My 16 Year Bull
When I first moved to Colorado, and eventually learned about the draw system, I started putting in for points. Although no particular unit piqued my interest, I knew that somewhere along the line something would stick out. I was still way down on the learning curve and accumulating points was the first step toward being able to hunt in one of Colorado's premier units.
My son had been doing the same thing, so last year we decided to start cashing in. He put in all of his antelope points last year and came away with a P&Y antelope. I did the same this year and came away with soggy socks and a sunburn. For elk, well, we'd been talking with folks, scouting in the NW part of the state in multiple draw-only units, and just mulling over which unit had the biggest and mostest. Since I had the most elk points (16), it would be my turn to cash in and take the plunge. We ultimately decided on unit 10.
Having a buddy that was a Unit 10 guru, I had managed to go on a couple of scouting trips a couple of years earlier. This year we went on another weekend scouting trip about two weeks prior to the season opener that was a true revelation of the unit's potential - elk everywhere with lots of bulls, and several gigantic specimens. Needless to say, my anxiety for the season to start was hard to contain.
The hardest adjustment for me to make was that the terrain was so "un-elky." You see, I was used to hunting on steep peaks and valleys, dark timber, trees out the wazoo, and a mountainous landscape that we all think of when it comes to hunting. This terrain was just the opposite - lots of wide-open spaces and fields full of sage brush with roaming elk to boot. Everywhere I stepped had the potential of me running into an elk, so my awareness monitor had to be bumped up to max mode.
By the time I actually got to hunt, it was muzzleloading season and the elk had been pushed out of their normal routine and were quite dispersed. All the places I had previously scouted were elk-barren so I had to move into my "scout/hunt" mode to discover new areas and expected to put in a lot of boot miles. I came across a cow hunter with some prior experience in the unit and also met with the local game warden. Both provided some additional tips of where to hunt and gave me a better mental grasp of how to hunt the unit. With that info, I traveled to some other areas within the unit and put in so many boot miles that my feet needed a vacation.
Over the next few days, I managed to find a few herd bulls, several satellites, and was able to conjure up a couple of attempts to sling an arrow but just couldn't pull it off. At one point, I came across the biggest herd bull to-date along with three satellites that were almost as huge as he was. It was almost comical watching the continuous exchange of fighting over the cows and the resulting hide-seek-steal success of the non-fighting satellites. Either one of them would have been a tremendous trophy, but it wasn't meant to be ... they were only interested in the cows they could see and not hear.
A couple of days later, my hunting partner (and son), Jonathan, was able to come and hang out with me for the day. He has bionic hearing (I'm deaf) and the two of us can sound like a herd of love-sick cows too tempting for any bull to pass up. We went to a location west of Moose Mountain where I had attempted to shoot a herd bull a few days prior. For some reason, this fairly massive canyon seemed to be a consistent hangout. Right off the bat, before there were any signs of daylight, we could hear multiple bulls ... and they all sounded humongous.
We spent the next hour slowly making our way toward the bulls, trying to figure out which one(s) sounded the "badest and meanest" and tweaked our path accordingly. When we got really close - at least it seemed really close because the air was filled with the explosive screaming of two herd bulls enraged at each other - we came to the edge of an almost ridge-less looking ridge, over the edge of which the action was taking place. We had to setup right there amongst the scarce and thin service berry bushes ... all else was open sage brush with no place to hide unless you're two feet tall.
Jonathan had the camcorder and was thinking about getting the action on video. But we both knew that this was a three-person task so he'd have to play double-duty because his primary task was lead caller. So, he backed down the hill about 75-100 yards and gave the signal that it was party time. We both started cow calling and when we were sure the bull would start coming our way, well, I'd stop and he'd continue to draw the bull past me.
I'm set, right knee planted - left leg out, arrow knocked, I'm pumped! Right out of the starting gate, he's coming my way. Of course, leading the way is a cow ... I freeze. She slowly meanders by toward Jonathan; I'm focused behind her. A few moments later, here he comes. I never remember looking at his antlers - he's majestic. I concentrate on the task at hand, all the elements of making a successful kill shot, going through all the points like a freakin stoic robot! He's 30 yards from me and I draw back, and, drawing his attention. Jonathan is really cranking down like a love-sick cow serenading her paramour. This bull is so bent on getting to that sweet sounding mama that he discards my presence ... until my arrow becomes un-nocked...ping...boink...twang.
OMG!!! Are you kidding me! My "stoic-ness" has now turned frantic! The bull freezes and stares right through me trying to figure out exactly what I am and what I'm doing. But, the melody continues and his heart's burning desire is just down the hill, and so he proceeds. I slowly grab my arrow, re-nock, draw back, and...ping...boink...twang! Again? He stops, stares, and then moves on down the hill. And so it continues, yes, it happened a third time. This last time, he just kinda gave me a nod and was probably thinking, "There goes the neighborhood, but my destiny awaits."
[Prior to this season, my bow needed some work, and a new string. But, since it was a fairly old Hoyt and parts were scarce and hard to find, I left it as is. It had been shot so much that the string at the nock point was severely compressed ... arrows became un-nocked fairly easy, but that never posed a problem ... when I was practicing.]
It was at this time that I thought, "What the heck, I might as well quit being so quiet and still, he's going to get away." So, I grabbed the arrow, arched my bow skyward, nocked it, drew back and slowly brought it down horizontal (the arrow stayed on), and verbally squawked at the bull, which was now about 45 yards away. He paused and I let er rip...thwack! It hit a little high but I knew it was still a kill shot - he bolted right past Jonathan, camcorder rolling while he flew by. Although Jonathan was unable to get the prime footage - he felt it more important to stay hidden and not spook anything. However, he did get a great shot of the bull with the tell-tell sign of blood pouring out the side. We found him a little while later in a brush thicket ... he was a really nice 6x6. This was my best hunt ever, not because this bull was my biggest to date, but because my son had one day to hunt with me and we harvested my biggest bull ever ... together!