March/April 2014 EBJ (Issue 82) - Hunting elk alone definitely has its advantages. For eight seasons I have been bowhunting elk successfully on a solitary basis. But after all the years of a quiet camp, I considered a change. Taking a monster bull three tortuous miles from camp on warm day in 2012 was the ultimate factor in my decision. The race to pack the meat out by foot all alone was overwhelming.
Being content with my previous successes and now willing to share all of my hard work and knowledge, I narrowed down a list of potential good hunting partners.
When asked, my buddy Carl didn’t hesitate to say, "Yes!”
The plan for a hunt was on but gambling to double up on elk can turn into a big bust. When I hunt, I cover a lot of territory, minimize my presence and hunt without hindrance. So why take that risk with a hunting partner and not stick with what I have? Because the rewards can be twice as good!
I’ll admit that I was still reluctant to share everything right away. I told my wife, "I don’t know if I’m going to take him to the honey hole. I just want to go out and have a good time. Carl doesn’t care how big of an elk he gets anyway.”
So, I decided to take him to a more competitive area where there can be lots of elk early in the season. The night before opening day we loaded up the truck and headed to elk country, and competitive it was! We got to the glassing knob just before dark and passed a guy on our walk out.
He said in a rude, uncomfortable way, "You know there are already five other people hunting here.”
I had hunted many competitive situations before and wasn’t worried. I could easily tell he lacked experience and his out-of-state license plate suggested that he didn’t know the area. Most likely he wouldn’t go more than 250 yards from the truck the next morning. It got even more interesting though, when we didn’t hear or glass a single elk that night. I had taken a couple elk in that spot in the past and wasn’t ready to give it up. We didn’t see any elk that evening but were going in the morning anyway.
Unfortunately, the next morning brought no change. We tried our best to turn odd-looking stumps into elk, but were skunked. Disappointed about a wasted opening morning, we headed back to camp early for a cup of coffee. After firing up the stove our competitor drove by on his ATV. Obviously, we needed to move. I told Carl it was his lucky day and we were going to the honey hole.
The only thing really special about the place was that there were rarely any other hunters there. It was a difficult place to hunt and had few elk. In fact, most exploring hunters I see there leave within one day, if not immediately. The previous season, it took me until the last weekend to connect on a bull.
After busting a trail into the area, we set up camp and split up for the evening hunt. I was wanted to see Carl get an elk and directed him to where I thought they most likely would be. I settled for the dark horse area a couple miles away.
Following the ridgeline for a short distance, I spotted another odd-looking stump. This time I was able to turn it into a blondhaired elk lying down on the hillside 600 yards away. A quick look above his ears with the binos was all I needed to decide he was a shooter. I assumed that there were cows with him and that there would be only two possible paths that they would take when they got up. I quickly chose one direction and started closing the gap.
The wind was unsteady so I peeked over the ridge a little early to see if they were moving yet. I looked to where the bull had been and only saw cows. A stick broke down the steep slope below me and I spotted a troublesome calf. Now I was stuck, peeking over some sagebrush and hoping the elk would move toward me. There was more movement near the calf so I lifted my binoculars and saw the bull right behind her.
For a full account of Kyle's adventure, go to page 20 in the March/April 2014 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.