The day was September 5th, my hunting partner, Mike and I headed up the high Colorado trail with our packs and bows, excited about the next 5 days. We had been out the last couple of weekends without much action but started to hear reports that the elk were starting to bugle. Since most of the reports came from road hunters, we were confident that it would be even better for us - since we backpack deeper into the country where the big bulls call home.
From that first day on, we were into elk. But on Thursday afternoon, things really started to heat up. I had caught sight of some elk feeding along a ridge at 11,000 feet. It was early in the season, so calling did not seem
Between my cow calling, and a few subordinate bugles thrown in - the real cows began chirping at me and the herd bull started screaming just out of range. Several times I was busted by a cow or two, but the whole herd never spooked. I stepped up my calling. Aggressively bugling to try and challenge the big bull. He would charge, then stop just short of giving me a shot. In this dark timber 30 yards can be a real problem due to the trees and branches. We did this back and forth for close to an hour. It seemed the big bull wanted me to show myself before he was going to duel. I finally backed out and let them bed down for the rest of the day. I figured we would come back tomorrow.
It wasn't until early afternoon of the next day when we came back to this area. We reached an overlook to a small pond and a meadow with a wallow at the top end. Around 3:30 pm we heard a bugle coming from the timber to left of the meadow. Then another and another yet again. This time from farther back in the timber on the north east side of the ridge. It appeared there were 3 different bulls starting to sound off. We eased ourselves to the edge of the overlook and glassed down to the meadow and surrounding trees. The cows began to come out of the timber to feed in the tall green grass. The bugles became intense. One in particular distinguished himself from the rest. Around 4:00 pm he appeared at the far end of the meadow, his huge rack was laid back as he came trotting into the meadow lip curling, making popping sounds, and herding the few cows that had made their way into the opening. Mike and I just sat a watched the show. After a few minutes we discussed our options. It was Mikes stalk so I was going to lay back and would try and call one in for the shot. As we devised our plans the sky behind us had started to darken. There was a pretty good storm forming over the mountains to the west and it appeared it might t be headed our way. We both became uncomfortable. For anyone who's ever been in a high mountain electrical storm, they know what it can be like. As the rain started to fall, we quickly moved off the point, taking pains to stay concealed in the trees. The elk moved back into the timber and this allowed us to move down. Suddenly, there were elk right in front of us. Mike and I got situated under some wind blown pines. The weather had turned even worse, and things were pretty tense at this point.
Lighting cracked across the sky and every once in a while one of the bulls would bugle in response. The cows were coming out of the trees and moving up the basin from left to right - 125 yards below me. I went back to where Mike was with his head down. I told him at that point "one of us is going to have go down there and kill that bull if he comes out of the trees". He said "just wait." Well I waited and went back to the overlook 2 more times before the entire herd was completely out of the trees and making there way up the basin. Mike, told me to take the stalk since the storm had him pinned down. The wind was perfect and the sleet coming down covered any sounds I could make. All I needed to do was avoid 40+ eyes from catching me move. I moved slowly, down to the last stand of timber between me and the big bull. The cows and calves were to my right at 20 yards, but the bull was still 50 yards below me behind trees. I figured that the bull would follow the cows - already in position. Just then I heard rocks rolling down the slope above and to my left. I couldn't imagine what it was! The bull came charging up the hill and stopped just 20 yards away, straight on and his entire body behind a spruce tree. I turned to see Mike 100 yards above me. I couldn't believe it, what was he doing, did he kick up those rocks?
I would find out later that there were 2 satellite bulls watching me move back and forth into the best position. Mike had seen them and he was moving down to try and warn me. Well they got tired of me moving around and bolted, luckily they didn't bark and alarm the herd. After 15 - 20 minutes the big bull calmed down and turned to rejoin the cows that had now moved further up the basin. Now the closest elk was 35+ yards away. I stood and positioned my bow in front of me. I had anticipated where he was going to walk. As he came into the opening I drew my bow. I mentally said to myself this is it. I had flown broad heads in practice many times prior to the beginning of season so I knew my equipment would perform. I split my pins and held the furthest pin on his back, just above the shoulder and aimed for the far leg as he slowly stepped out. As I released the arrow, Mike said a ton of water came off my bow. The rain had now stopped an it was incredibly calm. My arrow flew perfect and struck the big bull just behind the right shoulder, burying itself up to the fletching.
The bull took a hop step and trotted about ten yards. He looked back up at me and then dropped his head an coughed or wheezed. I knew it was over. I tuned and saw Mike and gave him the clenched fist says "YES!" The bull walked, part staggered off 20 more yards and turned to lay down next to a small stand of spruce in the open basin. He never got up again. The cows had all ran up the draw and over the ridge. It was 6:20 pm Friday evening, September 8th and to my unfortunate luck neither Mike or myself had carried our cameras that day. The pictures had to wait until the next morning when the animal was 1/2 capped and already boned out.