2009 archery season came to a close as we packed our bows in anticipation for an upcoming rifle season. This year offered another opportunity to help others fill their rifle tags. I had brief knowledge of the two guys I would be assisting. I asked myself, “do we spot and stalk” or “do we conduct call scenarios”??? “Who will shoot first” and “where should the elk be”??? I think everybody feels this way just before a much anticipated hunt! As I pondered these thoughts, I decided I’d ask the guys what they would like to do. Ends up the two guys in elk camp had never met! Once I arrived in elk camp, both guys acted like the best of friends. The two had already flipped a coin to see who would shoot first – can you believe it?
Opening morning arrived as we loaded up the Jeep and headed for the highest point in the area for a spotting opportunity. Elk had been all throughout the area so we did not want to walk around leaving human scent or spook them. We glassed the valley floor filled with Juniper and scoped the canyon draws for elk feeding or bedding down.
After about two hours we finally saw what looked like a branch bull bedded down so I zoomed in (sorry about the poor focus) for a closer look.
“Sure enough,” we found a shooter if we could just close the gap for a shot. We grabbed our gear, played the wind and walked towards the bull. My thoughts were that we get closer and try some seductive estrous to see if the bull would engage before pushing him out of his bed.
We set up in a triangle placing two shooters in different directions depending on what the bull would do. Ends up the bull did not want to respond to calls. We lost sight of the bull once we dropped off the peak. Walking in, we payed close attention looking for the bull to be close by. As we walked around the corner we spotted the bull approx. 115 yards laying down looking the other direction. Both hunters dropped to the ground and set their crosshairs for a better look.
Since the bull had no idea we were there, we decided to look very close at the antlers to identify if either hunter would shoot the bull. Hunter #1 chose to pass and felt since it was the first day, we would see lots of other mature bulls. Hunter #2 felt the same till the bull turned his head while I “Neimannated them”! I told them the bull looked like a 6X6 which got everybody excited, then I noticed the far side only had five points so I warned them.
I must say, these guys were very patient while trying to make the right decision. Realize, this is Oregon public lands with a branch bull 115 yards bedded just waiting to be shot! Both hunters ask, “what would you do”? I explained, “if I had my 7mm Mag., that bull would be done”! This fired up the other hunter as he got back in shooting position about to pull the trigger. “Nope he says, I don’t have a great shot”.
About forty five minutes had passed and the bull still had no idea we were there. I decided to see if we could get the bull up by making some cow calls. “No luck”… We were starting to think this bull may be gay! He would not respond or move to anything so we started talking, barking, etc. – still no luck! Finally Jubal decides he’s going to take the bull so we prepare for the blast of his 340 Ultra Mag.
You guessed it – one shot below the head and “praise the Lord” – no tracking! Great shot Jubal and thanks guys for the memory as I have never seen a bull just lay down without ever spooking knowing a bunch of hunters are moving in for the kill.
We gave a few cow calls followed by a bugle to settle the woods while we worked our way over to see what the bull looked like up close.
Lucky for us we were able to clean the bull out and slide him to a position where we could winch the bull up to a landing for trailer loading.
Once we had the bull loaded, we took it to a barn where we could hoist the whole animal up in the air for skinning. Not everyday we get to hang a whole elk!
The cool thing about this hunt had to do with the fact we were able to skin and hang the whole bull without harming any meat. I’m use to cleaning, de-boning and packing meat at least a mile up 1,000 feet of elevation over blow down. How’d we get so lucky this time???
Day two arrived when weather, freezing temperatures and fog settled in. Juan and I decided to venture out on foot in search of the illusive monster bull! As we moved slowly into the prime area, we noticed fresh sign.
The wind had been blowing so we could not hear a thing. We covered all the main bedding areas and looked high and low for movement however no luck! Day three arrived when we were able to get out nd spot again since the weather had lifted. After two hours of spotting, we decided to go in the high country for a look along the national forest fence line. Sure enough, elk were out feeding in the sun so we remained still and watched with binoclulars. The herd had about thirty or forty cows with a couple bulls laying down under some thick cover. We made a stalk that afternoon attempting to ambush the herd bull once they began to feed and move on.
No luck this year for Juan however we had a great time laying down in the herd as the elk fed past us at about five yards while we waited patiently for the herd bull that never showed. Better luck next time Juan, we’ll gettem bro… Just think, there’s a nice big 6X6 living in the area so maybe next year the bull will become an imperial.