Serious question from a new comer...

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WoodrowCall

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The pack out is when the fun starts. If you like pain, you'll love hunting solo. Funny how you forget the pain as you're looking at the elkwoods in the rear view mirror wishing you had another 10 days
It’s funny you say that. As odd as it may sound I somewhat enjoy pain. Such as the pain that comes along when you’re working out and muscles start burning. Let’s me know I’m doing something, pushing myself to the next level. The pain generally drives me to push even more.
I see this as an opportunity to challenge myself on a next level, see if I have what it takes...
 
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WoodrowCall

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Reviving my thread here...

Planning to head to CO next week for the hunt in a LE unit. Pretty pumped up but running into an issue. My wife, who seemed to be ok with me going solo in the beginning, is now getting upset at the thought of me being out there alone for my first trip... As I told her, it's a little late in the game to be backpedaling on the idea at this point...

I have an inReach and plan to keep in touch regularly so that she and the kids know I am fine. I have also listed local authorities' numbers in case she can't get ahold of me and needs to call someone, and I will be leaving detailed plans for parking, routes, and general hunt areas in case they're needed also. More so for her peace of mind, but you also never know.

However, in order to keep the peace, I am trying to at least find fellow hunter(s) that might be in the same general area as I will be? I know this may be hard to find a week out, but giving it a shot. Without giving out unit numbers, I will be in the unit due north of Glenwood Springs.

If anyone has any thoughts or advice from previous experience, I am all ears?
 

njdoxie

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This is a good thread for newbies.....now if only there was a way to get them to read it.

Don't overlook cell service....you may have good cell service and can use that to calm the wife.

I don't know how cell service gets to where I hunt in CO, but it does, so I don't bother with an inreach.
 

Elk101

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Reviving my thread here...

Planning to head to CO next week for the hunt in a LE unit. Pretty pumped up but running into an issue. My wife, who seemed to be ok with me going solo in the beginning, is now getting upset at the thought of me being out there alone for my first trip... As I told her, it's a little late in the game to be backpedaling on the idea at this point...

I have an inReach and plan to keep in touch regularly so that she and the kids know I am fine. I have also listed local authorities' numbers in case she can't get ahold of me and needs to call someone, and I will be leaving detailed plans for parking, routes, and general hunt areas in case they're needed also. More so for her peace of mind, but you also never know.

However, in order to keep the peace, I am trying to at least find fellow hunter(s) that might be in the same general area as I will be? I know this may be hard to find a week out, but giving it a shot. Without giving out unit numbers, I will be in the unit due north of Glenwood Springs.

If anyone has any thoughts or advice from previous experience, I am all ears?
I'm heading there on Friday the 11th and will be there until the 19th. Funny, I was in the same exact boat as you, planning a solo hunt. My sister is coming with me. She's not a hunter but is an experienced backpacker. My wife was not cool with the solo hunt AT ALL. Shoot me a PM. If it works out, I could assist with a pack out or something if needed.
 
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WoodrowCall

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I wanted to come back to my thread and give a recap for those that may read the thread debating the same things I did, or for the veterans who have graciously helped and encouraged along the way.
Personal Goals for the trip:
#1 Hear a bull bugle
#2 Find fresh sign and see elk
#3 Have opportunity to shoot elk (get in close enough)
#4 Take elk home in cooler! (obvious goal of any hunter)

Going against my wife's worries and concerns, I made the final decision to take off solo on my trip to CO to hunt. Thanks to the encouragement of many of you here. I made the decision to hunt the 16th - 21st, as there was a new moon and theoretically, the rut should be getting started based on previous history. The dates were set, now I just needed to know where I was going.

I did not draw the LE tag I was hoping for in the primary, but I was lucky enough to pick up a LE tag in the secondary draw that had been turned in for a unit I was interested in anyhow. However, I only had 2 weeks to do some e-scouting for the new tag now, as all my previous e-scouting was spent on OTC units thinking that was my plan. Anyhow, I had a plan set forth with 5 different options and on Monday the 14th, I took off on my 26 hour drive headed for the Rockies!

