Colorado Elk Camp

Show Notes

On this episode of The Western Rookie Podcast, Brian walks through the annual Archery Elk Hunt and shares stories form the trip!

Brian has been going on the archery elk hunt with a group of friends and family nearly every year since college, and this the year the group went to south western Colorado for the annual archery hunt. Brian shares how the hunt went down and some of the highlights of the trip, as well as which pieces of new gear worked well and which pieces need to be replaced for next year!

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Show Transcript

[00:00:00] You're listening to the Western Rookie, a hunting podcast full of tips, tricks, and strategies from seasoned Western hunters. There are plenty of opportunities out there. We just need to learn how to take on the challenges. Hunting is completely different up there. I've heard of some 26 big game animals.

You can fool their eyes, but you can't fool their nose. 300 yards back to the road turned into 3 miles back the other way. It's always cool seeing new hunters go and harvest an to another Western Rookie

Podcast episode. I'm your host, Brian Krebs, and today's episode is going to be a little bit different again. We are going to do a recap of. September's archery, Colorado hunt. So for those of you that have been listening, follow along with the Western rookie podcast over the course of the summer, our group was [00:01:00] headed to elk hunt in the same unit that Stephen Walker, a previous podcast guest, actually two time guest has hunted quite a bit.

He lives in that unit. And so we picked that unit this year to go to, there was eight of us on the trip. And we did meet up with Stephen and we'll just go. Quickly through how the elk hunt went. So like I said eight of us were on the trip. So is myself My brother, Dean, my brother, Dean's daughter's boyfriend, Dakota, who Dakota has been hunting with us for a few years now.

Dean and I's good friend, Josh from the lake that my brother and my dad live on. And then Josh has. Four brothers or three brothers, two of the brothers hunt with us, so Ben and Isaac. Ben has been a part of the elk hunting group since the original trip. I was part of the group since the second trip.[00:02:00]

Dean's been a part of the group since the original, so that's the three OGs. And then Isaac is relatively new, he's been going for maybe three or four years now, maybe five. Jared, who is a friend of the Schaefer family. So that would be Josh, Ben, and Isaac. They're Schaefer brothers. Jared's a friend of them.

He's been going for about the same time as Isaac. So four or five years. And then the newest two members I guess Dakota is the newest cause this was his first archery elk hunt. But then Aaron, who is a cousin of the Schaefer brothers Aaron's done two years with our group. Everybody in the group's elk hunted multiple seasons.

And so that's the group, our truck, I drove my truck, my brother brought his trailer and his Ranger and a majority of the gear in the enclosed trailer. So we left, we decided to leave early. Because it is a long haul out to north or out to Southwest Colorado from our house in Minnesota. And we're just doing the math and.[00:03:00]

We always like to arrive in the daylight. That way you can look at best places to camp. You can see the terrain, the topography. You're setting up camp in the daylight. So we left early at 8 a. m. on Thursday. The, what would that have been? Let me pull up my calendar quick. We left Thursday, September 14th.

Drove all day. We slept in Grand Junction. No, not Grand Junction. Where did we sleep? Slept somewhere in Colorado, quick. Got up, we got to the bar called True Grit, which is a pretty cool bar. But that's when the second truck met up with us. They drove straight through the night. They left after work on Thursday, drove straight through the night.

We slept in a hotel we woke up, we met up about noon on Friday. We got to our spot at about 3 on Friday, found a good camp spot, set up [00:04:00] camp, about 80 percent set up camp, and then we went glassing and scouting Friday evening. And so camp consisted of 2 12x20 lac nac tents, and then our trailer we unload, and then we use that as the cook trailer.

So we set up tables, we set up the flat iron, a stove, all that stuff. Most of our food was in the trailer. And so that's camp, pretty simple. And then we went glassing. And we did not see any... Elk that night, but I was able to get cell phone reception and I called Steven Walker who lives not too far away from the unit.

And we talked to him a little bit and then he said, Hey, I'll come out Saturday morning and hunt with y'all. Specifically said y'all. And so eight o'clock, Steven rolls into camp. We didn't have the earliest start the first day, just cause we're, still getting gear ready, unpacking, getting things lined up, putting your packs together, Steven gets there at eight cause he had a couple hour drive.

And so Stephen just brought us around on roads for the morning and showed us [00:05:00] spots that we could hunt, check out lots of terrain and a lot of history that he's had hunting these units. And so he he showed us around and then in the afternoon, he said, if I was going to go anywhere and hunt, I would go in this spot.

And so all nine of us dove off the road into this big area, get to the bottom. And then we split up into three groups of three, which works out really well to have a caller and two shooters. And so each group went a different direction, Hey, you guys go north, you guys go south, we'll go east and we'll hunt.

And so we climbed up super steep terrain that first day. But we got into a pretty decent spot actually and started seeing some signs. So it was me and Steven and Ben, who Steven obviously knows the area. Ben has been a killer in our team. Shot multiple bulls with his bow. He's the only one that shot a first day bull too, which is pretty cool.

And so we started [00:06:00] seeing sign. We started slowing down and calling more. That's typically how we like to hunt is cover ground until we see fresh sign. And when we're saying fresh sign. That's, elk sign that's less than a couple days old, preferably like today, this morning, hours ago, and then we slow up and we start calling.

