Elk #2 takes a dirt nap


Nov 4, 2004
Well I took my buddy from Buckley, WA out shooting and then hunting this last week. He was banging steel at 500 and 625yds before we left on Wednesday to go elk hunting. We looked around a bit on Wednesday night and Thursday morning in the higher elevations but we weren't seeing much sign. Later on Thursday morning we ran into another guy from Washington, who had been hunting that area for 25 years, and he said the elk we down in the Salmon river breaks around 5000'. There was a deep early snow I guess and they migrated out earlier then normal. Thursday night we dropped a bunch of elevation and ran out to the end of a road that was right at the breaks of the Salmon. We hiked to the end of a bermed up logging road and started seeing a lot of tracks right away. We decided to hike back in on the tracks to see if we could find any. After a little ways I heard a couple bugles. We got closer and then I cow called. The bugles got closer and pretty soon a few cows and a spike were under 100yds. The big bull never came in before dark and my buddy stood up trying to get a cramp out of his leg and spooked a bunch of animals. It was basically dark but they still saw him move. It sounded more like 30-40elk running off rather than the 10 or so we saw. They weren't too spooked though as the bigger bull was still bugling as we hiked out.

Well the hike back in the dark was eventful. We missed the road when we dove off the top and had to hike back up so we didn't back to the camper until 10pm. The next morning we took a different route and stayed on top of the ridge due to the direction of the wind. We had to walk another 3/8 of mile past where we had been the night before but we heard the bugles again. This time there was fog so we had to wait a bit for it to clear before we closed the distance. As we got closer to the bugles I looked off the top and spotted a cow below us 200yds. We dropped down and headed for a rock out cropping to get a look at them. As we got close to the rock I noticed a couple elk to our right up near the ridge line. There was a small 5x5 initially but as we were getting set up a bigger 6x6 walked into sight. I told my buddy to get ready and when he stepped free of the trees to pop him. BTW the elk were about 150yds. Well the elk steps free and my buddy shoots. Then the whole mountain explodes with elk. It sounded like a freight train of elk running off. We had only seen about 10-12 but there was over 100 on that hill. I couldn't tell if he hit the bull so I took off running parallel to them to see if I could see a wounded one and/or get one for me. I spotted 3 bulls below me making their escape, the front one was a really big bull. The big bull only gave me a rear end shot so I took a poke at the second one and missed it. I reloaded and proceeded to miss the 3rd bull too. This is 200yds running and I think I was shooting over them due to the steep down hill angle. Well I took off running again to see if I could spot them as the crossed the next draw and they had already made it through the draw. I was a bit bummed out and then I looked up to see another group of elk run right down below me and stop. There was a spike and a 5 point bull in that group. Rather than look a gift horse in the mouth I let him have a 215 Berger from my 300wsm. Down he went about 1/2 mile below the logging road on a 45 degree slope in the Salmon river breaks.

After I watched my bull go down I headed up to see if I could find any evidence of hit or a dead elk from my buddies shot. I searched for almost 2 hours and didn't find anything so I told my buddy to go get the 4 wheeler and ride it down the logging road (yes it was legal even though it was bermed up) and I would go start working on the elk. It was around 11:30 when I started and I didn't start hauling meat until about 3pm. It was so hard to cut the quarters off alone and hang them in a tree due to how he died on some brush and the steepness of the hill. My buddy had ankle surgery about 10 months earlier and and the hike the night before hurt him a bit but he did haul a boned out front quarter. After that he was done. So between 3 and dark I made 2 trips. I hauled my gear, gun, and a hind quarter the first time and a hind quarter, backstraps, and tenderloin the second time. The second trip was heavy and took close to an hour and a half. I'm guessing it was 90-100lbs. I was beat and it was almost dark so we headed for camp with a front shoulder and the neck meat left at the bull.

That night we ran to town to get gas and eat dinner. While we were there I called my normal hunting partner to tell him where we were. We didn't have cell service since Wednesday so I couldn't update him. We met him at the same landing for Saturday morning and hiked down to see if we could locate the elk. We heard them bugle again but way down in some thick stuff. Because my buddy from Washington was a bit torn up he agreed to pick us up on another road. Well my normal buddy, his brother, and I dove off into the abyss so to speak. The elk were in a jungle of brush and timber. We jumped a couple cows we could see, which spooked some whitetail does, but no bulls. If you've ever seen pictures of Hells Canyon you get a idea of how steep it is but until you hike that country you have no clue how steep it really is. My legs we sore from packing the day before but I could hardly walk after this days hike. Anyway I gave my Washington buddy my map and pointed out what he needed to do when we parted but he wasn't at the pick up spot. So we hike a couple more miles down to the Salmon river and talked to a couple guys there with their kids deer hunting. We told them the story and they agreed to give us a ride later on if he didn't show up. He took his 4 wheeler up the canyon we just walked down and dropped his kids off. He came back down and unhooked his jeep from his trailer and then rode over and said we could use his 4 wheeler but he needed it back in a couple hours. I was blown away that he would let us do that. Now it's about 3:30-3:40 in the afternoon so my buddies brother and I took off to go get their UTV. Well little did we know it was 30 miles one way. By the time we got back after 60 miles of riding it was 2 1/2 hours and they were still gone hunting. We left their 4 wheeler at their trailer, picked up my buddy, and headed for camp. When we got there my Washington buddy had just beat us there. He tried to take the wrong road down to the river but a guys truck stalled out and blocked the road. 3 different people had to back way up the mountain to get turned around. By then he was low on gas so he had to drive the 70-80 miles to town and back to get fuel. When he was in town he got word his step brother suffered a heart attack. So I helped him get packed up and he left right at dark.

