From the top of the mountain we watched 9 bulls feed up the red breaks toward the top. Wes shook his head. They took that funnel we set up in yesterday. What made this group so special? There was a enormous trophy bull along with two more 'shooters' and six scrub bulls. We thought about dropping down quickly and trying to get set up in that funnel but we asked the question ten minutes too late and we ran the chance of blowing this bull out. So we watched him drop into the funnel and down the trail I sat yesterday. He would have been a chip shot at 20 yards and my curse would be over.
These bulls appeared just below us. They bedded 200 yards to the North. A perfect setup!
We lost them for 30 minutes but they appeared again, below us some 500 yards. They were moving slowly and we got the impression they were going to bed there. The first one plopped down and soon the entire herd bedded there. This was an incredible setup. We could get into these bulls. To make things better, one of the bulls was showing signs of aggression and he could be called. While I wanted the 330" bull, I would have been thrilled with this one too and he was probably close to 300 inches himself.
We had the wind and we had the time. So we loaded up our packs with camera gear, food, water and more for what would be a long day.
Wes followed the West ridge of the mountain for nearly 1/2 mile before dropping down in a saddle and starting our slow, methodical trek toward the bedded bulls. Since they were showing signs of the rut our goal was to get a couple hundred yards then call them in. We were both pretty stoked and confident this would work.
When we reached the area where the bulls were bedded, Wes pulled out the camera and I continued forward 80 yards. It was a perfect setup. As he cow-called I stared South and waited for a glimpse of elk coming through the trees. after 30 minutes of no elk we figured we may have been a bit far back.
Setup less than 80 yards from the big bull. Cow calling did not work however.
We continued forward as the wind picked up even more. A front was moving in and that wind was music to our ears. Wes moved first. Every step was placed and he checked the wind 30 times since the last time we stopped. His experience certainly showed. I've hunted with guides that really know their stuff and he is definitely one of them. Not only does he know how to hunt, but he knows this property like the proverbial back of his hand. When he hunched down a few inches I knew he saw the elk. The biggest bull was in front of us - only 80 yards away.
I found a good ambush spot as he backed off and readied with the calls. He started with a series of cow calls that had me wondering if real cows were behind me. I consider myself a pretty good caller, but I know a pro when I hear one. I don't hold a candle to his abilities.
I waited for the sound of antler tips clicking against pine limbs. I stared through the bows for a glimpse of movement. But after 20 minutes nothing. During that time the wind had picked up considerably and was blowing around 20mph. Rain started to beat down on us but still no elk were coming. I turned to look behind me and there they were, feeding out into the open. They wanted nothing to do with cows. There is no rut happening yet here. With the bulls we're encountering anyway.
A shooter bull.
We started after them but they were moving to far and too fast up into the meadow. All we could do was watch and film them. That one bull was magnificent and I was able to shoot 10 solid minutes of him and the others in the open.
The largest of the nine bulls, this boy was huge!
Watch this scene on video (3.0mb)
The big question was what to do now? They had all the advantage, the wind was in their favor and there was 9 sets of eyeballs to contend with. So we backed out of there and headed back to the car. We were so close! But at least they never winded us and we know just where they are for a try this evening.
The wind was consistent and out of the West as we headed along the top of the hill. This was good. We got to the general area where the elk were last seen but as we approached the wind shifted and we prudently backed off.
We headed back down the hill and glassed back up at the elk. We stayed there an hour. It was getting late and the elk appeared to feeding to the top of the hill. That was good since the wind was consistent up there. So we raced back up the hill and got out of the truck. When we did that, we were almost blown over. The wind had picked up even more and was now about 30mph! This was great. Wes and I looked at each other and just knew we were going to kill that bull tonight. They were heading into the trees and we could work that strong wind to get in front of them - easily. We moved down till Wes motioned. The elk were in front of us some 80-100 yards. Despite the 30mph constant wind - there was a mysterious eddy up on that saddle and the heads popped up and stared at us. We were busted. Wes does not swear - so I made up for him. He did say "You are cursed" of which I already knew that. In all my years of hunting I have never encountered such a freak wind current as we did tonight. Unfortunately, now they know we're after them and tomorrow will be telling for us.
I'm not giving up hope. There are a ton of elk here and lots of trophies. Think about it. It's been 90 degrees and we've been within 100 yards of a PY caliber elk every day. Still, I am very aware that we are getting down to the wire. The elk are not callable and the wind has not been kind to us. We're going right back to that mountain tomorrow.
Good news from this morning!
John from Idaho shot this beautiful mule deer they had named "lucky." He was named "lucky" because last year this big deer had been attacked by a mountain lion and was tore up. I guess today his name changed to "unlucky"!