It was late mid-September 2011, a week until my boyfriend Rex and I left for our 5 day archery elk hunt. We had everything ready to go, food, pack’s, camp supplies everything we could think of that we would need. I went through the list a thousand times!! There was however one particular item I did not have, a very important item that I would definitely need to make this hunt successful. MY BOW!!!!!!!! I was still waiting on Hoyt to send it to me.
You see the story on this bow is quite interesting. I had gotten rid of the Hoyt Kolbalt I was shooting figuring I’d have the other bow in time. It was 6 months before this hunt that I was attempting to get the paper work for this bow, 3 months later I finally did, and sent it in right away. Well I ordered the Hoyt Vixcen, and the camo I ordered happens to be one that’s not in stock! I keep waiting for this bow, finally a month before our hunt I call them and ask them what’s going on, I was told it would be here in 4 days. 4 days go by and no bow, so I call again, I was told 8 more days. This goes on until 3 days before my hunt! Well it was ready but it wasn’t going to be shipped until that next Monday, we left Friday! I fortunately got to speak with this great girl who was nice enough to over-night my bow to me.
Finally the day we leave for our hunt is here! All of the supplies are in the Jeep ready to go, and I have to wait until Cabela’s opens to find out if my bow came. Rex and I go grab some coffee and head to Cabela’s, I get there head back to archery….. FINALLY!!!! My bow is there! So then it takes me another hour to get my bow set up, sight, rest, peep, the works. I get this done, sight in for 10 yards in the range at the store, pray to God that this is going to work, grab a target to do final touches when we get there! About 4 hours later, we get to camp, set up and I spend the rest of the night sighting in my bow. I don’t think I got any sleep that night!
Next morning we head out, hoping we would be the only ones that were using this spot, we figured we would be since it’s quite a chore to get to it. As we get around the bend we see somebody parked by the Access Yes gate! These guys must of got there early because they were nowhere to be seen. Since there was somebody else there Rex and I debated for a little while whether to use this spot or not, but decided to stay and give it a whril. We get our bows out and check our packs make sure we have knives and game bags. Right before we start out on our hike we see a couple coming in on horses, chatted with them for a bit and they were kind enough to offer their horses in case we needed to pack out. Letting the horses go first, Rex and I double checked our packs and bows, scent killed ourselves and head out.
As we are headed out on our hike weary about all the other people and the horses we make a game plan, fortunately Rex knows this country like the back of this hand, so we weren’t too worried and knew where we were going. I pulled out my cow call and blow it a couple times as does Rex. We blow a couple times back and forth using the mouths calls as well. A couple minutes later we hear a bugle, thinking it was the couple on the horses we sit down and cow call again, immediately we hear another bugle but it not coming from the same direction as where the horses are. Rex pulls out the binos and glasses as I keep cow calling. We hear one last bugle and Rex spots antlers, and a couple of cows tucking up over the hill.
We know what we need to do, so we cross over the crick get to the base of this hill, drop our packs in some thick bushes and head up after this bull. I stayed a ways behind Rex as he made his way up this hill in thick brush and timber to see if he could see them at all, I stay back a ways and call for him, staying close enough that I could pull the bull into him. Rex gets to the top, telling me he has eyes on the bull so I stop 20 feet down the hill and keep calling. All of a sudden this young Rag Horn comes in at a dead run to this call and stops a perfect broadside 17 yards form Rex, he shoots, but right as he released the bull started to move, giving him a shot, but not the best placement. We hear the arrow hit and the bull takes off down the hill, and he was not stopping for the cow anymore! I get up to Rex and he is so excited he can’t contain himself. This is Rex’s first branch antlered bull.
