Hunting Memories

Late-Season Bugling Bulls

We were in Colorado, just east of Hayden, on my first elk hunt. We got into camp Friday morning after driving all night and took a much needed nap.

We scouted Friday night and saw tons of elk. This really got the blood pumping. Bugles were heard all through the night making it hard to sleep.

Up at 4 a.m., ate, then headed out. My buddy and I split up with our guides. A short while later my buddy had a small 5x4 down. He shot it at 25 yards in the midst of a fight with another bull. He shot the bigger bull right out from under the other bull. The other bull stood over his dead opponent and then pranced around like he was one bad SOB.

I saw a few good bulls that morning but either too far away or in timber and had no shot. Later that morning we packed my buddy's bull back to camp.

I went out that evening to the same spot where we had seen some good bulls go into the timber. We snuck up and started to glass. We immediately saw a few cows coming out of a draw across a canyon. There was a big-bodied elk hanging up in the timber that we thought had to be a bull. Sure enough, he finally stepped out. He looked to be a good heavy 5x5, a definite shooter in this area. He took a few steps and stopped, this was just enough for us to see his antlers but a big aspen covered his vitals. I thought the bull was way over 400 yards but my guide ranged him at 328 with the rangefinder. I watched him through my scope for 15 minutes until he stepped from behind the tree.

In a prone position with my rifle resting over a backpack I felt rock-solid and confident. He stepped out from behind the aspens, I put the cross hairs on the top of his shoulder and BOOM! The bull made no visible reaction to the shot but I immediately told my guide, "That felt good."

Elk were running everywhere and we watched the bull run down a draw with his cows. When the cows ran back up the draw on the other side, Mr. Bull was not with them. A few seconds later we heard two groans and knew he had to be down somewhere. We waited 20 minutes and headed into the canyon. We found him dead only 20 yards from where he had been hit. It turned out he was only a 5x4, but made pretty heavy mass. No trophy for sure, but for my first bull I couldn't be happier.

The shot was right off a ballistic chart — about 8 inches low from the point of aim. The bull was quartering to me a bit and the bullet went though the shoulder, tore up a lung and the liver, and lodged under the hide just behind the ribs on the off side. That slug went through 3 feet of elk.

My rifle is a Winchester Model 70 .30-06. The Hornady Light Mag 180-grain BTSP did an absolutely perfect job. Nice mushroom and without weighing it, I'd say it retained at least 85% of its weight.

A 200-yard drag downhill, lots of heaving and ho'ing, and he was in the truck. We let it hang for a couple days then picked up the meat on Tuesday morning. Then we headed down to Durango to stay with a friend. Hunted ducks that night and shot a limit in 15 minutes. Ducks were in the air like gnats, we couldn't load fast enough. Absolutely unbelievable.

On Wednesday morning I fly-fished the Animas River for six nice trout, including a beautiful, fat, 22" rainbow that is my biggest trout to date on a fly rod. That afternoon we went to a bird ranch and hunted chukar for a couple hours, then went back to the river to fly-fish for the evening.

Best trip of my life, period!

Submitted by Nate Treadwell

Editor's Note:
Nate's hunt took place during the last elk season in Colorado, November 10-14, 2001. Nate also mentioned that a number of hunters had questioned him about the bulls fighting and still bugling that late in the year. He thought the warm weather might have had them confused.

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