So we were doing that, we were taking breaks, slowly working our way just horizontal across the mountainside. And sure enough, we did a couple cow calls, just hanging out, we took maybe five steps, and Stephen said, Hey, I see a bull. And we all locked down, the bull was at like 150 yards, 125 yards, working towards us, clearly heard our elk calls and was coming our way it was pretty open in that spot, so the bull saw us stop and freak out, he slowed down and stopped, he just stayed still for maybe 5 minutes, I got a glimpse of him during that time, Steven got [00:07:00] a really good look at him, said he was a nice 5 by 5.

And we were we were ambushed. We were downstream without a paddle. We're all three standing on top of each other. We can't move. Me and Ben got arrows knocked, but we can't call because, he's gonna window us. So we just ride it out. And for about five minutes or so, he just stares at us.

And then he slowly works uphill and a little bit away from us. Quartering away uphill. And so that was our cue to get in a better position. So Stephen went straight backwards 30 yards. I tried to climb uphill 10 yards to get better thermals, because I figured he's probably going up and around to catch our thermals.

And sure enough, by the time Stephen gets back 30 yards and starts cow calling, We see the bull coming back in, he's probably 50 feet higher elevation than he was the first time, and he came into 58 yards, which was getting really close, I was getting really excited, I thought he was going to [00:08:00] keep walking that line, and I was going to get a shot at probably 40, but he stopped at 58 yards, and it was 58 yards at a significant uphill Elevation.

So it's probably more like a 70 yard shot flight distance and 58 for what you would hold over and that's just a long shot. I, my limit was 60. So it was a long shot. He was broadside, but he was stopped behind a a tree on his front half. So all I could see was his guts, his belly and his rear end anyway.

So I didn't have a shot. But he stopped there for another five minutes trying to figure out where we were coming from. And he, I believe he just windowed us. I believe he could see where we were set up and where the calls were coming from. And he didn't see an elk. And so they always hold up. He didn't come in any further.

He started to work his way out, back away from us. So I told Steve, I gave Steven the hand signal to back up further, trying to get more separation [00:09:00] between the shooters and the callers and do more calling, which, Steven did and the bull just didn't come back. Didn't come back in. We gave them probably.

20 30 minutes and then we slowly moved up 50 yards because he didn't really, he didn't bail out fast or hard, like we didn't bust him, he just lost interest. And so we moved up 50 yards and tried to set up a calling sequence again and try to get him back in. Gave him another 20 30 minutes, didn't work, we moved up 50 more yards.

This whole time we're seeing phenomenal sign, like a whole herd had been on that mountain that day. And we thought we were gonna, slowly move up and start getting inside his bubble again and get him to come back in, but he never did, unfortunately, so that was a bummer. Just because, we had an elk first day, so close, thinking we could get this job done, and the, the cards just weren't in our favor, and we just ran out of daylight.

So we bombed off that side back into the river valley, and then we had to cross the [00:10:00] river and climb back out. Now, the funny thing about crossing the river when we crossed it in, coming in, in the daylight, it was pretty steep, er, like a pretty deep river some places were a couple feet deep, some places there was rocks and it was only like five inches deep.

But there was a log that went across the river, right over a waterfall. So the river drops maybe 15 feet, there's like a 15 foot waterfall. And there's two logs that go across it. And so that's where Steven and Ben and a lot of the guys decided to cross in the daylight. And I thought they were nuts. I'm like, I'm not crossing that log.

It was like 10 feet, 12 feet across. So like you are, there's no way to grab one bank and the other bank at the same time and make sure you got a steady point of contact. You're like, you are tight lining it with no hands. And so I went upstream and found like a five inch deep spot to cross.

And I just walked across the rocks, which was pretty slippery, but I stayed, my feet stayed dry. Coming back out in the night, everyone's [00:11:00] ah, I don't think I want to cross that log anymore. Dark you fall off like you wouldn't die You'd probably get a little banged up But you definitely get wet and you would have a hard time climbing out because you would have went over the waterfall into the pool On the bottom.

And so I we all found this spot to cross. I forgot my headlamp So I'm digging through my pack trying to find my backup headlamp Can't find it finally get a spare everyone else just goes ahead and says, oh, I'll just cross where Brian said he crossed So I'm the last one to get ready and to go cross and so I see where they're crossing Not even close to where I crossed.

It is deep where they went because they didn't, wait for me to pull out my track. And just as I get to the river, I hear this splash like clearly somebody fell. So I get in there. Sure enough, someone slipped on a rock, just fell in the river. It was Ben pops back up, runs out. And I'm like, and so then I go across and whenever I cross a river like that, I always try to grab a stick and I [00:12:00] usually use my bow as two walking sticks to make sure, if you slip and stumble, you can catch yourself before you go all the way in.

But it was deep. That part was like, it went up over my boots and I just went fast enough, but my boot did get a little wet, but Ben's boots got completely filled with And so then we had this mile climb out of some pretty steep terrain. And so we're taking breaks and Ben's eventually just says, Hey, I'm just going to, I'm just going to go ahead and get out of here faster.

Cause I want to get these boots off and drain them. Cause there's I can hear Ben's boots swishing with every step. That's how much water are in Ben's boots behind me. And so Ben takes off while Steven is like a Billy goat. He lives in the mountains. He's in great shape. And so you can tell Stephen wants to go faster than some of us flatlanders can go.

And so we're like, hey Stephen, if you want to go with Ben, go for it. And so he runs like a hundred yards up the trail to catch Ben and then just continues walking with Ben. Doesn't even take a break, [00:13:00] which is just hilarious. And then later Ben said, yeah, I was climbing up and I eventually needed a break.

And Ben's in one of the Best shapes of anyone in the L group. So Ben goes, yeah, eventually I needed a break, but Steven didn't need a break. He just started talking when I stopped, which was funny. So definitely, we definitely noticed a huge difference between someone that lives in the mountains.