Jacked up on adrenaline and gas station coffee, I arrived on Tuesday afternoon making the drive straight through. Upon arrival to the area, I realized I was in no shape to be humping it up the mountain, physically or mentally. I decided that I would slow down, get a hotel for the night where I could get a good meal, a hot shower, and a good night's sleep. My plan was to get everything resituated and packed that night, and I would be up early to start the drive into the unit.

As I expected the drive to take me 2.5 hours, at 3:30am I departed the hotel parking lot. I topped off the truck with gas and myself with more gas station coffee and away I went! As I traversed my way through the winding mountain road, I quickly found I was not the only one with the same plan. I ended up frustrated at one point because I was behind a caravan of 5 vehicles, all headed in the same direction. I remember thinking to myself "they're going to get to my spot first, and I'm going to have to go to plan B right away!". Somewhere along the way I started laughing at myself because I had to remember there was over 250,000 acres of land to access and the likelihood of them going to the spots I identified are pretty slim and I needed to enjoy the moment! Soon after laughing at myself, a truck pulled off, then another, and another, etc. until there was only me again on the lonely winding road. After 2.5 hours of driving, I finally reached my destination. I had finally made it, sweet success! Daylight was just beginning to creep in, so I decided I would shoot a few arrows, make sure my bow was good, and increase my confidence that all was ready, one last time. Settled up things in my truck, strapped on my pack, and away I went into the unknown!

As a little side note: Since I had limited time and wanted to be mobile on foot, I packed enough food for 5 nights worth; total pack weight around 55 lbs. At the advice of several people on Rokslide, I spent a good amount of time in the offseason refining items in my pack, reducing weight, etc. This proved valuable as I was pretty excited to keep my pack weight down low for the trek. Had I not listened to that advice, I am sure my pack would have been 10+ additional lbs. There are still things I know I can shed about 5 lbs with after the trip.

I pretty well knew the hardest part of the day was directly in front of me, 2000 ft of elevation gain in 1.5 miles of switchback trails. As I started the climb, I quickly noted the shortness or breath, not from being physically tired, but straight up "I cannot get enough oxygen". Again, I had to laugh at myself as I knew this was going to happen and here it is hitting me in the face 1/4 mile into the trek and there is not a thing I can do about it except stop to catch my breath every 20 steps! :ROFLMAO: The views (although smoky from fires) made it worth the slowing down to catch my breath. After about 2 hours of slow walking, I finally reached the top of the ridge at 10,700 ft. Woohoo!

Because it was so dry in this area (all of CO), my first task was to find drinking water and scout along the way. I had around 10 spots picked out I thought I could find water suitable to filter/drink. This general area that I picked out was not very open, A LOT (90%) within 1+ mile any direction was thick timber. I figured this is where elk would go when pushed from all directions. I started navigating my general route hitting the water spots and checking for sign along the way. Found a couple recently used wallows and some fresher sign and now I'm thinking this is good! Hit all of my "water" spots to find out they were all dry, or what was left was mud... After doing this most of the day and traveling nearly 9 miles traversing deadfall, I was pretty spent and now frustrated. I made my way to a nearby meadow to sit and ponder my next moves.

It was about 5:30pm when it happened, I hear a faint bugle. Maybe 600 yards away in the timber. I thought to myself no way, it's only the afternoon of day 1. But then, another faint bugle answers from the same general direction, but up the hillside. I throw my pack back on and take off (probably running with excitement) towards their direction. As I get to the timber, I begin to slow and listen. There are two bulls on either side of a small drainage bugling back and forth. I could tell the one going to the right must have been a bigger bull as his bugle and grunts were much deeper/raspy than the other's. Guessing he was a herd bull with cows telling the other to "stay back!" I could tell what general direction he was headed so I started in a route where I could get ahead of him. MISTAKE 1, in my excitement and rushing, I did not check the wind. You guessed it, blowing downhill right to them. Things went quiet shortly after me heading their direction. Tried cow calling and waited 30 min or so, nothing. I'm thinking I blew it and those elk are over a mile a way now! So I backed out and went back to the meadow to think about my next moves.

