Friday, October 5, 2012

Colorado Archery Elk Hunt: Day 3

We walked in only half a mile before the bull let us know he was the king of the mountain. The high-pitched, guttural bugle helped quicken our pace. Here it was day three and each day bulls were conversing at the crack of dawn. Eddy let out a cow call and it was answered by another bugle, from a different bull! Picking up a cattle trail, we headed straight for the source of the bugles. The second sounded like it was across the canyon, but both sounded like they came from one direction - right near the spot we had attempted to hike to the previous day.

The view as we descended.

Three-quarters of a mile in, we found an access point and descended 300 feet to set up. Eddy posted up forty yards behind me as I settled in behind some blue spruce. I couldn't quite find a comfortable spot and kept moving around to keep sticks and rocks from jabbing me. A couple minutes later, not fifty yards in front of me a bull elk let out a bugle that I can only describe as a high-pitched squeal-like bugle. It was at that very moment that I laid eyes on my very first bull elk on a hunt. It started with movement behind a spruce at forty yards. His antlers twisted back and forth as he tried to locate the lost cow. Unfortunately, he didn't stick around more than ten minutes. He turned to his left and sauntered away from me down a trail. I quickly counted tines and saw that he was a 4x4 bull and that they were very short. I guessed him to be a satellite bull, but what a fantastic moment! I had been forty yards from a bull elk. A screaming bull elk none the less!

In an attempt to get the bull back, Eddy moved sixty yards to my immediate left and began a call sequence. Picture, if you will, thick spruce trees directly in front of your position. In the middle of these trees is a natural alley giving you a view of about one hundred yards. It was in this very alleyway, a few minutes later (well, it only seemed like a few minutes to me) that I saw the ivory antlers of a mature bull dip and raise up as he announced his presence. He had come in quiet as a mouse. Although his upper rack was obstructed by the branches, I could see he was a shooter bull, but he was just too far away. He was also directly downwind from me, so I just stared in amazement. Was this really happening? Two bull elk in only a few minutes? Yes sir! This was some elk hunting to be sure.

Eddy and I during a break in the action.

We waited for about fifteen minutes to see if the bull would come closer, but he simply vanished. He made no sound and let out no more vocalization. As we regrouped, we heard yet another bugle deeper into the canyon. We raced another 200 feet down, crossing over deadfalls and around boulders to an ambush spot. Minute after minute went by as he sounded closer and closer with each ringing bugle. Then, all of a sudden, he stopped. I waited and waited. I heard movement below me and made the mistake of instantly raising my bow. A lone cow had come in to fifty yards to scout out all the racket and she busted me! My heart sank as she crashed through the brush, heading downhill. My mind conjured up the idea that she had also taken the rest of the herd with her, but I hadn't heard any other bodies crashing through. Maybe she was all by herself. Eddy quickly cow called and was answered by a lone cow. They called back and forth a couple times before the forest again went silent.

Dropping down another 100 feet, we located a wallow that had been used that very morning. You could still see the wet mud caked on the logs surrounding the area. In the mud, you could even see the fine lines left by the bull elk's hair as he rolled around. That was very cool! We marked it on my GPS and listened. While we had heard four different bulls bugling that morning, it was nearing 10:00 AM and the Wapiti song had all but stopped. Every so often we did hear an occasional bugle from either deep into the canyon or across the mountain. Knowing they would be bedding soon, we headed back up from whence we came. Along the way we encountered a few rubs, including these two gems!

To say we were pleased with how things were turning out would be an understatement. For three straight days we had bulls bugling all around us. We had them in close, too! 

The walk back to the truck started off very slow as the day was heating up rapidly and we were tired. As our stomachs growled, the subject of conversation focused on egg sandwiches smothered in cheddar cheese. (I was not going for the low fat diet on this trip.) Our pace quickened and before long we were back in camp chowing down and discussing my evening hunt.

Wanting to find that waterhole, Eddy and I discussed the terrain and where I had last stopped. The more I described, the more Eddy knew what had happened. I was right there, but the trail I was supposed to take was hard to see unless you knew it was there. After some brief relaxation, final directions and topping off my water bladder, I was off to find that waterhole.

