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My 2020 Elk Hunt

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My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby Indian Summer » 11 17, 2020 •  [Post 1]

I know it’s about time right. I kid you not I had to recuperate for a good week. I’m getting old. Plus being gone for 3 straight weeks meant lots to do when I got back. Anywho....

In a way this season was tough. But in other ways it was actually a pretty simple hunt. It started out tough in that the temps started out warm. Steady mid 50s. We were seeing elk but not many bulls. I passed a medium 5 point on day 1 at first light. After driving like madmen to get there, setting up camp, cutting twice as much firewood as we needed, and packing up the mountain to setup the high camp we went into day 1 pretty beat up. At 12:30 I inched forward out from under a big Doug fir I’d been setup under to get some sun. I fell asleep and at some point I thought... it’s getting cold out again I better get up and check the time. 4:00! I decided to make a move even though it was already elk thirty. Topped the ridge to my south, followed that to my horses and dropped lower back the way I had ridden in that morning. I had been eyeing up a grassy south slope that had a nice flat basin I could see down into. Although I had killed a nice 6 point over that way a few years back I had never explored further in that direction. Plus we had been seeing elk low before hunting started. The likely reason for that was a horrendous wind that had been blowing for a week straight. Elk don’t like that so they’ll drop down some when it keeps up.

As a matter of fact 2 days before the season started a 6 point herd bull pushed his cows right across an open slope about 700 yards above camp. Two days later, the night before hunting started he moseyed on by again bugling all the way. Things we’re looking pretty promising.

When I got to the lip of the hill to where I could see I spotted a mulie buck immediately. After sitting there for awhile I saw a few cows and calves about 300 yards out. No bulls but pretty good for the first glimpse of the spot. Mind you this is only 300 yards from the main horse trail and not a mile from the truck as the crow flies.

Tom saw elk that day too. No bulls though. He liked the direction he went and planned on hunting that way some more. Day two, Friday I decided to head to spike camp. There were other hunters around and so I figured that as usual some elk would move one step higher and further from the pressure. But it’s a long way up to there so I figured I’d start at the low basin before heading up.

Lots of activity in the basin. First a cow and a calf fed by right below me. Then 4 more a little further out. Then 7 elk came by including a 4x5 bull. I let him walk. I noticed some calves getting really low... reaching down into a low spot and drinking. So I looked that spot over and realized the grass in that area was greener than everything around it. A water source away from the creeks and right in the middle of a major feeding area. 3 more elk came by, 2 cows and a spike and then it quieted down and I began the upward trek. By the way this year more than ever I used my trekking poles. I’m loving them for both uphill and down. They really carry some weight on the ascents.

By 1:30 I had stopped at spike camp, hiked out and was set up and glassing my area. As soon as I got there a decent 5 point ran out into the open. Something seemed to have scared him. He kept looking back the way he came from. He moved all around the open area then moved up higher and after about 25 minutes went back into the timber. Ok... they are here. After that it was dead. Strangely quiet for that neck of the woods. Elk come out early up there. Like by 3:00-3:30. At 4:30 boom! A shot in the saddle above me to the southwest. I knew something wasn’t right. I had company.

About 20 minutes later 2 cows popped out in front of me coming from the direction of the shots. There were two actually about 45 seconds apart. I saw nothing else that evening. I was back there the next morning early. A small bull was feeding in the avalanche chute across from me at about 800 yards. He eventually went back in the timber and I didn’t see anything else. This place needed a few days to calm down. They’ll be back but not today or tomorrow. Besides I had to go out that day, Saturday, to meet two friends from Florida that were coming to hunt for a week. I sat overlooking a spring up high but on the other side of the ridge from where I had been glassing. Nothing. Back to camp I went. I gathered my stuff, lashed my gun on my pack, shut camp down and bailed off the mountain. I got to base camp at 8:30.

The next day the weather took a left turn. I was with my one guy from Florida looking into the low basin. We were getting blasted in the face with snow. It was windy as can be and downright cold. Florida was freezing his ass off shivering like mad. We saw one cow. We sat there for quite awhile and only saw 3 other elk. No bulls. By then I could tell it was time to get some blood flowing so we hiked back to the horses and met his brother who had headed east of us. We were cold and wet so I decided to walk the trail and lead the horses down to The Glassing Tree and build a fire. We ran into a local guy there. He was a nice guy and originally from Pa. We spotted some elk going to bed across the drainage and down lower. He decided to hunt that way after he enjoyed the fire with us for awhile. We rode back up to the main ridge and cut across and dropped down a long open meadow in the direction that we had seen the elk. Saw nothing that night.



The next morning we were tying off the horses when some cows started chirping away above us. They got quiet but I knew they wanted to pass down through where we were and head into the timber to bed. We split up and after about 45 minutes here they came. I saw them feeding above me angling downhill from right to left. They passed between us at about 100 yards. No bulls. I couldn’t help but to say to myself were are doing everything right.... we are seeing relaxed elk every morning and evening but not even a big 5 point and no 6 points at all. Hardly any bulls for that matter compared to every other year.

