Bugling For Elk

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Bugling For Elk

By Bob Robb

Aug 14, 2008 – 10:57:33 AM


Beautiful country and when the bulls are bugling it will raise the hair on your neck.

One thing I have learned about the folks who come to the Bowhunting.net website regularly is that you are an adventurous lot. Mostly you hunt whitetails near home, but many of you travel each year to experience new and exciting adventures. High on your list of ?If I could go anywhere, here?s what I?d like to hunt? is an opportunity to hunt elk.

I killed my first bull back in the late 1970?s with a rifle in Idaho?s rugged Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area after horsebacking in about 20 miles. Back then you could rifle hunt during the rut, and on day two my guide called in a 6×6 bull that scored almost 330 Boone & Crockett points. I killed him and my partner shot a small 5×5 about five minutes later. We thought, ?Heck, there ain?t nothing to this elk hunting, we?ll kill huge bulls every year!?

Damn, were we young and dumb. For the next 20 years I was at war with elk, often hunting three or four states each year plus the odd trip to western Canada. I hunted them with rifle and muzzleloader a lot before getting very serious about bowhunting them. Mostly I hunted on my own, though I took several outfitted trips, too. It took me about 20 hunts before I killed a bull as large as the first. Many times I didn?t have any luck, and many times I shot a small bull or cow for the freezer.

When I moved to Alaska in 1991 my lower 48 elk hunting slowed way down, though in my travels I did hunt them several times. Since moving to Arizona in 2005 I have been on three elk hunts, trips that have gotten the fire burning again even after a career in which I have killed more than 30 of them. I dearly love elk hunting, especially with my bow.

Stalk, call, spot, stalk some more.

In late September 2007 I traveled back to my elk hunting roots, as it were. My good friend Wade Derby of Crosshair Consulting (925/679-9232; www.crosshairconsulting.com) helped me book a hunt with Korell Outfitters of Emmett, Idaho. We?d be hunting the Payette National Forest, a steep, rugged area with a high elk population, after horsebacking into a classic wall tent camp.

Chris Korell is my kind of outfitter. The thirty-something is a real cowboy and believes in running a small, personalized family-owned and operated business. Chris and his younger brother Cody were born and raised here and have more than over 24 years combined experience guiding hunters in this area. In addition to their mule deer and elk hunts, the Korells are something of regional legends for their kennel of treeing Walker hounds used on their highly-successful black bear and mountain lion hunts. Their equipment is in good shape, their horses strong and user-friendly, and they keep their camps small. If they hire a guide to help them you can be sure the man is not some clueless young dude who hasn?t started shaving yet, but someone who has lots of elk hunting experience under his belt.

These are not the kinds of hunts you see on most of the cable TV hunting shows. You know, where the host and some celebrity are hunting on some private ranch where there are elk with huge antlers everywhere and, if the guy can shoot at all, he?s going to be successful while barely breaking a sweat. These are real world elk hunts conducted on some of the most rugged tracts of public land in the West. Don?t get me wrong. There are plenty of elk and lots of bulls. You ride and/or hike out into some of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring country on God?s earth and challenge them mano-a mano. Success or failure will depend on your ability to hike, climb, and ride and, once a bull gets close, your ability to seal the deal. And, of course, as is the case with all real world elk hunts, Lady Luck will play a large role.

On my hunt she turned on us. I booked for the time period Chris said was the week that the bulls scream their heads off. His records show that clients during this time hear bugling bulls daily (that?s bulls, plural) and during the week usually have several called in close. Quality shot opportunities average well over 50 percent. In real world elk hunting these are impressive stats indeed. This week instead of warm, sunny weather we were treated to strong winds, temperatures that often dipped below freezing, and even some spitting snow. The bulls, which had been extremely active the prior week, shut up. In five days my guide Terry and I hiked something like 50 miles and rode another 40. The first afternoon I snuck within 75 yards of a nice 5×5 that would answer us but not come, but being the first day and me being a bit greedy, we passed him by. It would be my last chance of the week.

Though I did not shoot an arrow I consider this hunt to be very successful. The outfitter did what he said he would do, the elk were there, we saw no other hunters, and we had a great time. Had things been ?normal,? I?d bet dollars to dough nuts arrows would have flown. This time it just didn?t work out ? but that did not keep me from re-booking. This is my kind of hunt, where any success you may have is hard-earned, not the product of the thickness of your wallet.

That?s real world, fair chase elk hunting. And I do love it so.

Care to join me?


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