Elk Hunting Excitement Keeps Bowhunters Coming Back

By Gary Lewis

Gary Lewis Books and DVDs

We pedaled up the mountain, bows in racks on our handlebars, the afternoon sun in our eyes.

Dave showed me where the elk had crossed the road that morning. Stashing our two-wheeled steeds under some trees, we set off up the hill. We walked up a range cattle trail, billowing dust clouds at every step, up through the jack pines that grew at the top, where we paused for water and shelter from the 95 degree heat.

We guessed the elk had slipped down into the canyon below us and were bedded for the day. Watching for sign, we moved on, looking into canyons, pausing from time to time to call, whispering to each other about the sign we were finding on the hilltop.

Suddenly we stopped. Was that an elk answering back? We heard another chirp and mewing. We dropped to our knees behind some blowdowns. I saw them first, two cows and a bull, walking through the trees about 70 yards away.

Dave stopped them with a squeal and I joined in with my cow call. A cow elk, head laid back, came toward us to investigate. We crouched lower in the tangle of dead trees. She stopped within 20 yards, looking for us. Neither of us could shoot, so we kept up conversation until she, unable to spot others of her kind, trotted off to rejoin the other two.

They filed away through the trees and we split up and followed, hoping to spot them in the canyons and on the hillsides.

Coming upon a thick grove of small trees and fallen timber, Dave found a bedding area. Motioning for me to join him, he knelt along the edge of the trees and began to call. I slipped in alongside and watched the tree lines.

At once we were answered but not from the canyon or the bedding area. An elk raced toward us across a dry, rocky hillside, weaving between the few trees scattered there, head and ears laid back.

Dave laughed, the two of us were attempting to hide behind a two-foot pine tree, watching the lone elk come on. Not much cover, but the elk didn’t seem to notice us as he was looking beyond us into the timber.

I was at full draw behind Dave and as the animal trotted by, I shot, hearing the arrow strike a rotten log. We snickered and Dave called again to stop the animal as I put another arrow on the string. The elk stopped and looked back to see what all the commotion was about.

He was 40 yards away, broadside with one skinny pine tree between us. It would have been a clear shot if I had been kneeling just about twelve inches to my left. As it was, at full draw again, I had to lean left to make a good shot. Leaning sideways, I let the arrow fly, off-balance. Smack! My arrow hit the tree. The elk hit the trail.

An old logging road took us into a canyon and out again. We still-hunted up a ridge and slipped over the top where we spotted the elk again. Probably the same three animals we had seen earlier in the afternoon.

It was getting close to dark and they were headed to water after a hot day. They answered our calls but Dave only managed to close the distance to 60 yards. Too far to shoot.

The moon lit our way through a canyon of blown down trees, strewn like so many pick-up sticks and soon we were readying our bikes for the ride out.

A herd of elk was in the trees, coming down for water. We could hear the snap and crack of timber as they moved down toward the meadow. From the timbered hillside, a cow barked at us and warned her herd, continuing to bark as she stopped just inside the dark trees.

We pedaled out in the dark, through sparse, towering trees, lifted high against a waxing moon. 

We would be back in the morning.

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