After that we came from below and hunted that same area we were the night before. It’s mostly still hunting there which I’m not a big fan of. But it’s a good spot go slow and check. I killed a small 6 point down there once so I have confidence in the spot. We saw nothing. He wanted to go back to the low basin which was fine by me since I’d seen elk every time I was there. We got on opposite sides and sat for the evening. We both saw the same elk. 10 cows and calves bedded down in the open after feeding for awhile. They were there for an hour before it got dark.

Back at camp the guys from Florida decided to take the next day off. We went to bed with plans all set for the next day. Tom had been into elk in his west holes. I had it in my mind that the bull I was looking for was up top. So I was going to use the horses to take up everything I needed including a load of nice dry firewood. I’d drop everything at spike camp, do an evening hunt and then get the horses back to base camp and hike up light the next morning. Sounded good except for one thing: Tom either forgot to set the alarm or didn’t hear it. I never hear it since I’m half deaf. I notice it getting light out and jumped up. We made the decision to take the day off, day 6, and get some things done. We had been splitting wood as we used it which sucks so we split a bunch for both the tack tent and of course our tent. Went into town for a few supplies. Had a nice dinner and a few drinks and got back to camp in time to feed and water the ponies and get a good nights sleep.

The next morning I was back to plan A. To high camp with the horses. I’d do sunup and the low basin then head up. It was cold out. It had snowed just about a half inch. Did I mention it was cold! I was running about 5 minutes late too. I like to be to my morning spot before first light. I hustled over to the rim of the hill and sat down. Immediately I saw the outline of elk on top of the ridge on the opposite side of the bowl. They were feeding and gradually working their way up over the finger. There were 9 of them. I was all set up on the tripod just waiting for a bull to step out. After awhile I realized I had been staring at the spot where the cows had come out of the timber for a long time. Probably 15 minutes or so. So I needed to pan around the bowl and see if anything else is around. As soon as I looked left and down slope I saw a bull feeding. He was at a hair over 500 yards. Shootable. I didn’t get my spotting scope out of the pack panniers so I had my scope on 20 power and was looking him over. All of the sudden a second bull walks out of the cover into the open lane. He’s almost exactly the same as the other one. Two good looking 5 points. Decision time. The factors: I’d been hunting for a week and hadn’t seen a single 6 point bull. The forecast said it was about to drop to below zero for awhile so high camp would be a rough place to live. A big one is that there’s a good chance I won’t be hunting elk again until 2023. :shock: So I didn’t want to end with an unpunched tag. Also at my age I know I’ll never top my streak again. With 21 straight I won’t live long enough to! Off came the safety. But they were sparring down there. Pushing each other back and forth into the cover. Then they walked right through a shooting lane without stopping. For 20 minutes they would stop and feed through a screen of trees... then walk steadily through several shooting lanes not giving me time for a shot. They had gotten a little closer though and were now at 400 yards. It got to the point though where was running out of shooting lanes. I needed to make a move. I hated to take my eyes off of them. But I decided to hurry up and move uphill left. After about 70 yards I hurried back over the the edge of the hill. I found a decent place to sit and dropped the tripod. It took me a little bit to find them again but I did. They were up high now. At the top there’s a pretty big meadow. Chances are they would stop up there at least for a few seconds. But it would be my last chance. Of course they stood motionless for what seemed like forever. But finally the bigger of the two walked steadily up and out into the open. He was at 364 yards. Doomed! I looked at the numbers taped on the side of my gun stock and dialed in the minutes of angle. He stopped and stood looking up toward the top of the ridge. I exhaled and the crosshairs settled right down for me. Squeezed of a shot and saw him take the shot. He took a step or 2 uphill and turned around. I could see he was holding his left front leg up and out in front. Then he dropped and hit the ground not moving at all. I usually just sit and watch and gather my thoughts for a little after shooting. Of course my gun is ready to rock in case a Bull happens to get back up. 5 minutes later 2 cows showed up on top of the hill and went the other way. A few minutes after that 7 cows and calves came from down low and followed the same route the bulls had used. Good stuff to see and remember. But... where was the other bull? I watched the area which is pretty open and never saw him. Then about 25 minutes after I had shot I saw a patch of brown fur move between the trees only 75 yards above. Here he comes... walks right past me! I waited and followed his tracks. He walked right by my horses and crossed the horse trail. By now Tom had messaged me on the Inreach. “You shoot?” I told him yes bull down and to get up here and get on the track from the other bull.

Tom showed up and I put him on the track and went to get his horses. When I got to them there was a message from Tom. The bull had moved across a sunny slope where the snow melted off and he lost the track. So he met me back up top and we went down to my bull. We got it all quartered up and loaded on the horses. By then it was about 3:30. We had an hour ride to camp.

