Idaho, 2009, DIY, Public Land
I’ve become accustomed to driving fast during hunting season. Whether scrambling out of town on our way to hunting camp or racing to be the first ones at the trailhead on a morning hunt, the accelerator always seems to get a good workout in September.
The trees were just a blur out the passenger window of Dave’s truck. The truck tires squealed each time we came to another hairpin corner and it was all I could do to not pass out. My breathing was labored, my arms and face were numb, and my heart rate was over 150 beats per minute. I had felt like this three weeks earlier, as I pushed myself along the final mile of a triathlon, but just sitting in Dave’s truck, I knew something wasn’t right.
It was the first afternoon of a planned 14-day archery elk hunt in our home state of Idaho. We had tasted success on our first hunt that morning, as I had managed to shoot a small four-point bull just after daylight. My hunting partners, Donnie Drake and Dave Perry, helped make quick work of packing the bull to the truck. Two hours later, we had the bull hanging in a local meat locker.
With luck on our side and two weeks of hunting still ahead of us, we stopped by the local sporting goods store so I could purchase a second, leftover elk tag before heading back to camp. Public land elk hunting in Idaho is anything but a guarantee, but if we could manage to get Donnie and Dave their elk in the next two weeks, I could pick my bow up and try to fill my second tag.
The cost of a second elk tag flashed through my mind as I glanced over and saw the speedometer on Dave’s truck hit 90. After an hour of white-knuckle driving, we were finally able to get cell phone service and Dave called 911. I was rushed into the ER and immediately hooked up to EKGs and IVs. The initial diagnosis was dehydration and a possible allergic reaction. After three hours, a Benadryl shot, and two liters of IV liquids, my heart rate was back down and I was released. Similar symptoms persisted over the next 36 hours and we decided to head back home for a few days until I was feeling better. Talk about good hunting partners.
Over the next week, the symptoms came and went, accompanied by a second trip to the ER and a visit to a cardiologist which produced no answers. By Friday, with six hunting days wasted and the thought of waiting another 12 months for the elk rut, I decided it was time to head back to hunting camp.
Our available hunting days had already been cut in half and the likelihood of getting two bulls in the next seven days was a long shot; not to mention the extra elk tag sitting in my backpack.
The first morning started out great. We were in elk right away and called in a beautiful 6x6 to within 70 yards of Donnie. We couldn’t coax him across the clearcut, though, and had to watch him retreat to his cool, dark bedding area. We decided to back out, hoping he would settle down and still be there the next morning.
As is often the case in elk hunting, the next morning was a different story. We couldn’t get anything to answer us. As we continued up the valley, we got two answers and both bulls quit bugling as we moved toward them. We decided to head back to the truck and relocate to a new area for a few days.
After getting our new camp set up, we headed out for a quick evening hunt. With only 30 minutes of daylight left, we got a response from the ridge to our left. We scrambled up the hill, cutting the bull off each time he bugled. As we closed the distance to 100 yards, Donnie set up on the right side of the ridge we were on with Dave on the left, and I stayed 40 yards behind.
The bull bugled and I screamed a challenge back. I could hear his heavy hooves plow over the dry pine needles as he came crashing down the hill. In a fashion particular to smart, old bulls, he stopped behind the last tree, sensing that something wasn’t right. With Donnie and Dave both at full draw inside 20 yards, the bull whirled and ran back up to the ridge to his cows.
Darkness set in and we slowly worked our way back down the ridge toward camp. A bugle from the opposite side of the canyon pierced the clear September air. As we stopped to listen in the darkness, we heard another, and then another. The sound of three bulls bugling immediately lifted our spirits and we made our way back to camp for a hot meal and warm sleeping bags.
As we anxiously awaited shooting light the next morning, we could hear two bulls screaming their challenges back and forth to each other 500 yards in front of us. With the wind in our favor and daylight finally on our side, I let out a bugle to officially join the chaos. I was immediately answered by a third bull directly behind us. We scrambled through the timber toward the opposite corner of the meadow, hoping to get in front of the bull before he crossed the valley.
As we reached the edge of the timber, I let out a bugle and watched two cows take off through the meadow toward the other side. Donnie scrambled ahead of us to the last bit of cover just as the big bull emerged 100 yards away. The bull stood there, looking our direction for what seemed like forever.
I turned my head, gave a soft cow call, and that was all he needed to hear. The bull turned to his left and started walking right toward Donnie. At 30 yards, he stopped and turned broadside. Donnie’s shot made a solid thump and the bull crashed off into the timber. I let out a bugle to try and calm down the bull and was answered by one of the bulls from across the valley.
For a full account of Corey's adventure, go to page 40 in the November/December 2010 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.