Remember This Is Fun!

LNGBOWFLYER

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Northern New York The "North Country"
My 2011 elk season began like many others did; by applying for my special permits. A month later the results read like they always do, “NOT SELECTED.” Oh well like usual I would just have to do it the hard way. I really don't know any other way other than taking the most difficult route possible. This year would be extra special because not only would I finally get to hunt elk again but I would get to spend it with my little brother Karl for five days in the wilderness in my home state of Washington. Opening day of elk season found me packing my house up in Ozark, AL. Not the ideal place to hunt for elk but I was getting my family ready for our move from Ft. Rucker, AL to Ft. Drum, NY. On September 8th I graduated from the Apache Longbow course and began the 1,300 mile move north. I think this may have been the most difficult part of my elk season since I have a 3 year old son and a 6 month old daughter. What a trip! On September 12th we arrived at our new home and quickly unpacked some of our stuff. The next day on the 13th I flew out to SeaTac. I hadn't been out west for almost 2 years so saying that seeing the Cascades again was AWSOME, it would be a complete understatement. It was OUTSTANDING to be back home. My brother picked me up from the airport and we drove straight to the trail head in the Goat Peaks Wilderness area. That night in "Camp Power stroke" (Slept in the back of his truck) we could hear a bull chuckling to his cows nearby. Our hunt was starting out pretty good.

We left the trail head at O Dark thirty and arrived at our spike camp about noon. 7 miles later and a climb to an elevation of 6300 feet had finally brought us to our spike camp. Once there we quickly set up camp and took a small hike to get a feel for our surroundings. The meadows that we were around were amazing. They had SO much elk sign that it literally smelled like a cattle yard. The place was trashed with elk feces and tracks. There were dry wallows galore and a lot of rubs. In fact there were even multiple rub lines that we could see. That afternoon after setting up camp we started glassing this big basin. We spotted up three legal bucks but due to their position a successful stalk with a bow was highly doubtful. We did however see a 1x2 bull with a cow. The 1x2 had incredibly high spikes and would definitely have made the Boone and Crockett books if they had a spike elk category. We quickly moved in on them and my brother started talking to them. We got as close as the wind would allow and eventually it got too dark to do anything with them. While the spike bugled and chuckled his head off, he wouldn't leave his "harem". She must have left him later that night because all that night he roamed all over our basin and around our camp bugling and chuckling in search of that herd of "cows" he had heard earlier. Unfortunately all of the sign I spoke of was 1-2 weeks old and the fact that we had a spike roaming the basin bugling and establishing his dominance over the area was a bad sign for our elk hunting there.








The next morning found us waking up in the clouds (literally) we were however able to get a couple of bulls fired up and moved down, down, down the mountain after them and then up, up, up the mountain after them. We played with them trying to get the wind right until noon. The wind wouldn’t co-operate and would not allow us to get close enough to really threaten them so eventually they got sick of playing the insult game. We did some more glassing and right above us was a pretty big Billy goat. During our glassing we also saw a couple of more goats. This was also a bad sign. If we were seeing more goats than elk maybe we were too high. At 1 PM more clouds were rolling in and the temps were at 40 degrees and dropping. It was also starting to spit rain and ice at us. We made an executive decision that we didn't want to chance getting stuck in a snow storm 7 miles in and plus all the elk sign was a week or so old. So we picked up camp and headed down hill towards "Camp Power stroke" and a new area to hunt.

We got back to “Camp Power stroke” and busted out a few maps. This year in Washington a lot of areas are inaccessible to hunting elk unless you have horses because a lot of roads and bridges have been washed out. Finally we settled on one of my honey holes. There was a gamble though because due to Army training I hadn’t been there in two years. But one of my favorite quotes is “Fortune Favors the Bold.” So to the Colockum we went. Oh and the other catch is this area is the most restrictive place to hunt in the West. The ONLY legal elk is a “True Spike.” A "true spike" is basically a spike bull that is a spike on both sides. Again I refer you to my favorite quote.
 