And climbs the mountains all the time, like Steven, versus someone that lives in the flatlands and has no mountains. We were sucking air hard. And finally get back to the truck, probably 9 o'clock couple hours after, after sunset. And then the road that we were on is terrible. It's like an hour and a half of driving.

On super slow, terrible roads until we hit the gate where the road starts getting better. And then it's like another 15, 20 minutes back to camp. So it took forever to get back that night. And so everyone decided we all hated that road and we didn't enjoy the climb out, but we did get into a little bit of elk sign in there.

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And made pulled pork barbecue sandwiches because that was Stephen's favorite From shed season back in New Mexico this spring. We went with him and I told him if he comes in, if he comes and hunts with us, I'll cook him some more barbecue. So everyone had that. Everyone liked it. Steven takes off.

And then the group says let's find some different areas for tomorrow, just because that climb takes a lot to get back in there. And we were thinking that would be a good spot to spike camp because it's been on our list to spike camp every single archery elk [00:16:00] trip we've ever gone on and we've never done it.

And this was the year we said we were going to spike camp. So we're like if we ever go up that long road again, and we're going to go through all the work to get in there, we might as well just sleep there because there's a great valley next to the river to sleep in. And so we said, let's check out a few other spots.

And if we get later in the week and we don't have anything better going on, we'll just go back into that area and spike. And so then for the next couple of days, we started checking out different spots. Me and my brother in Dakota hunted the next day and we just started checking out some short spots near camp.

Did not find a ton of elk sign on some of these like half day hunt spots. Some fresh sign, like some elk had been through here, but nothing like a herd was living here. And so we were just spot hopping all morning long. In the evening we went and checked out a completely different area by truck.

And then we went in there a couple of miles. Lots of openings that you could glass, but we just didn't see a lot of fresh Elks on there. The rest of the guys got into a little bit of bugling for the next few [00:17:00] days, but didn't have any great encounters, didn't see a ton of sign. And so we're trying to like bounce around, find all these different spots.

And then, I'd say maybe midweek, we found a way that we could hunt. We could take a road up and hunt all the way down. And then when we got out, we would just meet up with a drop ranger. We would drop the range at the bottom of the mountain. And that way everyone can hunt like downhill. So it's obviously a lot easier to hunt downhill.

And so I met up with, or I hunted with Isaac that day. So it was Dean, Dakota, me and Isaac all went into the spot. And then we split into two teams of two and we took two different ridges down. And so Isaac and I got to the head of our ridge and we still had bad thermals. So we're going slow.

We're waiting for the thermals to change. We start getting into where we really wanted to hunt. And a thunderstorm is coming fast. The wind's picking up, you can see the mountains, you can see the clouds rolling over the mountains, like we are [00:18:00] about to get hit with a thunderstorm. And this entire week I don't, I haven't packed rain gear.

It has been raining almost every evening for a short bit, like mountain rains, like 30 minute showers. And so I've just been hiding under a tree for these showers, trying to stay dry because my rain gear is heavy. It's old, it doesn't fit great, and it doesn't work great. And so I'm just like, hey, I'm not going to carry this rain gear.

I'd rather just get wet. This thunderstorm looks bad. And so instead, I've been packing, it's an Elps Mountaineering or Engineering? I can't remember what their name is. It's an Elps Rainfly. And so it's one of those rainflies where you have six different stakes, or six different ropes. And I'm like, Hey, Isaac, Isaac's putting on his rain gear and I don't have rain gear.

So I'm like, Hey, I don't have rain gear. I'm going to set up this rain fly instead, but it's plenty big enough for both of us. And if it works, we'll both stay perfectly dry. And so he's Oh, that sounds great. So he helps me set it up, but I've never done it before. So we're just going fast. It's starting to rain, [00:19:00] crawl underneath it and it's working.

So we just tweak some stuff higher, lower. So this is a good example of testing out stuff like this before you go. Cause I, I had just looked at the picture and I was like, yeah, that doesn't look hard to do. And it wasn't hard, but you just learn a couple of things, setting it up the first time.

But. But, after a couple tweaks, we got it set up so it worked great. Isaac and I just took a nap under it for two hours and stayed 100 percent dry. And it's half the weight of my rain gear. I was like, oh, that works perfect. I'm gonna for sure not bring my rain gear anymore. I had it at camp, but I just didn't want to pack it because it's so bulky and heavy.

And we roll all that up, we walk a couple hundred yards, we had this old logging road so it was like nice, easy, flat walking across the side of a ridge. And we finally cut some fresh tracks that looked like a bull. It looked like a rag horn or a satellite bull. It was a mature elk, it was a single set of tracks, it was coming from over the ridge [00:20:00] downwards so we said, hey, let's call.

So we set up a calling sequence. Sure enough, we hear a bull bugle back almost exactly where we wrote out the thunderstorm. And so we start moving towards the bull. We set up, we probably do a half hour sequence. Nothing. We get him to bugle like two, three times throughout that half hour sequence, but he doesn't move.

And it's midday. It's like noon, one o'clock. Probably bugling from his bed. So we move up another 50 yards. Do a couple calling sequence and then we just sit for an hour hoping as time goes on he'll get out of his bed, he'll be curious what he heard, and he'll work towards us. Unfortunately that didn't happen.

