Wallowing In Elk

By Ryan Parker
Colorado, DIY, Public Land

Ryan Parker - Wallowing In ElkMarch/April 2013 EBJ (Issue 76) - As the lead cow made her way down into the wallow my eyes did a double take. While I essentially had to keep my eyes shut and watch her every move through my eyelashes, I knew in my heart of hearts that a big bull would be trailing shortly behind. The fact that I was on a solo hunt and was experiencing this in the serenity and peace of my Maker’s creation without anybody to share the event with made this an unforgettable hunt that will be etched into my mind and memory for the eternities.

For the past couple of seasons, I’ve had the privilege of hunting one of Colorado’s coveted limited entry units with and without a bow in hand. Unfortunately, in the end I was unsuccessful in harvesting a bull, and although I had a multitude of opportunities, I was holding out for the one, and the one didn’t present a good kill shot. However, I was able to support multiple friends by in calling in and killing bulls in a unit that requires 4-5 points for archery season.

I’ve learned over the past couple of years that in the archery game, it seems to be more of a wise approach to stagger the permits associated with a hunting party out over a period of a few years, versus having several hunters within the party draw permits during the same year. It seems like those that are semi-capable at coaxing the bulls in with calls tend to benefit the party more than themselves. Now, I don’t consider myself a selfish person, but I sure enjoy letting the wind out of a bull every now and again.

With no limited tags in sight for 2012, I figured that I’d resort back to an OTC public land unit where three seasons ago I had an incredibly close archery encounter with the largest bull that I’ve ever viewed in the state of Colorado.

Given my work schedule and what has seemed like a recent cadence that has involved perpetual travel, I had very little time to scout in 2012. What time I did have was primarily spent behind a Swarovski ATM 65 from a long distance, glassing canyons, draws, and any crevice that I could find that I thought might hold some elk.

As my buddy Chad and I approached the area on the opening morning of the season I decided to venture up a draw that I had never accessed in prior years. This was Chad’s first time ever hunting in this part of the state.

What we found after a ten-minute hike up the draw sent chills up my spine with the knowledge that we had hit an elk hunting gold mine. We managed to locate a triple-tiered wallow system that was laid out over a 30-40 yard span. It had a mud bed at the top completely covered in elk tracks, a two feet deep pool of extremely murky water in the middle section, and another 6-12” deep pool of very murky water in the lower section. I received an immediate firm impression that this spot would produce a nice bull in 2012.

As we walked around the wallow system in amazement at what we had found, we found a fresh elk rub on a tree ten feet from the upper muddy section. One of the bulls managed to leave behind a two-foot strand of velvet, which offered absolute verification that what appeared to be a large bull was cycling through the wallow system regularly.

Chad and I sat on the wallow for the vast majority of that day, and unfortunately, no elk ever cycled through the wallow on the opener. One of the reasons for the lack of elk could have been due to Chad’s inability to keep his eyes open, the gravitational pull on his upper body, and tendency to snore. While I can’t lay all of the blame on Chad and need to take some myself, I knew that a blind of sorts needed to be created on one side of the draw that would conceal the bodily silhouette up to my chest from any elk that decided to venture into the wallow. Throughout the day, as boredom set in, and while Chad was snoring, I gathered some branches, sticks, and debris that ultimately proved to be the golden ticket, but obviously created some noise that probably reverberated up and down the draw as I completed my structure.

The following weekend proved to be impossible for venturing out in the pursuit of elk. I had come down with a severe cold that required me to take a nebulizer treatment every couple hours due to severe wheezing that was so loud the wheezing woke me up on multiple occasions on one particular night.

Ryan Parker - Wallowing In Elk

For a full account of Ryan's adventure, go to page 42 in the March/April 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.