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October 2023
Story by Cal Muxlow
State: Oregon
Species: Elk - Rocky Mtn

The start of the week was a success. My brother who was with me got his first bull ever with his bow on the first day. The whole week was a lot of fun with my three brothers and father, but they all had to leave after five days of hunting. It was the last day of this archery elk hunt, and I knew just how hard it would be to fill my tag. It had been the best elk hunting trip ever because I got to spend it with my brothers, my dad, and my wife, whom I had married a couple of months before. She does videography as a side business, and we thought it would be awesome to film this elk hunting trip and post it on our YouTube channel (@MUXHUNTS). On the last day of the trip, the sun was coming up and we heard two different bugles. One bugle was below us in a drainage, and the other bugle was upwind from us. We decided to go after the bull that was upwind from us.

We cow called and stayed patient for 15 minutes or so, but no response. We then went back to our glassing spot, which was downwind from where we called. Sure enough, 150 yards from where we were calling there was fresh sign that the other bull and his herd had come up the drainage downwind from us and fled. Knowing the hunt may already be over was devastating. I was optimistic to start this morning, but that ended quickly after seeing that we had just missed a herd. We walked around to a nearby basin and locator bugled to see if anything was out there, but I got no response.

We decided to go to a saddle where the spooked herd may have gone. About 200 yards from the bottom of the saddle, we heard a huge bugle right below us. I decided to bugle right back at him, and a bugle came back instantly, although this bugle was not the same one from before. This bugle was more ferocious than anything I had ever heard. I looked across the saddle at the opposing hill and saw the biggest bull of my life running down the hill in my direction. He had a herd of 20 elk and was furious. I did not hear the bull below me anymore after this big bull and his herd were coming. I kept bugling, and the massive bull kept bugling right back at me with the deepest voice I had ever heard.

The herd had run down this hill and was nearing 150 yards from us. We could hear their panting coming closer and closer. Sure enough, the cows and spikes were already 15 yards away from us. As they were walking by, I had not seen the big bull yet, but suddenly, like in a movie, the widest bull ever came around a tree, bugling 30 yards away. I did not know what to do because 20 elk were looking right at me 15 yards away. They were still walking by calmly, and then one cow stopped and stared right at me. I knew that when I pulled back my bow all the elk would be spooked. Knowing this, I knew I would have to pull back when the bull was behind a tree and shoot as soon as he came out.

This lookout cow was the only suspicious one of the group, so the bull was following the herd and they all were going behind a tree 15 yards away. I knew this was going to be my chance. I pulled back and instantly the herd started running. I knew the bull was going to be jogging by the time I shot, so I aimed at the front of the shoulder and let my arrow fly. Sadly, I saw that my arrow hit right in the liver area. I was devastated for so many reasons. I may have missed the biggest bull of my life. These elk are known to be tough when it comes to surviving. We waited for five hours until we started on the blood trail to hopefully put another arrow in it while it was bedded down.

It was extremely hard to find any blood, but after being persistent for one hour, we started to find drops of blood 80 yards away from the place I had shot it. The blood trail went down in a little drainage and our guide had told me to go on the other side of the drainage to see if I could spot the bull. We could not spot anything, so we started our way back up the hill and heard a ruckus going through the trees coming down toward us. This bull elk was plowing trees like they were nothing. He came within 30 yards from us, and I could not nock my arrow in time.

We knew the bull was going to go far, so we started following his tracks. We went about one mile and found the bull below us in a thicket. I started to stalk him slowly on a steep incline. There were not any good shooting lanes.
I knew I had to get level with him or even below him to get a good shot. I was 30 yards from this huge bull bedded down and was just a few steps away from a good angle to take a shot. I took a step down and my foot slid a little bit on the gravel below me, but it produced just enough noise to have the elk peek his head up and run off. We spotted the bull running down to the river about a half mile from us. The daylight was fading quickly, and time was not on our hands. We had to hurry quickly to get another shot off. We slowly came over the edge of the riverbank and there stood a massive bull at 74 yards, and I knew this was my last chance at this bull-of-a-lifetime.

I pulled back my bow, knowing this was going to be the buzzer- beater shot of this long week leading up to this very moment. I put the pin right in the middle of the lungs and released my arrow. As I saw the arrow fly, I knew it was perfect. We saw the arrow punch right through the lungs, and it made the best sound. The bull stumbled into the river and sank, which was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I was overwhelmed with gladness. I had to swim across the river to then pull this bull to the other side to start gutting it. Putting my hands on this bull and his horns was awe-inspiring.

Words cannot explain how thankful I was to be able to go on a hunt with my wife and kill the bull of my dreams. My wife and I hiked 72 miles all week long, and at the end of this trip, she told me it was one of the greatest experiences of her life. My mission is always to give glory to the Lord with everything I do. After hunting trips like this, I see His glory in everything. His glory is in every bit of creation, and I was blessed to be out in it for a week to admire His creation. During those mornings on the top of mountains, watching that sunrise with the bugles and the people you love by your side, it is truly a wonderful gift from a creator who is merciful and mighty.