A Bugling Wyoming Bull

by Jerry DeCroo

The GPS attached to my day pack showed the elevation to be 9108 ft. It also indicated we had walked 16 miles in the previous three days. This was the fourth day of our hunt and Ramie Haines and I had been in elk every day. We were either behind elk that we couldn’t catch before they reached their bedding area or the wind swirled and busted us. Several times we had set up on bulls but couldn’t get them to come all the way in. We finally decided that we needed to take the action to the elk and get closer before calling.

Elk Hunting The Rocky Mountains
One of the many incredible view one encounters when elk hunting the rocky mountains.

We headed east behind camp when I heard a bugle above us. We scampered up the hill only to hear the bull bugle in the bottom of the valley on the other side. After taking some time to suck a little oxygen, we hurried to catch a group of elk headed across a big, spring fed meadow on their way up the mountain to bed for the day. We closed the distance and after calling just a couple of minutes, had a bull coming in hard through the trees. He bugled about 50 yards out and I expected him to step into view any second. Then, silence. We called for about ten more minutes but got no answer except for the elk on the mountain a couple hundred yards above us. It was evident that our bull moved up the mountain with the herd to bed down.

With Ramie leading the way we followed the sound of elk up the mountain until we nearly ran into a cow that somehow sensed our presence. She started barking and sounded like a dog that swallowed an elk call. She was right on top of us as we flattened out on the hill side not 40 yards below her. While she barked a warning to the other elk, a bull continued to bugle less than a hundred yards below us. He had a long, deep, raspy call that shook the timber around us. We were between the cow and the bull and neither of them paid any attention to the other’s calling. Finally they both moved off and it was silence again. Following the elk we reached a clear cut on top of the mountain where they were entering the timber on the other side. There was at least one nice bull and a few cows but they were 130 yards away. We made the decision to return in the evening hoping to catch them as they worked their way down the mountain to feed.

A Wyoming Trophy Bull
318" Pope & Young Wyoming elk.

At about 7:00 pm Ramie and I were back in the meadow. We decided to set up and start calling to locate a bull in the area just below where they went to bed that morning. There were trees scattered around the meadow and we each chose two about 75 yards apart. Immediately after setting up and blowing the cow call, a bull responded. He was on us in just minutes and I knew he was about to come out in the open. I knocked an arrow as I heard Ramie sweet talking the bull. The bull responded immediately with a loud bugle then stepped out of the shadows into the open. His rack looked huge! Chocolate brown with ivory tips, he continued to walk toward me, bugling the whole time. This sounded just like the bull we called in earlier but never saw. As Ramie called, the bull got more excited. He was moving to my left and I was using the small pine tree for seclusion. The bull stopped behind a small group of trees and I ranged it at 27.5 yards. As I put the range finder back in my pocket the bull stepped out of the trees looking for the imaginary cow. Ramie called again from the middle of the meadow and the bull continued to walk past me on my left. When he got a few yards past me I drew my bow and the bull stopped to bugle again. My peep and 30 yard pin aligned perfectly when I reached anchor and I released the arrow barely a second after reaching full draw. The arrow hit perfectly behind the shoulder and the bull whirled around and raced back for the woods. As he turned I saw the arrow had gone completely through him and it was a perfect shot. He disappeared behind a small clump of trees on his way back to the dense forest he had come from but I knew he would be close.

During this whole event, I was surprisingly calm. This was the first elk I had ever taken with a bow and only my fourth big game animal other than a bunch of hogs and a javelina. Suddenly it hit me and the adrenaline coursed through my veins like crazy. I was elated! I ran over to where Ramie lay in the meadow, soaked after having to flatten out in the wet spring so the elk couldn’t see him. I threw down my bow, binoculars and backpack and we celebrated like two high school kids that just won the state football championship.

It was getting dark so we didn’t wait long to look for the bull. When we found him he had traveled less than 100 yards. The fixed blade head had done its job perfectly. We relived the event about five times and after taking several photos, field dressed the brute and headed back to camp. We were a mile and a half from camp and needed to get our bigger packs to get the meat out.

Author With Wyoming Bull
The author on the 4th and final trip down the mountain.

After gulping down a quick sandwich and a drink we started the walk back up the mountain. It was well past dark now and we knew this would take all night. Upon arriving at the kill site we quartered the bull and prepared to pack him out. We sacked up the front shoulders and headed back down the mountain. The walk out was incredible. There was a full moon and elk bugled from the ridges as we carried their comrade off the mountain. After two more trips we had the meat at camp and it was 4:00 a.m. We decided to leave the rack and cape until morning for some daylight photos. We hit the sack and at 7 am were back up to finish the job. We got to the meadow where all the excitement had occurred just 12 hours earlier and took a few more photos before loading the cape on a pack frame. It was a perfect 318 inch 6x6 and a dream come true for me. We had walked 15 miles when it was all said and done, but worth every step.

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