Colorado Archery Elk Hunting
Archery, Elk Hunting - October 13, 2017

2017 Colorado Archery Elk Season Recap – Part 2

By Adam Parr

I’m not going to waste any time jumping into Part 2, but if you haven’t had a chance, make sure to catch up on Part 1 Of My Colorado Archery Elk Season. The second half of September surely didn’t disappoint, bringing the same (or more) excitement with multiple close elk encounters on Colorado public land. Enjoy!

September 16th

With my pack on my back and my buddy Sam in tow, we hike up the mountain to the faithful drainage that brought multiple bull sightings the week prior. With another seven days further into the rut and a 32 degree chill in the air, it had all of the makings to be a promising day. We continue up the mountain and at first light, I rip a bugle to entice a response but the forest echoes without a peep.

We continue working towards the meadow over the next few hours and decide to set up a lookout for the remainder of the morning to glass above and below our position. Within minutes, the cold rocky mountain air starts to take hold of our bones and immediately find ourselves unprepared, so we make fire to give ourselves a much needed warm-up. The heat brings us back to life again and with zero elk activity, we both fall asleep to recharge the batteries.

Making a fire while hunting

There’s nothing like a fire on the side of a mountain to help warm your bones and calm your soul.

I awake shortly before noon and I stoke the fire to keep it rolling while Sam calmly sleeps, dreaming of elk. After messing around for a few minutes, I step off to the side of the ravine to take a pee and catch movement out of the corner of my eye. I snap my head to the right and I lock eyes with a big 6×6 bull at 35 yards; a staring contest ensues. Unfortunately, my bow is laying a few feet behind me and I pray the bull will settle down, giving me a shot opportunity if I play it cool. Wishful thinking and 30 seconds of tension later, the bull bolts down the ravine and cuts into the dark timber, never to be seen again. Damn.

September 22nd

After a morning of hiking through miles of terrain filled with rubs and fresh tracks, by noon I had yet to see or hear an elk. With the rut pretty much at its peak, I was confused to say the least, but I trekked on knowing that at any movement an elk could appear. I take a lunch break overlooking a high meadow at tree-line but still, nothing. I begin to start looping back when I receive a text from Sam saying he’s covered up in elk, with bulls screaming all around him and that I should work his way. Knowing that he’s in a rut zone fires me up and I begin the trek towards his area.

Sitka Gear For Elk Hunting

My view during lunch wasn’t too bad, wouldn’t you say?

While traversing through blow downs and dark timber, I am attempting to walk a fine line of a quick but stealthy pace, knowing again that elk could be around the next bend. As I continue my walk, I drop into a small ditch and get started on the other side when I catch movement in front of me. It’s a good bull and he’s 20 yards and closing!

My heart rate begins to escalate because he has yet to lay eyes on me but precious moments are counting down. I literally don’t waste a second pulling an arrow from my quiver and knocking it on my string but by the time I look up with my release clipped to the D-loop, he’s 10 yards above me on the hill. I pray that he keeps walking but the wind is swirling; he stops and looks right at me. I feel like an out of place billboard in the middle of an open field, as I have no cover between myself and the big bull. After an intense stare down, he wheels around and bolts for cover. I draw my bow and attempt to stop him with “home-made” cow mews but he keeps running, and running, and running until he crashes out of my life forever. Damn. The majestic 6×6 lives to see another day.

September 23rd

The second to last day of Colorado’s archery elk season brought freezing rain in the morning and heavy snow in the afternoon. The forecast looked tough with a snowstorm on the radar. By late morning, Sam and I had made it to the area where the bulls were screaming their heads off the day before. The only problem was that they were no longer there and the woods were silenced with wet snow and cold temps.

Elk Hunting In Snow

Sam traverses the steep terrain during heavy snowfall on the second to last day of the 2017 season.

It was pushing close to 3 pm when we decided to get off our feet and have a late afternoon snack. As I’m looking the opposite direction, Sam says “Bear!” in a non-whispering tone. I spin around to see a big black bear doodling towards us at close range. As the bear pushes inside of 20 yards, Sam puts his hands up and talks to get the bear to notice our presence. The boar stops on a dime and stares at us for a few seconds before calmly turning around walking back the other way. That was a close encounter, to say the least, and next year I’ll have a bear tag in my pocket!

Another hour passes and we hike into an aspen bench that is loaded with trails that lead around the side of the mountain. I mention to Sam that this spot looks good and I fire off a bugle to see if we can get an answer. After five minutes of waiting and listening, nothing appears so we slowly walk on a well used game trail but come to a stop. We pause for a few minutes behind a spruce tree and I catch movement over Sam’s shoulder. An elk! He must have heard the calls and was walking right towards us. Within a matter of seconds, he was at 20 yards on the other side of the spruce tree and I told Sam to not move. Neither of us could move the slightest bit as it would give away our position.

After a few minute stare down, he calms and looks the other way. I tell Sam he can move and I knock an arrow while the 4×4 bull stands broadside behind a tree. The next few minutes are a chess match as I’m trying to anticipate the bulls next move up or down the mountain and after what seems like an eternity, he trots downwards and I draw my bow. When he gets to the shooting lane between a big spruce and group of aspens, we stop him with a mew but he slides forward on the slippery snow. To my (bad) luck, his vitals were covered by the aspens and I hold at full draw while attempting to backpedal for an open shot. I slip on the wet snow, regain my footing and bump into Sam, still without a clear shot. After five seconds of complete chaos, the bull knows the gig is up and bolts just like the rest of them. Damn.

Close Calls and Roller Coaster Rides

When I think back on the season as a whole, “bittersweet” is a perfect word to describe it. The season was sweet because of the amazing encounters I had but was bitter because an arrow never found its mark before the season ended. It wasn’t because a lack of opportunities… the cards just didn’t go my way. Regardless, it was truly an amazing month of chasing elk in the mountains and therefore, 2018 can’t come soon enough. Until next year…

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