Rutting Bulls -- Herded up Cows

Next up was cow elk. The high mountainous terrain was much different than our last doe hunt and the frosty morning air caused us to bundle up as opposed to shedding clothes. Before first light we were high up a mountainside road listening to elk bugling across the canyons. It was the end of September, but the elk were still bugling aggressively as the rut was winding down. Our plan was to hike down along a ridgeline until we came upon some cow elk that were being pushed around by a herd bull protecting his harem from unsavory suitors. A mile later we found elk. It turned out that the elk were holed up in a snag of dark pines less than 100 yards from us. For several hours we sat listening as a herd bull and his rival raked trees, bugled and crashed about the pine thicket ahead.

Just after 1:00 p.m. we had had enough. We left two sitters to watch the canyon below as we sent the other two of us pushing from above, down into the dark timber. I had barely penetrated the forest when I saw movement through the almost impenetrable mass of deadfall ahead. Like a freight train, elk exploded from the trees just 15 yards ahead and were gone in an instant. Moments later several shots range out, had my boys downed an elk? Turns out the herd had busted from the timber and crossed in front of the boys at 100 yards. Dallas dropped a huge cow on the run. While most of the herd disappeared into the canyon below, two cows popped out on the other side of the draw and Carson got a couple of shots but missed.

 herd of cow elk   cow elk hunt Utah

          Guy without the gun got a good pic as elk emerged                        .340 Weatherby did the trick 

The next morning was markedly colder and quite windy. We didn’t hike far from the truck as we sought refuge from the wind down off the ridge top from where we parked. While our position didn’t give us much relief from the wind, it did provide a clear view of a small aspen covered canyon that stretched on for about a mile below.

 elk hunting   aspen covered hillside

        Rocks provided somewhat of a wind break                   Elk down right in that aspen thicket 

After some time, we spotted elk milling around the dense tangle of aspen. I don’t know how Carson made the shot, but he dropped a cow elk at 460 yards with the 6.5. Somehow he was able to keep a steady hand even though I struggled to see elk through my trembling binos; the wind had chilled me to the bone.

 elk down, packing out   elk tenderloin

    Warmed up nicely by the time we got to the elk                 With a piece of deliciousness after boning out 

The next weekend rolled around and we were back out after elk. On day one we had several close encounters with bugling bulls, but none of those bulls were accompanied by cows. It wasn’t until the evening of day two that we’d once again see elk. With only an hour and twenty minutes of remaining daylight, we sat ourselves in the middle of a small meadow where we had seen fresh elk tracks earlier.

 rutting bull elk   fighting bull elk broken antler

                   No cows with this loaner bull                            Fighting bull busted of half of his left side 

The sun had just barely set when a few deer popped into view and began working their way toward us. About ten minutes later the deer had made their way to within 30 yards of us as we sat undetected. With time running out, we were fixated on the only eventful incident taking place in the waning light. We watched and listened as the deer ambled along, their hooves snapping twigs and clunking logs as they meandered nearby. Then, as if painted into the background -- a couple of elk materialized -- standing motionless 80 yards beyond the deer. How they got there without our hearing or seeing them is beyond me. But before we could level our rifles for a shot, the elk slipped behind the aspens somewhat obscuring them. As we strained to get a clear view of the elk, a bugle sounded from another 30 yards beyond the barely visible cows. Moments later a huge 6 point bull came into view which caused all of the elk to begin moving. There must have been 20 or more cows cautiously wandering through the trees ahead. Finally it happened, both Natalie and I had settled on two separate cows that had briefly paused. With a few exchanged whispers we coordinated our efforts and both downed elk in the fading light!

 fall cow elk Weatherby  cow elk 6.5 Creedmoor

   Time running turn with the Weatherby         Fading light as Natalie dumped hers with the Creedmoor