All Pain, All Gain

By Brian Soliday
Colorado, 2010, DIY, Public Land

Brian Soliday - All Pain, All GainNovember/December 2011 EBJ (Issue 68) - The throbbing in my knee was almost unbearable and bending it was out of the question. After hiking over six miles on the 16th day of my public land DIY archery elk hunt, I could hardly make it up out of the last draw near the vehicles. As my buddy, Bobby Gray, and I topped out, a bull from behind us let out his distinct chuckle, just to let us know he was still around. My mind was on getting back to camp, putting my leg up, ingesting medication and trying to get some sleep, which had been eluding my body for the last two weeks. The mending of the torn meniscus and stretched MCL in my knee would have to wait until after the season.

I had drawn a limited entry archery tag in Colorado and had spent every free moment scouting the unit. It was 720 miles and 13 hours of driving round trip just to get to my camp, but I made this trip five times over the summer - I saw 83 6x6 bulls during these trips, some of which are forever etched in my memory.

Opening morning came and I was walking through some quakies well before light, heading for a spot I called the Elk Bench. I made a couple of cow calls and heard a bull off to the west of me, so I moved that direction into a stand of huge ponderosa pines. I positioned myself behind a tree and made some soft mews, with the rising sun behind me. Through the timber I could see several cows, then a bull, then several others. In total there were eight bulls in this group. Since they seemed to be feeding my way, I just stood there and waited for them. At one point, I had two bulls at 20 yards off to my left sparring with each other, two doing the same off to my right, and a six-point out in front of me at 25 yards destroying a small pine tree. I had set my goal pretty high for this hunt, and was willing to pass on any number of good bulls, to take a trophy public land Colorado bull. I did this seven years ago in Wyoming, passing on multiple bulls before finally arrowing an 8x7 that scored 330.

The next morning, I headed back to the Elk Bench in the dark. As I stepped across a streambed, the grass was deeper than I thought and I severely hyperextended my knee, dropping me to the ground. The sharp pain let me know I did some damage, but I hunted the rest of the morning, hobbling along, as I could not straighten out or bend my knee.

My method of hunting had to change because of my limited ability to walk long distances or steep terrain, so I walked very slowly and stopped every 20 yards or so and glassed the areas ahead and to the side of me. This method worked extremely well for me, getting me in shooting position on nine different bulls on that first evening hunt. The most exciting stalk was a decent five-point that was browsing through the forest with two cows. I stalked to within 38 yards and drew my bow, then let down. I moved in closer and did the same thing at 28 yards, and then at 16 yards. As I was anchored, the bull decided to lay down right in front of me, with his head behind a quakie. I took out an arrow and was going to count coup by touching him between the ears if I could get close enough. At 10 feet, as I leaned forward with the coup stick, the gig was up. He jumped up and looked directly in my eyes, then busted out. After two days my hunt was already a success.

Brian Soliday - All Pain, All Gain

For a full account of Brian's adventure, go to page 18 in the November/December 2011 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.