Elk Hunting in Southern Colorado with Traditional Archery Gear (September 23rd, 2010)
The last weekend in September is an amazing time of year in Southern Colorado. The temperatures begin to drop, the aspen trees are turning brighter yellow with every passing day, and there are the unmistakable sounds of the Wapiti echoing through the mountains. Every year since 2001, my dad and I have traveled near Pagosa Springs to hunt with our good friends Clay Allison and Santa Fe Outfitters. There is nothing I look forward to more than chasing bull elk through the mountains of Banded Peaks Ranch with my bow and good friends. If you have never experienced a bull elk bugling in the wild, its something you must cross off of your list.
Joining my dad and I on this hunt were Jimmy & Angie Ryan, their grandson Hunter Moates, Kerry & Taylor Earnhardt, and Clay Self. With some veteran hunters and two first-time elk hunters, the week should be filled with memories and stories. My week began with a call from Clay Allison, my good friend and Outfitter at Santa Fe Outfitters. He said that the weather was cooling off in southern Colorado, and that the bulls were getting fired up. We discussed a few things, one of which was bringing some Montana cow decoys with us to the ranch. I explained that I wanted to hunt with my recurve this year. I had been shooting my recurve daily and was getting better with every shot. I felt comfortable shooting a bull up to about 30 yards.
Before I knew it Thursday was here, after my 12 o’clock class I headed to the airport. We arrived at the ranch about 5:30. We rushed to get our gear on and shoot a few shots to check our bows. We were on the mountain and out of the truck by about 6.
Walking up from the truck to start the hunt
With about an hour and a half before dark we wasted no time in chasing the closest bugle. Some 300 yards from the truck we were stopped in our tracks by a close bugle. With my dad and his video camera in tow, we quickly set up by some reeds in a small opening. The bull caught our wind or did not like our cow calls and soon moved off into the distance.
We wasted no time in moving towards the most frequent bunch of bugles. After about 30 minutes of hustling down the mountain we were back within a hundred yards of multiple bulls. We crept in as close and as quiet as possible to the Jamboree of bulls. I quickly set up behind a split tree, my dad over my right shoulder with the video camera. With an arrow nocked, Clay began to cow call and held the Montana decoy in front of him to break up his outline and keep the bull’s attention away from me.
The bull got closer in a hurry, before long I could here him breaking brush. I stood my 58” recurve into shooting position. The bull came strait to us and upon seeing the decoy he charged up to about 15 yards. After letting out an ear-piercing bugle, I drew, aimed, and released in one smooth motion. The arrow struck the bull in the neck, cutting the carotid artery and continuing into his lungs, burying up to the cresting and shield feathers. The bull spun and stopped at about 20 yards, pausing for about 5 seconds. He was losing lots of blood and I felt confident that I had just taken my first elk with a recurve and my 8th bull in nine years in Colorado.
My dad and I with my 5x5.
With darkness falling over the mountains, we turned on our flashlights and took up the trail. We followed one of the most prolific blood trails I have ever seen for about 200 yards to a very respectable 5x5 bull. He wasn’t the biggest bull I have ever taken, and was far from the biggest bull on the mountain, but I was as proud of my first bull with a recurve as any elk I have taken.
The rest of the week turned out to be a little slow. Clay Self and I were the only two hunters to harvest bulls. After some tough luck, Hunter Moates and my dad were unable to find their bulls. Taylor and Kerry Earnhardt had many close encounters and given a step more on a few occasions may have come away with their first Rocky Mountain Elk.
Clay Self with his nice 6x6
Regardless of some slow hunting, we had a great time making new friends, spending time with old friends, and enjoying Jesus’ Rocky Mountain Band in one of the prettiest places in the great outdoors.
( From Right to Left: Angie Ryan, Jesse, Jimmy Ryan, Clay Allison, Dave Collis, Clay Self, Thad, Alan, Johnny, Taylor Earnhardt, Dick Cole, Kerry Earnhardt, Me, Hunter Moates, and Jared Letterman. )
· 58” Black Widow Recurve @ 54 lbs
· Carbon Express Heritage 350 arrows @ 29 ½”
· 150 gr. Magnus Stinger w/ Bleeder Blades
· Redhead Backpack