As you all may know hunting (specially bowhunting) isn’t always about harvesting an animal. It’s about the brotherhood of you and your pals out on the hunt, the stories to be made, and most importantly the past time that was passed down to you from generations upon generations of hunters! For me 2011 Archery Elk in Colorado was a different year. It was a year that I no longer had to come home unsuccessful, saying only if this or that would have happened... anyone who has ever hunted elk knows exactly what I mean!
August 27th opening day. Woke up after a not so great sleep of restlessness from excitement and anticipation for the hunt. It being my birthday as well I was ready to go. We had drawn as a group in an area where you can get tags about every other year. After a dark, chilly early morning ATV ride to the trail head, we began our ascent up the mountain. As first light began to break we stopped to glass the surrounding valleys, openings, anywhere that we could spot elk.
They were everywhere we looked! I couldn’t believe it. I was used to spotting maybe one or two elk at best, but not this morning. I had a choice of what elk and where I wanted to hunt them. I decided that it being so early in the season that we would go after the elk that were in the smallest group and the hardest ones to go after. Made this decision based on the fact that they were probably all bulls still grouped together before the rut.
After about a 3 mile hike we found ourselves deep in the thick of the bush. It being so thick we knew where we were but it made it extremely difficult to judge how high on the side of the mountain we were in relation to where we had spotted the elk. My partner and I stood there for about 5 min having a quick drink of water from the hydration bladder and discussing what we should do. My partner felt we were too high and kept struggling on whether or not we should move down a little bit. I told him that we should definately go with his gut feeling and move down the mountain.
Boy was I glad we made that decision! After about 5 min of heading down the mountain, looking down through all the lush green foliage and the white from the many quakies in the area, I saw that beautiful tan color of an elk about 130 yards away. At this point it being so thick I did know if it was a bull or a cow. We quickly and stealthily got into a position. My partner squatted down, I nocked an arrow and placed my release onto the string loop. The elk never heard us or saw us and after about 2 minutes we were saying the same about the elk.
The Indians used to call elk “The ghosts of the forest. This was a situation where I would agree with them whole heartedly! After about 8 to 10 min the elk had made its way up to us in complete silence and appeared out of what seemed like nowhere at a distance 35 yards! It was a bull. Not anything huge but not a spike either. I quickly decided that I was going to take him. As drew my bow back, this bull had heard the slight noise that my arrow made as it slid back on my rest. He immediately stopped and froze. This was good and bad all at the same time. Was bad because due to all the foliage all I could see of him was his right rear quarter…I had absolutely no shot!
It was good because during our intense hike to this location, my peep sight had twisted out of line a little bit. Looking through it I had no clear line of sight to my sights. During this 15 min standoff of silence I slowly decompressed my bow to fix my peep (by the way holy moly was that difficult not to make any noise)! Being confident now that I was truly ready for a shot, I just hoped that I would be able to get a shot off! Alerted and a little spooked the bull turned himself around right into the only shooting window I had. As he turned around I drew my bow back a second time and my partner threw out a quick cow call. The timing was perfect. The bull stopped, looked our way quartering away, and I took the shot!
I saw all this in slow motion and watched my arrow make a perfect hit! Just like that I had made a perfect shot on a bull elk. After the shot is when I think that my buck fever had set in. Backpack still on, bow in hand I just had to lay down with that big smile on my face and take a deep breath! After about a 20 min wait I decided to go and look at the location where I shot him. Didn’t see my arrow, but saw lots of sign of a great shot. Looking down the path that he took after the shot, I saw him. He only went about 50 yards before he was down! I approached him slowly, wanted to make sure that he was 100% down. I was good to go. Standing there in front of my first bull 5x4, I thought “Wow I finally did it!!” Then I knew that the real work was about to begin. 2011 Colorado Archery Bull Elk, non-guided, public land, doesn’t get any better than that!