So Dad and I have a few good places where we are running into elk, and we just need one of them to pan out. Fingers crossed. Up before dawn. Sleep deprivation is becoming the norm. Tunnel vision is in full effect. Must. Find. Elk.
We decided to head back to where we had spooked that little herd walking in the dark a few days back. We knew there had to be a decent herd in there, because there was a ton of sign everywhere; we just had to find them.
Man, that hike is a terrible hike. I hated it then, and I hate it now. So much for scent control, I think, as sweat rolls down my back. It’s now light out, and we have made it to their beds, but we still didn’t hear or see anything. Well that seems strange. Where did they go?!
We decide to make a big loop back to the truck and see what we could find along the way. So we are walking along, and Dad spots some fresh urine, so he does a little call.
That’s when the hair on my neck stands on end, and my heart starts pounding out of my chest. Because out of nowhere, a bull screams at us, and he is not having a polite conversation. Oh, no. He knows someone is in his bedroom, and he is *not* okay with it. He starts raking this poor little tree. He’s angry, and the tree doesn’t stand a chance.
I don’t know how far away he was when we first heard him. Maybe… 45 yards? We are at the bottom of a little knoll, and he’s up near the top. What’s so strange about it is that we had called a couple times right before this as we were walking, and he didn’t respond at all. We could have walked right by him if Dad hadn’t called when he did. I guess that our distance was enough to keep him uninterested at first, but then when Dad called and we were up in his business, he had to reply.
So now there’s only a hill and 45 yards of trees between me and The One. You would think this would be good, because it gives a little camouflage and should be easier to sneak in, right? Oh, no. Come on now, you know how my luck goes. I swear, every last crunchy branch, leaf, and daggum pine cone are between me and this bull. Also, I have not quite perfected my sneak technique, so the going is slow.
Have you ever noticed that the more quiet and more stealthy you try to be, the worse off you are? Like when you’re awake in the morning before the rest of the house and trying to be quiet, that’s when you drop the cereal box. Then the dishes clank in the sink. The shampoo crashes off the shelf in the shower. The wind catches the door to the house and slams it shut behind you. All because you were trying to be quiet, and the world just decides that today we will be as loud as possible, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
That was me. Sneaking along. Snap crackle popping every last leaf and twig, AND I don’t even know what the heck I’m doing. Luckily, Dad told me to put an arrow on, which I did, and to try to get a little closer and in a spot with a few decent shooting lanes.
Dad stayed down at the bottom of the hill to try to call him down past me, and I tried to get somewhere where the bull would be less than 25 yards from me, upwind, and in a clear lane. How the hell was I supposed to do that?! I realized now that chance and luck were key factors here. Even if I set up somewhere that seemed logical, he would probably come down in a completely different path, and I would be doomed. I was also coming at him from his shoulder, which wasn’t helpful.
The bull is preoccupied and causing a loud ruckus, which is good, but let’s be honest. Even when elk are “distracted,” they are still on alert. I am more aware than ever that my baby bow doesn’t have much power, and this bull may or may not have skin made of lead armor. Insert a bunch of thoughts of how this could all go wrong. And then it did.
The wind swirled and went straight up the mountain to him. He winded us, was on full alert, and was running over the knoll before I even knew what was happening. Luckily, I used this time to get a little closer, and Dad has lightning fast reflexes and cow called. The bull came back.
I KNOW !!!
I couldn’t believe it either.
He popped back over the hill and started raking the same tree again like his life depended on it. So back to sneaking, trying to get between Dad and the bull, so that if he came down the hill to us, I would be close enough for a shot.
You think my luck has changed, right? I mean. He came back! It’s like destiny!! But just to make sure I don’t get too excited, the wind swirled again, and went straight uphill to him a second time. He takes off. Dad cow calls. The bull stops and sort of hesitates at the top of the hill like he was debating coming back, and then he leaves.
Noooooooooooo. 😩 Come back, Bob!!!! Daggum it!! Worst luck ever! If the wind had just behaved itself for another five or ten minutes, I would probably have a dead elk in my freezer, and a fine set of antlers to hang on the wall in his honor. But no.
I have since done a little research on wind, time of day, and if you should theoretically approach from above or below them. However, everything was perfect at first. The wind was in our favor, we were going to try to call him past me, all was swell. So, I guess I don’t know that there’s anything else we could have done in this instance. I do think I should have stayed at the base of the hill with Dad until I was more broadside, so I didn’t have to approach from the direction of his head as much. Dad said he had a clear shot of 35 or 40 yards from where he was calling, but I never could get a shot from my angle. I feel bad that Dad didn’t take that shot since he was wanting me to get a bull first, but it’s hard to know how it will all pan out in the moment.
Sigh. It was just a day of bad luck, and things not quite working out, which of course, is why we call it hunting… and not killing. Final score: Dad and Shal-0, Bob-2. We will be back, Bob. You mark my words.