Elk hunting story

6mm Remington

Ammo Smith
Feb 27, 2006
5,099
105


Guy mentioned that he liked hunting stories and was trying to get our members to write some up so I'll give it a shot. :oops: I'm up in the middle of the night and cannot sleep fighting this darned cold so I don't know how well it will go trying to put this on paper, but here goes.

It was a few years ago that I got this nice young bull in one of my spots over by Phillipsburg. It was about the second or third week in November if I remember correctly. I had no-one that wanted to or could make it over with me so I was on my own for the day. It was a perfect day for hunting with hardly any breeze noticeable and it was around 10 degrees Fahrenheit with maybe 4 inches of new snow on the ground on top of some old stuff.

I parked the pickup about half an hour before daylight and walked out to this park to be there at first light. I was carefully picking my way along the timber edge when I started seeing bits and pieces of some elk out feeding in one of the parks. This bull was feeding and was facing to the right and I could see he was a five point bull. At the time, and not until after I finally chased him down did I realize he had this freaky left side on him.

I had to shoot from the kneeling position as I could not get any lower to the ground and still keep him in sight through the holes and openings in the timber between the bull and me. There were several more elk with this one, but as he was a legal bull I was not going to be picky. It was just getting shooting light and was about 7:30 AM. I was shooting my Remington Mountain Rifle in .280 Remington with my handload of 140 gr. Nosler Partition bullets. The scope on the rifle was a 6x36 Leupold. The bull was broadside and I steadied for the shot which was about 250 yards, which also happened to be the distance I sight my rifles in for. At the shot the bull dropped as if his legs had been jerked out from under him. I felt good about the shot but still worked the action as quickly as I could and tried to get back on him. Just as quickly as he dropped he was up and heading for the timber on a dead run. I shot once as he was running and tried to slip a bullet through the timber but I never connected.

I walked over to where the bull had dropped and there were only a few drops of blood in the snow. I kind of figured by how he dropped and the lack of much blood that I had hit him high behind the shoulder and maybe had shocked the spine. That was to later prove to be a pretty good call on my part. As I was standing there it was snowing lightly. It didn't look like it was going to really kick in but you just never know sometimes. I was a little concerned about the snow covering up his tracks if it started coming down too quickly. I followed the tracks just for a bit and would only find a small drop or two every 30 feet or so. Again I figured my bullet had been just a bit high and maybe had only gotten the top of the lungs if that, maybe hit in that no-man's land between the lungs and the spine. With the possibility of more snow I decided not to wait for very long before tacking up the track. I waited about 1/2 an hour and felt that if I hunted really slowly, that would give the bull enough time to go and lay down someplace and stiffen up or bleed out.

Of course he ran into the thickest, nastiest, and closest place that he could. Sounds corny but this north facing slope on this particular ridge is pretty rough. A buddy who hunts with me and I have called it the Widow Maker. It is thick and steep! As I was tracking the bull he kept side-hilling and did not seem to want to go up or down. Again I felt that maybe he had some damage to his back and I was sure hoping he wasn't going to go far.

I followed his tracks for about 1/2 a mile and he never started bleeding any more, but at least he never started bleeding less at this point. As careful as I was tracking him, the bull still spotted me from his bed before I saw him, and he slipped away without me seeing him. I had been on the track for about 1 1/2 hours by this time and when I got to his first bed it was full of blood. There was a large round circle of blood in the snow where he had laid. I was encouraged by all the blood in his bed but then it quickly faded!

I kept going on his track and was not encouraged at all because he flat out stopped bleeding! He never bled a drop after this for about a mile or a bit further! I knew my shot was good and I also knew that I had a dead elk and I needed to finish what I had started. Even though he had stopped bleeding, I knew he was badly hurt. I certainly didn't want him to suffer any more. I kept on the track and the bull kept side-hilling around the ridge. I stayed on the tracks and was sneaking along for about a half a mile from where I jumped him when I walked into a bunch of mule deer. They had made this area a draw mule deer buck tag just a year or two prior to this and I had not drawn a tag there this year. Wouldn't you know it but there was clean four point in the group with about 8 does and fawns with him. He did not have any brow tines but was really heavy and about 28" wide with really nice deep forks. He was one of those special bucks you only see ever so often. Man was he something at all of about 15 yards!! Pretty neat diversion for a few minutes.

