I can’t count the number of times I’ve arrived into a camp and heard, “You just missed the action – or, I’m sure next week things will really be ramped up.” Timing’s seldom perfect, but on this elk trip- my timing couldn’t have been better.
Upon arriving in camp, the weather had finally cooled down and the rain had quit. Earlier in the season, things had been extremely wet and a lot of people were having a tough time. Now with the weather breaking, the elk were starting to bugle and everything looked like it may come together. Not only was I excited for the elk hunt, but I was really looking forward to this trip because my guide was a good friend of mine from college. Either way, I knew we were going to have a blast, but by the sound of it we were going to have an incredible elk hunt.
I decided to use my Winchester Model 70 .300 Win. Mag with a 180-grain Winchester Ballistic Silvertip. Our goal was to bring elk in as close as possible, but if one decided to hang up…I would have an ideal setup for a longer shot.
The first morning we were out well before sunrise, and elk were screaming literally one after another - I just sat in awe. It never gets old hearing an elk bugle in the morning and especially when you know you’re only minutes away from mixing it up with him. One of the first things we all pulled out were a few Montana cow elk decoys that easily fold up into a backpack. They work great for a couple reasons. One, they can conceal a lot of movement if you need to cross a clearing or an area without much cover, and they also can get bulls locked in and committed. Once these big boys hear calls, they have a visual, and many times…this is all that is needed.
Thirty minutes into the hunt we had a small bull come into our setup completely dazed and confused by calls and decoys. He was within ten yards and simply wouldn’t leave. He was convinced there were some cows to find, and was determined to find them one way or another. He eventually decided something wasn’t right and moved on, but he was a pretty good decoy for most of the morning. We ended up calling in a couple other bulls, but nothing was quite mature enough to shoot. However, we saw several nice bulls off in the distance that we were hoping to get on later in the hunt.
After a little trial and error and a few days hunting, one morning we spotted a big bull on his own about 1,000-yards in the distance. He was getting mad that we were in his turf. We decided to cut some of the distance and get set up while Ryan, my guide, ran back behind us calling. He broke branches, and ran around like mad making it as realistic as possible. This was exactly what this bull needed and he started heading right for us. As Ryan listened to the bugles he moved ahead, and ended up calling this big bull into 18-yards from where I was set up. Even though it was a nice close shot, I was shaking like a leaf and happy I had a set of shooting sticks to set up on. I let him put on a show all the way until the point where I knew he may catch my wind, and squeezed the trigger. The bull didn’t make it much more than 20-yards and hit the ground. We did elk – elk on the ground.
This certainly does not happen on most elk hunts, but in all my years this was the finest action I had ever been a part of. Not only was it up close and personal, but it was also my biggest bull to date!