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November 2023
Story by Jayden Phelps
State: Idaho
Species: Elk - Rocky Mtn

On September 4th, my good buddy, Dustin, and I geared up to go after some elk that we had spotted the afternoon before. We’ve had some great hunting trips together, so we always have high hopes going after anything. We had woken up and headed out, and once we got to where we wanted to be, we made a plan on the best way to get to where they were and where we had seen them before. However, we kept in mind wind needs in our favor and finding a position to make a stalk or call.

It was still early in the season, and the temperature was high and elk were not talking as much, which made it more difficult to locate them. We were able to hear a few bugles, though, working our way into there before daylight. We got in a spot we could see from and started glassing. It didn’t take long before we had them spotted. There was a herd bull with cows and a handful of satellite bulls around the herd. We started working our way closer to the herd, getting into a position we thought was good to start calling. I stepped back to call while Dustin got into a position with a good shooting lane through the trees. The elk were not very interested nor impressed and started working their way up the canyon, and we chose to follow. Dustin decided to stay up higher on the ridge and I went up the bottom.

Getting close to the top, I could hear the elk wandering and feeding not too far above me. I couldn’t see the elk, but luckily from the ridge Dustin could see them and where I was. There was cell service, so he could text and guide me through the trees to a clearing where I could see the elk. Getting to the clearing, I could see cows and calves feeding around but not the bull. Waiting for the bull to come into view, I started taking ranges of where I thought I would be able to get a good angle and be able to get a good shot off. While sitting and waiting, I felt the wind switch and end up directly to my back. This caused a couple of the cows to catch my scent, and I could tell they started to get nervous. Then I heard a bark, which was not a good sign. Those cows started to work further up the canyon and then I could see antlers coming through the trees. I knew it was the bull we had been watching and waiting for. I pulled out the rangefinder and got a specific range of 82 yards where he would step out. I picked up my bow, drew back, and waited. With all the adrenaline sitting there, it felt like forever before a shot finally presented itself. Getting relaxed with the pin placed and confidence in the shot, I let an arrow fly. It was a perfect pass-through shot in the vitals. Having that kill shot felt great after thinking I got winded. The bull ran about 50 yards and tipped over dead. Without hesitation, I took off running over to him. After the excitement, high fives, and a few quick pictures the work to pack out began to beat the heat.