Determining what happened, we go to where the bull was shot and find the part of the arrow that broke off, and a couple drops of blood. Rex tries to follow what little of a blood trail there was. I stay back at the spot where the elk was first shot. After Rex leaves I stay back and blow on the cow call a few times hoping that It won’t send that bull off too far, as I’m doing this I had a few friendly coyotes wanting to come play. I tucked into some brush and used the cow call for a now coyote call and kept calling at them trying to get them closer and closer to maybe be able to take a shot at one of them! I get them to come in to about 70 yards and couldn’t get them any closer, they just kept barking in return. After 45 minutes of playing with the coyotes I start trying to get a response from Rex. A few whistles here and there and he finally gives me a location. I get down to him and see a huge blood trail, he points to where the elk had bedded down at by the creek, he tells me he knows it wasn’t the greatest shot in the world and he needed to go take a second shot. So we go to do just that, I was going to go down to the far side of the elk, cross the creek and get up on the trail right behind where the elk was bedded just in case he kicked out of there the back way. I make it down to the back side behind the trees and have no sight of Rex anymore. As I was making it to the trail I hear branches thrashing , hooves pounding down the trail, and then I see him, full run straight at me, I draw by bow back on him once and he sees me, I let down and use my hearding skills to try and keep him from going up the hill. He broke off back down to the creek and falls right on the other side. Keep in mind I have no idea Rex had shot him again, so this whole time I’m thinking Rex just spooked him out of there. I follow this great blood trail and see where Rex had shot this bull again, make my way to him and we go to find his bull. Relieved that we got him down, we celebrated, took a few pictures, and got to work. After we gutted and filled our game bags, we loaded our packs and started the hike. Fortunately we had a total of a little over a mile and a half back to the Jeep once uphill once downhill. We both packed the elk out in two trips and 160lbs+ each trip. After the last trip we had just got back to the Jeep, look back up the hill and see two horses heading back out. AHHHHHH.. we just missed them! It felt good though, and it was only 2:30pm. So we take a break, load the meat into the Jeep and head out, and take it back to get the meat hung in town by 5pm since it was 80+ degrees out, there’s was no chance of hanging it overnight. What a trip, and we got to stay in town and sleep in a nice bed!
Well one elk down one more to go!
Now it’s MY turn, Rex and I get up early the next morning and head back to our spot, we get halfway there when Rex remembers he forgot the game bags in the dryer since he washed them, so we spend until noon that day trying to find a store that carried them! Finally getting some from his sister –in-law’s dad, who happened to live close.We get back on the hill by 2 and start our trek to find elk! Down the trail and up the ridge to a spot where they are normally some lingering that time of day, we get up the hill sit down look and listen, we hear them but can’t see them and assume they were on the other side of the hill. Back over few draws with an hour of sitting and listening when we finally heard the response we were waiting for! A loud bugle! We know where they are and we make our way there. Once we can see over the ridge we hear a couple cows bark, then there were about 30 head of elk headed up and over the backside of the hill the bull that was bugling was nowhere in sight. We tried to figure out why this herd took off all of a sudden. After a couple minutes we see hundreds of sheep moving into that area! DAMN RANGE MAGGOTS!! We trek on for the rest of the night, saw some sign but did not hear nor see anything. We made our way back to camp at dark and planned to head out early next morning.
5 am and we are heading out but to a new location this time were there shouldn’t be any maggots. We started our hike up the North ridge trying to see something, hear something. There was no response ….after hiking and blowing our cow calls for an hour and a half, we hear it!!! We hear that sweet raspy beautiful bugle, Rex pulled up the binos right as a HUGE bull tucked back into the trees. We were so excited to finally see and hear something, but we were 4 HIGE draws away from this monster! Off we go again, trying to follow the ridgeline up and around, in and out of thick brush and timber, slipping and sliding on the steep granite hillsides. When we get to the top of the ridge we realize we cant follow it around, if we did it would take until sundown. The only option now is go straight down and back up these draws. Finally about 2 hours of hiking later, we cross a clearing and look back up the hill and see decent 5 point, all by his self. Unfortunately he spooked and ran to the trees. We decide we want to play since it’s the only thing we saw since that morning. So we call at him for a little bit and I put a stalk on him. That bull came back out into the clearing but was still 100+ yards away, spooks again and he’s gone! We knew that wasn’t the bull we were looking for anyways, but it was a good rush. Still a couple of miles from where we last spotted and heard that bull we kept on going and finally hear them again, but this time we aren’t calling….
