FNG blew it

bluumoon

Junior Member
Joined
May 4, 2020
Messages
43
FNG here in CO, first year out, DIY 2nd season OTC hunt. Everything, but meat in the freezer....

First, thank you all for graciously sharing your experiences, it put me in a position to succeed.

Last year the opportunity presented itself to fulfill a long term dream, move to CO for a great job! It also put the opportunity to elk hunt right in my backyard. Took a bit to settle into the job, but not long to start planning my elk hunt for this year. In January I started to plan the hunt with a fellow new transplant to CO, his being a little newer to CO we settled on the idea of an OTC hunt as he wouldn't be eligible for an in-state license until after the draw.

I was able to spend a good bit of time late this summer and into September getting to know the area I planned to hunt, it doesn't suck to spend your free time in the woods here. Ended up deciding to hunt an area 1.5 hrs up what has to be the worst road in Colorado, it's a love hate relationship with that road for sure.

The plan was to head up Thursday prior to season, pack 2-3 miles into an area where I thought there would still be water and set up a base camp that would put us in the middle of 4-5 drainages that I thought looked promising. A couple weeks prior to season my hunting partner tells me he probably won't be able to get out until Friday night or Saturday. Another buddy had also planned to come and camp/hang for the week, same story, he'd be up Thursday night or Friday.

Finally it's go time. I have pins dropped for my friends to find me and set out into the wilderness with all of the gear for base camp. I must have looked like a rented mule, passed a couple guys scouting mule deer, first question...."How far you plan on packing that in?" Not far, but at 12,800 ft the air is getting a little thin. Found a good spot to setup camp, get all setup and head out scouting. No sign or water to be found up high that evening, one area checked off. Settled into camp for the night and start messaging my buddies with location pins. First guy, "looks like I won't be able to drive up and camp in the truck until Sat night at the earliest". Second guy, "Went camping last week, should prob spend some time at the house, let me know if you need help packing an elk out".

This was not the plan....Thursday night I spent the coldest night of my life sleeping in my big ass tent next to the woodstove I couldn't use r/t the fire ban. Big Agnes I call BS on your 0 degree sleeping bag, not even close. Two insulated pads, a zero degree down bag, and all my clothes on and still froze my ass off at maybe 15 degrees.

I was slow to dethaw Friday morning, decided with out the ability to use the woodstove I should probably plan to camp at the truck the rest of the trip where I had another sleeping bag. Looked like camp needed to defrost, so I headed out to check out another area. Headed for the big rock outcropping I was hoping to glass from, had to pass through a saddle to get there. The woods started showing all the right signs as I passed through the saddle. Made it to the outcropping and discovered it din't offer any good glassing. Dipped back into the saddle and started working back towards camp, sign looking better and better. Followed the sign into a little meadow with a solid stream and tons of fresh sign. Bingo!


Back to base camp, then back to truck with a plan for the morning. Ran into a coworkers husband at the truck, whose hunt up north was cancelled d/t the fires. Invited him to join camp the next day instead of commuting on the terrible road. Opening morning I'm up early and headed for my spot at O dark thirty. 30 minutes up the trail, still an hr and a half before sunrise I hear a rifle crack back towards the truck. WTF? Someone spot light an animal on the way in? Nope, accidental discharge. Later heard the only casualty was a couple pairs of underoos, neither the shooter or the other guys still at the trucks were injured.

Bush wacking back to my meadow in the dark took 20 minutes longer than I had guessed, got there right at sun up. Sat all morning with not so much as a rabbit passing through the meadow. Hunt my way back to the truck for a hot lunch on my way to another area for the evening. Failed to head a key piece of advice, don't leave elk to find elk. That evening hunted from perfect glassing point, a finger point between two drainages, no elk, but a ton of fresh mule deer sign and a couple decent looking bucks.

Back at camp, my coworkers' husband was setting up camp and cooking an amazing fresh grouse dinner. Text from original hunting parter, "will be up tomorrow sometime". Spoke to the neighboring camp hunting deer, pointed them to the mule deer I found that evening. Over dinner, my new buddy and I start talking about am plans. He planned to hike in 5 miles to an area he had scouted Friday, I offered to join for the early morning hike in. Conversation starts around this other area a little closer he had found he might want to hunt, he describes a little, I start thinking it sounds an aweful lot like my secret meadow. Another beer, out come the maps. Yup, same damn meadow. New plan for the am. We agree first person to spot an elk gets the opportunity.

Based on me getting to the meadow late the first morning we head out a little earlier. Make our approach based on the wind and get to our spot right at legal shooting light. End up a little above my preferred spot on the side of a steep hill. We sit down, I pull out my binoculars. Holy Sh*t there's a bull! Get my buddy's attention and ask for his shooting sticks, he doesn't understand why the hell I want his shooting sticks. He looks up and sees not one, but three bulls in the meadow! He hands over the shooting sticks, I look back and the bulls are out of sight. They had walked the creek bed away from us and popped back out at 337 yards. That's fine, I practiced at 300yards all summer off my binocular tripod and pack. The trophy bull was already out of view headed into cover, I'd be happy with any legal bull. Split second broad side presentation, send it! Hit!! Top rest falls off of the shooting sticks. Bull spins, limping. Trophy bull comes back out into meadow and they all stand there broad side at 350 yards.

