Archery Elk Hunt 2016

Late August 2016. The Colorado high country is still enjoying summer, but night temperatures are dropping down to freezing. Aspens show just a few leaves beginning to turn to gold and elk have not quite entered the “rut”.

Elk country….still wild flowers at 9,800 feet!

The archery hunting season will begin in a few days and daily practice is mandatory.  Ben practicing with his compound bow – not bad at 40 yards!

A scouting trip up Bull Mountain turns up a few old elk, deer and moose tracks. Where are they?


Oh, here they are, in the game camera at my cabin……but we see them often, like family – not to be hunted!

After a steep climb up Bull Mountain to 9,788 feet, we spotted a huge black bear and a monster 6X7 bull elk drinking from the pond at 100 yards — too far for an ethical shot, but extremely beautiful nonetheless!

Ben at the elk wallow

Nap time….Dolly the decoy tries to slip past Ben

We are seeing lots of deer and elk over the course of the next few days. Despite being pre-rut we are able to call in a few small herds, however none close enough for an ethical shot.

Ben and Dan kiss Dolly goodby (she is immune to Ben’s recently acquired strep throat) before climbing up to their campsite near the wallow — 9,788 ft elevation on Bull Mountain. Dan used his military training to construct a comfy shelter from 2 ponchos! Cold meals, no fire — they hope to remain undetected and discover wildlife using the pond. Except for another black bear, their effort was to no avail, but a satisfying adventure nonetheless.

Bull Mountain sunrise and sunset

We have taken no animal thus far, but after a break to attend a wedding, I will be back, and hopefully the rut will have begun and calling will be much more effective.

Mid September now. Days are cooler and aspen trees are beginning to turn gold, especially atop Bull Mountain, which is 1,500 feet higher than the cabin. Got a new rest and sight pin for my bow. Let’s see if it makes a difference.

Golden aspen under deep blue skies
Harvest moon setting over Bull Mountain

As dawn slowly lights the sky, I find four mule deer (2 bucks, 2 does) grazing in the big clearcut 100 yards away. Above them 400 yards up the mountain a herd of 14 elk (5X5, spike, cows, calves) slowly graze back to their beds. Cow calls get a few mews in response and a bull bugles once, but they can’t be enticed back down to me. On the way back to the truck a mule deer buck approaches within 52 yards, head on to me (small target) and downwind. He definitely has my scent, but is unsure. The buck starts moving, the wind comes up. I shoot, hurrying the shot and miss cleanly. I hear my arrow hit a nearby rock, startling the buck. The small herd ambles away unconcerned…..

A few opportunities missed, but a wonderful experience just the same.

Written at Willett’s Kopje Creek Cabin, August/September 2016

Author: David Willett

Worked at Agilent Technologies and Hewlett-Packard, attended University of Washington and Michigan State University, lived in the Netherlands, the Peoples Republic of China and the United States, visited 36 countries and 49 U.S. states, living in Fort Collins, CO, USA

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