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Scoot

'08 Public Land DIY elk hunt- story with pictures

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Hi Everyone,

I'm back with another elk hunting adventure from this Sep. Some of you may remember last year's story, which featured my brother Rod, my buddy Steve (aka, Slevy), and me. This year the same three of us went back to WY, but we were happy to add our buddy Jon to the mix in our immediate group this year (he actually went out last year a couple weeks before us). Here's the link to last year's hunt, in case you forgot or didn't see it in the first place:

http://www.fishingminnesota.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1138421/1

Some of the pics don't seem to be working in last year's story, but that link will give you the basic idea.

Unlike last year's story, I plan to write this one up in sections, one day at a time. I'll give you the daily report and let you know what we did and saw each day. It should be fun for me to write up and hopefully it'll be fun for you to follow along. As you'll see, this year's hunt was filled with highs and lows, but overall, was an absolutely wonderful trip. Most importantly, the four of us got along really well, all enjoy each other's company, and had a blast hunting together. I couldn't imagine going on a hunt like this with three better guys that my brother and two great buddies. All of these guys are dang good hunters, do their share of work around camp and with a downed animal, and are people who I genuinely enjoy being with.

I’ll do my best to give you the details of each day in a way that gives you an idea of what it was like for us while we were there. One unfortunate side note- we had some camera problems this year. Rod and Slevy both ended up with dead batteries in their cameras, and that cost us a lot of great pictures that would have really helped paint the picture of our elk hunt. I’ll do my best to convey their experiences with words, but I’ll try my best to not get too wordy or “over the top” with my writing. I hope you enjoy the story. So… kick back, read along, and feel free to chime in if you’d like.

The start of the trip: Jon drove from the Twin Cities to my place in Fargo on Thurs, Sep. 11th. He got to Fargo around 2:00 or so. Rod showed up at my place soon after (he only lives a few minutes from my place). We then loaded up all our gear in Rod and Jon’s trucks and headed for Bismarck, to pick up Slevy. Before picking up Slevy, we had nine coolers (many of them with just ice, in hopes of filling them with elk meat), two bikes (some areas are “no motorized vehicle” areas and bikes can really make travel much more efficient), three five gallon water coolers, three bows, a block target, three large bags of camo, a solar camp shower, a too many more things to include here. After picking up Slevy, we officially had “everything but the kitchen sink”. We were loaded for bear (well… actually elk) and rip roarin’ to go. We drove all night and about 16 hours (give or take about few hours- we were getting a little delirious at that point), pulled into the area we’d call home for the next week-and-a-half. Last year we used Rod’s Cabela’s Guide Series tent, which was great for the three of us. This year, we were totally spoiled regarding accomidations: Slevy is now the President of the Mule Deer Foundation in Minot, ND and we were allowed to take their Cabela’s Alaknak II. Or, if you prefer, the Taj Mahal of tents! We jokingly called it the “perfect four man tent”. It was spacious, solid, and really nice. Here’s a pic of it.

Camp-2.jpg

Day 1 of the Hunt:

After getting camp set up a little before noon, we quick grabbed some grub and teamed up. Jon and I headed one way and Rod and Slevy headed another. Jon and I headed to “Lookout West”, a rocky outcropping that gives a great view of some cuts and lower ground to the West. This spot is also known as “the spot Scoot lost his bugle last year”, for obvious reasons. Here’s part of what you can see from “Lookout West”.

