November 2013 EBJ (Issue 80) - In 2005, my brother Scott, who many consider the luckiest guy they’ve ever met, drew an archery bull tag in the Valles Caldera of New Mexico. In 2007 he drew an archery bull tag in southeastern Washington that was showcased in the Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal and Steve Chappell’s Extreme Bulls video. And in 2009 he drew the same tag again!
Of course, I was at his side during all of those hunts, drooling over big bulls and fueling my own desire to draw a coveted bull tag for any state. My wishes came true in 2010 when I notched my tag on a 315-inch Gila bull in New Mexico. Scott was able to start paying me back as he packed all the meat out on that hunt.
When the 2012 draw results came out, Scott and I were on a job together (yep; we work together and hunt together.) As Scott checked the draw results on his smartphone and saw the word successful, we both erupted. I just can’t explain the feeling, but those of you who have been lucky enough to draw know what I’m talking about!
After the initial excitement, a sense of relief washed over me that I had finally drawn this coveted tag in southeastern Washington. I felt like it was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime tag, so I wanted a once in a lifetime experience. The best way to make that happen was to call mule packer Dave Waldron with Western Life Outfitters.
Scott and Dave have gotten to know each other real well over the years and Scott even guided for him on a few occasions. We agreed on a starting date in the middle of the season and staying until the last day if need be. We knew the bulls would have their cows and be herded up, but they should be bugling heavily. The rest of summer flew by; it was a blur of work, bow shooting, hiking, training, planning and family campouts.
Our ride to camp was mostly uneventful. That afternoon we went out to check my trail cam and were disappointed, as the battery had gone dead after taking many wind-related pictures. We did manage to get a bull talking and messed around with a few elk before heading back to camp at dark.
The next few days were brutal. The elk schooled us, plain and simple. We got sucked down into nasty holes, chased bugles back and forth and up and down. We blew elk out when we didn’t think any elk were around, moved quickly when we should have been patient, were patient when we should have been quick, got stuck in a blowdown shin tangle in the dark – any of this sound familiar?
By the fifth day we were beat and I was starting to feel a little defeated. We decided that because Emmett had to leave that day we would take it easy and go out on a morning hunt in an area where he could just drop off a ridge down to the trail. While we were walking down the trail in the dark we ran into a couple guys that we met earlier in the hunt. I was impressed, as they had been up there pounding the ground since opening day. They were in there fifties and every day they hit it hard trying to notch their tags on a bull. They told us they were planning to hunt one certain ridge, which just so happened to be the one we were headed for. We volunteered to go up the trail farther and give them some elbow room.
For a full account of Jeff's adventure, go to page 14 in the November/December 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.