We did not hear any more out of him. We tried to get him to bugle again before we left. Couldn't get him to bugle. And so then we just started working back to the original plan. Working down the ridge, going from side to side, checking it out, throwing out some bugles. And so we get, I don't know, a ways [00:21:00] down the ridge, we throw out a bugle and instantly Isaac gets a response and it's like a, it's close, it's 200 yards away, it sounds deep and raspy, it sounds angry, it really does sound like we got inside a bull's comfort zone and he was giving us that, that like heads up, do not come over here, I have a herd over here, I'm angry, he's being territorial.

And so we're like, Oh, perfect. Let's work in 50 yards. Let's do a setup. Let's see if we can get this bowl to sound African. So we work in that 50, 60 yards. I get out front. Isaac's calling. He does a sequence and a bugle cuts him off, but it's 400 yards away now. And I'm like, gosh, darn, like this bull just must've took off as soon as he heard us bugle, and now he's 400 yards away.

And so I'm like, hey, Isaac, we gotta keep moving. This bull is moving away from us, so we gotta go with him. And so we're like, [00:22:00] okay, good. We start going downhill, and sure enough, we look up about the same time Isaac and I both see an elk. At 90 yards. And we had only come like 30 more yards. Sure enough, it's a bull.

It's a good bull. It's a 5x5. And so we lock up, Isaac sneaks back uphill, we call, that bull doesn't like what he's, like he think he saw some movement, so he moves off, away from us, going horizontal, and so I sneak up with him thinking, oh what if the same thing happens, he could be coming up and around to get our thermals, and so I work that way.

Isaac starts doing some more calling. We hear the other bull bugling on, the 400 yard away bull bugling still, and so now it's clear, like we heard two different bulls and we assumed it was one when we should have stayed put and played out the first one. And so I see some movement getting closer in the woods, but then it cuts back underneath me and goes back the other way.

And so then I [00:23:00] turned around and worked 20 yards that way. Turns out it was a herd at 60. So now I'm trying to sneak into this herd at 60, but I got this big opening beneath me that I can't cross because they'll see me. And so the bull and two or three cows were working at that 60 yard range and nothing we could do could pull them in any closer.

I think they were starting to get a little suspicious by this point, because we walked in accidentally too close to this herd. They saw movement they didn't like. And after that, it was just hard to get them to play and to work. And unfortunately, I didn't see him any closer than 60, I never had a clear shot at the bull.

All we had was a bull tag, I couldn't have shot a cow anyway. And I didn't even have a good, a shot at a cow. And so that was super frustrating, because we, Isaac and I were talking the whole time let's not be too aggressive, because that's what screwed us up, both of us had got screwed up already in this trip by being too aggressive and not being patient.

And so we thought we were going to be patient, and then... [00:24:00] The whole two bowls got us all messed up. We thought it was one. So we started going after the 400 yard bowl. Sure enough, the 200 yard bowl busted us. And so that was just a lesson to be patient and always consider there could be two bowls. Like it's, sometimes it's easy when there's lots of bugling and you're just used to multiple bowls, but we were not hearing a lot of bugling this week.

And so we're like, oh, hey, a bugle. Great. 200 yards away. Oh, he just bugled again at 400. We were just assuming it's the same bowl because these bugles have been so hard to come by. And so that was a real bummer. So Isaac and I walked out trying to go after the 400 yard ball again, cause we, the 200 yard ball wasn't playing anymore and we just couldn't get this bowl to talk anymore.

We went in. to 300 yards. We tried to get him to sound off and he was just quiet at this point. So it really frustrating that he was vocal and we didn't want him to be vocal. And then as soon as we decided to chase [00:25:00] him, then obviously sudden he just quiets up and doesn't do anything. So the rest of that, the rest of that walk, pretty uneventful.

We saw a couple of mule deer really close. We got into some really gnarly river bottom, creek bottom stuff that we're trying to get out of. And anytime you're trying to leave the creek bottoms, usually look less steep than everything else. And so you're like, Oh, let's just follow the creek out. But it was a disaster.

It was like the last 10 years, like it was just so steep in there that I think it like, yeah, the Creek Valley isn't that steep, but the sidewalls are pretty aggressive and gnarly because they're carved out and it's just too small for the map to see. But it was becoming pretty evident that this is gonna suck and it's gonna suck for a long time So we just decided hey, let's just climb a little bit elevation Even though we don't want to go up because we're trying to get back to the truck But let's just climb and we'll walk faster So we sure enough we climb [00:26:00] out and we start going a lot faster and then I found a bugle tube I found a Phelps game called Bugle Tube on the ground.

So I obviously that was pretty cool. Picked that up. It was signed, if anyone's listening to this, and lost a Phelps bugle tube. It was signed like 2024 by four at 60 yards, 2021 four by five at 40 yards. So it looked like it was a pretty successful bugle tube. That's where the signing stops.

I don't know if it's been sitting there for two years. Or if 2022 just didn't have any action for whoever owned that bugle tube, but I bought, I kept it Dakota used it for the rest of the week, but I still have it. So if you lost a bugle tube in Southwest Colorado, Phelps game call, tell me what bowls you shot in 2020 and 2021.

And we'll get you your bugle tube back. So Isaac and I follow that out. We finally get back to the truck. We go back to camp. No, one's at camp. And we have about an hour of daylight left. And [00:27:00] so we say, Hey, let's go glass. And so we get out in the truck, drive up to the same kind of glassing area we were at the first day.

And we also get good cell phone reception there. So Isaac calls back home cause his son had broke his thumb in football. And Isaac is in, he's in the medical field. I think he has exercise physiology degrees. He does like therapy for his day job. So he's very knowledgeable about like hand and arm.

