As I turned my head to the far left in my regular scan of the area, she was just there! She hadn’t made a sound, or at least anything I could hear. She just appeared. And she was staring right at me!
Although I love elk hunting and try to get one in every couple of years, elk hunting to me is mostly quit, tranquil hours in the mountains of Colorado with brief unexpected, and unanticipated, moments of shear adrenaline rushes! I consider myself a reasonable elk hunter, but it isn’t really the harvesting of the game that is most important to me, it is the experience.
The rut wasn’t yet in full swing and elk weren’t talking much. When the elk are aren’t talking, neither am I. We were forced to just try and ambush them between there feeding grounds and their bedding area.
I had just finished filming a red squirrel which was fervently working on a pine cone, extracting what little nutrients it could from the cone. She had settled down finally and quit chattering at me. I say “she” because I am pretty sure it was female, because she had been make the same demands of me for the couple of hours. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not disparaging the fairer sex here, because like a typical male, I had been ignoring her, or at least trying to, the whole time.
It was getting late. The sun was probably within an hour or so of setting. The wind had died off to nothing, and you could feel the thermals beginning their downward trend. It was cooling off as well. It was prime time for the Elk to begin working their way down to the inviting private land pastures below.
I set the camera aside and focused my attention on the trails and surrounding forest in front of me and to the left. I was set up about 30 yards from a well-worn trail that appeared to be a normal travel route that the elk used moving from the National Forest where they bedded and the private pasture land where they like to feed in the evening and through the night. It was a perfect setup! I had background brush and pine behind me to eliminate my silhouette, and an almost impenetrable line of scrub pine and bushes that bordered the trail to my left and uphill. I could probably see movement through that line, and expected I would get some advanced warning of elk as they came down the trail.
I was sure I would be able to draw my bow when I caught a glimpse of movement in be in a perfect spot for the shot when an elk cleared the cover. Now, I know that you can never count on elk to follow a particular trail, and I know they make these trails just to trick stupid hunters like me in to focusing on something like that. But I was prepared! Not only did I have a perfect setup for the trail, I had a number of lanes for shooting uphill and to my left as well. I didn’t have quite the coverage from that angle, but I was confident that if an elk were to bypass the trail and head to my left I would have a good shot opportunity there as well.
As I was saying, Ms. Squirrel had finally settled down and I was scanning the trail and the ground to my left when she just materialized! Good right? Anytime you can get within bow range of an elk is a good day! However, the Cow had seen me before I heard or had seen her and she was totally focused on me.
We starred at each other for probably 15 seconds until I remembered to activate my Sony Action Cam mounted on my hat. I ever so slowly shifted my head so I could see the control on my arm, and got the camera started.
It doesn’t take much movement to spook an alert elk that is totally focused on you, and it didn’t in this case either. As I turned my head back toward the Cow, she bolted and the calf that I hadn’t seen bolted with her.
There is probably a lesson to be learned from this episode of elk hunting, and I can take a few guesses at them; don’t count on the elk using the trail, don’t try to get the camera going when the elk are watching, don’t move any part of your body while being watched by an alert Cow elk! However, since I am a camera fool, and a poor elk hunter, and a bit too fidgety I probably won’t learn any of those lessons, but I sure enjoy the elk reminding me of them!