I've been in epic battles with some great bulls
over the years, but that wasn't the case early on in this fall.
I got into elk early, but things began to dry up. Because I live within striking distance of a
larger city in western Alberta, Canada, some of my traditional spots had been busy
opening week with other hunters. By September 8th, I was literally no better off
than I was August 8th, in
scouting season. So I did the only thing
I could do; make a mile. I focused on the farmland bordering big timber. After walking a series of interconnected fields, I
spotted a lone bull crossing a cut canola field making a “beeline” for the far west end. This was a
very well known area to myself and the crew I hunt with. Typically, the elk follow the cutline and hook north off an overgrown seismic line, bedding deep in the muskeg.
I had to make a decision. The east wind
made pursuit of the bull difficult. I
figured he'd probably return to feed that evening with the wind in
his face as he was unpressured and alone. After much deliberation with my hunting partner Adam, we both came to
the same conclusion... the "High Stand”.
The "High Stand" was hung ten years prior by Adam’s dad Kurt - a bowhunting legend - and had seen plenty of success over the years. However, it'd recently become somewhat overlooked as we tried to carve out our own spots. True to its namesake, the "High
Stand” sits 35 feet up a large poplar tree, providing a wide range of shot options and, in
certain situations, takes wind direction out of the equation. Ten hours later, I found myself perched, waiting for an opportunity.
I could hear cows mewing deep in the jungle to the west. I mewed back several times and
they answered immediately. The lead cow walked directly to the foot of
my tree stand and began sniffing the pegs. After scanning the thick brush
for the source of the mews, a spike bull and another cow began browsing around
the base of the tree and slowly worked their way toward the canola field which
was located 100 yards to the east. However, the lead cow stood motionless at the base of my tree, staring back in the
direction from which she came. After a
few minutes of nervous anticipation, I could hear crashing through the
remember seeing his dark antlers for the first time as he tilted his head to maneuver his huge cage through the dense bush. Suddenly, the bull caught the movement of the
cow and spike and started to veer toward them, which would’ve taken him
well out of bow range.
It was time for another quick decision, and I let out a single, soft mew. That was all it took and the bull stopped dead in
his tracks. The cow beneath me snapped her head straight up, locked her gaze on me and nervously stepped away. As soon as the bull heard her movement he was on his way. He
bugled, curled back onto the line, and trotted in directly under the
stand. I zeroed in on the kill
zone. Now he was right
on the cow’s heels and she had bigger things to worry about than me. Their
sudden movement gave me a chance to draw my bow and settle in. Because of the sharp downward angle, I knew I
needed to be ten inches off the spine and in toward his far shoulder.
With his nose right on her rump, the big bull followed the cow through the
brush right into a small window at 12 yards. With a gentle squeeze of the
trigger the arrow was on its way, sizzling through the willows and punching
down into his heavy chest. The bull took off like a jet right through the cow.
He eventually piled up 86 yards from the
point of impact. After taking several minutes to compose myself and climb out
of the nose bleed section, I made my way over to the
giant. With 11.5” bases and a green
score of 347 5/8”, he is definitely one of my better bulls. Things rarely run
as smoothly in real life as they do in my head, but when they do it's all the more sweeter.
Later that fall, I was talking to the landowner
about continued trapping permission for the winter. He agreed and informed me
that he'd be logging the remaining timber portion on the property I was hunting. This meant the fall of the “High Stand” and ia likely impact of the elk behavior in the area. Long live the "High Stand" and the challenge of a clean slate for both the elk and the elk hunter next fall.
I'd like to thank Adam, Kurt and Michael for their help, especially during the pack out. It’s greatly appreciated.