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LNGBOWFLYER

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Mar 26, 2012
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63
Location
Northern New York The "North Country"
We arrived in the Colockum about midnight and set up camp and quickly went to sleep. But not before we could here 2 or 3 bulls screaming at each other in the distance. By the looks of it my honey hole still looked good to go. That morning we slept in a little bit so we took a small walk which turned up nothing. We then got in Camp Power stroke and took a drive to glass a few areas and again came up with nothing. On the way back however we saw three bucks cross the road and the chase was on. I jumped out of the truck and sprinted up the hill to hook around them so I could get the wind right. Unfortunately the bucks didn't share my zeal for physical effort and chose to stay near the road. In fact one even bedded down near the road. So I had to come back down and stalk in on them. Man talk about unpressured deer. I got within 70 yds of a really nice 4x3 when the bedded 2x3 spotted me and they meandered off. Oh well that's how it goes.

Back in camp at noon we were making some Mountain House meals when a doe walked through camp. And when I say walked through camp I mean she walked right by camp. Our camp must have been some sort of deer highway because about 20 minutes later as I was just starting to dig into my mountain house meal we saw those same bucks cross the hillside not 150yds away. In fact they even picked up a big brother. A nice 150" class 4x4. We watched them feed off and started our stalk. Unfortunately we didn't get very far when about 70yds from camp a herd of 20 elk being pushed by a 330" 6x6 came strolling through. Man why do we walk around and hike in deep for animals again? Apparently mountain house meals and Rainier Beer is some sort of secret deer and elk attractant. While the elk all came within easy bow range none were a “true spike.” So since none were legal elk back to the deer stalking I went. Because of the wind I had to hook way, way around them. In the process I found another group of 20 cows this time with a small 270ish 6pt. I got within 15 yds and again none were a legal elk so after once again leaving a herd of elk I could once again continue my stalk. Man how is a guy to stalk a nice buck when he keeps running into those darn elk.



I got within the "red zone" and started really going slow. I even took off my shoes. I'd move from tree to tree real slow and glassed allot. I was in the process of doing this when that nice 4x4 stuck his head up and had me pinned. That guy did every dirty trick in the book trying to get me to move. He would stomp his feet, move his head back and forth. He would even slowly turn like he was going to leave and then spin back real quick trying to catch me moving. He even closed the distance from 40yds to 20yds. He wasn't that dumb and eventually started to bound off. I have watched WAY too much hunting shows so I "grunted" at him like on TV. Magically it worked. He stopped and started slowly circling me trying to get my wind. There was one tree between me and him and I had once chance to either draw my bow or I could range him. So I drew my bow back, estimated his range at 40yds and anchored and settled my 50yd pin on him (oops not that one the yellow pin , whew that was close) and then released my Slick Trick mag. And BAM!!! It hit a rock just below him and ricocheted into outer space. After an hour of making sure that I hadn't missed (after all I couldn't believe that I of all people could possibly be capable of missing right) I ranged where the buck had been and determined that he was actually 49 yards away. Oh if only I had messed up and used that 50yd pin. If only they had a surgical procedure where they could implant a range finding device in your eyes. Well it was still fun.

That night we didn’t see anything. In fact the whole next day we didn’t hear or see anything either. It was the second to last day and it was looking like my chances of punching my tag on a “true spike” were getting pretty slim. But… I had one more honey hole to check out. So we once again picked up camp and headed to a new spot a couple of canyons over.

We moved over the evening before the last day of the season and didn’t find ANY fresh sign other than a whole bunch of boot tracks. It was however in a good spot to throw out some locator bugles and get some pretty good coverage with the call. So that’s what we did. We threw out a few locator calls to see if we could stir the pot a little bit. And oh man did we succeed. On the plateau across the drainage from us we got 3 or 4 bulls fired up. Sweet we now had a game plan. Like always it involved a big long hike up a big steep mountain to do it. Oh well that’s why we love the game right.

