My Rifle Gives Me Little Advantage


The elk have moved out of the high country and into the thick and dense low lands.  The bulls are grouping up and have quit bugling.  My sight and sound advantage has been taken away.  A positive attitude and the liklihood of snow are all I’ve got now.

This year I’ve been blessed with drawing a limited entry elk permit in a unit with high potential for big bulls.  I am able to archery hunt AND rifle hunt.  Previous years I’ve only been allowed to archery hunt.  Last September, I was fortunate enough to take a beautiful six point bull the third week of the bow season, in this unit. My success left me optimistic about this fall’s opportunities.  So far, that opportunity has been just out of reach.

Elk season started off with me walking up on another archer’s kill that was never recovered.  The meat was too far gone by the time I found him.  I left the bull hoping that the hunter would eventually find him and punch out their tag.

I hunted the low country the first two weeks of the season with a few chances on smaller bulls.  The rut was slow to start so I switched tactics and pursued a large whitetail on nearby creek bottom.

Seeking refuge - or carbon monoxide poisoning - in a limestone cave

Seeking Refuge in a Limestone Cave


Big Whitetail Through the Netting of a Double Bull Blind

Although I had this deer patterned quite well, I struggled to sit in the blind more than 4 or 5 hunts. The mountains were calling, the elk had begun bugling, and I answered.


High Country Montana Bull

Co-worker, Kyle Christenson and I spent the next three weeks glassing and stalking bulls in both the high and low country.


Kyle Christenson Glassing from a Limestone Cliff Band

Our last evening hunting together in the bow season, while sprinting to cut off a good six point, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the sound of a very dominant bull.  Not 300 yards behind us, on an open hillside stood the largest elk I have ever seen on public land.  With shooting light quickly fading and no way to put a stock on this bull, I sat and admired the creature through my binoculars while Kyle put a sneak on the six point.  The final weeks of the season were focused on that elk in hopes that I could get a shot or pin point his whereabouts come rifle season.


Kyle Getting His Sneak On

Bow season passed on by as fast as it came.  My high expectations for the rifle opener were shut down as we never saw an elk.  The huge bull I saw late in the archery season, along with his companions, had all moved out of the mountains to their winter range.  Their winter range is dense low country timber.  I will have to get in close to get a shot.  My rifle gives me little advantage.


Longbow, Rifle, and a Great Skull Found While Tracking Elk

A recent snow storm dropped a few inches of snow in the unit I’ve been hunting. I tracked five different bulls in one day.  With luck, La Nina will provide more tracking snow and more opportunities.


Aesthetic Deer Skull I was led to by a Traveling Bull

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  1. Zach Matthews
    Posted May 17, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Was that first shot taken inside a cave? Great article; I love this blog. Saw MR packs on The Wild Within with Steve Rinella and I’ve been telling everyone to check them out.

    • Steven Drake
      Posted May 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Zach!

      The first shot was taken inside a cave.

      Kyle, my hunting buddy, and I thought it would be sweet to go build a fire in the bottom of the cave. We had a bon fire going until it started depleting the oxygen and we got light headed. Kyle snapped the photo and then we got the hell out of there. Made for a cool picture and a bit of panic on the climb out.

  2. Zach Matthews
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    I wondered about that! I had assumed there was a front opening where the photographer was standing. Hell of a picture.

    Just think, for 10,000 years or more, people probably got light-headed thanks to their cave fires every night; maybe even in that very cave.

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