There is no question that the thrill of archery elk hunting completely consumes and keeps me dreaming of September each year. Constantly learning and growing from close encounters and going a couple of seasons without killing an elk, I was determined to make this year different. It began a couple months before the season when my good friend, Isaiah, called me up to see if I would like to join him in trying some new country in Idaho. I was in. Since I was getting to the unit a few days before Isaiah, my wife joined me on my drive out and the first few days at camp. The first two days, I covered quite a lot of ground without seeing a single elk and ran into multiple hunters. Having a pop-up camper made for an easy move of camp in the middle of the day on September 3rd.
The first evening in the new area, I hit the trailhead late in the afternoon. As I walked in, I was still unsure of exactly where I wanted to end up that evening. I decided to bail off the beaten path and took off up a ridge. Once I crested the top, I ripped a bugle to see if any bulls were in the area and feeling vocal. A gnarly growl of a bugle responded high across the canyon. Daylight was fading fast, so I knew I needed to move quickly. He began to bugle on his own as I closed the distance. I was able to get to 230 yards from him in a wallow, but there was an open draw between us. After a few minutes, a cow popped out 30 yards from me, which resulted in her barking and the elk working away from me. I hiked out in the dark.
The next morning, instead of going straight in after that bull, I decided to make a huge loop and scout the rest of the area. Hiking in four miles before daylight, I crested the saddle and heard multiple bulls sounding off. As I worked around the mountain, I heard that same growl bugle and knew that was the same bull as the night before. I could see him across the canyon, but he was in a terrible position. Knowing my wife was leaving and Isaiah would be arriving to camp, I decided against pulling an all-day hunt to wait him out.
The following morning, Isaiah and I decided to go in deeper to where I had gotten into multiple bulls the morning before. We saw a herd up high but ended up making our way around the mountain to glass the canyon that I had seen the big bull in. We let out a bugle, and the big bull growled right back at us. Isaiah looked at me and said, “He sounds big. We’re killing that bull tonight.”
That afternoon, we hit the trail early. All of a sudden, the bull bugled right below us. He must have dropped down to water midday and was pushing cows around down by a small stream. Isaiah dropped straight down on the elk, and I ran ahead a couple hundred yards before dropping elevation. Within minutes, the cows started to filter towards me. I had two cows at 20-25 yards, and the rest were filing down a trail at 57 yards. I dug my feet into the rocks to get a solid footing and quickly dialed my pin to 57 yards. The cows saw the movement and locked onto me right as the bull stopped behind a tree. Before the cows had time to spook, the bull stepped out into the open. I settled my pin right behind his shoulder and squeezed off. The shot looked perfect. The bull ran out to 90 yards and stopped, so I put another arrow in him that dropped him on the spot. My eyes welled up as I thanked the Lord for such an unbelievable experience and a bull-of-a-lifetime.
Isaiah and I knew that the bull was big, but it blew us away how big he was when we walked up to him. Isaiah pulled out a tape, and we quickly measured him out to be at least 340". We began to quarter and break down the bull as the sun faded, and it was midnight by the time we had made it back to the pickup with the first load. What an incredible day in the elk woods!