It's now pushing 7pm. I am sitting there admiring the beauty and thinking, well goal #1 was met first day: I heard a bull bugle! Not one, but two! I decided on a camping location which would be hidden and out of the way. I start unloading my gear and all of the sudden something catches my eye. I look up to see 3 cows, 2 calves, and HOLY MOLY 6x6 bull walking out into the meadow about 200 yards away! Not far from where I was trying to get the drop on them. They must have gotten quiet and only circled around. Had I stayed put for another 30-45 min, I'd be looking at a 40-50 yard shot on this bull! I am so dumbfounded at this point all I could do was watch and look through my binos. Didn't even think to get a picture. They were not hanging out long as the bull was hurrying them across the meadow and into the timber. At this point, I am shocked. Goal #2 was just met since I found an area with elk and saw them! After reading many of the stories on here about folks not finding elk, I am feeling I am either extremely lucky or my time e-scouting paid off! Anyways, the light was fading quickly so I got camp set up, cooked and ate supper, and settled in for the night. Texted the wife and buddies back home about my day on the inreach and settled in for some sleep. Anxious for what the remaining 5 days would bring!
 

def90

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Picked a good unit! I'm on day 9 or 10 on the season and have yet to see an elk where I've been.
 
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WoodrowCall

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Thursday the 17th, at 3am I am awaken by a bull bugling on the hillside! As I am quickly grabbing my phone to get a general direction of his location, another bull starts bugling on the other side of me! They go back and forth for 4-5 rounds. By the sounds of his raspy, low bugle I believe this first bull to sound off is the same 6x6 from earlier in the day with the cows. I now feel like I have his bedding location also! After I settle my heart back down, I fall back to sleep only to be awaken by my alarm a few hours later.

I get dressed and roll out of the tent with pure, kid on Christmas morning excitement! Surprisingly, I find I am only sore in my shoulders but not the legs or back. All those workouts and training in the off-season helped out! I started to brew up some coffee, eat a little breakfast and get the pack ready for the day. About the time I was getting my second cup of coffee down, ol bull rips out a bugle from his bed! Same spot, he has not moved at all. In excitement I bugled back at him. Strangely enough, it did not sound as good as my practice sessions at home. I thought to myself either my reed is broken or my nerves got to me! Let's just say it must have been nerves/excitement because the reed was fine... He did however bugle back at me! I take off in his direction and into the timber, making for certain the wind is in my face. At this point, I am guessing he is 200 yards away and about 200 ft above me. I anticipated he would go left because that is the direction I found the wallows. No sooner did I get in the timber headed left do I hear him bugling, heading the opposite direction (to the right) and out of my life. Shortly after he went quiet...

I thought about inspecting his bedding area to figure out his exact location, but I decided against it as to not accidently mess him up and push him out. I know his approximate location and want him to stay "feeling secure" in this area. I went on slowly stalking through the timber and looking for more sign. Explored some additional timber areas and found another fresh wallow. More good sign!

At this point, I am getting low on water and still not finding anything to drink. I made the tough decision to unload everything from my pack, hustle down to the truck, load up on as much water as I could to haul back up. I knew I was into elk so I was not concerned with going into the extra effort to be able to stay into them. So down the 2000 ft I went. Only took about 45 min from the ridgetop to the truck; so much quicker than up! I loaded up with every container I had available, about 7 liters of water. Thinking that would get me several days if I conserved/rationed it. Back up the hill I went. Still out of breath but only needing to stop every 30 steps instead of 20, improvement! About 2 hours later and I am back at the ridgeline. Make my way to my tent to unload all the water and get ready for the evening hunt.

