All night long we listened to elk screaming by our tent. It was something. It started around 9PM and it lasted all the way till 6AM. To say it was hard getting to sleep that night was an understatement. At times, I thought the elk were right outside our tent and bugling into the canvas walls.
We got up very early and were out of that tent in the dark. We worked our way down the canyon in the direction of the bugles - which were now within a 1/2 mile. The same two bulls we heard all night long were still at it. I was up and Kent was the caller as we moved in to get the closer bulls' attention. We couldn't see him, but he was very close - within 100 yards.
Can you find me in this photo? I am set up ahead of Kent while he calls and films.
I set up in some trees 50 yards in front of Kent and upwind of the bull. He was bugling quite a bit. But we never heard or saw him again after the first cow call was made. He simply vanished. The other bull shut up too. Kent is a good caller so we were both perplexed why the bull reacted negatively. It remains a mystery what happened. But I can honestly say it wasn't the wind and it we were never seen by the bull.
We spent the remaining morning hours sitting on a hillside watching and listening to the valley below. The sun was up high now and it was cooking - probably 70 degrees in the sun. We never heard or saw another elk. Since we were so close, we headed back to camp to get a good lunch and figure out our next move.
The heat and sun baked down on the tent and both of us were fast asleep on our cots when Kent's 2-way radio went off for the first time all week. "Kent - you copy?" It was Scott, the owner of Conejos River Outfitters and the person who Kent set up this trip with. Scott, along with his buddy zuke and our wrangler Doug were bringing another group in not far from us and they wanted to drop by and check on us. A half hour later we were talking face to face. We told them about the elk encounters and how well things were going. Our only complaint was that the elk were hard to call. zuke had his bow and they were headed to check out another canyon a few miles from us. Since they had extra horses they invited us along and we jumped at the chance to see another remote canyon. It was going to be a big group, but we didn't mind at all. We gathered our gear and headed to the canyon for the afternoon ride and hunt. By 5PM we were looking over a remote valley that had elk written all over it.
No more Shania for me. Scott's horse Dillon was a far gentler horse.
Kent and I took Doug along as we headed West, Scott and zuke went East. We circled the valley which is centered around a small lake until 6PM and as if on a timer, elk began bugling. Everywhere!
This valley at 11,800 feet was where all the elk were.
We heard bulls in all directions. I counted at least 8 different bugles with the majority emanating from the valley below us. It was incredible. Kent was the first person to spot a great 6x6 walking below us. He was following one cow and we were confident we could call him in.
I caught a glimpse of the bull we called within 80 yards of Kent. He wa a nice 6x6.
It was Kent's turn as the shooter and my turn behind the camera. I began cow calling softly and the bull responded immediately. I then hit him with more aggressive and provocative sequence of estrus mews and the bull was now in the trees just above us and closing in.
I don't know what happened but he hung up and wouldn't come any closer. Doug bugled several times and we think the bull may have been put off by that. He only had one cow and Doug's bugle was pretty growly. We don't know what happened but the bull quit coming and we finally gave up. But even with our bull out of the picture bugling was going on everywhere.
Can you spot Kent in this photo?
When we regrouped at the end of the evening, we learned that zuke crawled within 10 yards of big 6x6 on the eastern hillside. The bull was working over a tree and zuke, who had just started bowhunting this year, was afraid to move. He needed the bull to take 2 steps but the bull became suspicious and simply walked downhill into the trees. After darkness set in, zuke and Scott called us on the 2-way to let us know they were being followed by yet a different bull. They were both wearing elk cow urine and the bull was dogging them to the extent they actually became nervous for their safety.
It was wild! I had experienced this only once in my 9 previous trips. They asked if we minded them staying with us and doing it again tomorrow afternoon. Of course we said "not at all" this canyon had way more elk than ours but it was logistically impossible to get to without horses - especially if we killed something. So we welcomed the company and the transportation that went along with it.
That night Scott cooked up a great meal for all of us and we told stories until 11:30 at night. We discussed our options and opted not to hunt the morning. We were afraid to blow them out of that canyon. I climbed into that canyon thinking about going there again tomorrow. We were all pretty pumped up with anticipation.