Friday, September 11, 2009

Chasing "Big Deer"

OK, well I wasn't really chasing deer but Macen calls anything with antlers big deer and I think that's cute.

For those of you who didn't know I try to go elk hunting in Colorado with Shantel's Dad, Mike, and one of his friends, Dave, every year that I can. Normally we go for rifle season in October but because of school this year I couldn't go that week, the only time I could get off was around Labor Day and that's archery season. My instructors were nice enough to let me take a couple of extra days on either side of the holiday and I was talking to Dave about going archery hunting since Mike would rather rifle hunt and Dave started talking about this new place he wanted to hunt and that he too wanted to archery hunt. So we decided to go together along with a couple of guys that work with Dave. Here's a run down of what happened.

Fri - Day 1. I'm hunting with Gerad, one of the guys who works with Dave, in the morning and he calls in a 6x6 bull that I can't get a shot at and then helps me call in a couple of cow elk, before we quit. It's too early to shoot a cow, I'm still looking for a bull, so I pass. There's no action in the evening since its too hot and they were only moving after the moon comes up. The bulls are bugling some but not much.

Sat - Day 2. Dave and I chase a herd of 40 cows with one HUGE bull and a couple of nice satellite bulls that rotates through the alfalfa fields behind the ranch house where we are staying. We get around in front of them but the wind was wrong and they smelled us just before daylight and jumped the fence onto some private land that we can't hunt. Dang it. Gerad does manage to shoot a nice 5x5 that morning. I see two cows but still not a whole lot going on in the evening.

Sun - Day 3. Gerad goes with me again. It's raining and the temp has dropped a little I'm wearing rain gear. Bulls are bugling everywhere and we are seeing about 20 - 30 elk with some nice bulls on the opposite ridges from us. We start working one of the closer bulls, but a combination of loud rain gear and over aggressiveness on our part cause us to spook a nice bull at about 80 yards. Dave shoots a bull but can't find a blood trail after looking for almost two hours. I'm not wearing that rain gear ever again.

Mon - Day 4. I hunt a supposed hot spot but have a hard time finding it since I've never been down there before. Jeff, another guy that works with Dave, shoots a small 4x4 that walks out in front of him while they walk on a road. We all help pack it out. Why can't it always be that easy?

Tues - Day 5. The bulls are bugling everywhere, it's insane. There must have been five or six within 200 yards of us. I just can't see them for the brush. I've got one coming in on a string to my cow calling. A cow sticks her head around some scrub brush in front of me, she doesn't spook, just moseys off to the bull that's coming in, no shot opportunity. That bull bugles one more time at 80 yards and then stops. Dang it, that cow stole my bull. Dave shoots a bull that we then spend 8 hours tracking. It all works out well in the end when we find the nice 5x4. No evening hunt, everyone's too tired from the tracking.

Wed - Day 6. I'm the only one left who hasn't tagged out. Gerad goes with me to get a bull. I want a bull but I'll take a cow. We call in a nice bull at 6:30, but he stops at 80-100 yards. He's bugling and chuckling and not really sure what we are. I close the gap and then can't get around the sage and buck brush without making a lot of noise. I stand up and guess the range to be about 45 yards. The bull sees me but still doesn't spook, I think he's about a 5x5 but he might be bigger. He turns and starts to walk away and I fling an arrow at him. Aah I think I overshot, but Gerad tells me it was good hit. Yes!!! The bull runs off, we let him go. We watch him and look for the arrow and a blood trail. Oh no, no arrow or blood trail, did I hit him or did it go over? We follow the tracks and eventually do find blood. We then proceed to trail him for 10 hours, Dave eventually joins us to help trail, since the trail kind of dries up a couple of times and our eyes are still tired from tracking yesterday. We eventually have to give up after we ended up almost 2.5 miles from the truck as the crow flies, and on another ranch, running out of daylight, and with no blood drops, just smears from where he rubs his coat. We decide I must have been high, missing most of the vitals and maybe just nicking a lung. I'm literally sick. Here it is after 4 years of virtually no shot opportunities with a rifle I get a good shot opportunity with a bow and an inch either way and I would have had my first elk. No evening hunt we are beat down again, and I'm extremely frustrated. Time for a stiff drink!

Thurs - Day 7, last day. Jeff and Gerad leave. Dave and I chase the big herd again with Dave calling and videoing and me hunting. We stay close to the herd but they cross the property line again just before day light. We then call in a monster bull but he stops at the fence line 60-80 yards from us behind a lot of brush and won't cross the fence. A cow calls down in the valley and once again a real cow steals my bull. At 9am we decide to call it a hunt and pack up and head home.

Once again I'm elkless. I'm not too upset though I've seen a ton of elk, had a good shot opportunity and considering that the archery success rate in the unit we hunted was 24% and overall Colorado is only 12% I feel fortunate to have had a shot. It's too bad I didn't find the bull I shot but I guess the bears have to eat too don't they? I can't wait to go next time, and I'll practice my calling and bow shooting out to about 60 yards so that anything less should be a piece of cake. I'll probably never rifle hunt again since they don't bugle as much then and the bugling is probably the most exciting thing I've seen while hunting, for those you that turkey hunt it's kind of like calling in a 900-1200lb gobbler, same concept. Here are some pictures:
The view from the mountain behind the ranch house. The big herd would run the valley at night and cross over to private land after eating the alfalfa.An elk rubbed the heck out this cedar tree. It's a good bet a nice bull was around here somewhere and fairly recently.They call this ravine "The Luge" yes I walked up this. The steeper and thicker it is the more the elk seem to like it. Elk country. Some people only go elk hunting once, Mainly because you have to walk up and down terrain like this to get one. This wasn't too high, only about 8500 feet above sea level. Dave's elk that we tracked for almost 8 hours. It was his first one. One of these days I'll get one!