Archery elk hunts started the end of August and the weather has been anything but ideal. Temps on average have been in the mid 30's and 40's for the lows and the 80's and 90's for the highs. With the occasional dip below freezing and highs in the upper 60's to low 70's. Only a sprinkle of rain and none in the forecast thru the end of the season. It's just been in the last couple days that I have begun to hear bugling and am seeing rubs more frequently. With a few days left of bow hunting elk I am continually challenged to change my tactics in hopes of putting myself within bow range and having enough light to shoot. It takes more light to see through your peep sight than it does a rifle scope. It has been so dry that while I am walking I cow call every 15 minutes or so softly in hopes of getting a reply and /or locating a bull. It also can be a comfort to the elk when they hear me snapping small twigs, branches etc. and gives them nothing to be alarmed by. As long as they don't see me or wind me hearing a bit of noise from my walking won't alarm them.
The past several years I go on elk hunting trips with my friend John. I have relied on him for navigation and a sort of elk sense. His water tender business keeps him busy and not wanting to miss any fires he opted to not bow hunt. As it is he is on a fire as I write this. So that's why I'm solo this season. Hunting solo means that I am doing my own calling and not someone else who is upwind of me 50 yards or more trying to draw the bull across in front of me. Also means there is no one else to push them or pinch them in a given direction. As far as sneaking in these dry conditions it's about as tough as it can be. The best chance I feel for a shot on my own is using estrus scent and setting up in the early morning darkness. There's a small chance that I may cross paths with a satellite or raghorn looking for some cows after getting the boot from the herd bull. I'm not a horn hunter and would be thrilled even harvesting a spike. Can't eat the horns anyway they just look mighty awesome!
I have found an area where there are dozens of beds in a willow and timber thicket along a creek. Lush grasses and a boggish type landscape, what a great place to stay cool. Problem for me is that they've been leaving this area in the cover of darkness and not returning until the same low light condition. I am getting up earlier and earlier in hopes of positioning myself in the dark after hiking in for an hour or so. Then sitting still and listening intently for the tell tale sounds of elk moving through the woods. Hopefully in my direction. This may sound romantic to some and to others crazy. For me it challenges my comfort zone and forces me to face my fears. For those of you who have followed WHJ you may recollect my story about getting lost in the woods as a young teenager. Spending a night alone on Mt.Washington in New Hampshire's presidential range. (Pt.1 & 2 ) Anyhow getting up at 0400 is a piece of cake, it's the walking alone in the woods for an hour and waiting another hour for daybreak that is uncomfortable. As my neighbor says, "it's not the dark that's the problem, but what's out there that I can't see". Yep, that's it in a nutshell.
Hunting elk will either force you to face your fears or if not, have a very small chance for success. For myself this archery season has been full of personal challenges and accomplishments, regardless of whether I harvest an elk or not. I find myself digging deeper each time I head out spurred on by the fact that I am getting closer to the elk. Just a bit more courage and I may surprise myself by the shot opportunity of a lifetime. Were the challenges physical ones I feel that would be easier for me than what has been served up this season as mental challenges. None the less I am committed and willing to do the work in order to reach my goal. I have not yet got a bull elk, only cows and I really do want to get a bull just once. I have squeezed warm poop between my fingers and seen the tell tale signs of a bull coming into rut with dribble pee as he walks. May not do anything for those of you who don't hunt elk, but for me it is extremely exciting and way cool. Tracking them and getting the occasional waft of elk scent in my face is enough to forget about the darkness and set the alarm earlier the next day.
This year I have gained confidence as an individual and a huntress, relying on myself and developing my own base of experience and knowledge through trial and error decision making. Making small gains and shedding light on what was a very frightening experience. I find myself less afraid of getting lost and more focused on how to get in the right position for a shot. Moving with a motive and conviction. For me I have already had a successful elk hunt regardless of getting a bull or not. There are plenty of sayings that go along with hunting deer and elk, some of which go like the following; "Elk are like gold, they're where you find them" & "I'd rather be lucky than good any day". For me I just ask for one shot opportunity, that's all. It doesn't seem like much. I hope to be in the right place at the right time between now and the end of the bow season. Until then I will continue to put in my time, pay my dues and learn all I can as it will serve me well for future hunts in the years to come.
Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt