In my home Province of Alberta we have a wide distribution of elk from the foothills to the prairies. These majestic animals are greatly sought after for their high quality protein and the trophy potential. After all, any elk with a bow is a trophy regardless of the presence of antlers or not. This recent hunt took place over Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, the weather this time of year can vary from 28 degrees Celsius above to 28 degrees Celsius below zero. This weekend had a little bit of everything weather wise.
We arrived on Saturday to above zero and dry conditions with a slight wind. My father was quite tired after a long week of work, so while he finished setting up camp I struck out to scout the area to see what elk activity was present. We have several ground blinds, stands, and trail cameras, so I walked the circuit to check things out. I checked out a couple of the cameras and they had some activity and on the way to the last area I happened to see some elk grazing a couple of hundred yards away. I found a spot where I was concealed and could glass the small herd. 7 cows and calves with two spikes. With light fading I decided to back out of the area and not disturb these elk. As I walked back to camp in the near darkness, the temperature dipped and the snow started to fall as the wind picked up. I bumped another small group of elk not 400 yards from our camp and while it was difficult to tell how big, there was a bull in that group.
“These majestic animals are greatly sought after for their high quality protein and the trophy potential.”
All night the wind howled and the snow/sleet/freezing rain fell…come the dark hours of the morning there was no exception. We struck out in the dark, Dad to a ground blind and I headed towards a tree stand where I had taken elk on my first trip out the past two years. As I walked closer to my area trying to get to the stand before daybreak the freezing rain beat down on me and I could hear several bulls calling. They were on the move from the feeding ground to their bedding areas early and we are unable to access the area these elk go to during the day. So unfortunately, with the sun coming up and the weather getting worse, neither Dad or I were able to call or spot any elk that whole day.
The following evening we could hear the elk calling all night likely within 500-600 yards from our camp. We were camped on the edge of an alfalfa field and they were coming in to feed in the darkness. The next morning due to the wind we had to hunt a different area. Dad was headed to another blind and I decided to hunt from the ground, we both were going to sit at places the elk cross into neighboring property and hope that our guesses on where to be were correct. I kneeled down next to the fence line behind some light cover to settle in and Dad continued north into the wind to get to his blind. I could hear the elk calling to the southwest and as long as they stayed west of our positions our scent would not reach them.
Looking down at my watch legal hunting time was upon us, I let out a couple of lost cow and estrus calls to try and coax the elk I could hear to come my direction. Seconds later I could see the heads and ears of three cow elk on the horizon, and they were slowly coming my way. I made sure to nock an arrow and get ready, I hadn’t spotted a bull, but this time of year a group of cows is rarely alone. Slowly the cows made their way towards me three at first, then two more, then one more, and right behind her a 6X6 bull. Things always seem to take forever, when I spotted the bull I turned on my bow mounted camera. After checking the footage it took no time at all for them to get within range.
“I let out a couple of lost cow and estrus calls to try and coax the elk I could hear to come my direction.”
As the small group came toward the crossing I prepared for what could be a fairly close shot. My bow mounted camera then ran out of battery and with two vibrations it turned off. A cow and the bull were interested and must have heard it as her ears perked up and she started towards me. The bull was behind her and in his efforts to keep her in line, he broke away from the others. She was at 15 yards, with him trailing behind, and I had to stay dead still or risk spooking them all, I had no chance to draw. The cow then spooked slightly and so did the bull, I drew back my bow and got ready for a shot opportunity. The bull stopped, quartering away, and looked back at me at 30 yards. I settled my pin behind his left front shoulder and released. The arrow with the lighted nock found its mark and he ran off 60 yards. He stood there for a few seconds, I could see his head start to droop and he rolled over on his side as the six cows trotted away. I sent Dad a quick text to let him know the good news and I waited for him. I held off walking to the bull to take in the entirety of the hunt, and I wanted Dad and I to share the excitement of approaching him together.