Lessons Learned 2017 Elk Season
I have been thinking a lot and remeniscing about my 2017 archery elk season. I spent close to 20 days chasing bulls. I spent part of September and October in the elk woods. I learned a lot of valuable information and will hope what I write can maybe help others in their success.
As I wrote in my 2017 blog I first hunted with Matt and Stephen. Now up to this point I had spent the last couple of years dabbling with bugling and callling elk, but mainly stuck to cow calling as I felt more confident in my cow calling than bugling. I would say that is fairly common with most beginning elk hunters. As much time I have spent chasing elk I am still learning the art of successfully calling elk.
This past fall I decided to take the many tips Inahve learned over the last few years from Rockie Jacobsen and others affiliated with Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls. I decided it was time to concentrate on bugling. Fall of 2016 I did very well bugling and my encounters went up.
I proved that that the things I had been learning will work if you just apply them. Stephen, Matt, and I set out and in just the first couple of sets I called two bulls with one immediately responding to my bugles. That bull proved to be a giant and showed his age and just how smart they can be. He came in, circled down wind, and eventually left untouched.
On the first bull I called in I also learned to always be on your toes and ready. He came from an area we just walked through and came in close unannounced and caught me off guard. I quickly missed a golden opportunity. It wasn’t a huge bull but was definitely a shooter. Both elk came into me bugling and cow calling together.
The second bull apparently had some cows close by and defended his territory. This is the exact reason the rut can be so fun. This was easily one of the biggest bulls I have ever laid eyes on. He, by mine as well as others estimation would have scored well over 360 and may have scored as high as 390”. This wouldn’t be my only encounter with this bull.
It was quick to show that bugling works when done right. after this encounter we spent the next couple of days working different strategies. I went back to sticking mainly to cow calling. The encounters weren’t happening as much. It was readily apparent we needed to switch back to bugling.
After switching back we got an immediate response and Matt’s bull was dead. This couldn’t have worked out better. We were set up and ready and this made a huge difference as it happened fast. After Matt’s bull was taken care of we hit an area with no luck.
Upon returning to the same area we worked Stephen’s bull much longer. On this set we made a crucial decision and went from waiting for the bull to come to us we worked to him. By staying mobile we were able to close the gap to the point he couldn’t take it anymore and came in for a fight.
Staying mobile and working to the bull rather than waiting proved to be the way we closed the deal on this bull. Had we waited for him there’s no telling what might have happened. This will play into a little later on and knowing when to move. After the bull was all packed up we all headed back to our homes. I couldn’t be more proud of the week we had and can’t thank Stephen and Matt for continually pushing through and getting it done on two great bulls.
Part 2 Knowing Where The Shooter Is.
After Hunting with Stephen and Matt I came back east and met with Rockie and Rex. I have been looking forward to get to hunt with Rockie for a very long time. He has a lifetime of experience chasing elk and it was a pleasure to share camp with him and Rex.
I quickly learned that in previous years I wasn’t being aggressive enough. The very first area we hit we covered ground constantly bugling. It finally happened and we heard our first bugle. We pushed forward to the point we walked into the elk.
This is was the first of many times that I learned to keep an eye on the shooter and learn to move with each other. Again this was the first time hunting with Rockie and Rex so it was a great time to learn everything possible they knew. They had hunted together quite a few times and know how each other work and hunt.
We first headed into an area I had ran into elk in the past couple of seasons and an area they liked to travel through. We bugled as we hiked and finally heard some bugling in return. We continued to hike until we got to where we felt the elk were close. We ended up walking right into a smaller bull and set up to call. I stayed back and called for Rockie while Rex videoed. I eventually lost sight of them and we continued to work the bulls in the area. In the end we didn’t get a shot.
The next couple of the strategy stayed the same with hiking and bugling. We went back to the same spot Stephen, Matt, and I found the big bull. We found him again. We continued to figure out where he was with bugles. It was decided I would stay across from the bull and try to keep track of the bull while Rockie and Rex snuck in. He would continue to let me know where he was by answering roughly every third bugle of mine. They were able to sneak into about 100 yards of the bull, but never got close enough for a shot.
We spent a couple of days chasing this bull as well as others near him. As we hunted the area we located another bull and worked to where we thought he was. We got a close immediate answer. I snuck further back and began to call. The downfall was losing sight of Rockie and Rex. The bull eventually worked back to his cows and left. Had I kept better eye on them it may have been easier to have things come together better.
The next day we located the big bull again. He retreated to his comfort area so we worked around him. We worked in close and he challenged us. I gave an immediate challenge and he came. Rockie had him close but no shot. As soon as I challenged him he tried to come through some brush but wouldn’t fit, turned, and went the opposite direction. The lesson I learned here was in calling. It may be been better to cow call and make more herd sounds. It may or may not have worked. There definitely is no perfect answer and as I continue to have more encounters I am learning more tricks when they get close.
One big thing I learned was learning to move with the shooter. This comes with experience with partners. It takes time and understanding each other. You almost become one hunter and understand each other. I think with more opportunity hunting with them it would come. It was a blast learning so much and an absolute privilege getting to learn from some of the best elk hunters I know.
To sum everything up I learned the following this year:
-Know where your shooter is
-Know when to move together
-Bugling was the most successful tactic
A lot of this was know prior, but putting it together and watching it work is pretty awesome to see. Each year I learn more and adding that knowledge has increased encounters and success. I can’t wait for this fall and what it has to bring. 2017 was tough in the fact the elk weren’t overly talkative, but with new strategies we were able to get them to talk when in the past it might not have happened. Hopefully these tips will help someone else in the future.
If you’re looking for that extra edge check into Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls and the new line coming out. I’m sold on the new Wapati Whacker in combination with the Reaper and Black Magic. I also used the new acrylic open reed VooDoo and stick with the trusty Raging Bull as well. They have completely changed my success. They can be found at buglingbull.com.
1/27/2018 01:37:30 pm
Great read! I agree with you Kent, we've found that being aggressive is the best policy. Our crew hunts all high pressure public ground and we mix our cow calling and bugling. I am still not that confident in my bugling so I usually stick to cow calling but when they hang up I will bugle and has almost always had good results. You are spot on about being mobile, we will run at them when they are staying in one place or moving away. We've found that noise just usually gets them that more wound up! Keep the wind in your face!
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