On this episode of The Western Rookie Podcast, Brian talks with experienced western hunter Mike Kaup about elk, mule deer, and filling freezers!
Mike is a long time western hunter and very successful over the years. Mike has notched tags on multiple great bulls and bucks over the years, and loves to help members of his family notch their tags too – he was bringing his niece out for her Mule Deer hunt right after this podcast! Brian and Mike talk about their shared love of archery elk hunting, some of the tips and tactics Mike uses, and a few stories of getting incredibly close to incredibly big bulls! Check out more of Mike’s story below!
Have Questions or Comments? Send an email to Brian@westernrookie.com!
Check out the Sportsmen's Empire Podcast Network for more relevant outdoor content!
Brian Krebs: Welcome back to another Western Rookie Podcast episode. This is your host, Brian Krebs, and I'm on the phone today with Mike Kopp. Mike was gracious enough to get this podcast in right before he's headed out to the woods this weekend. Mike, why don't you share with the listeners what you are going after this weekend?
Mike Kaup: This weekend. So my [00:01:00] niece is coming over from Oregon and it'll be our first time hunting out of state. She's a 13 year old and she's going to be going after a mule deer this weekend. And then hopefully that goes good and we get a little bit of time to go prep for her elk hunt that starts next Wednesday.
Brian Krebs: That sounds like a lot of fun. I'm a little bit jealous. Are you going like straight through we'll hunt deer until that's done? And then as soon as that I got that much time and then we're just going to go start elk hunting.
Mike Kaup: I decided to cut out real quick right there, but yeah, I wish we, we could.
She's a she's got a full plate, but she does a ton of sports and I was trying to get her to come out a little bit earlier, but... She has a four point in school right now and she's afraid if she misses too much school She won't be able to maintain her four point. So so we're gonna be restricted to the weekend So we'll go back to work in school on Monday and then she'll come [00:02:00] back over and we'll start on elk
Brian Krebs: after that oh, yeah, so as for her being a youth elk hunting do you get like a special tag or a a What most would consider a trophy unit or a limited entry unit in Idaho for her to hunt elk in?
Mike Kaup: No, she came out of the same pool as everybody else. And it was a last minute thing. And we came across some opportunities to get her some tags. So we weren't quite as prepared as we had hoped, but we had to take advantage of the opportunity where we could try to make the best of it.
Brian Krebs: I'm a big advocate for getting out and hunting when you can. And a lot of times that is like opportunity hunts, right? Like where a tag comes up and you're like, Hey, we can. We could get this tag and go, I don't know how good the hunting is going to be, but it's, better than nothing.
And I just feel like that's a great way to just get out in the woods more often and get more experience. And the more you do that, the [00:03:00] more you're going to, get better at elk hunting. And eventually you might actually start having success in those units, the same as you would have if you only hunted like a 20 years.
Mike Kaup: Yeah, for sure. There's a lot that goes with that. Just hunting when you have a Have an opportunity. In reality, like I like to go to my favorite spots. Everybody has their spots They like to go But I think I've shot taking more animals in places that I haven't been in places that I have for whatever reason they can't really be scared to range out and just go even Just study a map a little bit and get out there and there they are where you find them So just take the opportunity where you can and get after it.
Brian Krebs: Yeah, that is very true I think it's interesting I've always shot I've shot two nice bulls and both of them were in units that I hunted for the [00:04:00] first time that season So one that was in North Dakota one was in Colorado And I wonder if it's maybe because, obviously hunting a unit over and over again that eventually starts to become a pretty big help, that helps you out a lot.
But I wonder if in some of these newer units where you're going into the first time just, you typically hunt different, like you, you hunt faster, you're checking out a lot more stuff you're like, this didn't work, let's go check out that ridge, and then this ridge, and then this ridge, and maybe you're just covering more ground and that helps you, Like seemingly be more successful in new units compared to when you go to an old unit and you maybe have your favorite spot, you just go right to that spot and maybe the elk wasn't there that day.
Mike Kaup: No, I think we've talked about that a lot. I think there's a ton of truth in that. Even this year, it's been, I think it's a battle with everybody that hunts that they get something in their head and they get hung up on it. But when you're into an area that doesn't have animals, there's not producing, you need to change it up.
This [00:05:00] year, I was super confident in an area. It started out good, but we just kept, we weren't hitting the exact same spot, but we were hitting the same area a lot, and beating up the same elk, and they just weren't reacting like we wanted to, and finally, I did what I've always told myself I have to do, and left.
There was elk there, but it just wasn't working. And just leaving and going someplace else, I was able to be successful. And I think it's exactly the same thing. You were saying that you're covering more area. You're not hitting the same spots when you go to a new area. Cause you don't have a old faithful honey hole.
Cause it doesn't matter how good your honey hole is. If you just keep hitting it and hitting it, those animals are going to leave or they're going to get wives to your games. And so coming into a new area where you don't have a hole forces you to range out and hunt a little bit different. And they elk are going to get hit from an angle that hopefully they [00:06:00] haven't been hit from before.
So I completely agree with your thought on that.
Brian Krebs: Yeah. Do you, when you are elk hunting, I know obviously this weekend you're doing the meal deer, but when you're elk hunting, are you, do you hunt more with a bow or with a rifle?
Mike Kaup: I have only had one elk rifle tag in my entire life and it was a muzzleloader tag in Colorado this year.
Brian Krebs: Okay. I've
Mike Kaup: been archery hunting elk since I was legal to hunt. I've been, I've archery hunted elk every year since I was 12.
Brian Krebs: Have you noticed in Idaho so I've asked a lot of people this question the last couple years. We've been in Montana, we were in Colorado archery this year. For whatever reason, it seems like our group and we've got eight people in our archery elk group have been noticing the last, especially the last two or three years, the bugling is not the same as it was maybe like five or six years ago.