There were 2 bulls screaming back and forth at each other, they kept on going too! OH MY GOSH, I’d been praying this whole trip that I’d get a cool experience no matter the outcome, and that’s what it was sure turning into for sure. The bugling is getting louder we know we’re close. I go a little ways down from Rex and set up trying to pull this bull out into the opening. Rex call’s for me and this bull is going NUTS!!!!!!! I’m about 60 yards from it, still can’t see him though, but it’s one bugle after another and another. This bull bugled more than 20 times. Bugle scrape, bugle scrape! AHHH JUST COME OUT ALREADY!!!! He moves up to the tree line, and I see him, big ol branch antlered bull, 5X6 and gorgeous! He tricks me though, moves along the tree line behind me instead. I turn around and have a 30 yard shot at him, I draw back he stops broadside, YES, wait… no, no… one more step! DAMN, there was a tree in the way and he starts moving up the hill again and lets out another bugle, but all you can hear is a whine and a lot of air, he was a little hoarse.
I look back at Rex and he’s motioning for me to come up to him. I get to him and the bull is gone, so I decide to go set in the timber this time, stoop down on the trail and tuck in at the base of a tree. Right as I’m crouching down I hear this loud bugle look towards it and a different bull is running up the trail straight at me! Holy crap, he gets closer I start to draw back. Suddenly he’s there… 4 feet from me!!! Not sure what I should do except for not move.
He was a young bull from the looks of it, but had a hefty 5 point rack on his head, just trying to find the hot cow that should have been there. He can obviously smell her, since I decide to rub Elk Honey across the back of my boot. I’m watching him look around with a decent sized rack for his age, then he dips his head down and sniffs the part of my boot that’s sticking out with the Elk Honey on it. I don’t even think I have a pulse, I can see the snot dripping from his nose, the craziness in his eyes and hear him breath, all I can think is draw back and shoot him damnit, just do it, do it NOW!!!! Then the thoughts started to take over. Is it a good idea to shoot head on? Should I wait? If I try to shoot him will it be a good shot? Can I get the knife out of my pack and take him that way? Everything I could possibly think of in a minute I did. He moves, I get a quartering away shot now, go to draw back and wait for him to turn. He turned and ran a few steps the other direction, then stopped broadside 11 yards away. I go to draw my bow back, tried to pull once and I feel like I have something locking my bow, I can’t seem to break it over, try again, still the same thing and again. Each time my shoulder feels like it’s going to fall off I’ve drawn this bow back 3 times already today, what is going on. I’m getting so angry and I see Rex out of the corner of my eye mouthing shoot it, shoot it!!! All I can do is show him that I can’t draw my bow back. I’m feeling so many things; anger being the biggest one, the bull grew impatient and ran off. Rex tries to call him back. The bull bugled once more and was gone.
I still haven’t moved and Rex comes over to me I have my head buried, I’m angry and frustrated trying to figure out what was going on, I have a sick feeling in my stomach and Rex asked me what happened. I try to explain but still have no answer for why I couldn’t just shoot it! He then reminds me of how flippin cool that whole thing was. I did ask for a cool experience out of everything else, but didn’t think THAT would happen. We head back down the mountain on the treacherous hike and the whole time I kicking myself trying to figure out what happened. As we stopped for water, I sit down take my pack off grab some water and pick up my bow to see if anything has changed. I hook up my release and draw it back, once again I’m pissed, why could I not do that a half hour earlier???? Then it clicks.. my pack was ON when that bull came in, the only time I had my pack on that day when I was drawing back was that one time. ARE YOUKIDDING ME!!??? I’ve never had an issue drawing back with a pack on before; I drew back on Rex’s bull with my pack on. It just didn’t make any sense. By the time we get back to camp it’s just before dark and all I can do is still talk about what happened and how completely stupid I feel. I’m not mad any more just confused but excited about everything that happened that whole weekend. I don’t think I’ll ever know why I wasn’t able to draw back on that bull that day, but damn was it cool to see.
We both walked away from that elk hunt extremely happy. Rex with his first branch bull and me with one of the coolest experiences I could ask for. If it didn’t take hunting trips like that, I’m sure I wouldn’t love hunting as much as I did. I learned a huge lesson that day and will never look at archery elk the same way. I can’t wait for this season. It’s going to be EPIC!
By: Sadie Kennel