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Author Topic: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up  (Read 2529 times)

Offline BlackRiverTaxidermy

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2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« on: November 25, 2020, 10:35:29 AM »
What a crazy year! In 2009 I drew the archery mudflow tag and harvested a good bull in a deep canyon near Castle Lake. A great friend gave up his time in the woods to come along for the hunt, which if you knew this guy you would know it was a true selfless act. I’ve since been to many states and have taken bulls gaining experience and some great memories...this one to follow as well. When results came in this year and I was selected again for the mudflow archery tag I was thrilled. Since my last hunt in that ground I have spent countless hours shed hunting, hiking, and recreating that area and felt much more informed about select areas that held elk that were not well known. The unit was given a bigger area this year along with a late season (4 days). Even though I fully expected to have the best chance to fill the tag in the early season, the thought of having time in the later season when the bulls are lower was also enticing. Scouting trips consisted of looking for more access than anything else. The tag encompasses an area that draws bulls in from several neighboring units. Therefore to focus expectations and develop ‘hit lists’ is not always the best option until the rut fully kicks in and outside area bulls move in to take their place within the cow herds. The area has always surprised me in regard to it is much steeping and hard travelled than one might think. Lower areas around the north fork of the Toutle River are easier ground but most of this easier area is desolate of elk during the rut. Alpine areas and deep timber pockets tucked amongst steep canyons contain a lot of the animals for the better part of September and well into October.

I set up a base camp off the 3000 road on September 10th, allowing me two days before the opener on the 12th. The morning of the 11th I had a bull and his 5 cows walk into my glassing viewpoint. They were never aware I was there, even at 90 yards. I was stunned as it was one of the best bulls I had seen on the mountain for years (see 1st pic). A main frame 6 with paddled tops, great mass, and tine length. He made the list. The area sounded like a Primos video with an insane amount of bugles and rut activity. Several other larger bulls caught my eyes amongst the plethora of rag horns. I was pleasantly surprised to see better quality of bulls vs. the 2009 year. Not necessarily more animals, but just a better genetic and antler size quality. The next morning couldn’t come fast enough…

Opening morning found me hot on the trail of that big 6. His bugle was unmistakable; no ‘high-low’, just scratchy growl was all he typically uttered. To make a long story short, I worked him from daylight into his bedding area, obviously following his cows. The transition from the feeding hillside to the bedding area amongst some alpine nobles took us through one of the most beautiful alder and evergreen timber patches I have even beheld. It was littered with wallows, 6 within 75 yards of each other in one area. We played cat and mouse the entire way while he gently pushed his cows. Ensuring to keep the wind and out of sight I continually pestered him, begging for a fight with huffs, bull-calling-cow bugles, and glunks. We played this game for well over ¼ mile and during the upward hike through a watershed canyon with layered benches, he had enough. He was close, I was guessing 40 yards ahead of me but over the next rise on a bench. He bugled and I cut him off with a bugle mid-drift and that was all it took. However, I was fighting against a particularly bad patch of blackberries and in the process of clearing my pant leg from a vine, I heard a ‘snap’ and looked above me to see brow tines 3 yards above my head. He came in silent and the game was over as he bolted away.

I spent the next 2 days licking my wounds and pursuing other bulls. I passed on over 8 bulls and almost filled the tag on very good main frame 6 pushing 300”at the end of day 3. The areas decimated by the blast in 1980 created open ground ideal for elk habitat. However over time, tag-alder, vine maples, and huckleberry have choked out a lot of these areas. The elk seem to flock to these and have developed virtual tunnel systems amongst the vegetation in the canyons. It makes for a safe haven for them as well as a very hard area to hunt with your shooting lanes at a maximum of 10 yards.