I was riding along thinking about everything that had happened that day. We were less than 10 minutes from camp when I looked uphill to my right and saw one elk. I stopped my horse, looked back at Tom and pointed uphill and mouthed the word ELK! I slipped off of my horse and walked in front of it. Now there were 3 elk standing up there feeding. All cows. By then Tom was off of his horse and had his rifle out of the scabbard. He walked behind me and around to my left and got out his binos. Just about then I saw another elk step out from the left. That one was way lighter blonde than all the rest. Oh $h1t! Since it wasn’t my first rodeo I IMMEDIATELY tied my horse to a tree. Then I unhitched my pack horse from him and tied him up too. Somewhere in there I heard Tom say “It’s a bull!” The second I had the knot tied in my lead rope BOOM! And yes sir there goes both of Tom’s horses zipping down the trail toward camp. I knew that was coming! :lol: I turned around and the bull was still standing there. The cows ran uphill into the timber.

To back up a bit Tom had lost the magazine to his rifle. No clip! So he has a single shot gun. Lol He jacks one round out and pulls out another bullet and slides it into the chamber and closes the bolt. BOOM! I clearly saw a big puff of dirt above the bull that time. I said you definitely hit high. At that point Tom realizes that his scope is dialed up to 500 yards. The bull just stands there. He adjusts his scope, puts another bullet in the chamber and lets her rip. That time I heard fwap and no puff of dirt. The bull hunched up on the shot, then he ran uphill into the brush. I could see that he stopped just inside the cover. I just stared at the one patch of fur I could see. Then he went down. I yelled he’s down then I saw a leg kicking. The next thing we knew the bull comes sliding down hill and picking up speed. He hit a bump and jumped up in the air, flipped over and kept sliding. We couldn’t see where he stopped. After some high fiving and “Can you freakin believe that right off the horse trail 5 minutes from camp!” Tom started walking and I hopped on my horse. Before too long Tom caught up to his horse which was eating along the trail and we rode to camp.

We dropped my quarters and jumped back on the horses to get the other elk. We had about an hour of daylight. I tried getting the horses to the elk. It was so close to the trail. But it was so steep and loose that my horse nearly flipped over backwards. So we decided to tie up the horses and go to the bull and assess the situation. He had slammed up against some heavy alders. We decided that it was so steep we’d be better off prying him loose and sending him downhill again. He slid for awhile but then we had to drag him. But we got him to 40 yard from the horses. Tom got to cutting and I went back to where we tied the horses and brought them off the hill and down the trail.

I’ve been there on days where we killed two bulls. But we never got both pack out and hung the same day. That’s a long day! The following day we skinned our quarters and cleaned them up. I got mine up to the processor as well. The day after that we rode up and broke down spike camp. The end!

The lessons learned: If you’re seeing elk don’t walk away. Keep checking the spot. Be patient when waiting for the right shot. Move if you need to but make the first shot count. And of course Tom’s lesson is that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good!!!
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby Indian Summer » 11 17, 2020 •  [Post 2]

2 for 2
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby Indian Summer » 11 17, 2020 •  [Post 3]

Room with a view.
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby Indian Summer » 11 17, 2020 •  [Post 4]

New 14x16 with front porch.
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby Indian Summer » 11 17, 2020 •  [Post 5]

Love every minute of it!
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby Indian Summer » 11 17, 2020 •  [Post 6]

Mountain goat glassing me while i glass elk!
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby WapitiTalk1 » 11 18, 2020 •  [Post 7]

Excellent! Congrats on a successful hunt Joe (and Tom). And thanks for taking us along on the ride with a great write up; really enjoyed reading about your adventure in the cowboy state. Couple of dandy bulls!
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby 7mmfan » 11 18, 2020 •  [Post 8]

Excellent. That was a lot of fun to read. I'm going through serious hunting withdrawals right now, so that was much needed.
I hunt therefore I am. I fish therefore I lie.
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby Swede » 11 18, 2020 •  [Post 9]

Great story. Congrats to both you and Tom. Did the Florida bros. ever get their elk? I had to laugh about your being 5 minutes late. I hunt late August and into September when I have 12-14 hours of hunting time, and I may be out for over a month. I never think I am 5 minutes early or late. That does not register with me. If I sleep in for an hour, I must have been very tired. Ok lets go now. :D
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby Tigger » 11 18, 2020 •  [Post 10]

Wait, you shot a bull and weren't in a tree stand? I didn't realize people did this.... :D
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby Swede » 11 18, 2020 •  [Post 11]

Tigger wrote:Wait, you shot a bull and weren't in a tree stand? I didn't realize people did this....


No, Tigger. Many people hike around looking for elk. Some toot on a flute trying to play the part of the Pied Piper. Only the really cool ones take it easy, read a book and wait to shoot one.
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby ElkNut1 » 11 18, 2020 •  [Post 12]

Nice work Joe! Beautiful elk country to boot!

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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby hibernation » 11 19, 2020 •  [Post 13]

Great pictures, sounds like an awesome hunt. Thanks for taking the time to write it up!
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby Billy Goat » 11 19, 2020 •  [Post 14]

Great hunt and great writeup, Joe.

pro-tip. store the active roll of TP in a large plastic coffee can. if you have TWO cans you can have a spare roll, also! gallon sized baggies work too.
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Re: My 2020 Elk Hunt

Postby Trumkin the Dwarf » 11 21, 2020 •  [Post 15]

Great write up and good shooting Joe.
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