Scenery.jpg

Our expectations weren’t too high given that it was early afternoon and not exactly prime time to be spotting elk by glassing. However, before long, Jon spotted two elk- both bulls. One was a 5 x 5 with a dark chocolate rack, but he didn’t see the other one very well. However, I got a good look at it- it was an ivory tipped 6 x 6 that probably would have scored in the 330 to 340 range. He was nice… We slinked our way down to try get in position for a set up on these bulls. It took nearly an hour to get where the bulls had been. We tried to cow call to them, but with no luck. They’d vamoosed outta there and were long gone or not at all interested. Jon and I did some snooping after that, generally heading back towards camp. We tried to find bulls using locator bugles, but to no avail. Finally, just as we got near camp I fired off one last locator bugle. It was immediately answered with a big ‘ol scream of a bugle back! However, the return call came right from our camp… Slevy, that dirty bugger was messing with us! I turned to Jon and said, “That came from camp- I’ll bet a beer it was Slevy”. Jon agreed and we plodded along back to camp. However, something was bugging both Jon and me- the bugle that we’d heard was returned really quickly- was Slevy just sitting there waiting to hear us? Maybe… Also, the bugle back sounded really good… almost too good. However, neither of us vocalized these thoughts and kept acting as if we “knew” it was Slevy. Just when we rounded the last corner towards camp IT happened. We looked ahead, expecting to see Rod and Slevy at camp , but instead were met with a stare-down with a 350 class bull! Grrrrrrrr… this was the exact scenario I’d been waiting all year for- a fired up bull that responded to a locator bugle with aggression and he was clearly looking for a fight. I wanted to go in screamin’ a fired up, ticked off bugle and get him coming at us doing the same. I’d literally dreamt of this scenario many times since we had it happen last year. Instead, we watched that stud 6 x 6 turn and sprint off. I called him to a stop, got him to turn around and look back at us through some pines, but the jig was up and he boogied outta there in a hurry. Jon and I were shocked, surprised, and totally ashamed of our stupidity. We’d definitely stew about that complete debacle for the next several days.

When we got back to camp we got the report from Rod and Slevy. They’d had a good day too. The moved in on a nice 5 point and got in a good position for a set up, with Rod calling and Slevy the shooter. Rod coaxed the 5 x 5 into 53 yards. Slevy ranged it—“53” on the range finder. He held his 50 yard pin a little high and let ‘er rip! His arrow sailed perfectly- it was headed just behind the shoulder, a little high, but dropping right into the “bread basket”. But… it didn’t drop enough- it literally skipped harmlessly off the elk’s back, taking only a small tuft of hair with it. The elk turned, and quickly became a brown blur down the draw. That encounter essentially ended their evening. After the elk ran off, Slevy ranged the shot again- “53” was what his range finder told him again. Rod then ranged it, but his range finder had an angle compensation feature that Slevy’s didn’t- true distance = 53 yards, but the distance Slevy should have shot it for, due to the sharp angle was only 40 yards. Bummer. Unlike Jon and me, they had done everything right, but just didn’t manage to connect. It was a very cool interaction and one that wouldn’t soon forget.

Day 1 was in the books and we were hungry and tired. We quickly ate some grub and hit the rack.

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Awesome story scoot, looking forward to reading the next reports, By the looks of your avatar it looks like you were successful, unless that's from last year. Great Post

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By the looks of your avatar it looks like you were successful, unless that's from last year.

Yep, that's last year's pic. One of my favorite pics of all time though...

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Great report Scoot. I remember reading about your hunt last year and it helped stir the pot a bit in getting my butt out west. We got far as the black hills but hopefully it'll lead even further in the near future. Can't imagine anything better than chasing screaming bulls around. All too familiar with the guy in camp calling story as well... except mine involves a strutting turkey... I bet a little more than grrrrrr was said grin

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How durable/warm is that Alaknak II? I want to get a tent that will accomodate a wood stove. Which would be more durable in the wind and harsh elements, that or canvas?

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Scoot,

Great story - great pics!!!

If you don't mind saying, what part of WY are you hunting?

I will be out in the Worland/Ten Sleep area at the end of October. We are hunting Mule and Whitetails. We are doing the self-guided thing and have never been out there before. Reading your story and seeing the pics has me really pumped. Any advice or wisdom would be much appreciated.

Thanks,

FWT

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mrklean: Cost of the tag- around $650.

hunter4life: Regarding the Alaknak vs. any other wall tent- I really can't guve you much useful info on that one. This was the first wall tent I've ever stayed in. Maybe Rod, Slevy, or Jon can chime in and help with that one. Fellas???

fishwithteeth: Area we hunted in- I'm sworn to secrecy on that one. Very generally, we were in the Medicine Bow area, but that's really general. Good luck on your deer hunt- awesome country you're headed to. I know a guy who was just in the area you're headed to and he took a nice 5 x 4. He's a buddy of Jon's, and Jon might have more area specific info that'll be helpful.

Not sure if I'll have time to get a "Day 2" done today. I'll try, but I'll make no promises...

