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I took my holidays the first week of September and extended it, utilizing our holiday schedule. I went whitetail hunting and had a buck pressured by a truck shining his headlights at him. Through the frustration, I decided it was time to go after an elk.

I have purchased a general elk tag for years. I have had good intentions, but never made the time. This year, I had one goal and I told everyone I came across that this was my one and only dream for the 2020 hunting season.

I woke up thinking of a friend up north who has a secluded bush quarter. On a whim, I decided to ask him if I could set up a camp there. He was so sweet and offered me the use of his cabin. Heaven began to unfold in my mind. All the obstacles were gone and all I had to do was focus on finding elk.

The landowner spoiled me! He brought out a side-by-side for me to use all week and was extremely gracious. He even helped me pack all my gear in and showed me the ropes. Given the fact it was prime harvesting season for the farmers, he really did go out of his way to be kind.

When I got to the cabin there was a beautiful creek valley below with lots of diversity in the topography. I was sure he had elk there! We pulled his old trail cameras that hadn’t been checked this year. Lo and behold, there was a couple of elk on there from a month ago! Now I was excited, nervous, and getting worried. I messaged a few friends and they walked me through how to call and how to download an app called “ElkNut”. I cannot believe how awesome this app was. I used the cow calling sequence to a tee.

The first day was spent cutting deadfall so we could access the land. The second day, I went to a stand in the woods but saw nothing. Knowing my style of hunting, I decided to walk around and spot-and-stalk if I had to. I watched another hunter on Instagram not too far away from me harvest his elk. I decided it can’t be that hard.

I used his chirps that were in his small video in combination with the ElkNut app’s sequence. Thirty minutes later, I started to hear crashing about 200 yards away in the trees. I didn’t believe I actually called in an elk like the videos showed, so I turned around and started to make a few cow chirps. As I turned and walked the other direction, a bull had committed to come in directly upwind and was going at max speed, tripping on logs and all! I turned around, tripped on a log, fell back and hit the ground! I was in shock! The bull was five yards from me and not moving! I had a little brush in front of me so I gathered my bow and my call, which was wrapped around my arrow rest. In a quick chaotic moment, I found the reed on the ground that I had spit out when I tripped, locked my Stan release with a nocked arrow. I got up slowly and faced him. He was huge! A beautiful 6x7 bull elk stood in front of me. I was in awe. He then started to walk away so I gave a little chirp. He turned at 20 yards and I drew back and shot. I heard a huge crack, as though I had hit a tree. I thought ‘good, I had a full pass through and he was hit.’ No, I didn’t get him. The arrow deviated on sapling trees, which there were many; the forest was thick with them. The bull walked away and I was devastated. 

Perplexed, figuring out all that I did wrong (and right), I started to sort out how awesome the experience had been. Probably the most epic hunt yet for wildlife interacting with me. I thought I would try to call again; maybe another bill was in the area. I chirped the sequence using my Tormentor Elk Call and was suddenly surrounded by cow elk! They are so chatty and social it is amazing. I hung out hidden in the bush hoping the bull might come back. It became dark so I decided to rise up and let the girls know I was there. They walked away calmly without a care in the world. I knew I hadn’t spooked them at all.

The next day I hunted hard. I was full of anxiety, as I wanted to call, get them to come in again, and try for that bull. I knew he might not play the game as well the first time because of how smart they are. The lunar moon was said to put all the cows into heat so I was crossing my fingers. I toured around chirping away but saw nothing.

Now on day four of five I only had one day left. That night, I hunted the creek bed in hopes of finding the herd but all I got was wolves.

Day five came at 6:00 am. I started out touring in the dark, and then setting up on a spot. I let out my cow sequence in hopes of a bugle for feedback. Nothing for an hour. I knew I needed to move.

I walked back to the spot where the bull had crashed in, startling me. I had nothing. I then proceeded to walk to another area where I watched them go for an evening drink, and again, nothing. I then decided there was one more spot that I had seen them in before early in the morning. I headed straight for it. I came out of the heavy deadfall to the cutline clearing where there is a beautiful meadow. I came to the edge of the brush where it all opens up and let out a couple of cow call chirps. I immediately heard a chirp back! My heart started to race; I knew that if there were cows, the bull was near.

Dianne with her bull elk.
I hid behind a small bush on the other side of a brush pile. I let out a couple more chirps and a locator bugle. Then I heard crashing in the trees; he was headed for the meadow! I could hear the elk breathing less than 50 yards from me. I heard a snort and was worried I had been winded. My anxiety was on the rise and the anticipation had me sweating and worried all at the same time. I didn’t know exactly what to do next. I grunted a couple more times and then the bull crashed out into the opening. I knew I was doing something right. I grabbed my phone to take a small video of how awesome he was just in case I didn’t get him. I quickly put my phone away and came up with a plan. I decided to race towards the brush pile that had me covered. He decided to do the same! He was 80 yards from me the last I ranged him so I raced 40 yards to the brush pile. He too came racing and stopped at the edge. I drew back my bow; he took two more steps, was now 10 yards from me, and I had a clear shot at his vitals. I shot.

The arrow went into slow motion in my mind. I watched as it pierced the hide and went in. I saw my fletching and nock stop, as the arrow had completely gone inside him. He looked at me, turned around, and walked away.

My emotions were elevated. I felt proud, shocked, and empathy. He looked at me, disappointed that I wasn’t another bull. I then peeked around the corner to see what would happen next. He walked away and lay down 40 yards away, right where he had entered the meadow. He expired, and I then walked up to him.

It was breathtaking. His hide was exquisite; the colours that they have with a stub tail is amazing. I took out my tag from my Vortex chest pack and proudly cut the back left leg to secure my tag to my new harvest.  

I dressed him out and drug him back to the cabin where he was loaded into the back of the side-by-side. I called the landowner and shared my good news. He was excited and asked for a photo. The work to get him home began. ■

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