 
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LNGBOWFLYER

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Northern New York The "North Country"
The next morning found us waking up well before light for once. We hiked in two miles and the last ½ mile gained 1400 feet of elevation to the plateau where we had heard all the excitement come from the night before. Periodically on the way up the mountain with a grin we would whisper to each other “Remember this is fun!” We let out some bugles to stir the pot and.... NOTHING. SERIOUSLY all that effort for nothing!!!!! And then the sweet sound of bugles drifted across the darkness from the next Plateau over. Man that’s how it always goes one more canyon to hike up and down. It seems like no matter how far you go in the elk are always on the next hill over. As it started getting lighter we could see literally almost 100 elk. There were 4 or 5 bulls sounding off. There were groups of 10, 20 and even 30 all over that plateau. We could even see a bull running from one group to the next. As we were trying to figure out how to get to those elk our hearts sank when we saw a guy walking down toward us. But then those sweat words of defeat left his lips. "Man there is allot of elk over there, too bad you can't get at them." "YEP" we said as we headed off to do just that.

Now for the stalk. The hillside we were on was pretty much bare with just allot of rockslides. In order to sneak over without being seen we had to move up and around about a mile or so. During this process we saw a group of about 15-20 elk move up from the bottom of the creek. In this group was four "spikes". Sweet legal elk. And off we went. We now had a visual target to stalk. We hooked around a mile and started down the creek bank to get below the elk. As we got to the bottom and fought the thick stuff near the creek we both whispered “Remember this is fun” except for the first time without the sarcasm. We kept kicking up blue grouse all over which we were convinced would blow our stalk. We finally got to a skid road which marked where we would sneak up to them since the last known position of those spikes was just above this skid road that cut up the mountainside. This whole time it had been drizzling so the stalk was quiet and the thermals were neutral. The perfect conditions for a stalk on these elk. We began our ascent up to the elk.

Pretty soon I saw a spike and a cow feeding down the road directly at us. We froze against the hillside and hoped they would change their course. I thought oh crap there goes the stalk. I thought for sure they would continue to feed down that road and see or smell us for sure. Luckily though at 30 yds they veered off and fed down the mountain. That was close We watched as the rest of that group with spikes fed off the hillside as well What we thought were four true spikes turned out to be 2 true spikes, a 2x2 and a “big” 1x3. We watched them all feed off at about 50 yds. When the last of them moved off we followed suit. A calf saw us but luckily nobody listens to a punk kid. "Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom" "WHAT" "I saw two humans following us." "Quite telling stories you've listened to your Crazy Uncle Harold too much Now go run along and play" "But moooom." "But NOTHING, GO."

We kept dogging the herd and pretty soon we were at a standoff. We had stalked as close as we could get but they were in a clearing feeding. We were about 50-60yds from them but could not move any closer. Even after sliding on our butts and low crawling we couldn't get closer. We were pinned by too many eyes. We had stalked up to the edge of some trees that bordered the clearing but that was as far as we could go. I watched as a spike started pushing a cow up the hill and away from us. For the second time that hour I thought that we were busted and our stalk was about to end. Suddenly I saw movement just below me. It was a spike feeding in a depression below me which I somehow had not seen. I ranged him at 20 yds, pulled my bow back, anchored and waited for the shot. I couldn't believe it; we had snuck into a herd of elk and were 20 yds away from a legal elk in the most restrictive unit in WA. I settled my 20yd pin just behind his shoulder, held my breath and concentrated harder on the proper mechanics than any previous bow shot in my life. I released my Slick Trick to do its deed and heard the loudest "WHACK" I have ever heard. I saw blood where I wanted it and saw him hobble off about 50yds and stand there. And start to huff and puff. I fell on my back and let out a big sigh. My brother meanwhile thought I sucked and had missed the shot of the century because the whack was so loud it sounded like it hit a tree. But my arrow was there to see stuck in the dirt. Unfortunately it had guts on it. UH OH!!!