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First of all this is Jon. I haven't stayed in any other wall tents so I am also no help, but this tent did hold up pretty darn well in the wind we had. I would think that canvas would hold up better long term, and hold more heat in because of the material, but the Alaknak II is an awesome "4 man" tent.

I had a friend hunting mulies/whitetails in the tensleep area but I don't have any information other than they have taken a couple nice bucks over the last couple years. Sorry I just don't know the area.

As for more than a grrrr on that first night, lets just say I still see that night in my dreams every single night.

Enjoy the story boys and girls Scoot always puts together a good read....

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Sorry for the delay in the reporting of Day 2- I've been at a conference for work and it was tough to shake free.

Day 2

The alarm went off at 5:00 AM and we woke up to a cold, crisp morning. The stars were out and it was really beautiful at 8300’. Compared to Fargo at this time of year the moon looked like we could almost reach out and touch it. We got dressed pretty quickly, ate a breakfast of Nutragrain bars, Oatmeal-To-Go bars, and Poptarts, all washed down with a glass of milk. Then, we were off. We’d decided to start in roughly the same locale this morning. Rod and I were a team and Jon and Slevy joined forces, but the four of us all headed a couple miles West of camp together to glass from an area that offered a great vantage. Rod and Slevy had seen some elk in that area the night before, but they were too far to do anything about in the failing light of the evening. The four of us glassed for about 20 or 30 minutes, but saw nothing. Rod and Slevy were pretty surprised given the amount of activity they’d seen there the night before.

We decided to split up, with Jon and Slevy heading South and Rod and I would head North. Just after Jon and Slevy had left but before we left the area, I ripped off a locator bugle. We were greeted with a response from the draw below- it wasn’t far from us, but it was too thick and steep to see into the area where the bugle came from. We scurried down the draw and quickly got set up for a calling sequence. I bugled out to the bull and he responded quickly. Soon, it became apparent he wasn’t coming in, so we moved closer and tried again. This time, we had three different bulls firing back- the first one we were calling, a bull down the draw several hundred yards, and one up high, further down the ridge we’d just come from. We set up quickly and tried again. The bull responded, but he’d once again moved further down the draw from us. Rod and I quickly moved down the draw too, while listening to the bull up on the ridge. I followed Rod, as he was the shooter. Just as we tipped over a rise and were about to do a set, I saw Rod’s body posture go from intense and cautious to slumped and annoyed- he’d just crested the hill only to see the bull buckle, turn, and burn. He boogied outta there in a hurry! Weird… Rod said the bull wasn’t looking in his direction at all and the wind was perfect.

While we discussed what to do next I noticed something out of the corner of my eye- it was Jon and Slevy… they were standing in the same spot the bull had just ran from. What Rod and I didn’t know was that the “other bull” up on the ridge was Slevy calling. We peaked over the hill just in time to see the bull bolt away from our hunting companions! He hadn’t run from seeing or smelling Rod at all. We went over and talked to the boys to get the report. When we got there Slevy was all smiles and Jon looked a little shell shocked. They’d bugled this bull a total of three times, moving closer each time. After the last bugle, Slevy was just about to fire up his video camera, because the bull was pretty close. However, just as he tried to reach in his pack, he saw antler tips and had to stop. Jon, however, was totally ready. He saw the bull and prepared to draw. The bull came to 25 yards and stood broadside for quite a while. He looked intently for the other bull who was making all the racket, but couldn’t find him. Jon, after seeing the bull well, a respectable 5 x 5, decided to not shoot. It was the first full morning of the hunt, he’d already seen two big 6 x 6’s, and he knew what kind of bulls were in the area. He let the bull walk (run). Slevy, on the other hand, wanted to shoot this bull. Jon and Slevy had talked about it and Jon wasn’t going to shoot a 5 point, according to his “master plan”. Slevy had just had a perfect 35 yard broadside shot on the bull, but didn’t dare take it. Even though Jon said he wouldn’t shoot a 5 point, Slevy figured this was a pretty respectable 5 point bull and Jon might change his mind pretty quickly when it was 25 yards out and broadside- so Slevy didn’t shoot. I sure thought that was a kind and honorable gesture on Slevy’s part, but I wondered if both he and Jon would regret their decisions later… It was a great start to the day!

Here's a pic that Jon took of Slevy rippin' off a locator bugle- fitting given that he'd called in a nice 5 point for him with that very bugle not long before.

