I began this year in a little different mindset from previous years. I usually decide on new gear each year and changes I want to make. This year seems to be different as I added a couple of companies to which I will be helping as well as working more with the ones from previous years.
So far I have done more with Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls by meeting up with the crew in Salt Lake City in late February. I had an absolute blast with everyone and met some familiar faces as well as new ones. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to help such an amazing company. This year should be a great one as they were just picked as a new corporate sponsor for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. I have been a member of RMEF for several years and continue to see the good they do for not only elk but all species of animals that I enjoy hunting and seeing.
While there I was introduced to Crispi Boots. RMHC's booth was set up with Camo Fire and Black Ovis. If you have gear in mind and want to see what options are out there Black Ovis is a one stop shop. Camo Fire is an amazing site if you are looking for discounted gear.
A couple of the guys at the booth were wearing Crispis so I figured I would give them a shot. They are an Italian made boot. I am still in love with my Kenetreks, but have been looking for a little lighter weight boot and Crispi fit the bill. I ended up going with the Idaho which is one of their more popular boots. I have been wearing them off and on breaking them in and so far it's a win. I also have a pair of the Monaco and am sold on them for an everyday wearable shoe. Time will tell to see if I get hot spots or blisters, but I am beyond impressed so far.
I continue to add to my Sitka collection and picked up the new Mountain Pants and gunner glove so far and plan to add more. I also picked up some element arrows, which will be one of my biggest changes as I am shooting a micro diameter arrow. As soon as I put them together I immediately became impressed.
The other areas I'm working on improving on is a new cooler. I have looked at a lot of options as with most products now days the market has blown up. Currently my eye is set on an Orion 65 or 85. The brand has been decided and I'm just deciding on the size. Also I'm in search of a new shelter and have decided on the Silvertip from Seek Outside. I like the overall weight and am excited to see what a colorless shelter is like. What sold me is the addition of adding a stove later on. These two specific items I am looking at for future purchases.
Another big change was switching from Hoyt to Mathews as well as accessorizing it with a new Tight Spot, Bee Stinger stabilizer, Spott Hogg sight, and RipCord arrow rest. The new set up treated me well and is shooting great. I never made it out for any spring hunting this year due to scheduling as well as staying busy with the family.
I was fortunate enough to pick up some new gear from Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls and ran the new Wapiti Whacker, Black Magic, Reaper, and Voodoo calls. The combination was deadly as we killed two fantastic bulls and had many more encounters than in past seasons. I will get more into that later.
I began the fall as I do most years with archery antelope in Montana. I didn't hunt around home much and headed east for a couple of days. I had been talking with my Brother Todd and he had some luck sitting water and scored on a really nice buck. I sat for two days and had some close encounters, but was unable to seal the deal on a buck. As each year in the past I also chased them as time permitted chasing elk out east.
After antelope I made my way back east and met up with my friends Matt and Stephen. Both of them were lucky enough to draw non-resident archery elk tags. I left Helena with my pick up and camper loaded late Friday afternoon and met them near camp at around 2 am. After about an hour of sleep we woke up and started to hunt.
All three of us were beat, but hey it was the first day we had to hunt elk so we were going to get after them. I switched up the way I hunted elk this year and this was done with my calling. I am bugling way more and moving and covering more country.
The first couple of set ups were unsuccessful, but it was the first morning so it was hard to say what to expect. We ended up continuing on and set up again. I was calling with Matt and Stephen out front waiting for a quiet approaching bull. There he was not 30 yards from me coming in. He snuck in from the direction we just came. I wasn't ready for him and he busted out after catching my movement. We continued on and we immediately got an answer. What developed next is what I dream of. The bull would answer and I threw everything I had at him. The first bugle got me going and to see the smile on Matt's face already made my season.
The bull came in, but never offered anyone a shot. He was an unbelievable 380-390 class 6x6. When I first got a glimpse of him I figured he was around 340-350. A much bigger bull than I plan to shoot, but after looking at him on video I was blown away at his true size. This wouldn't be my only encounter with this bull. What a start we called in two bulls within the first few hours of chasing elk.
