From my bull elk story you are aware that my hunting partner, Deb, showed up Sunday afternoon just in time to help me haul out my 4X4. My tag was filled but we still had three days to fill her bull tag. Since the national forest appeared to be a bust as I had not seen or heard anything from Thursday evening till Sunday late morning the plan was to go back to the private property at the very start of the morning.
We secured a hotel room (yes, two double beds) east of the property about 14 miles down the road. I was tired of sleeping in a tent and Deb was also not in the camping mood (tough final semester working on her Master’s Degree). A friend of Deb’s also was planning to hunt with us. Hunter XYZ (I will use that as his alias to protect his innocence – and will tell a whole other story on his hunt) arrived at the hotel about 12:30am (he had to work and couldn’t get there any sooner). The alarm went off at 5:15am. None of us slept too well as all were very eager to get out hunting.
Now I still have a cow tag that is good until January 31, 2012. Deb has the same cow tag and a 1st Rifle bull tag. And Hunter XYZ has a 1st rifle cow tag. So we are all set to be able to get something but I was first really focused on ensuring Deb was able to get her bull tag filled. Remember this is her first time hunting this year. She has already harvested a Mule Deer doe earlier in September.
We started off towards the very southwest corner of the property – same place I had harvested my bull the day prior. Again it is about 1.5 miles as the crow flies to get back there and the Cottonwood trees provided a very nice blanket of their dried leaves on the ground making it take about 2 hours for the three of us to get back to that corner. We walked a large “L” shape to get back there – straight south and then straight west. All the while we were using our cow calls. During that timeframe we heard 4 bugles from that corner. However, there was a storm front coming in. By the time we got to that honey hole the winds had kicked up really swirling and it started to rain. The elk were staying put on the neighbor’s property and hunkered down inside of it. We did not have permission to hunt the neighbor’s property (nor does this neighbor allow anyone to step a foot onto his property) so there was no bull or cow to be had there.
After the rain had stopped the sun was bright and the winds were almost perfectly calm. We stuck around for about another hour without hearing or seeing anything. We decided to make our way to the second honey hole on the property – the northwest corner heavy with large cottonwoods and nearby a finger of the Rio Grande River that cuts through the property. Again we travelled a large L shape – straight north and then west again. It took us another 90 minutes or more to make it to this point all the while we were occasionally using our cow calls. As we neared the area we wanted to set up at we had heard a bugle far on the same neighbor’s property. Hunter XYZ made his way to a large fallen Cottonwood about 50 yards north (to our right) and closer to the river (this will be another story). Deb and I stayed right in the center of a thin wooded draw. I called again and received a bugle response. This time the bull was far closer to us but still out of sight. I instructed Deb to get down and get ready as I was pretty certain that bull was headed right for us. Deb took a prone position by a small fallen tree. I laid down about 5 yards to her right side. I called again and received a bugle back immediately. I could see him, I whispered to Deb. I told her the bull was a ragged 4X4 about 100 yards out and going to come to her left side on a tree line. I called again and that bull kept on coming at a walking pace looking hard. Deb could see the bull now. It had stopped briefly and was up on her left. I put the cow call behind me and called one more time. The bull continued forward and then finally stopped about 35 yards to Deb’s left. I said nothing as Deb knew what to do. She squeezed off a shot and placed it right behind the bull’s shoulder bone. That bull jumped back and trotted about 15 yards when his backend fell out from under him bringing the bull down for good. I looked at Deb and gave her a smile. She was already face-wide with a smile. Deb had her first bull – a very respectable 4X4.
I helped field dress her bull but only by holding the legs open so Deb could do the needed work. It took Deb about an hour but she did it. I helped her haul it out and then take it to the local butcher. We didn’t hunt any more that week as we accomplished what we had come for – to fill our leftover bull tags. We have a planned Cow Elk hunt in mid-November (without Hunter XYZ). We will come back and fill those tags too.