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2012 Elk Hunt

Discussion in 'Hunting, Fishing & Camping' started by Hummer, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. Hummer

    Hummer Big Member

    2,180
    2
    Mar 16, 2003
    Western Colorado
    I hunted public land in the White River National Forest during Colorado's 2nd season. It started out as a tough hunt because warm, dry weather made walking across crackly dry aspen leaves very noisy. Finally, we had a few inches of snow on the 5th day which quieted things down, but it took a few more days before I saw significant animal movement.

    On the 8th day of season, hard work, perseverance and dumb luck paid off. With another 6 inches of snow at 10,000 ft., migrating elk began to move through. Deer were pouring off the mountain in big numbers but they were moving at night. I came upon many elk tracks and followed some good prospects. I figured they would move into some firs below me to bed down, so I moved up and across the mountain hoping to head them off and get a view down into more open forest as they emerged later in the day.

    Sure enough, after more tracking and a lengthy stalk, I got a brief, 3 second opportunity. Wearing heavy winter gauntlet gloves with Hot Hands packs in the palms, I struggled to get my finger on the trigger. At the last moment, I made the shot at 59 yards with a 200 grain Nosler Partition handload. My trusty rifle is a 1937 Winchester model 54 in .30-06, with a 4x Leupold Alaskan scope. The bullet entered the left side just behind the shoulder, went through both lungs and broke the off-side leg at the shoulder joint, then exited. Out of my sight, the bull managed to go 125 yards before it collapsed.

    This was my 24th elk in 27 years of solo hunting an area just outside the Flat Tops Wilderness. This elk is a beauty, about 6-7 years old, and my biggest bull yet! Got him Saturday evening, packed it out Sunday. I'm still meat cutting; should get about 200 lbs. of steaks and tougher cuts for sausage. More details and pics later when the work is done....

    Cheers,

    Hummer

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2012

  2. wdp

    wdp

    404
    0
    Dec 27, 2011
    Twin Tiers, NY
    Awesome trophy, congrats and thanks for the treat!
     
  3. CanyonMan

    CanyonMan In The Saddle

    5,707
    12
    Jul 26, 2002
    Very nice bull Hummer....
    Congrats, and good hunting job and pics amigo ! ;)

    Solo hunting has challenges of it's own, and I always admire a man that does a good job, and knows "how" to do it on a solo Elk hunt. I love solo hunting personally. Stetson off to ya !




    CanyonMan
     
  4. HeliGlock

    HeliGlock HeliGlock

    490
    0
    Jan 16, 2011
    Florida
  5. wjjones2

    wjjones2

    1
    0
    Nov 19, 2011
    Very nice indeed. My hope is my knee heals up to allow me to do this again!
     
  6. davsco

    davsco

    507
    0
    Feb 27, 2011
    wow you put in a lot of time and effort and got an awesome reward, congrats! on public land, nonetheless.

    i have enough fun dragging whiteails out of the forest, not sure i'd survive with an elk!
     
  7. Great job! I hunted Colorado 2nd Rifle myself, north of Steamboat Springs in the Routt Forest. I saw one cow, another guy in our party saw one cow. That was it. Activity was...well....different this year. Talked to one group that hunted a different mountan than we did, they said that bulls were still bugling.

    Once the loud noise happens the real work begins, for sure.
     
  8. Mountain10mm

    Mountain10mm

    795
    109
    Dec 14, 2007
    Colorado
    Nice job! I was in the Routt NF too for second season and we didn't come home with one, but saw our fair share of them. We left Thursday morning right after the snow fell and I think we would have gone 2/3 maybe 3/3 with our party if we stayed the rest of the season. We saw and heard several bulls earlier in the week, just were not able to close the deal. I think with the snow on the ground we would have had a slightly better advantage over the elk. They were bugling by us too. Crazy, I never heard them do that so late in the year. We saw the bulls too, so it wasn't another hunter. Awesome bull!
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2012
  9. Hummer

    Hummer Big Member

    2,180
    2
    Mar 16, 2003
    Western Colorado
    Thanks to everyone for the kind words. I'm feeling very lucky, this is a once in a lifetime bull for me. I'm mostly a meat hunter and draw a cow elk tag every year. High quality elk meat makes for great meals and we rely on it. I also buy a bull elk tag for the increased chance to take an animal home. Elk hunter success in the rifle season is 27%, so I beat that most every year.