Me, to my buddy. "Shoot him!!!!!". He had set his rifle down 10 yards away while moving to spot for me....No go. I get the opportunity for a couple follow up shots, now trying to shoot off of broken shooting sticks, then my knee. No where else to move to and rest the rifle. Bulls take off, my bull keeping up, but limping. We give it as much time as I can stand and go get on the trail. No blood in the meadow. My buddy picks up the trail where they entered the woods. A little bit of blood, then 2-3ft spurts of arterial blood. Good blood trail for 1/2 mile, then it starts to decrease, never find an area where he layed down, I'm not feeling it. Last 1/4 mile we are hands and knees following intermittent pin pricks of blood. Then one last drop at the edge of an old road and a steep hillside with no clear path through the brush and the snow starts...

We did circles for an hr. Nada. Original hunting partner shows up and we spend another 2 hrs doing circles. Defeat.

One, bit of good news. Those neighboring mule deer hunters harvested a buck right where I said it would be that same morning.

Snow sets in legit that night, forecast says up to 2ft over the next 24 hrs in my location. But hey, I can use my fancy new woodstove, it and the tipi kicked ass in 40-50 mile an hr winds and snow. Wake up the next am to blowing snow storm, 1.5 hours up a crappy road with minimal truck recovery gear, but a least a weeks worth of supplies. I feel like I'd had my chance, and the original hunting partner felt risk/reward of staying wasn't there. End of season 1.

Have played this back over and over in my head...All I can say is I blew it. I took a split second shot at 337 yards with a steady cross wind at 20-25 miles an hr, enough to shift impact 6 inches. I'd love to blame the wind, but really it was me being excited to see my first bull, shooting off an unfamiliar rest, and taking a quick (but what felt good) shot. My best guess is that I hit him in the front shoulder. B/c some of you will want to know... and I've second guessed it. .308 165gr quality ammo.



Not the story I'd hoped to share, but I'll be back next year, better prepared and hopefully the story will end with meat in the freezer. Again thank you all!!
 

Olympics777

Junior Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2014
Messages
25
That sucks dude. Sounds like you need better hunting buddies. Sometimes trips like that make for good stories later on though.
 

Indian Summer

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2013
Messages
824
That sucks dude. Sounds like you need better hunting buddies. Sometimes trips like that make for good stories later on though.
That was my first thought... you need a solid partner. Like the guy you ran into. I hope you got his number. I shot a null at 365 this year. You definitely need a solid rest AND some time at that distance.
 

ChrisAU

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2018
Messages
2,837
Location
SE Alabama
Yeah sounds like that guy was solid, leaving his rifle behind a few yards because he's worried about spotting for you in the heat of the moment says a lot about him IMO.
 

AaronMColeman

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2018
Messages
567
Location
Wyoming
Sucky. But sounds like you did things right.

Only advice is give is, nobody leaves a rifle behind! For safety from bears to follow up shots to the fact that elk often don’t walk right into the primary shooter’s lane (I know, shocking that elk don’t always cooperate).

But good job getting that far. Practice with rifle in all sorts of scenarios and that will help. You’ve got this figured out. Next time luck will fall on your side.
 

Turdle

Junior Member
Joined
Nov 9, 2020
Messages
11
#13 is a good tip. Stuff happens, live and learn from it. Sounds like your on track...
 
OP
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bluumoon

Junior Member
Joined
May 4, 2020
Messages
43
Thanks fellas. Already working on a new group for next year. That was the big take away. Hopefully I can talk the guy I ended up hunting with into returning. He has access to a private ranch up north and usually hunts with his family, may be a hard sell.

I saw my buddy's shooting sticks and had a brain fart. Didn't even say elk, just "yo give me the shooting sticks". Should have shot off my tripod as planned. It also left him with out a shooting rest.

I'll be practicing more with the rifle, in different scenarios and conditions for sure.
 

Nickofthewoods

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 5, 2018
Messages
575
Location
Colorado
Sorry to hear your hunt ended that way. Happened to me once as well and the scenarios sound similar, so I'll tell you and what I learned.

I spotted two bulls at 275 yards in a small opening and took a shot at one. I ended up hitting it in the shoulder, likely because I rushed the shot. The other problem I ran into was because there were patches of trees intermixed with thick oak brush, I lost sight of him and then lost track of which bull I had shot at. Not wanting to shoot at the other one I had to wait for a long time and watch for which one was injured or limping. By the time I had him identified again they were now about 330 yards away and standing so close together that I couldn't - in good conscience - shoot at them. They disappeared and I followed the blood for over a mile before the trail dried up. Sound familiar?

