Can't Shoot A Big Bull If You Shoot A Small One First!

strousek

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Sep 28, 2017
Messages
135
Location
Colorado
I have been archery elk hunting for almost 20 years now. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the mountains of CO before our woods exploded with hikers and campers from all corners of the US. When I first started elk hunting it was just me and one buddy without a clue for what we were doing. We scared more elk off and chased more bugles into the dark timber than you could count. We learned through our mistakes, and more mistakes... and basically did nothing but make mistakes for years. Slowly we learned elk, their habits, their ability to sense danger and disappear like smoke in the trees. After learning that elk leave nothing to chance and methodically plan their beds and feeding around thermals and terrain we finally started finding success and killing an elk here and there. We hunted OTC and easy to draw units sending arrows at the first legal elk in our sights. I hunted this way for years thinking some day that first bull of the year within 40 yards was going to be a monster. That never happened for me.

Just a couple years back did I finally start hunting with a tried and true big elk killer. There is one saying that I will never forget. "You can't shoot a big bull if you shoot a small one first." Last year I shot a small 5x5 with my bow and couldn't have been more excited. This was the first elk that I had called in for the year and I resorted back to my instincts of filling my tag and freezer. For me it's not about only shooting that trophy but the hunt as a whole. For my new hunting buddy however he was pissed as I shot a small bull ruining my chance at a big bull.

This year however I had the opportunity with a great archery tag to finally try and go for a big bull. I left on a solo hunt last Wednesday and for the entire 3 hour trip to base camp I repeated the line over and over. You can't shoot a big bull if you shoot a small bull first. From Wednesday evening on I was able to get into elk on every single hunt. I have put in hundreds of miles and scouted extensively over the last couple years to learn this area and the elk that live there. I knew of one great bull in the valley with 15-20 cows already. On Thursday and Friday morning I passed chip shots at some small bulls that any other year I would have taken in a heartbeat. Each time kicking myself later for not filling my tag. But again reminding myself that had I sent that arrow I would never get a big bull.

On Friday afternoon I crept to the feeding meadow and wallow I knew the bull I was after liked to visit in the evenings. To my surprise there was a cow bedded 70 yards above the wallow already. They had beat me there for the night more than 2 hours before their usual wallowing and feeding time. I waited patiently on her as I laid hidden behind a rock for what seemed like hours. Turns out this was only 15 minutes and she eventually got on her feet and started feeding in my direction. As I watched her feed at 40 yards I could hear the scraping and breaking of spruce branches from the wallow below. Finally out of the corner of my eye I saw dark chocolate antlers emerge from the timber and start walking up to check her. As I slowly turned my head I realized that this was the exact bull I came in to kill. He slowly worked up the hill to 45 yards from me but only presented a straight on shot. The cow slowly worked into the timber to my right. As I tried to slow my heart rate and steady my hands I thought of ways to stop this bull before he hit the timber. Like something magical however he decided to turn the other direction and look back down to his wallow. With his head looking away I came to full draw and steadied my 40 yard pin on his lungs. As soon as I released the arrow I knew he was done for. Having no idea I was there the arrow slipped through both lungs and he trotted back to the wallow without any sense of urgency. As soon as he hit the open meadow I watched him start walking backwards and then hell broke loose. 20 or more cows went tearing off out of the timber around me to the wallow meadow. They mewed and stomped around for a minute and then traveled off into the trees. I slowly worked the timber edge down to find the most amazing sight of my nearly 20 year archery elk career. Finally I was able to shoot a big bull by not shooting a small bull first!

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UtahJimmy

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jul 6, 2016
Messages
832
Location
SLC, UT
Congrats on a fantastic bull, thanks for sharing the story!

Sent from my Pixel 6 using Tapatalk
 

Luked

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Apr 3, 2014
Messages
600
Thats awesome. Congrats.
We have that same saying here at home for whitetail season. They dont get big if you kill them when they are small
 

Ucsdryder

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jan 24, 2015
Messages
3,739
That’s a stud but you said it yourself, pull a great tag and have a better chance at a big bull. I’m confident that bull doesn’t exist in the otc area I hunt elk. At least in the last 8-10 years of trail cameras and boots on the ground I’ve never seen one over 300”, let alone one taller than I am (that is a great picture). Congrats, if you score him post up some pictures and let everyone guess, especially if you have some Live Photos from this summer!
 

Hnthrdr

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Jan 29, 2022
Messages
340
Location
Co
Awesome bull! Good buddy of mine that kills big deer and elk consistently, always tells me that. He also says you have to be content with not filling your tag if you want big animals. Your patience paid off. BOAL right there ;)
 
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strousek

strousek

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Sep 28, 2017
Messages
135
Location
Colorado
That’s a stud but you said it yourself, pull a great tag and have a better chance at a big bull. I’m confident that bull doesn’t exist in the otc area I hunt elk. At least in the last 8-10 years of trail cameras and boots on the ground I’ve never seen one over 300”, let alone one taller than I am (that is a great picture). Congrats, if you score him post up some pictures and let everyone guess, especially if you have some Live Photos from this summer!
I have seen several 300"+ bulls come out of OTC units in CO. These two bulls here I found in August 2020 while scouting for mountain goats. They lived in an OTC unit in the middle of the national forest. They are there but they sure are smart.
 

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