and they were moving my way. I froze and did my best tree impression. They got closer. The bulls didn’t even notice me, they were feeding and got comfortable. They started sparing and a few times it got pretty heated. My range finder could barely pierce the fog, but they were only 30 yards away. Most were 4 and 5 points, but one was a small six, probably the bull the bugled back to me earlier that morning.

It was so cool being so close and them being oblivious to my position. After about 15 minutes the wind picked up and the fog started to clear. I remained motionless, but they soon spotted me and spooked down the hill. The visibility at 30 yards really didn’t change much even with the fog gone. However, the sense of security it gave them must have gone and they became aware of me. I side-hilled back to the way I had come up and caught a glimpse of them going out a clearing above me, they had circled me across two giant rock slides and climbed 200 yards above me in the time it took me to get over to the ridge. The last bull I saw was actually a bigger bull that they must have picked up on the way. Still not a giant, but a nice bull. I decided I was going to check out a different area on the unit that would hopefully have more rutting activity.

I made it to the new camp site about 2 in the afternoon started setting up camp. My spirits were already better as I could hear bulls bugling on the hill above me. I finished with camp and I could still here a bull bugling and he sounded pretty close. I thought that if he was going to bugle in the middle of the day I would sneak in on him and see what he was.

I started moving in on that bull about an hour later. He would bugle every 10 to 15 minutes and I slowly worked in. Eventually I spotted some fur through the trees at about 80 yards. I started glassing very carefully and started to make out the herd. Eventually I spotted the bull. He was a 6×7 with great tops. I was excited because had it been open season I could have easily harvested him from where I was hiding. I watched him and his cows for a while and decided to see how they would respond to calls. I cow called a couple times and boom he was out of there. He took is cows and left. I was very surprised how call shy he was. I would make a note of this.

I went back to camp, ate a quick bite, and got ready to go and watch a property boundary that I was planning to hunt to see what kind of evening activity there was. I got into position and waited to see if any elk were using this as a corridor as I had heard they have in the past. After a little while the hills lit up with bugles. However most were below me. Closer to the 7 point I had snuck in on earlier. There were a few bulls on the private land, but most were on the public. I waited until dark and then went back to camp. I still wanted to see if there was any activity there in the morning.


Tuesday morning came and I was in the meadow on the property boundary again. Tomorrow the hunt started and this would be my last day to scout. Again nothing close to me, but I could hear bulls below in the trees. I waited a little while and checked the cameras I had positioned the night before. Nothing but pictures of me setting them up. I started back to camp but thought I would check on a bull that I could hear bugling. This was in a draw farther north and I hadn’t seen much activity in there. I moved in and could hear elk going through the oaks in front of me. I had a 5 point bull come into about 10 yards and never know I was there. It was hard to be quiet and my going was slow, but suddenly a bull bugled close by and started pushing some cows my way. A nice bull that I estimated around 330 340 came by and I watched them for a while. I tried calling on him as I left and it didn’t seem to have any affect. These animals must have been called pretty heavy during the early rifle hunt.

I went back to camp and ate lunch. This time I was going to come in from above on the bulls I had heard bugling this morning and the night before. I dropped into the timber and was moving silently. I was making my way down the draw when the brush in front of me stood up. There was a rag-horn bull about 5 feet from me. I was just through a dead pine and I couldn’t see me. The wind was blowing up the canyon and right into my face. He couldn’t smell me either. He got a little nervous and walked a few yards away but we stood there for a while. I eventually got impatient and just started moving again and he spooked a little. I could hear bulls bugling below me and I pressed on. I jumped a spike and he ran down the draw. I hoped he wouldn’t spook out the other elk so I climbed up on top of the ridge and kept going down the mountain. The spike apparently had the same plan and popped up in front of me again. I had no option to just push him so he ran off again and I hoped the other elk wouldn’t listen to some dumb lone spike. I saw some more movement and figured it was the spike but then I saw big tines moving through the aspens. It was a nice 6 point and he was about 100 yards down the ridge from me. I watched him until he crossed the ridge and I followed across to see what was on the other side. I could see a smaller 6 point up the hill from me some. I could still hear bulls below and was worried everything was going to spook out now that I was completely surrounded by elk. The smaller six was headed right to me so I dropped back into the bottom of the draw and decided to try and slip back out the way I had came.

He beat me to it. And I had to wait him out. I called at him once and he started raking trees. I called again and he spooked. He circled me and headed north. I knew that if I stayed down there I would blow all the elk out. I headed out the way I had come.

There were still bulls that I hadn’t seen in there and I thought that maybe I could come in from the south and get a look at them. I got back to my wheeler and did a big circle around the mountain. I started hiking in from the south and I was right in the elk again. I could hear horns clashing and elk running. I moved stealthily though the oaks and suddenly I saw some tines sticking up above the brush. I moved my position a little and got a better look. It was the 6 point I had seen cross below me earlier. I watched and photographed him for a while. I couldn’t get past his heard to go see what was beyond. Also it was getting dark fast. I decided to move out and not spook them out. Tomorrow was the hunt and I knew I had a bunch of undisturbed bulls in the area to hunt.


My brother and father arrived late that night I told them about my scouting and I told them my game plan to go after the 7 point from the north early in the morning. I knew no other hunters were going after these bulls.

We woke up well before light to watch the traffic and see if we would need to adjust our plan for other hunters. There was some traffic on the roads but they all drove past the area I was wanting to go in on. Perfect, I thought. The elk were pretty close to camp so we waited until it was a little light in order to not spook them out without being able to see them. I picked a bugle that sounded like the 7 points and started moving in with my dad and brother close behind. It was a little hard to move 3 guys silently in, but based on my experience with these animals we weren’t going to be able to call them in.

We closed the distance to under 100 yards, but the elk had gotten on the other side of some small aspens. The trees were so thick there was no way to get through them silently. We could hear another bull just up the slope from us and I decided to move in on them to see what he was. We crossed the bottom of the shallow canyon and started up the other side and into the oaks. Flash! I saw elk.

I dropped to my knees so I could glass under the oak canopy. I could see quite a few elk flashing through the trees. I could see they were moving pretty fast. The elk were moving, and they were moving our way. I ran 30 yards up the draw to about the edge of the oaks and got ready. Suddenly the whole clearing in front me was full of elk. A bunch of cows came running in and a couple of smaller satellite bulls. Then with a screaming bugle the herd bull entered. He dwarfed the smaller bulls and rushed in to push them off.

I could see his mains were decent and his tops looked good. I decided that if he gave me a shot I would take it. The herd was running around about 80 yards from me but there were so many elk I couldn’t get a clear lane at the bull. He disappeared and I thought we had lost him but then he came running back out into the middle of the clearing. The herd cleared and he paused to look back. BANG! The sound filled the clearing and the gray smoke of my muzzle loader shot out in front of me. He humped up and his herd ran off into the trees up the draw. I knew he was hit and hit hard. He took a wobbly step, then another and disappeared behind some trees down towards the bottom of the draw.

I quickly started to reload as my brother and dad came to my side. I got my weapon ready and headed into the meadow. From the way he was moving I thought we would be down.

I got around the trees, and I could see a horn sticking up above the grass. He was down! Man that was a good feeling. I moved over cautiously to make sure he was finished. That was the end. There was some relief and congratulating. My bull was down. He had only gone 10 yards. I had hit him perfect and my hunt was over. I only actually hunted about 30 minutes, but what a great experience. I can’t wait until next year. It was great being able to share it with my father and brother who are both as passionate about hunting as I am. Truly one of the best moments of my life.