This fall was incredible! September started off with a bang in Wyoming! Sharing an elk camp with new friends was definitely a highlight, as Trent Fischer and Kody Kellom from Born and Raised Outdoors, along with Jade Helmich and John Abernathy (behind the cameras) joined us on the hunt. Wyoming didn’t disappoint, with bugling bulls up close from the very beginning!
After returning home from Wyoming and working for a couple of days, I was off again in my home state of Idaho. I took my son Austin out for the next 5 days, and we hunted hard. The elk were fairly tight-lipped, but we still enjoyed our time in the mountains together. He had to get back to college and I needed to work for a couple more days, so we headed home empty-handed.
My last trip of September was a solo-hunt back where Austin and I hunted the long weekend before. On Day One, I hunted a long ways from my camp in a couple of areas where I had called bulls in last year. Before daylight hit, I had a bull bugling, and at first light, he was dragging me all over the mountain. By the end of the day, I had heard 7 different bulls bugle, and called 4 into bow range. One of the bulls was a real whopper, but the Idaho brush broke my heart and presented me with no shot!
Unfortunately, by the end of the day, I had found the wolves as well. Their howling caused the bulls to shut down. Day Two found me in a completely different area. I heard my first bugle of the day at 12:30 pm. and made my way to the bull down a near-vertical slope in 8 inches of snow. It was quite treacherous, and the only thing that made it possible was my trekking poles. 2.5 hours later, I was where I needed to be to start calling.
The bull was still pretty far away (almost a mile) across the canyon. With the time of day and location, I thought I should try to call him over to my side. After exchanging bugles for 30 minutes, the argument had escalated to the point that the bull was infuriated enough to cross the canyon onto my side. He screamed repeatedly as he climbed the ridge toward where I was standing. I made one last call, aiming my tube up the hill behind me. When the bull came in to a distance of 100 yards, I clammed up, forcing him to seek me out. He kept climbing, and circled in the brush until he stood 15 yards above me. He walked behind a tree as I drew my bow, then took one step out from behind the tree, only exposing his neck. He burned holes through me looking for his challenger. My camouflage worked like a charm though, and he didn’t see me as a threat and continued walking out.
Unfortunately, there was too much brush for a shot as he walked above me and began raking his antlers on a tree. Letting my bow down, I side-stepped 4 steps and re-drew my bow. This time, I was able to send an arrow through his vitals at just 10 yards! He ran just out of sight and was dead in a matter of seconds. Now the work began.
I worked him up using the gutless method, and had his quarters and loose meat hanging in trees in about 3 hours’ time. At this point, it was dark, and as I looked for my headlamp, I discovered my mistake – I had forgotten it and my flashlight at the truck. Not wanting to risk injury, I elected to stay the night there with the elk. The woods were soaking wet, but with some Trioxane tablets, I was able to get a fire going for the long night.
After a sleepless night, I was up and ready to go. I loaded my EXO 2000 pack and headed up the hill with my first load. It took about 5 hours to climb out of the hole, and I was exhausted. I spent the next two days packing meat, and on the last day, I returned to find that a bear had stolen one of the front shoulders and some neck meat from the hanging tree. Finally, after 3 days of excruciating packing, I was done. What an adventure!
After returning home and resting a bit, my good friend Mark asked if I’d like to accompany him and his 10-year-old son for a day of elk hunting. Heading into some of my old haunts, we found a couple bulls that we were able to chase around for the day. At the very end of shooting light, I called a nice 6-point bull in, and Mark made a perfect shot. After a short recovery, we packed meat through the night and made it back home at 1:30 in the morning!
September left me with aching muscles, scabbed and bruised shins, and fully exhausted. I can’t help but reflect upon the last 30 days and think to myself, Did I make the most of it, with no regrets? I spent some high-quality time with my son in the mountains. I made strong bonds with friends new and old. I left nothing on the table to be dwelled upon for the next year. Completely fulfilled, I can’t help but feel a little ache in my heart knowing that September is over. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those who made my last 30 days complete, and completely unforgettable!