Day 4 I went back to the big 6’s area. With hopes he calmed down, I was elated when he answered my location bugle at first light. The play was very reminiscent of Day 1 and it all came a breaking point within 100 yards of me getting busted on day 1. I again pursed him as he moved his cows away slowly. I spotted him 30 minutes later moving up a small open area on a hillside as I came through the alder flat just below his location. He turned to bugle and again I cut him off and that was all it took. He turned around and came down the hill, ready for a fight. I kneeled below a small hemlock tree, ranged his projected location with a good shooting lane and got ready to draw. He came in like planned, stopping perfectly broadside at 37 yards in a downward position. His cows however were very upset at his leave and started to call to him. He kept swinging his head over his left shoulder to look for them in between looking for the bull that just called for his resignation. I settled the pin, eased the shot and at the very instant the string broke free he whirled to join back up with his cows. There was no string sound, he just simply whirled at the most inoperative time. I got a sick feeling as I saw the arrow narrowly miss the end of his nose on his turn and bury in his gut area. The hit was high, but still at the paunch level. I saw the fletching bury and then stop as it struck his opposing hip. He continued his whirl and ran back up the hill. I saw him again at approximately 120 yards as he disappeared in to the timber, on the path his cows took. I was sick. I have never gut shot an elk before and it’s a feeling I never want to experience again. I know not to push them so I marked my time of hit, flagged off the area with tape at the impact and shot locations and backed out. A much tormented 7 hours later I returned. At what appeared to be a possibly recoverable mishap got worse. No arrow. No blood or fluid to speak of, despite being fairly good at locating blood with years of archery elk hunting. Following track was impossible as this was a well-travelled area and a single elk track, even a bulls, was mingled amounts hundreds of tracks. The area was extremely brushy as well. I spent the remainder of the day grid and circle searching the area with no luck. Any hunter, especially archery hunters, know the gut twisting feeling this creates during moments like these. I returned in the middle of the night to an overlook area to listen for coyotes, bear movement, and possible birds with no luck. Over the next 4 days I searched within ¾ of a mile in every direction for the bull, certain that he was stacked up somewhere. One day alone logged 12 miles scouring several neighboring drainages. Several friends even told me to ‘shake it off’ and return to hunting when relaying to them what happened via cell phone, however I just couldn’t do it. I wanted this bull to have due process and to ensure I did everything in my power for a recovery or knowledge that he was still on his feet healing….it never came. I ended the early season unable to find him. I even returned several days later with my shed hunting lab, Tucker, with still no luck following countless hours of watching Elk 101 vids and articles on the habits of gut-shot elk to give me an idea of what I could be missing. Then there is the moral and ethics dilemma. I battled with ‘should I punch my tag?’. My conclusion after speaking with friends, my own convictions, and even going as far as speaking to a game officer about the legalities was that I would keep the tag for the late season hunt. By the letter of the law, a tag is punched upon recovery of the animal, which I was unable to find him and not entirely sure now the shot was fatal. I had spoken to several muzzleloaders and rifle hunters who had the tag and asked them to keep an eye out. If they saw him or even found the carcass to let me know and even though the meat would be bad I would still punch my tag upon recovering the headgear, but it never happened. Follow-up with several other tag holders following their season was the same result; no sign of him dead or alive.

I secured the 4 days of late season off from work and the 18th found me in the woods scouting yet again before the opener the following morning. The elk were no longer in numbers in the high areas but rather bachelored up in the lower elevations. I counted over 40 bulls in the ‘flats’ or ‘feeding station’ area on the 18th and my mind was made up with hopes that they didnt decide to cross the river overnight. A mile and half downhill road goes by fast in the early morning hours on a mountain bike and at daybreak I was in the bottom. For those that have never been there, it is a very large grassy area dotted with groups of young alder and mounds of grass covered ash deposits left by the mountain following the blast. My plan was to work out to the far south side of the flats and then eastward using the coverage of the alders to get worked into a bull. Wind was perfect and travel was easy, keeping out of site was the hardest and also the most imperative with a primitive weapon in your hand. I had only gone ¼ mile up river when I spotted elk. 3 bulls were in front of me grazing. The closest was a good 5 point. I was not going to be picky and I love eating elk more than I do shooting trophies; any bull would do. The 5 was in a great stalking position as I had to do was drop down in the river bottom, travel towards him, and pop up parallel to his location with an estimate 30-50 yard shot. It worked perfectly. As I rose of the edge of the river bottom the bull was directly in front of me at 43 yards, broadside and still feeding. I knocked up, settled in and began to aim, then it all went to hell. It was extremely cold that morning and I put on a thick pair of Kuiu gloves. My release is extremely sensitive, how I like it, however with bare skin you can at least feel the release pressure. A rookie move, and as I began my site drop to the sweet spot on the bull I did not feel the pressure on the release due to my gloves. The arrow loosed and went over the back of the bull. He immediately looked up, trotted out to 60 yards and looked around in panic. This all happed within seconds…the bull trotted off, uneasy about what just happed. I turned to look at the other bull and was pleasantly surprised to see he was much bigger than the 5. He was 95 yards away, still grazing and unaware of what occurred. I was kneeled behind a mound of grass covered soil about 2 feet high, but felt I could drop back down into the river bottom and cut the distance off, mimicking the play I just blew on the 5 point; but it was too late. The bull now picked his head up and was looking around for where his bachelor buddy ran off to. He started to walk to my direction. I was already knocked up but now certain this bull, when he came into range, would see me draw with my limited cover. He walked right into my setup. At 40 yards I drew and he never even looked my direction. I stopped him at 35 yards with a soft mew and settle the pin, gloves now removed of course. The arrow hit him about an inch forward of the crease behind the shoulder but it was perfect height and a mortal shot. He ran out another 60 yards and startled to wobble. I thought he would crash right there but to my shock he stiffened up and walked off! As he walked behind a big mound of dirt I sprinted to the mound, anticipating he would come around the other side and I would hit him again, which is exactly what happened. He came around the mound at 20 yards, very obviously sick as he didn’t even look over to see me draw. As he walked away I took a quartering away shot and saw the arrow disappear behind the last rib and zip out the opposing front shoulder; he didn’t even flinch and continued on his walk. He laid down 50 yards later and expired soon thereafter.
After approaching my bull and verifying he was down I made a quick phone call to the wife and then to a friend to see if he was available to come help. After some pictures and silent celebrating I am always in amazement of the emotions that can run through someone, even after years of successful hunting. I set to breaking the bull down, which I have always truly enjoyed. With the head, cape, and 1 quarter on my back I started the climb out, pushing the bike uphill, a task I abhor most in this life-not packing with meat but pushing a mountain bike, lol. I was met halfway up by a friend, his son and the son’s friend and the multiple trip made for 'one and done'. You know who you area and I cant thank you enough for the help and fun times getting him out!

