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The Encounter

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#1 McBruce



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Posted 01 April 2005 - 01:13 PM

Picture yourself at eleven thousand foot elevation, driving along an old forest service road, in an old Jeep CJ, cutting the face of a ridge, with a deep valley below you, Near vertical drops off the passenger side and a fifty plus grade going up on the drivers side.. The road is only wide enough for two vehicles to squeeze past each other with one pulling to side and stopping as the other slowly inches by. Tall old growth timber all around you, and through the trees you see glimpses of the high mountain peaks, reaching sky ward or an occasional glimpse out across the valley below, Through the bottom of the valley is a river twisting and turning its way across the floor, in some places the valley floor is no wider then a couple of hundred yards.
Coming up the face of the ridge is deep cut draws at the top of each draw you see elk tracks criss crossing the road
Its early morning and your nose is running from the frosty 37 degree air blowing across your face as the sun is coming up and bringing life to the valley below you. At the end of the road is a turn around, just big enough for 2 vehicles to park. Beyond is an even older logging road that has been closed down to vehicles. Boulders the size of small cars have been rolled into the old road way and then beetle kill pines have been dropped across the old road. A trail winds its way through the boulders and cut trees and you get out of the jeep and grab your pack , your bow, you double check your gear. GPS strapped to the shoulder strap of the pack, binoculars in your left side jacket pocket, range finder tied to a lanyard and hooked in the button hole of the right side pocket.. Squeeze call and mouth calls slipped into the jackets inner pockets, hydro pack is full, . One last twist of the broad heads to make sure they are tight and your arrows are secured in the quiver. Your release is strapped on, you spray down with scent neutralizer and all conversations are in a low whisper. Your ready to go, will luck be with you or against you this day? It doesn't matter, you're heading out to see if you can bring the big boy in.

You wind down the trail in shadows, you feel your senses perk up, your eyes are adjusting to the breaking light of dawn, your ears are straining for each little sound, and each twig snap sounds like a 12 ga shot gun going off. You pick your steps carefully, you watch for fresh tracks over yesterdays foot prints. You see spots of sign here and there and you get ready for that encounter that may put meat in the freezer or send you home saying NEXT TIME! As the trail turns to the left you start a slow up hill gentle climb and you crest over a clear cut that looks like god forsake that little 20 acre plot of the mountain. Down below the clear cut you see old growth timber that was spared the steal of the chain saw and there through the trees a hint of gold shows through in the morning sun. You pick your way through the wasted logs and brush and step through the ring of old growth as if you are walking through an arch way and before you is a golden meadow, with knee deep grass topped with a touch of morning frost. You glass out over the meadow and you see where the frost has been knocked from the tops of the grass and you see trails forming where the elk have passed through the meadow in the early hours just as dawn was breaking. They are here, you are close and you have never felt this close to God in your life. You stop and listen and hear from across the meadow the purring and clucking of the cow elk, talking to their calves. Its a sound that is burned into your memory for life. The meadow is at least 800 yards long and 250 yards wide. Small islands of trees just 100 yards out from where you entered rise up from the grass, the trails lead to a place between the island of trees and the edge of the meadow. That is where the wallow ( waller ) is located and where the elk were drinking just mins before you got there. They sensed your presence coming and have taken refuge in the edges of the trees. You skirt the down hill side of this golden lake of grass, and find trails in the trees. You can walk quickly and quietly , working your way around the edges of the meadow to the far end where you have glassed a large heard bull with his cows the last two mornings. As you work your way towards the far end of the meadow ,you find a deep v groove cut down into the mountain. You are at the top of a draw and trails lead in and out. You stop, kneel down and pull out your bugle tube. Threw the air cuts the high pitch sound of your bugle. You keep is short and weak, you want to sound like a young bull, who is feeling his spunk in the breaking morning. You wait, you listen, no response. You move on down the edge and reach the far end of the meadow. Behind the cover of the trees. you see a draw that is leading up into a high mountain bowl. This is the area in the previous mornings that you were there and have watched the heard bull work the cows into this draw and take them on up the mountain up close to tree line. You and your hunting partner draw straws for who will call and who will be set up for the shot. You win and its your turn to shoot, his will come later. No hard feelings are there, you and your hunting partner are working as a team, you would trust your life with this person, there is a bond that can not be explained, all of your experiences are share and share alike with this person. You are more then friends, closer then brothers, you share the love of the forest and the mountains, and the call of the elk. He knows his turn will come, and you will be there calling and working the elk for his opportunity, but this morning, it is your turn for hopefully an opportunity at that trophy.

