Pro Staff Blog

Land of a Thousand Elk by Jason Thorne

20091020_ThorneSo, you may remember in my last article titled “Friends” Denny and I had the experience of a lifetime! One that no matter how much time goes by we will never forget.

Now if that last story got you in the “mood” to get out there and start hunting… Then this one will start the truck load the Bow and get you well on your way to knowing what Bow Hunting is all about.

“OK, let’s go they went down that draw”!

“UGH”! I said pulling myself up and off we went.

From that point on we were not giving up. There was nothing that we wouldn’t do (legally) to make sure we saw those animals again. Up and over to the draw… Looking around glassing down into the draw we saw nothing… Not a hair or horn to be found anywhere?!  We let out a few cow and calf calls. Nothing but rustling grasses and a cool breeze in our face. So the wind wasn’t a factor… They were GONE!

Denny asked. “Where did they go”? “I’m not too sure” I whispered back… They did the infamous Elk ghost on us! Now I’ve seen that “Trick” a time or two in my life and I am sure you have too. So let’s get back to the story.
I suggested that we head back to the rig and go down the road. I had a sneaky suspicion as to where they went, and if they did our day was done. So we got back to the rig, hearts still pounding and almost soaked to the bone with excitement/adrenaline induced sweat. Off we went, I told Denny that we needed to go down the road and there was a crossing that I had seen earlier in the year that I was pretty sure they would use. They would have Lots of cover and lots of ground that they could easily get to in a short amount of time. Along we went and what I am about to tell you is not only TRUE, but what dreams and TV shows are made of.

I told Denny to stop right at the place I figured they would have crossed and by the looks of it they did.

So we parked off the goat trail we were on and I decided to let out a cow call just to “see” what would happen and to see if they were actually moving or continued in a feeding pattern. “MEW…Mew…Mewww” and what I am about to tell you is the most amazing thing I have ever heard…

The wood almost quite literally “EXPLODED”. There had to have been 15 Bulls bugle at us!!!! “HOLY CRAP” Denny whispered so loudly that I thought we were busted before we could begin again! I said “let’s go “! Now I knew we were pretty close to the “no no” area of this mountain so I double checked that we were still ok to proceed and off we went. Stalking and calling as we closed ground on these magnificent creatures. Cow call… Nothing. Cow call. Nothing so I Bugled… “Hear that”? I whispered They are in the bottom of that draw..  We hear more bugles and even some cow and calves mewing in the distance. Quieter and slower we were traversing this hillside in a zigzag pattern closing the gap. I motioned to Denny to slow down and we cow called some more… Off in the distance to our immediate right was another Bull and he sounded PISSED! Then another bugle from ahead of us and to the right. Now I knew the 1st Bull on our right would be coming in at anytime soon because he would have to cover and very large clear field. So I made sure we were just “inside” the tree line so that he wouldn’t get a look at us either. Meanwhile the bugle from up front and right of us was at it again… we heard the bugle and Denny spun around and got this look on his face as if he had seen a ghost. “IT’S RIGHT THERE”!!!!

We dropped down and grabbed whatever cover we could. Cow call-Bugle-Bull on the other side Bugle-Grunt-Bugle-Grunt-Growl.. You know the I’m PISSED Bugle and I’m going to come kick your ass!! Sound.

We waited for what seemed like an eternity all the while in my mind I KNEW the ones we were after were getting farther and farther away. BUGLE! Closer than before!  But something was weird.. Didn’t quite sound right? The 2 supposed bulls to our right were having a, who can bugle the loudest and longest contest. Now, this was cool for 2 reasons… A lot of people wouldn’t have ever witnessed what we did earlier in their life. If Denny wouldn’t have missed those 2 times then we wouldn’t have ever been able to recount this story either. More bugling then Denny sees something! He froze like a statue. I dropped down and cow called because he was lead and I was just along for the ride☺

Then all of a sudden he points! “Look” I’m straining to see what he is seeing… I can’t see a thing. He motions to me to come closer so I get up and make my way towards him. “Look” there’s something moving in the grass… It was 2 PEOPLE! No wonder that bugle sounded funny. There they go walking directly through this HUGE opening… Trying to bugle and NOT quite getting it… Once they hit the open field the Bull on the far side stopped. He busted them. “My God” I exclaimed what in the HELL are those 2 yokels doing??? Everyone knows you don’t just walk out into an opening like that. Well turns out that they had cameras and we trying to for some shots of another kind I guess?
I tapped Denny on the shoulder and motioned that we should continue downhill after the bunch we were looking for. So we did. Post haste! After a couple of hundred yards we figured we couldn’t be seen or busted by the paparazzi we started walking and calling again. Still we were peaking the interest of a few Bulls along the way. We were on em!

Down and up through little draws and what seemed like canyons we go… Now, at this point in my life I was quite a bit heavier than I am now. So I’m trying to breathe and be quiet. NOT happening at least to my ears. Sounds like I am a locomotive that is hyperventilating while Denny is just plugging away and making me look BAD! He’s almost 18 years OLDER than me… so I was thinking to myself NO WAY was this “old man” going to outdo me! We get to what “seems” like the top of the world to me… and I look back to see how far we had come.. HOLY CRAP it looks like we have walked across the state! I glass at the opening we had seen the shutterbugs in and it was a LONGGG way off! We were on a mission. I guess? So then I start thinking… “What are we going to do IF he actually shoots one? That’s going to be one hell of a pack and its getting warmer now. Sun is up and I can’t BREATH! I look at Denny panting, sweating and generally out of shape AND can’t breathe. He smiles and says “want to take a break kid?” PFFT! Hell no lets go I motion… Up we went. The terrain was ideal. Snags, wind blows, and general brush “ELK” type of place.
We get to a flatter spot & regroup. All the while STILL hearing a faint bugle here and there.. Not too much farther I’m sure. Denny motions for me to come up. Once I get there he says that he thinks they might be closer than I think. So I get behind a 4 inch tree, ya like that’s going to hide big old me! But HEY I have on a full camo suit and Denny is walking in a camo t-shirt and Blue jeans for chrimany sake! Oh well.

