My First Elk - A BULL!

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I had spent the last three years as a new Colorado resident without a big game animal harvested even though I had an extensive and successful Eastern hunting background.  It was time to put my pride aside and delve deeply into western hunting do’s and don’ts to find out what it required in order to increase my odds of bringing home meat for the freezer.  I really had to find out what I was doing wrong and correct it as I also took on the responsibility of bringing a “newby” into the fine sport of big game hunting.  I couldn’t allow them to fail.  The pressure was on.

Side note – my stand up freezer in my garage stood unplugged and with the door open for the past three years – gathering dust on top and inside.  I had almost 200 pounds of venison in it late March 2007 – that I had to give away to my brothers and my other hunting partner because I had no way of getting it to Colorado financially efficient.  I survived the last three years with my Dad mailing me bagged up venison jerky that I would get as a Christmas present.  Definitely not conducive for making a happy hunter!

So I really did my homework this past year.  I put in a great amount of time reviewing the preference points needed for the different units for each big game animal.  I found a GMU that offered what I felt was my best odds of harvesting while at the same time allowing a new hunter to succeed.  I found an owner of private property that was also located within the same unit that would allow us to hunt whenever we wanted.  We scouted the areas in advance over several days and found signs of and sites of the actual big game we were expecting to harvest.   The homework was done.  Now it was time for all of it to be put to getting that elusive elk.

It was the morning of Thursday, October 13th the day my hunting partner and I were to leave to secure our camping and hunting spot within the unit’s national forest.  I get a call.  My hunting partner is overwhelmed with the immediately due Master’s degree requirements they are currently pursuing at the same time as what I felt was the “hunt of a lifetime event” and must delay their participation in our hunt until Sunday at 12:30pm.  ARGH!!!!!  So I added some meals to my packing and understood I was hunting solo until Sunday afternoon.

I arrived at the intended camp site late Thursday afternoon.  I had just enough time to get the 4 seasons tent set up and wood gathered for a campfire before the sun set.  I spent all day Friday re-scouting the two primary areas we had previously scouted.  I scouted as if I was actually hunting the area… but there was a problem.  I saw no recent sign of elk – like I did see back in June and July.  I heard no sounds of elk.  I saw no elk.  ARGH!!!

Solo Camp Site 

The season started at approximately 6:45am that Saturday morning.  It took me 4 hours to hunt the 1.5 miles up the eastern side of the mountain.  I saw nothing.  I heard nothing.  Once at the highest point the winds shifted and I decided I was not going to succeed there.  I made my way back to camp to start my hunt on the Western side of the other mountain.  I spend the next 4 hours hunting that western side – nothing heard and nothing seen.  The first day of Elk season was a solo bust.

I woke early for Sunday’s hunt as I had a new outlook for the day.  I traveled about 2 miles north of the campsite to an alternate hunt location… but the morning was a bust as well. I saw elk tracks but they were at least 8 days old based on when the snow had fallen in the area.  I decided it was time to try the private property we had secured in the same unit.  It was located at the foothills of the mountain range and everything I had seen pointed towards that the elk had moved lower earlier – even though there was not a great deal of snow up high.

I arrived at the owner’s home at about 12 noon.  I also called my hunting partner and advised them to meet at the private property versus the national forest.  They were going to be another 3+ hours late.  ARGH!!!!  I spoke with the owner for about an hour and then made my trek (1pm) about 1 mile into the property to where we had seen signs of elk only the month prior during deer season.  The Cottonwood trees dumped a lot of leaves on the ground.  It was like walking on corn flakes… but I made my way to the area – it took me about 90 minutes to walk the 1 mile (2:30pm).

I arrived just at the top of the area and continued my mule cow call using my Hoochie Mamma call.  Immediately I heard a bugle in the far distance towards the corner of the property.  I completed another set of cow calls only to hear two bugles – one still in the far corner of the property (and that bugle sounded like a monster) and another bugle directly in front of me no more than 40 yards into the hardwoods.  I dropped down to lying on the ground as I had no means to use any cover other than a 5 inch diameter cottonwood in front of me.  I called again.  I could see several cows and one satellite bull in the brush.  I also had the bugle of what I still thought was a monster bull echoing in the corner.  I did one more set of cow calls.  Immediately after completing the calls I watched in awe as a nice 4X4 satellite bull broke through the bush area and in a full trot made his way to within 15 yards of me and stopped dead.  My heart pounded – hard and fast.  He started walking right towards me.  There was no side shot – only his broad chest facing directly towards me and getting closer.  I placed the crosshairs onto his chest and squeezed off a shot from my Winchester 30-06 Springfield.  The bull reared back and then ran about 15 yards where then his backend gave way followed by the front of the bull falling.  ADRENALINE RUSH!!!  All that happened in about a 2 minute timeframe.

Me and MY Bull - 4X4

Shaking with that adrenaline I sent a text to my wife, my Dad, my brothers, and my hunting partner that my bull was down! My partner showed up about 90 minutes later – just enough time to help me pack out that bull. I had achieved what had once evaded me for the prior three years! I helped my hunting partner harvest their own bull elk the following day… but that is another story.


Same boat.................

I have been putting in for three years here in Nevada and drew one of the top 3 tags in the state. I have only hunted whitetails back in MN (like shooting fish in a barrel) so I am ready for this challenge. My hunt starts on Sunday and nervous isn't even the word I can use to describe how I am feeling! :/ Congrats on your bull and god-willing I will have one too!



Retired2hunt's picture

  Well then good luck to you


Well then good luck to you Woody!  Send pictures of your bull afterwards!


Retired2hunt's picture

  SGM - doing just a skull


SGM - doing just a skull cap on this one.  Boiling the head tomorrow in preparation for the skull cap mount.  My wife happens to be great at many things - she built one of our houses we lived in once.  I am having her create the wood backing for the mount as she is great with a router and wood.  Anyhow - I will definitely have a picture of it once it is finished.  I have a great spot in the family room on a cathedral ceiling for my 6X6... when I do get it!


SGM's picture

Sounds like a talented lady

Sounds like a talented lady so I am sure it will come out looking great. For sure post a photo once it is done and hanging proud in your home. I did a nice 5x5 shoulder mount back on 2005 and that special spot in the house is waiting on that 45 inch or better ( at least I hope so) moose. We did a European skull on my wifes bull. Look forard to seeing the photo. 

Retired2hunt's picture

  Just waiting on BGH to


Just waiting on BGH to publish the story and photo.  It was a great hunt and a great ragged 4X4 as every antler tip of his was chipped or broken because of his fighting for the ability to sire future elk of his lineage.  Hopefully here in another day or two!


SGM's picture

Have been waiting for the story

Have been waiting for the story and it is a good one. Congratulaions on your first bull. Getting the private land sure was the ticket for you and your buddy. Look forward to the story on how you helped your buddy score on his elk too. Great job and lots of great eating this year for sure. What did you do with the rack, shoulder mount, skull cap etc? Great job and best wishes on many more successful hunts.

Ca_Vermonster's picture

Great story Retired!!! 

Great story Retired!!!  That's a great elk, first or 50th!  I would take it in a heartbeat.

I can't imagine having one coming up to within 15 yards of you, especially if you are hunting them.  I have almost been run over by a small herd of mixed raghorns and cows in Utah, but I was huting mule deer.  Even though I couldn't shoot one, felling the rush of the ground shaking, with those big bodied animals only a few yards away, was enough to make anyone's adrenaline flow!

Congrats on a nice elk, and your first!!!  Your freezer will be full now for some time!!!

hunter25's picture

Congratulations on your first

Congratulations on your first elk and the fact that it's a bull makes it an even bigger deal. Any elk is a great one but seeing that rack when you walk up is an amazing feeling for sure. I'm impressed with the amount of research you put into getting ready for this year and the chance of increasing your odds. And having a backup plan was definately the right thing to do. I have failed in the past for that very reason and not being ready to move to a new area. It's great that you were able to find some private lland to work with as over here ihave had no such luck. Almost everything that's left is leased out for a very high price or belongs to anti hunters. I had a ranch several years back but the owner was forced to sell by the rest of the family that had moved to the cities and wanted a big pay off right away and not the trickle of cash that ranching brought in. I lost 1500 prime hunting acres when that happened.

Congratulations again and on to more planning for next year!

Retired2hunt's picture

  I know what you mean


I know what you mean numbnutz on that private land situation.  The acreage just south of this one I hunt is loaded with elk as it is a natural draw and includes the main artery of the Rio Grand River.  The elk love the lower area as it provides more cover and the watering areas.  I just can't get the owner to allow me on their property.  He is an animal activist and will not let anyone on his property.  He knows he has an alk gold mine there.  I will keep trying but it is doubtfull.  The other ranchers surrounding the area allow me to cross over to get a downed animal but that is it.  They hunt as well so no permission is given to me actually hunt their land. 

Anyhow - good luck on your quest for your bigger bull! 

numbnutz's picture

Great story! I have been

Great story! I have been waiting for the story behind your first bull. I'm glad to see it finally got posted up here. Sounds like you had a great hunting trip. It's nice that you were able to secure to hunt on private land. It's very common for end to head for the private land once archery season starts and the amount of people grow in the woods. My normal hunting area in eastern Oregon has about 5,000 acres of prime hunting right in the middle of the unit. I have been trying to get acess for 12 years but the land owner sells hunt on his property and has yet to let me on for free. We have a pretty good relationship and talk evey time I'm over there. I respect him alot and would never go onto his land without his permission. He has told me if I shoot an animal and it runs onto his land I can go get it without asking first. I too have yet to harvest a branched bull and will on of these years. I have shot 5 cows and 6 spikes in my hunting career mostly because I'm saving my points for one of our prime hunting units and drew either cow or spike tags on a 2nd choice. I'm very jelous of you guys in Colorado with all the elk you have. In Oregon we have the 3rd highest elk population behind you guys and Montana. I really enjoyed your story it had great detail and was like I was there with you. Thanks for sharing and congrats again on your first.