So back in August I narrowed down a spot in GMU 711 to Archery hunt. It's a spot with lots of small canyons filled with Quakies in their bottoms and Oak Brush/Ponderosa up top. Generally if I stay low in the early part of season (8'000' to 9'000'), I try to hunt good thick Quakie groves. They provide great cover for the elk and keep them cool when it's warm. The bulls seem to love the young trees and thrash them with furosity.
Anyhow, I spent the 1st week and half doing more scouting than anything else as the elk weren't vocal yet. Down in the canyons I got on the track of 2 nice Bulls. They had been working the middle of the canyons, leaving great looking rubs and broken saplings everywhere they'd been. While exploring the canyon bottoms last Monday, I jumped a big 5x5. Not wanting to blow them out of the area, I got out of there and left them alone for a few days.
Thursday afternoon, I made the trek back out (I generally prefer evening hunts if I can). I figured the recent rains might get Bulls going and sure enough it did. This time I stayed on top of the canyons, silently waiting and listening. At about 5:15 PM the "Thunder" erupted from below.
100 yds down from me, an impressive 6x6 made his presence known. I let out a cow call and he responded almost immediately. A few minutes later, bugling started in the next canyon over and the 2 Bulls began answering eachother. I worked my way down a bit while continuing to cow call so I could glass the mouth where both canyons met. Looking at the mouth, the same 5x5 I had busted early in the week emerged.
My cow calling had them both worked into a frenzy and I could hear the 6x6 begin to make his way up to me. I tried to set up as quick as I could, placing the decoy 60 yds behind me and finding a nice Pine for cover. The Bull slowly worked back an forth and came up to 50 yds down from me and kept sounding off like crazy. He chuckled mostly, only letting out full bugles here and there.
I could see the tips of his antlers moving and thrasing in the brush, but he wouldn't come up any further. He fully expected and wanted me to come him (He couldn't see or smell me, everthing was in my favor). I suspect since he couldn't see an actual cow or my decoy he wouldn't fully commit. If I would've had a partner calling further behind me, there's no doubt he would have walked past me presenting a shot. The stalemate lasted about 45 minutes and ended as real cows started chirping a few canyon tops over from me. Both the 6x6 and 5x5 began making making there way over to the real elk.
By that time, the sun had disappered and shooting light was all but gone. I decided it was time to head out and not pressure them. The promise of Friday had me confident and I would try my luck then (Friday's story to be posted later today, I had the 6x6 at 18 yds and am disgusted with myself for not being more patient).
I was able to record some of the bugling as we went back and forth. What a tremendous sound, especially at close range. The links to the clips are below (copy & paste in your browser). The clips are 30 and 23 sec in length. Listen towards the end of clip for the bull. The pics you see are some of their rubs.