Breaks because he's an upper extremities. I don't know, provider, whatever he does upper extremities. And so he's calling back home, checking on his son's thumb hearing what the update is from his wife. I'm glassing. Sure enough. I find a herd of elk in one of the spots Steven gave us just feeding through an opening.

And it's a big herd, like 12 cows plus a bull. And so I pull out the all in phone adapter. So if you don't know the all in adapter, one of the best digi scoping adapters on the [00:28:00] market, you put. An eyepiece on your optic that's got magnets in it that stays on all the time. It's super soft, super ergonomic.

So you can still look through your spot or your binos with the eyepiece on. But then when it comes time to, to film something, you just take the all in phone case, touch it to your eyepiece, the magnets line it up perfectly. They keep it square. You don't bump your optic off what you're chasing. And that's a great adapter.

You can actually use the code. Western Rookie, one word. Actually, no, what is it? Two bucks. I can't remember what the code is. I think it's two bucks for the other podcast, but you can get 10 percent off on an all in adapter system. And we always put the code in the show notes. So if you're interested in that, go check out the links.

The, whatever, I think it's two bucks. Is the code, but I will verify that and put it in the show notes of every episode and so they're right there You can get 10 percent off on an all in adapter system but I got some video [00:29:00] footage of it because obviously all the other six guys are gonna want to see these elk see where they Are see how we can hunt them And so the next day we make a plan to go in that area.

So four of us are going to go into that area. The other guys are going to go back to where Dean Isaac Dakota and I hunted, excuse me, sorry, the first day and, or the, that day of where, because we both heard elk bugling. So day two, it's. Ben, Aaron, Jared, and I are going into where we glass the elk. So we get in, we split up, Ben and Aaron go one way, Jared and I go another way, we start hunting.

And Jared and I, we get up, we wait for the thermals to change, we start hunting through, and we start seeing some good sign, like fresh sign. There's definitely elk using this area over the course of the summer. But also recently, we're starting to get into recent signed. [00:30:00] We get to a spot where it just stinks of elk.

And so we hold up there. We ride out a little bit of rain in that spot and then, man, should we keep going or should we stay there's fresh elk sign? Like this morning, it smells like elk here. But we're like right off the main trail. And so we're like, ah, we did some calling sequences, nothing fired up.

So we moved up a little bit, did another calling sequence. It rained again. So we hid under a tree. We kept hunting through all these different areas and everywhere we're going, we're seeing fresh elk sign. There are definitely elk on this mountain, but we're not hearing anything. So we. We hit up some openings and some valleys, don't hear any elk sign.

We can't get a, we can't even buy a bugle but we're seeing elk sign. And so eventually I'm like we don't have anything else going. And it's starting to become that like last hour. So I said, let's drop down. Cause right below us is that exact opening the herd fed through [00:31:00] the night before. So let's just sit up on that opening and see if they come through again.

So we get into that spot. It looks great. We sit there for probably the rest of our daylight and just nothing. We don't hear anything, we can't see anything. We have no bugles. And so we're like it's just, unfortunately wasn't our time. Let's just start heading back to the truck. We got 10 minutes of light left.

Maybe we can check a couple more of these openings on the way back. So we start heading back to the truck and also Jared points. And so I look and the biggest meal deer I have. ever seen in the wild is just bounding away across this opening. This thing is a tank. I am not a professional mule deer scorer.

I am very good at scoring white tails, but this mule deer. It was tall, it was wide, it had deep forks, it had junk, I mean it had everything. I really [00:32:00] believe this was like a 170 class mule deer, which I think is huge. I know a lot of people shoot bigger mule deer than that, but it was a large mule deer. Other than that we get...

Back to the truck. We did see two meal deer across the trail in the headlamps, two bucks that weren't more like 120 inch bucks, like cool bucks to see, but not as big as that first one. We get back to the truck and about the same time, Aaron and Ben are back, which was surprising because they said they were going to go a lot farther.

We start talking to them and apparently they got into elk sign almost immediately, and it was so heavy. Ben said it was the best elk sign he's ever seen. in a spot with elk hunting. And we've elk hunted a lot of places. And so they just sat up for four hours in one of these little openings or one of the woods where they had some shots and just sat there because there was such good elk sign.

They thought there could easily be elk just milling through this area during the daytime. And so they spent most of their time not moving very much. Which is [00:33:00] what you want when you're archery elk hunting. If you're doing 10, 15 miles a day, that just tells me you're not in the elk cause when we get into heavy elk, we slow down, we stay put, we call, and you only do four or five miles.

And most of that's two miles in, two miles out. So they held up, they didn't have anything midday, but then they started working for the evening, that area and doing some calling and they heard some bugles from their spot that they were held up at. So Aaron was like, Hey, I hear that bugle.

Do you hear that? Ben has ringing in his ears, so he doesn't hear as good. And she's no, I think that's a bird. And this goes on three, four times as the story goes. And Aaron's finally no, that's definitely an elk. And then it bugles one more time. And Ben's Oh yeah, that's an elk.

And so they take off to chase these bugles. They get into the herd. They set up Ben's caller, Aaron's shooter, they start calling. Bulls are working, they're calling, they're seeing them. One comes in, [00:34:00] there's at least two but potentially three bulls that were bugling. And it was a long process, like a 45 minute sequence of a calling setup.

But it ended with one of the bulls, the smaller of the bulls, came in to 23 yards for Aaron. And Aaron draws as the bulls like stepping into his opening. And as Aaron was drawing, he was, he he says part of his shot process is he drops his pins down to his target. Just a lot of target archers do, but he said, as I was dropping, I remember my 40 yard pin hit the back line of the elk, like just came down to touch the elk, but the elk saw me and like startled and jumped.