Slevybugle.jpg

The rest of this day was pretty tough sleddin’- Rod and I saw two raghorns across a draw mid-morning. They’d been quiet, but I cow called to them to see what they’d do. After the second mew the two bulls turned tail and trotted 180 degrees from us- they wanted no part of the cow that was calling out to them. That was it for us, except to get a couple shots of this guy:

Grouse1.jpg

I literally took this picture from five feet away:

Grouse2.jpg

Slevy and Jon struggled too. They put on some pretty good miles, but didn’t see much. Late in the afternoon the weather turned goofy on us. A dense cold wind moved in from the North. A low lying cloud came in on us. Here’s a pic of what we saw- I tried to get a pic before the cloud set in initially, but it moved in too fast. Here’s the first pic of the cloud.

Storm1.jpg

Here’s what it looked like five minutes later.

Storm2.jpg

Five minutes after that you literally couldn’t see anything across the draw. In fact, our visibility was cut to about 50 yards. The temperature dropped 20 degrees in about 30 minutes, the air was really wet, and the wind was blowing around 25 or 30 mph. Not knowing quite what the weather was going to do to us, we hunted our way towards camp. We ended the night a little bit early, since the bulls had completely shut up and we were concerned the weather might deteriorate into something pretty nasty. It was really cold in the tent that night. I froze! Temps hit the mid-20’s and I’d brought a sleeping bag that’d let me deal with moderate to warm evenings more than cold evenings. I didn’t sleep a lot, but everyone else seemed pretty cozy in their nice and warm sleeping bags. The image of that bull near camp the first night really stuck in my craw still- I could see it plain as day and was still annoyed at my idiocy. I hoped Jon and I wouldn't have to eat tag soup because of that screw up.

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Great read & pictures,Scoot & crew! Wow, I guess you can't take any bugle too lightly. Keep up the reporting, I love the West this time of year! Good luck to all four of you, it sounds like a complete blast.

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Great story so far. Thanks for sharing. It is like the book you don't want to put down, but right now I am out of pages so I will wait for the next chapter grin

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It'd be nice to put a face to the names in your story(any pics of your grizzled crew?)...I'm better with picture-books grin I would really like to see the pic of your faces when you got duped by mr big on your way back to camp! That hadda hurt when your heart hit your sock. Elk hunt journals are the coolest.

BTW Scoot...any rellys from the Hillsboro area? I may just have some.

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mrklean, you'll have to keep readin' to find out! I will tell you it was more than a week, but less than two weeks.

fishinmajishin, we do have some distant relatives in the Hillsboro area. However, they're apparently very much shirt-tail relatives- I don't know any of them and I grew up only 40 miles from there. Regarding our faces, here's a few pics of us:

Here's a pic of Jon and Slevy

pny.jpg

Here's a shot of my brother

adams.jpg

And here's a shot of me

fred%20bear.jpg

grinwhistlewink

Seriously, the pictures will come, you'll just have to be a little patient.

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Day 3

It was very cold and a little breezy when we woke up on Sun. The plan was for Rod and Jon to head for the area Jon had passed up the 5 point yesterday and Slevy and I were going to head “way down” NW of camp and work our way along the private/public boundary to the East. About 400 yards out of camp we heard a bull start bugling. He was right in Rod and Jon’s path, so they tried to move in on him. They had to wait for good light for a little bit, but the bull didn’t seem to be going anywhere and he pretty clearly wanted attention. He was whaling out this annoying whiney bugle that just seemed to beg, “Somebody, please come talk to me!” When they got enough light, Rod moved in. Rod got to inside of 100 yards of the bull, the wind was perfect, the bull hadn’t (couldn’t) seen Rod and Jon dropped a few soft cow calls to the bull. As Slevy and I walked towards our area, I thought, “I hope Jon tries to cow call that bull- he clearly is looking for company.” Well… apparently we were both dead wrong. The bulls response to the cow calls was to turn tail and run straight away from them. The only response heard to the cow calls was the sound of hooves beating the rocks in the other direction. Bummer. The rest of the day was really tough for Rod and Jon. The bulls were really quiet in their area and they didn’t see too much either.