You work your way through the trees and to the edge of the draw, you have a perfect vantage point to see anything coming down from the bowl. As an archer its a long view, you can see only about 100 yards, but you need that shot to be under 40. You take your best guess and pick your cover and hunker down for the wait, you brush in, finding the shadows that will help conceal your presence, your partner backs out 50-70 yards back up the edge of the meadow and you sit in the morning, listening to the birds coming alive, the squires chattering at the hawk that flies over, the Pine Martin that darts from tree to tree, hoping to snag the poor squirrel that isn't paying close enough attention to his surroundings.
The minutes pass by like hours, you check your watch, its only been 7 mins since you last checked, you are waiting those long 30 mins for the elk to calm down after sensing your arrival, you want them to forget about you and progress on with their daily activities, and finally the time has come and your now your partner will start the calls. He lets out a soft cow call and then another, you answer with a lost calf call. He responds with mewing of a mother elk in search for her separated calf. Then you pick up the calling, each of you working your squeeze calls and your mouth calls. It sounds as if 6 or 7 cows are there talking to each other, clucking and mewing followed by the sound of your partners weak bugle once again. A few more cow calls and then you allow the forest to go silent. You listen, your ears straining to hear the sounds of other cows and then you hear it. A cow answers back and then another. They are searching for the lost calf as well. You wait a while and start answering back, and again you take the calf call and let out a lost mew. The forest around you erupts into cow calls, and then the sound you have been waiting for,. A short bugle coming from up in the bowl. Is it the heard bull calling his cows to him or is it a satellite bull trying to find some separated cows that may claim as his own. Your partner lets out another weak bugle and you work your cow calls. You are giving the appearance that this peep squeak bull has 4 or 5 cows with him and you hope the other bulls are enraged by this and then it comes. The pounding of hoofs running down the trail to wards you. You got his attention,, he is coming in to claim his cows, he isn't going to allow another bull to split up his heard.
The shadow of the bull appears from the tree's. Its a satellite bull but its a legal 5x5 with good mass. But he has slowed up , he is moving very slowly, very deliberately now, watching all around him. You can see him through the trees and you hear him let out 4 short soft snorts. He doesn't want the heard bull or even the peep squeak to know he is there. He is going to try and sneak off with a cow or two. You have now stopped calling and its all up to your partner to bring him on in. He is at 70 yards and slowly moving in. He stays in the cover of the trees and works his way back and forth from one side to another of the draw, slowly closing the distance to you. Your partner can't see him coming and there is no way to signal what you need done, you pray that it will all come together. Your partner starts muffling the sounds, its as if the cows are working back up the meadow. Here he comes. but wait he doesn't come down the draw, he comes up the side and is headed directly toward you. Your heart is pounding and you feel the rush of excitement. You have already used your range finder and checked different tree's. You know the distances and you only need him to break into the open. Finally in just seconds he turns 70 yards into 30. There is only one standing dead spruce tree between you and him. Its branches are bare but hanging like tangled spider webs You can see him through the small tangled branches but there is no clear shot. You pull up on draw , then rest your cam against your leg to help hold the pressure of the bow, this may be a long hold, and you wait for him to take those last 3 or 4 steps and come past the dead spruce tree and into the open. You're now tracking him while looking through your peep sight. You tell yourself to breath deep and calm your nerves. He approaches and there is one dead fall log at 25 yards and he stops. He won't come over the log and you watch as he raises his head and lets out a bugle. You feel goose bumps raise on your neck and arms, the sight of this bull at 25 yards raising his head and bugling, snot blowing out of his nose as he snorts, his front hoof, pawing at the dirt, he is frustrated with what he hears, but can't find the cows. Your partner is working the calls and backing away from you. He is pulling the bull right to you, its going to be a 20 yard broad side shot. if only he will cross that dead fall log and clear the branches in your way. You don't dare move, he is at full alert and you will be busted. Only inches to go and yet miles away. Your muscles are aching from the pressure of the bow string and holding it out in front of you. He needs to move, please move, just a few feet is all you need.
The cows who were calling for the calf from across the draw start mewing. You see his head snap around and his nose goes into the air. he is down wind of the cows and he picks up their scent. He snaps around and runs the wrong direction, and takes the distance out to 45 yards. You have your chance and you step out from behind the standing dead spruce that was blocking your way. he is standing directly away from you. There is no shot, your arms are now burning from holding your bow back, you need 2 or 3 steps either direction and you have a quartering away shot. But his nose goes back to the wind and he snaps around again and lunges into the trees and stops. The last sight of him you see is his hind quarters now broad side to you, trees are blocking the vitals, you can see his head and rack behind the trees, Then up the far side of the draw he goes to the cows just up and over the top of the draw.
You let your bow down from draw, now the rush hits you, so close and yet so far. you pull your hat off then your head net. You hear twigs breaking from behind you and look back to see your partner coming through the brush....WHAT HAPPENED and you recant the story of only needing 3 or 4 more steps but he wouldn't cross the log. Which log and you point to the dead fall that is less then 25 yards away. Your partner is jumping up and down, darn darn darn. that close THAT CLOSE!!!!!!!!! yes but no shot.

