A Tip of the Cap

By Clayton Nalder
Idaho, DIY, Public Land

Clayton Nalder - A Tip of the CapMarch/April 2014 EBJ (Issue 82) - Hunting general OTC hunts has always brought fewer encounters with bigger bulls than anyone wants but it is about the experience and not the size. The 2013 season started off slower than any other season I can remember in my 20 years of hunting. Warm weather and lack of elk activity delayed my hearing a bugle until September 17. A week later, my hunting buddy Dean and I were occasionally finding a vocal bull or two and he harvested a quality five-point. Subsequently, he did the almost impossible at the conclusion of a two-hour stalk, by harvesting a mountain lion with a bow and without hounds.

By midseason the weather changed drastically from highs in the upper 70’s to snow below 6,000 feet and highs in the 40’s. Three of us spent a miserable day out where it rained from shooting light until we reached the vehicles. We did see a nice non-typical bull but spent the majority of the day tending fire under a large spruce tree. The elk also retreated to cover, as we heard nothing the rest of the day. My wife and kids welcomed me home with cases of head lice, so I decided to skip the evening and morning hunt to deal with lice and dry out gear.

After going through the kids’ hair and swigging a couple of cups of coffee the next morning, I checked the weather and it looked like there was a break from the rain and snow. The kids were okayed by the school nurse to attend school and with my partners drying out and sleeping in, I decided to head out on my mountain bike and look for areas with some bugling bulls for the following day.

I quickly threw my pack together, forgot several important items and headed out. I rode two miles and then hiked another mile to a bluff where I bugled and listened for answers. I did hear a distant bugle but with the wind blowing I could not get a location. I returned to the truck and went to Plan B.

Unfortunately, there was another vehicle already there when I got to that location. The closed road split a mile out, so I decided to go anyway. At the split the other hunter went with my Plan B which was the easier road, so I headed out the other road that held a beautiful meadow system with wallows.

I slowly made my way to the wallows, which not surprisingly had not been used, but I did cross several fresh tracks from the morning. I bugled and got an immediate but distant response south of my location. With the sky spitting snow, I was not completely prepared to spend a full day in tough conditions so I questioned whether to give chase or not. Given the tough season to date, I neglected logic and started after him.

Clayton Nalder - A Tip of the Cap

For a full account of Clayton's adventure, go to page 38 in the March/April 2014 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.