Elk Hunting Is Not For the Faint of Heart – One Hunter’s Story of Hard Work and Patience
When elk hunting in Colorado’s high country wilderness, there are two things every hunter can do to increase their chances of success. Hunters who are willing to work hard and able to stay patient even after several grueling days of hunting, will ultimately enjoy a more rewarding experience.
During the 2009 archery hunting season in Colorado, one particular hunter proved that persistence pays off. Hunting with Winterhawk Outfitters in the Flat Tops Wilderness area, Darnell had put in four hard days of September hunting, when the daylight hours are especially long. Darnell and his guide, Bob, were into elk each day, but had no shot opportunities. Not yet.
As high country hunting goes, they were dealing with constantly shifting winds. A couple of times they got close to bulls but had to back out because of changes in wind direction. For four days Darnell and his guide played cat and mouse games but never got within range. Long hikes and long horseback rides were standard each day.
Despite it all, Darnell kept his motivation and willingness to do what it took. On the morning of the fifth day they made another long ride and put in some difficult hiking. Bob and Darnell successfully got into the elk, but again they were unable to get a shot opportunity. Near the end of the morning, they attempted one more bugle and were thrilled to hear a response from the dark timber about 300 yards away.
They closed the distance and moved into position. Bob bugled again and received an immediate response. They had a bull moving in, and were excited that all the hard work might finally be paying off.
However, hard work is only half of this story. Just as they got set up, the bull went totally silent. After four days of working for a shot opportunity, this is where many hunters might lose patience and make a mistake. Bob set up about 35 yards behind Darnell, gave a couple of soft cow calls and broke a few sticks. Still, there was no response. Bob put away the calls and the timber was still.
This went on for more than 15 minutes with no sound from the bull. Yet Darnell kept his cool and didn’t move a muscle. His patience paid off. Like a ghost emerging from behind a tree, suddenly an antler was visible and then the elk stepped into the clearing.
Darnell was tempted to shoot but the bull was quartering toward him, not offering a shot. With the bull facing him, it would have been dangerous to draw without being seen.
Eventually the elk became suspicious and turned to leave, quartering away from Darnell. When the elk’s head was behind a tree, Darnell drew his bow. As soon as the elk stepped out on the other side, he let him have it.
During those long, silent minutes, it was difficult to remain perfectly still. When the elk finally appeared, it took an incredible amount of patience to wait for a good shot opportunity to unfold. Darnell’s patience was rewarded with a nice, five-point bull.
For many hunters, getting up early on those first couple days and putting in the work it takes to pursue elk in rugged country is an enjoyable chore. Yet after the third and even fourth day, many hunters begin to wear down. It becomes hard to motivate yourself to make those long hikes or rides. Even worse, hunters often begin to lose patience, losing shot opportunities because of movement or hasty decisions at the wrong time.
Preparation begins with physical training. Hunters who are in good shape will be able to hunt harder all the way through the week. Next is shooting practice. The most frustrating thing is to be in the right situation and miss the shot. Before your hunt this year, get in shape and spend time practicing your shots. When the season arrives, you will certainly be glad you did.