Drove west a few miles to listen. Nothing. Drove back east closer to camp and cut a road south to get back where I’d heard one bugle the 2nd day. This is when the fun started!
I got out of my truck and quickly heard a bugle down the draw. Hiking I went. About a quarter mile down, I saw a nice bull… A 6×6 probably 320’s. He was bugling and raking trees right out in the open! I don’t know if he saw me in the dim light and thought I was a bull or what, but from 400 yards, here he comes! …and I hadn’t even called!
As he takes a few small cedars on the way he got a big green cluster of cedar branches stuck in his rack. It kinda looked like it covered his whole face! I was out in the complete open with not much to do but hunker down and get ready. I ranged a few small cedars out there a ways.
The bull passed by at 70 briefly. I didn’t feel comfortable shooting. Then he walked away from me and turned broadside at 87… Yep, too far for this guy.
We then went on a game of chase for the next 2 hours. He’d bugle often enough I could keep on him but man did he zig zag!
I thought I’d lost him a couple times but then he’d bugle and I’d close the gap. When I crossed another meadow and got up a small ridge near where is last heard him, I cow called twice. He ripped out a big bugle and he was close! I put the call away.
I could hear him rake trees and a couple times I saw glimpses. He was about 80 yards in thick stuff and it was too quiet to get closer. He looked to be making a somewhat of a circle closer to me so I retreated and swung over to where I thought I might intercept him.
A half hour passed and he’s still just raking trees occasionally in there about 70 yards. Then he finally starts moving around below me a bit. I was up on a shelf and was in good position I thought. The bull finally starts coming through at what’s going to be 35 yards. But he ends up coming through just below the shelf I was up on enough that I needed to stand up to see his chest well. As he steps in my opening, I’m about to draw… Tension is definitely on the string! But he steps into my opening quartering right at me! He feeds for about 20 seconds and I’m just waiting…waiting… Then he puts his head up and he’s staring right at me. With the sun right behind me I was probably backlit… He stared me down as I tried to stay frozen. Then he threw his nose up and it appeared the down drafts that had been perfect might be shifting towards him too much. Yep. He turns to leave and I try to draw, but it was too late… Gone.
The gig was up I figured, so I dropped to my knees and grabbed my quiver and then I hear something… Another big bull!! Holy crap, I messed up! I had no idea there was another bull with this one, let alone another big one… 6×6 probably 330+! Had I stayed frozen, this one looked to still be coming like the other… He was only 40 yards but in some thick stuff. Anyway, he had seen me move for my quiver and didn’t stick around. Bulls win again. What a fun morning… So close!!!
Took a shot at finding a remote water source near where I’d encountered the elk this morning. No luck, all dried up. Instead I made a still hunt out of the evening, with some periodic calling and glassing. I saw one cow and one mule deer doe.