A Change in Plans

By Jaris Neilson
Oregon, 2011, DIY, Public Land

Jaris Neilson - A Change in PlansSeptember/October 2012 EBJ (Issue 73) - At the beginning of 2011, I was laid off from my job just prior to the birth of my second child. My wife and I decided it was worth it for me to stay home and be Mr. Mom. With our household income being cut in half, I knew that it was going to change things down the road. One big thing I knew it was going to effect was my hunting season. Typically my father and I will travel to central or northeast Oregon for a full week of elk hunting. This year we were going to have to hunt on a little tighter budget and stay closer to home and only hunt weekends when I could be relieved from my duties.

Opening weekend of the Oregon archery season arrived, which was a total bust hunting in the Cascades. Without cutting a track we knew we needed a change in our game plan for the following weekend. We decided to hit the coastal mountains in an area we used to hunt hard when I was just a kid and inexperienced bowhunter. It had been nearly 10 years since my father and I hunted this area together. Not because of the lack of elk in the area, but because of the sheer difficulty of the hunt. If you know anything about the Oregon coast range, you know it is steep and thick. Hence the reason we always choose to go east even though we might have elk in our backyard.

After my dad got off work on that next Friday after the opener, I met him at his house and loaded the truck. Packing it so full for a weekend hunt that we were joking that there was no room for an elk if we got one. We were off for the hour and half drive to our old stomping grounds. We were heading into a unit that has an antler point restriction of three point or better and the option to take a cow. We were both hungry for elk meat so our standards were set low and willing to take the first legal elk that presented a shot.

We arrived late at night and pulled the truck over and set the tent up in at the top of an old logging road that we thought lead into our old hot spot. Early the next morning we put on our packs, grabbed our bows and started our decent down the old ridge road in the dark.

As we were walking we realized we were not in our old spot as it was taking way to long to get to anything that looked familiar. Soon we found ourselves at the top of a recent clear-cut and we could tell we were a ridge off.

We knew that the other side of the drainage was always a good traditional bedding area with thick cover and water at the bottom. The skid road we were on was leading down to that same creek bottom in a very round-about way. Three miles later, all down hill, we were finally where we wanted to be. By now the sun was up and the early September temperatures were rising. After getting up the next hillside, we were ready for a break and a chocolate muffin we each had packed for breakfast.

Dad and I were siting down enjoy our muffins, talking and daydreaming about how nice it would be just to see an elk or even just hear one at a distance. No sooner were we talking about this I heard what sounded like a cow chirp. I asked dad, "Did you hear that?”

"No…what?” I told him it sounded like an elk to me and it sounded close. Soon after in the same direction I heard the cow chirp I heard the weakest elk bugle I have ever heard. It was for sure an elk and dad definitely heard it that time. I told my dad, "You’re up to bat, and I’ll hang back and call.” He never hesitated. He knocked an arrow and was headed in the direction of the calls. My old man has taught me everything I know about hunting and it was my time to repay him by calling in an elk for him.

I let him get out of sight for a few minutes before I started my calling sequence of cow calls and the occasional bugle. Soon into my calling I heard what sounded like a better bugle and he was for certain coming our way. As I was busting branches and making every sound I could to convince this bull that a herd of cows and a small bull moved into his area, I thought I had better try to find some kind of shooting lane in the tangled mess we were in just in case another elk slipped around us.

Jaris Neilson - A Change in Plans

For a full account of Jaris's adventure, go to page 66 in the September/October 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.