This morning was off the charts!
The herd was in the alfalfa again this morning, only this time they exited to the mountain, not to the sage flats to the east. This was good news since it's easier to work the terrain in the mountains and there are a couple of funnel points that squeeze the herd down into a couple tight spots. To Wes, it appeared that this is what they would do. So we drove to the backside of the mountain and took off on foot down to the funnel. After a quick check by Wes, the herd was coming right to us, so we got set up. I'm not much of a distance shooter so I took a chance and set up behind a pine tree that gave me shots ranging from 30 yards to 2 yards. Of course, I didn't want the elk to come that close and Wes didn't think the close trail was used often. But he did warn me, if they used it, they were in my lap!
Taken just before the elk came within feet of me. They never detected me.
We could hear the elk coming and after 20 minutes I knew they were above me on the bank. The first cow turned and came down the 20 yard trail. She was followed by 30 more cows, calves and small bulls. But when they began to feed they started to bunch up the trail and the elk started to use the close trail. I froze like a statue as more than 2 dozen elk walked by me at just 5 yards. It was ridiculous and I knew we would be busted.
They fed around me and I stayed perfectly still and frozen in my Predator Green Camouflage which worked perfectly. The cows and spikes were close, but when the bulls came in they were out of range. To our amazement, neither Wes, or myself were ever detected as 200 elk filtered by us. We had played the wind perfectly and set up at the perfect spot. If a shooter bull had came by us it was a slam dunk (assuming I didn't get busted on the draw). The best part is you can see it all since I was able to film it. The close elk are 3-4 yards away and the furthest are about 30.
These bulls were taken from Wes' camera. The 6pt is 30 yards from Wes but he was not visible to Pat.
We bedded the elk and decided to back off and watch the wind. It was unstable and blowing this herd out is really bad since most of the elk seem to be traveling with this herd. It's one of the reasons we've been so careful and deliberate. Two years ago, the herd blew out and they didn't come back for a month. So being prudent is consistently providing us with opportunities day after day. This is not like hunting the mountains in public ground. Aggressively running around and bugling these animals before they are ready is risky. And the herd is not exhibiting any signs of rut behavior.
We know where they are, we're getting closer, and we're hunting smart. It's just a matter of time before it comes together. Maybe tonight?
Tuesday Afternoon Hunt
We had an interesting afternoon of decisions and discussions concerning the best way to hunt this afternoon. The wind was no good for calling and there isn't much rut activity due to the heat this afternoon, well into the 80's. So we decided to head back to the funnel we hunted this morning and try to catch them on the way down. But 100 yards down the mountain, the wind shifted and became unstable. Wes was leaning toward trying the funnel, I was leaning toward letting the herd hit the alfalfa and getting them on their way back tomorrow morning. We decided to leave them alone this afternoon and get set up in the funnel early tomorrow morning.
But we sat on top of the mountain and glassed until it got dark and we saw a spectacle I won't soon forget. The elk began filtering out of the trees and 45 minutes later they were still coming. There was a herd marching single file numbering at least 400 head. It was unbelievable. We also got a good look at the herd bull that we've seen a couple times already. He is an amazing bull - just a giant. But it's going to be extremely hard to hunt him without getting picked off first. Beside the 400 head, the other thing that was odd was there was a obvious lack of mature bulls other than the herd bull. There were lots of raghorns and hundreds of cows and calves, but only one shooter. Somewhere there is a bachelor group of bull elk in the 260-340 range. But we never saw them in this herd.
If the wind works for us tomorrow, it will be another exciting day.