November/December 2012 EBJ (Issue 74) - The hollow, gut-wrenching feeling of disappointment and disbelief had overcome me. After a year of planning and preparation, and putting the finishing touches on organization, this year’s archery elk hunt had spun rapidly downward. There was a fire in the area I generally bow hunt elk.
I looked up what information I could and made a few phone calls to the Forest Service. I wasn’t even slightly put at ease by the information I was getting from the other end of the line. All the maybes and what-ifs were out the window. The land two miles northeast of where I camp had been consumed by a forest fire that was about 80% contained and was still continuing to burn unabated in some spots because of the rough terrain and inaccessibility. The fire was still up and down and was expected to burn until the first snows. However, the area I camp in was outside the restricted zone; there was still a slight glimmer of hope! After calling the other three guys in the party, we were in agreement that we’d see how far or long the trip would last.
Upon cresting the top of the ridge overlooking my hunting area, I could see the damage to the northeast, as well as the white columns of smoke scattered throughout the area. Not only was I worried about the fire, but also of the possible invasion of a displaced bowhunter into my location. I was also concerned about the lack of elk in the area due to the fire and the associated commotion that goes with the efforts put into fighting it.
While driving into the spot that I historically camp, we were very surprised to find it vacant of any other hunters. Setting up two tents and stowing gear was short work for four guys. You could feel the anticipation to get out and see if the elk were still in the area.
By 3:00 we were well off the beaten path pushing towards the burn area. We had slowly moved through the trees for about an hour and a half and were coming up empty handed. There was evidence they’d been in the area, but nothing real fresh. The silence was broken by the unmistakable sound of bugles in the distance. We slipped through the trees just shy of a meadow when we spotted movement just on the edge. A few cows started to slip out to feed with a huge bull in tow. As the sun started to sink, it was time to get back to camp. We had a long way to go.
Sleep was hard to come by the first night. Images of the big bull were haunting my dreams. The unmistakable sound of rain or snow on the tarp that was over the tent didn’t help any either. As the sun came up, images in the tent started to become visible. Slowly moving around, I was unsure if I really wanted to head out in the weather. From what I heard all night, it sounded like it was either snowing or raining really hard.
Peeking outside, it was evident that it sounded far worse than it really was. It was decided we would head back into the same area from last night in hopes of finding the monster bull we’d seen yesterday evening.
After slowly moving through the trees the silence was broken with a faint bugle ahead and to the right of where we were heading. A quick change of direction and a short time later, the four of us were above a creek drainage looking across. Now, the bugle was below and to our right, and a lot closer. While debating a plan of attack, I caught some movement across the drainage. After cow calling a few times, we identified a few cows moving down the other side.
For a full account of Steve's adventure, go to page 48 in the November/December 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.