June/July 2013 EHJ (Issue 137) - It was opening morning. The temperature was 10 degrees and I was by myself. In preparation, I had scouted four weekends, hiked 100 miles, and felt confident in my scouting abilities. A week before the hunt, a friend helped me set up an outfitter’s tent but he was not able to be there with me on opening morning.
Around sunup I was in a spot where I had seen bulls previously. I looked to the south and three bulls were looking at me. I got behind a tree and attempted to size them up through my binoculars. That was my first mistake; I am 6’3” peering over this tree instead of under, and the reflection of the binoculars spooked the elk.
The next morning it was a nice 26 degrees so I didn’t think I needed thermal underwear. Unfortunately, this particular day never warmed up. I eventually got cold and frustrated so I decided to head back to camp just before sunset. As I was walking along with the sun in my eyes a bull jumped up at 100 yards but I could not see through the glare to get a shot.
Another time, a friend and I had not seen an elk all day. With five minutes of shooting light left I put my gun over my shoulder to walk back to the truck when 60 yards in front of me a bull stepped out. By the time my gun was in position to shoot, the bull was gone. I ended up seeing 37 bull elk and came home with just my tag.
One reason I share these stories is if you ever are frustrated and think of giving up hunting – don’t. Every time you go hunting you learn something to improve your skills.
God blessed me with another chance to try again a few years later. I hired a guide because I turned 50 the week before the hunt and decided to give myself a birthday present.
The hunt area is a four-hour drive from my house, so I left at 3:00 a.m. and arrived in the area around 7:00. My guide had suggested that before arriving in camp three days before the opener I check out an area on the way in because they did not have time to scout it themselves.
I hiked up a draw a mile or so and came over a rise and saw a bull whose fourth was broken off but he was an eight on the other side, a good way to start. After watching this bull for about an hour the bull got up went over the ridge. In hindsight, I should have stopped and laid low until the bull went back to bed.
Next, I drove a couple miles to the west. While getting out of my truck I saw a flock of 25 turkeys 100 feet away. They knew it was not turkey season because they never flew away. I hiked to the top of the ridge and glassed the opposing hillside. There were a couple nice bulls, a few raghorns, and a bunch of cows. The sun started to set and I had an hour or so drive to get to camp. When I met up with my guide that evening he said they had been scouting for the past two weeks and hadn’t seen very many bulls of any size.
The next morning we scouted in a different area and saw five more bulls. The biggest might have scored 330-340 and there were two others three miles off.
On Thanksgiving Day, before the hunt we went into an area and saw the other two bulls we had seen the day before. Both scored about 330-340. My guide said that those were good looking bulls for a late hunt. But, I had my sights set on a 350 or better bull. My guide reminded me that they had scouted for two weeks prior to the hunt and that the odds of finding a 350 bull were slim.
For a full account of Philip's adventure, go to page 18 in the June/July 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.