I plan to get down on the west end of the meadow where I heard the bugles the afternoon prior and saw the bull with cows. see if I can make a play on them if they slip up again and conditions are in my favor... With good wind, I sat there for several hours until dark and nada... Back to the camp I go wondering the whole time if I pushed them out this morning. No sooner do I get to my campsite and start to make some supper and ol bull fires off several bugles in the same exact spot up the hill! Now he's just toying with me! However, a grin comes over my face as I know he's still here. I settle in for the evening, sending off the evening texts back home describing my day...
 
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WoodrowCall

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Friday the 18th
No night bugles. No early morning bugles. Quiet.
Now I'm a bit confused. Questioning everything. What happened? Did they leave out? Why aren't they talking like before? What's my plan now

With the wind in my favor, I decided to slowly slip through timber working uphill to the ridgeline. Work up to a wallow and across a bench to another. Nothing. I get to the ridgeline about the time the thermals start blowing hard uphill. Decide to work down the ridgeline in a different direction than previous days and then back downhill. Around 10:30 I hear the lazy bugle down in a nasty steep drainage and he can't be more than 500 yards away. As I work my way his direction, I start to plan my attack. Best I can come up with from my readings is the "Slow Play" ElkNut describes in detail for this type situation (Thanks, Paul!). I have perfect wind and luckily he bugles and chuckles enough times to know I have gotten in close, within 200 yards easy. I open the app real quick and read through the sequence just to make sure I remember it correctly. I pick out my setup location with some shooting lanes based on where I think he will appear, find a good hefty branch, and away I go!

I'm nervous as all get out! I have never made this much noise while hunting. Let alone intentionally. Went through the sequence one time. Gave it a few minutes and listened and watched for movement. Started into the sequence a second time, except this round I put more effort and emotion into my calls and actions. I was really trying to sell it! But nobody was buying anything that morning. I waited it out for 30 minutes, threw out a few cow calls and waited some more. Nothing there either but disappointment.

Decided to go sit the closest wallow for midday and eat some lunch. Sat at the wallow for 3 hours and again, no sightings or sounds. Thinking I will go back to the west end of the meadow for another evening sit. Make my way back down there and get set up with a favorable wind. It's around 6:30pm and quiet so I throw out a few low bugles and start raking a tree lightly trying to stir something up. No sooner do I lay down my raking branch does a cow pop out of the timber to my left walking my way, looking straight at me! She's broadside at 25 yards. Luckily from her direction, I am behind a small scrub tree which is concealing most of me, but short enough I can shoot over. I already have an arrow nocked. I ease up and attach my release. She puts her head down and I ease the string back as slow as possible. About the time I get to full draw, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye in the same location she came out of timber.

At this point, thoughts are running slow motion in my mind. What is it? Ok, it's brown. It's an elk. It's another elk. Oh man, that one has horn. Could it be the 6x6? This is the same spot they ran into the woods two evenings prior. The cow is still staring at me. She's only 25 and broadside! Take the shot and have "guaranteed" meat to go home with! (I know, nothing is guaranteed, but I was confident in making the shot in the moment) But it's only day 3. If you shoot her, you know that will be the 6x6 right behind her. She's starting to get nervous. You better make a decision and quick!
 
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WoodrowCall

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I made the decision let her walk on by. I am still holding full draw at this point, waiting for the others to show themselves. Next by comes a calf, pass. But here comes the one I believe had horn. Could this be the moment? There's horn. count them, one, one... A spike. Wait, what the...? Nothing more behind them. Now all I can think about is the perfect shot opportunity I just passed on a mature cow because I got "picky" on my first hunt! But, nothing I can do about it now as they pass through an into thick timber with no other shot opportunities. I must move on. I sat in the same location until dark thinking maybe something else might show itself. No go. Back to the tent I go, excited that I just accomplished goal #3 but also hanging my head a bit because I just passed up a prime chance at an elk.