I let out a cow call! And the next thing I heard still “haunts” me to this day… I’m sure if you have ever hunted Elk during the rut you know what I am about to “try” and explain. The lowest deepest Growler bugle I have EVER heard. Not a high pitched squeal you hear or see on TV. This is the guttural growl of a dinosaur! Denny points and just through a stand of 10 foot Tamaracks I can see a white/gray “thing” moving back and forth. He won’t come out but he’s ticked!  Mew-Mew-Mewww-chirp-chirp.. Ya I know my calling skills aren’t the greatest but hey it was getting the job done!

So we are pinned by what seems to be “THE” Herd Bull I glance over to my right…” ^&%#” there’s a cow! No, there are 4 cows”! I’m almost peeing myself… now there are calves too! We have just entered the “Land of a THOUSAND Elk”!!!!

Luckily they cannot see Denny He’s down on one knee behind some bushes 10 feet from me. I cow call again… the cows and calves look my direction. Like… what the hell was that? Denny motions to me in an again motion… mew-chirp-mew. Then CRASH SNAP BOOM a 6×6 comes through the bushes like a Mack truck! Snorting screaming and pissin all over he wants some of what I got ;)!!! He stops. Screaming at us like there is only one bull out there and he is king crap! He wanted the “cows” to know that he would be the one they were coming with..

By this time I can’t breathe.. I’m frozen! Partially out of fear and mostly out of amazement! I can see Denny draw back this bull is maybe 20 yards away…

THWACK the arrows flies towards its intended target. It’s like slow motion… I watch. Breath held and THUNK… right below the Bull..! ACK! Are you kidding me! I could have stabbed him with a stick! You Missed?!?!?! I’m thinking to myself…

The Bull spins in his tracks. Poof gone. MEW-mew-chirp- mew. I’m doing my best to sound desperately like a cow that NEEDS a date!

And low and behold he COMES BACK! Now I’m thinking ok Denny just point…Aim… RELEASE! Well, he did and OVER the back of this Elk the arrow goes… Into the Brush… And holy smokes you would have thought he hit the Bull with a cattle prod. He explodes out of there like a shot! And once he does that this time ALL the cows and calves go too! So he stands up smiling! I was “close”!! When he stood up I looked past him and saw 2! 5×5 satellites that had meandered in to see what all the commotion was about. BUSTED! They bail like none other.

HIGH 5! Grin and sweat… Well “let go get your arrows” I said. Patting him on the back. We were done. Or so I thought. We gathered up the good intentioned “misses” and decided to take a walk towards where we last saw the Elk heading. That was a HOLY S**^ moment if I have ever seen one. We are chatting back and forth quietly about what had happened… the CRASH SNAP. ! A Satellite heard of 10 or 12 busts out of dodge 50 yds away. So we slow our role a bit. Now realizing the fun hadn’t ended. Denny knocks another arrow and I get to softly calling again… Walking still towards the bugles that we keep hearing… 100, 200 yds.  Go by… We can hear them but they are beating feet! CRASH-SNAP-Crack! 20 More bust out this time with a couple of really nice 5×5’s… at this point I told Denny… “We are done”! He nods in disappointment and so we continue our walk to see where they were heading. We get to the stream they were crossing that is now WRECKED! So many animals crossed it that we could not even tell if there was a flow anymore… We look up once we get across the stream and there stand one of the largest vertical climbs I have ever seen! They were heading UP and OVER! We immediately sit down and start glassing… one, two… ten…Fifty… I stopped counting at about 200! They were almost single file up and over the hill. Bugling and screaming the whole way… Up on top there he stood!

The largest whitest bull I had ever seen in my life! TV or otherwise. I can only guess that he was a Royal 8! By guessing I’m thinking WELL over 400 inches tines to his rear. When He bugled his head went back and the tips of his horns cleared his rear end!!!!

Denny Looked at me and I looked at him… BIG SMILES all around! I quietly said… “Is THIS why you Bow hunt?
He smiled back and said “yep”.

Now for that horrendous walk back… too bad it was Sunday… the last day of Bow season.

In talking with Denny on the way back we figured we probably saw close to 400 Branch antler bulls that fateful day. And at least 1000 elk! We have never been back since that glorious day… Seems like almost immediately that hill top sold, and was fenced and posted by spring the following year.

Oh well, such is life. There plenty more places we can and have gone since then… and now since my heart rate has doubled and I’m almost sweating from excitement I have to go out and shoot my bow and make sure I am ready for this year’s amazing experiences and adventures, YES I have totally converted over to Bow hunting now

Kevin Paulson

Kevin Paulson is the Founder and CEO of His passion for Hunting began at the age of 5 hunting alongside of his father. Kevin has followed his dreams through outfitting, conservation work, videography and hunting trips around the world.

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