Before I get into the events that unfolded today know this; we tell you exactly what happened. No sugar coating, editing or any details left out. This is what separates us from magazines and TV shows where everyone makes a perfect hit and all hunts are 8 minutes long. Our live hunts are popular for this reason. You get the good, the bad, and the ugly. Today went from Bad, to Great, to Bad to Good to Ugly and I am dog-tired now and this entire update will be filled with grammar errors and spelling mistakes... but screw it.
Wes and I got up very early this morning and drove up the mountain. While glassing we could see two distinct herds of elk numbering in the hundreds. They appeared to be heading back up the mountain just as we had predicted yesterday evening. But a twist was thrown, a rancher drove by and spooked the herds and they were cooking up the hill. Wes said "we need to move now" and both of us went tearing down the hill to get set up.
The wind was not perfect in the funnel we hunted yesterday, so I suggested we try the south funnel which is tighter and a closer shot. The wind was perfect there and we got set up. My shot was only 15 yards to the trail. Perfect. But we had nowhere to hide. Wes was already set up but I was fidgeting around trying to get in position. I was finally close to being settled when I made a practice draw and my arm hit a branch. I snapped the branch off and when I did that, a cow elk popped her head up. It was the lead "alpha" cow who had snuck in unnoticed to us. She stopped the herd dead in her tracks. It was a stupid mistake but I had no idea they were on top of us already. All the elk moved away from this funnel and instead crossed a couple hundred yards ahead.
As we heard the elk moving away we knew I had blown it. But Wes wasn't giving up. He started a series of estrus cow calls in the hopes that maybe a bull would peel off and come down to investigate it. It was a long shot, but we were out of options.
As I stood there mentally beating myself Wes whispered "Shoot this Bull!"
This was the first time I saw the bull. He was huge!
He walks right at me before heading uphill 5 yards away
I have no ethical shot here so I waited for a better one
The bull spooks, but Wes stops him with a cow call and bury my arrow in his chest
A moment of pure elation
||Video of this Shot
This video was shot on widescreen and these elk are just 4 yards away!
I looked at him, then looked back to the trail. Just then, a monstrosity appeared from the hillside. He was not at the 15 yard trail I was hoping. He was 25-30 yards away but I had every intention of shooting him at that spot. Instead of continuing on the trail, he starts looking for the cow. He turns and walks straight at me until he is just 5 yards away. Already at full draw I just waited for him to give me a shot. The elk makes heads up the bank behind me. I have no shot. Still, I knew what to do. I literally pushed back from the bank which spooked the bull. He started to run. Wes cow called at the perfect moment and stopped the bull in the only hole I had to shoot through. The bull was 18 yards. I put my twenty behind his shoulder and released. Perfect! The arrow buried to the fletching! The bull crashed off and out of sight.
In a moment of pure elation Wes said "You smoked that bull!" I was doing all sorts of gyrations and felt like a kid again. It took me 12 hunts to kill the right bull and my curse was officially over. I knew the shot was perfect. I finally pulled it off.
We hugged, and slapped backs and did some video stuff while we gave the bull the obligatory 45 minutes "just in case." Finally Wes said, let's go get your bull.
We found blood immediately and it was incredible. It was gushing out of him. Wes filmed it so we could show everyone what happens when you hit them perfect. The only downside (and it was minor) was there was simply no way Wes could capture the kill shot on video. Honestly, I couldn't care less.
We continued blood trailing and with every hill we just knew the bull would be piled up just on the back side. The blood trail was incredible and it was a huge bull and very old so we just called him a "warrior" and continued down it in our state of euphoria. But something was just not right. The blood sign was fitting for the shot but the trail was going on far longer than normal for such a hit. We were both so confident (having seen the placement and the penetration) that we just shrugged it off as the last moments of a tough old elk. That is, until Wes spotted him - and he was still alive.