Cooked supper and shared the exciting experience with everyone back home. As I am doing so, ol bull is back in his bed bugling across the drainage... I'm still excited to know he's in the area, but at this point I am also starting to get frustrated that he is outsmarting and toying with me. The challenge is on!

Laying in my tent that night I made two decisions: 1, that I was going to shoot the first legal critter from here on out after passing on the cow that evening and 2, I was going to head right of the bull's bed in the morning, as that's the direction he went two mornings ago when I went left. After settling those things in my mind, I fell asleep with excitement for what the next day would bring.

More to come tomorrow....
 
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geewhiz

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If you find yourself in western Montana solo and need help packing out an animal, hit me up.


I don't care how good of shape your in, packing out a whole elk by yourself will kick your butt.
 
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WoodrowCall

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If you find yourself in western Montana solo and need help packing out an animal, hit me up.


I don't care how good of shape your in, packing out a whole elk by yourself will kick your butt.
No doubt doing it solo will kick my butt. However, I will gladly embrace the suck with a smile on my face, knowing I am doing it because of a successful hunt!

Was following your story, what happened to the rest of it?
Will update the rest of the story in the next day or so. Still trying to get caught back up on work... Wishing I was still on the mountain!
 
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WoodrowCall

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Ok, been more than a day or so but back to the rest of the story...

Saturday the 19th now
2.5 days of hunting left...
I'm up early, get my breakfast and coffee down just before the light starts creeping in. I head in the bedded bull's direction across the meadow. As I get to the timberline, he lets out a raspy bugle straight uphill from me. I'm guessing 250-300 yards. Right where I left him! haha. As I established in my head the previous night, I was going to his right to slip up level in elevation with him in hopes I could catch him moving that way along the bench. As he was bugling off and on, I started navigating my way through the thick blowdown. Here is where I learned it is much more difficult to navigate blowdown when it's pretty much dark and you are trying to be quiet... This took longer than I anticipated and planned for.

As I am making my way to where I wanted to get, another bull starts to bugle further to my right on the same hillside. He is clearly further away but the bulls start to answer one another back and forth, and here I am stuck in the middle. Big smile on my face. I am glad for this scenario and stay quiet because he is giving me his location without me needing to give him mine! I get roughly 250 yards up the hill to the bench I expected the bull to work his way across and get set up with some shooting lanes. The further bull has now gone silent but the one I'm after is still bugling off and on, however his bugles are softer, not near as loud. I am guessing I am around 100 yards from him with the wind blowing downhill. Next thing I know, he is heading away from me. I cow called a little bit to see if I could get his attention but nope, he is definitely moving away from me and fairly quickly. I jump up and start to follow. He is moving quicker than I can keep up with the blowdown and shortly thereafter he goes silent...

Now he has me frustrated again! Other morning I go left and he goes right. This morning I go right and he goes left. What gives? I quickly get past it and move on. At least I am in the middle of some bugling action right? I check the wallow closest to where he is bedding and it looks as though they played in it all night. Decided I would move to the area where I have heard some lazy bugles for multiple days. Maybe catch them going to daytime bedding. I had about two hours to work this angle before the thermals would switch and give me a bad wind. No go there either and didn't hear any lazy bugles this time.

Wind was really ripping at this point so I decided I would work a different area to the north I hadn't been and get water in that direction. Found more old sign, but nothing to get me too excited. Found a good place to filter water and eat some lunch. Enjoyed my lunch view, charged some batteries, and relaxed for a bit.

Wind was still blowing hard and swirling all afternoon so I sat at the south end of the meadow again. Watched a coyote trying to catch field mice 50-60 yards from my camp. It kept me entertained for the evening as it listened and leapt a couple feet in the air in an attempt to pounce on its prey. Stayed at it for probably 2 hours. I didn't see or hear any elk that evening. Back to camp I went at dark.