Have you been
Mike Kaup: noticing that? I've thought about that [00:07:00] and like when I was younger and in high school and stuff. We'd be able to call in bulls and I didn't have near the experience and time and the all the things on YouTube to teach you back then and we could get bulls to come in and then now it seems like they just don't react like they do but.
I'm also not sure that it's just not the human brain makes you feel like that. That it was just way better back in the day, because I'm sure we struggled back then too. And then we've had awesome days in recent years too, I've had that same feeling, but I'm not actually certain that they've had really changed that much.
They've definitely changed from year to year. This year was extremely difficult, and I felt like I... Was a rookie and I'd never been out there before and I should stop blowing my calls [00:08:00] But then I came back for civilization and it sounds like there was a ton of people running into the same issues this
Brian Krebs: year This year we struggled a little bit in Colorado.
It was a new unit But the weather was fine. We had you know a dark moon It was third week in September and we did not hear a like an abundance of bugling But it was also a new unit. So we weren't sure how much Elk were really in that unit last year. We saw elk, we saw a lot of elk. We were seeing them, we could glass them and we weren't hearing them.
So that was the, what told us is they're just not talking today or this week. It was we got into some hot weather too. So that, that never helps. But I always want to ask locals because we only get out for seven days of hunting. And so you could easily say, Oh, they didn't rut this year.
Maybe for the seven days you were there. There was a moon phase or a weather pattern where they just didn't bugle during the daylight and that was the only you know That was the only taste he got [00:09:00] whereas like a local you're going out every weekend throughout the week You maybe take a week after in the rut and you can say no they were there They were bugling we had some great days It was just you know, they bugled on the 25th, but we pulled out on the 23rd, maybe so
Mike Kaup: And I don't I personally don't believe obviously the weather has an effect on them.
Every now and then a big storm will come through. There's elk there the one day, and then they shut down. But, usually that early season stuff, or I guess clear through the season, I've found that, I think the elk are, when they're supposed to be bugling, they're gonna be talking someplace. For example, last year, James and I were out hunting, and We were finding elk, but nothing was talking, they weren't really playing that good, not huge numbers, and we were just trying to hit areas, cover ground, try to find where [00:10:00] the elk are, because they just float around like a cloud, sometimes they're just not in the same spot, one spot will be a good one here, and then it goes down the next year, and I think it was the, we hadn't really heard anything, I think it was like the 6th of September, and we dropped into one drainage, and the entire thing was lit up with Bulls bugling and the exact same thing happened as hunting, shoot is probably four years ago.
My buddy Ben from Washington, he came over and we had pretty much the same situation. We were getting discouraged where we were at and we're right on the brink of leaving. Cause like I said, you just got to get out of an area, whether it's your honey hole or not, if the elk aren't there, you got to go.
And we went into one more spot is a little bit deeper, but it's the 3rd of September and I bet there was we dropped in there and I bet there was seven bulls [00:11:00] bugling on the 3rd of September and we hadn't heard one anyplace else. So I think it's, I don't know that the weather and the moon phase or any of that.
Obviously, the rut has to start, but if they're supposed to be in rut and it's time for them to be rutting. I feel like they are. Talking someplace and I think it's probably just whether a cow has cycled in that area and put the smell in there and Once they smell that they get all fired up because it'll just be it'll be one drainage You'll hunt ten drainages and hit one drainage and that whole drainage will be lit up without talking
Brian Krebs: Yeah, I think you got to remember like it's nothing for an elk to walk ten drainages I think it's easy for us to feel if there's elk here, there should be elk over there.
If there's elk over there, there should be over here, right? It's all the same mountain. But if there's a cow in that [00:12:00] drainage two miles away that has come into Estrus, it's nothing for all of those elk to just move over there. They could be there in ten minutes, right? And we think that's like a whole different spot or, they, if they're over there, they should be over here too.
They can move so fast, so far, like it's nothing to go two, three miles, and that's where all the elk were, this week, because there were some cows in that area that were, in, in heat and that's what makes it look like the spot you went to has no elk.
Mike Kaup: Yeah, or you'll even see elk, and they're just not responding, because there isn't a cow nest just around there, and then that one drainage that does have the scent in it.
I think that gets them fired up in just an isolated zone. And we did the exact same thing, I think it was the same year Ben was there, later, maybe around the 16th or something, September. We were in the same situation, covering ground and just [00:13:00] not really producing much, not getting anything to talk.
And then we walked over, we were pretty much at the end of where we could go before we were going to be dropping off the brakes and it was going to get pretty gnarly. We've got one more ridge. We went over that and I threw out a locator and just the whole basin lit up and yeah, it's the exact same situation, just the talking elk were isolated to a little, I don't know maybe a thousand acre spot, which really in the big picture isn't very much.
And we walked.
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Mike Kaup: Probably 7, 7 miles that morning, just covering land, calling down into every drainage, every place we thought could hold elk and didn't get a single response until we got over that last hill. And I'm sure there was elk hearing us on the way, but just elk that were responding were in that one little isolated spot and I'm assuming it's because there was a cow or two in season down there that, the bulls are always ready, yeah,
Brian Krebs: they are. They're ready way before the cows are. That's for sure.
Mike Kaup: Yeah. So that's my opinion on it. That you just can't get discouraged when you're getting in a spot like that. If you're seeing no elk time, then definitely move, but they're probably talking someplace and you never know when you're going to come across that area.
So you just got to keep driving until you find it.
Brian Krebs: Yeah. [00:16:00] That part is pretty easy. If you're elk hunting, like when we're elk hunting and we hit a spot and you're like, this is a new unit. This spot looks fine, looks like a good spot. We go in, and we don't hear any bugles, and if we're not seeing any sign, then it's like a pretty good estimate they're just not here.
There might be one bedded here somewhere, a lone cow or a lone bull. But if there's elk in this spot, if there's elk in your area, it's pretty obvious. There's gonna be a ton of sign. And so that was part of the confusing part we had this year, was we were seeing a ton of fresh shine. Lots of fresh signs, some of the biggest areas of like fresh sign that I've ever seen in seven, eight years of elk hunting.
