Might 10, 2023
I had been climbing for a couple of half-hour when the bull strolled over a ridge. His antlers seemed large in opposition to the night sky, even from a half-mile away. However silhouettes might be deceiving. I dropped my pack, grabbed my recognizing scope, and adjusted the tripod.
A dozen cow elk had been milling across the bull like leaves in a whirlwind, however his extra-large physique and tan sides stood out within the crowd. I turned the main focus ring, and the animal snapped into crystal readability.
This was the eleventh day of my 2022 Wyoming elk hunt. I had seen fairly a number of bulls, however nothing like this one. His rack was large, the tines lengthy and even, the again Y’s real “whale tails” assured to excite any critical elk hunter. The bull tipped again his head to bugle, and his principal beams dropped to the entrance of his butt. A rump-scratcher for certain!
The primary 10 days had been each thrilling and disappointing. There have been extra elk in my favourite honey gap than regular, with bugles and grunts floating throughout canyons each morning and night. As is normally the case within the second half of September, massive summer time elk herds had splintered into small rutting pods with a mean of six to 12 cows, one dominant bull, and smaller males across the edges. However strive as I would, I couldn’t find a very outsized elk.
Please don’t get me improper. I’ve at all times believed that any elk is a trophy — be it cow, spike, raghorn, or large. Nevertheless, with greater than two weeks to go looking, I wished to carry out for a real massive one till close to the top. That meant extra enjoyable earlier than I dropped an elk and exhausting work started.
The 2022 elk season confirmed me quite a few mature 6×6 bulls as I hiked, referred to as to find, and glassed distant slopes. I sneaked inside 30 yards of a number of bulls, however all of them had a number of antler deficiencies. Most carried brief third factors (a standard elk trait), brief principal beams, under-developed again forks, or smallish beam diameters. All in all, I made a decision it was a below-average antler yr for elk in my space. By Day 11, I had additionally determined any respectable 320-inch bull could be in serious trouble if I might get shut.
Wyoming is a superb elk state, and the nation I used to be combing was sometimes good. The whole space was a patchwork of public and privately owned tracts — one thing generally discovered within the Rocky Mountain West. The onX app on my smartphone confirmed me precisely which sections, half-sections, and oddball tracts had been BLM, state, or non-public floor. I had permission to hunt from a number of landowners, however a lot of the non-public floor was off-limits. Multiple bull I noticed crossed a number of chunks of public and personal property in a single morning or night. This made searching tough.
The mountains I used to be mountaineering at all times abound with water — springs, inventory ponds, and pure catchments for rain. Final yr was unusually moist, with frequent precipitation all through the summer time. There aren’t any agricultural fields like alfalfa to attract elk, so ready on stand would have been a dead-end technique. With solely native grass to eat and plenty of locations to drink, bulls in my neck of the woods are typically far-ranging nomads with no fondness for a single canyon or ridge. I usually discuss with them as “observe stars,” as a result of they often transfer far and quick. I generally see a specific bull solely as soon as earlier than he vanishes eternally into elements unknown.
I hustled throughout a saddle, trotted alongside a hill, and seemed previous a patch of stunted pines. The bull was crossing a draw 400 yards under me, and he was on their lonesome. His cows had been clustered above him with a medium-sized 6×6 grunting and bugling to maintain them in a decent group. Whale Tail had been pushed off by a extra aggressive male.
Video That Might Curiosity You
The massive elk trotted throughout a ravine, disappeared in a deep canyon, and reappeared on the far slope. This was an outdated burn with virtually no bushes, and the bull was simple to see. Different elk had been milling on a ridge a half-mile in entrance of him, together with a bull with respectable antlers. One other rutting cluster.
I planted my fanny and watched via 10X binoculars. The massive, lone elk bee-lined towards the herd, swaggered into the mob, and chased the opposite bull downslope. Assured he had one other harem, Whale Tail circled a number of instances earlier than bedding with eight cows feeding round him.