Clouds were rolling in and I could hear thunder in the distance. It started to rain so I straightened up camp to make sure my gear wouldn't get wet. Settled into the tent to plan the next day. I thought tomorrow morning I would be more aggressive on my calling since staying quiet didn't help. As it was going to be my last full day, I needed to try and make something happen. With that settled, I was off to sleep.
 

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WoodrowCall

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Sunday the 20th
Last full day of the hunt
The morning air was very cool due to some added moisture from the rain. This must have gotten the elk going because I had 4 different bulls bugling around me before sunrise. Including the same bull in the same bed as previous mornings. I didn't bother to eat breakfast but as I drank some hot coffee, I began to rip out bugles back at the bull, see how he'd respond. He responded to nearly every one of them, so I threw on my pack and took off!

I get to the timber as its just cracking daylight. He's in the same location. I start raking a tree lightly on the edge of the meadow and each time he bugles, I bugle back. Try to ramp it up a little each time. Started raking harder a little bit at a time. He's responding, but clearly not wanting to move. I started moving uphill to his left, since that's the direction he went yesterday morning. Get about level with him, and he turns around, heading back to the right! I take off straight downhill to the meadow and run down that direction to get ahead of him. Out of breath from the run, I start heading back up the hill. He is still bugling at this point so I bugle back at him as I am moving. I get within what I expect was 70-75 yards, and I can hear he has cows with him. He turns and takes off the other direction again. As with yesterday, I try to dog him but I learn once again how quickly they can move through blowdown and how I cannot... He goes silent pretty fast from there.

Seeing how I was having no luck slipping through the timber during the middle of the day, I thought I would sit the fresh wallow all day. This is the wallow closest to the bulls bed. Because of the fresh rain, this wallow had fresh mud holes and a nice stench! Thinking maybe I could catch him coming in right before dark. I sat here for 8.5 hours and did not see or hear one elk. Once it was dark, I started to make my way through the timber back to camp. Again, I learned how difficult it can be to navigate blowdown in the dark, even with a headlamp.

Back at camp I get a bite to eat and start packing up what I can, as I'm headed out in the morning. Laying in my tent getting frustrated my hunt is coming to a close, I remind myself of the adventure I am on and the successes I have had! Still have a half day to make it happen!
 
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WoodrowCall

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Monday the 21st
No bugles through the night and not a single peep that morning...
Made a plan to loop slowly through the timber on my way out. Long story short, I spent several hours slipping, nothing. On my way out, I did find a spot where elk were bedding directly on top of the ridge. Fresh scat and urine spots from that night. But, all good things must come to an end and I had to make it down the mountain and back home. Took some final pictures, trekked down, packed up, and started the 26 hour drive back home.
Tag soup...
 

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WoodrowCall

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Although I did not accomplish #4 on my "goals" list, I am still calling it a successful hunt. I realize the ultimate goal of any hunt is bringing meat home, but my success on this trip was measured in other ways. I passed a prime opportunity to put meat in the cooler and that's on me. But I feel lucky to even have had that opportunity. I bugled back and forth with a bull, which is more exhilarating than I thought it would be. I do believe if I had another 2-3 days, I could have made it happen with the bull. There is truth in the veterans saying if you have not scouted boots on the ground, you need more than 5 days of hunting because you only start to learn them around day 4-5. Next year I will plan for 2 weeks. I am hooked and already planning next year's hunt. I can have a greater appreciation reading other's stories on here as well.

I would like to hear thoughts on why the bull turned from me several times? And what to do in that type situation? I want to learn from these encounters. I assume since he had cows, he saw me as a threat and did not want to interact with me. Did not want to take a chance of losing his cows to me so he gathered them and took off? I assume I should have been cow calling rather than bugling hard at him? I know I need to work on my calling for next year, but I was getting him to respond. It just seemed like as I got closer, he started moving the other direction. What are some tactics for hunting bulls in thick timber such as this situation?

Thank you to all that have offered encouragement and advice. It would have been way more difficult without all the information gathered from fellow RokSliders. I look forward to the future when I might be able to help a newbie out with some wisdom!
 
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