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  1. cramerhunts

    An incredible elk season!

    When the draw results came out for the 2016 elk season I was extremely happy, nervous, apprehensive, and excited all at the same time. My dad and I both drew early archery tags with my daughter, cousin, and good friend Chef drawing early rifle tags all in the same unit (happy, and excited). The thing is this unit happens to have very low elk numbers and can be extremely difficult at times to find a good bull let alone five of them (nervous and apprehensive). I was determined to give it my all and spend every free moment scouting. I fortunately know the unit well and have some great friends that would be able to help. Through out the summer a lot of miles were put on both the truck and boots and things were looking really good for the opener despite getting four trail cameras ripped off. We were seeing some great bulls and quite a few cows so I had visions of filling tags early with some no brainers, little did I know that just wasn't meant to be. As the season got going the bulls seemed to go almost completely nocturnal and silent. We had just about every kind of weather imaginable, people jacking with our ground blinds, poisoning tanks, and just some pretty bad luck. However we kept grinding away with the hope things would turn around. Dad and I both had some opportunities that we just couldn't capitalize on but they were very few and took some extreme effort to make happen. Don't get me wrong any chance to be in the great outdoors with friends and family is awesome and I was enjoying every minute of it but the thought of eating some tags was slowly creeping into my mind. Before I knew what had happened it was the last day of the archery hunt. It was raining hard and spirits were pretty low. We made a plan that involved my buddy Keith and I covering a lot of miles with my dad and good friend Jim (rut on the forum) heading the other way. A little before noon the weather broke and I received a call from rut that they had a good bull spotted and wanted us to come see if we could put a stalk on him. Without hesitation I put the pedal to the floor and made haste to see what they had spotted. Upon arrival Keith and I took a quick look at the bull and his cows and started the stalk right away. 2.5 hours later I was within 125 yards of the bull and out of cover. As always a million thoughts was running through my mind, should I try and belly crawl, should I try and call to him, or sit and wait for something to happen. The wind was screaming and I chose the latter. Fortunately an opportunity arose when the bull started pushing a cow towards the top of the ridge, I quickly backed out and Keith and I worked our way to the top. Luck continued to go my way when the bull pushed the cow by me at 52 yards. I had a small opening in the brush and had to make a quick shot but somehow my arrow found it's mark. Not five minutes later dad and rut called to say the bull was down and hadn't gone 100 yards. They were able to watch the entire scenario unfold through the spotters. Looking back on everything now I would not change one single thing: we worked hard all season, we never gave up, we got to hunt 14 days straight, my dad and great friends got to be a part of it, and it all was worth it! Due to my daughter getting injured playing ball and Chef's schedule not working out it would just be my cousin John for the first few days of the rifle hunt. After getting my bull taken care of we caught a few hours sleep and got right back after it. It was much the same for a few days but we were able to get into a pocket where the bulls were talking good and Keith and John closed the distance. After being within 60 yards of the screaming bull the decision was made to back out and come in another way. This worked out to perfection and John hammered the bull at 355 yards. Schedules finally worked out and Chef was able to make it up and the hunt continued. We experienced much of the same as the previous three weeks with little rut activity and some pretty harsh weather. We were getting into the elk but unfortunately nothing that was tempting to wrap a tag around. I was talking to my wife and daughter on a daily basis to try and get her up to hunt and we found we could probably swing an evening hunt, one day, and one morning hunt between Dr's appointments, school, and homecoming. The next day AZbowhntr (Orlin) would be coming up to help out so I made tracks back to the valley to check Jaycie out of school. My dad and rut would be keeping tabs on a group of elk trying to up our odds of Jaycie tagging one. Chef and AZbowhntr would be covering miles hoping one of the bulls we'd been chasing would want to play the game. We had a pretty uneventful evening hunt but saw just enough to formulate a plan for the morning. We all left camp at our usual 3:30 am and set out to see what the day would bring with Orlin and Hector off one way and the rest of us off another. For once the bulls were absolutely screaming where Jaycie and I went and we got right in the middle of them. Before it was good enough shooting light though the elk decide to head for the timber and we were left doing our best to follow them up. As you know this almost never works out and with Jaycie limping along behind me (her injury was a herniated disk between her L4 and L5) I didn't have much hope. That soon changed when a satellite bull started falling behind and was responding well to my calls. I was able to keep his attention long enough for us to get eyes on him but he was still across the meadow and we were out of cover. I decided it was now or never and told Jaycie to get set up. I ranged the bull and got him to turn broadside. She was rock solid in the claw and knew exactly what hash mark to use. I could not believe it when she dropped the bull in his tracks at 537 yards! My dad and rut heard her shoot and they were by our side in no time. What an amazing morning. After getting Jaycie's bull taken care of we regrouped back at camp and a plan for the evening was made. Chef and AZbowhntr would hit some country to the south and Jaycie and I would make our rounds pulling cameras and seeing if we could find anything talking. We made it about halfway through pulling the cams when I got a bull to answer. I started working the bull some and eventually had four satellite bulls going pretty good and what sounded like the herd bull answering every fourth or fifth time. I quietly called Chef and let him know the situation and Jaycie and I backed out. We were questioning if there would be enough light left for it to happen but it was the only game in town. It wasn't very long and I got that oh so good text "bull down". As it turned out Chef and AZbowhntr were able to get right in on the bulls and called this one into 78 yards before Chef let the air out of him. Jaycie and I flew over to where the guys were and the celebration began. I will say two bulls in one day had me wiped out and it was great to sleep in the next day. I can't thank my family and friends enough for all they contributed to these hunts and sharing in all of the highs and lows. I wish my dad would of been able to fill his tag but such is hunting and I was able to split the meat with him. I really can't thank my wife enough for keeping things running during all of my time away and my daughters putting up with my obsession, I am very blessed and thankful. The video is a bit long as it was hard to cram six weeks into it but I tried my best.