2017 Elk Seasons


Apr 4, 2010
I thought I would do a follow up of my two elk hunts. Wyoming came first, as I had never hunted our unit before I left home on the 10th which gave me extra time for some scouting prior to the season opener on the 15th of October. Arrived on the 11th and found a great camping spot. My usual scouting tactics are to drive up to the end of access roads or trails and glass cross canyon both early and late in the day. I ended up with nearly 100 miles on my 4 wheeler in the three scouting days, and a total of two elk seen. I had been worried about winter kill in the area, and even though my contacts had said lots of elk wintered over, apparently they were in another unit. By the time my two partners arrived I had a couple of spots located that felt good so we started in on opening day and found some two day old tracks but no elk. Doing the next few days we worked both sides of the drainage form the 6500 feet elevation to slightly over 9,000 feet. All told they covered 50+ miles and me 30+. A total of two elk were seen, the first with no shot opportunity and the second standing at 150 yards which they killed at 8600 feet 3 miles in.. This was beautiful country, with great feed and cover but few animals, every day required miles of hiking to get into the backs of the canyons, then an uphill hike to the top.
Next I headed to NE Oregon into a unit that I have hunted 17 times since 1968, and every year for the last five years. Again I arrived a couple of days early and started scouting. On the second day of scouting I bumped into a large herd a couple of miles in, just before dark. I heard them before I got to close and got out before I spooked them. The day before the season I was back there checking to make sure no one had pushed them out and planning for opening day. Opening day I left the trail head at 4;45 and eased up Into where they had been but they had moved farther up the canyon. As the day went by I worked myself into position and worked my way into where I was sure they would show up at the end of the day. They were one canyon over. The next morning I went in low and found them within a 100 yards of where I had set the previous evening and not reachable from my location. On day three at 0645 I was into them again. Fog and snow made sexing them difficult as well as them moving up hill away from me. I was able to range several at 100+yards but no spike bulls were seen. I took a two hour break at 0900 and again eased up the hill downwind of them and located them at 1200. After crawling and sneaking for a couple of hundred yards I was within rifle range 400+ of 16, with 30 or 40 below me that I could not see. Eventually the wind started to blow up hill they got my scent and moved up a mile or so away from me. By 1400 I was again where I was setting opening day with them working out of the canyon in the timber over the ridge into the next canyon to feed. I worked my way around the back of the drainage up 200 more feet and 3/4 just behind a knife ridge where hopefully I could get a shot. I crawled up to the edge shoved the rifle over the top, then got into shooting position and looked over. There were 8 or 10 just below me with a spike looking at me at 150 yards. I shot him just left of his near shoulder and about 6 or 8 inches up from his chest line. He dropped faster than any elk I have seen go down in a long time. He just totally turned to jelly and slid downhill about 20 yards into a patch of open timber and brush. I thought he had kicked once or twice just before he hit the brush but I knew he was laying there dead. It took me a few min to gather my stuff and get to the spot where he went in. Upon arriving I turned the scope to low power checked the chamber and eased in. It was very open with good visibility and no elk. Well I thought, I know he is here so I walked farther into the timber on the line that he was on and still no sign of a dead body. I looked for blood but as the entire herd had been through there, tracks or blood was non existent. I even went and looked into the next canyon where the elk had went. After 1 and 1/2 hours of careful looking and crossing backhand forth, with darkness approaching I gave up. Of course during the three hour hike to camp I ran a thousand different scenarios through my brain trying to understand what went wrong. My best guess is that he recovered enough to gather himself up and join the main part of the herd for a couple of hundred yards or less then expired. In this country a 100 yards increases your search area exponentially, and once he crested that next ridge it was all down hill for quite a ways, direction unknown. I could have called it a miss and went back after them again but I really felt and still do that I killed him. So I filled out my tag and came home, hoping for a better day next time. I was shooting a 7 mm Mashburn with a 160 AccuBond, that shoots 1/2 MOA. So there is no doubt about the shot.
Bill sorry to hear one got away from you and can understand why they do after hunting under similar conditions in MT. They can disappear quickly as we both know.
I respect your decision of filling out your tag with out being able to recover the animal some would have kept hunting for another chance.
Your ethics are impeccable.
That's a bummer Bill. I guess it's a good thing I keep building up points instead of applying for WY. They say the next couple years are suppose to be rough winters so waiting it out might be the best option for me. I still think you should apply in ID for a cow where we talked about. The tags are more but that is a very high success rate hunt and I can point you towards some private property where they are generally glad to have people shoot elk. Drag Scotty along with you too. He needs to redeem himself in ID.

