The bull screamed less than 80 yards from my ground blind. I was hoping he was working his way towards the wallow that was 25 yards to my front. As I peeked out a side window I spotted him just as he stepped from the trees, he was a mature 6x6 with heavy beams.
This bull didn’t require a second thought as if he were a shooter or not. The bull briefly looked around, bugled, and then came walking right towards the wallow. His screaming every few seconds was making me tell myself to not rush things, wait for the right opportunity and pick a spot. To add to this excitement 2 more bulls were bugling right behind this one, they too were on their way in. I sat back deep into the blind and watched the side window listening to the bull approach.
He then appeared through the window, but he quickly walked past it following the water seep that originated from the wallow. My shooting window was situated to look right at where the wallow was, and the bull was about to step right into this shooting lane. As he came into view I drew my bow and as if on cue he stopped perfectly at 22 yards.
The 2016 archery elk season had me pressed for time between getting my elk camp set up and accompanying my dad on a fly-fishing trip for salmon in Alaska the first week of September. I was definitely going to feel pushed to get everything accomplished. So 2 days before the season started I drove to my elk hunting area with the purpose of seeing if anything seemed to be around and selecting spots to put up ground blinds or tree stands. When I arrived in the area, I started unpacking camp. As evening drew near I heard a bull bugle off in the distance. I walked out a small spur road and could hear several bulls and cows/calves talking in a meadow. This was a good omen. Upon returning to camp I was sitting quietly thinking of the elk in the meadow when I heard a branch break up in the trees. I turned around and there was a cow elk walking by camp less than 50 yards away. Then back behind her a bull bugled and then another bull. Another good omen. I was now pinching myself expecting to wake from a dream. The cow had walked past camp down into a riparian area and joined up with yet another bull. The two other bulls behind camp in the meantime had walked out within 50-60 yards of my tent and decided they didn’t like the look of things so disappeared back where they had come from. That night I was serenaded by bugling bulls and a very rude coyote that barked for hours on end.
The next morning, I scouted the area and decided I would put two ground blinds out over water seeps that had been used for wallows in years past. While I prefer sitting in a tree stand, I have had bad luck with the wind currents giving me away. I thought I would give the ground blinds a try this year. My usual style of hunting is to walk and call in the mornings and then sit in blinds/tree stands in the evenings when it’s usually warmer. By opening morning, I had already decided my goal was to hold out for a bull that was 3 years or older.
As I headed out opening morning I knew that I needed to be careful about bumping elk as the rut was still two weeks off and I didn’t want to push animals out of the area. So I cautiously probed some ridges to look for sign. There were numerous elk tracks and a considerable number of rubs that were from bulls removing the velvet off their antlers. Things were really looking promising. The second morning I hunted back behind camp. The forest was very dry and noisy so I figured I would sit patiently while calling. On my first stand I had no more than got a couple calf sounds out when I heard hooves thumping on the ground coming my direction. Very quickly a cow elk appeared through the trees, but upon nearing my location she decided to circle and when she did she caught my scent. After she had loped out of the area I heard a high pitched elk whistle behind me. I figured a young bull was coming in from behind me so I repositioned myself behind the tree I had been standing in front of. Being careful to not over call I gave just a couple cow chirps and then went silent. In about 5 minutes I saw a small bull standing down below me about 70 yards. He had come in lower than I expected, and the wind direction was drifting off that way. After a minute or so though, he started working his way up towards me. He came to within 25 yards and stood broadside for about ½ a minute. The wind currents then circled and upon him catching my scent he galloped off. This bull was a 2-year-old and I was going to wait for an opportunity at an older bull. That evening as the previous evening, I went to one of my ground blinds. Again nothing showed itself.
See, Part Two for the conclusion...
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