Wyoming, 2009, DIY, Public Land
Morning came with much cooler temperatures than in previous days. Starry skies were infinite over the frost-covered ground and bugles sounded in distant darkness. We could hardly contain our anticipation for the day’s hunt. After some breakfast discussion by headlamps and Jetboils, my brother/hunting buddy, Garr, and I decided to try an enticing area that appeared void of elk the weekend before.
A quick 30-minute climb from camp burned off the last of our morning chill as we watched the first splashes of sunlight pour over the mountaintops above us. We crested one last rise and immediately knew we had made the right decision. Bugles resounded from the timber above us and across the creek.
As we glassed the ragged skyline above timber, we were amazed to find elk scattered as far as we could see, raining off the top like ants. Every basin and drainage had elk, and each herd had a dominant bull or two in it - what an exhilarating sight! I couldn’t think of a better way to start a September day in Wyoming.
Several mature bulls caught our attention. Some chased pesky satellite bulls while others tended their cows. One skylined bull in particular caught our eye immediately. He looked awesome as he stood regally on a rocky point that jutted into oblivion. His long, heavy tines were in sharp contrast to the blue sky. He owned 40-50 cows, which were slowly picking their way through rocky crags into a steep timber pocket below him. Every so often his growly bugle would drift into the valley.
We discussed how we might make a move on the bull, but opted to wait until he got his herd settled for the day. They were in a tough spot and it was too early in the hunt to be sticking our necks out there. We longingly muttered as we glassed him, “Wouldn’t that be cool to get a stomper like that with a bow?”
“Heck, I’d take him with a rifle.”
Meanwhile, there was a volley of bugles in the timber and more elk moving off the top, so we eagerly crossed the creek and began our climb to test fate. Elk trails three feet wide webbed throughout the timber, and black dirt was so churned up that it made for soft, silent walking. The musky smell of elk thickened the thin, high country air. Now this was archery hunting!
The next few hours gave us some ridiculously close calls on two great bulls, each scenario an adrenaline-charged story in its own right. It’s amazing how eight feet can be so close, yet so far.
Afterward, we took a short mid-morning break while the elk were settling down for the day. I’m pretty sure we were grinning as we took in the stunning work of our Creator. An occasional, distant bugle would break the silence, but the morning hunt was coming to an end…almost.
Garr and I traversed some steep country to get to a timber pocket where we predicted the big ol’ skylined bull would be with his cows. Setup after setup revealed nothing but silence. After a couple hours, a last-ditch effort ended quickly as we bumped a cow at ten yards. We had a staredown for a long second before she had enough and blasted out of there, taking the whole herd with her. As I cow-called and Garr bugled in an attempt to calm the scene, I scanned the blur of elk bodies for the bull. No luck.
For a full account of Greg's adventure, go to page 14 in the November/December 2010 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.