Sometimes what you think is going to be a relatively easy and quick hunt, turns into a longer process. This has been the case, to fill my cow/calf elk tag this year. I thought I might be having tag soup for 2021. The number of bulls I could’ve killed, at relatively short range was beyond me. A number of these were mature bulls, more in the average range, and there just seemed to be a lot more spikes than normal. With my schedule, the Friday after Thanksgiving was going to be the last full day that I would be able to hunt. There was a chance that I could go out Sunday after lunch. The morning started off not seeing any elk at all, then around 8:30 AM we saw a lone cow, but she went over the top. She was not running away from us, but just moved over the top of the ridge away from us. I was determined that I was not going to let any opportunity bypass me, so I geared up to go after her. I never saw her again, but I did quite a bit of climbing, and the only path I could find down was quite steep with a lot of loose rock. Almost had some “pucker” moments.
We continued working our way south, checking north facing ridges, and we spotted a group of about 15 elk. At first, we didn’t realize there were that many there. I left Mike and Bruce in the truck, and headed out again to what would be the longest stalk of my life in terms of time. I spent over two hours with five different stalks/approaches. Each stalk ended with me completely running out of cover, with the distance being further than I wanted to shoot. Hills and steep canyons combined with high winds meant I wanted to be under 400 yards.
On the next to last attempt, I decided to go around the ridge on the south side, then I planned to come over the top to make the shot as the ridge curved to the left where they were, but I could never really start it, because as soon as I got around the tip of the south side, I had about 150 head of elk from 800 to 1500 yards to the south. This is one of the few times where finding elk was a disadvantage.
I am on the same north facing slope that the elk are on, heading generally east, and my last option about 2/3 of the way down the ridge taking advantage of a few cedar trees and dead trees. I did a lot of crouch walking, making sure that I kept the trees between the cows and myself most of the time. There were more than several times to where I was in the open. If they were really looking at my direction or knew that I was there, I would have been busted. I just hoped that if I did blow them out, they would head north or east, and not go south and take out that huge group of elk with them. Patience paid off, as I found myself under a tree with pine needles and pine cones everywhere. I was a little surprised when I ranged them, that I was in the 350ish yard range…Finally!
I couldn’t see as many of the elk from this vantage point, but the closest elk was a cow, actually a calf, but I wasn’t turning down anything at this point. There was a narrow shooting window between rocks and trees, and my rangefinder although one of the better ones, was giving me different distances. 1 ¾ inches of vertical difference, wasn’t going to make much of a difference so I picked the middle distance between the shortest and the furthest and dialed 4.5 minutes (350 yards). At the shot the whole area erupted with elk. There were more there than I thought. My calf (tender vittles) went down at the shot, but I briefly lost her at the shot. I immediately got my sight picture back and was reloading, when I saw her try to get up, and even though I knew she was probably already dead, I sent another one for insurance, and I saw her go down through my scope. Wouldn’t you know it, about four maybe five cows ran off about 50 yards to my left and just stood at the top of the ridge looking around. They had no idea where I was. It is fun using different guns when hunting.
Earlier this week I decided to take my 6.5 PRC XP that Tim King/King Custom Arms put together for me, which runs the factory Hornady 143 grain ELD-X at 2858 fps. Since I was also on the north facing slope with the elk and there was a slight curve to the slope, the elk and I were out of the wind for all practical purposes. Because of that I didn't hold for wind.
There can be a lot of frustration, when hunting doesn’t work out the way that you expect it. But the memories and the reward are always greater, when you have to work for it. Bruce filled his cow tag earlier in the season. It has been fun hunting with him. Friday was a bonus as another good friend, Mike, was able to be with us.https://youtu.be/eQf_l6gqrY8https://youtu.be/MY6j_EWhsRQ