I hunted fourteen days this Sep. my first with a bow tag and found the hunting to be pretty much as others described it, slow. I hunted my first four day stretch in our usual hunting area that we did so well in last year taking two bulls and a buck that season. This year one of the main critical differences was the level of hunting pressure...... it was huge! From that first weekend of Sep. every extra large horse trailer from here to Texas seemed to be in there. I did cow call two cows in that weekend and had a 40 yard shot at one and managed to hit an aspen on the way to her. Took me a while to find the arrow and at first I thought I had hit her. I was very glad to find the arrow to know I hadn't wounded her. No bulls and no other elk spotted.
I headed back up during muzzleloader season as my uncle had a bull muzzle tag and my dad a cow muzzle and buck tag. My dad was hoping for a nice 4x4 and passed up three different shot opps at small two and three point bucks and ending up taking his tag home. The pressure was now even more intense as every it seemed every muzzleloader and bow hunter with horses was hitting our area. It was just getting hammered far in and everywhere else. There was a small amount of elk in the area we were concentrating on and we'd hear bugles early in the morning but if you bugled or cow called they'd head back into dark timber. I think the pressure had a huge effect on hunting in our area this year. Once we had a bull talking with us and it seemed coming in but then he headed the other way. We also got into the dark timber and hunted it hard finding fresh sign but not seeing them. I did manage to see my first mt. lion still hunting the timber at about sixty yards. He was huge!, and never even knew I was there as he headed at a moderate pace above me off to probably do what I was trying to do take some game. We ended up leaving our area at the end of muzzleloader season with no tags filled. So different (as hunting always is) from our season least year.
The last three days of archery season I was able to hook up with two of my wifes cousins who are hardcore serious hunting and especially elk bow hunting nuts. Just the kind of people I like hanging around with. They had access to some private property in unit 85 and we decided to give it a try after their public land areas didn't pan out like mine. We had about 900 acres of some rough country right below a mountain that we were able to bushwack thru and get close to the next land which was some serious elk country. It had big open meadows and baldy tops with lots of pine and oak brush at about 8000 to 9000 ft. These elk were undisturbed and what a night and day difference we'd see them on the open ridges morning and evening numbering at least into the hundreds and lots of bulls, some really big boys. Problem was we were close but didn't have access to where they were concentrated. Another factor that helped us is unlike the other areas we hunted where the rut seemed to be late these boys were hotter then hell!!! The two mornings and evenings we were there they were bugling and chasing cows like mad. We could even even glass bulls sparring with each other. But, again we had to call one over into our area we had permission on and came close the first day and then Sat. morning but no cigar.
We felt good about our Sat. evening hunt and encouragingly said one of us would get a shot that evening. Got back up there and from three to four hundred yards beyond our boundary elk were thick and you could hear cows chirping and bulls bugling. We could see a five pointer at three hundred yards chasing and harrassing this cow in a meadow. We set up on our side of the boundary with a 100 yard open meadow in front of us and then a slight rising ridge of oak brush beyond that which rand about 150 yards further and then the meadows where the elk were. We began to cow call off and on continuously for the next half hour to forty five minutes (no bugling at all) and finally broke that five point loose. He came up on that oak brush ridge looked in our direction and started coming down thru the brush. He stopped once halfway thru and started again and started trotting across the open stuff in front of me. He came straight to me boys and stopped at fifteen yards right in front of me. I had no shot as he was head onto me. He was looking back and forth for the cows that were calling to him and made a slight turn to my left giving my partner on that side access to his lungs and he let an arrow fly true. The elk bolted back to the right and then turned back left and my other partner cow called to him which stopped this mortally wounded elk at forty yards, again right in front broadside at forty yards! I couldn't resist even though he was already hit I aimed at his exposed broadside kill zone and let one of my arrows fly. I figured like rifle hunting you put rounds into if you can while their on their feet till their down. He ran another fifteen yards dropped and expired. We could hear and see we had another bigger bull coming in and got back down after getting up but he saw something (likely the dying bull on the ground) and turned back the way he came.
We got up to the elk and I and my partners got down to business getting him quartered out for the pack out we'd have the next day. We split the elk meat and my bud got the horns since he got the first fatal shot into him. I was just glad to be part of such an exciting and exhilirating experience and to have been able to finally get an arrow into an animal we succesfully harvested. Words can't describe how alive you feel when getting to hear and call in screaming elk during the rut. Can't wait to do it again.