September/October 2012 EBJ (Issue 73) - After more than a decade of applying for a coveted elk tag in Wyoming’s unit 31, I finally abandoned the idea and went looking for something a little more realistic. My son, Riley, and I had shared a wonderful hunting experience in 2010 in the north central part of the state where we saw some very good bulls. Based on that, I applied for the same unit and finally got lucky.
Opening day of the archery hunt found me alone on a ridge where Riley and I had watched a nice bull the year before. It’s funny how we as hunters are drawn back to certain locations from year to year. Whether it’s success or sentimental, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s little of both. Nonetheless, there I was, once again, glassing some of the most beautiful elk habitat the Lord ever produced. It didn’t take long to locate a nice six point in almost the same place as the bull we chased the year before. Same bull? You tell me. All I know is that being there again proved to be a good idea.
After nearly an hour of attempting to put 20 more inches on a 330-class bull, the realization that this was not the guy I was looking for finally set in. "Nothin’ ever comes easy for me,” I said out loud as if someone was sitting there beside me. Then the words came to me that my brother once said as we were packing out a bull on one of our marathon hunts in Utah’s Uinta Mountains. "Nothing worth a crap comes easy.” My batteries were once again recharged. Hunting hard for the next five days produced some good prospects, but nothing worth a notched elk tag and unfortunately I had to return home to Utah to work.
September 28 found me back on that same ridge looking for the nice six point I’d seen earlier, as this was the best bull I had laid glass on thus far. Lucky for me, my buddy, Mike Pribbanow, came along this time to help with his calling techniques and to assist in packing out elk quarters, should I be so lucky. As we glassed we heard a bull and a few cows in the next drainage behind us. We listened and glassed till dark, put the herd to bed and formulated a plan for the next and final morning of my hunt.
On the last day of the archery season, we made our way around the mountain and into the basin where we last heard the elk the prior evening. Approaching from below, we had down drafts in our favor all morning. Unsurprisingly, the trail was active with fresh grizzly tracks not more than an hour or so old. Knowing the bear was in the area, and my love for bear hunting just added a greater element of excitement to the adventure. Fresh sign was everywhere so I knew this was his domain and we were smack dab in the middle of it. As we closed in on where we thought the elk might be, Mike let out a soft chirp and the bull immediately responded. We moved in as far as we dared and cow called one more time. The bull responded again and was now moving in fast! Mike split off to my right about 25 yards and I got set up behind a small pine tree.
For a full account of Randy's adventure, go to page 50 in the September/October 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.