An Empty Quiver: Chapter 14. A Field Guide to Elk – Pt 2

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By: Dr. Dave SamuelSure enough after a thirty minute sit a bull bugled from below.  We quickly sprinted out the finger ridge and settled behind some small ground pines.  The wind was good, but I wondered why Bill had selected this side of the ridge.  “Why not on the other side of this spur?” I whispered.  “I think they’ll come up right here Dave” was all Bill said.  Five minutes later the herd was in sight (more of that good-guide magic?); a few cows at first, then a spike, then another, and at least two small branch-antlered bulls.

Slowly but surely the herd fed along the side of the ridge, right below us.  Bill’s instructions had been clear.  Make no movement, wait for the herd bull.  The elk got close and soon we had a herd of around thirty elk within forty yards, many within twenty.  Finally I spotted the herd bull, below the rest of the herd.  Bill put the range finder on him and whispered “fifty”.  Yes, a bit far, but I’d practiced many hours at that distance and felt confident.  I put the fifty yard pin on his chest and released.  I’d forgotten the steep downhill angle and the arrow just cleared his back.  Bill and I lay their smiling as the elk thundered over the mountain.  What a thrill having thirty elk in our back pocket for fifteen minutes.

That afternoon we were sitting near a water hole with plenty of bull elk sign in the area.  Around 3:30 Bill looked at me and said, “Dave, I don’t like this and I have an idea where we should be.  Let’s get out of here.”  I knew better than to question this guide.  We ran to the truck and drove around ten miles to a hidden ridge that Bill knew about.  My arrhythmia started acting up, so the hike up the mountain was slow.  On the ridge top I had to sit down for five minutes, disappointed that I couldn’t continue to hunt.  Soon the old heart started beating normally and we were off again.  A well-worn elk trail led out of a remote canyon headed for a distant water hole.  We sat there discussing this location, a nice little saddle with a fresh trail to water.  “Let’s wait here to see if a bull will bugle as he enters this canyon from the bedding area on that ridge,” Bill said.  “Then we’ll decide where to move.” Thirty seconds later a bull bugled in the canyon; talk about a sixth sense.

“Dave, that is one big toad.  He is going to come up right here, and you are going to shoot him.” I loved his confidence in me but how did he know where that bull was going to go?  Bill set up forty yards behind me so he could signal as elk came up the trail.  I sat there thinking that Bill had already made this hunt a success, even if I did not get a shot at an elk.  True, but my field guide to elk wasn’t finished yet.  Thirty minutes later at least thirty elk were feeding on the ridge.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that they’d come up behind us.  I quietly moved closer to Bill, got behind some brush and waited.

Cows and small bulls fed past me at forty to sixty yards.  The direction they were moving meant they would soon get our wind.  The herd bull brought up the rear, harassing a cow and eating grass.  I put the range finder on him at forty-two yards, but he just would not move into the open.  Finally the cows to my right winded me and started to run back down the mountain.  I immediately came to full draw and when the bull ran from behind the tree I released.  For a few moments it was chaos with elk running everywhere and when they were gone we begin searching for sign of a hit.  But darkness came upon us before we found the arrow, or blood, or the bull.

I was confident of a good shot and the next morning that was confirmed.  We immediately found blood and the broken arrow, but within one hundred-fifty yards, the blood ran out.  Bill went off on his own, following the herd’s tracks over the ridge while I painfully struggled to follow the blood trail.  Fifteen minutes later, Bill returned with a smile on his face.  “Your hunt is over Dave.  He’s laying down the ridge.”  I was elated.  Bill quickly explained what happened.  “There were no bull tracks with the herd, so I cut off that trail and moved down the ridge.  After going about one hundred yards, I smelled the dead bull and followed that scent.”  Yea, right.  What he didn’t tell me was he followed the scent for almost two hundred yards.

This bull would not have been possible without a great guide, Bill King.
This bull would not have been possible without a great guide, Bill King.

As I approached the bull (that I still couldn’t smell), I marveled at Bill’s abilities.  As we admired this great animal, I realized that this had been one of the best hunts of my life.  Sure, I’d made a good shot, but the truth was I owed the success of the hunt to Bill King and Ken Swaim, my field guides to elk.

For An Empty Quiver: Chapter 14. A Field Guide to Elk – Part 1

Next: An Empty Quiver: Chapter 14.  A Field Guide to Elk – Pt 3

For more please go to: The Future of Hunting

For more also go to: Straight Talk Interview: Dr. Dave Samuel

Be sure and visit Dr. Dave’s website, Know Hunting