It was 4:45 A.M. and my watch alarm was beeping away. There was no need to worry about waking up though, because after hearing that bugle last night, Jodi and I were both awake. We had slept with the window open because the air was cool and inviting. The temperature was 38 degrees, not cold enough for the IDI gear, but it called for our Poly Pro long underwear. Jodi got up and started the coffee while I took a shower with the Wildlife Research Scent killer soap. Not sure what the morning had in store we formulated a plan with Joe and his dad. Joe thought that we might want to still-hunt through a place they call the, "Miracle acre." Josh would follow the road to the top and watch an area where the elk cross to their bedding area. Joe senior and Chuck would hunt over at a place called "Herman's."
The plan was simple; Jodi, Joe Jr., and I would slowly still-hunt from the bottom of the Alfalfa field along the fence, through the Miracle acre toward Josh. Now the Miracle acre is an acre of land that is secluded where the elk feed and socialize before heading to their bedding area. Joe, Josh, and his dad have killed numerous elk over the years in this spot, and that is how it got its name.
Morning walk out hoping for the best.
With just enough light to see, we headed out. I had put on my Pro Ears to listen to see if there were any bugles or cow calls along the way. We slowly followed the fence and would call intermittingly. We slowly came through the woods and entered the Miracle acre, but there was nothing there. We did however see plenty of fresh sign that was there from the night before.
Pro Ears amplfy sound in addition to protecting hearing so Jason puts them to use to pick up sounds otherwise unheard.
The wind kept swirling and heading right toward where we wanted to go. Joe decided that we needed to try to get up on the ridge and hunt over the top of where the elk should be. We began going through the brush and after about 45 minutes of trying not to make to much noise, we were on top. Once on top Joe let out a bugle over the back edge of the canyon. Nothing responded, so we started walking straight down the top of the ridge. We only walked about twenty yards and crash; a bull was bedded right on the trail. Joe never saw it, but Jodi and I did. It was a spike bull running right toward where Josh was set up. Even little spikes are huge, when it comes to elk. They can have antlers that are in upwards of 25 inches. The unit we were hunting in requires elk to have at least 4 points on one side. The reason the bull had jumped is because the wind had started swirling again. Joe attacked some cow in estrous wafers to everyone's pant leg since the wind was not working to our advantage.
A simple product let's you really judge the air currents.
We continued down the trail until we can to the road where Josh was waiting. Just as Jodi and I had confirmed, Josh said a spike came out of the woods and stood on the road. Josh just sat still and watched the bull for about 3 minutes. Then, as quick as it came, it went up the hill toward an area they call the Notch.
We decided to sit down and discuss what we were going to do. It was only 8:30 in the morning and we did not want to quit yet. We decided to just still hunt some of the areas that have dark timber and see if we could find some fresh sign. After about an hour of climbing up one mountain and down the other, we jumped a nice Mule deer buck. He didn't run, but just stood there looking at us and showing us his spread of at least 27 inches. The main difference between the elk and the deer was the way they reacted to people. The elk would run and the deer just stayed put. I had this happen more than one time while hunting Joe's ranch in the past. One winter in the early 90's, I flew out for deer season. Joe's dad, Josh, and I hunted when there was a huge blizzard. The only way that we thought we would find a buck in all the snow was to walk. Joe was watching me work this bottom canyon through some cedars and I walk right past a huge buck. Now if the buck would have jumped up and ran, I would have seen it. But it just stayed in its bed and let me walk on by. Of course that was about 15 years ago, I pay a lot more attention to things now.
As we stood there admiring the buck we heard a bugle, a loud bugle and it was close! Joe ran up to me and said, "Take Jodi and go set up in some cover. Josh and I are going to call for you from about 60 yards behind those boulders," As he pointed over his shoulder. Jodi and I quickly set up behind a cedar tree and knocked our arrows. I told Jodi, "As soon as he comes out on the trail, you shoot him. OK?" She agreed and I told her I would back her up if she missed. I was so excited for her to get a shot at a big screaming bull. Probably more excited that she was. Joe and Josh kept cow calling and the bull's bugles were getting louder. I looked over at Jodi's arrow on her bow and noticed it was shaking. I whispered to her, "Just remember to breath." It was just awesome, the set-up was perfect, and my best friend was going to get her first shot at a big bull! Then, the wind started swirling and heading in the direction of the bull. I cursed it under my breath and we heard the bull one last time. This time he was bugling up the hill and was heading away. I looked at Jodi who was smiling from ear to ear, and I could tell that she was satisfied even though she did not get a shot.
Joe came down from behind the boulders and asked us what happened. I told him the whole story and he just started smiling. He too, knew that this was a successful set-up. We decided to head back to the ranch house to see if Joe's dad or Uncle Chuck had seen anything.
After arriving back at the house the other guys were sitting on the porch and were showing us their thumbs down. We all decided it would be a good idea to each some lunch and hits the mountains in search of the wild wapiti. The rest of the days hunt went without a sighting of an elk, but did not lack in the amount of miles we put on our feet. I can tell you, Jodi and I were sure happy to be wearing some nice boots from Wolverine.
Jodi had made a huge batch of sloppy Joes for dinner and everyone put down their fair share. The conversation then turned to talking about what we needed to do in the morning. Joe said, "They just are not bugling like they should be. Hopefully that will change in the morning." So with that being said, we all went to bed. I don't think that Jodi and I even felt our heads hit the pillow before we were gone.
To be continued….
Special Thanks To The Following Manufacturers For Helping Us On This Hunt.