It all started with a fishing trip on Patrick's Cold Water for ling cod. Steve and I started to have a conversation about elk hunting. We swapped hunting stories and I told him I had been building points for quality tags and had 8 quality bull points. He recommended I put in for the Observatory tag, so with 8 points I figured it was worth a shot. Apparently it takes an average of 7 points to draw the Observatory quality bull archery tag (the tag I ended up drawing).
May comes around and I apply for all the normal tags. We put in for moose, quality deer, second deer (antlerless) and quality bull. During the week of the draw, I like everyone else was checking the draw results online 3 or more times a day. Once the results were posted, I took a look at the results and I immediately saw I was selected for the quality bull tag. I was so stoked and shaking with excitement when I saw what I drew. My first call was to Steve. When I told Steve what I drew he was just as excited as I was.
I considered myself lucky for drawing this tag and soon discovered the percentage of success for this tag from other tag holders was actually pretty low. I knew we needed to prepare and start early in order to make this hunt a success. In June, I decided to go ahead and research trail cameras. After looking at different reviews, I ended up going with the Browning trail cameras (specifically the Strikeforce HD and Recon Sub Micro series) I'm so glad I went with these cameras. The quality of the images and videos are top notch!
Mid July Steve, his son Christopher, my wife Kristina and I started our round trips to the areas Steve thought were best. Leaving at 4:00 am and getting back home around 7:00 to 8:00 most nights.
We left the cameras to soak for a few weeks before we headed back over. Steve and I both were busy tuna fishing and living life. We had several conservations pondering what we might see on the cameras when we returned. We planned to head back over on July 31st. When we got back over we discovered we really had no need to move any of our cameras. Just like a game of battleship Trail Cam 1 HIT! Trail CAM 2 HIT! And Trail CAM 3 HIT!
Each trip we went over we kept finding more bulls and by the end we had the same bulls on different cameras and we were feeling great. We probably drove over about a half dozen times. Each time it was like sitting around the tree at Christmas in anticipation of the greatest gift you could ever ask for. Even Dr. Tangles came over to help check cameras and carry in goodies.
Opening weekend was just around the corner and I had planned on getting everything prepared early. However, I ended up getting a call and invite to go on a few fishing trips, including: "Making Tuna fishing great again," out of Llwaco with Tommy, Steve, Josh, Todd, Dave and Patrick. I ended up finding myself scrambling the last few days getting everything packed and ready to go. Definitely won't be doing that again! All in all everything was packed and ready to rock come Friday morning (the day before the hunt).
Friday my buddy Rodd and I headed over to set up camp. Dr. Tangles left early so he could secure us a camping spot. We ended up heading over the pass late morning and after getting the trailer set up we drove up to check cameras in another GMU where the rest of the group would hunt for cows and spikes. While we were checking the first camera, there was a bull that was trying to walk in on us. We didn't want to disturb their patterns, so we decided to back out and let it ride till morning. That evening everyone started to trickle in including my wife Kristina, Steve, and the world famous Tommy Donlin aka Cornfed. That evening I fired up the Traeger and made some tasty elk burgers for everyone in camp. We were in bed somewhat early since the plan was to be up early for opening day.
3:30 am alarms went off with a bang! Everyone was up and getting ready to take off to our different areas. Steve and I went together and we were hiking in the woods at about 4:30 am getting to our determined location as the sun was coming up. Within a few minutes we heard a faint bugle in the distance. Steve responded with a bugle and few cow calls. We could hear elk above us and below us. After a little calling back and forth we could hear a bull below us, you could hear his antlers running into trees. Steve locked eyes on the bull first as he was slipping in not even 20 yards below us. I felt like he was going to come directly into my shooting lane and not stop, so I decided to draw my bow back as his head was behind a tree. At that moment, he looked up. I had to hold my bow back for several minutes to the point I had to let it down. The bull must of caught our scent slightly, as he decided to take off below us. I knew he would stop and turn back as they almost always do when they are unsure of what something is. Sure enough, he stopped about 40-50 yards below us. In that split second, I saw a window of opportunity. I spun and drew my bow from behind the tree, found my mark and released. Immediately we heard a loud whack and knew I had hit him. We let him sit for about an hour and slowly made our way down to where the point of impact was. We immediately found bright red blood. We started tracking him from this point as there was a great blood trail. We ended up tracking him for several yards following good blood. We ended up coming up to a place where he had laid down and there was probably at least a gallon of blood. We most likely kicked him up from that spot and ended up having to search minimal blood spots, most of the time crawling on our hands and knees searching for blood. Next, we came to a creek crossing where he slowed down and started spewing out blood again. That blood quickly fizzled out and we were back on our hands and knees again searching for the smallest specs of blood and smears on brush. We got to a point where it was tough again. I was on my knees with my head looking up at the sky saying please let me find this bull.
At this point, I got up and Steve and I regrouped. Steve ended up getting a hold of Austyn, a young man who hunts with Steve during modern season, but happened to have an archery tag for elk this year. Austyn was only a few hundred yards away from us so we met up and he joined in on the search. I ended up finding the tiniest patch of blood as I was walking back and forth on the road ended up going off my gut instinct. I said, "Bingo!" Following a thicket of brush I walked about 75 yards and holy shit there he was piled up. I let out a yell you could hear for miles. Steve did the same. We were hugging and screaming and blown away by the size of this magnificent beast. Funny thing is, we didn't even have this bull on camera. I immediately saw where my arrow hit and I knew I had severed a main artery causing him to bleed out. I can not say enough about Trophy Taker broadheads. They are by far the best broadheads in my opinion.
We ended up sending Austyn back towards camp and the other GMU to contact the rest of our group. He actually ran back to camp - what an animal! He ended up making radio contact to the rest of our group and brought them all back to help pack out this 800 plus pound bull. Steve and I already had it broke down and in game bags for the most part. 7 of us had him in packs and we slowly made our way down the trail and back out to the truck by 4:30 pm.
This experience is something I will treasure forever. Definitely my all time top hunt for myself. From drawing the tag to putting in the leg work literally! All my friends who were there to share in this experience, I can not thank you all enough for the friendship and support. Also having a wife who was there with me and supports everything I do without hesitation or questioning. Most of all, again to Steve I owe this bull to you and can't wait for many years of hunting to come.
I don't know what I did to deserve so many good people in my life but it feels great. You all Rock!!!
Observatory Bull tag
Montana Dave Over and out!