Hunting elk from a treestand is not an everyday hunting tactic, for me included. On this day, I was struggling to keep up with the small herd as they worked their way up the mountain. I first got into the herd as they were leaving their nighttime feeding grounds heading to their morning beds. As the day warmed up, I gave up the chase as I knew I would not be able to head them off before they made it to their beds.
I had been dogging this herd for a few days and was starting to figure out their daily habits. I knew of this particular bedding area that they chose to use for the day, and knew of a nearby water source. I had a strong hunch that they would use this water source that evening on their way to feed for the night. I had set up a treestand on this water source earlier in the summer. I quickly backed out of the area and found a nice shady spot to wait out the day.
Waking up from a mountainside nap, I felt confident in my evening plan, hunting elk from a treestand. This wallow had produced for me in the past, and I felt that it was going to produce for me again. As I slowly worked my way into the stand, I was careful to take my time and not work up a sweat. I quickly climbed into the stand and got set up for the evening hunt. The high for the day was supposed to be in the mid-’80s with no sign of rain in the near future. Perfect conditions to be sitting in a tree stand overlooking an active wallow.
I had been in the stand for close to an hour when I heard a faint lazy bugle come from the bedding area. About a half-hour after that, I heard the bull sound off again with a little more aggression in his voice. I figured at this point he was up on his feet and it would only be a matter of time before he would be showing up. My senses heightened.
A short time later the bull bugled again and he was for sure on the move heading my direction. My heart started to beat a little faster. Soon I could see flashes of his tan hide as he slowly worked his way through the timber. He made it to around 80 yards from the wallow then stopped to survey his environment. I could see him sniffing the air and looking around for any signs of danger. After about 10 minutes he decided the coast was clear so he let out one more defiant bugle and set out for the wallow.
Now, I could feel my heartbeat pounding. I quickly grabbed my bow and clipped my release to the string. I ran through my mental checklist and mentally prepared myself for the shot I knew was about to happen. Stiff-legged the bull worked his way into the wallow. With his right front leg, he began to prepare his mud bath by splashing and digging up the wallow. Seconds later he was relieving himself to add his own musky stench to the now muddy mess. He then put his nose to the ground to smell the muddy creation he had just made.
Adrenaline was racing through my veins. (Something I expect from chasing bugles, but not hunting elk from a treestand). I quickly came to full draw and settled into my anchor. I picked out a small tuft of hair on his side and settled my pin. The shot broke clean and I knew I had made a lethal shot. The bull exploded out of the wallow and came running in my direction. I instinctively started cow calling on the diaphragm I had placed in my mouth earlier. The bull confused as to what had just happened came to a complete stop at only 10 yards from my stand.
I quickly grabbed another arrow from my quiver and loaded it onto the string. Just as I was getting ready to draw, his front legs started to give away. He lowered his head and I could see blood dripping from his nose. There was no need for a follow-up shot as this bull was dead on his feet. A few short seconds later his back legs gave way and he went tumbling down the small ravine into some deadfall. He gave a few kicks with his hind legs, then everything went silent.
Hunting Elk From a Treestand Final Thoughts
All the hard work of scouting and setting stands had finally paid off. The bull was laying there dead just a short 20 yards from where I currently sat. I sat quietly for a few minutes; experiencing the moment before I worked my way to the bull. The experience of hunting elk from a treestand had been a test of patience, coupled with a rush of adrenaline. The outcome: Hunting success.