And yet we weren't seeing them with our eyes or hearing them. So that's where we were getting thrown for a loop of what's going on? Cause there was clearly, I've heard of elk here 12 hours ago. This, all this sign is fresh within the last day and there's lots of, it's.
Clear. They've been here multiple days. So what's going on? And that's what really threw us for a loop [00:17:00] this year. If you're not, if you're not seeing the sign and you're not hearing them, that mean that's pretty easy. And a lot of times when you do see that freshest sign, you, you start hearing them or seeing them.
Mike Kaup: Yeah, for sure. That makes it complicated when you're seeing that sign and you're not finding that out. And it seems to be a never ending mental battle. And I know it's an issue. I know it's a problem. And I still have problems walking away from it because if I'm in an area like that, I'm going to assess what that I'm, what I'm doing and try to change it, figure out where those elk are, or if I just can't figure it out and I should be finding them, then I'm just going to leave and go someplace else.
I think that's what's helped me the most as a matured as a hunter is to just know when it's time to leave. And sometimes I'm leaving when there's elk there like this year. [00:18:00] There was elk there. I was seeing elk every day, but they just weren't reacting the way I needed them to and they weren't in a very huntable location and Finally, I had to just leave and go someplace else and it turned out I found some elk that I could make a hunt on And got one.
Brian Krebs: Heck yeah. Where do you hunt? Do you hunt solo? Ever or are you always with a partner
Mike Kaup: or a group? I'm probably 95 percent solo Unless I'm trying to talk with somebody else, I'm I don't know, I like to call for myself and I fly this kind of off instinct a lot and I don't like the idea of having to explain my decisions if I think I need to put it in gear and hike over a hill just because that's what I think I need to do and I just want to do it and not have to talk out with somebody and then I Hey, I [00:19:00]
Brian Krebs: understand that completely.
Mike Kaup: Yeah, I like to call for myself and have an opinion. I don't know, I've got Ben's a phenomenal caller and I've never had a problem with how he called. Generally, I know what I want to do and I don't know that it's always right. I don't have to debate it with somebody when I'm hunting by myself, so I can listen to the elk and make a decision on what their temperature is.
How to proceed with the calling or what kind of strategy I want. I don't have to debate it. I just go with instinct and go and it seems to work out. So I came to where I prefer to hunt by myself. Usually I might have somebody in camp or hunt with somebody out of the same camp. But when we go out in the morning, we go our own direction.
Brian Krebs: Yeah, I've heard that [00:20:00] before. And then obviously no one ever says I'd prefer to pack out elk by myself. So it's always helpful to have like at least some buddies in camp and everyone goes their own direction or maybe if you take out, then you would, obviously call for your buddy or if your buddy takes out, then he can come call for you.
Cause there's some help from that, but I don't know how many people we've had on the podcast so far that are really hunting solo a lot and relying on calling as well. A lot of times we've talked to people that solo archery hunt. And they're typically more relying on spot and stock to get in close and get that shot.
So how do you go about calling from a solo archery standpoint? Are you doing the throw out a calling sequence and then move up as, as quietly as you can, but fast and get 30, 40 yards closer. So when they come in, you're ready for a shot before they hold up. I've
Mike Kaup: talked about it quite a bit and it's hard to say, I don't have [00:21:00] one.
I do anything. I've talked to and listened to all the good elk hunters like Corey strategy and Jason or Dirk strategy and all those guys. And I don't really have one thing that I do. I like to feel out the situation and look at the terrain and what time of day it is and decide how to play it.
And then you can, if you've listened to many elk, you can get their Temperature pretty fast when they start talking and make a play on that, but I think that's also a big part of what's led to my success is when I'm hunting, I have nothing else to think about. So I'm constantly assessing the situation, like just assess it and reassess it the entire time, all the way up to the shot and it's macro clear down micro.
So I'm [00:22:00] listening to the elk. I'm trying to. Feel what the wind is where I'm at, assume what the wind is in their area, what kind of terrain I'm going to cross to get to them all the way up to, like, when they come in, what trail are they going to come in, what route are they going to take, and then which direction will my wind be when they come to that spot, and then if they're off just a little bit, what kind of moves am I going to have to make, And make sure that if they come here or there, can I shoot them in both spots or am I have to move if I do have to move?
What's that going to look like? So all the way up to my setup while it's coming in, I'll be looking at the ground and say, if I have to step to the right six feet, if he goes to a certain area, I'm looking at the ground before he gets there. I'll actually go over and I'll clear pine cones and twigs and stuff out of the way.
So if I have to make that move, I can silently get over there. And make that shot. And it's just a never ending. assessment of the [00:23:00] situation from all the way back as I'm moving in, all the way to the shot. It's just the full situation getting assessed and making decisions. And that's all the way down to calling.
I'm seeing how he's reacting, if he's moving, if I think he's moving towards the bed or towards feed, they're pretty hard to turn, so you have to take that into account. You're probably going to have to be more in the line of where he wants to go, or if he's... In his bedroom, you got a little bit more free range because he could go 360 outta the bedroom to defend his herd.
And yeah, it's just a constant assessment. And so when it comes to calling, it's the same thing I use a lot of the strategies that you hear preached over and over, but I read the situation and I alter it to that situation to do what I think's gonna make it work best for me.
Brian Krebs: Yeah, I like that.
And I like how you said earlier, I try to take their temperature. [00:24:00] Because it's, like you said, you can start to get there. Sometimes it's easier than others when it depends on the elk and depends on what they do. And it obviously depends on how many you've heard. But I, like this year we had a bull that, we did a locator and he...
Almost cut us off and was just deep and raspy, very aggressive. And we both looked at each other and we're like, that bull is angry. He's close and he's not happy. And so we figured that's how we were going to play it. That he was probably a herd bull with cows. He probably got a little startled that another bull was getting close to him.
