A Change in Plans
Mar/Apr 2011 EBJ (Issue 64)
Colorado, 2009, DIY, Public Land
- The temperature broke 80 degrees that afternoon and sweat was pouring off me. I didn’t mind because I was trying to achieve something few people get a chance at in Colorado - tagging out on a 370-class public land DIY bull. I had everything in my favor - the wind was still, the trail I was on kept me hidden, and as I crept up to the big 8x10, he started raking a clump of gamble oak. Perfect.
I ranged him at 58 yards as he thrashed the six-inch oak trees like they were tiny aspens and then drew my bow, waiting for him to step out far enough for a shot. I had watched this bull for the last two months, and while never from this close, I knew he was the trash bull. Then things sped up as a breeze suddenly swirled on the back of my neck. At that moment, the bull’s antlers rose from behind the oaks and he exploded out of there without ever offering a shot.
It was early in the hunt - only day seven of a 29-day season. I had a good tag for Colorado, but by no means a trophy hunt for the public land hunter. I was fortunate enough to have my wife and our two little girls camping with me, so I would hunt in the mornings and evenings and then during the day the four of us would collect rocks and lizards, hike around looking for sheds, and take midday naps - life at its best.
During the summer, I had located four bulls I thought were 350 or better, and I was optimistic the rut would kick in later on in the season. In the meantime, days were spent glassing elk during the morning gray light and watching them bed down, then planning a stalk or evening ambush. This method resulted in encounters with several bulls less than 30 yards away, but not with bulls I was after. Most of the country was big, steep, thick and roadless; just the kind of terrain that keeps out the hobby hunters that drive around in their side-by-sides or quads looking to shoot something from the road.
In the middle of the archery season, the muzzleloader season started and the influx of hunters pushed the bulls out of the area - I knew I had to change tactics. I finally located “Option B”, a bull that was hanging out with the trash bull during the summer. Option B was a beautiful 6x6 that I thought was in the 340 range. He had 14 cows with him and was king of the valley at the moment, and time was running out. I couldn’t locate the trash bull, but I was finding Option B every morning, and while he was answering my calls, he was not willing to leave his cows long enough for me to get a shot opportunity.
It was now the last week of the hunt. The daytime temperatures were still in the 70s and the rut was less than I had hoped for. I had an over-the-counter turkey tag and had been seeing turkeys every day in the creek bottoms, so around noon one day, I decided to go find a bird instead of taking a nap.
As I was scaling down the red rock cliff to get into the area, I stopped and took off my outer camo layers trying to cool down when I noticed a black bear feeding on some grass below me. I was sitting there watching and filming the bear when a bugle rang out behind me. I was caught in the open in a white t-shirt with 15 elk behind me watching from the cliff line 400 yards away. I slowly melted into the ground and tried to hide behind some mountain mahogany as I re-camouflaged. After 45 minutes, the elk started off the cliff in my direction, but as they were finally getting close enough for a shot, I ran out of light.
For a full account of Maurice's adventure, go to page 22 in the March/April 2011 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.