Missoula Archery Hunter Goes Solo, Sticks Nice Bull
By angelamontana

Posted: September 14, 2016

Josh Stewart went hunting Monday morning by himself. By mid morning he had stuck a nice bull elk. Here is how Josh described this great hunting experience:

Sept. 12, 2016: It’s Monday Morning and I have the day off work. It starts out like most of my Mondays when I miss my alarm, but I still wake up in time to make it out to hunt the earlier hours of the day. I’ve only been in this area a couple of times. Just five days earlier I had a nice mature 6 point stare me down at 70 yards, as I talked to his buddies in bugle tones.

I arrive at my destination and start my hike in, down into drainage and up the other side. It is steep so I had to side hill my way up the drainage. Its thick, it’s steep with small benches, and I know it’s the perfect place for elk to hide. As I move along the opposite hillside of the drainage I continue to call both cow calling and bugling. With no answer to my calls I continue on. After a couple hours of moving and calling I finally hear something. It wasn’t the answering bugle of a hot bull, but was definitely an elk. Ahead of me in the timber, I can hear the crashing and breaking of large sticks, branches, and downed trees. I check the wind, it’s in my face. I think to myself, the bull is coming in. I move up 20 plus yards or so and knock an arrow. Listening, the sound gets more intense but the elk doesn’t seem to be getting closer. The only thing that I am thinking is it is a bull and he’s prettying up his antlers before he comes in to greet the call. I rush in another 20 plus yards to an opening that is about 40 yards across from the bull. I can hear him thrashing the bushes and know exactly where he is but I can’t see him in the dog hair thick brush and trees. He’s just inside the timber and brush. I sat momentarily thinking of what to do next and checking the wind again, to see if I could run in and ambush him. Suddenly he stops racking the bushes and steps out walking towards me. He’s on a path slightly down hill and heading directly toward me. He’s coming into my last call. As he approaches he walks behind a tree when he does I draw back. He steps out from behind the tree and stops at about 20 yards and stares down and ahead. I check my shooting lane, it’s clear and I let my arrow fly. It hits the mark, slightly above and behind the shoulder. He spins a 180 and takes off as I cow call. I can’t believe it, I just smacked a bull! I check my watch, its 9:17 A.M. I go over to where he was last standing and check the area for blood and I don’t see any sign at all. Now I’m thinking how I am ever going to find this bull, its dog hair thick and there is no blood. There is a light dusting of snow on the logs and bear grass yet no signs of blood. I cow call a couple more times which gets another elk curious enough to move in and try to check me out. After sitting there patiently I hear it, the gasping sounds of my bull breathing. I can tell by the sounds the elk is making that I made a good shot and he is down. I’m able to roughly pin point his location. I still know it’s not going to be an easy task finding him because the terrain is so thick I’m also excited because I know he’s not too far from me and I know roughly where he is laying, about 60 plus yards in the thick brush and trees. I wait and continually check my watch. It’s been 20 minutes now and it’s time to find my bull. I follow the scuffed up dirt he left when he took off. It’s hit and miss but I’m still able to track him. Finally I see something through the brush that looks like it may be an elk down. I’m only about 10 yards away but it’s so thick I can’t tell for certain. I push through the brush and there he is a nice 5×5 bull, my second bull with a bow.

Now the work starts! I tag him and take a few pictures. Now I’m off, headed for the truck to dump off my bow, hunting pack, and then head back in with my backpacking pack and game bags to pack him out. I used the gutless method and boned him out into four games bags putting each quarter in a bag along with the back straps in with the front quarters. I figured it’s going to be a tough haul so I pack the heaviest first. Rear quarter and head make my way down to a trail, which has a dozen or more trees that you have to crawl over. I dump each bag off at the trail just in case I am still packing him out into the night and I have to use my headlamp. I return for the third load and decide to pack both front quarters and back straps out in one load. I barely get my pack on my shoulders but think to myself, I can do this. Down the mountain I go, over blow down and steep terrain. As I arrive at the trail I decided to push on and try to do the whole thing in three trips. You see, I’m a Stewart and we like to do things the hard way sometimes. I make it to the truck and my legs, hips, and back are tight with strain. I didn’t anticipate the climb out of the drainage to be as bad as the haul down into it. After hours of packing out my prized meat and antlers I finally get back to the truck where it all began. It’s now 5:38 P.M. and I’ve packed this thing out in three trips by myself. The hard part is over and the feeling of accomplishment sets in. I am humbled and excited all over again.

Moral of the story: Solo elk hunting is very rewarding but if you’re going to solo elk hunt, save your body some pain and soreness, pack it out in four or five trips or be willing to feel wrecked and popping ibuprofen.