People. When I tell you it was like a broadhead just went through my heart I would be telling you the truth. What happened? We were both amazed, and became concerned, until the elk stood up and then laid down again in a crash. He was just far tougher than we imagined. So we discussed options. Stalking and shooting him again was risky and unnecessary. Sitting on him until he put his head down for the last time was risky since the wind was a bit unstable. My preference was to back out and give him a few hours and that's exactly what we did.
Wes and I went back to town and started texting and calling our buddies. We were still very confident that the bull would be dead. Wes and I kept talking about how me screwing up and spooking the herd turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We also relived how Wes surgically pulled a giant bull out of a herd of 400 and put him literally into my lap! To say I have been amazed at Wes' abilities with elk would be an understatement. We hunted very smart, and very deliberately on this trip hoping to get the right opportunity on a mature bull. And it worked.
We had lunch and called everyone we knew before taking two trucks up to the mountain along with a couple of pack frames. We parked the trucks and headed to the bull. Wes was in the lead as we snuck down to where we last saw him. We both saw him at the same time - right where we left him, but something looked strange; His head was up.
We snuck closer with a better angle and glassed him for over 40 minutes. I swore he was dead. Wes thought he saw him blink. Either way, there wasn't so much as an ear twitch or a tine moving. I convinced myself he was dead. After all, I had "smoked him" right? Suddenly, the bull became alert and crashed off.
This was not good.
We looked at each other in amazement and our elation turned into a knot in the pit of my stomach so fast that...well you understand the feeling.
We waited a while then snuck down to check his bed. There was blood in it, but he had been switching beds and the last one had far less than the others. Before he left, we clearly saw the wound was turning black. Wes and I both had a great view of it. And I swear to you that it looked 'textbook.' But then we wondered about the angle. Was the bull hard quartering or twisted in some weird angle? It was a valid theory. It was impossible to process all the angles and far legs, etc. - in the 2 second window of opportunity I had to shoot. But a poor hit would explain the fact that this animal was still alive 5 hours later, what it doesn't explain is the profuse bloodtrail that Wes and I were giggling about this morning. And we still don't have an answer for that.
When he bolted he left no blood on the ground. We split up to look for tracks and blood but it was pointless. The bull was no longer bleeding. Our only option was to look for the bull and hopefully get another arrow into him again. I was loosing hope. Wes went down to glass some canyons as I just meandered around the dry pine forests that dotted the hillside. I was probably 500 yards from where I left Wes and had no idea where I was. I wasn't on a trail, I wasn't looking for blood, I was just looking for my elk.
I glanced down at my feet and to my amazement there was a line of blood that was splashed along the ground. What are the odds? Wes was nowhere to be found so I took up the trail with my bow. I was going to find, and kill that elk in his bed. The pit in my stomach went away and for the first time in an hour I was optimistic again. I followed the trail for a few hundreds yards until I hit a bank. This was a good landmark to leave my bow and go get Wes. I headed back to the truck to fetch my cell phone and called him. There was no answer. As if I didn't have enough stress, the skies darkened up and it began to rain. I literally sprinted from that truck to my bow which was laying next to the last blood sign.
As I started following the bloodtrail again I ran into Wes. I assumed he was on the trail too. I asked him if he was on the bloodtrail and he shook his head no. "What bloodtrail?" I showed him. He felt like I did. It was like winning the lottery. It wasn't just a blood trail, it was profuse as far as the eye could see. With renewed optimism we followed that trail for hundreds of yards until it petered out to specs and eventually disappeared.
The good news is we trailed the elk for almost 2 miles and have seriously narrowed down what area he may be in. The bad news is we trailed the elk for two miles and a lot of that is uphill. Exhausted and knowing that any more trailing tonight is pointless and counterproductive without blood, we backed off and came back to camp. But neither of us are feeling good right now. After we jumped the bull, he went a mile without bedding. This situation is not good. We are still deciding our best course of action for tomorrow. But I'll tell you this, that pit in our stomach is back.
While some of you are posting what we should have done, we'll be combing every inch of this part of Colorado hoping to see a tine sticking up. Keep your fingers crossed for us tomorrow. We'll need a miracle.