Wyoming bound with Elk and deer tags in hand, my husband Jim & I head to the Black Hills of Wyoming to try to tag the elusive Whitetail or Mule deer and Elk. It would be my very first elk hunt, and I couldn’t wait! We were both familiar with the private ranch we had permission to hunt. Now we just had to hope that these wily creatures had moved into the area.
Scouting a bit first, we discovered with disappointment that the elk had not yet made their way out of the National Forest onto the private land we hunt. Not wanting to waste any time, we decided we would hunt for Mule deer and Whitetail, whichever species crossed our paths first. We decided where to hang our tree stands, and hunted a remote part of the area where large herds of mule deer were hanging out. We were seeing some nice bucks, and had five tree stands positioned around the canyon where they were coming out to feed in the lush alfalfa fields. It was such big country, we would sit on one side of the canyon and they would come out on the complete opposite side. This scenario went on for days! On the seventh day when we started to head out to our stands, the rain just wouldn’t let up, so we decided to do some scouting in another area. There was an abundance of alfalfa for all three species, and we had seen them all using this field in the previous years. It turned out to be a great decision on our part, we could see plenty of bucks, and see which trails they were using the most.
At dusk and right on time a small herd of Elk had finally found their way back to the thriving, lust, alfalfa fields. One by one the cows and calves came running out of the thick, green, timber onto the field. The calves were frolicking and kicking while they raced past the lead cow. After the last cow and calf had cleared the pines, the majestic herd bull came gracefully trotting out. He was a big, beautiful, 6X2! He had six tines on his right with only two on his left! He was so unique that at that moment Jim and I knew that either one of us would be fortunate to take such a great bull. As he came trotting down the grassy hillside he turned and focused all of his attention on a 5X4 rag horn that was cautiously stepping out from the timber. As he walked out, he was charged a good 100-yards away from the herd bull’s harem. Being satisfied that he had taken care of the rag horn, he turned with pride, and walked to the center of his harem and laid down. The satellite bull decided to take advantage of this opportunity sneaking closer and closer to the cows, but of course this procedure didn’t go unnoticed, he was up and at it again, chasing him a safer distance from them once again.
We were so excited to see that the elk had finally arrived! They were a sight for sore eyes; we started to think that we might get an elk after all. The next morning we decided to hunt out of the stands that we had put in place a few days before. Unfortunately there were no shot opportunities for us that morning. So we proceeded farther into the woods to place more tree stands on the other trails that both the elk and deer were frequently using.
Day nine of hunting I sat on a busy trail that was being heavily used by both species. I was hoping to connect with either species from this prime stand. As I approached my stand I could hear the elk bugling and carrying on. I was so excited, thinking that they might just come out sooner than they usually do! As I listened and waited patiently I had deer emerging and filtering out all around me. They came out of the woods and down past my stand to the field. Two of the bucks I would have shot, had the opportunity presented itself. One was an 8-point and the other a 10-point. But as it goes, the one angled off behind me and the other one off to the left of me about 50-yards, darn it anyhow!
I was nestled up in a thick branched, pine tree that camouflaged my silhouette! I only had one really good shooting lane, for Jim didn’t want to remove too much of the branches and blow my cover. The wind was right and besides that, I had my Scent Blocker Suit on should the wind start to change directions and swirl, which was very common in these hills. Losing sight of the bucks as they went to the field, and a bit disappointed, I could hear the elk still bugling, but something was different. They were moving away from me, not toward me! I was thinking, “What is happing?” So as I sat there somber faced, disappointed, and thinking, I realized that the elk probably went up the canyon to get a drink from the spring. Sitting, listening and waiting patiently, I just hoped that my luck would kick in. I was hoping that they would come back down the canyon to this field, and not head further up the canyon to the field above.
About an hour later I could hear their mews and bulges as they made their way back down the canyon and to the trails that would lead them right past my stand. Closer and closer they kept coming, as my heart was pounding in my chest! I remained calm and I kept telling myself to stay focused. I watched closely and at the first sight of the cows and calves, my heart dropped as I stood up to prepare for a shot. A few moments later the lead cow leads the herd right down to my trail. As I saw them coming, I noticed that they were moving very quickly, staying focused, I drew my Mathews SQ2 bow! The herd bull was still not in sight as he carried on about 60-yards away! Just then the cows and calves came trotting down the hill! Then, out of no where came the 5x4 satellite bull that we had seen the other evening! He had his nose to the back end of a cow and followed her right past me. I still couldn’t see the herd bull and I was at full draw! At this point I wasn’t sure what to do, so I kept my eyes on as many of the cows and calves that I could, so that if I had to let up I wouldn’t alert them. Just as I was ready to let up, the 5X4 bull came back toward my 10-yard shooting lane and stopped quartering away! It was a no-brainer, take the 5X4 or maybe not get another chance to take an elk. I placed my pin behind the bull’s shoulder, released and watched as my Carbon Express arrow and Steelforce broadhead zip completely through him and lay on the ground just 10-yards away! The herd bolted away while my bull pilled up only a short distance of 75-yards!
Right after I shot, I could hear the herd bull and another bull fighting as their horns kept clanking and banging together! I could hear them pushing and challenging each other when I got down and headed to Jim’s stand just a 100-yards away. He was waiting at the bottom of his tree as he had heard everything. Jim was just as anxious as I was to go see my first elk.
Reaching him and taking in all that had just happened I was so happy to see this magnificent animal before my eyes. I now knew what it felt like to have an addiction to hunting the majestic elk. He was a great first bull and I was very proud of him. I was hunting in the Black hills, and I hadn’t found any gold, but… I did get to take home some Black Hills Ivory.
Authors note: The following year in 2003, we were not drawn to hunt Elk, but we were able to get video footage and still photos of these majestic animals. That in itself was just as fun and exciting as actually hunting them! These are just a few of the still photo’s I took of the beautiful bulls. Also, Jim and I both took nice whitetails on this hunt. Jim took a 10-point and I took an 8-point. Jim wasn’t able to get an elk, but was very pleased that I got one!
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© November 2006