Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Canada

My First Elk

In 2019 I took my first elk ever, and with a bow! Each year as hunting season approaches I always think back to my previous years hunts and experiences. That season for I got the opportunity to hunt elk on a buddies farm. There is a small herd that hangs out on the 320 acre farm along with plenty of whitetails. Its a great hunt to start the year as I can tow my trailer up and am not far away from a good meal. 

my first elk
First Elk!

Being that 2019 was my first year hunting elk I was quite lost, I didn’t know how to call, didn’t know their patterns or behaviours or best tactics to hunt for a cow (the target). From trail cam photos in the weeks leading up to the hunt it was clear that only 1 bull was hanging around the heard, and he was a spike, in this zone its 3pt or larger. That made it easy, I would be looking to take a cow!

Unsure of what calls to use I ordered the assorted “Cat Road Shuffle” package from Born and Raised Outdoors. These calls are all based off the Phelps frame and reeds and came with the different latex strengths. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and started practicing simple cow calls (I didn’t mess with bugles). Unsure if I would even use the calls much.

Thankfully I didn’t have to figure this whole process out myself. Another hunter (Buddies buddy, if that makes sense) was going to be out there at the same time. This was great, I got to ask a whole bunch of questions and rely on his past elk hunting experiences to get the drift. A lot of the hunt we were going to sit on travel routes and just off feeding areas. A more ambush style hunt that I was used to with spot and stalk mule deer hunting.

The herd was actively hitting the one stand of oats just prior to first light before heading back to their bedding area. So thats where we focused our efforts. My hunting partner also had a cow elk decoy, the Miss September. This was interesting to me as I had never hunted with one before. We placed the decoy back behind us a good 20-30 yards and then occasionally used a short bunch of cow calls. Hoping that any elk would come to peek at the origin of the sound and see the decoy, and not us, and come closer.

This worked on the first night of the hunt, a cow elk came cruising in so fast and silent that it caught us off guard. She stopped up at 60 yards from my hunting partner and he had to make a quick shot before getting busted. Unfortunately the range finder picked up some oats just in front and he shot for 55 yards and shot just under her. Using the cow calls we were able to stop her but she hung at 80-100 yards and wouldn’t come back in but was responding to our calls. 

This was so cool!!! First day elk hunting and here I was engaged in a conversation with one! Clearly I wasn’t giving her what she wanted to hear and eventually she fed off.

What a start to the first day. 

The second day I was hunting alone, I sat a different route in the morning with no luck, so for the evening hunt I moved back to the oats.

During the afternoon, we had left to go grouse hunting near by and on our way off the farm the small group of cows and spike crossed the highway, but I noticed that one of the larger calves got split form the group and ran back into the trees. I figured that it would be receptive to calls as it would be looking for its group later that evening.

After seeing no elk feeding in the oats I positioned myself in the trees between the road (where the herd had crossed) and the area I saw the calf run into. I began to let out some small and deeper tone cow calls, trying to sound like the mature cow. It worked, I heard a branch pop behind me and there was the calf, 60 yards away.

Here is where the point of the hunt where I was not pleased with happens. The calf came into 40 yards, should be an easy shot. I missed. Undeterred I kept up the ruse with the calf, as long as I didn’t move it kept moving around me trying to pinpoint the call. I got it moving towards another opening, 35 yards, feeling pretty amped now I let the second arrow go. It was a hit, but it sounded really weird. The calf took off and I waited a bit. Moving up there was blood right at the shot, good sign. Unable to find my arrow, I began tracking the blood trail out of the stand of trees hoping that I could then find the direction it went and glass to see if I could spot it.

The blood trail was pretty good and consistent. The calf had entered the oats and there was quite a bit of blood. This is good, I should have a dead elk!

I waited 30 minutes, then I slowly worked my way in following the flood trail through the oats, there was lots of blood. Once I got to eyesight of the elk, it was still breathing, but clearly very close. I put another arrow in to finish it off as quick as I could. It was a different experience, so far all my shots had been quick and effective. This was not!

Upon inspection of the elk, it turns out that my shot at 35 yards, hit the calf in the neck right below the jaw. It had severed the esophagus and was producing a fair amount fo blood. It was tough, how could I have missed by so much. Thankful that I recovered the elk, I put it behind me and allowed myself to feel the bit of joy that comes with succeeding. I then got to butchering, at least that part I felt would go smoothly.

first elk

That summer was a very hectic summer for myself, I got married, sold and moved out of our house, and at the time hunting season began was not yet living in our new home. We were occupying my parents cabin, all of our belongings were in a storage locker. 

I did not shoot nearly as often as I should have over the summer and while I thought I could rely on past shooting and good habits, that was clearly not the case. A great lesson learned that the time spent practicing is more important than the the time spent hunting!

A great experience hunting a new animal with a valuable lesson learned, but thankfully still added some great tasting super tender elk meat to the freezer!

Heading into this year, I am back at the farm ready to chase these elk again, only this time I shot well over 2000 shots over the summer and know that I prepped properly!

Thanks for following along, I hope sharing some newbie stories and mistakes helps highlight the importance of practice and highlights that not every hunt is perfect, unlike the current picture on social media!


You may also like...

Verified by MonsterInsights