    On the second day of season I hunted up through some thick timber about 5 miles from camp. A shot boomed not far ahead and across a gulch, maybe 300+ yards away. Pretty soon, elk came crashing toward me, one cow after another, 8 animals I think. They were only 50 yards from me but as thick as the forest was, I couldn't get a clear, sure shot. Had they been standing, it would have been easy. In retrospect, I should have run toward them to get a clear shot.

    On another day, I spotted three bulls on a distant hill in the oaks, but at 1.3 miles, I couldn't have gotten there and made a stalk before dark.

    [​IMG]

    By mid day of day 8, I was pretty beat up physically and feeling a little discouraged. There was little sign of animals anywhere in the area and most hunters headed home empty. Also, the outfitter I use to pack out my elk had packed up and shipped out. None of his 2nd season drop camp hunters were successful.

    In my area and probably in much of the accessible hunting areas in CO, good hunting depends on snow depths at higher, more remote areas to spur elk migration. There are local elk, many of which get taken in the 1st and early 2nd seasons, and there are migrants from other areas. Many hunters leave early, after 4 or 5 days of hunting before the migrants move in. I've often thought that they'd have better success by hunting the end of the season rather than the beginning. Of course, the best chance is to hunt every day, from dark to dark, which is what I do.

    Hunting in severe winter conditions requires careful preparation, especially if you hunt on your own. One has to be prepared to spend the night out should some mishap occur.

    [​IMG]

    I did see evidence of newly arrived elk on day 8, and started working the tracks. By 2:30, I stopped to change the toe warmers in my boots and have a bite of lunch. I saw movement on the bench below me about 70 yards--two coyotes hunting together, then a third. They were healthy, a beautiful reddish color like a red fox.

    A little while later I started walking slowly across the bench I was on when I spotted the big bull. There was a spike bull behind him and closer to me, about 30 yards. There wasn't much time before the big bull moved out of my view, which would have required my moving and alerting the spike. I struggled to get my finger on the trigger with my heavy glove but couldn't afford the time or noise to take it off. One second left, I shot. Don't even remember the sight picture.

    [​IMG]

    The bull was gone but I quickly racked a second round. I tried to make the spike out to be a cow elk, but nope. He looked at me, then toward the escaping bull. When he ran off in another direction, I knew I'd hit the big one. I emerged from the trees and followed tracks carefully. There was not a single spot of blood in the snow even though the bullet went through both lungs, broke the off side shoulder and cleanly exited. At 125 yards, I found the bull posing against a small fir. The shot was textbook perfect, and I was elated to finally take a trophy bull. This one will hang over the moss rock fireplace at the cabin.

    He's was a very big bodied bull and it was all I could do to get him field dressed before dark. Though it was only a mile uphill from the truck, I knew it would take me two days to cut up and backpack out. Also, given the prevalence of bears it's not a good idea to leave game on the mountain long. I drove to town to call my outfitter friends who came up with mules the following day. When they arrived, I had it quartered and mostly ready.

    [​IMG]

    They said it was the biggest bull they had ever packed out of the area.

    [​IMG]

    Even though I didn't see a deer all season so didn't fill my buck tag, and I never ran into another cow elk, I'm happy with this year's hunt. I tracked a bear and saw lots of wildlife including coyotes, pine martins, weasels, lots of Dusky Grouse, a Golden Eagle cruising for carrion, a Northern Pygmy Owl, migrating Sandhill Cranes calling overhead, and even flushed a Wilson's Snipe in a marsh at 9600 ft. I can hardly wait until elk season 2013. :wavey:
     
  10. davsco

    davsco

    507
    0
    Feb 27, 2011
    again great hunt and you certainly put in the time and effort and got your just reward.

    i bought a .340wby a while back for a hopeful elk hunt, but it has yet to materialize...
     
