The summer of 2015 was probably the wettest summer we've had in years.
Every one knows Lots of Moisture = good vegetation. Good vegetation = good antler growth. Well during this great moisture summer I was gone working out of town.. Being seven hours from my home mountains, working six to seven days a week, allows no time for summer scouting. As the summer went by I was anxiously awaiting my last day of work before hitting the mountains. August 22nd was my last day of work. About 11:30 we had just wrapped up painting the last bit of pipe, my boss (my father) came to me and my buddy Trenton and said you guys can leave that way we made it home at a decent time that night and we could load up more tools needed for the Job. I knew that seven-hour truck drive and one more night was all that was between me and the mountains. 5:30 had come so fast over the past three months, but August 23rd 5:30 couldn't come fast enough. I found myself sitting over a few big draws as first light touched the east facing slopes, there were several muleys working the top of the faces down towards the bottom of the draws for their midday shelter. I saw several bucks one of which was a young buck with great potential having lots of extras. With the weather still being super warm and getting there quick you only had 20-30 minutes in the morning and 20-30 minutes in the afternoon. There was a lot of downtime in the day to get the Hoyt out and fling some arrows and tune in your shooting for the upcoming opening day. That afternoon I was searching for a giant typical AKA “Happy” that eluded me in 2014, the afternoon was filled with lots of deer just a few bucks. But none that would make my goals for 2015.
August 24th same story lots of does and smaller bucks but no “Happy” or any other giants.. August 25th I was searching for another buck that I had found back in 2014 “ Arty” he was a younger typical, if he made it and showed back up he could be a stud.
I never turned Arty up, but just before dark that night I found a big framed three point in the fading light several hundred yards away. I knew that I needed to be back on point early the next morning to relocate the three point.
6:15, I was on point and scanning the low morning light for bucks where I had last left them, several hours went past but no big frame three.. 7:00 pm just as the sun was going down I located him 950 yards away. I made a split decision to bail off the point and try and make the next ridge before it was to dark.. within ten minutes I was in a position to get some excellent phone scope video and photos. Later that night, back at home, I studied my video and pictures deciding the buck was shooter size but, I wasn't sold on the buck being mature.. So it was back to the drawing board.
The 27th found me hitting some new country I had never really looked in beside late in the hunts. Only turning up a hand full of bucks and nothing that stuck out, I headed back home for a mid-day nap and to fling a few arrows. That afternoon I headed out an hour or so north to try some country that I had hunted a few years back.. 6:00 pm, having parked my truck and began my hike out to the point of the ridge. 6:20pm scanning the basin face picking up small bucks and does feeding out of the buck brush and timber. Few minutes into it, I spotted a group of bucks coming out of a small clump of cedar trees feeding towards the aspens and pines. Scanning through the group, not turning up anything big, I noticed out of the top of my spotter two deer bodies in the thick brush. It was only two or three minutes before they were in the timber and out of sight but I got a short look noticing the best buck had a big mainframe and looked to have average G3s & G4s… But that was it, and the buck was gone.
I continued to scan the basin and in a short while I picked up a small group of cow elk feeding across the sagebrush face. Started grinding it looking for a bull trailing them but no luck.. So I panned across the face with my Binos when I picked up a big body lone elk feeding the opposite direction of the cows. Getting my spotter set up on the bull, I quickly notice the bull had a lot of bone.
I watched the bull for the remainder of the night and videoed him through my spotting scope. I also located another large herd of cows and spikes feeding towards the bull..
That night I kept playing the video and looking at the photos I had just got. There was something about the bull that kept reminding me of a bull I hunted the last time I was in that basin back in 2013. He vanished on me after spending all day trying to sneak in between him and his cows, seeing every cow he was with that morning but neither I or my spotter ever saw him again. After comparing photos and video from 2013 & 2015, I knew it was him. I knew it was the “Ghost bull”! He was the one that got away. But this year he was older and bigger. That night I set my mind that this was the bull I was going to eat, sleep, and breath. Putting all my time and effort into this bull would be what it would cost to try and put this old bull on the ground and in the freezer, but it would be worth it.
August 28th started the long 4 day babysitting period. For the next 6 days, I would make the hour drive morning and night and the short 20-minute hike out to my vantage point. For the first 2 days, the bull kept a pretty constant pattern picking up 6 cows and a small raghorn. On the 30th, I scanned the bull’s home country picking up the 6 cows but no small rag and no “Ghost bull.” As the morning went on, I continued to glass the rest of the basin for the bull with no luck. Anxiety was kicking in, lots of thoughts were going through my head, was he gone, where did he go, and will I find him again?..
All my questions where answered 20 minutes later as I located a large herd of elk at the top of that basin. They were feeding in and out of a quaky patch. I noticed there were 20 lone cows and spikes from the first day, the small raghorn and the “Ghost bull”. It was a short babysitting session because as soon as he was located, he was back in the trees for the heat of the day. That night I watched the bull feed out of the top of the basin and head toward the southeast face along with his 21 cows, spikes, and his small raghorn buddy.
August 31st, Crunch time. I was able to locate the herd within 15 minutes of glassing. The herd was feeding across the south, east face towards a small thin silver patch of quaky’s. As I put the herd to bed, I knew that afternoon was going to be the last 30 minutes of prime time before I’d have my bow in hand…
That night the cows were up feeding early but no bull, a hand full of cows headed off the face towards the creek in the bottom and out of sight. With 25 minutes left to glass, the bull came out and began chasing cows and feeding off the ridge towards the bottom. As the bull fed below the ridge and moved out of sight, I started planning out possible stalks for the following morning. If I could locate him in the same spot.
That night was a long sleepless night of thinking and wondering how the next morning would unfold.