And we were going to play it that way. And we moved in, then we heard a bull bugle like 400 yards away. And we're like, oh no, he's, he's on the move. He's probably trying to bring his herd out of here. And so we thought we had to keep moving in after him. It turned out there was two, two bulls.
And the first one was still really close. And the second one was the one that we heard, farther away. And unfortunately, we bumped [00:25:00] into the herd. As we were trying to get to that, what we thought was of the bull moving away and he spotted us and he stuck around for maybe 20 minutes and we tried to play with them, but once they see you, they get skittish like they usually don't run out and bust out if you just got a glimpse of you, but they definitely don't like to play anymore and that was the problem, but you're right, like you can we, what we heard was right.
We just then heard something else that got us, tripped up.
Mike Kaup: Yeah, and I think if you haven't been in that situation, you haven't outcarnated in the rut very much. Yeah,
Brian Krebs: multiple bulls. It's easy when one's like north and the other one's south and you're like, okay, that's definitely two different bulls.
This was just like the perfect mix of, bad luck where it was just the right amount of time that a bull would have made it that far. And typically it's pretty common that, you'll have to be chasing down herds. And so that was just the mindset we were in. [00:26:00] And unfortunately we played it, we put it in the wrong play and ran it and it didn't work out for us.
He got, I got into 60. I was close. I was in the game probably would have had a shot if I had, an open window, but it was, a frontal at 60 through the brush. Obviously that's not a recipe for success.
Mike Kaup: Yeah I've definitely been in that exact situation. You'll have a. Bull working and his satellite or just a whole nother bull bugle 400 yards away And you think he moved off and then you run into him or even more often that you get Booty blinded by one one bugling and you have a pin on where that bull is because he's bugling over and over So you're there you moving in because I hunt really aggressive I just try to push it to the limits of what I can get away with and so I'll Close the distance as much as I can and aggressively, but it bites me in the butt quite a bit because I'll be pushing in on them and the cows range out [00:27:00] 100 yards off that bull and I'm keeping tabs on where that bull is and blinded by his vehicle and run right into his cows and then once they leave it's usually game over.
You can definitely get them to come in after you blow the cows out or it has worked in advantage by chance before because they'll blow out. Past you and then you end up between him and his cows, but it's not generally a good thing.
Brian Krebs: Yeah I know it's not I like how you say blinded by bugles I'd make a great t shirt, but you're right Like if you never want to run in and bump the cows on purpose maybe some people like hey, I want to try this but most the time you're like, I don't want to get busted.
I want to get as close as possible without getting busted. But if you do get busted It can be a pretty good tactic to, run to the center of where the herd was and pretend you're a mature bull trying to steal his herd and especially if the bull didn't see what busted his herd, he might believe it and just come in, seeing red, he might get blinded by bugles too.[00:28:00]
Mike Kaup: Yeah. And that's definitely not a strategy. I would suggest somebody tried, but. that read the situation constantly reading it and something goes south, he might be able to take advantage of it and make something happen.
Brian Krebs: Yeah, that's that's not even a plan B. That's like a, that's like an audible, like plan a, we're going to try to get as close as we can.
Maybe plan B is, we get tripped up, like we see some cows or we run out of cover. So we have to stop and start calling from here. And then like plan Z is Oh, shoot, we busted the cows. I guess we have to do this now. You picked
Mike Kaup: up your QB stumble and took it to the end zone. Yeah,
Brian Krebs: hopefully.
Hopefully he took it to the end zone. I've never had the bulls, I've never had bulls charge in. Like everyone dreams of, rip a bugle, get in a calling sequence, and the bull just comes charging in, snot flying, ready to fight. I've never had that happen before, but we've had people in our group that have had it happen before.
Man, does it [00:29:00] sound like exhilarating? That's why everyone does it is that moment right there. And unfortunately it's not as a common as you'd hope.
Mike Kaup: Yeah. As cool as it is. I just assume they don't do that. Cause you got some good nerves if you can. Make a good shot with that happening. You gotta stay pretty cool, and that's a tough time to stay cool.
Brian Krebs: My, in my in my little fantasy how I play it out in my mind, he just runs in so damn close that it doesn't matter how much nerves I have. I still, I'm picturing a four yard shot that all I got to do is just hit the trigger, and I'm gonna get him.
Mike Kaup: Yeah, that's about how my second bowl this season went.
It wasn't far from that, but it had nothing to do With me calling
Brian Krebs: you just got one to come right in on you
Mike Kaup: I was right next to one of his satellites and he thought that it was next to one of his cows and He just let a [00:30:00] scream out and charge that satellite blew it right past me and stopped standing right next to me in the wide Open I didn't know I had a hesitation because there was nothing between him and I was like it's now or never so I drew back and he turned and looked at me like how the heck did you get there and Luckily, he hesitated long enough that, that I was able to get a shot off.
Yeah. He ran, I dunno, his 15 yards or less in the wide open, but he just came after a satellite bull and chased him right past me and stopped right in front of me. So
Brian Krebs: That's incredible. What's the closest you've ever had? An elk. A like a wild elk, not a, zoo elk or a Yellowstone elk.
Mike Kaup: I shot a three 70 bull in.
2014 and it was six feet.
Brian Krebs: Oh my gosh. That is nerves [00:31:00] of steel. A 370 inch bowl. You're not talking like a 370 pound bowl, right? No,
Mike Kaup: it's 376 point.
Brian Krebs: Oh my gosh. At six feet. So you basically could touch him with your arrow before you drew.
Mike Kaup: No, I didn't get him shot right there. He didn't go by the playbook.
We saw him coming, my boss, I was hunting with somebody at that time. My boss came out with me. And he was calling and we seen him coming all the way down the ridge from forever away. And we read the situation and we're like, he's going to walk right here. It's obvious what the path to get from A to B was.
