Tuesday morning we watch the sun gradually rise above the mountain peaks while hunting the Pass. The thermals switch relatively early so we decide to move to a different area. Jake goes over to listen where he can hear two different draws on the north side of the mountain. Grant and I headed over to the the South side to a special place we call Hidden Valley.
Hidden Valley is notorious for holding bulls and today is no different. We hear two bulls off in the distance. We try to make a play on them, but they only bugle for a short time. We meet Jake back at camp for dinner and are in bed by dark-thirty. It’s funny how you stop using a watch to tell time in the mountains and plan your day off the rising and falling sun.
Wednesday morning the three of us set out to hike to the backside of Hidden Valley. We wait until the thermals start blowing up the mountain and are cautious to stay as high and swift as possible. We set up 200 yards from where we heard a bull bugling yesterday. Our plan is to wait until he bugles and then challenge him. However, the bull has other plans. We wait from 9:30am until 1pm and he never makes a chirp. We decide to bugle and rake trees to see if we can fire him up, but no luck. With the temperature creeping close to 80 degrees in the middle of the day it’s just too hot. We walk three miles back to camp that afternoon and find a ton of elk sign along the way. We were in the right place, it just wasn’t the right time.
On Thursday morning (Sept 26th) Grant and I are sitting together at our listening spot above Hidden Valley. A squirrel is going crazy barking and popping his tail at us. We are slightly amused, but mostly annoyed at this daring little guy. Then when we least expect it a bull starts bugling a couple hundred yards away at 7am. We both look at each other with wide eyes. We can tell this bull is HOT. We listen as he bugles on his own repeatedly. It is our time to make a play.
With the thermals still blowing down the mountain we cut the distance through the dark timber. We stop and Grant lets out a location bugle. The bull immediately answers about 250 yards in front of us. I set up by a large spruce tree while Grant and the bull continue bugling back and forth with the intensity rising in every note. My heart is racing in my chest and I feel like it’s going to explode. Grant mimics the sounds of cows and a challenging bull painting the picture perfectly. I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth trying to calm down. My hands are trembling and I’m doing everything I can to get my sh*t together.
Suddenly, Grant runs up to me and whispers intensively to move lower NOW because the bull is going to try to catch our wind. I run 20 yards down the ridge and begin ranging trees where I think he will walk out. Well within 100 yards the bull lets lets out a deep growling bugle that shakes me to my core. Further behind me, Grant cuts him off mid-bugle. At that moment I know IT IS ON. Suddenly I catch movement through the trees. Straight ahead, not 20 yards, I see flickers of tan and brown. Something clicks inside of me as I draw my bow and everything grows still.
It seems like time slows down. It’s only me and the bull. I steadily hold my draw for what feels like eternity as he stands behind the trees searching for his challenger. Grant starts softly cow calling and I know it’s now or never. My bull steps forward into an opening 15 YARDS in front of me. He postures up and turns his massive body broadside showing off his rack as he steps down the ridge. I don’t even look at his antlers and stay focused on my sight, which is completely filled with tan fur. I find his shoulder and ease my top pin behind it as I release my arrow…. whack!