Even from half a mile, I knew a stalking setup once I noticed one. The wind was ripping down-canyon in my face, and the elk had been bunched on a small bench with a decent, steep draw on the downwind edge. I ran off the slope, trotted throughout the canyon, and climbed the opposite aspect. It was 5:45 p.m., and the solar was dipping low.
In lower than 20 minutes, I had eased throughout the final ravine and dropped to my knees for a closing crawl. A minute later, I glanced via foot-high grass on the bench in entrance of me. A number of cows had been feeding lower than 20 yards away, shifting out and in of second-growth pines. The bull grunted simply out of sight.
The subsequent 10 minutes had been eventful. One cow was bigger than the remaining — a sway-backed and paunchy outdated bat with a protracted, slim face. Abruptly she turned, walked straight towards me, and planted her entrance ft on the sting of the bench lower than six ft from my nostril!
I used to be flat on the bottom, trying straight up on the outdated gal, as she swung her head backwards and forwards to scan the nation past me. I’ve by no means been that near an elk for that lengthy with out being busted. Her eyes glittered within the sinking daylight, and her nostrils flared to check the wind. Then she seemed proper down at me. I used to be frozen. She stared long and hard at me. She was shut sufficient to kick my head off. Then she dropped her head to seize a mouthful of grass and turned away. Thank goodness for a robust, regular breeze!
Minutes later, ideas of polished antlers flashed 30 yards in entrance of me. The bull trotted into the clear, stepped nearer, turned away, and tipped again his head to bugle. My rangefinding binoculars mentioned 25 yards.
Cows had been lifting their heads in alarm as I rolled to my knees, drew my Bear Alaskan bow, and despatched an Easton FMJ arrow on its manner. However the quartering bull by no means noticed a factor. The G5 Striker broadhead smashed via the final rib on the left aspect and blew out in entrance of the correct shoulder. The bull staggered downhill and collapsed.
As fast as I might, I gutted the elk, butterflied the shoulders, skinned the tops of the hams, sliced into the again of the neck, and jammed wrist-thick branches beneath to make sure speedy cooling. It was alleged to drop to 50 levels that evening, and it was already cool. There aren’t any bears in my elk space to fret about, and I knew the meat could be good.
By no means thoughts the three-mile hike again to my pickup at the hours of darkness. By no means thoughts the half-dozen large backpack a great deal of meat and antlers up a steep, extreme slope the following morning. My rancher pal Tommy Moore, his son, Shaw, and employed hand, Joel, met me on the prime with Tommy’s 4-wheeler to move the meat up a mile-long ridge to my pickup. Thank God for good buddies!
My track-star bull gross-scored over 360 inches. Catching fast-moving elk isn’t simple, however typically pays off!
Elk Care In Robust Conditions
In case you drop an elk in a nasty spot, particularly near dusk, there are vital steps to avoid wasting the meat.
In heat climate, the animal have to be gutted, quartered, and hung or draped over logs or rocks to chill — even when you must do that by flashlight or headlamp. Light-weight recreation baggage are advisable to thrust back egg-laying blowflies throughout sunlight hours.
Cool climate makes issues simpler. You possibly can intestine your elk and slice via the armpits to butterfly the shoulders away from the neck and ribs. Pores and skin as a lot of the hindquarters as you possibly can. Minimize deep into the again of the neck to stop lingering, spoiling warmth on this susceptible space. If attainable, prop the carcass on logs or limbs to make sure cooling air circulation. The tenderloins and backstraps ought to cool rapidly as a result of they lie in opposition to the uncovered ribcage.
As I did with my 2022 elk, it’s essential to return to a late-evening kill at dawn and begin transporting meat. The foregoing procedures might be dangerous in grizzly nation, however it’s ill-advised to hold meat at evening with harmful bruins round. Do the most effective you possibly can, and preserve your fingers crossed!