I have all kinds of people wanting to come from out of state to hunt with me next year or I would get you into some bulls next year. Idaho sold out all of their deer and elk tags this year so the limited tag areas will most likely be gobbled up quick next year.
A beautiful demonstration of ethical hunting, Bill. I admire your dedication and commitment. You are an example of what a hunter should be. Thank you for this post.
Thank you guys for the kind words, this was the first one I have ever lost, and I just couldn't justify continuing the hunt. I am disappointed because we love the meat, and I hate to know that it wasted, but it was not to be.
I have never lost an ungulate, Bill; I have lost a bear. It disturbed me at the time, and it disturbs me now. As you, I thought I knew where he was, and he gave me the slip. It is painful to admit, but it does happen. I know it was a good shot as I saw four paws in the air. I relaxed and in one smooth motion, the bruin rolled and darted into the woods. I tracked for some distance and returned the following day. It haunts me to think I left a wounded animal.
I am sorry to hear that you lost the elk. That kind of thing happens. An unseen twig deflecting a bullet, or the animal steps just at the shot, or on and on. Although we all do our best to ensure a clean kill once in a while something goes wrong that is not the fault of the hunter.

The meat was not necessarily wasted. The elk may survive. We have taken several deer here with slugs and broad heads in them that have all healed over. If he doesn't survive, he will become food for other animals that need to eat also.

You did the best you could. That is all you can do.

Remember that you pulled off a successful hunt to locate and track these animals over several days and to finally get yourself into a position to get a shot. Many hunters couldn't have done that.

DrMike":28p1sn0d said:
A beautiful demonstration of ethical hunting, Bill. I admire your dedication and commitment. You are an example of what a hunter should be. Thank you for this post.

Many years ago my dad shot a big heavy antlered mule deer buck, one shot with his 30-06 at +200 yards and the buck dropped in his tracks. Dad watched him for a few minutes and the buck never moved. When he made his way up to the buck, the buck lay motionless, so Dad leaned his rifle against a tree, took out his knife, walked back over to the buck, then the buck jumped up and started to run off. Dad scrambled back to his rifle and shot him in the neck. After examining the buck, Dad found he had been hit at the base of his heavy antler and knock out. That buck would have been gone and just fine had Dad showed up a few minutes later.
Thank you Bill of a great account of your 2 Elk hunts (y). Bill approximately 5 years ago our hunting group of 3 were in a area and calling Elk in 2 different stands my brother and cousin in 1 & me in the other.
I just finished a call when I heard 2 shots and then nothing so I called my cousin and he advised that he smacked a big 5X5 and he was down. I then headed over to them and my cousin and brother were about 100 yards from the stand and looking at the edge of the field they were hunting. I went over and Dan (my cousin) was fit to be tied and there was no Elk he advised that the bull came in and he placed a 150gr, berger out of his 300wsm into the chest of the big guy and it went down like a bolt of lightning had hit him at the same time my brother shot as well. They waited a couple of minutes and then decided to get over to it but before Dan advised that nature had call and he had to stop :shock: when he laid down his rifle the Elk jumped up and got into the bush.
We spent over 2 hours searching that night and then the whole next morning and did not find that bull :( they are no doubt one of the toughest if not number 1 toughest animals I have ever hunted.
Dan was very upset as he had never lost a animal before in over 40 years of hunting and he know this area like the back of his hand and he still has that particular rifle and no longer shoots 150gr but has gone up to 180gr..
Bill I know you gave more than a honest effort in trying to find that animal and that is all anyone can do.
Thank you for a great post (y).