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 with Rob Miskosky

Late Season Elk Hunt

The narrow trail that ran perpendicular to the old log haul road we were traveling, bordered a cutblock that was running near a 30-degree angle, straight up. Worse yet, there was at least a foot of snow on it; navigation would be difficult.

“I’m sure we can make it,” I said to hunting partner Ken Colwill, not knowing exactly what we were in for; the trail veered sharply to the right, quite distant, and then ran along the top of the cutblock—what lay beyond was anybody’s guess.

New tires bit hard into fresh snow and the Dodge diesel began the ascent, bouncing suddenly into hidden ruts. We were now in a train track, heading straight up and hoping for the best.

We were on a late season elk hunt in WMU 340. We had hunted here earlier in the season without success; in fact, a full eight-day hunt had been plagued by hot weather and rain.

However, it was now December 4th and a foot and a half of snow lay on the ground, and it was -22 Celsius. The conditions had definitely improved for an elk hunt.

Recognizing that a proper elk harvest wouldn’t be attainable in the limited seasons afforded hunters, Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) began creating and extending cow elk seasons over the last few years. After all, elk are much easier to find when the snow is deeper and the weather colder, especially the cows that control the herds when the rut goes silent. The addition and extension of seasons has been welcomed by hunters and landowners alike and further affirms that Alberta is a gold mine for hunting opportunities.

And that’s exactly what we were doing; Ken had the cow tag and we were taking advantage of the late-season elk hunt, I was along as the driver slash helper.

We had checked in to the Bryan Hotel in the small Coal Branch hamlet of Robb the night before. Our trip would be for just a couple of days, but we had an ace in the hole—friends Greg and Sherri Dussome of High Ridge Outfitters.

Knowing the area well, Greg had pointed us in the right direction and we were now nose-pointed skyward, bouncing our way up the narrow trail. Not that Greg had told us to take this trail, but here we were anyway.

The huge, late-season cow elk Ken managed
with a single shot from his 30-06.
Suddenly the truck’s right front fell into a deep rut and stopped us dead in our tracks. I quickly found reverse and managed to back us out. Moving slower now, we navigated past the deep rut and continued along on the rough trail, tires throwing snow as we went. We were now thick in trees on both sides of us as the trail connected one cutblock to another. We stopped the truck just before the trail opened up to the next cutblock and got out.

“That was exciting,” Ken said as we walked a short distance up the trail to have a look at the next cutblock and examine the trail a little closer. The next cutblock swept steeply up on our left. We both stood there looking upward with only our binoculars in hand. Ken’s gun lay in the back seat of my truck. And of course, that’s when Murphy showed up and all hell broke loose.

“Elk!” Ken suddenly exclaimed.

“Where?” I said, not seeing a thing.

“I’ve gotta’ get my gun,” Ken said excitedly and quickly started to run back to the truck.

Then I saw her; 160-yards up a big cow suddenly stood looking down at me. I quickly glanced back at Ken and could see him working feverishly to get his gun. Then more elk began to stand and some weren’t waiting around. Ken now had his gun and was quickly trying to get into position for a shot. I put my binoculars up to watch the events unfold. Elk were starting to scatter but the big cow that first stood stayed, watching us. Then Ken’s gun let loose and I watched the big cow drop and disappear. Two more elk fled the scene and then finally another decided enough was enough and bolted for the tree line, quickly vanishing out of sight.

As strange often happens when hunting, a short while later we were standing on the high edge of the cutblock wondering where the cow had disappeared to. We couldn’t find her anywhere and I was beginning to doubt what I had seen through my binoculars. No blood could be found in the fresh snow and I began to wonder if that last elk that ran off the cutblock was indeed the elk that Ken had shot. Convincing ourselves there was no way the elk could have run off, we started scouring the hillside again. We soon had the answer to our mystery.

The hole the cow fell into...
and then the work began.
The cow had dropped on the spot all right, but had then slid down the cutblock into a hole big enough to conceal her. Unless you were standing directly above her, there was no way you could see her.

“That’s the biggest cow elk I’ve ever seen,” I said to Ken, astonished at her size. “How the heck are we going to get her out of that hole?”

The answer to that question was “muscles” and lots of them. The cow had to weigh 600 pounds and it was no small feat extracting her from the hole where she could be gutted and then brought down off the cutblock. Two hours later, we had her in the back of the truck and were navigating our way down the mountain on our way to dinner with the Dussome’s.

Late season elk hunting is a unique experience and another way to extend your hunting season. Remember this the next time you put in for your elk draw, and then get out there and take advantage of the extra opportunity. ■

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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