Northwest Elk 2008

What an incredibly blessed year for both family and friends! The season started with good friend Gary Lewis as we traveled throughout the NW conducting “Public Lands Elk Hunting” seminars that’s now in production for DVD called “Northwest Elk Academy – Your Pre-Season Boot Camp”.

northwest-elk-academy-vol-1_lrg 

Sportsman's Warehouse

Sportsman's Warehouse

Gary and I share a passion for mentoring non-bias elk hunting information passing on what others have been so kind to teach us. Through seminars combined with over twenty years hunting experience and studying private elk herds we’ve been able to fine tune our skills while helping others become successful in elk country. Here’s a few photos showing success applying techniques that work! 

Gary's 1st Cow

James 1st Roosevelt Bull

James's 1st Bull

Todd Hakala's 1st Bull

Todd's 1st Bull

James 2nd Bull

James's 2nd Bull

Todd's 2nd Bull

Todd's 2nd Bull

James 3rd Bull

James's 3rd Bull

Gary and I discovered that as we traveled and spent time meeting folks, we learned a lot more through other people’s experiences while comparing their information with what we observed studying elk in the field.

Once the seminars came to a close in late August and the temperatures started to climb, Gary and I would spend time at the elk ranch observing behavior while recording elk language associated with activity and responses. Observing this proved to be a great way to learn more about elk language with an understanding of where elk are during the season of change as their antlers begin shedding velvet while they tune their voices for the upcoming breeding season. 

Aggressive Rubbing

Aggressive Rubbing

Seeking Water

Seeking Water

Conducting over eight seminars and studying private elk herds, the day had finally come when the spirit of preperation really kicked in and drove us to venture back to elk country for some early season scouting. I remember packing the Jeep and feeling the excitement to re-visit some of our favorite spots. As you can see through early season scouting and staging the elk were up to their usual behavior leaving various elk sign for us to journal.

Fresh sign at the Wallow

Sign at the Wallow

Early Season Rubs

Early Rubs

Bull Sign

Bull Sign

Lyn checking the Tree Stand

Checking the Stand

Based on what we saw, the elk were back in their usual summer migration habitat. Bulls were starting to break up marking territory challenging other bulls for rights to earn a canyon and herd cows once the full moon approached. This grouping effect can cause cows to estrus through feremone exchange driving bulls into breeding behavior. Typically bulls will break up in the “pre-rut” stage of the season (usually late Aug. thru the first couple weeks of Sept.) then once they have established their territory, move into harem gathering to earn cows for the “rut” or breeding season (mid. Sept. thru late Nov.). Since cows can estrus anytime, the dominant bull will remain nearby checking the herd for scent of a “hot cow” and fight off other challenging bulls.

Since tuning our skills and conducting pre-season scouting, we were ready to load gear and head to elk country in pursuit of “Wapiti” – The Great White Rump as native indians use to call them. It was time to monitor the “awareness factors” (wind, moon, temperature, barrometer, pressure, sign, etc.) when planning our strategy. Opening morning came as Lyn, Jeff & I executed our game plan to approach a stationary herd located in a small isolated pocket far from human access.

Strategy & Approach

Strategy & Approach

We moved in slowly at first light utilizing scent control while monitoring wind direction to maintain concealment. The weather remained stable with a high pressure air mass running mid-day temperatures into the low 80’s. Knowing the elk would be feeding up from lower meadows and water sources, we attempted to place ourselves in their path cutting them off to bed.

Naturally as many of you have experienced, other hunters beat us to the spot where elk were enroute about to be “spooked” by other hunter pressure creating unfamiliar human scent. Bummer for us as we had snuck over three miles to access the “honey hole” come to witness “dust and butts” as the elk checked out running across the front of us from pressure. I remember feeling the ground thump as I drew my bow for a possible quick shot however no chance.

 

“Dang” – the elk were right where we expected them. From there the season offered multiple opportunities where one thing or another occured creating low percentage shots. Bulls proved to be in their regular haunts with cows holding in deep NW timber during the days bedding by springs where air was humid about ten degrees cooler than the open slopes with direct sunlight.

Third week of the season came when I got the opportunity to hunt a bull I had scoped out the year before. This was no ordinary bull, this was a beautiful 7X6 herd bull that’s been living in a particular area for about six years. The bull offered a shot last year at 22 yards head on where I held and chose not to release and wound him. I told myself… if the bull showed himself this year I would commit the rest of my season pursuing him as I had not seen any bulls this class anywhere on public lands. Word came that the bull had been spotted back in his normal rutting area so I rushed right to the area and set up for a chance to ambush.