The next morning my normal hunting partner and I went back into the same area to see if the elk had come back yet. We did hear some cows but no bugles and the wind was all wrong to try and make a sneak on them. We were also insanely sore. We went down and packed the rest of my meat out rather than chasing more elk in the thick stuff. As we hit the UTV it started sprinkling and by the time we hit camp it was coming down pretty good. We got packed up and headed for home. Just as we hit town a crazy thunder storm was rolling through and it rained so hard everyone slowed down to 35mph on the highway for a couple miles.

He wasn't a very big bull but it was the hardest pack out I've ever done. If I ever hunt there again I'll own a Capstan rope winch. We could of winched the whole elk out in a couple hours with one of those instead of killing my legs for 2 days. The pictured turned out really cool with the main Salmon river in the back ground.


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Very good. I truly enjoyed the detailed account of your hunt. Good looking elk, by the way. Congratulations.
Holy cow, another elk hunt filled with adversity. Congratulations on a fine bull.
I hunted elk in hells canyon for 10 years or so. From about 25 to 35 years old. Steep isn't the right word for it. The ground can easily kill you. Elk love it. But at the first snow flake they bail off the top and head for the snake river. Imagine hunting elk in the Grand Canyon guys, that's what he's talking about.

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Great job! Going by that pic that scenery looks amazing

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Outstanding Nathan, congratulations on an outstanding effort. I am worn out after reading your post. What's up next?

For elk I have a extra cow tag in eastern ID that starts Nov. 17th and a cow tag in UT that starts on December 17th. This is the first year I didn't get to go deer hunting all season. I would have gone this morning but my legs were spent. At 46 I don't recover near as fast when I abuse myself like that. I have a extra muzzleloader deer tag that goes until the end of the year, a doe antelope tags that starts tomorrow, and a Coues deer tag in AZ that starts Nov. 25th.
I could see Seven Devils above Hells Canyon from where I was but it's a long ways away. I've been chuckar hunting in Hells Canyon before and the terrain is basically the same in the Salmon river drainage. If anything there might be more rocky cliffs on the Salmon.

That elk was shot about 5300' and the river is about 1800'. So it was about 3500' below me. The scenery is amazing up there.

Congratulations on your bull elk.
That is some beautiful country.

I don't know what is more impressive, the explanation of the hunt or the fine looking Elk
Congrats on both!
Wow, great story and awesome hunt. You definitely earned that one. :grin:
Crazy pretty country.
Thanks for sharing and congrats on a fine Elk. Being 20 years older than you I don't think I would attempt to hunt that area but would love to experience seeing it for myself.
I filled my doe antelope tag yesterday. So there is one less tag in my pocket. :mrgreen:

I prefer to hunt elk in another area but the non-resident tags were sold out long ago and I used my normal tag for the bull tag I drew. A large portion of this area is super thick with shots under 200yds. In the breaks you can get further shots but only in some spots. Next year I can't draw for elk, you have to wait a year to apply when you draw a bull or buck tag, so I will try to hunt my preferred area and maybe bow hunt the area I drew for. I could see myself hunting this area again in the future but mainly because there are some big muledeer killed there every year as well. Elk are fairly easy to figure out when you understand them.
Pardon me for bringing it up, but did you see the bullet impact the dirt on the first bull you shot at before you started shooting at the second bull? Did you see the bullet impact on the dirt before you started shooting at the third bull?

I'm sure you know that elk don't always react to a bullet strike.

I've shot a lot of elk with calibers from 6.5mm's to a 416 in centerfires and tons with 50 and 54 caliber muzzleloaders. I know pretty well how they react. I've never seen one run very far shot with a fragile bullet like a Berger or a Amax, no matter where they are hit, and everyone I've shot you could hear the bullet impact. You could easily hear the impact of the bullet on the bull I shot. I didn't hear the bullet impact on the bull my buddy shot at so I was sure he missed but he insisted he hit it. That is also why I searched for it for a couple hours. I didn't hear the bullet impact on either of the two bulls I shot at and neither even broke stride as they were running. I did run after them for a ways trying to get another shot. They both ran 6-700yds through the next draw and out of sight before I shot the bull I shot.

Your right.....some elk don't react. My 7x7 bull didn't really react even though the Berger tore of 2" hole going in. He jumped a bit and acted weird but didn't drop nor did he run. The bullet impact was really loud though. Even with the bull my other buddy shot at 500yds you could hear the bullet impact and it was pretty windy.

I've been around 21 elk killed in the last 7 years with Berger, Matrix, and Amax bullets. 11 of those were in the last 2 years. I shot 10 of those myself. The furthest any of them have gone was about 60-70yds shot in the liver with a 6.5x47 using a 140gr Berger. The second furthest was the 7x7 I shot this year at about 50yds with my 300wsm and 215 Bergers. It was hit in the lungs and the chest cavity was totally full of coagulated blood. The vast majority of them don't go more than 10yds.

To answer your question.....no I didn't see the bullet impact the dirt. Was I sure I missed the first and second elk?....yes I was or I wouldn't have shot at the 2nd or 3rd.