You now know what it means to be an archer. To need everything to come together perfectly, and a few dead branches of a spruce tree stopped you from taking a good clean harvest. You mind spins, if only I had gone muzzle loader instead of archery I could have had him, and then you remind yourself. This is what you live for, the encounters the experiences and the rush of having gone into his( the elks ) own back yard and you drew him to with in 25 yards and you almost had him. This is the experiences that will bring you back again the next morning to try again, when your legs ache and hurt from the previous days hike.
You will do it again and one day you will win. Its just a matter of time. and you will go back to camp tonight and as you tell the story you will see the excitement in the others eyes and the disappointment when you tell the end of the story how the cows across the draw drew him away. You were never busted, he never knew he was 25 yards away from a human and you know you did everything right.
This is archery hunting and only another archer could understand what you have just done and what has just happened.
Another day, on another set, another location, you will do it again, over and over.
One day you will walk away the winner. The day is one day closer. But until then you have the memories and the experience to live in your mind.
No one else has that same experience, its something only you possess and something you will learn to cherish.
You are an Archer. its what you chose because you under stand just how special that experience is.
Live what you believe
Believe what you live

#2 mzlloader


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Posted 01 April 2005 - 01:43 PM

Well Put bruce, only this year no trees in the way

Trophy Hunting: Its not about the Size of the Trophy, But the Memories and Experince Of the Hunt That count, SCOUTS OUT,


#3 Rowdy Yates

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 09:06 PM

McBruce that makes for a good read. :clap:

Them durn trees heck they're only good fur skinin :lol:

I'm with you bro - when the thing comes together - up close - you are the archer and your percentages are getting better each time you have that encounter of the elk kind. Elkatraz is a great name for it - up close and in your face. :rolleyes: :yes: ;)
"Keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may forever God bless you out there on the trail."

#4 sschneid73


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Posted 23 April 2005 - 09:18 AM

Yep had several things get in the way of a good clean shot. Always thinking to myself if I only had my hand gun, but then it wouldn't be as exciting. That is what it is all about Bruce. I can't wait to have my first experiance staring down a bull within range. Maybe this year at elkatraz 2.




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Posted 30 March 2006 - 12:15 PM

You could have done it the old indian way and ran after him until you caught him. :lol:

#6 tdl12321


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Posted 01 April 2006 - 09:21 PM

I love that story. It really got me fired up for my first elk hunt last year.

Then your encounter came right back to me towards the end of our whitetail hunting season. I had a monster buck surprise me. Stepped out from the thicket behind me and was right under my stand before I knew it. I tried to draw on him, but he lcaught me. He looked up and we just stared eye to eye for an eternal 3 minutes. Finally he trotted 30 yards away and stopped behind some brush. As I was staring at those tall tines, and the largest whitetail I have ever seen in person, all I could think about was the ending to your story. Yes this was bowhunting and only another bowhunter could understand.

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