July/August 2013 EBJ (Issue 78) - I grew up bowhunting whitetails in Wisconsin from a young age. Countless early mornings and evenings in a treestand taught me the required patience and proper shot placement to shoot both bucks and does. Since moving to Colorado in 2005, I’ve been on a quest to harvest an elk on a DIY hunt with an over-the-counter tag in some of Colorado’s vast wilderness.
Over the past few years, I’ve spent my week long elk trips with my Uncle John and friend Mikey in the mountains around Crested Butte, which is where this story takes place. Just a few days before, I unexpectedly lost a dog to cancer. We had to put him down that previous Saturday. My emotions were high and I thought about canceling the trip altogether, but then I decided that getting away might be what I needed. I took part of his collar with his name on it and hooked it to my hunting pack for good luck.
Uncle John, Mikey, and I were up at 5 a.m. to clear skies and temperatures in the 30’s. John and Mikey decided to hunt a bull that we heard bugling above the main trail the night before, so I walked a mile over toward my secret spot in the poplar stand.
The elk had been relatively quiet the first part of the week and we were hoping that the rut would soon pick up. Elk sign was plentiful, but the elk were only talking for a short while at sunup and then again right at sundown.
I got to the edge of the poplar stand just as it was starting to get light. As soon as I walked in, I heard elk moving across the trail uphill from me. Then I heard a soft squeal of a bugle.
I backed up and headed down the ridge to cut the elk off near their bedding areas. I walked 200 yards and re-entered the woods near a spot I thought they might pass and that gave me ample shot opportunities.
Then came the waiting game. I’m not much for cold weather, as my hands and feet get numb easily due to countless frostnips as a child. I waited and waited until I couldn’t wait any longer. After an hour and a half, they still had not come through, so I decided to make a move back up the ridge and head toward a different bedding area that had a lot of recent elk activity.
As soon as I started walking, I saw some elk near where I had come in. At that moment I heard my uncle come on the radio asking for an hourly report. I told him that I had elk in front of me and that I would have to call him back in a few minutes.
For a full account of Ben's adventure, go to page 20 in the July/August 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.