When chasing the behemoth bodied Roosevelts, my chosen tactic is much altered than when my quarry is the Rocky Mountain elk of the majestic high alpine meadows at or above timberline.
Regardless of strain, I always scout for areas untainted by other hunters. When the object of my desire is the dark horned Roosevelts that call the west coast of California, Oregon, Washington and the southern tip of B.C. home, that means finding remote areas behind locked gates that limit vehicle access. This is the only tactic I have found to be effective along the densely populated Interstate-5 corridor that runs north and south and virtually dissects the areas I hunt. I have had great luck arrowing big bulls on private timber company land here in Oregon. During elk season, it is typically hot and dry. The timber companies, in an effort to reduce the risk of costly fires, restrict their lands to hunting by non-motorized vehicle means only. For me, that means access by way of mountain bike.
It is strange, how lying in the middle of a log landing, on a bed of crushed rock, had never felt so good! Perhaps it was because I had just completed my ritualistic weekend morning ride for the eighth time of the season and was in dire need of recoup time. The nine-mile uphill trek on my mountain bike has a way of wreaking havoc on my body. My shorts and T-shirt had been replaced by Predator Camo. Camo paint had been applied to my face and to the back of my hands. Leupold 10x40's rested safely on my chest. My bow and pack served it's purpose as a makeshift pillow. I stared straight up, going through a mental checklist of equipment and possible animal locations. The skies, enhanced by the presence of ominous clouds, altered from varying degrees of blackness. With more than 30 minutes to first light, there seemed a good chance that this morning's hunt would be accompanied by a little precipitation.
From dawn until 8:00 a.m., it rained in light to moderate waves. This was pleasant enough and a nice change from the recent mid-80 degree weather we had been experiencing. The pleasantness, however, came to an abrupt end as the floodgates opened, dumping buckets of angry rain. The animals that had been up and feeding, promptly bedded. From what I have observed, weather conditions such as this render the highly acute senses of elk and deer virtually useless. Being naturally nervous animals, they can become incapacitated when subject to abrupt environmental changes such as this. Twenty to twenty-five minutes later the storm broke.
During the festivities of the storm I had traveled to a favorite vantagepoint of mine, and now began glassing in earnest. From this lofty vista, I could effectively glass up to 10 different units for elk or deer. I try to implement efficient hunting tactics such as this, during each of my hunting forays. This point is accentuated during the early season as we are, as I mentioned, subject to very hot and dry weather conditions, resulting in our target animals spending very little time out in the open. It was from here that something far off in the distance caught my attention. Even though the elk were over two miles away, it is hard to miss 15 very large, lightly colored animals. The elk were bedded on the edge of a clear-cut, just off the point of the ridge. During a herd count, I was pleased to observe the easily distinguishable rack of a big herd bull, bedded on the uppermost corner. The stakes had just increased dramatically!
FAST FORWARD, 45 LEG-BURNING, HEART-PUMPING, GO-FOR-BROKE MINUTES...YES, THE ELK WERE ONLY TWO-MILES AWAY-AS THE CROW FLIES. HOWEVER, AS THE BIKE PEDALS, I WAS IN EXCESS OF SIX MILES OUT, WITH PLENTY OF UPS AND DOWNS.
I eased along a rain-soaked game trail, wind in my face, landmarks in sight - holding all the cards. The last thing I wanted to do was get in a hurry. My plan was to come in high on the herd, as the bull was the highest animal in the configuration of bedded elk. I was praying they had not changed their positions. Carefully peering over the edge of a small slope, the view caused my heart to stall. Only 30 yards away lay a huge, heavy-beamed 6 x 5 bull. He was staring down the hill monitoring his domain.
From my quick estimation, I knew the bull would easily surpass the record book minimum. I must admit I was a bit surprised to see the bull lying in the exact position from which I had glassed him earlier. It is a rare occurrence, for a bull to be inactive for this long during the peak of the rut. Usually driven by adrenaline and testosterone, they are always on the move or at the very least standing, serving sentry to the herd.
Regardless of why, I was presented with the opportunity I had practiced all summer for. I'd dreamt about this moment! - Who knows how many times? When I came to full draw, the bull caught movement and swiveled his head, staring in my direction. Usually substantial movement such as that associated with the drawing of a bow will cause a mature elk to send up a red flag. I prepared myself for him to stand. Apparently, with the wind as my ally, and being clad in quality camo, I had enough in my favor to cloud his better judgment and he remained bedded. My 30-yard pin hovered over his chest before I locked onto the precise spot I wanted the broadhead to penetrate. The shot felt good - solid. My arrow flew true, dissecting the exact imaginary spot where I had placed it on the bull's chest. Exploding out of his bed, the bull was immediately affected by the trauma that the arrow produced. He ran 10 yards and stopped. Capitalizing on this unexpected opportunity, I sent another arrow into his vitals before his final frantic sprint.
I sat down to collect my thoughts and re-live what had just happened. I felt grateful that I was allowed the time to get two arrows into him; the bull would die quickly - humanely. As if in a time warp, the cows finally spooked. I watched and listened as they crashed down to the creek and ascended the other side in strong powerful leaps. Glassing each and every elk, just to confirm what I already knew, the bull would not join the herd in their dash for safety. I began to search for evidence of my bull's path of travel. The heavy blood trail confirmed my suspicions. Quickly, I covered the 100 yards to where my bull had expired. I sat in awe staring at this magnificent and majestic brute of an animal. This chance of a lifetime experience is something I will never forget.
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