Hunting Elk/Wapiti In Wyoming U.S.A
Hunting Elk/Wapiti In Wyoming U.S.A
We drove the windy beautiful dirt road surrounded by aspens, pines, beavers, ducks, and the flowing creeks where the grassland and mountain meet. I was filled with some anxiety. Was I ready for this hunt and could I be successful with my bow this year?
I have been, what I like to call 'bow hiking' for the last 6 years. I had close calls each year but could never make it happen. I had just returned from a grueling deer hunt with my bow in Utah. I had not succeeded. This was disheartening but I had to stay positive for this elk hunt. With all my failures I was beginning to feel like it might never happen.
This was the first year I had more time to hunt since I had quit my job and started my own business. Starting a business is hard work and very frustrating. I felt like I was failing in all the things I found important. My husband Dillon was cheery and uplifting although I felt neither of these things.
The morning of the hunt we got on our E-Bikes because we knew of a motorcycle trail that could take us into the backcountry of Wyoming to find the majestic elk. Unfortunately, this so-called motorcycle trail was hardly a trail. We ditched the bikes and started on foot. This caused us to be later than we wanted so we called an audible and headed up a different canyon than first planned. As we were sitting on the hill seeing nothing but the beauty of Wyoming, we heard an elk call from down below. We tried to make a move but the switching wind spoiled our plans. As we headed down the canyon a rainstorm came roaring in. We took cover under a tree and waited to see if the elk we had pushed down the canyon would show themselves. Unfortunately, all that appeared was a spike, so we pushed on.
The hunt went on like this for the next few days. Close calls but we just couldn’t catch a break from the shifty winds. The last night of my hunt I was in better spirits because even though I hadn’t shot an elk yet, I was in a beautiful place with screaming elk on every knob. As we were beginning to head back, we heard a gnarly bugle up above us. With time running out we headed up the mountain. Dillon pushed back 100 yards behind me and started to create the chaotic sounds of rutting elk. This brought in two raghorns to 40 yards. I had to be patient. As I stood below behind some small aspens, I couldn’t get a shot. After about 45 minutes the smallest of the raghorns presented a shot at 44 yards. My heart was beating, I knew this was my chance. I took the shot; it looked good but slightly high. After an hour's wait, we decided to track blood.
After an hour of tracking blood, we heard something bump 100 yards below us. We spent the night tracking but with no luck so we decided to come back the next day and continue our search. I was devastated when we couldn’t find the bull I shot. We had good blood but I must have been just a tad bit too high. I wanted to notch my tag but Dillon insisted that we come back the following week and try again. As we were hiking back Mother Nature brought in a roaring thunderstorm with monstrous rains. Lightning was hitting ridges not far from us. It felt like Mother Nature was giving me one last kick in the ass!
I was still heartbroken that I couldn’t find the bull I had shot but I decided to head back to Wyoming and try to make something happen. This trip I decided to forget about all expectations I might have in harvesting an elk and just enjoy the beauty and animals that resided in the area. The rut had started. The bull elk were chasing cows up and down mountains, fighting, and bugling their faces off. This was the most epic elk hunting experience I had ever had. We spent days chasing these majestic beasts with no luck but close calls.
As we sat on the top of a mountain ridge sitting in our failures, I told Dillon that it would be cool if we could call in an elk from across the canyon. We laughed, knowing that in our years of elk hunting, that had only happened one time. As we were hiking back that evening, we decided to send off a bugle where bulls had busted us that afternoon. One responded on the other side of the canyon. He sounded like he wanted to fight. Dillon bugled again and out of the aspens and pines came the most beautiful bull elk I had ever seen. He had dark brown almost black antlers with the whitest tips. He came running down the mountain ready to kick some ass. He got to the bottom, got a quick drink from the creek, and headed up the ridge we were on.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was praying that he would come right to us and I could get a shot. The elk wasted no time. Before I knew it, he crested the little knob on the hillside we were on. I pulled back my bow. I held it back for a minute or more as he made his way towards us. He got to 30 yards, faced directly at me, and let out a gnarly bugle. Dillon bugled again and he turned broadside and started towards Dillon's direction. He closed the distance to 20 yards. I anchored in, put my pin just behind his shoulder, cow called, and took my shot. As I watched him run away it looked like I made a perfect shot but didn’t have much penetration. He disappeared into the brush, so I couldn’t get a second shot. I ran back to Dillon to tell him what happened.
Once again, there was a rainstorm coming in for the next few days. It was getting dark and I didn’t want to mess up like last time so even with the rain we decided to back out and come back the next day. As we were heading out, we could hear labored breathing and coughing. I thought it might have been my bull but I was in denial.
We headed up the next morning walking on a trail that had transformed into a river from the rainstorm. I was hoping that I made a good shot and we didn’t have to track a possibly non-existent blood trail. We got to where I shot from and shortly after found my arrow. It had broken off and did not seem that I got good penetration. I was devastated but still held a sliver of hope because of the breathing and coughing we had heard. As we walked through the thick brush that was taller than me, we couldn’t find any blood. We were about 100 yards from where I shot when Dillon said, “Shali you have to come up here and look at this!” He seemed slightly excited; I thought maybe he had found blood. As I got closer, I saw his antlers and began to cry.
As we were quartering him up the rain began to fall. The pack out was wet and cold. We felt it deep in our bones. The rain had turned into snow. We had water sloshing in our boots. It took us two days to pack him out. I loved every second of the pain because I had finally accomplished my goal of harvesting an animal with my bow.
This hunt taught me that if you continue to grind and keep hope, anything is possible.
Grind on and never lose hope!
- Dillon & Shali Flint