Part 1 - You are here
Archery elk season.
Is there any hunt that is more exciting than chasing bugles in September? Granted, my range of experience is limited but 7 days chasing Oregon's Roosevelt elk lived up to the hype.
Add in camping and hunting 7 days with a stranger you met off the internet and you have a recipe for an amazing time.
I first met Thomas of Chasing Roosevelt's Outdoors on Instagram. His account was one of the first I came across while looking for Oregon-based hunters to follow.
We connected over our spring bear hunts, as we had the same SW region tag. He was kind enough to put up with a lot of my questions as a new hunter and always happy to share his experience.
When I saw that Thomas was going to be chasing elk for 10 days, I offered to film his hunt for him and in turn hoped I would be able to learn a bit about elk hunting that would serve me for my own hunts in the future. Thomas agreed to let me tag along.
We met up at a local restaurant not too far from our hunt area and got to know each other a bit other over lunch. Before long, we were headed out into the woods for our first evening of hunting.
The plan, more or less, was to ease into things by driving a few logging roads, walking a bit, and try to locate some bulls by bugling. We put in a couple miles on foot, but no luck locating anything immediately on day 1. As we continued to drive around, we did find some decently fresh rubs and we were excited to know that at least there was a bull in the area recently.
With the day winding down quickly, we pulled up on a large clear cut and decided to glass the cut until dark. Since I had a rifle and bear tag in my pocket, I was somewhat hopeful I might get lucky during the trip with a bear popping out in one of the cuts. This night, however, it was not to be.
Thomas and I chatted a bit as the sunlight faded, then it was time for dinner and to set up camp. We decided we liked the view where we were at and set up right at the top of the clear cut. Rookie mistake? Some may say so but we ended up really enjoying the spot :-)
We woke up on day 2 to quite a bit of haze from some not-so-distant wildfires and a decent amount of excitement.
Thomas and I had agreed the night before that we were going to sleep in a bit before starting the day. As I woke up and crawled down out of my rooftop tent, Thomas informed me that we had elk right in the clear cut we were camped on!
He had attempted to stalk in on them, but they were gone by the time he had gotten his bow together and got after them. We were both super excited to immediately be in elk on day 2. Quite the lucky break for a spot that Thomas had randomly decided on since the timber company land he had planned on hunting originally had been closed for fire danger.
As we finished chatting about what had just happened, and I was finally just about all ready to go, Thomas called out, "elk!" and sure enough here comes a lone elk out of the timber behind camp, over the road and starts down the ridge into the clear cut.
Initially it looked like a spike, but once it turned to enter the cut we could see the antlers... "It's a bull!" I called out to Thomas quietly as I scrambled to film. Thomas quickly grabbed his bow and bugle tube and hurried to the edge of the landing and let off some cow calls trying to get the bull to stop. The bull, however, was on a mission and not interested. It cruised straight down into the timber at the bottom of the cut.
With the commotion finally settled down, we grabbed some breakfast and made a game plan for the next few hours, deciding to head to the bottom of the camp cut to see if we could turn up either of these two bulls we had just seen.
We parked near the top of the ridge and hiked down the road into the bottom. Along the way Thomas made some cow calls to try to entice a response, but nothing. About 3/4 of the way to the end of the road, Thomas mentioned he thought he could smell elk. 10 minutes and a few cow calls later, we heard some branches breaking that sure sounded like an elk moving through the thick timber.
We pushed off the road and into the trees, trying to give ourselves a bit of cover. Thomas let off another cow call and in the distance I heard a faint bugle. We waited and listened. Thomas cow called again, and again we heard a distant bugle. So distant, in fact, we thought it might be another hunter on a road on the other side of clear cut.
Rookie mistake, as we would eventually learn.
We spent the next 30 minutes or so moving through the thick timber, trying to get close to what we thought was a bull. We would get some responses to calls and we could hear something breaking branches. Unfortunately, our wind wasn't great and we were getting mixed signals on whether or not it was actually a bull or another hunter or maybe even both. In hindsight, thinking back and looking/listening back on the footage, we're pretty sure we had a bull in there somewhere.
Eventually, we made our way back to the truck, got some snacks, water, and moved on to check out some new roads and drainages.
It wasn't too long before we came across some fresh rubs. A few moments later we ended up bumping some cows as they were crossing the road in front of us. We stopped and shut the truck off as fast as we could. Thomas hopped out quietly and signaled that he could hear the cows not too far into the timber.
While he was walking down the road, Thomas saw a giant fresh rub, so we new a big bull must be in the area.
We spent some time walking the nearby roads, throwing out some locator bugles, and a few cow calls here and there, but no responses. We did find a number of recent as well as old rubs in the area, so it definitely appeared to be a spot where the elk were living.
After about an hour without any activity, we headed back to the truck and moved on to the next spot. The next couple hours were more of the same and as the evening wore on we decided to head back towards camp.
On our way back as we got close to camp we passed another truck with hunters and stopped and chatted with them for a couple minutes. They mentioned how there was a hunter in the camp clear cut bugling his head off for a while. We didn't think too much of it in that moment... public land hunters doing what they do, we thought.
As we drove past camp and the clear cut headed to another area, I caught a large dark shape out of the corner of my eye.
It was a 5x5 bull in the bottom of the cut, bugling!
First Bull Spotted
My adrenaline went from zero to 100 instantly! Thomas continued driving slowly and we parked the truck behind a big log pile out of sight of the cut. We jumped out, grabbed our gear, and went to get eyes on this bull and start formulating a plan for the stalk.
In the excitement and the adrenaline rush any solid elk hunting logic we may have had went directly out the window. We immediately dove off the road at the top and started cutting the distance to the bull, using the ridge running down the middle of the cut as cover. As we got closer, we could see the bull out in the open, along with a few cows.
We got to about 180 yards and Thomas started bugling to try to get the bull to come to us. It was absolutely awesome watching and hearing the bull respond.
We could see the bull pushing his cows back towards the timber, and then he would come back towards us to investigate our bugles a bit. As we would learn later though, since he didn't see another bull in the cut he never felt compelled to come all the way in to us.
Despite our best efforts, the bull eventually gathered up his cows and walked into the timber. UGH.
Even with the disappointment of a failed stalk, we were absolutely on cloud nine with the encounter. Thomas had been hunting elk for 8 seasons, and this was the very first time he had the opportunity to stalk in a on a visible bull with a decent chance to kill it. Of course, it was my first time ever seeing a bull that close, hearing all the bugles, and experiencing a legit stalk.
What a freaking rush.
We would ride the high of this stalk for the next few days.
Stay tuned for the next installment in the story of this hunt. Subscribe below to get these posts to your inbox!