Kind of just Oh, in place, didn't take off, just jumped, but that like startled Aaron and Aaron jumped and accidentally punched his trigger. And so his arrow went flying over the top of the elk. They never touched it. And then he's [00:35:00] Oh, and, but Ben, here's the bow go off. And so Ben looks at the, at Aaron, like peeks his head over the hill and Aaron's just doing this, defeated, bend over and Ben's thinking like.

Oh, is he like happy? Like he is just like this wave of pressures off that he shot his first elk with a bow or what's going on? Then Ben, Aaron starts doing the head shake, didn't work out. And so Ben realizes, Oh, it's not over yet. The bull and Aaron shot, took off a little bit to 40.

And then turn to look at what happened. And so Ben's starts calling again. Aaron's Hey, there might be a chance. So he grabs another arrow and knocks it, looks down. He accidentally grabbed his grouse arrow. So it has the small game field point on it or the small game broadhead. And so now he's shit, rips that arrow out, trying not to, get busted by movement.

Finally grabs, he just throws that one on the ground. Finally grabs another elk arrow. By this point, that bull is working off, but the bigger bull [00:36:00] is coming up from another direction. While all of this is going on, Ben is trying to make this full on display of elk calling. So he's raking and stomping, he's moving back down the trail, cause he's below a, he's below a little rise, so the elk can't see him, cause he's, they're up on the flat.

He's doing all this stuff, he's running around stomping, breaking branches, calling, all of a sudden he looks over. And the big bull is standing at 60 yards, just staring at him. Just like watching this lunatic. This elk's probably thinking what kind of weirdo is just running around doing all this?

And so obviously Ben freezes and the elk just slowly turns and walks away. And Ben said to make it worse, he just looked back as he was walking away and just shook his head. Like you thought you were going to fool me with that. And so it was, it sounds like it was a crazy encounter. Unfortunately it didn't work out.

Those are the kind of memories [00:37:00] that will haunt. All of us everybody, but Dakota has been there. Everybody, but Dakota has shot an arrow at an elk and not got the elk. A lot of times it's a clean mess for whatever reason. I hit a twig one time at two feet that I couldn't see out of my site housing and my arrow went 40 feet over this elk's back.

My brother had one happen. Everyone in our groups missed an elk or had one. Within shooting and didn't get a shot. So that's just part of elk hunting. We all feel for Aaron. We gave it an appropriate amount of time in camp before we started a joking with him about it. But he took it pretty good.

And then, just wanted to get back out there and get another chance. And so based on all of the sign that Jared and I had saw that day, plus the encounter Ben and Aaron had, the group made the decision like, Hey, let's all go into this area, let's. Let's bring our backpack equipment because we only have two days left or [00:38:00] three days left.

Let's bring our backpacking equipment. Let's spike out in there just so we stay closer. And then, we check off two lists. We're hunting the best spot. Plus we're doing the spike camp, which we always wanted to do. And so everyone loads up their spike camp gear. We all go to this area now that we know there's elk there, we just decided to change from hunting in groups of two, which is really good for spreading out, checking out more areas and finding sign.

But now we're going to hunt in groups of four just to make better chances that we get a shooter and an elk close enough to each other that they get a shot, right? So one caller, three shooters instead of one and one. So we have six shooters instead of four shooters, basically is the goal because we know there's elk sign here.

So we hunt all day lots of grouse that day. I hunted with Aaron Dakota and Dean so talked a lot about the encounter and stuff like that And it was fun just to hunt with somebody new because Aaron and I don't really know each other We've never hunted together before this trip Saw [00:39:00] some fresh elk sign.

We saw a lot of tracks out in these openings from probably overnight activity, but we didn't see a ton. We heard a bugle we were eating lunch. We heard a bugle, decided to go after it. We worked in the bugle started getting farther and farther away. So that was confusing. We thought we heard some cow calls, but we just couldn't get that bull to talk.

And then, so we was torn is it two bulls or is it one bull? If it's two bulls, we should stay here and work because we're only 120 yards away from where he started bugling. If it's one bull, like we're out of the picture completely because that bull's 400 yards away, going downhill, we'll never catch that herd.

So we decided to play it as if it was two bulls and stay put, and just nothing ever came out of that situation. So we went back to hunting, found some different areas, saw a lot of bear sign, which is cool. Like some big bear sign. But we never got into any elk bugling, and so [00:40:00] it's starting to get later in the evening.

And we start calling and we hear a bugle and so that was like, Oh, let's play this. And so we set up and it just doesn't sound right. Like it's not moving. The calls are different. There's just a feeling that it's been like we all just thought it sounded like Ben's calling like the where the location was.

So we go back and forth nah, that's Ben. Let's keep moving. But then it sounded real again. So we come back and that sounds like a hunter again. So we leave and. Then we come back eventually we decide to commit and say, it's probably Ben. Let's go find him. And so we call 'em and sure enough, it's their group of four.

It was Ben, but they're, we start talking about where and when we were hearing sign, and it does sound like there was a real bolt. At some point that we were both chasing. And so that was a bummer. People are frustrated that we called each other in, which just happens when we're all hunting like one mountain side.

And so we all meet up three of the guys decide they're going to [00:41:00] go three or four of the guys decide they're going to go set up spike camp. The rest of us, we're going to go filter water quick for spike camp. And so I went with the water filters. Since I had the new MSR water filter, and so we go drop down, I think we filtered like 12 liters of water for the group combined all of our water, and then emptied, like I emptied all my water into other people so I could fill them up full again, and so we go get water, we meet up with them, they've got most of the tents set up for spike camp Josh is working on a fire.

