First Elk

Discussion in 'Cast & Blast' started by David Prutsman, Dec 6, 2010.

  1. David Prutsman All men are equal before fish

    Posts: 322
    Woodland Park, Colorado
    Ratings: +25 / 0
    I am thrilled to make my first cast and blast posting and it happens to be in regard to my first elk!

    A good friend and I failed to draw tags for any of the three areas we applied for and decided to go with leftover cow tags. The area was Southwest of Poncha Springs, Colorado. During the initial scouting of the area we were very disheartened with the location and terrain, most of which is above 10,500 feet and knowing we would have to make our way through it during the fourth rifle season.

    Colorado has experienced an unusually warm and dry winter, lacking any significant snowfall. However, the first day of the season we woke to four fresh inches of the white stuff. We were certain Christmas had come early for us. Unfortunately, a good majority of the snow had melted away in the following afternoon temperatures in the 40's and 50's.

    I experienced some of the most difficult hiking of my life, through terrain so steep and dense a mountain goat would pucker...Okay, maybe not that bad, but it sucked! What tracks we were able to find in the snow always seemed be just old enough to make them worthless. Further discouragement came after being checked by a DOW agent who only confirmed what we already knew; the lack of cold weather and snow meant they were still very high and spread out.

    On the fourth day of the five day season I headed into the dense forest on my own. Making my way up a gently sloping ridgeline I heard a bugle and came to a dead stop. Certain the bugle came from another hunter in the area I continued my path up the ridge, until I caught a silhouette out of the corner of my eyes. Sure enough I had spotted a bull elk, 350 yards to my left, at the bottom of a massive aspen draw. Just my luck...I had a cow tag. I decided to glass the bull for a while to see if he was alone; he was not!

    The second elk wouldn't lift its damn head for me to determine the sex. That is when I heard a cow somewhere to the right of the ridge I was on, reply to the bugle. Worried I would be spotted in the open, I made a quick decision to go for cover in the event the responding cow busted over the top of the ridge in search of the bugling bull. My intent was to continue glassing the elk at the bottom of the aspen draw to my left while leaving myself an easy shot on the cow should she show herself atop the ridge. Both strategies failed. I lost sight of the bull and his companion (we will call it Pat due to the unknown sex) and the cow that should have came, never came.

    I felt I had squandered a rare opportunity in a year in which no one I knew had taken and elk. With daylight also becoming rare I considered leaving the area without pressure to hunt the next morning but, I thought "screw it", and continued up the ridge.

    My path took me to the head of the same aspen draw I had seen the bull elk and Pat moseying along an hour and half earlier. Looking and smelling like an elk highway, I picked a random set of tracks in the remaining snow and followed it. Beginning to move around the head of the draw to the opposite side of where I had heard the bugle, I heard another cow called out. This time I knew she was close, 50 yards close. Popping the caps on my scope was unnecessary because I watched her cross in front of and below me at 20 yards, heading in the opposite direction. In the time it took for me to find her in the crosshairs, she had taken two more steps and partially concealed hersef behind some trees. With only a gut shot presenting, I silently moved to the other side of the small tree stand and waited for her to resume her course but, she was gone!

    I like to think she became a ghost or morphed into an aspen. The right side of my brain, however, told me she had to have turned 90 degrees and walked straight away from me. Following her tracks returned me to the head of the aspen draw where they blended with hundreds of others. Impossible! How was I to tell my friend, his son and his father back at camp that I didn't have a shot at 20yards with a modern rifle!?!

    At the head of this aspen draw I stood devastated! I had worked my ass off for this; I had paid for this with nearly ten pounds of sweat (confirmed by the scale at home). I could honestly say I deserved to fill my tag. I had done everything right; I had gotten off the road and gone where orange vests don't go...what the hell! Again, I just stood there, dumbfounded. Then it happened...

    I've never heard a silent freight train until that moment. Ten cow elk, on a full blown sprint, busted through the same tracks I had just followed and came to a dead stop fifteen feet from me. FIFTEEN FEET! It happened so quick the cows in the rear couldn't stop fast enough and rear ended the lead cow. Everything paused and as frozen as I have ever been, we starred each other down. With them on my right and my gun pointed at the ground to my left, I dared not raise the muzzle for a shot in fear of spooking them. It was only a matter of time before they caught scent at such a short distance and bolted directly down the aspen draw.

    On reflex alone I shouldered my Browning A-Bolt with which I intended to do the job and peered through the scope (Nikon Monarch 5x20). My first target was too fast, no shot. Swinging more directly downhill I spotted a cow sauntering directly away presenting nothing more than a head shot. With crosshairs fixed to the back of her head and my finger firm to the 3.5 pound trigger she stopped. Apparently she was still curious as to what I was and had turned to look back, giving me perfect quartering away shot. I dropped the crosshairs, found body and squeezed the trigger, breaking it like glass. Okay, that's a lie! I have no idea what the trigger felt like at that point, I was still scared shitless from them almost running me over.

