Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Archery Elk Season

The 2012 Archery Elk season came to an end for me on Sunday.  It was one of the best seasons ever!  No, I didn't harvest a bull.  But I came sooooooo close, twice!  

A fresh Elk rub
An even bigger Elk rub!
A very well used Elk wallow.

One bull I bugled in to 30 yards.  He came in without making a sound.  I simply heard a twig break in the heavy timber I was calling into, followed a few moments later by yet another twig breaking...this time closer! When I kneeled down low to get a better view, I could see him coming.  When he stepped into the open, he was broadside, looking straight at me.  When I released the arrow, he pulled a move that Nemo in the Matrix would have been proud of and the arrow went right over his back.  He spun around and ran back into the heavy timber.  I screamed at him with my bugle which stopped him and turned him around.  For the next 45 minutes, he and I did a little dance, back and forth.  He always remained silent, but wouldn't leave the area, always staying 30-40 yards into the timber.  He nearly circled me, trying to get down wind. Finally, he stood broadside at 30 yards.  I came to full draw behind a good sized Douglas Fir.  I came around the side of the tree, put my 30 yard pin behind his front shoulder and released.  About ten yards from hitting its mark, the arrow deflected off a small branch I hadn't seen and sent the arrow low into a stump at the elks feet.  GAME OVER! He spun and never looked back. 

An owl that watched our progress through a favorite Elk haunt. 

The next bull I bugled in was a MONSTER!  I couldn't say for sure if he was a 7X7, but he was at least a 6X7 in the upper 360" range.  My oldest son Kyle was with me and actually heard the bull bugle before I did.  It was one of those times when we were in the right place at the right time.  He had his cows in a large patch of old growth timber, surrounded by various aged reprod units that afforded the herd good cover and plenty of food and water.  The area is well behind locked gates and most hunters won't make the effort to walk the three to four miles to get back in there.  

When I heard the bull the first time, he was probably 150 to 200 yards away.  He screamed back at me in a way that told me he was PISSED and coming to kick my butt! He covered the distance in about a minute and half and screamed four more times.  Every tree or bush that got in his way he just destroyed.  I've NEVER heard a bull so enraged!  When it was over my son said "Dad, I wasn't sure if I should stay there with you or take off running!" 

When Kyle and I finally got to see this bull clearly, we were both stunned at not only the size of his massive rack, but also the monstrous size of his body!  He was HUGE!.  He crashed through a 30 foot tall reprod douglas fir and came to a stop on the old road, broadside at what turned out to be 33 paces.  His huge size (and I'm sure a little too much adrenaline) caused me to mis-judge the distance to the bull.  When I placed my 20 yard pin a little high, behind his front shoulder I knew this bull was mine.  I released the arrow and it flew true, going low and missing cleanly about three inches under his heart.  The arrow skipped off the gravel road behind him and sailed off into the brush.  The bull spun back the way he had came.  Again, I screamed another whistle and several growling low grunts at him.  He too stopped and tried to scream back.  His throat was so horse, only air hissed past his lips and a series of loud grunts was all he could produce.  Kyle began raking a nearby fir tree as I continued making cow and calf calls.  After another cat and mouse game that last 10 to 15 minutes, I felt the wind shift and blow across the back of my neck.  GAME OVER!  I never got another chance at this bull and he left the area to gather up his cows.  It was one of the most incredible experiences to share with my oldest boy.  He told me later that it was the most incredible thing he'd ever seen in his life.  I had to agree!
My 2nd son, Colby stands beside a maple tree recently tore up by a black bear.
In this pic you can see the bears claw marks dug deep into the tree.
Throughout the past several weeks we've been into the bears too.  They've been feeding heavily in the ripe black berries, huckle berries and tearing up stumps looking for termites, ants, grubs and the like.  I've also seen more tore up wild choke cherry trees then I've ever seen. 
Next week I'm working on the North Umpqua, swinging flies for summer steelhead.  Then I'm off to the coast chasing coho and chinook with a fly.  Before you know it, Duck and Goose season will open and I'll be in my blind, changing my elk calls for a lanyard full of duck and goose calls.  Its a dirty job, but someones got to do it!