I set up my tent pretty quick. Everyone's doing their own chores. Somebody, who, we brought two of two jetboils, and so the people that own the jetboils were setting up that for dinner. And it was great. Josh's fire took off. I just put one of my Vaseline soaked cotton balls in the fire to help him start it.

Had a great bonfire on spike camp. And then it was like the perfect weather for spiking out. Cause it was like 60 degrees during the day and like 38 to 40 degrees at [00:42:00] night. And so everyone it was a fun thing. Like we were all thinking it would suck more, like it'd be colder. Cause we were getting frost and stuff, but it really wasn't that bad.

Very comfortable. It's sucked carrying around the weight all day. Cause we basically hunted backpack style. We didn't drop spike camp and then hunt. We just hunted cause we didn't know where we were going to end up camping. And so we just hunted with our gear all day and that kind of sucked.

But, overall, Spike Camp was super fun. And we we, the next morning, we had breakfast, I did pre cooked bacon. I was eating a lot of pre cooked bacon, because it didn't have to be refrigerated. A lot of individually wrapped cheese sticks, a lot of granola. And I had sandwiches the first day, because we made sandwiches that morning at base camp.

But then the second day, I didn't have a sandwich made, I just ate bacon and cheese sticks for breakfast, I ate a thousand calories of granola for lunch, or trail mix for lunch and then we had obviously supper back at base camp again. Second day, we hunted around me and Ben [00:43:00] decided to climb up to 11, 000 feet just for fun, because we were typically hunting between 9'5 and 10'5, and excuse me one second, sorry about that, I just sneezed.

Just for fun, just to say we did it. And it was, it was, it was tough. Climbing up there, some steep stuff, but we got up to 11, 000 feet, took a quick break at a snack, and then we started hunting down, I saw some of the freshest elk sign I have ever seen in my life. This stuff.

If I would have got there any earlier, I would have seen it fall. It was green, it was fresh. I tried to convince Ben to touch it to see how warm it was, but it was pretty loose. So he did not do that. It wasn't a pellet. But it definitely, there was elk here like recently within an hour.

And so we did a calling set up, started slow, like still hunting with arrows knocked and never came across anything. And so we and we're just walking around, checking out this new area up high at 11, 010 foot nine. And so we found this like cool, like gold [00:44:00] mining thing where it had to have been like a gold mining exploration hole.

And we're talking about it, like whispering about it, stand there for two minutes. I take one step and there was a cow elk bedded on the other side of it at 40 yards that. And so we're like, Oh, crazy. Like we sat there for two minutes talking and also there's just an elk bedded there. So we were thinking like that might've been the elk.

We saw the sign for it. Cause it wasn't a lot of sign. It was one elk and that cow was alone. And so that was the activity of the morning. Then Ben and I met back up with Dean in Dakota. We hunted through to some different options and areas. Eventually we were headed towards where we, the area that Ben and saw all the sign the first time we hunted this spot.

So that would have been like two days ago and on our way there we hear, Dean throws out a bugle and we get a response immediately from a hundred yards away. So fast like it could not possibly have been a hunter unless the hunter was also about to bugle [00:45:00] because it was like one bugle and then immediately the second bugle.

And so we're like, Oh shit. And it's right below us. Like our thermals are bad. Our wind is bad. So we're like, Hey, we need to put some, we need to generate some distance so we can get our wind right. And so Ben takes off down the road. And our thought was, we're going to go down the road, like over to get distance.

Then we're going to drop down. To make our thermals right, and then work our way back in. Dean thought we were just gonna go a little ways, and then Ben went a long ways. And so we're all confused, because we're too far away. But when we start the setup, we start hearing cow calls. And so we start working, but it's super open, so we can't, I'm like, we can't...

We can see 200 yards. So we're like screwed. Like we need our caller to be way back in case an elk does come to us because it's going to see us way before we we see them or hear them like it. It's very open. 200 [00:46:00] yards is like the window size here. And but the cow calls are getting louder.

And we're working, we're thinking like this herd's coming to us, like this is the direction they always, they've been feeding, that's the direction I glassed them. Dean thought they might be going above us though, so he's what if, we should be up there, but we're hearing them down here.

And long story short. We were hearing the other group working the same bull and so we got distracted with the cow calls from the other group Thinking the herd was coming to us. The cows are out front the bulls behind them, which they were But it was the other group and apparently the bull did in fact go up So Dean's thought was their Dean's worry that they're gonna go above us into a different opening was correct And it was just super frustrating because, both teams probably could have made a pretty good play on that bull or that herd, whatever it was, but we got distracted with each other because we Our teams were calling more than the elk were.

And so both teams were like, Oh, Hey, they're over [00:47:00] here. Cause that's where I'm hearing all these calls come from. And so we worked in towards each other and the bull went out the side, which is just super frustrating. And so everyone was in, negative moods, I would say, because we just wasted two evenings in a row hunting the other group, which is always frustrating.

And so we gear up. We all bomb out, hit the trail, bring the trail back to the trucks, bring the trucks back to camp. And at this point, we had one more day left. We'd hunted hard for seven straight days, not on a lot of sign. We just basically burnt out our best spot because we hunted it three days in a row.

And so we start talking about logistics. And so the problem was everyone has to be back at work Monday morning. Some people could take a day. Some people really needed to be back at work. And so we're looking at it and if we hunt Friday, we're probably not gonna, we've never had success in the morning.