    Just as quickly as I had sent a 165gr Hornady SST 30-06 powered by 49.5 grains of Varget through the timber, they had disappeared like ghosts once again. That includes the one in my scope.

    Waiting only ten minutes I had to confirm a hit with minimal daylight remaining so, I began my pursuit. Following the obvious disturbance in earth and snow I looked for any sign I struck my target and found nothing. My heart sank! How could I have missed at 30 yards? That's worse than going back to camp and telling the guys I didn't even take a shot at all. But, being stubborn like I am, I kept going until I spooked another elk further downhill. I was up to my neck in Elk and couldn't produce, dammit! Moving even further down the draw I came across a beautiful sight, blood! The last elk I spooked wasn't another elk, it was MY elk!

    I was ecstatic to know I had hit her but now the question was how bad was she hurt. Knowing the blood splatter indicated she was respirating blood, meaning I had a lung shot on her, this was good! Hopefully I hadn't pushed her too far, though. Though I knew better, I moved farther down the draw where she once again she spooked. This time she ran directly for the bottom of the ravine and up the other side. I saw nothing but heard aspens cracking like grenades. I was sure she hit the top of the ridge where I heard that bugling bull and was gone. Then I heard a second volley of cracking aspens, which forced me to move down for a better look. There she was, one third of the way up the opposite side of the ravine and able to go no further. She spotted me watching her and laid down. Moving to within 100 yards I put her down with a final offhand shot.

    Dressing her out on a steep incline on my own with only the light from a headlamp was nothing short of...well...a bitch! I wouldn't have had it any other way :) Knowing there to be large cats in the area and also knowing that I now smell just the way a dead elk might smell, I decided to leave her over night. Returning the next morning my buddy and I skinned, quartered and packed her out a mile downhill.

    In all, she was just on the smaller side of average, two or three years old, perhaps. My initial shot struck her square in the right shoulder. The Hornady SST completely fragmented the shoulder, penetrated the ribs and destroyed her right lung. I wanted a memento of my first elk so I will be getting her hide back from the tannery in about two months.

    Oh! And she is delicious!
  2. Steve Call Active Member

    Posts: 1,517
    Wetside, WA
    Ratings: +165 / 0
    Great report. Thanks for sharing.
  3. Gary Thompson dirty dog

    Posts: 3,856
    East Wenatchee, WA
    Ratings: +106 / 0
    Great report.
    Amazing animals, no. All busted up and still going
  4. JesseC Active Member

    Posts: 1,914
    seattle, wa
    Ratings: +680 / 0
    Great report - Thanks for the read. I agree with Gary - those are amazing animals.
  5. Nate Dutton I'm a teacher, I fish to eat!

    Posts: 786
    Anchorage, AK
    Ratings: +1 / 0
    Awesome!! CONGRATS!!
  6. Ed Call Mumbling Moderator

    Posts: 17,269
    Kitsap Peninsula
    Ratings: +1,236 / 9
    Very well written, congratulations and thanks for sharing your trip.
  7. Jim Ficklin Genuine Montana Fossil

    Posts: 2,043
    Columbia Basin
    Ratings: +483 / 0
    Great story & well-written. tough, cagy critters . . . congrats!
  8. Jonathan Tachell Active Member

    Posts: 788
    Gig Harbor, Washington
    Ratings: +178 / 0
  9. ribka Active Member

    Posts: 1,410
    E WA
    Ratings: +161 / 0
    Very good write-up. Congrats on your elk. Hunting at over 10,000 ft can be rough for sure.

    Elk hunting can be very addictive
  10. scottflycst Active Member

    Posts: 1,711
    Ozark Mtn springwater
    Ratings: +24 / 0
    Attaboy David, way to sling that lead!
    Skunk free at last!!
  11. David Prutsman All men are equal before fish

    Posts: 322
    Woodland Park, Colorado
    Ratings: +25 / 0
    Thanks guys, I appreciate the compliments. Next time I'll proof read my post though. Apparently I'm more determined with my elk hunting than I am with my writting :) To say I was excited is most definitely an understatement. Ribka, addictive is certainly right! I do believe that 90 percent of the experience came before the kill. I can't begin to explain the beautiful sites chasing this animal allowed me to view!

    David
  12. Upton O Blind hog fisherman

    Posts: 2,132
    Wetside, Washington
    Ratings: +191 / 0
    Excellent, well done.
  13. ganglyangler Bird Dogs and Fly Rods

    Posts: 458
    Port Gamble WA
    Ratings: +32 / 0
    Great job man, the only thing better is eating it! Congratulations!
  14. Jeff Hale B.I.G.F.F.

    Posts: 639
    Bainbridge Island, WA
    Ratings: +16 / 0
    David Prutsman is the MAN
  15. Leroy Laviolet Aint no nookie like chinookie

    Posts: 995
    do'n it 4 the chinookie
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Gongrats well done !! Great winter meat supply there!!!!!!!!!!!
  16. Chrome73 New Member

    Posts: 14
    .
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Congrats! I took my 2nd elk (first bow killed elk) this year, feels great!