Slevy and I burned some serious boot leather and built some blisters this day. We started a long ways from camp and skirted along the private/public land border. Our plan was to catch bulls that had wandered onto the public land from the private land. We’d get below them, taking advantage of the downhill morning wind. This would be much easier than trying to work our way towards bulls on private land and getting stuck at the property line. As we worked our way along the sharp hill, working East, we stopped at one point to admire the dark timber and really steep hill- the one we’d have to climb later to get back to camp. You can’t really appreciate the "steepness" of it from this picture, but here’s what it looked like- it would be pretty relevant to our hunt later.

Steep.jpg

Slevy and I continued East and made a blind set at a smallish park- nothing. As we left the park, I stumbled into what looked to be a beautiful wallow. It turned out to be a really great wallow- it had three smaller wallowing areas and it’d really been getting pounded. The smell of elk pee was strong in that wallow.

We sat on the wallow for an hour or so, but typical of us, we got bored. It always amazes me can sit on stand for hours when in MN and ND hunting whitetails, but when out in that country we always feel the need to keep on moving. We had moved about 400 yards when I ripped off a locator bugle. We got an immediate response from the private land (i.e., the wrong) side of the property line. We moved in right up to the property line and fired back another bugle. Unfortunately, the wind switched and as we got down there and the bull must have gotten a nose full of our scent (which was growing by the day, I might add).

However, after I got done calling I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a decent 5 point heading uphill back to our West- he was headed to the wallow. Slevy and I busted our butts back to the wallow as fast as we could. Of course, the bull could walk faster than we could run. When we got to within 80 yards of the wallow the bull caught our movement and busted out of there. Dang! If we’d just been a little more patient we’d have had a bull right in our lap at the wallow! Again, grrrrrrrrrr………… Here’s a picture of the wallow that eventually became known as “self-pity” (i.e., to wallow in self-pity: a lame play on words that you can blame/thank Rod for).

Self-pitywallow.jpg

After that Slevy and I made the hellish trek back to camp- it seemed like it was straight uphill for the first half mile, then a little better for the next ¾ mile or so.. The bulls were dead quiet and we saw nothing after that on Day 3. Still no blood on any hands or arrows, despite several pretty close encounters…

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mrklean, this is the same area we hunted last year. Besides that, it's basically just a whole lot of time looking at topo info and satellite imagery. Limited vacation time and family schedules kept us from scouting beyond that.

sticknstring- we saw a lot of other critters. Many of them are coming in pics.

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Day 4

In the morning Slevy decides to go to the “self-pity wallow”. Since Rod and I were due to team up, Jon decided to go to the wallow where he shot his bull last year. So, Slevy headed one way and Rod, Jon, and I headed another. Jon would walk with us for about 1 ½ miles before pealing off to the North to his lucky wallow. Despite the bulls being quiet as a mouse last night we heard a few bugles in the morning, however, nothing close. At the point where Jon was to leave us we stopped to glass for a while. This was very near where Jon had passed up the 5 point a couple days ago. Jon had already commented on how he was really starting to wonder if that was such a good idea and he again repeated the old adage, “never pass up a bull on the first day that you’d shoot on the last day.” He and I don’t actually adhere to that adage, but regardless, Jon was really starting to doubt his decision to not pull the trigger on that easy chip shot. While glassing, Rod spotted a pretty nice bull a loooong ways away. It was probably over 1 ½ miles from us, and getting to it would require dropping down into a sharp draw, walking the length of this draw, crossing some low open areas that were in pretty plain view of the elk, going past the elk 600 – 800 yards, up the mountain, then over a ridge. After all that, we’d just have to hope the elk was still there. Jon headed to his wallow and Rod and I started the 1 ½ hour hike to get somewhere near the bull. On the way, we bumped these two whitetails.

Whitetails.jpg

Here’s a pic of Rod with the area the bull was in behind him.