September 1st 5:00am I loaded up the truck with the gear and food we would need for the day. For an opening day I had managed to get my mom and Taelor to come out and spot for me because I knew every set of eyes that I could get on the mountain would help. We worked our way out the ridge and parked to head out to the vantage point. 6:15 I was behind the glass scanning for the herd, every minute seemed like an hour. 6:25 I located a cow to the far south end of the basin heading off the ridge into the next basin. Within a few seconds, I had the bull feeding up and over the ridge where I had just seen the cow disappear over.. I scrambled to grab my pack and bow and bailed off the ridge in an attempt to catch up with the herd.
After going down our ridge and over to the next, I hit the bottom with the creek in it and headed south. I got a hold of Taelor asking her if she had located them in the next basin. She said yes, and he had about 8 cows and two spikes with him but they were still working there way south to the end of that basin.
I hustled to try and at least get an eye on them in case they did work there way out of the basin keeping in contact with Taelor. She gave me a play by play and helped me know where the elk were until I peeked over a small ridge. I had eyes on them 430 yards away as they crested that last finger in the basin before they would be out.
Fortunately, they only fed 200 more yards and bedded up in a small patch of quacky's 50 yards from the edge.
The waiting game began.. with 11 hours till they would get up and feed I was stuck sitting and waiting to either catch a glimpse of elk moving or get word from my mom and Taelor.
Keeping downwind and out of sight I waited and waited…The hours went past, and the heat rose. 4pm clouds began to build up and small rain showers were on and off, being restless and anxious was an understatement. Especially getting a text about how bored my one spotter was. I knew we need patients if we wanted this to work… 6:30 I peaked over the sagebrush that I used for cover to see an elk standing in an open in the trees. Without being able to see if it was the bull and it moving back in the trees, I got Taelor on the radio and said to keep your eyes open they're up and moving. Within minutes we had the bull located in the same opening and Taelor giving me a play by play of what they could see. The bull was moving through the patch heading towards the west end. I made a split decision to bail off my point, hit the bottom and move up to try and get in position for a play.
As I ran up the draw, cover became less and less. Being stuck in nothing but knee-high sagebrush and having a few sarvisberry bushes in between me and the patch. Taelor was on the radio saying the bull was out of the patch alone and trotting towards me. I scanned the edge of the trees, picking up the bull heading straight at me! Every time the bull would go behind the brush I’d move up the trail as far as I could. But cover ran out and the bull was in my lap before I could be ready! I got on my knees scrambled for my range finder, diaphragm and to get an arrow knocked. By the time I was ready, the bull was under 20 yards, so I just stood and drew back. The bull jumped back and I settled my pin and released the arrow.
The bull whirled, I called and knocked another arrow, he stopped 75 yards facing straightway from me with his head down. As I sat waiting to get another shot a million things were racing through my head where was my shot placement, did I even hit the bull, am I going to get another shot, and why did he stop? The seconds seemed like hours. I decided to try and move up the trail but only making it a couple feet. The bull turned, but as I drew back my excitement got the best of me! I was shaking so bad that my arrow fell of the rest causing me to let down. The bull turned and ran.
Not seeing any blood or my arrow, I was thinking he's gone. I’m never getting another shot.
But faith was on my side, and he stopped 95 yards away again! He was putting his head down. Standing for 10 minutes with clear liquids coming out his nose and mouth. Eventually, the bull turned and gave me a strong quartering away shot. My motto is if you have any animal hit and if you can get another shot in do it. So I moved my sight and drew back letting another arrow go sticking the bull back and low making the bull run another 45 yards but again stopping with the same liquids coming out his mouth and nose. Talking to my mom on the radio she said she could see my second arrow and the liquid but nothing else. The next thirty minutes were the most extended minutes of my life… The bull slowly walked over a rise giving me zero visibility of the bull. But having my spotters gave me info on what the bull was doing. With the fading light, I had to try and get eyes on the bull. Sneaking my way up the ridge, Taelor comes on the radio saying the bull’s running just fine and doesn’t seem to be hurting like he was. Hearing that sunk my heart! I knew finding this bull now would be even harder, no blood, running fine, and lots of country.. would all work against me. I told Taelor just keep an eye on him. I'm gathering my pack and heading back to the truck . Just give the bull time. 45 minutes later I reached them. I wanted an update on what the bull was doing when they last could see him.
Taelor simply said he's not doing good. He stopped and just started bleeding out his mouth and nose. Standing in a funny way that looked like he was sick….
The drive home was filled with what if’s, and the night was even more restless knowing if I had a hurt bull out there. All I could do was feel sick and worried!! Knowing my odds of finding this bull, I had planned to get on the ridge across from where I’d left the bull that next morning to glass and see if I could turn him up.
Right at daylight, I was set up scanning the ridge we had last seen the bull on. Within 5 minutes I had the bull only 5 yards from where Taelor said she last saw him. The head flipped back antlers in the dirt was a warming sight to me after the restless, worried night before. I quickly got on the phone to my mom to say I found him and he's dead and that I might need a little help getting him out.
An hour and a half later I was at my bull reminiscing on the days past spent watching and pattering him. Hours spent waiting him out and the way it ended up going down in the end. After getting my mom and Taelor over to the down bull, the work began.
My 2015 archery bull will be a hunt and a bull that will be hard to beat. Being this bull is my biggest archery bull ever scoring 342 3/8ths as a 7x6. But most of all is the story, the time spent with the bull, the background and history we had knowing he had eluded me and vanished like a ghost in 2013… I couldn't have done it without the help from my mom and Taelor and good old fashion LUCK. I can't wait to see what 2016 has in store.