As I conclude my elk hunting adventures for 2016, I think it’s important to understand that with anything in life, it’s not over until it’s over. Too many times we think “it can’t happen” and we put ourselves out of the game before the clock strikes zero. I too am guilty of such actions and mental thoughts but as my hunting evolves, I’ve come to realize that it can all change in the blink of an eye and that you should treat the last day like it’s the first day of the hunt. The events that unfolded during the last 20 minutes, on the last day of my week-long elk hunt were truly remarkable.
By Adam Parr
Shortly after first light on Friday morning, Thad and I gather our gear and depart the cabin on foot with our morning plan following a similar loop and strategy as day one. We think it will be good to work up the mountain in the morning and then pop over the other ridge to the next drainage, grab my trail camera and circle back towards the cabin by 2pm. If we had yet to get into elk after five miles of travel, the evening plan was to head back to the same meadow where I’d shot the bull two days prior.
While working through the dark timber, we come across good elk sign in an area with shooting lanes so we set up 40 yards apart and start cow calling. We continue to do this for the next few hours but to no avail and by the time my clock reads 11am, we hike up and over the next ridge and work through the opposite drainage.
By noon, we are at the same creek bottom we know all too well and make our way along the same route towards the trail camera overlooking the waterhole. By 1pm, we grab my camera and jump back to the creek and follow it down a mile back to camp. Not a single elk was seen or heard so we make the climb out of the creek drainage back to the cabin.
After a quick lunch and some much-needed target practice to increase my shooting confidence, we rest our feet for a few minutes before loading up the truck for our final evening sit. The plan for tonight is to create an ambush setup in the top corner of the field where the bulls from two days prior initially entered the field. Thad and I set up about 75 yards apart directly across each other with the anticipation that if something walks out into the meadow during shooting light, one of us would have a shot. Thad tucks underneath a spruce tree for some cover, I do the same and we wait anxiously for the night to unfold.
After a few hours of enjoying the sunset and overlooking the mountain backdrop, I can’t help but think how lucky I am to be in elk country. It’s an amazing sight and something I have dreamt about doing for years and now it has become a reality. As we enter into the final hour before heading home, I grab my cow call and let out a few minutes of cow chatter in hopes to pull a bull or some wandering cows from the thick timber above us. The thermals have now switched and the wind is funneling perfectly away from me, down the meadow and in the opposite direction of where I believe the elk would come from.
With 30 minutes of light left in the day, I am alerted by sticks breaking off to my right and to my disbelief, two cows emerge from the timber less than 100 yards away heading directly towards my position; my heart rate increases ten fold. I have an either sex tag in my pocket and I anticipate shooting one of the cows if they offer a good shot. Seconds go by and now they are standing just three yards away on the other side of the tree, trying to decipher what’s going on. In a matter of seconds, they catch my scent on the ground and run 25 yards in front of me and stop. As I’m about to draw, I hear more crashing and catch movement to my right of a huge bull entering the meadow from the dark timber and because of his dominant rutting behavior, he is clueless the cows are spooked. At this point, I can’t believe my eyes and with each step he takes, he releases a guttural grunt to show his dominance to the cows. He is king of the forest. If this isn’t the most picturesque colorado elk hunting moment in the world, I don’t know what is. Although he is moving at a steady walk and is quickly closing the distance, it’s as if time is standing still. I am absolutely caught up in the beauty of this bull and the position I’m in to watch one of greatest shows an elk hunter can ask for.
He keeps walking, he keeps walking, and he keeps walking until he’s standing in the exact same spot as the cows a few minutes prior. I have a 700lb, Colorado 6×7 bull elk standing next to me at three yards on the ground and I don’t have a clear shot. I’m waiting for my chance to draw. In an instant, he bolts but slows up at 25 yards and I’m already at full draw. I settle the pin, let the arrow fly and once again, time stands still as I watch my lighted knock bury into the bull’s rib cage behind the shoulder. It’s the most amazing moment I’ve ever experienced in my entire, short pathetic life!
The bull takes off on a death run through the meadow and I see the arrow fall out shortly after. I watch him disappear into a small draw with the cows and within seconds, the sound of running hoof prints come to a screeching halt and the Colorado high country is quiet once again. After the chaos calms down, Thad emerges from the trees with his hands in the air and I signal back confirming I hit him good! Oddly enough, I’m rather calm given the circumstances and the events that just unfolded. It all happened so fast I didn’t have a chance to get worked up or nervous.
I meet Thad in the center of meadow and we walk over to recover my arrow where it fell out of the bull before he ran out of sight. Unfortunately, the arrow only stayed in the bull for a few seconds before falling out, which is concerning but I know the shot placement was good. Upon inspecting the arrow itself, it appears to be a solid hit with bubbly red blood all the way up to the fletchings! With light starting to fade, we start to follow the blood trail in order to further assess the damage and we find good blood. I tell Thad that we will follow the blood to the small creek drainage and stop there, give him about 30 minutes and then take up the trail after dark.
As we continue down the hill, the grass gets thicker, taller and the blood trail gets better and better to the point of where it’s covering bushes and small trees. I mention to Thad in excitement the crazy amount of blood and all of sudden, Thad grabs me by the shoulder and says “THERE HE IS – Big Bull Down!!” We nearly tripped over him due to how thick the cover was and because our eyes were glued to the ground. Thad and I high-five, hug, scream, kick, and just go crazy when we find my bull dead. I’m in utter disbelief it all came together on the final evening of my hunt with a mature, 6×7 bull elk on the ground!
I call Sam and Gareth to help us get the bull out and they meet us at the truck after Thad and I finished gutting the elk. Instead of skinning and quartering in the field, Thad thinks we can pull the elk out to the truck whole, so we hook up ropes and drag him out like quarter horses. It was amazing. It takes us over an hour to drag him but in no time, he’s in the back of my Tundra and we make the 30-minute drive back to camp. By midnight, the majestic bull is hanging in a tree outside our door and the celebration begins.
I was very fortunate to harvest such a magnificent bull during my first archery season of elk hunting and I may never shoot a bigger bull ever again. There are people who call me lucky, and I have to agree but to only to a certain extent. Persistence is what killed this bull, not luck. There were many times I wanted to throw in the towel, between my bow breaking, rolling an ankle, losing my quiver, shooting a different bull and not recovering it, along with many other mental battles along the way but I stayed in the game. Elk hunting is tough, especially with a stick and string. It’s a wild ride to say the least but if you keep at it, success will follow.
I want to say thanks to everyone who helped out and supported me along this crazy journey of my first elk season but all I can think about right now is, “Is It September Yet?”
To view additional pictures from my elk hunting adventures, make sure to check out my facebook page album: 2016 Archery Elk Season