I had to get back in the game and I pressed on carefully following the bulls track through the snow. He continued following the ridge to the south. We were about 1/4 mile below a four-wheel drive trail that I had driven up to the top of the mountain on. The ridge was so steep I could not see the trail above me but I knew where it was. At the rate the bull was traveling we were most likely going to hit the four-wheel drive trail at some point unless he suddenly started dropping down the mountainside. I continued on his track and knew that he was going to intersect the road, and for about 100 yards I had to crawl on my hands and knees it was so thick with young pines and blow-down. I could not believe that this bull was going through this mess. It is unbelievable what they are capable of doing and that their will to survive is so strong. I was amazed at what he was taking me through.

The bull finally popped up on the road. I was elated to say the least as this ridge drops off at about a 60-70 degree slope on either side and with the thick timber, snow, and the angle of the slope, it was pretty brutal to follow the tracks on. I was also excited because right when he hit the road he started to bleed again. Not only was he bleeding, but he was bleeding more than he was before and the drops were closer together. The bull started walking down the two-track and I was pretty tickled as I thought this is going to work out great. I'll walk around the corner and he'll be standing in the two-track and I'll drop him right there I thought to myself! Being alone I would not have to quarter and haul him up or down the mountain to get him out. WRONG! The bull went about 50 feet and suddenly veered left and went straight up the mountain on a little side ridge that dropped off to the west. I was still encouraged though because as I said he was bleeding more now than he had before. I figured that had to be a good thing. :grin:

I followed the bull to the top of the ridge and I knew there was a little meadow on top surrounded by thick timber. On the east side of the ridge it dropped away quite quickly and again is in the 70 degree range and in lots of places steeper! I was "hoping" he would stop on top of the mountain and be laying there in his bed dead, or at least I would have a shot at him and put an end to this. NO..........................he didn't even pause in the 50 yards or so wide meadow he had to go through and dropped straight off the other side. At this point I was getting a little frustrated and thought that maybe I should give him some time again to lay down. I forced myself to leave his tracks and I walked down the ridge about a half a mile or so and sat down and had something to drink and ate a sandwich. I sat there for about 1/2 an hour glassing and resting up. I was getting pretty sweated up at this point and had been following this bull now for quite a long time. I don't remember now how long I had been on the track at this point, but the bull and I had traveled more than two miles so far.

After my little break I started down through the timber on the bulls track. After about 1/4 of a mile I hit his first bed. I did't see him and I'm not sure if he smelled me or saw and heard me coming, but I never saw him in his bed or leaving down the ridge. He was still bleeding and there was blood in his bed. He went about 100 yards and there was another bed. The bull continued down the ridge in sort of a south and east direction, bedding periodically as he went. He traveled for about 1/2 a mile and then suddenly looped underneath me and did a 180. He now started following the contour of the ridge to the north and east. I still hadn't seen him but he was still bleeding so I knew it was just a matter of time until I caught up to him. Just after the bull made this loop I could see where it looked like he had slipped and tumbled on the slope and had rolled in the snow a couple times down the ridge before he was able to catch himself. I was still thinking that his spine had been damaged when I shot and maybe that is why he had gone down.

We continued on to the north and east side-hilling along. This ridge is really steep and with the snow on the ground, it was difficult following along. The tracks finally went into a really thick patch of timber on this very steep mountain and I had a difficult time even getting through it. As I was literally crawling along through this jungle I suddenly saw some color that just didn't look right. I pulled up my rifle and I just got my scope on the color and realized it was the bull. He was standing there less than 40 feet away. Just as quickly as I got the scope on him he was gone. I wasn't even able to get a round off in an attempt to kill him before he was flat out gone! Now for me to get that close to him before he ran I knew that he was hurt and hurt badly. There is no way I should have been able to get that close if he wasn't in a bad way.

The bull did something that just amazed me at this point. I knew he was hurt and several hours had passed to this point and yet this bull pointed his nose down the ridge and RAN down it! He was out of sight from me so quickly it was amazing. I took off as fast as I could go headed for the bottom of the mountain. It was pretty wild and I had a heck of a time trying to keep my feet and to keep from tumbling down the mountain myself. The bull was taking leaps of 10 feet or more at a time. It was about 1/3 of a mile straight down the ridge we went until we hit an old four-wheel drive track in the bottom. Once the bull hit the track he started walking down it and stopped running. He was still bleeding and was bedding down briefly every 50 yards or so.

