March/April 2013 EBJ (Issue 76) - In my experience, most opening day elk hunts never go as planned. But, opening day for my Washington State Quality Archery elk tag in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State was better than I could have planned.
I was very happy to have my dad, Steve Paulsen, and Uncle, Al Gadd, along for the hunt. I took them on a four-hour journey on mountain bikes up logging roads to an area where I had located four great bulls the weekend before. I had my heart set on one bull in particular – a long and heavytined 6x6 with a 4-inch sticker point on his left royal tine and a radio collar that added to his uniqueness.
After our long bike ride we were greeted with an abundance of elk sign. The scenery was typical of the Evergreen State, with timber-covered hills dotted with fresh clear cuts that encircled the rugged Cascade Mountains. I dropped my pack and worked the ridgeline in search of my bull. My dad and Uncle stayed behind to glass the opposite ridge and meadows below.
My journey was everything an elk hunter loves to see. I found more elk wallows that day than I have seen in most seasons. Each was well-used and dug out, resembling muddy bathtubs. The smell of elk was intoxicating, as if I was walking through an elk petting zoo. I was expecting to see elk behind every bush, but they were nowhere to be found. My cow calls and bugles were not being answered either.
I found the exact location where I had spotted the collared bull on my scouting trip the weekend before in a small grassy mountain meadow the elk use regularly. It seemed as if every small fir tree surrounding the area was peeled from the rubbing of antlers.
I crested a ridge and found a vast meadow with the wallows spread throughout. I let out a bugle to see if a bull was close. I was answered with a bugle, and the hunt was on. As soon as I set up and ranged the trees in front of me at 25 yards I could see antler tips working my way. After a few more steps from the bull, his distinctive left royal tine with the four-inch sticker became visible.
This was my bull! I needed him to commit to the right or left of the bush in front of him to expose his vitals. I came to full draw, expecting the bull to go right. I settled on my anchor points wanting for my shot, then waited…and waited! I had to let down.
He let out a bugle. I reached for my bugle to bugle over the top of him aggressively in order to challenge the bull to come closer for a fight. The bull turned to go to my left. I again came to full draw…I waited, and waited. He was hanging up and I had to let down again.
He bugled and I again bugled over the top of him. His head and antlers were moving from right to left then left to right. He was searching for the bull that was challenging him. My thoughts were begging him to come out into the open. Time was ticking away and I came to full draw for the third time hoping he would move into my shooting lane.
Then it happened! He turned and swaggered back into the timber, following the same path he came in on. My heart sank and I tried to coax him in with some more calling knowing that this was a last ditch effort because he was gone!
For a full account of Corey's adventure, go to page 34 in the March/April 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.