The next couple of days got tougher although we were definitely in the elk. My brother Kirk came down to help out and hopefully get a shot as well. We changed tactics now and again and the thing that seemed to work best was bugling. We saw quite a few bulls and the hard part was that they were all big bulls over 300. Stephen had a family emergency to get back to so it was Matt, Kirk, and I left.
We went into a known area for us. We set up with Matt to my left and Kirk to my right. I began cow and calf talk. Shortly there after a spike rolled in. I called him to my location and had a front shoulder shot at 35 yards. I passed as I knew it was a shot I wasn't going to take. The spike was at 24 yards for Kirk, who passed as he was fortunate to draw the rifle permit for the area. The spike worked his way around to Matt who also passed. Matt passed on a 30 yard broadside shot, but keep in mind up to this point all we had seen were nice 300 bulls and no cows. To say we were spoiled is a giant understatement.
Finally we had been out hunting hard and Wednesday rolled around. It was time. Nothing happened in the morning so we went back out a little earlier in the afternoon. We messed around taking some photos and visiting. There was definitely some frustration as we were in elk and had some definite close opportunities, we just were able to get that kill yet.
After walking a little ways I began some soft cow calling and then let out a location bugle. I had Matt out in front of me to my left a little and Stephen to the right. As soon as I let my location bugle out I got an immediate close bugle back. Stephen looked at me confused and asked if it was me that called. I pointed towards Matt as an indication that it was an actual elk that answered back and to get ready. Stephen didn't even have time to get his video camera ready. I watched as the bull emerged through the timber and I was certain it was the 380-390 bull we called earlier in the week. He was huge and coming my way.
I watched as the bull came in and gave him a challenge bugle to which he quickly replied. I watched as Matt was at full draw and the bull was within 100 yards of myself. I knew this was going to happen. I heard Matt's bow release, heard the sound of the arrow hit, and watched as the bull turned quickly. I knew Matt made a great shot.
I've been in some chaotic situations, but what I watched unfold next will be something I will never forget. We all have those hunts or moments we remember forever and this was for sure towards the top. I heard as Matt began to yell as loud as he could that he just killed the bull. Matt was in tears and overwhelmed with adrenaline. He kept screaming even though I was trying to get him to be quiet as I figured the bull wouldn't go that far and was definitely in ear shot. I was afraid the bull would bust making it even tougher to find him.
After about 20 minutes Matt finally calmed down to where we could discuss what just happened. We waited and finally went and found Matt's arrow. Blood was there and it looked promising. Knowing how tough elk can be we took our time. We began following blood and pretty soon it ran out without a bull in sight. Stephen and I began doing a small grid while Matt still looked for blood. I was higher up on the hill while Stephen was further down. At around the same time both Stephen and I began to smell something stinky and almost like gut rot. I yelled at him to stay where he was and I would work his way and he acknowledged he could smell it too.
This is the point my heart sank. I was walking his way and I quickly turned my head to the left as I caught movement. It was the worst possible thing that could happen. The bull was only a few yards away and he lifted his head. I screamed at Stephen to back out and get Matt with his bow. I backed out as well and kept my eye on the bull. I couldn't believe he didn't bust. He was hurting bad.
Matt and Stephen quickly worked back up my way. Matt stuck the bull a couple of more times and he finally expired. At that point jubilation kicked in as we celebrated. The pack out wasn't too bad either being mostly down hill. There was some deliberation on the size of the bull, but in the end he ended up grossing 345". A larger bull than we ever could have expected on getting and a hard worked for bull.
After getting Matt's bull all taken care of Stephen and I went after his. Matt took a day to take his bull to a processor to get the meat taken care of. Stephen and I hit a couple of areas, but produced no results. When Matt got back to camp we headed back to where he killed his bull.
I began by trying to locate bugle. Eventually we pressed on and got an answer. The bull would answer me back, but didn't appear to want to leave where he was at. Finally we hit that point where he couldn't take it any longer. I called and called and called using techniques from location to challenge bugles. I also soft cow and calf called as if to imitate a small herd. Finally he came into Stephen's view and I watched as he kept telling me to call. The bull was bristled up and came in for fight. I watched as the bull continued to where I was calling from with Stephen at the ready with bow and Matt on video. The bull wasn't stopping and continued my direction. Finally the bull stopped at 30-35 yards. Stephen let it fly and made a great double lung shot.
