Glutton for Punishment

They say that patience is a virtue, but I say it can also be a pain in the butt, literally. I just spent 50 hours and 19 minutes in a tree stand over the span of 4 days but was ready to spend 120 hours in the tree during my 8 day hunt, but luckily I got off light. I guess you could say that I’m a glutton for punishment but I knew that if I was able to harvest an animal, the sacrifice of enduring the cramped sitting conditions would be worth it…at least to me.


archery elk hunting, sunrise from tree stand
                                                    Another sunrise from my tree stand


Day 1 – climbed up into my tree stand at 5:30 a.m. At 8:40 a.m. a doe and a fawn walked directly underneath my stand. After sitting for another 9 hours, three more deer (a doe and two fawns) walked near at 5:38 p.m. Finally at 8:40 p.m. I had had enough and climbed down and headed back to camp.


Day 2 – again in my tree stand at 5:30 a.m. After roughly two hours I unexpectedly heard the snap of a breaking branch directly behind me. I glanced at the time, 7:38 a.m. I peered around the tree to look behind me but could see nothing through the thick pines. As I continued to look in the general direction of the sound, I saw no movement but could hear the growing clatter of approaching animals. I positioned myself forward facing in anticipation of a shooter elk or deer walking out into my shooting lane. A couple of intense minutes passed as a few elk (purely an assumption at this point) ambled toward me. Finally some of the foot steps stopped directly below me. Cautiously I took a peek toward my feet and there stood a cow elk twelve inches from my tree, a shooter! However, she clearly sensed something was amiss as she remained frozen in place for a full 5 minutes. Then my heart sank as I watched her next steps slowly turn this wary elk 180 degrees…all I could do was watch as she eased back into the thick cover and disappeared along with the other two cow elk. The rest of the day was mostly uneventful as I only saw three antlerless deer before calling it quits at 8:25 p.m.


archery hunting elk tree stand, deer close by
                             Interesting to observe animals in such close proximity


Day 3 – excitement occurred before reaching my tree stand. While riding my 4 wheeler I encountered a herd of 20 elk crossing the two-track less than 300 yards from my destination. The waning moon shone bright at this time of the morning, providing a decent view of the elk. My hopes were high as I had elk in the general vicinity of my tree stand. Again 5:30 a.m. rolled around as I sat awaiting first light. But unfortunately for me, day 3 would be long and uneventful as the only movement I saw all day long was a lone hunter pass 120 yards in front of me unaware of my presence. I should mention that 50 minutes of continual rain and hail, followed by 2 hours of light rain made the day drag on even longer. At 8:25 p.m. shooting light was about gone so I descended once again.


archery hunting elk, 4 point bull elk, four point bull elk
                        After shooting my elk, was just able to get camera out for a picture before elk disappeared


Day 4 – up the tree stand I ascended once again, 5:30 a.m. At 6:51 a.m. two does and two fawns came in and hung around for 20 minutes before moving off. Morning continued to progress but without the mid-morning breeze/wind that I had experienced each day to this point. No 5 mph breeze or gusty 20 mph winds, just a calm quiet morning. Of course the mental games were in full swing…is it worth sitting here all day again, how many days does a guy have to sit and wait for a legal animal to cross this particular piece of the mountain, do the animals smell me, should I take a break and come back in a few days, has the hunting pressure pushed the animals out of the area, etc., etc. And just as I was considering my breakfast muffin, I heard the recognizable snap of a branch. As I rose to my feet, I looked at the time, exactly 11:00 a.m. After 5 minutes of staring in the direction of the sound, I finally saw an antler tip waving up and down through a small opening about 120 yards away. Sure enough, it was a bull elk raking the trees with his antlers. Moments later more commotion as a cow elk popped into view, moving down the hill in my direction, then another and another until I counted 8 cows and a 4 point bull elk moving toward me. Methodically the elk picked their way through the dense pines until finally the bull sauntered into an opening 50 yards away. A bit later 2 cows joined him broadside in the meadow at 40 yards, while others continued to clank their way through the pines closer and closer. Previously I had made the decision to shoot no matter what if a 40 yard shot opportunity presented itself, yet now I was going against my better judgment. Unsure as to what might happen next, I waited. Finally I saw movement through the nearby trees. I readied myself in anticipation of the elk choosing the easy route through the forest which would provide a 20 yard broadside shot. Just as I was about to draw my bow, the elk unexpectedly continued straight toward me, right through the thick stuff. Caught off guard I didn’t draw my bow. Maybe the elk would stop in its tracks any second now, who knew, but I wasn’t going to risk drawing my bow and not being able to hold it back as long as needed. However, the elk actually blazed straight through the trees and before I knew it the cow was at 10 yards. In a split second I decided to draw, despite the concern that the elk might notice my movement and spook. Luckily a little 12 ft. pine separating us provided just enough cover to allow me to come to full draw undetected.  At 8 yards the elk stepped into the clear. I made a perfect heart shot…11:19 a.m. and my tag was filled!


archery el, cow elk with bow and arrow
              Selfie time...unfortunately all alone on this hunt