Our group has [00:48:00] always shot our bulls in the evening for whatever reason. It's just our hunting style. So it's if we shoot a bull Friday evening, that is going to take up all day Friday, obviously. But then like we're not gonna get that bull off the mountain until like lunch on Saturday. Then we have to break down camp.

That's like a couple hours. And then leave, we're gonna basically leave Saturday night and then we're put in a position where we're gonna have to drive straight through to get to work by Monday morning because it's such a long commute with the trailer going over the mountains and everyone's I don't know if I want to do that.

I don't know if I want to drive straight through to get to work and then be like, go straight to work. We're not, everyone kind of talked to pros and cons and that came out, like a lot of people were feeling like they had a great hunt. We had fun, we had success, it wasn't the point of the hunt's not to punch [00:49:00] tags, it's to be out there and we did that.

We spiked out, we got into elk, but we don't really have any more good spots. We're out of leads, we're out of sign, we're not having like super high call rates, like we're not getting into lots of opportunities each day. So we just did a trade off analysis and decided, because most of us are engineers.

Just decided it's not, the juice isn't worth the squeeze. Like we could hunt one more day and we can try, sorry about that. Somebody tried to call me. We could try to hunt one more day, but all that's really going to do is push us into a situation where we're going to have to drive all night long to get home and nobody wanted to do that.

So instead we decided to have a mountain party. Jared is a phenomenal musician. He has a band, he has does covers. He said, and he brought his guitar. And so we decided we're going to have a music festival on the side of the mountain. Josh made the biggest bonfire I've ever seen in my life. He put, [00:50:00] he started it out with probably a 50 foot stump log, like a chunk of wood that was cut.

That was probably two and a half feet wide, like a two and a half by two and a half foot. And then he got six foot like dead wood and made like a six foot teepee. And that's what we started the bonfire with. And Jared brought out his guitar and we're singing songs and just having a good time on the side of the mountain.

Had a couple of drinks burnt out all of our firewood, went to bed at about three in the morning and then woke up and started packing up camp and hitting the road. And it turns out it was probably a pretty good idea because as early as we left, I personally didn't get home until 10 PM Sunday night.

So we would have left any later. Like I would have gotten home at 8 AM Monday morning. And if we would have hunted that next day, I would have got home at 8am Monday morning and had to go straight to work. And that's not shooting a bull and having to pack it out on Saturday. So it turns out it was a really good decision to, to head out a little bit early but that was the [00:51:00] trip.

I don't know. I think we're going to try to find a different unit for Colorado. We just didn't see the sign and the elk that we were hoping for. We saw lots of sign and some pockets, but we just weren't getting the encounters and the calling that we were hoping for. And so we're going to keep our eyes open for a different over the counter opportunity in the future.

Next year, I believe, we'll be going back to Montana because we should have points there and we've got a couple spots that we've had success there in the past and so we'll do that. And then after that it'll be Wyoming, which is our favorite spot. But yeah, just not sure if that's the unit for us.

As far as gear goes, super happy with my food system. The pre cooked bacon that you can get from like Hormel worked phenomenally well. I packaged them individually in vacuum sealed bags. So I had, I think, 12 slices a day. Pre packaged, that's 400 500 calories of that. The cheese sticks worked phenomenally well.

I didn't have them refrigerated the entire time. Neither [00:52:00] the bacon nor the cheese sticks, and they both stayed fresh and tasted great. Great snacks trail mix was great. The rain fly was great. I do want to get, obviously, some sick rain gear, some lightweight throw over the top rain gear, but the rain fly did work really good.

All of my backpacking stuff, my tent, my air pad, my pillow, my bag, all of it worked phenomenally well. I stayed plenty warm with the setup I had. And I was, I think I went to a t shirt or just my hunting pants and my like heavyweight tee. And I stayed warm. I had with me like. Puffy stuff that I could have put on over the top to stay warmer yet.

And I didn't even need it. So all that gear worked out really good. The only thing that I had for gear that I need to update is some of my pants are starting to get really worn out after six, seven years now of using them. They got holes. So I'm going to need to. Update a couple pieces of pants and my [00:53:00] gators are definitely on their last legs, but they still worked They still kept my pants dry with all the wet grass, but I think i'm gonna need to upgrade my gators before next season But that's it.

That's the annual archery elk hunt. Hopefully, you know in the future we Get into more calls, get some bulls on the ground. Typically every year we do actually at least get one in the group. And so this was a bummer year in that respect, but it's always fun to check out new spots. It's always fun to try new things.

So like the spike camp worked out really well. I think we're going to probably be doing more of that in the future. And so some of that stuff went pretty well. And with that, I hope you all are getting into your own versions of some elk success and Western hunting this fall. I've got a long season ahead of us and I'm excited to keep.

rolling with new episodes and start talking to some guests about their recent hunts as well as their overall western hunting story. So stay tuned for future [00:54:00] episodes. I appreciate your time today just listening to the breakdown of how our hunt went. And if you've got, if you've got a fun story, feel free to send us an email.

My email is always in the show notes, brian at westernrookie. com. If you've got a fun elk hunting story or a mule deer hunting story, anything out west, shoot me an email, give me the highlights. Maybe we'll even have you on the podcast as a guest for the Western Rookie Show. So feel free to email me any questions, any stories, and we will see See what the schedules look like and get some cool stuff going.

Otherwise I might just give you a shout out. If you've got like a great picture and we might share it on our social media. So thank you for listening folks and have a great fall.[00:55:00]