Special permits give you the luxury of less hunters. I think the misconception of securing a special permit means more animals or easier hunt, which cant be further from the truth as a special permit tag-holder on several occasions and participating in others. To this day, the 2009 bull I got in this same unit, was one of the toughest pack-outs I have ever done. Elk are always elk, with the ultimate goal of surviving by being cagey, alert, and living in harsh and rough country. The terrain was much steeper and rugged than I remembered 10 years ago! I feel extremely blessed to have filled this tag, even more so on a great bull at the end of the day after the early season mishap. As for the big 6, I honestly believe he is alive after speaking to several guides and extremely experienced hunters like Joel Turner and hearing their take on the shot, believing the saving grace was the shot was high. If someone sees him I would love to hear about it as this is an awesome bull and very unique. The hunt was tremendous. It’s time to give back as well. Don’t ever ask me where I hunt with a general season tag, you’re wasting your time, lol. However the Mudflow Special permit is bigger ground than one might think, filled with hard to access honey holes containing some very respectable Roosevelts! This ground is also only able to be hunted by special permit, so if anyone in the future draws it I would love to share the experience, knowledge, and lessons learned I gained yet again on this hunt.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Joel
« Last Edit: November 26, 2020, 11:32:29 AM by BlackRiverTaxidermy »
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Offline Griiz

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2020, 10:58:42 AM »
Congratulations and thanks for the great story.

Offline huntnphool

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2020, 11:04:28 AM »
 :tup:
The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first!

Online jstone

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2020, 11:09:03 AM »
Congratulations on your archery Bull

Offline Fl0und3rz

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2020, 11:26:55 AM »
That's a heckuva bull, great story, and awesome pics. Congratulations and thank you.

Offline full choke

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2020, 12:17:58 PM »
Beautiful bull!  :tup:

Thanks for sharing your hunt!

Offline Wanttohuntmore

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2020, 12:32:58 PM »
Congrats and great story.   My friend had a antlerless tag there 7 years ago.   We came in from the other side of the river,  waded it,  then got the cow about another mile in.   It was quite a pack but a fun hunt.

Offline 2MANY

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2020, 01:16:20 PM »
Rockin the new freezer!!!!

Offline BlackRiverTaxidermy

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2020, 02:37:07 PM »
Rockin the new freezer!!!!
That's the cooler....you should see the freezer, its twice the size...its a little stuffed (no pun intended) with antlers and animals awaiting work.
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Offline MLBowhunting

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2020, 03:01:36 PM »
Nice job
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Offline millerwheeler

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2020, 03:05:52 PM »
Believe you were camped in the rock pit in early season we were in the other enclosed with the toutle tag hoping late archery blesses my father in-law also thanks for sharing

Offline pd

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2020, 03:11:17 PM »
Every bow hunter can read this story and sympathize. 

Beautiful elk in the end.  Congratulations.
Si vis pacem, para bellum

Offline Brushbuster

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2020, 03:57:22 PM »
A great write-up of your hunt. Congrats on your success!  :tup:

Offline dvolmer

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2020, 04:54:55 PM »
congrats!!!!  Great Bull!!!
Zonk Volmer

Offline SpicyTacos

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Re: 2020 Mudlfow Archery Elk Success & Write Up
« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2020, 06:06:33 PM »
Super inspiring hunt. Well done and thanks for sharing. I imagine that 6 is alive out there. You did that animal serious justice looking for it and asking others to as well. That’s really cool. Congratulations

 


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