I started laying plans for this year’s opening day of archery season on closing day of last year’s archery season. Had a shade over 11 months to obsess about it more than was really proper and still managed to forget a few things.
Left my release at home, for one. That’s the device that lets the arrow go. Kind of important.
But I did have my backup release, so didn’t need to turn the truck around. Which was handy because I had precious little time.
My trip to the woods for the opener was mainly ceremonial, just to get out there. I worked that day and had to work early the next, so I had three skinny hours of daylight to get to the forest, hustle down a trail to a waterhole I knew of and –– if all went stunningly well –– get into some elk.
And I’ll be darned if that isn’t just exactly how it worked out. Saw ultra-fresh tracks and very squishy elk doo-doo as I got close to the water.
It’s an odd thing to register that hunting has made you get legitimately excited about finding warm feces. Discovering fresh poop usually goes in a different direction.
Got to the water. Checked the wind. Picked the best spot to post up. Cleared away twigs so I would be silent as a ninja if I had occasion to zip off an arrow.
Then I waited. For like, maybe, five minutes. Eight tops. It wasn’t a lot of minutes. Then I heard a breaking branch. And another. Footsteps.
Normally how I would handle this scenario is to be extremely patient and end up not getting a shot at the elk due to an excess of caution. In this case, I didn’t have time so I decided to employ my other hunting tactic of pushing too hard and blowing it that way. Not ideal, but tends to be quicker and the shot clock was ticking.
So I tooted out a few subtle cow elk sounds from my new call. One of my equipment upgrades from the off-season re-tooling efforts.
This call simulates female elk vocalizations and goes by the name of “The Trophy Wife.” I admit that a large part of my purchase was triggered by such a spectacular name. But also it got good reviews for being convincing and genuine-sounding.
Couple mews out of the ol’ The Trophy Wife and, sure enough, here they come. Four elk just traipsing through the timber right for me. Nonchalant. Flicking their ears. Not a care in the world.
They look around for whoever was just talking. Don’t see anybody but aren’t concerned. Settle down and start drinking water and eating delicious shrubbery.
I spent 20 minutes watching these elk slurp water and graze. They were thirty yards off, but none had antlers growing out of their heads and didn’t grow any during those 20 minutes I was in range.
I kept checking. though. Just in case. So no shot. But it was cool. Really cool. To get off work, run out to the woods and right away hear exactly what you’re hoping to hear coming your way. Elk really are impressive.
I didn’t plan on getting a shot at an elk with such a little blip of time to work with. I was just set on getting out there. Just like strapping on your rock skis to take a run during Fergifest when the conditions aren’t optimal. Or snowy. It’s still fun and something you’ve gotta do just because.
Driving home, looking at the mountains and other notable features I see no good reason to describe here, I had one of those warm washes come over me where you take a gander at where you’re at and realize what a good thing it is to be in Wallowa County.
Where else can you take a brief jaunt after work and be amongst elk lickety-split like that? Actually, lots of places. So many other places. All you bowhunters should probably go to those other places. Seriously. (Jedi wave of the hand). These are not the elk you’re looking for.
Jon Rombach lives in Wallowa County, has elk at the top of his food pyramid and is a columnist for the Chieftain.