We remained calm and waited. We could hear the bull breathing hard and knew it wouldn't be long. As we had been working towards the bull I left behind some of my gear. I picked it back up and Stephen and Matt looked for his bull. They found him on his side and excitement kicked in again. Two bulls in three days to end an amazing trip. It couldn't have been scripted better and will be a hunt the three of us will never forget.
After Stephen's bull was taken care of I headed back west for week of work and then returned east yet again for more elk hunting. Joining me on this trip was the owner of Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls and one of the best elk callers ever, Rockie Jacobsen. I have had the pleasure of helping Rockie from time to time with selling and demonstrating his calls, but was very excited this year as he and Rex Summerfield drew non-resident archery elk tags.
We met up in Bozeman, got some last minute things and drove east. On the way to camp in the morning we came across a huge herd of elk and they were bugling like crazy. This was a promising start to the trip. We saw several bulls in the herd with the largest again in that 380" range, but they were on private grounds we didn't have access to. It was very apparent the rut was on and we were exicted.
We got camp set up and headed into an area I was familiar with where the elk would pass through. We ended up bugling several bulls, but no opportunities. This was the first time I had archery hunted elk into October and was a new change for me. We had trouble turning up elk as the days passed so we went to where Stephen, Matt, and I had the encounter with the large bull.
We began trying to locate some elk and were getting answers. We eventually pushed on and ran into a nice 320-330 class bull with a couple of cows. He didn't want much to do with us and moved on. We continued on and located another bull in the same direction I had previously encountered the large bull. We again found him within 1/4 mill from where I left him. I stayed back as Rockie and Rex pushed towards the bull. He would answer me and I would answer him giving them the bull's location and hopefully an opportunity to sneak in close. They got right around 100 yards from the bull, but couldn't get any closer.
We went back in the next morning and immediately found him again. We did some tactics I was not used to, but it worked flawlessly. We pushed into the bulls bedroom and he couldn't take it any longer. He challenged me and was close. Rockie and Rex were in front of me. The bull was only 30 yards away, but wouldn't come any closer and didn't offer Rockie a shot. They came back and announced how big he was.
We spent the next few days really trying to narrow down where a good group of elk were hanging. The hunting got tougher and tougher, but we were finding elk. It was my second to last night to hunt and we went to an area that was unfamiliar to me. I separated from Rockie and Rex. I began doing what I had all season up to this point by using a location bugle. It was quiet with no answers. I stayed high and eventually looked down to see a nice bull in the bottom with some cows. They never did answer me back and I eventually hiked back out. It was my last day and I went back to where I found the elk the previous night.
I came from the bottom of the creek bottom and hiked in. I worked my way to a higher point and eventually got my eyes on a cow and calf. This was my last shot. I quietly snuck down to where I was behind cover. Now it was a waiting game. There was no sound in the air and little wind. I was within 70 yards of the calf and was waiting for an opportunity on either of them. In the end I moved my leg and they caught some noise. They stared my direction and eventually left the area.
I wasn't able to get out much after returning home. I spent a few days here and there chasing deer and elk closer to home. We ended up getting a bunch of snow and I headed out. I located a large herd of elk, but the area I was hunting I was only able to kill a spike. The herd I located had three spikes with them, but they were on the wrong side of the fence and I wasn't able to end up filling my tag. I again later ran into another herd of elk, but there were no spikes. There were approximately 60 cows and calves with two really big bulls with the biggest being in that 350" range.
While finishing out deer and elk hunting I went back to a passion I have had since growing up in South Dakota. I re-pursued my passion for pheasant hunting once again. There is just something about hunting with my dog chasing birds. Right now my mind is stuck on chasing them and at the beginning of 2018 I will be headed back the last week of their bird season to meet up with Stephen and several others in pursuit of birds. I ended up only killing a few, but I'm ready to continue and grow that passion as much as I have with bow hunting.
With 2017 coming to a close I look forward to what 2018 will bring. It will definitely start with a bang as I chase some birds in SD, but that will be just the beginning. Happy holidays to all and look forward to seeing what new products and hunts are in store for the future.