The bull was still standing there and I could see the bull bleeding from a spot just behind his shoulder so I knew he had at least one lung hit. We determined that he had been slightly quartered to me and I definitely got one lung but it exited out his guts. No big deal we watched him bed down 50 yds away and we played the waiting game. 2 hours later he was still alive and breathing very heavily. I couldn't stand the thought of him suffering so we snuck in on him since he was kind of out of it. At 15 yds I concentrated as hard as I could on the shot and drove that Slick Trick up through both lungs through his offside shoulder and the broad head stopped in the hide on the opposite side. He went about 20yds and died. When we got to him there was already a bunch of yellow jackets. Mmmmm I wonder how they got to him so fast I thought. Oh well it must be a coincidence I thought. I would find out the reason a little later.

 
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LNGBOWFLYER

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Mar 26, 2012
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Northern New York The "North Country"
After pictures we started deboning the bull out. When we went to hang the first hind quarter in some shade 15 feet from the elk I got a really great welcoming committee. As we were attempting (Key word attempting) to hang the quarter I was standing on a yellow jackets nest and as I was running down the mountain I got tagged four times. Now we had a real dilemma. How am I going to run back in and grab the hind quarter of meat in the game bag that is now sitting on that nest? Well I couldn't think of any better way other than to do it Kamikaze style. Somehow I didn't get hit once. Amazingly enough, my brother throughout this whole time didn't get stung once. Man some guys have all the luck.





It was two miles from the elk to the truck. We eventually put on 11 miles of boot leather that day, 4 of which with an elk on our backs. We spotted the elk at 0730 and I shot my first arrow at 1100. We made it back to the truck with the last load of meat at 8:10 PM. What a day. Overall we put on 40 miles of walking in 5 days. I killed my spike on the last day of the season. God definitely wanted me to harvest an elk that day. Without the rain and neutral thermals we never would have got close to those elk. I also couldn't have done it without my brother Karl. He helped me out more than he'll ever know.





Many of you are probably wondering where the term "Remember this is Fun" comes from. On our first steep hill up the Rimrock Wilderness my brother turned to me huffing and puffing and said "Remember this is fun" at first it was funny. But soon it became our catch phrase. Every time we'd start to get frustrated or down we'd say that phrase and it would get us up and over that next steep mountain. If we could sum up our hunt it would definitely be that phrase. Maybe we are hard headed or just dumb but we don't know how to do it any other way other than the hard way. And often it’s not fun but the reward was well worth it. If it wasn't for that phrase we would have been like that guy we saw who thought it was impossible to get at those elk. This hunt will go down as my most memorable yet. The spike may not be the biggest bull killed this year but we put more effort into this hunt than many will. And often times it’s not the size of the antlers on the wall that makes memories it’s the size of the effort that was put into it that matters.
 

Becca

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What a great story! Definitely know what you mean about the size of the effort being what matters-- a trophy trip for sure!
 
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LNGBOWFLYER

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Northern New York The "North Country"
Thanks everyone for the kind words. It really was an awesome hunt. Even though I can only hunt "true spikes" it was still a very challenging hunt. Imagine only being able to legally harvest a bull that has spikes on both sides without any other points. I could have shot a couple of mature bulls but if I would have done that I would be a poacher. Someone once told me that the trophy status of an animal is dictated by the hunt/area. I prefer to do calling scenarios (thank you elknut for the education and masters degree in elk-call-ology) but doing the spot and stalk thing, especially stalking into a herd of elk was the most challenging stalk I have ever done hands down. And that includes open country wheat land mule deer spot and stalks. Again thanks for the kind words everyone.
 

Pueblo

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Mar 12, 2012
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Damascus, OR
Good job LNGBOWFLYER! I do understand the dilemma....I hunted Washington's Blue Mtns this year and despite having numerous mature bulls stomp around me I could never find that legal spike! It's like spinning up three "7s" on the slot machine.
 
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LNGBOWFLYER

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Mar 26, 2012
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Location
Northern New York The "North Country"
Pueblo yeah there's nothing more frustrating then calling in a spike only to have a big 6x6 Chase him off and then stand there at 20yds broadside. Oh well its still better than being at work. Thanks for the kind words everyone. Glad you enjoyed my pictures and story.
 
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bearguide

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trophies are determined by the amount of effort put forth to obtain them. sounds like you got a real trophy
 
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