To say my Colorado elk hunt was a success is an understatement. I had hunted elk before, and while some other hunters were successful, I had never been successful on an elk hunt.
The location of this 2018 archery elk hunt was to take place with Whitaker Brother Hunting on a private property in southern Colorado. I knew the ranch fairly well as I had hunted mule deer in August there with no luck.
Upon arrival to camp on the 18th, we quickly settled in and headed out to glass for elk. All I can say is wow! It was like Jurassic Park. Bulls were everywhere screaming, fighting, and rounding up cows. Never had I seen anything like it. I had always been on rifle hunts after the rut. I believe we saw 15 bulls that night with six or seven being shooter bulls. One in particular stood out, though. He was just an incredible looking bull. We named him “Whale Tail.” Others named him “Whaler.” Both names came from the whale tail shape of his main beam and last tine.
On the morning of the 19th, the hunt was on. That morning, we saw several elk as we sat on a wallow. One was a nice bull, but he never presented a good shot. We tried this several times with some close calls but no luck. One of the mornings, the wind had changed directions and we had to drop in from up top at the opposite end of the ranch. Waiting patiently in the bedding area, we had 15 elk pass by at 10 yards. Several bulls were in the group. The nicest only had one antler, and the others were small bulls. We knew there were better bulls. We saw them the first night.
As the week went on, we had multiple close calls and encounters. We just didn’t have the perfect opportunity to capitalize on the right bull. Either the shots were too long or they would get to chasing other bulls off. The other hunter in camp did have some luck on the second or third day. Congratulation to 79-year-old Richard on a nice 6x6 bull! Still archery hunting at 79. We even helped pack it out for him.
I think it was on the third or fourth morning that we finally got on the bull we had seen the very first night. Whale Tail! He was still around with his herd of cows. We could get on him on the edge of the meadow but still couldn’t get a perfect shot at him with so much activity. This bull had a very distinct bugle, and we had watched him go into the cover in a certain spot several times to bed with his cows.
After hunting hard for three days, my guide, John Mestas, and I had a plan. We were going to drop in from the rimrock above and sneak in on him in the meadow. We headed out early, dropped down from the top, and listened for him. He was there, we just had to be patient until he came to bed. We found an old road about 100 yards up from the meadow and stayed on it, paralleling his bugles, moving 10-15 yards at a time. After about two hours, several other bulls and cows and then his 10 cows filed through within 30 yards. He followed the cows, circling them, and presented a 20-yard broadside shot. I was drawn, and with one squeak from John's cow call, he stopped. It was at this point that I pulled the trigger on my release and let the arrow fly, making a lethal double lung shot. The plan worked perfectly. He didn’t even know we were there or what had hit him. We were shocked at first. We celebrated, hugged, shook hands, and were completely thrilled. We had just arrowed one of the biggest bulls around - Whale Tail! After calming down and giving him some time, we found him within 80 yards of where he was shot. That is when the work began. He was rough scored at 345" but will be officially scored.
Not only was this hunt successful, but the place, people, accommodations, and game quality were great. I highly recommend looking into a hunt with Whitaker Brothers Hunting. They are always top notch.