Roosevelts in the Red Zone

By Nathan Mendell
Oregon, DIY, Public Land

Nathan Mendell - Roosevelts in the Red ZoneMay/June 2013 EBJ (Issue 77) - Oregon coastal mountain ranges offer up some hardearned rewards for those who are willing to endure the sweat, blood and frustrations of public hunting lands. The 2012 archery elk season was not unlike any other, having little weather and lots of pressure to offer. But for a few lucky hunters, patience and tenacity can pay off. My name is Nathan and this is my story as it unfolded this season for my friend Stuart and myself.

Sunday, September 9th; Stuart and I were on our way back to the washout where the truck was parked. With us, we carried an elk head and cape and that unmistakable feeling of accomplishment from having taken a monarch out of the woods. That was the first elk that had ever worn Stuart’s tag, a dandy 6-point, one that any archer would be proud of, and one that many are still in search of.

We had shared a few of these types of memories together, with Stuart’s Bighorn tag in 2010 being the highlight. That overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment is the force that drives many of us while spending time afield. Ask any hunter and they’ll say the same thing; it’s not the kill that brings you back, it’s the pursuit, the hunt, and rising to the challenge. The "kill” is simply what happens if everything comes together, a culmination of events where the stars were all lined up. That’s what keeps you coming back. While the focus of this story is of my bull, Stuart’s hunt was incredible. All I can say is make sure you have a good camera in your pack. You can only share your experience with so many people without those photos…

Monday, a week later, Stuart and Scott dropped me off at the washout again. Stuart and Scott were hunting a nearby blocked road and the plan was to meet back at the washout at 11:00 so we could pack camp and head home if no one scored. Since I was hunting solo, they told me optimistically, if I wasn’t back by noon they were coming after me.

Like any other day I started up the road with hopes of running into a giant bull, but 3-point or better was the realistic goal. I reached the canopy above the river and began calling into every draw as I made my way up the road. I came around a finger ridge and bumped a herd up a draw into the old growth, but they never stopped. Figuring they would be nearly impossible to catch I continued on calling up the road. I had a few places in mind I wanted to make a couple setups where there is always sign, and call for an hour or so.

I reached the wallow where in years past we’d found evidence of places where bulls had fought and torn the place up. I set my cow decoy up and cleared out a spot to set my gear and make a couple shooting lanes. I had heard a guide talk about using hyper hot cow calls and driving the bull’s nuts, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Since I was by myself I thought I’d get crazy with it and nobody would be there to laugh. By 8:00 I had made a couple of wild calling sequences. About fifteen minutes into it a bull bugled back at me from up the draw. Not knowing how far he really was and if he was heading my way, I ended up staying there for about an hour. The wind was all over the place and I was real uneasy about where I was trying to intercept this bull, so when he bugled again and didn’t sound very close I gathered my stuff and hit the road again.

I would move up the road about four or five hundred yards or so and call again, trying to pin down his location. Every time he answered, he still sounded like he was a half mile off, even when I had moved up the road a half-mile. Eventually, I reached the landing where my youngest brother Pete killed his first bull, a 5-point in ’08. By now it was nearly 11:00 and I was getting a little discouraged since the bull hadn’t made any moves toward me.

Nathan Mendell - Roosevelts in the Red Zone

For a full account of Nathan's adventure, go to page 48 in the May/June 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.