Monday, September 14, 2015

Grid Locked

Morning traffic got congested early as I headed out to my spot for day number three of chasing elk around. The first week of the season has now passed and although it's been eventful, I haven't let an arrow fly yet. I've been close though.
With campers at the bottom of the drainage, I've focused my efforts on a couple wallows a few miles off the beaten path. I haven't been seeing too much foot traffic and have bumped into a few elk. They haven't been real talkative and when I've seen them, they've come in silent and you're almost never ready for it.
It on  that third day I took about a four mile loop, starting at the top of a series of parks I've shot elk out of before. Nothing was in the parks so I took a ridgeline around to the spot I ran into a bull on opening day. As I made my way over there, I looked back into an old clear-cut I had just came from and sure enough; two bulls were feeding up the clear-cut and into some timber. I had to decide whether or not to go after them or wait until the next morning.
Taking into consideration that the boys camping down below would eventually make their way up here, I decided to go after them. As the crow flies, those bulls were only a few hundred yards away but there was no way of making it through the bottom on the ravine with how thick it was so I back-tracked my way around the ridge about a half mile. With just about a couple hundred yards to go before getting to where I figured the elk were, I heard a cow call.  
Hearing a cow call is kind of like hearing a rattlesnake. A lot of times you hear something like a grasshopper or leaves rustling and you wonder if that was a rattle but then you actually hear it and there is no mistaking it and it absolutely freaks you out. There are a lot of birds out there that kind of resemble a cow call until you actually hear the real deal and then there's nothing like it.
I could tell this cow was a little stressed by the way she was calling so I pulled my buff up and got an arrow knocked and called back. She answered and I called again and within a few seconds, she came running around a little knob and was heading right to me.
What I thought was a cow was really just a calf call and the closer she got the more her mews started sounding like, "Mom! Mom!"
She was lost and was looking for mamma cow and even though the thought crossed my mind as it would be really tender meat and an easy pack-out, there was just no way I was going to shoot this elk. She literally walked right up to me and stretched her neck out to get a good sniff of me to try to figure me out. Just about 10 feet away, our eyes met and I'm glad I didn't shoot her. She was about the size of a good sized mule deer and again, an easy pack-out but no way.
The calf hung out for a little while and circled around me before heading back the way she came. I figured I could follow her and she might lead me back to the heard. I started out a little faster than I normally walk with my hand-held cow call in my pocket; squeezing it every once in a while trying to simulate a cow following the calf back to the heard.
I worked my way around the knob she came from and into the clear-cut. It was thick with ten-foot lodge poles. There were some openings that I could get about a 30 or 40 yard look into but it was tough. I stopped at one of those opening and took a minute to look around and listen. I couldn't smell anything or hear anything but I thought I had to be getting close.
I know I've tried to give some idea of how fast things can change and the rush you feel but unit you are standing there in tight quarters staring down a 600 pound animal, you just can't know that feeling. With a little crack or hearing his antlers scraping a branch right behind me, I instantly knew things were going to get really intense...really soon.
The bull stepped into the clearing just 15 yards to my left and as my head snapped to get a look at him, his eyes trained on me and for a second, we were locked in on each other. His head came up with his antlers clearing the tops of the trees and he looked at me out of the corner of his eye with his head cocked kind of like; "Really? You think you can beat me?"
He turned and took a few steps out of the clearing and stopped behind some trees. I cow called and I could see him turn back. He didn't really know what I was but he definitely wasn't convinced I was that lost cow I was trying to emulate so instead of bolting, he circled around to get a good whiff of me.
Before getting completely down-wind, he stopped again. By this time I had an arrow knocked and thought about taking the shot. He was only 15 yards away and I had a little foot and a half window I could shoot through but I thought it was a little risky and I saw a bigger opening he was about to move through so I waited. Unfortunately, he winded me before he hit that opening and the game was over.
It wasn't the result I wanted but still a very successful day in the mountains. Keep posted.
Keep 'em where they live...

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