Bow and Arrow Hunting
June 1990

ROOSEVELT MADNESS ~ BY TIM O’KELLEY
Rough Country, Heavy Growth Mark Elk Country In The Pacific Northwest

IT WAS SEPTEMBER and the
temperature was in the eighties. I had hunted for nine days without seeing an elk. I
was discouraged, because all the time I had put into pre—season scouting had not
proved to be helpful in locating elk this time of year.

I walked up a small drainage I had hunted in past years. I had purposely picked
this area to hunt on hot days. It was 4:40 p.m. and already shadows from the steep
ridge were cast over the creek bottom. I walked under the canopy of alders
where the temperature was a good fifteen degrees cooler. I was heading back to a
spot where I had bugled in a bull some years earlier I wanted to check a wallow.
As I approached the seep I could see the grass had not been destroyed and the pit
dug out from any usage so far this year. I headed back to my truck and decided to go
up the road about two miles to hunt a couple of similar drainages.

After the short drive. I got out and followed an old logging road until it ended.
Elk had extended a trail from the road ending. It paralleled a small creek that trickled
down the hill. As I slowly walked along the trail, beads of sweat dripped from my face.

The trail was noisy and slippery with dry leaves covering it.
I had just about convinced myself this was futile, because of the dry conditions. I
approached another small seep and checked it for fresh tracks. It looked encouraging,
there were fresh tracks skirting the edge. It looked like only a couple of animals had
passed through.

I decided to bugle once and if nothing answered, I would call it a day. I broke the
silence in the drainage with a less than enthusiastic bugle. The echo had not even
quieted before a response came from across the small canyon. This was the first bull I
had heard this season.

The Tioga unit in Oregon was my location. I looked at my watch; it was 6:30 p.m.
I had plenty of time to make a good hunt without being rushed by darkness.
I looked over the drainage and decided the bull sounded as if he were on a little
finger ridge beside a tiny creek. I quickly dropped into the creek and closed to what l
thought was about eighty yards from where I estimated the bull should be. I picked a
spot in some alders that had good shooting lanes on either side of me. The wind was
blowing directly from the bull to me.

I let out a bugle and followed immediately with a sequence of grunts. The bull bugled
back instantly. The feeling that comes from hearing one of these royal animals bugle is
one of excitement and awe. I could hear the bull raking a tree. Then I could hear
him move, side—hiding above and heading for the other side of the ridge. I still couldn’t
see him. I was quiet for about ten minutes, with the exception of mock—rubbing a small
alder, then I bugled again. He answered immediately.

I knew now that he was trying to get below me to get my scent so I moved to
keep him above me. I had only gone about forty yards when I heard limbs breaking
ahead of me. Before I had a chance to get ready, white tips were swinging above the
brush in my direction.

In an instant, I was nine yards away from a nice bull that was staring directly at
me. I had my bow arm straight out with my fingers on the nock of the arrow. If the bull
decided to stay on his current course, he would momentarily have his vision block-
ed as he walked behind a large fir, allowing me enough time to draw and shoot when
he reappeared on the other side. He lowered his head and paused as if he was going to
do just that, but it was his survival instincts that told him to go back the way he had just
come.

In an instant, he had vanished back up the hill. My heart sank and the close en-
counter was just a memory. I bugled in the direction he had left. Almost instantly he
was back, this time twenty yards above me. I could not shoot, because the brush was
too thick and the only visible part of his body was his huge dark neck and rack. I
watched in fascination as he destroyed three saplings. I kept looking for a spot
from which I might be able to take a shot. The guttural sounds he made were most
impressive; he was whining, growling and sniffling. I thought he was so distracted
that I could crawl maybe ten feet and be a position to shoot. Everytime I made the
slightest noise his head would jerk up and he would glare in my direction, yet he was
convinced there was another bull and that I just happened to be between them.

I watched the sheer power of this magnificent animal as he positioned a four—
inch sapling between his brow and bay tine. In one even, effortless motion, he
turned his head and snapped it. I broke a small limb as I impatiently
tried to crawl and once again his head shot up and he glared in my direction. This time
he again disappeared up the hill.

For the second time I had been within easy bow range and had not even had a
chance to draw my bow. I bugled again, but this time there was no response. I could
hear him break an occasional limb as he continued up the hill. I started after him at
a fast pace.

About ten minutes had passed when I came to a spot the bull had raked. He had
churned the ground so thoroughly it looked as if it had been plowed. A big urine
impression was added for finalization of his territory.

I let out a bugle right on the spot. Immediately limbs cracked about fifty yards
above me. I could see the bull again and he was rakin yet another tree. I could see an
opening that would take me to thirty—five yards below him. I moved swiftly up and
peeked around a stump. The bull was still raking the same tree. If I could get him to
move slightly, I could get a clear shot. I knelt down and bugled, grunted and
started raking a tree. I tried to mock every vocal noise the bull made and started
kicking limbs and the ground.

Movement caught my eye off to my right at about twenty yards. It was a bull,
but not the big one. The small bull seemed more curious than anything else. He was
headed directly down the hill and would surely pick up my scent in a few moments.
I was sure something had to happen quickly or it all would be over. I peeked
back up the hill just in time to see the big bull move into an opening. I came to full
draw as the bull glared in my direction. My arm trembled uncontrollably as the arrow
disappeared in the direction of the bull standing almost broadside to me.

He bounded up the hill, then stopped and stared at me from behind some thick
brush, just as he had done all evening. The small bull came back up the hill in a hurry
as if he thought he was missing out on something. When he saw the big bull, he
was satisfied and started to feed in a little opening just twenty yards away. While I
was trying to figure out where and if I had even hit the big bull, three cows started to
slowly make there way in the direction of the big bull, feeding as they went.

I played the shot back in my mind. Everything seemed good except for the
noise the arrow made when it impacted whatever it hit. I couldn`t move with all the
elk there now and I didn’t have any kind of a shot at the big bull still standing behind
heavy brush. All I could do was watch and hope the arrow had hit the bull. If it had,
the last thing I wanted to do was scare the animal, especially if the hit was marginal.
About fifteen minutes passed and the bodies of the elk started to turn into silhouettes as
darkness fell.

Suddenly a loud crash came from the direction I had last seen the big bull standing,
The small bull walked hurriedly up the hill and disappeared in the same thicket
where I had last seen the big bull. He reappeared on the other side and leisurely met
up with the cows and started to feed away from me.

I slowly moved up the hill to where I thought I had last seen the big bull. He
wasn’t there. I was getting panicky as I pulled out my Mini—Mag flashlight to look
for any sign of blood. I moved up the hill some twenty yards and found the big, tawny
body on the ground. As I neared the fallen monarch, a hint of remorse passed through me,
but the dedication, hard work and excitement more
than made up for it. <—<<<

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