Saturday, September 5, 2015

Soggy Bow Hunting Opener

I had a well deserved break from the river this week. I kind of wish it would have been the up-coming week with bow-season starting today and the weather being ideal for fishing but having a few days to finish the trim around the house was nice. The house is one step closer.  
As for the fishing, it's that time of the year when rainy days bring out the pseudos by the gazillions and although they are tiny little buggers, when fish really get on them you can throw a small parachute Adams and they will eat it. If the weather stays like this we should see BWO's again in no-time. And the streamer bite should pick up as well.
So, it was bow hunting opener and I don't really like to hunt on the weekends because of the crowds but you have to take advantage of the time you have. My alarm went off at 4:30 am and I was on the road by 5:30 and on the trail by 6:15. With the rain, it took a little while longer to lighten up and I was in my honey hole just in time to get into the action.
I did hear one bull bugling and I played around with him for a little while until someone else started calling from the other side and the game was over. I'm not the greatest caller in the world but whoever was behind that call was absolutely terrible. So since I was looking to head that direction and then beyond anyway, I kind of messed with them just a little bit. I got to within a couple hundred yards and then lit up a big bugle. It probably scared the crap out of them but they were trying to call me in for a good hour so I was just obliging. Plus I figured that would keep them busy for at least another half-hour or so, which would give me time to get around them and to the next promising hole...I know, it's kind of mean but...
So my goal was to head to the ravine where John LaRue shot his elk last year during rifle season. It's a little corner in the drainage that I hadn't explored that much but while tracking his last year, it really looked good. On my way there, I spotted a couple deer near a salt-lick out in a park and decided to check it out to see what had been hitting it. As I walked up, I noticed the deer looking at me. She was obviously nervous but wasn't bolting and when I stopped and looked, I noticed she wasn't looking at me but kind of past me. Eventually she did take off but I thought it was kind of weird.
I thought about it for a second and then heard hoofs coming from behind me.
I spun my head around and saw a bull coming from behind me and was running past me out in the middle of the park.
"Shit!" I yelled internally, (by the way, it's a good thing people can't hear the internal dialog of a guide...just saying,) and I dropped to my knees and cow called.
The bull stopped and looked at me. He stood there for a couple seconds before bolting. Elk are incredibly impressive animals. With head high, his rack spread way outside of his body and curved around to almost close off his head gear with nearly perfect symmetry. He wasn't a huge bull but still a sight to see and at about a hundred yards out, I got a really good look at him.
I'm not sure what spooked him; if it was another hunter or if he had heard me cow call as I reached the edge of the park and he was coming to check me out or what but I saw where he was heading and because he wasn't running really scared, I thought I might be able to get into the timber below the park and cut him off. It was a long shot but what the hell, right?
I made my way into the timber and side-hilled my way just below the park. I made a couple cow calls with no response so I kept creeping along the ridge. The rain had been coming down all morning--sometimes pretty sever with some claps of thunder so with the moister in the pine duff, it was nice and quite.
It was only a few minutes after I got into the timber that I came across a game trail and started following it. It was only a few yards on that trail that I looked down the ridge and there he was standing broad-side about 50 yards away but behind some brush.
It's crazy how fast things happen when you get into elk. One minute you're day-dreaming about getting back to the Grub Stake to grab a sunshine breakfast special with sausage patties and sourdough toast and the next minute, total adrenaline rush with all these moving parts coming together all at once and no way to slow it down with your mind racing; thinking about is how am I going to pull this one off?
The bull started walking off so I cow-called and he immediately turned to get a look at me. I was kind of standing out in the open but there were a fair number of trees to at least break up my silhouette. He must have liked what he heard because once he turned towards me, he started walking up the ridge with a pretty fast pace. He was coming quick and I didn't even have an arrow knocked yet.
I could see him looking at me trying to figure me out. As he walked he would turn his head to eye me and to guide his horns through the brush. Every time I would see him get behind a tree, I would make a move; first to pull an arrow off my quiver, then to knock it and then to clip my release to the string. It all happened in a matter of seconds because he just kept coming and now I was looking for a place to hide.
There was a huge pine tree about 25 yards out and I figured once he got to where that tree was between us, I could move laterally a few feet so that once he cleared the tree, he would be broad-side again. It was definitely a desperate move but I felt like where I was, was no good and would only leave me with a shot almost head on. He ducked behind the tree and I made my move.
I didn't think I had made any noise and I knew he couldn't see me from behind that tree but something blew my cover and he stopped. He was well within 40 yards and all he had to do was take a few more steps but this game was soon to be over as well and I was about to lose.
He didn't bolt--he just walked off on the exact same path he came in on which left me with no shot. I watched him walk off out of view and even though I tried calling him back, he wanted nothing more to do with me.
I've said it before and I do still feel this way that it's not just the kill that makes the hunt. I really like having these encounters and it makes the effort seem worth it. It does bum me out a little however, knowing it's going to get busy out there and you really have to make the most of each opportunity early before the elk all go silent with the pressure. I will say though, that the last few years have all started out the same and it's worked out pretty well.
I didn't go home empty handed, I'll have you know. On my way back to the truck I ran into a covey of these guys--mountain grouse.
This guy waited around for me to take a picture before shooting him with a judo point. I shot three others to round out my day and didn't even lose an arrow. A little bacon wrap, maybe some jalapenos on the grill and these critters are going to be TASTY.
Keep 'em where they live... 

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