  11. ebm1973

    ebm1973 CLM

    713
    0
    Dec 22, 2008
    San Diego, CA
  12. econjon

    econjon

    248
    0
    Aug 10, 2004
    OUC
    Hummer, excellent bull and a great story to go along with it! I really enjoyed reading it and seeing the pics. I'm going after a cow starting next month, I hope I am as successful.

    Also, I'm just curious if you take a spotting scope with you and try to glass a lot of area or do you just hike through the hills and see what you can sneak up on?
     
  13. Hummer

    Hummer Big Member

    2,180
    2
    Mar 16, 2003
    Western Colorado
    I have a couple spotting scopes and occasionally use one for pronghorn but not for elk hunting. The area I hunt is higher elevation forest, mostly Engleman Spruce, White Fir and Quaking Aspen where my elk kill distance averages about 75 yards. Haven't recalculated for a few years but my longest shot was ~210 yards, closest was 18 yards. My 2011 bull was shot at 42 yards.

    Using good quality binoculars is essential and key to success in my opinion. With 10x42 binoculars, I can see deer and elk on distant hills and in parks at 3 miles. I can't count antler points on bulls beyond a mile unless the light is just right but the color and size of a bull is distinct enough to determine whether a hike and stalk is worthwhile.

    In thick forest, using binoculars every few steps can double or triple the distance you can see. It makes a big difference in the ability to spot and shoot elk in dark timber before they detect you. My success rate would be far less without regular use of binoculars.

    Another advantage is that I hunt the same ~15 square mile area every year so I know the country intimately. While there is much randomness, knowing the woods and patterns of animal movement can help in planning the best approaches. I typically cover 3-12 miles a day on foot, first to find where the elk are, then slow to carefully still hunt. With fresh snow, tracking elk can be very productive.

    Late season elk hunts are usually in more open country at lower elevation where a spotting scope might be handy. Best of luck on your cow elk hunt, Econjon. Where will you be hunting?
     
  14. rjinaz85308

    rjinaz85308 Desert Dweller

    188
    2
    Apr 14, 2012
    AZ
    My sons closest elk is 12yds(bow). His longest is 643yds(257 Weatherby)


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  15. econjon

    econjon

    248
    0
    Aug 10, 2004
    OUC
    I'm in northern Utah and my permit is for an area that runs from Spanish Fork canyon on the south to Provo Canyon on the north (in Utah County) and about 5 miles east and west. It's a pretty limited area size wise but the elk come down to winter in several canyons along that area so I'm hoping I'll have a good chance at something. I took a cow in that same area 4 years ago and it's taken me this long to draw out again! I'm currently 6 years into a probably 12 year wait for a bull tag for the Wasatch mtns limited entry area so I'm biding my time there. In the meantime I've been doing the spike hunt (over the counter) every year and manage to find cows and bigger bulls but no luck with those elusive little buggers as of yet. Anyway, I love elk hunting and hope to keep getting better and better at it over time. It's nice having the meat in the freezer - after I shot that cow we didn't buy beef for close to a year. Once we started buying beef again my kids (and I) went through withdrawals!
     
  16. ebm1973

    ebm1973 CLM

    713
    0
    Dec 22, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Hummer, what kind of 10x42 binocs are you using? I've been looking at a potential upgrade.
     
  17. Hummer

    Hummer Big Member

    2,180
    2
    Mar 16, 2003
    Western Colorado
    They are Bausch & Lomb Elite 10x42 that I bought new in '03 (my 2nd pair of Elites). They've withstood countless drops and rough daily use, yet are still in collimation. Bushnell no longer makes the Bausch & Lomb line but they market the replacement Elite under the Bushnell name. It's said to be equivalent optically but I don't know about durability.

    Mine need some repair and I doubt Bushnell will do it so I may be buying something new next year for birding, and keep the old ones for beating around in elk woods. I want to handle the new Elites first, and have been looking at Cabela's euros and the Swaros.