Last week I headed out on my first archery elk hunt ever. The plan was to meet Kelly Burke from Burke Ranch Outfitters in Malta at 3pm on Wednesday from there we would travel south 60 miles to his hunting camp. The camp is situated about 7 miles north of Fort Peck Reservoir’s Timber Creek.
It sits on a bench with timber and an open meadow. Once we arrived we were greeted by Bob Bailey the camp cook. Bailey, who is a retired fireman from Illinois, then gave me the camp tour while as we unloaded my hunting gear. The hunting camp consisted of two wall tents, one for sleeping while the other housed the kitchen and dining area. There was also a shower and of course an outhouse. Everything in the camp ran on propane except for a battery that pumped the propane heated water into the shower. “We have a lot of elk that come close to camp so quiet is good”, said Bailey. It was evident that Bailey took a lot of pride in running the camp as everything appeared neat and orderly. One I got settled in, Burke asked me to shoot a couple of times at a target set-up about 50 yards away. After I hit the target with both arrows he said we were good to go. We headed out that evening and immediately started to see elk. We decided to go after a herd of a couple of bulls and some cows feeding in the creek bottom about a mile away. The closer we got to the elk the slower and lower we moved sometimes crawling on our hands and knees. The temperature was in the 80’s and I had sweat running down my face. When we got within 70 yards of a spike bull the smell of the elk made my heart pump faster and it was harder for me to breathe. Then the wind switched and the bull suddenly held up his nose. He had winded us and off he went with the rest of the herd. It was a good first hunt and we headed back to camp. We arrived in the dark and Bailey had a meal of roast beef, mash potatoes, and gravy waiting for us. We decided to get up at 4:30 the next morning and head out just at daybreak. It wasn’t long before we spotted three elk, two cows and a calf, this time feeding on the other side of the creek up in a meadow. As we got closer to where we thought the elk might be Burke who was walking in front of me suddenly froze. Up ahead about 80 yards was one of the cow elk. The wind was perfect and the sunrise was behind us. The elk was looking our way and started to walk toward us. When it got within 40 yards I drew my bow and shot. The arrow flew right in front of the elk standing broad side. Startled the elk trotted in the other direction. Burke then blew his cow call. The sound turned the elk and it came back towards us stopping about 35 yards. Now it was looking in our direction facing us head on. I drew my bow and placed my 40 yard site pin between her shoulders right below the neck. This time my arrow hit its mark. It was my first elk with a bow and a hunting experience I will never forget.
By Montana Grant
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