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kwp

My 2014 Archery Bull

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Scouting for this hunt started back in late winter. I was so confident that my brother was going to draw a November Rifle Elk tag that I placed a trail camera in some winter range while I felt the elk would still be there. As luck would have it my brother was not drawn, but I drew a September Archery Elk tag in the same unit. I placed more trail cameras throughout the spring and went on a handful of family camping/scouting trips. I was getting pictures of some really nice bulls and seeing plenty others. Here's a few:

 

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As is always the case, everything changed once the calendar turned to September. Some of the bulls disappeared while some new ones showed up.

I headed up late Wednesday after work to set-up camp and scout the day before the hunt. My uncle and a couple of his buddies came up to hold down the fort at camp and make sure there was plenty of good food and crazy stories to go around. My brother Brian and nephew Easton got up there Thursday afternoon and I hunted with them the first three days. We got into some great rutting activity, passed on some small bulls, and saw some really good bulls that I couldn’t close the deal on. Easton had to go home Sunday afternoon for school. Our friend Dan hunted with Brian and I days 4-6 with more of the same. I was starting to think that maybe luck wasn’t on my side. I had plenty of the normal archery bad luck with wind shifting right when you are getting in tight, bulls deciding to take their harem a different direction, elk getting bumped by other hunters. I also had some incredibly bad luck like a bear getting in the middle of the herd when I was under 80 yards, and a tree falling down and scattering the bedded elk when I was under 60 yards. My cousin Jess hunted with me on day 7 and we got to within 38 yards of a big bull that had over 50 cows but he turned around just before his vitals came into my shooting lane. Jess hadn’t been in the middle of rutting elk like that before and his excitement was apparent. Day 8 I hunted by myself and passed on some smaller six points including one that had already been shot a little too high but appeared to show no ill effects. Day 9 (Saturday) my friend Chase came out to hunt with me. We went to the same area that I had hunted a few days with my brother where the bulls were screaming all day long. This day was no different. There were three growler bulls bugling pretty close to each other. We started to close the distance before it was light enough to see. We spent most of the morning chasing these bulls, pretty close the whole time but they were moving a bunch. By late morning two of the growlers were still close together and ended up bedding less than 100 yards apart. They both had good sized harems and we knew that with them being bedded so close they would stay vocal throughout the day. We got the wind right and crawled to where we were in between the two groups of bedded elk. We couldn’t see either bull but could see elk from both herds. We were prepared to wait there until evening if we needed to. At about 11:40 AM one of the cows from the lower herd got up and started feeding toward the upper herd. This immediately got the lower bull up and he came and rounded that cow back into his harem. We could see that he was a very nice 6x6 bull. He was only 60 yards away but way too thick to even think about a shot. By now the upper bull was bugling a bunch and it was clear he was coming down the hill. The upper bull showed himself and we knew he was the big 7x7 from the morning. The two bulls came together screaming at each other, posturing, and bluffed at each other a few times. We were sure they were going to fight. They continued this while moving in our direction. The 6x6 passed at about 40 yards in the thick oaks as I tried to fasten my release. I finally got the release fastened and the 7x7 was right on his heels only slightly closer. I was in a squatting position because the shooting window I had was small. Chase made a quick cow call to stop the bull. I knew he was close and sharply downhill but I didn’t have time to range. I drew my bow, settled the 20 and 30 yard pins on his kill zone, and let it fly. As he crashed off we saw the arrow barely sticking out of him, center punched. The shot was a couple inches higher than a perfect shot but we were really confident he was double lunged and with the sharp angle possibly the heart too. We ate lunch and then went down to where he was. Found blood and quickly found about 15-inches of arrow broken off with about 10-inches of it covered in lung blood. We waited a little bit longer and then began tracking but there was no blood. We knew with the higher shot he was bleeding internally but were worried that without a blood trail he could be very hard to find in the thick timber. We searched for blood for about 40 minutes and then began zig-zagging in the direction he ran off. I had a very sick feeling but at 2 PM I saw elk hide with tines sticking up. He was down for good and only travelled about 120-yards. Chase and I took pictures and then got to work. Hung meat in a tree for the night. I packed out the head and cape while Chase packed out the backstraps and tenderloins. The next morning we went into town and got Chase’s mule and Cricket packed out the rest of the bull.

 

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This was an awesome hunt with some of my best friends and family sharing in the adventure. Thanks to everyone who helped along the way, especially my wife for tagging along on all the scouting trips and keeping the household running while I was gone.

The hunt definitely had the highs and lows that go with archery elk hunting. We hunted in a few different places and the rutting activity was nonstop in some areas and slow in others. We saw some really awesome bulls, nice antelope bucks, muley bucks, plenty of turkeys, a bear, a wolf, along with some of the prettiest country in the state. The bull I shot was probably the 5th largest that we hunted but I would have shot him any day of the hunt.

 

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Great bull! What were all the animals sniffing in your trail cam? That color-phase bear was also sweet.

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Great bull! What were all the animals sniffing in your trail cam? That color-phase bear was also sweet.

 

That camera was over a salt lick. You can see it better in the lion picture. I actually had 4 different bears on that camera but the other two were pretty small.

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Nice job congrats on a great trip and hunt. Can't wait to get some more meat on my mules

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Kevin, congrats on a nice bull. Was thinking about you while I was pulling trout out of reservation lake. Bulls were sure loud. Heard a wolf also. Can't wait to see more of your pics rwhen I get back

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Wow, what a great write up. Congratulations on an awesome hunt. :)

 

TJ

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That sounds like an awesome hunt. Not that I would pass up a bull opening morning if the shot presented itself but you definitely hunted and earned that bull. Congrats on a great bull.

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