Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

"Nevada Elk Hunt Success"
Written by Brian Patterson

Nevada Elk Hunt Success
I've been on a few elk hunts, some easy hunts of shooting them in the hay fields off my buddies ranch in WY, some hard ones in the high country mountains of WY. A tough hunt in CO, I had to pack that bull out several miles in several pieces. I even was along for the fun in 2005 when a buddy had a Nevada tag. But this year was my first Nevada elk hunt with me packing the gun. The hunt with Nelson Stone in 2005 really helped me out. We hunted with guides and saw lots of elk but unfortunately Nelson had what has become known as "the elk incident", he never collected his bull after 10+ years of applying. I too had been waiting 10 years and wasn't about to come home empty handed. I ended up with my third choice unit which happened to be the same unit we hunted last year with the guides.

I did my normal pre-season exercise regimen with added workouts, because not only did I have the Nevada elk tag in my pocket but I also had my second Wyoming moose tag and a Wyoming antelope tag to fill. Three hunts would require that I be in good shape. I spent a lot of time riding my bike, swimming and shooting out to 350-400 yards. The previous year we had seen numerous bulls each day, but could never close the distance much in the thick PJ. I was sure I could find the bulls and shoot comfortably out to 400 yards, but didn't want to have to shoot past that range. As luck would have it my hunting buddy Nelson had drawn a desert bighorn tag and his season opened the same day as my elk hunt. Both are special tags here in Nevada, with long waiting periods, but hands down the sheep tag was the priority. The gang headed out sheep hunting and I headed elk hunting solo. Lots of scouting all summer for sheep had everyone confident that the sheep hunt would be over in one or two days, then the gang could head north and get in on the last part of my elk hunt.

I headed up toward Ely the day before the opener, I knew where I would camp and the main areas I would glass for the first few days. I glassed that evening and only spotted 4 bulls, but they were in the same locations as before. The bulls I spotted were about a mile and a half away. I knew of a rocky out crop on a ridge that would put me about 800-1000 yards across from them and roughly the same elevation, that's where I wanted to be at first light. The real good thing about the evening scouting was I saw only one other hunter in the area.

I woke up very early to temps in the high teens. I had a 3-4 mile ride in the truck and then a mile or so hike to be in position. The wind was blowing hard when I left the truck in the dark. I started to climb and soon didn't even notice the cold. It was very steep and lots of loose rock, so I went slowly keeping quiet. I had given myself plenty of time, an hour to make the mile or so hike. After I made the ridge line and headed toward my outcrop I had forgotten about the few good bowls on the back side of the ridge and decided to stop and glass them just as it was getting light. I didn't spend a lot of time, maybe 20-30 minutes, didn't see anything so I moved up the last 300 yards to get to my outcrop.

I set up in the exact same location as we had the previous year. I found two bulls in the same clearings as before. I ranged a rock shelf below the bulls, 900 plus yards. They were about 200 yards above that and feeding toward a tight draw with thick timber. I sat and glassed the entire area for an hour or so keeping an eye on the bulls as they disappeared into the timber. I stayed put and glassed for two more hours without seeing any more elk. I knew they were there. Normally I would sit and glass for a few more hours. But I was hunting alone this year and decided to try a different approach.

Nevada Elk Hunt Success
I watched the bull's bed, so I knew roughly where they were located. I formulated a plan and my route to ease down across the draw up the other side and work my way above the timber they were in. If I got above them and then to the east I would be along a rock ridge and I could look down into the timber and possibly spot them bedded.

I spent the next 3-4 hours working my way around and then above the drainage and timber they had gone into. I stopped several times sat and glassed, reviewed my plan and made minor adjustments based on the wind and terrain. The wind was howling and it was cold. I sat and watched the timber from my high point on the rock ridge waiting for the bulls to get up and feed. I kept getting cold and would leave my spot and hike the 300 yards or so to the top of the peak to look at the backside, this little hike would warm me up and I could glass more country too. I think the strong winds were keeping the bulls bedded. I made this "warm up" hike at least 3 times throughout the day.

About 3:30 a bull appeared below me, 265 yards. Decent bull close range...hmmm what to do? Last year we never really seemed to get inside 400 yards.. hmmm long fourths that I just couldn't take my eyes off. Its opening day, why end it all so soon? I could make it back to Vegas and get in on the sheep hunt. Boy, this late in the year and he's not broken up, very symmetrical 6x6. I guessed maybe a 320 class bull. All this was running through my mind. What should I do? Hmmmm, at least 2 miles from the truck, good looking bull, the wind is blowing cold, gonna be dark in an hour or so, hmmmm I was so unsure what I wanted to do.

I had the gun on the sticks and a solid rest. Just as I had the cross hairs on him he stepped behind a tree and was gone. Darn. Now that he was gone I felt like I really wanted him. So many memories of Nelson's hunt last year and we came home empty, did I blow my best chance at a decent bull? About 10-15 long agonizing minutes later I find him again, now 245 yards out and after the short disappearing act I was certain to pull the trigger. I did. Not even a flinch from the bull, but I heard the thump. One more shot, not too sure on this one but he just stepped around from broadside and faced my direction. Anxiety is setting in, even a tinge of panic, third shot was again the solid thump of a hit and he then stepped into the trees.

Two solid sounding hits, he had to be down but I didn't see or hear a thing with the strong wind. I calmly gathered my gear, marked my location with some flagging tape, and made a mental note of a white trunk of an aspen as the only one around where the bull was last seen. It took me another 10 minutes or so to find away down from my rocky sniper point, but when I did I walked toward that aspen and right up to a very dead 6x6 bull. Now it was after 4:00 pm and I was almost 2 miles from the truck.

I got the GPS and marked the spot, then photos were taken and I started to quarter him in the dark. Turns out all three shots connected. I didn't hurry, just paced myself with the task at hand and got the quarters all hung in a tree. I loaded the backstraps into my pack and stumbled my way down the steep draw. I flagged trees on my way out hoping to meet the main drainage and follow it to the truck. As a test to myself I decided not to use my GPS guiding me to the truck, I would walk down the draw until I felt I was close. I fought the urge to check and when I climbed out of the draw and scanned the area with my flashlight I had over shot the truck by about 75 yards. I felt pretty good though.

I was back in camp for a quick dinner of soup and a couple high balls around 11:00. I was tired, but feeling successful. I even drove down the mountain to get phone service, checked in with the sheep hunters and told my story. The next day I was able to get my quad about ¾ of a mile from the bull and made 4 trips with the meat, horns and cape. It wasn't until I had everything on the quad and was making that 4 mile ride to camp that it hit me what I had done. What last year four of us working hard for 8 days couldn't get done what I had done all by myself in two. I got back to camp by 5:00, broke it down and headed home. Rolled into Vegas around midnight my elk hunt complete. Spent the next day at home then the next day I headed out to hunt desert sheep with Nelson……6 more days hunting sheep, then a hard day and night to get his animal off the mountain……but the sheep hunt is another story.

I had a good year with the tags and the harvest. My Nevada bull grossed just over 300 points, Wyoming antelope just shy of the book, a 36" Wyoming moose that was bigger than my previous moose and helped on a Nevada desert sheep tag. How many hunting seasons do you have left? You never know so enjoy each one like it's your last. The moose hunt was an experience too, note to self……don't shoot a moose all alone and have it fall in a creek.

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