Now here’s where the story gets exciting. Knowing my wife and I were expecting our third child to be born some time around October 5th as a due date, I drove home from wilderness hunting to be close in case of early labor. September 17th we visited the Dr. who conducted an exam and stated the baby was close however, should be born in about a week or so. Knowing how much I love to hunt elk, my wife granted me permission to head out and hunt close to town in case something happened. Guess what???? Yep, 7:30 pm rolled around and the bull came right to us after we made a few soft cow calls with estrus. The bull came in hot moaning all the way as if to breed. My partner Lyn was on my side watching as the large herd bull ran down the hill at dusk looking for us hidden in a ditch. The 7X6 presented a close shot quartering away at approx. 22 yards. I drew back and landed the pin on his vitals near the  center of the shoulder since the light was low and my peep sight made it hard to see. Lyn asked if I was going to shoot when I released hearing the “whoomp” sound as the arrow penetrated the bull’s deep cavity. After the shot, the bull walked off as if he had been stung or hit by a sharp branch. He walked halfway up the hill leaving blood spray on the ground, trees and brush allowing us to track easily. Lyn and I decided to give the bull 45 minutes before tracking as we knew he was hit solid.

Once we got up to track and confirmed heavy blood, we decided to let the bull rest and come back in the morning for discovery. On the way out we visited a friend who had told us the bull was in the area come to hear my wife went into labor and delivered a 7lb. baby girl at approx. 6 pm. Hearing this, I was in shock and denial as I could not believe what had taken place with the bull and our newborn that evening. Emotions were high to say the least! We rushed to the hospital where I was blessed to see my family and hold our new gift from the Lord – “MAN… WHAT A NIGHT”!

Ok – so I know your wondering…. what about the bull? The next morning we were back at the site and on the trail to discover where the bull was come to find blood all over the place. Lyn hung green tape in the trees to mark where the elk had walked. After about 200 yards, we began to loose the blood trail however, could see tracks where the bull went to gather with cows. The blood would be coughed in half circle patterns wherever he would stop to catch his breath and swing his neck. Where the blood was steady on the trail, we confirmed blood was only coming out his left side and there was no arrow at the site where we shot him. At this point we knew the shot did not pass through and that he was bleeding heavy in his mouth. By noon that day, we started to lose the trail towards a fence line going onto private property where a thick Mahogany patch existed with Aspen in the bottom near water about 500 yards away.

This is where the story gets tough since my camera bounced out of the razor on the way to the hunt so I was unable to current photos of the evidence. We tracked the bull to the fence line area and spent four days searching bedding areas, water holes and other places the bull went while watching for birds. “No luck” as the next weekend approached causing us to notify the State Police that the bull may have died on the private property over the fence line.

Similar Bull

Tracking

Tracking

Sorry to say, the season came to an end and we were unable to recover the bull however, had feelers out everywhere that the bull may be found or picked by somebody honest that would notify the Fish and Game or State Police. Not a great feeling as I knew the shot was solid at 22 yards with a strong blood trail coming out of the bull’s mouth. I could not believe the bull did not go down in a few hundred yards. To obtain the bull now would be such great closure to such a wonderful story with my daughter Brooklyn’s birth at the same evening the large bull was shot. I know the bull is out there and rumors have been floating around about its recovery, so I know a “certain” person may have the bull!!! For now I’ll wait patiently as official discovery and investigation conclude allowing us to bring this chapter to a close. I have the blood and hair samples so testing is not out of the question… 

On another not, friends and family experienced a great year as well so I thought I would share a few notes with photos for all you elk hunters out there. The first story is about my two brothers who hunted familiar areas where we’ve had numerous success. Opening morning rifle season came when their excitement had them deep into a favorite “honey hole” come to find other hunter pressure once again. Elk were in the area however, escaped! The second morning came and due to sore legs and fatigue my brothers chose to hunt a much flatter area on the top of a ridge where elk frequent quite often as a travel route from morning feeding. Sure enough two bulls with a herd were on the move at light offering vocalizations that allowed my brothers to ambush and cut them off.

Tree Line Crossing

Tree Line Crossing

1st Bull Down

1st Bull Down

5X5

5X5

Scott's Bull

Scott's Bull

2nd Bull Down

2nd Bull Down

6X5

6X5

Chris's Bull

Chris's Bull

Loaded for Home

Headed Home

Headed Home

Congatulations guys on a great year! Enjoy that elk meat and don’t forget to share some jerky out on the river fishing…

Now my buddy Phillippe who is a great long range shooter had the opportunity to harvest a great bull from over 750 yards which he practices at regulalry. Not something hunters should attempt unless comfortable with long range shooting and wind – elevation adjustment.

Scouting the Bull

Scouting the Bull

Phillipe's Bull

Phillippe's Bull

725 Yard Shot

725 Yard Shot

Congrats. Phillippe and all other hunters that sealed the deal hunting in elk country this year… Here’s to another great year full of memories that fill the soul till next July when we begin to observe elk through their summer behavior for another opportunity to “pursue the outdoors”!

 

You can pick up a copy of Northwest Elk Academy in our online store.

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About the Author

Troy Neimann

Troy Neimann lives in Central Oregon with his wife of 19 years and their three children. You can find Troy with his family, friends and partners out most weekends enjoying the Lord's creation "Pursuing The Outdoors".