By Zach Bowhay
The drive back from New Mexico was a long one, spirits were low and Evan and I were very disappointed. That being said once we pulled out of camp down there I had no intentions of wasting any time getting home. We drove straight through the 18 hour drive from camp in New Mexico to my in-laws place in Idaho where my wife and kids were waiting for me. We got a few hours sleep and then we drove another hour to our home. I spent the rest of Saturday at home with my family and then the next morning I headed up to elk camp to meet up with the rest of the crew. I spent Sunday evening glassing around and didn’t have any luck finding a bull.
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Early Monday morning found my dad and I up in one of our favorite hunting spots. We found fresh sign, but we weren’t hearing or seeing any elk activity. Mid-morning the wind really started picking up and the dark clouds started rolling in. With the wind going every imaginable direction we decided it was best to head back to camp instead of pushing whatever animals that may be there out of the area.
By the time we got back to the truck it was starting to rain pretty good, and the shelter of a good camp was really nice. We spent the early afternoon laying around camp being lazy. By 2 p.m. the skies cleared and like mountain storms often do it was gone as fast as it had come in. Since it was nice out we decided to go out and shoot a few arrows before the evening hunt. A couple of the guys and I were flinging some arrows when our other buddy Bill pulled out his binoculars and started glassing the mountain across from camp. Bill almost immediately spotted a herd of elk. I got my spotting scope set up and found a nice 5×6 bull and 7 cows feeding on top of the mountain. They were in a very unlikely spot for a successful hunt so everyone else in camp said they didn’t want to go after him. Since it was the first bull I had seen and I hadn’t got to chase one yet I said “what the heck, I’ll go”.
This hunt was the first chance I had to use Caribou Gear Game bags. I instantly fell in love with these bags. They proved to be very durable and kept all the dirt off of the quarters. By far one of the best purchases I have ever made in hunting gear. There will be more to come on Caribou Gear Game Bags in a future blog post!
The mountain is basically straight up and is mostly all sagebrush with only a few scattered trees at the top where the elk were hanging out. The guys all gave me there 2 cents on how I should go about it, but I just decided to go and see what happened. It took me nearly an hour and a half to make it most of the way up the mountain. After I left camp I wasn’t going to be able to see the elk until I got up on them. At about 300-400 yards from where I thought they were going to be I decided I had better sit down and wait because the winds were swirling in every direction. This is where it became kind of comical. While sitting there waiting I started glassing down at camp and here are the guys in lawn chairs with spotting scopes watching the show. Almost an hour had passed by the time the wind started getting better and was blowing pretty steady from my right to left. I decided to make my move.
I hadn’t seen anything so I decided I was going to go with my gut and go around the left side of the knob that they were by and hope they were still pretty close to where they were. Just short of the knob I decided to drop my pack so I could be as stealthy as possible. I had already made up my mind that I wasn’t going to call. This only being September 12 , I knew calling would more than likely make the bull round up his cows and head the other direction. When I got around the knob into the trees I just had to assume they were still in there. It had been nearly 3 hours since I had left where I could see them. So I went in to slow motion and tried to be as quiet as possible. I only made it a few feet into the trees when I spotted a calf standing 20 yards out and front of me and a little to the left. The calf had me pinned down so I had to nock an arrow and see what happened.
A few minutes went by and I started seeing some cows coming from over to my right headed toward the calf. The cows started filing by and one spotted me at 20 yards. I remained completely still and finally she moved on. I knew that he had to be right behind them, so I just sat tight. Just as I thought, shortly thereafter, here he came. He was coming out right at a little pine tree I had ranged at 45 yards so I drew my bow. Just as I was ready to fire he turned and came right at me so I let down. When he was 35 yards out he turned and starting moving toward the cows. I drew my bow again and when we got completely broadside, I gave a real quiet cow call and as soon as he stopped I cut the shot. I knew it was a good shot and he only went 30 yards and went down. I moved up on him and put a finishing arrow in him just to make sure.
I decided to give him a little time and walked back around the knob to get my pack and wave the guys up. By the time the guys made it up to me is was almost dark, so we snapped a few pictures and got to work. My dad mentioned while we were quartering the bull that it was like being in the” peanut gallery” watching the show from a distance. My uncle said that it really was and that the view from the peanut gallery was the best show on earth.
As far as the whole day and a half thing, I really only had been in elk camp for a day and a half and I was done. I had said it all summer, but I never in a million years believed it. My brother ended up not taking a bull in New Mexico either, and mine ended up being the biggest bull out of all of us by default. I would much rather they had both killed monster bulls much bigger than mine in New Mexico, but that’s how it goes in hunting. All I can say is we will get em next time guys!
From the Peanut Gallery
“I watched Zach climb up the middle of the knob that the herd was behind. As Zach worked towards the left I spotted the bull come out to feed in the meadow on the right. I was afraid that he had went the wrong way, but a couple minutes later the bull went out of sight and the cows all ran out to the left. When Zach came back over the hill waving at us we knew he had killed the bull” -Jerry Bowhay, Zach’s dad.
“It was too far, too much open hill side, too late in the day, the wind was blowing too hard, but I watched it all from my chair back at camp. After watching Zach for about 45 minutes snake his way up this open hill side I knew that I made the wrong decision to stay in camp and just watch. Finally the distance was close, we could see Zach and we could see the heard of elk. Once again we felt that Zach made the wrong decision and went the wrong way. It was only a matter of time now, finally elk started to come out but the big bull wasn’t with them. Being 53 years old at the time I made it up that hill like I was 25. I wanted to get there before it got dark and share a special time with my nephew. It started out as too many things that we all thought made this a 1 in a million chance, but my nephew Zach couldn’t stand it and went up against all the odds and ended up with a real nice Rocky Mountain 6 point bull elk. And we all saw it at 1000 yards away through a pair of binoculars.” Kellen Nelson, Zach’s Uncle