All hunters have their limits. Mine for rifle hunting is generally 300 yards and shorter because I don't practice farther than that very often. If I do take a longer shot the conditions have to be perfect. Stationary and broadside animal, no wind, good visibility, and hopefully at least a decent chance at a follow up shot or two. Good luck on your future hunts, this will probably sting for awhile.
 

Gila

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
Messages
194
Location
Socorro New Mexico
:)🤣🤣😂😂😂

Sorry man but I got a good laugh. They lifted the fireban in the Gila a couple of weeks before my hunt so I could use my wood stove on the hunt. I got an alpz redwood -25 deg bag....well worth the money! Going solo has advantages for sure. However this season it was a beech to turn that huge bull over by myself! Stuff happens, sure don't need your pards to contribue to that. It is a dang good thing to be able to hunt elk where you live!
 

mxgsfmdpx

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Joined
Oct 22, 2019
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1,397
Location
Northern California
OP. Your wind calc was way way off and that’s probably why you had such a bad hit. Practice and know your elevation and wind adjustments.
 
Joined
Oct 10, 2018
Messages
71
A newbie using a "dope chart"... Have u ever shot even at the range at that distance? Off a borrowed shooting stick? When u had your tripod close by? Lots of red flags here. Know your limitations... Sorry but a good hunting buddy isn't going to solve your problems here. Hate to be negative but you need to operate within your skill and experience level.
 

CAElkhunter

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2019
Messages
181
Pro tip #1 - Good Elk hunters learn from mistakes. Great first encounter. Don't make the same mistakes next time and you will be well on your way to a successful addicted Elk hunter......
 
OP
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bluumoon

Junior Member
Joined
May 4, 2020
Messages
43
No worries high country. I shit the bed. My grandfather would have called it "buckagey", inexperienced hunter letting nerves get in the way of what you've practiced. I shared it the way it happened to hopefully help someone else from screwing up in the heat of the moment. I had my tripod, the one I practiced with over the summer and early fall, to the point where I felt very comfortable at 300 yards on 12" plate , right on the side of my pack. Why the hell I didn't use it I couldn't tell you. The bull gave me generous opportunities to make up for a marginal shot, I believe if I'd use what I'd practiced with I could have brought him home. No way to shoot from prone where we were.

Almost 2 months later and I'm still replaying things. Plan for the new year... Practice and get in better shape. Keep learning. Formidilosus seems to have a pretty good suggested program for working on shooting skills, I plan to start there. Work on different shooting positions instead of just off the bag and tripod. Also shoot in different conditions, most days I was shooting wind was under 15mph. I'm lucky to have a spot 10 min from the house I can shoot out to 700yards if I want. I only practiced out to 400 over the summer (prone off a bag at 400), I don't plan on stretching the .308 out past that.

Equipment wise, won't be using tsx ammo again. Leupold scope will be changed to SWFA. I had a major POI shift when I put a muzzle brake on, as in almost 36 inches at 400 yards. I thought that was excessive, but chalked me just not knowing how much a muzzle brake can change things, now I'm thinking scope may have lost zero. Shot another 100 rounds after adding muzzle brake and rezeroing, zero didn't change.

Get a warmer damn sleeping bag.... Anyone want to buy a barely used Big Agnes 0 degree down bag?
 

Laramie

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Joined
Apr 17, 2020
Messages
699
To the OP. I applaud you for your honesty and for seeking out feedback after a tough situation. The learning curve can be steep but the more you seek answers in a humble way, the faster you will get where you want to be.

Here is a good ballistics calculator that will allow you to calculate wind drift. https://www.hornady.com/team-hornady/ballistic-calculators/

Keep in mind, pressure, altitude, temperature, and wind angle all can have significant impacts to a bullets trajectory- especially past 300 yards. For your load, a 25mph cross wind will move your bullet 15" at 300 yards, 17.4" at 325 yards, 20.3" at 350 yards, and 26.9" at 400 yards. Now if that angle isn't perfectly at 90 degrees, it becomes really difficult to figure out where you will hit exactly.

I have been hunting elk, and other big game out west for a long time. I am a very confident shot at well past 500 yards. However, in a 20+ MPH wind, I won't shoot past 300 at an animal. I will only shoot past 200 in strong winds if I can get on a rock solid rest.

Hope some of this info helps. Good luck to you next year!
 

geewhiz

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Joined
Aug 6, 2020
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220
Location
SW MT
MAN, WHAT A LOSER!

Only kidding. Pretty sure we have all been there at least once. I know I have been there multiple times.
 
OP
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bluumoon

Junior Member
Joined
May 4, 2020
Messages
43
Thanks Laramie,
Thinking my transcribing of info from the ballistic app I used was off, that or the app sucked. There will be much more practice this year.

Also, not only did I fail w the shooting sticks, but screwed the other guy by taking his shooting platform.

In my story I said the season ended. I actually went back the last two days of season and hunted the meadow again one evening and the next morning, hoping a limping bull would show back up. No dice, no movement in the meadow since the snow flew.
 
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