It was long beyond the point of whether the bull knew I was after him or not and I figured we had to almost be to the end of this dance that we were a part of. When I started off literally running and sliding down the mountain after the bull, I was going to keep going hard and fast now. There was no more sneaking along and trying to slip in on him in his bed. We continued down the two-track and he kept bedding and then getting up and continuing down the track. I kept going at quick pace hoping to spot this bugger and put an end to this. Now once again I was thinking that this will be pretty cool, I'm going to shoot him right in this two-track and I'll be able to climb to the top of the mountain, back over to other side, get in my pickup and drive around the mountain and right up the two-track to my bull! HA!

We continued down the track and I figured I had to be close and I kept looking ahead but I never saw the bull. He managed to just stay in front of me. We were getting close to the bottom where the old Forest Service road ends and the two-track takes off. There are gates here on the road and sometimes they are open and sometimes they are shut. Well it was shut today and when the bull hit the fence he didn't want to and couldn't jump it. He turned left and went straight up the hill for about 400 yards to the top. I was trying to hustle along and catch up to him, but I still hadn't seen him since I had jumped him off the mountain more than a mile back. I was humping along as I was headed up the ridge on his track and was not paying attention well enough! Just as I hit the crest I could see the bull. He was sitting on his haunches like a dog and was about 100 yards up the ridge from me.

As soon as I spotted him he spotted me and was up and gone. I took a shot just as he jumped a fence that was only a few feet away from where he had been sitting. Well I missed and the bull was out of sight just like that! I climbed over the fence and took off running on his track. I set a pace and just figured I was going to jog on his tracks until I caught up to him and finally put a bullet in him, either that or he was going to bleed to death while I was trying to catch up.

The track continued down the ridge but mostly stayed on the ridge and didn't lose a lot of elevation. Again he didn't want to go straight up and down if he didn't have to. At spots now I had to slow and actually track him in the dirt. At places I was running out of snow and it was a bit hard to see which way he had gone. We continued down this ridge and he was slowly dropping off the south side and I knew the Forest Service road was in the bottom. We had continued in an east direction down the ridge for about 1.5 miles and I was trucking along when all of a sudden I heard a vehicle on the two-track below me. I heard it and then just as quickly couldn't hear it. I thought it was odd but I was concentrating on running after this bull so I pressed on. I couldn't see the vehicle or the road at this point as I was up a steep slope about 150 yards above the road. There were junipers and brush on the hillside in addition to some large boulders and shale. It was in one of these rocky and brushy patches that I literally ran into the bull standing in the brush. I was trucking along when I popped out in a little opening and there he was was standing only about 20 feet away. All I could see was his neck and his head in the thicket. I pulled up my rifle and as soon as my cross-hairs were on his neck I shot.

The hill was very steep at this point as it dropped down to the road. When I shot the bull just dropped out of sight. I head this crash, bang, crash, bang, bang, crash, long pause, and then a very loud thud. Immediately I heard this guy say quite loudly and excitedly, "Wholly crap did you see that!" or something along those lines. Then I heard two guys excitedly talking. I started dropping off the ridge to the road and the shale was rolling under my feet and I was making quite a bit of noise. I yelled out to the guys to let them know it was another hunter and not an elk coming down the ridge. I yelled out to them asking if he was down there. I was immediately hit with about four or five questions rapid fire. Now I cannot actually see these guys and there is about 100 yards between us when I heard them yelling up to me, "Have you seen his horns? Did you see his leg?, Have you seen his ears?" and other questions.

When I finally hit the road laying right there in the middle of the road was my very dead bull elk. These three guys in a pickup had stopped at this location to put chains on as it was extremely slick and icy. It was at this very instant as one guy was putting the chains on and the other's were standing around supervising that they heard rocks and shale above them. One of the gentlemen started seeing flashes of brown (elk) in the Junipers and grabbed his rifle. He then could see that it was a bull as he was looking and trying to find a hole to get a shot through. The other guys thought he was nuts and ignored him and continued putting the tire chains on their pickup. Just as the one fellow was looking for that spot he could slip a bullet through was the exact moment that I ran into my bull and pulled up and shot.

