This is the first year that I tried hunting Elk with a bow. I was surprised at just how different it was to deer hunting. Elk are always on the move, eventually they may circle back to an area they use, but you need to be much more active to find them. So far, I haven’t filled my tag. Lucky for me, Washington State has a late archery season, and I am planning on trying again during this time.
During scouting I had found a lot of bedding areas, rubbing trees, and dried droppings. These areas were the first place that I decided to check out. One such area was an open area with a river on its back-end. There was grass, about waist-high, and plenty of intersecting game trails throughout. The field raised in elevation as it led to the tree line. I found clear sign of beds, and fairly fresh dropping. Unfortunately, I was unable to see, or lure an elk to this spot. I spent the better part of the first day in this area, and after I lost my light, I headed back to camp.
It had been a warm summer and the heat was lingering as we drifted into fall. Throughout deer hunting, I had been using boots that were just a little too hot for me. After deer hunting, I decided to go look for an inexpensive pair of boots that I could use during elk season. I ended up going with the LaCrosse Quick Shot 8 Real Tree boots. The Sportco that I shop at had them on sale for $69, so I decided to give them a try. I have put plenty of miles on these and I have no complaints. If you are on a budget, and are looking for a lightweight, quality boot, give these guys a look.
Day two, I decided to walk some well established game trails. Basically, I loaded up my day pack for the day (food, water, etc.) and started walking. Prior to this, I had taken the time to study my map, and figure out some backstop landmarks. If you aren’t familiar with this, all you do is find something on the map that you can’t miss, such as a river. So heading on a general azimuth (direction of travel calculated by degrees on a compass), if I should run into the river, I know that I have gone as far as I had planned (reached my backstop). To make sure that I was on course I would take a compass reading from time to time. When you first start out using this technique I suggest that you take compass readings often.
After eating lunch I decided to do some bugling (elk bull call). I didn’t get a call back, but I definitely heard something near the top of the hill that I was on. I loaded up and began a slow, methodical stalk. It sounded as if a large animal was moving around. I followed these sounds for about 10-15 minutes. As I was about to crest the hill, I decided to notch an arrow. I flipped my strong hand over to set my release, nothing happened. I looked down at my hand, my release was gone. My mind raced, did I drop it, why on earth wouldn’t I have bought a spare, could I shoot this bow without?
I began retracing my steps, but no release. After finally convincing myself that it wouldn’t have just fallen off, I began the hike back to where I had last taken my gear off, lunch. After looking around my lunch site I eventually found the release. This got me thinking, maybe a camouflage release isn’t the best idea, and it might be a good idea to get a spare. Disaster adverted, unfortunately this wasn’t the only brush with disaster I would encounter on the trip. With another day in the books I headed into camp.
Camp, as we called it, was just an area on State Forrest land that was large enough to park two trucks. My buddy Dan and I would head there once we were done for the day. I put a canopy on my truck this year, and I was using the truck-bed as my mobile camp. It didn’t really matter where I parked the truck, I had everything I needed in the back. I also had the opportunity to further test out my Coleman cooler.
Using some of the ice retention tricks I previously wrote about (here), I was able to keep all my perishables good during deer, and elk hunting. One thing I did do differently, was to place items inside a 1 gal bags prior to placing them in the cooler. As the ice melted these items weren’t ruined by the water. The melted ice water was extremely cold, and I didn’t want to drain it from the cooler, the bags solved this problem. I am still super happy with this cooler.
I woke up early and started to get breakfast and coffee going. We each cooked our own food, but because I had a JetBoil I would get hot water ready for oatmeal, and coffee. I am a huge fan of JetBoil. I have had the flash cooking system for years, and have never had a problem. The only down side to the flash system is its size. If you are preparing water for more than just yourself, then you end up having to boil it out in batches. To overcome this I purchased the 1.8L spare cup, allowing me to boil a single batch of water.
I do most of my cooking off of the tailgate of my truck. I had parked at an angle the night before, so I decided to attach the fuel can stabilizer. I ignited the burner, filled the cup with water, and began doing some other tasks. I went to retrieved something out of my truck and after slamming the door, I heard something fall at the back of my truck. I envisioned the 1.8L cup of hot water spilled all over the back of my truck.
What I didn’t envision was the back of my truck on fire. There was fire on, and all around the JetBoil. The fuel can was emitting a loud hissing sound, as fire danced all around it. I stood there dumbfounded, my brain was having difficulty processing the information that my eyes were seeing. Finally I reacted, I raced to the cooking system and twisted the fuel control value to off. It kept burning. It was at this point I realized that I basically had what amounted to a grenade in my hand. Without further hesitation I hurled the can away from the back of my truck, and dove in the opposite direction.
I landed near Dan, who promptly asked me, “what the F*&k are you doing”?! I brushed myself off and explained to him what had happened. I guess that the throw had been hard enough to extinguish the flames. However, we could still hear the hissing sound, and decided to wait until that stopped before we went over. I retrieved the cooking system and removed the fuel can. I immediately attached it to a different fuel can and activated the igniter switch. It fired right up like nothing had happened. Lesson learned, make sure that the surface you leaving your cooking system on is stable, and as flat as possible.
This is when the weather changed. The temperatures dropped, and it began to start raining. I was super happy that I packed the Milwaukee M12 heated jacket system. If you remember, I had first tried this coat out while grouse hunting. It still continues to kick ass. I can’t over emphasis the importance of getting an inverter if you are planning on taking this coat off the grid for more than one day. It works great, but you will definitely want to recharge it at some point, and unless you have a generator with you an inverter is a must. As it poured on us, the jacket held its ground just fine. I look forward to testing it further.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t help me find any elk. Dan had an opportunity at a cow – female elk – earlier in the day, but narrowly missed his shot. We kept hunting throughout the day, and as night began to settle in, we gathered up our gear and prepared to head for home. It was another hunt in the books. Although I didn’t harvest an animal, I learned a lot about my gear, and had a great time. Now it is time for me to refocus my attention on Loki (Wirehair Pointing Griffon), and get him chasing some birds. It is still really early to expect too much out of him, but exposure/experience is always a good thing for your dog.
If you want to share some pictures from your successful hunt, please feel free to submit them in our comms check.
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