The bugle had been lingering in the background since jolting me awake at 1:24 a.m. I was growing impatient watching Andrew finish his breakfast. It was time to go.
We had glassed this bull and his 30 cows last night as they fed into a timber and sage covered meadow across the canyon. Exactly the situation we had been searching for, we sat down our packs and made camp.
While eating dinner, we watched as the herd began feeding their way toward the upper portion of the meadow. Above them, a brief ridgeline separated the herd’s meadow from a dark tract of timber that ran on for miles. In the mid-morning tomorrow, the elk would likely disappear into this area to bed. We knew catching up to them in the heavy timber would be difficult. Our best chance was to be above the herd at first light.
Andrew was still working on his breakfast as we began wading across the river. We were late, but the ridge leading us to the elk was direct and we made good time in the breaking dawn. Twenty minutes before shooting light, we dove off the ridge to our left, directly into a steady headwind. We still had a couple hundred yards to close when the bull screamed for the first time since breakfast. As Andrew promptly veered off to begin calling, I paused momentarily to nock an arrow before continuing quietly in the direction of the bugle.
At shooting light, just 50 yards in front of me, I watched as the bull moved hurriedly between his cows on the outer edge of the herd. Barely acknoledging his presence as they fed amongst the sage, the cows only briefly glanced up as the bull fired bugles in the direction of Andrew’s calls. I knew I needed to get above the herd immediately, and by using the sparse trees in the meadow as cover, I moved quickly toward the ridgeline.
Soon I had connected with a game trail that would put me directly above the herd. As I neared the upper ridgeline, I spotted the bull moving through the trees below me at 25 yards out. While he passed behind a large tree 15 yards away, I drew my bow. At 11 yards he stopped completely. He stood there for a moment, quartering slightly away and bugled once more. I held my spot and released. Twenty minutes later, Andrew and I were walking up to the first elk I’d ever harvested with a bow, an unmistakable red arrow adorning my quiver.
After taking some photos, we quickly began the process of field dressing and quartering the bull. Less than an hour later, we had a large pile of boned meat and four quarters sitting in front of us. I asked Andrew, “Do you think we can carry all of this out in one load?” “I don’t know, but I think we should at least try it,” he replied. For a moment I just stood there watching as Andrew began loading his Crew Cab, these were going to be some heavy loads…