The elk came crashing down the mountain and covered the 100 yards in just a few quick seconds. When the elk dropped of the last of the ridge and hit right in the middle of the road he hit only about 15 feet from the back of these guys pickup and from where they were putting chains on. To say it was little exciting for them was an understatement! Can you imagine the damage it could have done if it would have lit on their truck? It was very close!! Try and explain that to your State Farm Agent!! :lol: I was wondering what all the questions were about that they had been shouting up the hill to me and they began asking me to tell them the story of this bull. I could now see what they were talking about as this was the first really good look I had at the bull since my first shot at him when he was on the park. First off I want to point out what he looked like when he was laying there in the road. Many of you have ridden horses and have worked them hard at some point. When you take the saddle off they are just wet with sweat. Well that is how this bull looked. It was now 2:30 PM and it was 7 hours after I first shot until I finally killed this bull!! I figured I had been chasing after him for seven hours, we traveled close to 7 miles, and had dropped over 3000 feet from the top of the ridge to the four-wheel drive trail in the bottom that he had hit when he had bailed off the mountain.

The bull looked just like a horse that had been ridden hard and was drenched in sweat! You could really smell him. Inside I was thinking about how this might effect how he ate!! I finally got to look at him closely and he was sight to behold. As you see he has this genetic defect and his left antler only has two points, and has this funky drop to it. It did not look like it was deformed in the velvet or damaged which may have made it grow this way. I have since seen three other bulls with this type of antler in this area so it must be genetic. Both of his ears had been frozen pretty hard at some point in his life. His one ear was only about half as long as it should be and the second ear had about 1/4 of it gone off the tip. You could see they had been frozen. There were no tears or anything like a lion or something had grabbed him. Now this is an amazing part here. At the hock on his right rear leg it had broken during my chase and after flopping around the hide had torn. From the hock where you cut the rear leg off to hang them looked just like someone had cut his lower leg off. I had not hit him there with a bullet when I took one of my shots at him. There was no damage to the bone at all! The leg was not there hanging on by the skin or anything it was flat out gone! He had traveled like that I figured since he had taken that tumble down the mountain, way back up towards the top when I could see where he had fallen and rolled a few times as he was side-hilling along! Absolutely amazing that he was able to do what he did.

These guys help hold legs and I told them the story about my bull as I was dressing him out. As I am doing this I am thinking to myself, "Oh great, now I get to hike uphill (not too bad of a climb) for about two miles. Then it is 3000 feet almost straight up, and then I have to hike another mile up on top of the ridge before I get to my pickup. This is generally going in mostly a straight line to get back to the truck. Then it's about a 15 mile drive from where I am parked back down the other side of the mountain, loop around the mountain, and then come back up on the east side out of the creek to where we stand.

I am so thankful I ran into these fellows. When I told them what me and the bull had been through they were amazed. I pointed the direction to where my truck was several miles away, and they loaded me and the elk up in the back of the truck! These guys then drove me around the mountain and up to my pickup. We backed up tail-gate to tail-gate and slide my bull into the back of my truck! Easy peasy right!!! I was exhausted. It was about 5:00 PM when we got the bull loaded into my pickup. I didn't have a lot of cash on me at the time but I wanted to do something for these guys for saving me the torture of having to climb back up to the top of the mountain, and for helping me get my elk out. It's hard to say how long it would have taken me to get this all done on my own, but thankfully I didn't have to find out! I didn't have a ton of cash on me and only had a $20.00 bill. I graciously gave it to these guys and told them to buy themselves a beer or something for taking their whole afternoon and giving me a hand. Man I was so happy they had been there.

Now when I dressed out this elk, I dressed him right in the middle of the two-track right where he lay. Someone coming along would see this and something along these lines would be said and thought. Look at that, look wat some lucky SOB did! He killed his elk right in the middle of the road. Yeah right!! I had some steaks a couple days later to see how they were after this ordeal I put him through before I finally killed him. You know what, he was wonderful! One of the best and most tender elk I have ever eaten!

Kind of a long winded story and it was quite a day!
 

DrMike

Ballistician
Nov 8, 2006
35,467
2,248
I remember your more condensed account of this hunt, David. It is assuredly exciting to read it with a more fleshed version this time. Yeah, you definitely worked for that bad boy. He did have "elk" will to live. They are amazing animals.
 

Elkman

Handloader
Apr 4, 2010
4,551
4
I am exhausted, absolutely exhausted. What a great effort, your perseverance is remarkable. Tremendous, story. Where did you hit him on the first shot? Did I miss that??
 

6mm Remington

Ammo Smith
Feb 27, 2006
5,099
105
I guess I did not put that in there Bill. I hit him right behind his shoulder and he was broadside. It was right at the top of the lungs. The bullet exited out the other side. When I dressed and then skinned him out I could see that it looked like it just barely clipped the bottom of his spine. That is why he dropped so fast, and kind of what I had feared was that I hit him just a touch too high and yet not high enough to break his back.