So I backed up under a big juniper bush and figured he was going to walk. In front of me and it'd be easy money. For some reason, right before he got to me, he turned and went under the same tree I [00:32:00] was under. And I knew the wind was bad. And I watched it and he walked right in front of me and he stopped about, I was probably even with his neck.
Maybe the front of his shoulder. And I was just waiting for it because I knew exactly where that wind was going. And I had seen his nostrils flare. And then his eyes got big and his nostrils flared one more time, and he broke and ran up this little cut bank, and it was like the only time I didn't have a reed in my mouth.
I drew back and ran out from under that tree, mewing like a dummy with my voice, and he stopped just long enough, turned back, and looked at me, and I got a shot off at about, he stopped at, it was right around 20 yards, and I was able to get that shot in there. Luckily with everything going on and he only went, I don't know, I don't know if he went 60 yards, but [00:33:00] yeah, he was way too close to draw the bow back.
Brian Krebs: That is the craziest story I think I've ever heard. That's probably the craziest elk hunting story I've heard to date on the podcast. Having a 370 inch bull under the same tree as you, and then still getting it, still getting the shot off. Oh my gosh.
Mike Kaup: Yeah. I got a little bit lucky on that one, but.
That was pretty cool, and then I had one at, I had one at full draw at six, six yards last year, and that was a beautiful point. I didn't even get a shot at him. He, I came over the hill, I was actually, so there's a old guy that was hunting in that area that I was at, and he was supposed to be in this drainage below me, and we leave that to him, just out of respect for him, that's where he likes to go, so we just leave it alone.
And I, there was a bull on the [00:34:00] ridge across from me, bugling, and I could see him, he was in the open, kinda. And then there was a terrible sounding bugle down in the bottom, and I thought that was the guy hunting the drainage, which I found out later wasn't hunting the drainage, so it was just the bull that needs bugling lessons.
But, so I was trying to help the guy down in the bottom, and I was walking this ridge back towards camp, and I'd bugle every now and then, trying to keep that bull talking, and hoping that he'd move in on it, and get a shot. He's as long as I can keep talking, I'll be helping him out a little bit. It's a super steep sided ridge I was walking down.
And then I just hear right next to me man, that sure sounded like an elk and I knew right where it was. It's probably 100 yards down the ridge from me. So I dropped off the far side of the ridge and just use the ridge as cover and got [00:35:00] down parallel with it. And then I bugled and when it screamed and I heard it coming at me, I drew back and stood up and he was.
He was like 30 yards in front of me, but I didn't have a shot or just a little tree in the way. And I knew it was going to be, get a shot or game over at that situation. And it was, he saw me stand up and he stood there for a second, but he was froze with a tree in front of him. But so he broke and took off and it was a super messy area, lots of downfall.
And I hadn't been in that spot before. So I just went over to do some recon and see where he went, what trail he took out of there. And I heard something behind me and I looked back and there's another giant bull walking down the hill straight towards me and he bugled and I cut him off and he just immediately saw red and [00:36:00] he came straight down there and he got on the trail of that bull that I just ran off and he smelt it and thought that I was that bull and he just gave up on any concern of danger and I drew back and 35 yards and he was just coming in to that bowl and he walked all the way to six yards from me and he's going through those little Christmas trees that I just kept saying, I'll get a better shot.
Be patient. You'll get a better shot. You'll get a better shot. And he came right next to me and there was a spruce tree that was probably 50 inch base spruce tree and he came around the backside of it and he got it. All the way out to where I almost had a shot. If I had one more step, he'd have been a six yard shot, but he kept it right behind his shoulder and I was a little bit nervous.
I think I was, I know I was shaking a little bit. I've shot a lot of elk [00:37:00] and I still get to try to get myself under control. My leg will start shaking and he just pinned my leg shaking and knew something was up and Turned and burned out of there and I never got a shot out and pulled y'all from 35 to six yards and never pulled the trigger.
That one was pretty close and then lots of cabs and stuff. I've came in close to, but those are the two closest funnest bull experiences.
Brian Krebs: Yeah. Okay. Now I understand why you say you'd rather not have them run right to your tree. Cause it sounds like you've had it happen a couple of times and they got a little too close.
Mike Kaup: No, when they get. I prefer them to be 30, 35 yards once they get that close. It's just any little movement. They can hear you breathing, see your leg shake. And if you're not drawn back already, you're in trouble. You're not going to get drawn back. Most likely on a bull that close. Every now and then they'll stare at you.[00:38:00]
I guess I got away with it this year, but I'd prefer a bull to stay out there at 30, 35 yards would be my ideal shot range.
Brian Krebs: Yeah, that's a good shot size or, shot ranged.
Mike Kaup: Give me a little bit of freedom. It's far enough away that hopefully they can't hear your arrow sliding over your rest or your dry bearings on your cam squeaking when you drive drawback or whatever.
Get a little bit of buffer between you. Yeah.
Brian Krebs: 35 yards. What's the kill zone on an elk is 15 inches, 18 inches. Maybe 18 is probably pushing it, but it's a big circle. It, it doesn't take a lot of practice with a bow to be consistently drilling on elk at 30, 35 yards, obviously when you're calm and collected.
I've I laugh when you say I've shot a lot of elk and I still. You get nervous. I was like, I just shot a white tail doe last weekend. And I was, I had my heart rate going, so I can definitely feel getting nervous on an elk. [00:39:00]
Mike Kaup: No, I think when you got to keep your stuff together, but I think if you don't get a little bit excited, maybe you should find a different sport.
Brian Krebs: Oh yeah.
Mike Kaup: Yeah. Nothing goes for everybody, but I get pretty darn excited. I've had bulls come in and I'll shut my eyes. I don't even want to look at them. I know where they're at. Don't look at their horns. Don't look at anything. Just convince myself. It's just a target and stay cool until after the shot, then you can get excited.
I'll get my leg. I'll get to shake and I'll get pretty excited sometimes. So that's one of the struggles I have is just enjoying it too much. I get so excited. I have to stay calm for the shot.
