We have had so many positive comments about Casey’s elk hunt, that I want to leave it posted for one more week. This is an excellent read and really exciting.
Just a side note, club members had two good days of shooting small ducks. Mostly gadwall, widgeon, teal, pintail and a few mallards were taken. On Friday the 12th, ten hunters took 30 ducks. On Saturday, twenty six duck were taken by eleven shooters. One of the members called me at 11 AM, and said the shooting was done by 9:30 AM. We had some weather move in from the southwest with really strong northerly winds and that brought some birds down. The big mallards have yet to arrive.
Checking the Sand Lake Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota they only have about 30,000 Mallards, and Squaw Creek in Northwest Missouri has about the same. We need a big blizzard across the Dakotas to push them all out.
It was 5:30 am October 11th and my alarm went off a little earlier than usual that morning. If it were waking me up that early for work or an undesirable task, I might have hit the snooze, but that morning my feet hit the floor almost simultaneously with the alarm. Finally, it’s my day for an elk hunt. Because I work for a local outfitter here in Wyoming, I have been immersed in elk hunts and bugles since the 20th of September. However, all of the talk, the hunts, and the bugles have been for our paying hunters. We, the crew, have to wait our turn to go on the hunt. Finally my day arrived.
I rushed out of bed and threw in my contacts. My dog Bailey raised up her head from sleep to look at me as if to say, “What are you doing up this early?” She at least got up to say good-bye before I walked out the door. It was a short drive to what we call the “Tracy Lake pullout” where I met my two buddies, Dan and Ben. Dan is our resident guide and had been on the hunt for 3 straight weeks. He thought we stood a good chance at a bull just above Tracy Lake. I arrived first while the stars were still shining and heard the occasional quack coming from the lake. I wondered if I should have brought my decoys and shotgun instead of my 270. Dan and Ben arrived shortly after I did and within 5 minutes we were hiking uphill in the dark. As we climbed the first hill and reached the first “bench”, Dan whispered, “It’s still early. Let’s wait a minute. Elk can be anywhere from here on.” Just before dawn, Dan let loose with a bugle. A bull answered right away. We’re in business. We moved on up the trail to get set up, hoping Dan would call him in. This bull was hot and bothered as he hit again without Dan calling. Now we rushed to get set up as it sounded like he was coming. “This is going to happen fast” I thought to myself. Dan bugled and the bull hit again. Dan cow called and the bull hit again. This conversation went on for 5 minutes, but where once he seemed to be moving in on us, now he seemed to be moving away. “We’ve got to go get him. He’s not coming,” said Dan. We moved our location. Dan was careful to cow call as we moved, to prevent making more of a disturbance than we had to. We set up again. The same conversation ensued but the bull made no appearance. We even heard a spike try to get in on the action. Then as quickly as it all started, all went quiet. “I think he’s wrapping around the corner in that drainage that goes up to Randolph,” Dan said. We were on the move again, paralleling the drainage, but hearing nothing.
By now the sun was up and it was warming up. Since we were on foot and moving, we took a few minutes to shed some layers and took a short break. “I thought for sure the bull was coming in,” chimed in Ben. We recounted in whispers all that took place just a few minutes ago, and our best guess was that he winded us. We pressed on hiking through what I would call “elk world,” bench after bench, pockets of meadows surrounded by thick timber, plenty of water, cover and everything an elk could want. We paralleled the drainage until it became a small canyon. Dan hit the bugle again and we got an answer immediately. The only problem was, it was faint. This bull was a ways off. “Got to keep him talking till we can get there,” Dan said. We were on the move covering ground as quickly and as quietly as we could. This wasn’t the time to enjoy the beauty of the country around us. Right now we had an agenda and all three of us were moving accordingly. Dan kept him talking as we moved toward him for a good 20 minutes. We tried to set up again but found the same situation as earlier in the morning. From the bull’s perspective, no reason to come to us when he already had his cows!
We moved a little more slowly and deliberately as we started our stalk. Only another 100 yards and Dan whispered, “Get Down!” We knelt down as best we could and there we were looking at 3 cows and a spike. The herd bull was nowhere in sight. I got set up with a makeshift gun rest from a downed tree. Dan told me, “Don’t shoot the spike, the bull is going to follow those cows.” We waited, but nothing happened. The next time the bull bugled, he was close. We thought he had wrapped around the trees where we could see the cows but not him. We needed a different angle if we were going to get a shot. We went up the next little knob to our right where we could get a better look at the entire meadow and not just the section where the cows were. As we got settled in, I looked down at the bottom of the knob about 45 yards and there was an elk. I whispered to Dan, “There’s an elk at the bottom of the hill.” “Is it the bull?” Dan responded. I couldn’t tell as it was in the shadows, so Dan raised up with his binocs and turned to me, “That’s the bull!” He was 45 yards from us, staring straight at us. We froze. He was staring at us, and we were trying to figure how to get a shot at him. What we knew for sure was that our window of opportunity was closing rapidly. This bull was starting to recognize that something ain’t right; whatever we do we’ll have to do it quickly. If he would just turn broadside I would have a great shot, but he just kept staring straight at us. As risky as it was, we had to move further up our little knob in hopes I could get a better angle. I took two steps and Dan said, “He’s moving left to right and coming out between those trees.” I scurried into position and here he came, just like Dan said. I knelt down and raised my 270 to shoot, knowing this had to happen fast. This bull was getting ready to hightail it out of here. I let loose with a round. His cows were starting to run down hill away from us and the bull clearly wanted to go too, but he was moving much slower than the cows. Clearly he had been hit. Dan was cow calling and about that time he said, “Shoot him again!” I pumped another round in the chamber. The second shot dropped him like a ton of bricks. To say the least, this being my first bull, I was a little excited. Dan told me later, “We’ve been friends for three years and I don’t think you’ve ever hugged me before.” I told him, “Don’t count on it happening again!” We both laughed.
Dan, Ben, and I exchanged high fives and handshakes as we laughed and talked about the events that led us to this kill. While the thrill of the hunt and the kill were a great experience, it still could not compare to the memories and stories I had with good friends. I will always remember this hunt, yes, because of the kill, but even more because I got to do this with good friends. That, as they say, is priceless. So, I wish you beautiful sunrises, plenty of game, and good buddies to share it with.
On a side note, as we were hiking back out to “Tracy Lake” we saw a mule deer about 45 yards out. I couldn’t help it, even though he was just a little fork, I couldn’t pass up the chance to fill both my tags in one very special day.
This was a really exciting read and congratulations to Casey on two nice animals in one day.
Good hunting, good fishing, and good day. Hank