Following the same trail as the day before, I found the spot where Eddy described and it was stunningly beautiful. The trail was exactly as he described and without careful directions, you would have never known this spot existed. Once I spotted the water and all of the tracks surrounding it, I searched for a spot to make a ground blind. As I searched, my eyes darted to a fallen tree that already had some branches broken off and set in a small circle. Someone other than any of us had already been in here within the past week and had made a ground blind. Working smarter and not harder, I stepped into the blind, maneuvered my gear around, and settled in for the evening watch.

The view was not only amazing, but I felt that an elk, or a bear, would step out at any time. Unfortunately, that never happened. The only action I had was an annoying squirrel that would not stop chattering. That is until I glanced over and gave him the look of death. I think my point was made as he quickly stopped and took off. Must have been the intimidation factor. The next three hours were filled with me enjoying the view, listening for any tell-tale sounds and waiting. The sound of silence truly is deafening.

The waterhole was a prime location to ambush animals.

By 6:00 PM I couldn't take it anymore. My gut feeling was that nothing was going to come in this late and I trust my instincts in these situations. Plus, something inside me wanted to enjoy nature some more, so I packed up and headed out the trail. Along the way I spotted two of the largest coyotes I have ever seen in my life as they bounded around the meadow looking for small rodents. Some 200 yards away, they spotted me and locked on. It didn't take them long to beat feet and disappear.

I continued on to an open meadow and here is where I decided to sit for the remainder of the evening. I wanted to enjoy an unobstructed, uninterrupted view of the Colorado landscape and watch the sunset. These photos will have to do as trying to describe the view at that very moment is very difficult to do. All I can say is that I was happy. Completely in a zone of peace and happiness. It didn't matter that I hadn't shot an elk yet, nor did it matter that I had sacrificed a great deal of time and money to get here. As I sat on that fallen tree, soaking in the majestic beauty of nature, I was exactly where I needed to be.

The sunset in Colorado was one I will never forget.

As the sun set, I made my way to the SUV, loaded in my gear and headed back to camp. In camp, Eddy was already preparing to hit the hay at 8:00 PM. I took care of my gear, reloaded my Clif bars and water bladder, and loaded up the truck. I could smell the aroma of charred meat and campfire at the entrance to the tent. It was a glorious scent to behold! Eddy had cooked up some awesome elk steak and pizza brats that were still quite warm. Even after my third brat, knowing I really shouldn't eat the last one, I was still hungry. The elk steak was a perfect ending to a long day.

With the campfire stoked, our gear laid out and lights off, Eddy and I prepared for a good night sleep. As we lay there, we began reminiscing about the previous three days and what may happen on day four, my last day. It was then that we started chuckling about how it was going to be the last day of Colorado archery elk season, my last day to hunt, and it would be my very last outing with Eddy. The topic kept coming up in our conversation.  

Wouldn't it be a great ending to arrow a bull elk on the last day of the season and the very last moment you could do so? 

We imagined it like all of the outdoor television shows and magazine articles. Having it all come together on the last day would be the perfect ending to a hunt I had dreamed about for a lifetime. It took us a while to fall asleep that night as we had high hopes for day number four.

As I drifted off, one thought kept coming to mind. To be successful, I needed to picture the arrow hitting the mark BEFORE I actually released the arrow. Laying there in silence, I imagined a majestic bull elk walking into range and me releasing that one arrow that hit its mark. I went to sleep dreaming of elk, not knowing that day number four would be filled with the most extreme tests I have ever encountered.


  1. Leave me hanging over the weekend? You jerk! ;-)

    1. Hahaha, I have to keep you guys wanting more!

  2. Another fine article my the eloquent SoCalBowhunter.

  3. Seriously some great reading Al. I am stoked to hear the end of this story! It is a great one!

    1. Thanks, Dustin. I am just glad I don't have grizzlies to deal with like you!

  4. You are sure having the time of your life... and I have a feeling you're saving the best for last! My hats off to you and Eddy for working hard and being where the elk are!

  5. Ok so i read all these in my stand last night while i sat in a freezing cold rain bored out of my mind cause nothing was moving except for the out of season turkeys and i get to the end......AND YOU LEFT ME HANGING!!! Sounds like it was a blast! Can't wait to hear the end!

  6. Great posts Al!! As always a good read and awesome pics!

  7. I'd stake out that wallow or waterhole early and late and NOT MOVE.