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Mar/Apr 2011 EBJ (Issue 64) - Three years ago, I decided I needed to step it up a notch and get away from other hunters, back into more remote areas. Completely oblivious to what lay before me, I planned a backpacking trip into a remote location. I had chosen the location because of stories I had heard from a family friend, telling of encounters with massive bulls many years ago.
Accompanied by my cousin, Corey, we set off on a Friday after class. Packing into our chosen spot wasn’t easy - trails were non-existent as we climbed the steep canyon face. As nightfall came, no campsite could be found. In fact, the only gap in the timber wide enough to set up the tent was in an elk wallow on a sidehill, so that’s where we camped.
Not long after sunrise, we were surrounded by bugling elk. One bull answered my calls, but we never saw him. During the rest of the trip, we didn’t see a single elk. It didn’t matter; I was hooked. Hearing all those elk got my blood flowing and my heart pounding. I knew I was going to pursue bugling bulls for years to come.
Slightly more educated in the way of the wapiti, the 2009 season led me on two more backpacking adventures. My dad had plans to pack into an area where he had heard elk bugling in years prior - a notorious “hole” was the key feature in this area. We figured no one in their right mind would go down into the tangled mess of deadfall, leaving us and the elk alone. Much of the timber was so thick that you would not be able to see an elk until it was in bow range, which we figured worked to our advantage.
Setting out in the morning, packs loaded, we hit the trail. We found our way down into the bottom and set up camp in a meadow. The first night led to one of the most intense moments I have ever had hunting. We climbed up to the opposite edge of the basin and the bulls started bugling. I wasn’t sure how many different bugles we heard, but it felt like they were surrounding us. One bull in particular seemed interested in our calls, so my dad set up behind me. His screaming bugle sounded so close I wasn’t sure how I couldn’t see him.
fShaking uncontrollably, I peeked around the large tree I was hiding behind. Only 40 yards away, the bull emerged from the timber and walked right toward me. He was a good 6x6, which just made the shaking that much worse. I hid back behind the tree and drew my bow. Peeking around the other side of the tree, I saw him walking broadside at 20 yards. I followed him with my pins, but the timber was so thick it was hard to get a shot. I picked out a small hole and let it fly, and with a loud crack, he was gone in a flash. My arrow hit a branch right in front of the bull and he escaped unscathed. One additional backpack trip and some after school hunts later, I once again had not-so-satisfying tag soup at the end of the season.
Before I knew it, September was here again. It was back to the canyon for what was now becoming an annual event. However, our backpacking trip produced the same results as the last two years - bugling bulls, but no shots fired.
The day after our trip, it was back to school, but I still had elk on my mind. After class, my brother, Jonathan, and roommate, Jack, cruised up into the forest to stock up on firewood for winter.
For a full account of Marcus's adventure, go to page 14 in the March/April 2011 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.