Brian Krebs: Oh, I feel that too. I almost like when you, when it. When you think you're gonna get a shot and you hit like when you first think this is gonna happen and you get hit with That first wave of adrenaline.
I almost prefer that to [00:40:00] not actually be the shot Like I like it to like he's gonna come in. He's coming in. He's coming in Like you get the adrenaline build up He's at 60 50 and all sudden he stops behind a tree and like for a minute or two and then you get a chance to like Alright, now breathe, now calm back down, let the adrenaline work out, then he steps out and then you can, smoke him versus trying to make that shot right when you're, your heart rate's maxed out, your adrenaline just got hit, you're starting to shake it's hard to keep it all under control, especially when you got the, when you got the hormones working against you.
Mike Kaup: Yeah. There's. You got to be maxed out one way or the other. I either need them to come running right in, like one bugle and run in, don't really tell me they're coming, and I just have to draw and shoot, or take a really long time coming so I can get my stuff under control. If it's right there in the middle, I've really got to concentrate [00:41:00] on calming my nerves and convince myself I'm just shooting a target.
That's what I always tell myself, it's just a target.
Brian Krebs: Yeah, that would help. I don't even have a 3D target though, so that's, I think I need to get one so I can keep practicing on the 3D target. I think that would help a lot for target panic on a real elk or an animal. Because it's, like even with the whitetails, like I get, when I think it's gonna happen, like I feel the heart rate start to climb and I just gotta remember to breathe slowly.
I guess that's what I tell myself, is just slow it down. I always try and to slow it down. And then it almost seems like when I'm actually at full draw, it almost goes away, or I, at least I don't remember it. Maybe that's more it that I don't remember it, but it's you just set lock in.
Mike Kaup: for sure. Yeah. No, I'm lucky. Usually it's my upper body does pretty good. I just need a leg that gets out of control. Nothing will get to shaking like thumper. And if they're too close, they can [00:42:00] see that thing going.
Brian Krebs: Is it always the same leg for you?
Mike Kaup: Yeah, I think so. I
Brian Krebs: think I get that too sometimes.
Not, I think it's mostly when you're in like a weird stance where you're like, you're not evenly flat footed on both feet, but you're like, maybe you got your like uphill legs bent a little bit. And so it's like the muscles are just like, they don't know what to do. And they, they get hit with that adrenaline and they just start tweaking.
Mike Kaup: I know it's doing it too. And I'm in my head, like yelling at my wife to just knock it off. It
Brian Krebs: keeps going. Trying not to move trying to, he's looking at you or he's looking your way and you're waiting to draw. Yeah I've been there. I was there this year. I had first night. We had a bull walk into 58 yards and the way he was coming.
He looked like he was going to take a trail right into 35 yards and I was he was uphill. So I was facing an uphill and one leg was bent uphill and I had my my. My knee was bouncing [00:43:00] and then of course luck would have it. He didn't come in on which is a bummer
Mike Kaup: Yeah you don't want him to come in every time your season would be over too fast
Brian Krebs: I have eaten I've never shot an elk with my bow.
I've only shot him with rifles and I Really want to try shooting an elk like day one because we got a big elk camp like we are never gonna tag out With eight archery elk hunters, so I would love to shoot one day one Pack up the bow and just call and be a pack mule for the rest of the week I think that would be the most fun elk hunt.
Mike Kaup: I don't know, you might tag out. That year Ben came over, those elk were, You couldn't do anything wrong. We killed We had five encounters and killed four elk. We filled five tags that year, and we were waiting for the last tag to show up, and we were finding people with tags to bring out hunting, because [00:44:00] every tag we had was full already.
Brian Krebs: You just probably, you wrecked Idaho elk hunting forever, because people are going to listen to that and go, we're going to Idaho next year. Can't do anything wrong. Five encounters, four elk. Everyone's going to flood Idaho.
Mike Kaup: It's never happened before or since, but that year was just unreal, like you just couldn't make a mistake, but don't expect that to happen very often.
And then Ty showed up, he was the last tag we were waiting for, and he showed up at midnight and had hands on a bull by 11, and he was left Prineville. And it was back to Prineville within 24 hours with a bull. That's it. That was a pretty good year. That's crazy. But that's not normal.
Brian Krebs: No, that is not normal.
Are you, what type of, what time of year are you guys finding what's your favorite week to hunt elk? [00:45:00] Are you hunting that third week peak rut or are you doing earlier before a lot of the bigger herds are established?
Mike Kaup: I don't know. I always. Have a debate with myself. We go when we can hunt.
We don't really, when you can hunt, you go, which I've actually been pretty blessed with bosses that have allowed me to have about as much time as I can use, but it's usually just go when you can. The moon's not good, but you have time you probably better be out there going. And I've thought about what's best, so definitely later in the season even You know, third week and on, there's a lot of talking, you hear a ton of elk, but I almost feel like they're, you won't hear as many, but I feel like they're easier to call in and like that first week and a half of September, like the first week, usually pretty [00:46:00] slow with the exception of a couple of times, like that one on the sixth and the third, those were just full rut tests early in the season and we'll get into stuff like that every now and then, but in general, Not really the first week, about a week and a half in, they're starting to talk pretty good, but I feel like they're a little more responsive to call.
Like they're trying to get their harem put together and they'll actually come out and hunt for you a little bit towards the end of the season. I don't know if they're just so beat up and a lot of the cows are bred already and they're just being a little more lethargic. They'll talk a bunch, but they're just don't seem to be running in quite as aggressively to me, but There's always outliers on that, so that's why I thought it was an internal debate with myself of what actually the best time is.
I guess the answer is the best time is when you can go.
Brian Krebs: Yeah, that's for sure. It's, I've always asked, because we pick [00:47:00] a week. We just say, hey, we're going this week, everyone's taking vacation. But which week should we go? Should we go first week, second week, third week, fourth week? And we've always pretty much gone the third week and I'm starting to wonder, should we not try the second week, maybe the, tail end of the first week?
