A Lot of Work and a Little Luck

Elk hunting.  It’s my passion and if I had to pick one hunt it would be a bowhunt for elk, in the mountains, during the rut.  Again this year I was blessed enough to do just that.  I won’t bore you with all the details but let’s just say I had my chance at my dream bull.  Bad luck or a poor decision, you can chalk it up however you see fit when you see the footage next fall, but as quickly as he came to my bugle, he left equally as fast.  As I searched the mountains for bugling bulls I had the opportunity to see some of the deepest, darkest, and most beautiful timbered slopes a man could ask for.  To say my archery season was a failure would simply deny the fact that something positive always comes from time in the mountains.

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I explored new areas and hoped I could once again lure a mature bull into bow range.  I did one other time but busted the bull as I moved to get in position for a shot.  As I continued my search it seemed the odds were stacked against us.  September and early October saw lots of heavy rain and snow, variables that make filming a hunt quite difficult.  We pushed on despite the difficulties and seemed to always be on the heels of the big bulls that called these woods home.

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Eventually time ran out and my #1 goal for the season was unmet.  I chalked it up as a loss and turned my focus to deer.  Again the weather put a dampener on our ambition and kept us holed up in a tent during our first five days in the mountains.

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The mountains won that battle and Travis and I turned our attention to lower elevations.  We decided to continue the tradition of heading east to hunt mule deer in the flatlands during November.  We both bagged nice bucks and you can read our stories by clicking either of the following links (All In Character) / (The Bumpy Road – Part 1).

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After that I again began to think about those wily wapiti.  I had never truly hunted for elk with a rifle and would definitely consider myself extremely unknowledgeable about elk movements and habits during this time of year.  I had a few spots in mind that I knew elk lived in and afforded us the opportunity to use the binos and spotting scope to our advantage.  As we turned off the highway I was excited to begin the hike up the mountain.  As we continued down the road we soon had already passed three trucks that had hunters pouring out of them in the inky black.  As we pulled up to our spot my stomach began to turn.  Six other trucks were already parked there and two of them were towing horse trailers.  As we sat there wondering what to do another rig pulled up next to us.  The sun was beginning to lighten the sky and I knew it was too late to go somewhere else.  I figured we would hike as far back as we could and hope someone spooked some elk to us.  We threw our headlamps on and clamored up the mountain.  As we crested onto the final logging road we saw another hunter ahead of us.  He was a older gentlemen in his mid 60s and I was surprised he was back here.  He must have been hiking for about an hour and a half in the dark.  I was impressed to say the least.  We quickly passed him as he split up the hill.  A light snow covered the hillside and with temperatures in the single digits it was a crunchy mess.  We quickly made it to a good lookout and built a fire.  No sooner had we finally got the fire roaring a group of 3 bulls appeared from the timber 700 yards below us.  A rocky deep valley lay below us and I knew we wouldn’t be able to close the distance without completely losing sight of the bulls.  We scrambled to get the cameras on the elk and I got positioned on my pack.  My adrenaline was raging and I struggled to get the elk in my 20 power scope.  By the time I located the biggest bull he was already moving to the right and I was way to shaky to think about taking a shot.  They disappeared into the timber and we grabbed our packs and began to slowly slip down the ridge.  We proceeded to move about 300 yards down the mountain to an area where we could see across the creek bottom.  No elk were in sight, but I could hear the faint noise of rocks crashing.  I knew they were somewhere in the bottom.  A few minutes later Travis spotted them directly to our right on a grassy, timbered ridge.  I quickly laid down and began to look the bulls over.  They were feeding slowly and I knew I had a moment to pick a bull and get settled in.  After a few minutes I had found the biggest of the group and I lined up my reticle right behind his shoulder.  As he stepped forward a slightly quartering away shot presented itself and I sent a 168 grain Berger right through his boiler room.  He moved up the hill about 15 yards before toppling over and quickly expiring.  I jumped up and yelled like a wild man.  I honestly had planned on going for a nice hike, and had no plans of shooting a bull that would eclipse the 300 inch mark.  Travis and I celebrated before finally grabbing our gear and crossing the small valley to go inspect my first rifle killed elk.

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The bull was a great 6×6.  He was on the tall and narrow side and very symmetrical.  I couldn’t have asked for more and spent the next hour admiring the beautiful bull.  I felt so blessed to have the opportunity to take such an amazing animal and with my brother at my side.  Travis has been there for all of my elk kills with the camera rolling and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Travis and I both were blessed with great bulls this year and we quickly snapped photos of the fallen warrior.

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The temperature was perfect for the task ahead of us.  As we worked the sun kept us warm, while the shade allowed the meat to cool as we worked for the next two hours to get everything in order for the pack out.  Soon all the quarters were in game bags and it was time to load some meat and begin the pack out.  We were three miles from the truck and luckily enough it was mostly downhill.  As I headed up the mountain the weight of the elk bore down on my shoulders, reminding me of the immense  responsibility we take into our hands when we hunt these great creatures.  It was sad to take a life, but it felt good that I’d be filling my freezer with some of the healthiest, organic meat a man can put in his body.  This day was a blessing from God and even though my tag was punched I couldn’t help but think about the next time I’d get to chase the ever elusive elk.

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-Zack

5 Responses

  1. russ

    Awesome writeup! There’s nothing like closing in on a mature bull in the mountains. I dont know when it will be, but i can’t wait for my next opportunity to get out there. Also, i love the shot of the rack and the valley below. Keep up rthe good work guys!

    December 1, 2013 at 12:31 pm

  2. Montana Wild

    Thanks Russ!

    December 1, 2013 at 2:03 pm

  3. James H. Marzinsky

    Very nicely written story! Always enjoy your stories and vids! My brother is the one whom turned me on to you guys..and I enjoying everything you guys do!Fantastic ,big 6×6 !! Congrats!! Enjoy your Elk meat!!You deserve it!

    December 1, 2013 at 6:56 pm

  4. Mike Garrett

    Great job Zack! You guys never cease to amaze me. I have got to move to Montana. Keep Montana Wild!

    December 1, 2013 at 7:20 pm

  5. Great bull, love the framing of the top photo.

    December 5, 2013 at 8:11 am

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