After my failed attempt at arrowing a bull in September, I found myself packing for the rifle season the 14th of October. Just to make things worse it was the day after a massive early snow storm had just rolled through and dumped over a foot of the snow.
Knowing this and assuming there was a lot more snow on the mountain, I was positive the elk wouldn't be where I normally prowl the timber. In the years past, I've been unable to locate even one elk during rifle season, especially after a heavy snow.
I was told last year by the game and fish biologist that the elk had moved out because of the depth of the snow and how early it had dumped. I was positive this would be the case this year.
Upon our arrival to the area, my hopes started to lift, it was evident that the mountain did not receive as much snow as other areas of the state. After unloading and setting camp up it was all so apparent we were going to be the only camp in the area. Years past there was an over whelming amount of camps in the area along with the unnecessary roaring of four wheelers ripping up and down the road.
The first morning of season dawned and I was up and on my way to the higher elevations, with the over whelming anticipation of finding one of the monster bulls I'd see during archery season. I eventually made it to a meadow I'd discovered in September where I watched a one antlered 5 point and 8 cows feed and play. I had high hopes of finding a nice bull or at least some sign that they had at least been through the area. The only thing I found was a fox searching the edge of the meadow, and of course the snow was getting deeper the further I gained elevation.
I made my way up and attempted to get out of the area to areas I was more familiar with and into a rocky nasty blow down hillside, which took me about 2 hours to get out of. I now know why my father kept telling me not to get into that area.
Finally up and out I started to sneak through more comfortable territory where I'd seen elk before. I did find evidence the elk or at least a few had been in the area, from the tracks it was evident there had been a few moving through the area in small groups days before. The freshest track I ran into was a bear track and it fresh. To bad I didn't have a bear tag, I'd of spent some time looking for him. I'd finally come to the realization that the elk had moved to lower ground.
With a bit of disappointment I started back towards camp, I'd spent the entire day pushing the timber in areas I'd seen and or shot elk before and came up with nothing but a smoking fresh bear track. Moving down towards the meadow I'd gotten a shot at a great bull in September, I stopped at timbers edge taking a break simply enjoying the awesome view, it's always better to be hunting then at work nonetheless.
I made my way around the outer edge of the meadow just inside the timber, planning on cutting up and over a ridge towards another elk hold out spot.
After starting up the side of the ridge, of course through some more blow down I stopped. Simply standing there, thinking, I'm not going to go through this again. I turned around with the idea of catching the horse trail and making my way back to camp a little early. It was about 5:20pm. I knew I still had about two hours left of light.
After sliding and falling back down the ridge I got to the edge of the meadow I'd just circled and I thought I saw one of those brown beasts on the opposite side on a sagebrush hill side.
Not only was there one but through the trees I could see close to 30 or 40 of them all just feeding and slowly moving down to the meadows edge. I frantically scurried around looking for the bull there had to be a bull with that many cows. Finally locating the bull, there was no doubt he was a shooter. Of course they were well out of range for the rifle I'd decided to take on my journey today, my 45-70. I ranged the bull at 398 as he feed down towards the edge. It was a chore to keep my pulse rate down and not rush things as I circle the meadow this time through the blow down. I drew closer to the herd as they feed down a little closer, I had cut the distance to just over 300 yards, still a bit far. Picking a spot close to the edge but yet far enough back that the elk could not spot my movement, I started to range and glass the herd trying to determine whether they were going to slowly move towards my right or feed out into the meadow.
A single cow made her way directly in front of me, picking a spot and laying down, ranging her at 175 yards. I was hoping the herd would follow along. It was evident that this would not happen shortly after when the rest of the herd began to meander off in the opposite direction toward the middle of the meadow.
As they moved out I ranged the cows all of which appeared to be on the same path at about 250 yards. It seemed like hours as they feed out and of course the bull stayed on the hillside at least 400 yards from the cows. Finally he started to move towards them evidently on the same trail. I ranged a lone pine tree that the cows had passed at 268 yards as he started to pass the tree. I repositioned at the edge using a tree for support putting the cross hair at the top of his back and fired the first round. Nothing, after cycling the action I elevated it just a bit higher and fired again, still nothing. The bull simply walked towards the cows. Again I adjusted and fired, this time I distinctly heard a loud thud, but the bull acted as if nothing happened, again I raised the elevation a bit more had fired again, again I heard the loud thud still the bull walked towards the cows as if nothing was happening.
Frantically I started to reload firing a couple more times with the same effect. The bull made his way into the middle of the cows now facing away from me. The entire herd had bunched up and starting to line out back in the direction from which they had come, with a bit of anticipation, that the bull would turn and give me a broadside shot again I waited. The bull started to sway from side to side then backed up a few steps then collapsed. I knew he had not completely expired as his antlers were still up, and not laying off to one side. The herd then swung around in the opposite direction, still standing in the middle of the meadow until I started to crawl through the snow towards the bull closing the distance to around 98 yards, upon which I sat up on my knees getting ready to shoot.
At this point the bull swung his head to the right catching a glimpse of me, bolting to his feet staggering in the direction of the departing cows. I hurriedly fired two more shots, (my last 2) hitting him behind the right shoulder. As the bull staggered towards the creek he stopped in the middle turning towards me lowering his head defiantly, then collapsed in the middle of the creek.
Great, now what am I going to do?? I took off my pack, and coat jumped in and wrestled the bull to the opposite side upon the bank. Wow, the bull carried his length on the fronts as well as 16 inch 3rds. After packing him out the next day I was still overwhelmed at his size, and gross green scored him in camp at over 340 gross.