And I don't know. No one ever knows some years it might work out great. Some years it might not, but I'm starting to wonder if like we're seeing more and more pressure every year, especially like everyone wants to go that third week. And maybe that's affecting how they're reacting to calls a little bit.
Maybe like what you said, some of the cows are getting bred, the herds and harems are getting bigger and bigger, and it's just hard, obviously it's harder to turn a full herd, you can't, it's hard to pull a bull away from a herd, so now you're, you're hunting the satellites and the raghorns running around on the edge of the herd.
Mike Kaup: Yeah, and then this year's I don't know if this year's really a good example for anything, because those elk were just so strange to me this year, but... When [00:48:00] I ended up shooting my bull I actually stalked in on him. They were beautiful like crazy I watched a bunch of bulls and then sat and waited for an opportunity and I didn't have a very good one But I took it and it worked out But I thought there was one bull and then I seen one drop in and that was the distraction I waited for to move in and so I thought maybe there's two bulls and it was just it was a horrible spot like it On paper should have never worked out because there's just an island on of trees on top of this finger ridge, like just a tiny thing.
I got up there and there was four bulls in this little, maybe hundred yard patch of trees and they're screaming like crazy, but he's allowing them to be there. So they're not really reining off to push the bulls out or being that aggressive. And I don't know if that's a year specific thing, but.
It's how I feel like they get towards the end of [00:49:00] season as they're talking a lot. They're irritated with each other, but it just doesn't seem like they're being as aggressive and moving as much or being as responsive physically to calls. At least super responsive, but I think it's a little bit easier to call them in more around that second week.
Brian Krebs: Yeah, that might be something we have to try next year is going a week earlier than we normally do. And, there's some spots where we go and we have good luck every year. I think in our spot in Wyoming, we've always tagged bowls. We've got a spot in Montana that we've always tagged bowls.
And so I think there's, there's definitely things that, we've found that work. But it seems like some of our new spots that we've tried to go to these last couple years, they just don't work. weren't cooperating as much as we'd hope. It's, we're Flatlanders. And so when we go out there, we're going to mess up, we're going to mess up the first five encounters and unless we get unbelievably lucky you gotta have five [00:50:00] encounters if you're going to mess up the first five, or you gotta have six, right?
This last week in Colorado, we only had five encounters in the whole week and in the croup. And so we just didn't. We didn't get enough reps to get that experience and get back in the groove and to get it right. And I think it's just, it obviously helps the more encounters you can have, the faster you're going to learn and the more success you're going to end up with.
Mike Kaup: Yeah. You might not be alone in that. I don't, people know I kill a lot of elk. They don't know how many I run off before I shoot those.
Brian Krebs: I think none of us know how many we run off before we shoot the ones we shoot, but yeah, you two elk in one year. So what do you do with all that meat?
Mike Kaup: So for my family, I'm mostly I guess Ella and I are pretty much the only hunters now.
Her dad got into hunting. He actually, so Ella called a bull in for her dad last year when she was 12 years old, called a bull into 20 yards and he shot it. So we had five elk [00:51:00] last year in the family. So we had too much meat for all of us, but usually. We'll take the meat and then my brother's got a family and then my sister's family and my mom and we'll spread it out between all the houses and be able to get through it and then if we have too much meat, it's definitely never an issue to find somebody that needs more meat or that can use it or last year we were super successful and lucky last year so we actually ended up giving one house needing elk so we're Riley gave her elk, entire elk to, to some friends and then Ella gave her mule deer to one of my sister's friends that needed it.
And then a guy I work with, his family didn't have any luck [00:52:00] hunting and they were feeling the pain. So I gave my mule deer to them last year because we had, there's no way we had five elk and
three deer, four deer that year. We had more than we needed, so we were able to share it, but there's never an issue getting, finding somebody that'll take meat and make good use of it. You're
Brian Krebs: like the, you're like the you're like the local town butcher shop where people can just come and say, Hey, can I get like 25 pounds of elk sausage or bacon tacos.
Can I get some elk meat? And yeah, we got six of them. How many do you want?
Mike Kaup: Not every year, but we were pretty lucky
Brian Krebs: last year. That is pretty lucky. Do you do all of your own butchering then? Because I got to imagine Especially with the way prices are these days. If you're bringing five elk into the butcher shop, that's like a second mortgage to get all that processed.
Mike Kaup: Yeah [00:53:00] we do all of our own. I've only brought, somebody recommended a butcher to me one time and I was strapped for time, so we brought one antelope in to a butcher and it was the full horror story, I think we got all of our meat back, but. I got a, so that antelope didn't die quite like I'd hoped, so I put a follow up shot on it that hit it high, and so I brought it in, and when I got my meat back, I opened up a pack of back straps, and it had a perfect broadhead hole with hair through it, right through the middle of one of the steaks.
They packaged that. Shop backstrap right up like it had never been shot before. So we take a little bit more care of our meat than that. And don't turn that stuff out. Don't usually trust anybody else with our meat. Yeah.
Brian Krebs: That's, that is the one thing it's easy on a [00:54:00] backstrap to see what happened, but you're like, what did, yeah.
Did he take any hair off of it before he ground it? And I personally know butchers, obviously they're great people, but when you have 200 people dropping deer off. And you gotta get it all processed. Like you can't spend that much time with each one. There's stuff that's gonna end up in the grind.
Like hair, or fat, or gristle. And you just never, but when you bring it in you just never know. Did this package get a bunch of hair ground up in it? Or what's going on? So I like to do it all myself. I enjoy it too. That's part of the process that I, part of the reason why I do it is I just really like.
Doing all of the meat myself and doing it maybe the way I'd like to do it instead of just getting back packages And so that's what we do, too We bring everything in unless we're strapped for time or there's a reason why we can't but you know The last elk we shot that we brought in I think we shot two elk And five people and we were all going different directions when we got back home And so no one could help, not everyone could help butcher it so we brought it in [00:55:00] and you get I want this much of this and this much of that.
