Give Elk Hunting a Try
by Rodney Evans
As I settled the pin on the target, my mind wandered. It was 98-degrees in Georgia in the middle of July, but none of that mattered. Continuing to aim, I focused my mind on getting prepared for my September 1st date in Colorado to go after my first bull elk. Every shot counts—I fired the release—bulls-eye! Now I was ready.
This was not the first time I would venture to Colorado. Last year, I had the opportunity to spend seven days in the south-central part of the state, with good friend, Kevin Feyad. On that adventure, I had little success. The rain and wind were relentless the entire week and the trip in general was a wash as far as the hunt was concerned. We were constantly monitoring the weather via phone apps and knew it was going be hard to locate, much less get close enough to get an elk for a shot with a bow. The hunt ended without us seeing or hearing an elk, but my hopes were not dashed when Kevin promised me that we would give it another go next season.
As soon as that hunt ended, we immediately started preparing for the next year. I marked several wallows and ponds on my map, and a couple places we could look to possibly locate a bull down the road. It was in May, during the Colorado turkey season, that I got the call I was waiting for. Kevin had been up to the property with his son Garrett hunting and they had seen a couple big herds of elk. The plan was then to figure out the dates to head back. We finally decided September 1st would be the day I would arrive. Hopefully the elk would still be hitting the waterholes and wallows we had marked the previous year.
I knew I only had a couple months left, so practicing in 100-degree heat was not a problem. Once I was comfortable at 50-yards, I immediately attempted a 60-yard shot and was comfortable at that distance, if an opportunity arose. Throughout the summer I would receive regular updates and trail-cam pictures from Kevin of elk on the ponds and
wallows. With only a couple days left until I was to leave, we started watching the weather. Luckily, it appeared the stars were lining up for us to have a great hunt. Finally, the day arrived, and I met Kevin at the Denver airport. After that, a four-hour ride to camp, with hopes of being there before nightfall.
The first morning we woke up to cool temperatures in the lower 40s. We headed up to about 10,000 feet to a point where we could hear and see a long way. Hopefully, the elk would move, so we could make a move. We happened to spot a bull on a hillside a way off. Immediately, our hopes were high for the rest of the hunt. The first evening, I had Garrett film me on a waterhole spot we had found. I was skeptical at first, but after him calling a few times all doubts were erased. I knew he was a lot better caller than I was ever going to be. It was his first attempt running a camera, so we spent a lot of time going over different functions and options on the camera.
The next two days were about the same; we would hear a bugle and even get close, but the bulls remained just out of range for a shot. We came up with a plan to return to Kevin’s house for a night to shower and wash our clothes. We headed back down to our hunting zone the next day, clean and ready to get back at it. This time, I had Kevin with me for the rest of the week. On the morning of September 7, we awoke early with a plan to just walk down the path where the waterholes we marked the year before. We almost made it to the first waterhole when a bugle—about 200-yards off—stopped us in our tracks.
Immediately, we scrambled to the levee overlooking the first waterhole to setup. Kevin stayed up top with the camera, and I dropped halfway down—about 50 yards away—but still in camera view. The bull repeatedly bugled and answered our calls for about 20-minutes before we caught a glimpse of him. He was with another bull and two cows. Kevin aimed his calls over the levee in the opposite direction pretending the cows were leaving and that was the ticket. The bull broke loose from the others and was coming in on a dead run. I immediately began ranging spots, the last one: a wallow that appeared fresh was 42-yards away.
The bull stopped behind a couple trees, and then committed, coming straight in to the wallow I had just ranged. I was already at full draw. I rested my fourth pin behind his shoulder, and let the arrow fly. The shot felt good, and we could tell it was a good hit. We watched the bull go 150-yards and bed down. We watched for about 30-minutes and could tell we were going to have to give him some time. We backed out and came back a couple hours later. About 50-yards from where he was last seen, we spotted the bull. As we approached, it was obvious he had expired, and the high fives began!
After taking a bunch of pictures and camera takes, the real work began. After about 11-hours of cleaning and packing we were finally done, able to reminisce about the events of the day and the things that led to my first bull. We could have easily thrown in the towel the year before; instead, we came up with a plan and followed it to a tee. Sometimes using a bad hunt to learn from can lead to a successful hunt in subsequent years, and this was one of those cases. I am already planning my return for the 2018 elk season. I still have a huge smile on my face from this experience. If you have not ever had the opportunity to hunt elk in September, I highly recommend giving it a try.