Day 4: Closing The Distance

The feeling of your hunt inching towards the halfway mark is one I dread but welcome at the same time. By the idea is to have had enough encounters to put together much more strategic and successful hunts. Having seen a big bull the night before deep in the canyon I couldn’t help myself but conjure up images of the bull tending his cows in the bedding area only to be caught short by the hollow whistle of my arrow as it left the bow. I dropped back into the bedding area in the canyon to try and find the herd but was met with the crushing sound of silence.

I hiked out of the canyon at 10 am and decided to still-hunt my way back to camp through the timber past where dad had killed a big bull several years ago and through what we call Mushroom Bottoms because of the number of mountain mushrooms that were present. In a book my father has had sitting on his desk at home for the last two decades called “Elk Tactics” there is a clear indication from the authors to locate mountain mushrooms during September. I personally believe they are a treat since their palatability must be a welcome change from a year’s worth of munching on grass. Some elk hunters I know deny their effectiveness as a food source; however, I counter that you’ll find where they have uprooted certain areas trying to eat as much of the plant as possible. This particular area is a north facing, triple tier bedding area and is loaded with mushrooms.

The sound of a bull raking his antler on a tree is distinctive. 150 yards below me I could hear and see the antlers of a bull beating the absolute snot out of a tree. Seeing a bull elk distracted in the middle of the day felt like the elk gods were providing a gift to this weary non-resident kid trying to outrun life. The low-hanging branches of the timber obscured any shot until reaching a distance I guessed to be within forty yards. Well within my zone that it feels almost automatic when my bow string hits my anchor point. I just needed to keep my composure. One painful slow step in front of the next ensued, and fifteen minutes later I was closing in on my target tree. The bull continued to rake his antlers, and I honestly could not believe my good fortune in finding a bull elk distracted with no cows. Or so I thought.

The logs to my left snapped under the weight of spooked elk.
I caught a glimpse of his full rack and knew this was more than just any little bull. This was the beginning of the saga of a bull Dad ended up naming Thunderdome. That evening I went back to the area and got into cows, several cows in range, but with no tag, it was just fun to look at elk up close.

My hunt got interesting when the bull, which I know can identify from his deep chuckle lit up the drainage challenging a smaller bull right as the light faded to black. I made a note mentally and headed back to camp. Lasagna and meat sauce Mountain House for dinner was on point. This day was dad’s least active day of the hunt. He had not seen anything. Bryce missed a small six-point bull when his backpack got caught on a branch while shooting off of a deadfall forcing him to torque his body and thus sent the arrow off the mark.