It was, like, three, four hundred dollars for each of us to get two elk butchered. I'm like, you add that up, that's, it was like, fifteen hundred
Mike Kaup: dollars. You might as well go to the store by the time you buy your tags and pay a butcher. But, yeah, that's a good point that they do as good as they can, but it is their job.
And the more animals they get out the door, the more money they make. If they took the time and care that we do into our own meat, there's no way you could afford... If they want to make a living out of it, the price would just be so astronomical, you could never afford it. It is a good point. It's not because they're trying to do a bad job, but they are trying to make a living.
Brian Krebs: Yeah, I gotta imagine, if I was a butcher, I would hate hunting. Because it's unpredictable, everyone wants it now, everyone wants to drop it off now, they want to drop it off at midnight because they didn't get out of the mountains until, you know what I mean? It would just be like... A week full of a constant headache.[00:56:00]
Mike Kaup: Yeah. Yeah, there's a lot of butchers around here that I've talked to and they've switched to where they're only taking, their beef and pork and their normal customers and they don't even screw with it. I'm sure for their friends or whatever they do, but they won't even touch game. Yeah, or
Brian Krebs: you can, a lot of butchers around here doing the same thing, but like they'll make sticks and sausage and stuff, but you have to bring in your own debone meat.
Which, you know, we, I have the sausage stuffer and the mixer and a lot of the smokers and my dad and my brother own the grinder. And so it's if I got the meat T-boned, we did the hard part. We might as well finish out. Yeah.
Mike Kaup: Except for stuff. And pepperoni sucks, but we do all that ourselves too, and we have fun with that and figuring out how to switch the recipes up and change it, and the cooking methods and all that to make our.
Pepperoni and summer sausage and brats and all that. It was fun. I don't know. It's[00:57:00] like tying your own flies. You can go down to the store. It's not really practical to tie your own flies because you can buy them so cheap and not take your time, but there's something about it that it's something that you made and did yourself that's more enjoyable.
So eating the broth and pepperoni that you made in your own kitchen. Has it's own factor to it that makes it more enjoyable.
Brian Krebs: Yeah, when was the last time you bought a bag of jerky at the gas station and you brought it over to your buddy's house and you're like, Hey, you want to try some of this jerky?
And they're like I don't know. Sure, but I could have, you're never proud about that. But if you make some jerky Hey, you want to try some of my venison jerky? Everyone's Oh yeah, sure. Give
Mike Kaup: me a piece. Yeah, for sure. They're way more excited to eat that.
Everybody likes homemade jerky more than the store bought stuff. Nobody gets to, they'll eat the store bought stuff, but they get excited when you share the homemade stuff with them.
Brian Krebs: Yeah, the store bought stuff to me is like a backup plan when I'm on a road trip, and I [00:58:00] just I don't want to eat something that's gonna make me feel like crap, so I'm like jerky's as clean as it gets so I'll buy that.
But yeah, you're never proud to go share it with somebody.
Mike Kaup: So it's fun. We're so strapped for time all the time. It gets a little bit difficult on that side, but the actual process is enjoyable, especially if you can have some friends come over and make it more of a social event than a job.
Brian Krebs: like you'd have more time if you quit packing on so many elk.
Mike Kaup: Yeah, that'd probably help a little bit. I get done with my season and go straight into Ella's season. As soon as we can get through those, we go and chukar hunting and then steelhead fishing, straight into salmon fishing, and then it's right back to archery elk again, so it's a full year, all year, every year.
Yeah that's the... I don't have any free time, but it's my choice, because I'm doing what I want every weekend. That's
Brian Krebs: the dream. [00:59:00] That sounds like a good life. Yeah, it's good.
Mike Kaup: We were lucky last year. We were all the way from the start of September to, we got our, Riley got her... Last elk on December 26th last year.
So that was a long elk season for us. No Grandma shot her elk on August 1st Because there's a early cow season in Oregon. So we hunted from August 1st till December 26th last year Sounds
Brian Krebs: like grandma's the smart one. I'm getting my work wrapped up right away. I'm doing it August 1st, and I'm done
Mike Kaup: She did it again this year.
I don't remember what it was, like August 3rd or something. She shot her elk this year. Got it out of the way.
Brian Krebs: Yeah, enough of this silly business. I'm just going to knock her down and call it good.
Mike Kaup: Yeah, she's learned something.[01:00:00]
Brian Krebs: Awesome. Mike, man, it's already been an hour. Time flies when we're talking elk hunting, and I appreciate you calling in tonight. I know you are... I've got a full weekend ahead of you trying to get a mule deer for your niece. So I appreciate you being here tonight and wanted to give you a chance to share with all the listeners, if they want to follow along and see some of your adventures and some of the elk and deer that you've talked about here tonight, where can they find you?
Mike Kaup: Probably the best place is just follow my Instagram account. If I'm not very good at keeping it up to date, I usually get the good pictures or a story in there, but not that great on social media, but it's. m. copper, K A U P E R, is my Instagram. I'll jump on there and hopefully have something entertaining, or feel free to ask me any questions.
I don't think, I was a little bit worried coming on the podcast. I'm not that great at talking, but shoot, we talked for over an hour, and I don't even think we got the [01:01:00] tip of the iceberg. There's so many directions Elk Huntington can go, and,
Brian Krebs: like I said, it's it's a lot easier than you think when you're talking about hunting and talking about it with another person that, that loves hunting. So time does fly. I've found that time and time again, I'll look down at the podcast board and be like, Oh wow, it's already been an hour. I feel like we just got started.
Awesome. Thank you, Mike. Thanks for being here. Thank you for listening folks. Everybody wish Mike some good luck this weekend and the meal deer woods and we'll have to follow up later, but I appreciate you being here and thank you once again, folks for being here as well.