I did work for him for sure, but those memories of the hunts, especially the difficult ones sure remain at the top of our thoughts. Pretty cool.
 

6mm Remington

Ammo Smith
Feb 27, 2006
5,099
105
Forgot to add. The photo angle doesn't show it very well, but if you look at his left ear you can see it's bobbed to about half of it's length. It's harder to tell on his right ear because like I said he's only missing a short section. I wish I would have thought to include a picture of his right rear leg. As tough as their hide is I was surprised that it had came off like it had. I sure felt bad for having put him through all of this. I knew I couldn't leave him though because he was dead he just didn't know it yet.
 

DrMike

Ballistician
Nov 8, 2006
35,467
2,248
He had endured some difficulties before you happened on him. The determination to live these creatures display is simply awesome.
 

Guy Miner

Master Loader
Apr 6, 2006
16,771
1,786
OUTSTANDING!

1. Congrats on the bull, you did well.
2. Incredible tenacity by you, and the bull both.
3. Here in Washington, I would have expected those guys to tag the bull, load him up quickly and never be seen again. I'm impressed that they helped you.

Great story David, thanks for taking the time to bang it out on the keyboard!

Guy
 

Darkhorse

Handloader
Mar 14, 2014
757
33
That was one tough elk. And a pretty tough hunter to dog him like that for so far and so long.
And in the end he just fell in the middle of the road almost into the bed of a pickup!
Very good story. I like it.
 

gerry

Ammo Smith
Mar 1, 2007
6,113
11
Great story David, that sounds like quite an ordeal for you and the elk. Amazing he could live so long, I guess there is a bit of a gap between the lungs and spine. Good you were able to catch up with him and finish the job, cool looking antlers too.
 

SJB358

Ballistician
Dec 24, 2006
31,398
757
Great story David, I've got a similar one I'll type up shortly.

Way to follow up.
 

Guy Miner

Master Loader
Apr 6, 2006
16,771
1,786
gerry":uc224ja1 said:
Great story David, that sounds like quite an ordeal for you and the elk. Amazing he could live so long, I guess there is a bit of a gap between the lungs and spine. Good you were able to catch up with him and finish the job, cool looking antlers too.

Gerry pointed out the one problem I have with the "high shoulder shot" - it's easy to place it too high to get the lungs (or at least damage them enough to cause quick death) and yet too low to actually sever the spine.

I like the "high shoulder shot" and have advocated it, but this is the one drawback to me.

The "ruined meat" from the high shoulder shot doesn't bother me. I'd rather have the deer drop right there where it was standing, and lose a few pounds of meat, instead of having to track it over hill and dale from a different, eventually lethal, hit.

Regards, Guy
 

sask boy

Ammo Smith
Nov 4, 2007
6,000
5
David as a couple of the other guys have stated I am exhausted just reading that story. That was some hunt :wink: Congratulations for not giving up.

Blessings,
Dan
 

super-7

Handloader
Jun 27, 2009
838
1
That was a great write up, haha you are tenacious I believe one out of 100 would not have given up chase in an hour or a mile which ever came first.
I am sure glad you finished him and them caught a ride back to your truck.. I do believe that will be one of those guys favorite hunting stories in there camp and will likley live on for generations .
Hey remember the time an elk damn near fell on us!! Lol
 

6mm Remington

Ammo Smith
Feb 27, 2006
5,099
105
super-7":2rrdknnn said:
.. I do believe that will be one of those guys favorite hunting stories in there camp and will likley live on for generations .
Hey remember the time an elk damn near fell on us!! Lol
Yeah can you imagine what it looked like from below and all you could see was coming at you was hooves, back, hooves, back, hooves, back thud and 400 pounds of elk landed at your feet! I probably would have been a bit excited myself.
 

JD338

Range Officer
Staff member
Nov 4, 2004
22,132
1,824
Wow David,

One heck of a hunt. Way to go hound dogging that bull.

JD338
 

Oldtrader3

Ammo Smith
Nov 6, 2009
8,406
2
I just had surgery on my forehead on Wednesday. My forehead is swollen and I have a black eye but since I have been challenged, I do have a few old pictures of hunts and some other stuff that I no longer have pictures of. When my head clears a little from this procedure, I will rummage up a story or two.

Thanks you David, that was a good narrative and story of an sometimes typical elk hunt. They can be difficult sometimes. I have a had a couple that were similar in complexity.
 
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