Rod.jpg

The hill looked pretty tame from a distance, but was steep and rugged in spots. We took our time (had no choice) and finally made it up to the top. We crested over the ridge and Rod asked, “I’ll paper, rock, scissors you to see who gets to shoot?” Nope, Rod had spotted it and he would be the shooter. I was there as a “caller and hauler” if we needed either or both. However, we slowly searched the area we thought the bull was in and couldn’t see hide nor hair of him. Rod suggested I crest over the hill to the East and he’d make a pass a little lower, since that’s where he seemed to be headed. I crested over the hill to find a beautiful bench that served to connect the draw on one side of the ridge to the draw on the other side. It was really a prefect spot for a big ‘ol bull to spend his days unbothered by pests like us. I slowly crept along and got to a great spot to survey the entire bench, which was about the size of a football field or so. Nothing. Rod worked his area over and found nothing as well. Rod came over near me and we talked about what to do next. While we talked, we made some noise- I opened a pack “ZZZZIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPPP”, and Rod opened the velcro of his GPS pouch. After we made a general plan to heads towards camp, I tried a locator bugle, just in case the bull was a little ways off, but within earshot still. Seconds after I ripped the bugle we heard him- he busted out of some brush not 80 yards from us, zipped up a rocky hillside, and was gone. We ran after him to see where he went, but he was gone. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr... Not sure if it was the zipper, velcro, our talking, or if he just didn’t want to respond to the bugle, but I’m inclined to believe we blew it on this one and he’d heard us. On the way back to camp we bumped a 6 x 6 out of his bed at 30 yards. Just as I smelled him, I tried to put my hand up to stop Rod. Before I could even get my hand all the way up I saw him stand up out of his bed and run away. Grrrrrrrr… Luck just didn’t seem to be in our favor.

Slevy got shut out at the wallow. Jon also laid an egg at his wallow. However, Jon was able to make a friend. This little guy slinked in on him while he was half-asleep at the wallow during the late morning. Anyone know what kind of snake that is?

Snake.jpg

All four of us met back at camp in the early afternoon. The plan was for Rod and Slevy to go back to the wallow and for Jon and me to burn some more boot leather. Jon and I engaged two different bulls that afternoon/evening, but both times the wind would screw us as we got in close. We were about 150 yards from these two bulls, but that was all the wind would hold out for. I often hear the wind in the mountains is fickle. Well, I know people who have fickle in-laws. If those in-laws are fickle, the wind we dealt with each day was a real witch! We also got close on another bull, which we had inside of 100 yards. On this bull, Jon got to the edge of the property line between private and public land, but he couldn’t go any further. I have to admit, we were really tempted to move in that last 50 or so yards, but we made the obviously right call and backed out, leaving the hung up bull screaming at us and challenging us to come and fight him. That was tough.

On the way back to camp we saw a couple spikes down a draw, where we’d seen them a couple times already. They were located in “Spike Draw”, which was also known as “the draw where Slevy missed the 5 point on the first day”. For some reason, though, Slevy preferred the name, “Spike Draw”. Here’s a pic of the spikes.

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We got back to camp that night right at dark. We found Rod and Slevy there, and they had good news- Slevy had hit a respectable 5 point while on the wallow! Awesome! We were all pumped to hear this. They’d been on the wallow for several hours with no action. Very suddenly, they heard a stick snap- a bull had moved into the wallow without so much as a sound. He was close and Slevy had to pick up his bow and draw in an instant. The bull quickly walked into the opening Slevy had, stopped for a half-second, but was obviously still on the move. Slevy felt a little rushed, but good about the shot. He quickly settled the pin in and let this arrow go. Slevy’s got white arrow wraps and fletchings on his arrows, and both Rod and Slevy saw the arrow enter the bulls chest very well. They described the hit as “not perfect, but one that should definitely do the job just fine”. According to Rod, the arrow had entered 4-5 inches back of a heart shot, and 2-3 inches lower than a top-of-the-heart shot. However, clearly lungs and definitely not bad, by any means. After a wait, they followed the blood for a while and found a great blood trail- big 2 foot x 2 foot pools of blood, with big bubbles in it. But the blood started to get less as they went, and with failing light, they didn’t want to push things. They headed for camp and we decided to wait until morning to go back.

We were excited and the news looked promising for packing out meat in the morning. However, Slevy wasn’t feeling so happy about the deal, as anyone who’s ever had to wait overnight to track after they’ve hit an animal can relate to. Ironically, we ate my mom’s homemade BBQ’s that night- Slevy’s favorite food in the world. He ate a little, but just couldn’t get himself to eat. It would be a long, sleepless night for him for sure… But, given the solid hit, the great blood trail, and two good trackers (Jon and Slevy are good trackers, Rod and I are colorblind and pretty worthless when it comes to finding blood), the rest of us were pretty positive and encouraged about how things looked in the morning.

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