Part 7 Of 7
Climax Of A Great Year
From last week in Part 6: “As we both sat staring into flames — lost in our thoughts — I found myself dreaming of the soon-to-start hunt in Montana. Even though I’d been at this game for more than 30 years, the anticipation of a new chase still made me feel as alive as I could ever hope to be. Inside, I scanned the possibilities — would I get one? — if so, how long would it take? — how hard would it be? — how big would he be? Little did I know, but the answers to those questions were going to come much sooner than I expected!”
When the alarm sounded for the first morning of my Montana hunt, I tried to wipe the cobwebs from my head. My first thoughts were jumbled. Where am I? What am I doing? As my head began to clear, however, an old, familiar recollection came back to me — it’s a bowhunting morning! Jumping out of the sack, I was quickly dressed.
The author’s bull was taken from a wallow, such as this one — an excellent place to ambush a mature bull.
Grabbing my gear, I slid into my truck and drove to a pre-determined point — a closed gate on a long-abandoned logging road. Parking, I slipped my fanny pack around my waist, handled my Mathews, and headed down the dark trail.
It was a full hour and a half before first light, and I quickly put some distance between myself and the road. After a half-hour of brisk walking, the road petered out and it became time for some cross-country hiking. Using my headlamp, I made my way through the dark, downed-timber that made up Montana elk country. Shortly, I began to be able to tell that a new day was dawning as faint light began to filter down to the forest floor. Pulling out a topographic map, I determined my location, my desired destination, and saw that there was a good ways to go yet!
By sunup, I knew that I was at least three miles from the nearest road. Now ready to begin hunting, I donned my Sitka camo, while mentally preparing myself to go into the “sneak” mode. Sneaking forward around the mountain, I listened carefully for any sounds of a rutting bull elk. Hearing nothing for a good while, I advanced slowly toward a drainage that lay shortly ahead. Nearing the edge of the valley that I sought, pulling a bugle tube from around my neck, I gave forth a high, piercing whistle. In a few short seconds, a faint response drifted to my ears, originating far up the drainage from my location. Instantly excited, I knew that I was in a perfect position to approach the bull, as morning thermals ran predictably downhill.
Falling into the valley floor, I slowly made my way uphill as a small stream gurgled nearby. Making my way carefully up the rocky, downed-tree infested valley, I listened carefully for a sound from my quarry — soon, a bugle met my ears! Clearly closer to my target now, I slowed to a snail’s pace, determined not to cause myself any grief by spooking an unforeseen animal. Scanning carefully ahead, I fully expected to see “beige” through the trees at any moment. In a short while, I became convinced that I was within eyesight range of my quarry, yet that familiar color that I sought was nowhere to be seen. Hesitating, I leaned against a large spruce and assessed my options.
The author’s 7×6 Montana bull — 330-gross score.
As I stood quietly, wondering what my next move should be, a small flicker of movement caught my eye. Immediately focusing all my attention in that direction, I strained for more clues. When I realized what I was seeing, I was shocked — not 25 yards from where I stood, was a large-antlered bull elk! The thick cover of the area had worked in conjunction with the fact that the bull was laying on his side in a wallow, to effectively mask my quarry from my sight during my stealthy approach. Now, however, fate had turned in my favor!
Loading a Muzzy-tipped Beman on the string of my Mathews bow, I peered from behind a large spruce. Flopping around in the wallow like a fish out of water, the big fellow offered a constantly changing target. Drawing my bow, I was not happy with my options, so I gave out a soft whistle. Leaping to his feet, the bull defiantly walked out into the open, and stood scanning the area — broadside to my position, 15 yards away! Touching the button on my Scott release, chaos erupted. Busting through the timber, the bull crashed across the nearby creek, stopping on the opposite bank — then, he simply fell over dead. Wilting to the ground, I was stupefied. Did THAT really just happen?
Backpacking the Montana trophy to a trailhead — rough duty, indeed!
When I returned to camp midday, carrying a load of meat, Peg just shook her head in disbelief. I’d just consummated my best elk hunting season ever — two big bulls, two states, two days of hunting! As far as I was concerned, I had no more elk hunting goals because this year had been too good to be true!
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Eddie Claypool provides tips on bowhunting, with an emphasis on whitetails. Claypool has harvested 63 Pope & Young-class recordbook animals including 35 whitetails (Coues included), 16 elk and eight mule deer. All the animals were taken on do-it-yourself hunts.