Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

"Waterhole Trophy Bull"
Written by Curtis Pennington, aka Cookie2 at

Waterhole Trophy Bull
My hunt began on September 1st. I barely slept, in fact it was after midnight when I last checked the clock and the alarm went off at 3:30am, but I managed to force myself out of bed and get to the coffee pot. I left town at shortly after four heading to my secret canyon where the bull I had seen several times throughout the summer was hanging out. That bull was huge!

I got to my parking spot and wouldn't you know it, there is somebody already parked there! Oh well I'll just go back down a ways and go at it from a different angle, the winds better this way anyway. I hike up the ridge and immediately hear bugles up ahead of me. This is what I live for! I use my binoculars and find the bugling bull, but he is a very small 5x5. Not even a question about it, this is not what I am looking for so I continue up the ridge but I hear a new bugler just ahead of me and he sounds better.
Twenty yards ahead and I see him just sixty yards away and looking my way. I freeze and he goes back to raking a tree. He is not the bull I want either, but if he gives me a shot I will take it. I can't believe it but he starts coming right to me. When he goes behind a tree at fifteen yards I draw my bow, but the wind decided to swirl right then and he never even thought about it, gone!

I had made a very bad mistake in leaving my hunting boots on the front porch when I left that morning, so I was having a pretty hard time keeping my feet under me by this time, but I kept going. I made my way to the top of the ridge and walked right into the middle of a herd of cows and calves with a couple of spikes mixed in, but they didn't even tempt me. The tennis shoes were killing me by this time so I made my way to my camp and called it a day at around 2pm. I had seen what I came to see anyway. The bulls weren't even starting to get cranked up yet and I still had two full weeks to season closing, so I went on home.

The next weekend found me up and at it again on Sunday morning. I started up the same ridge that I had been concentrating on the last weekend and was not hearing anything at all, so I crossed over to the next ridge where I found a small herd but nothing interesting. A very light mist began to fall which wasn't a problem until the fog rolled in leaving visibility at about thirty yards. This was enough to drive me back to the truck, soaking wet! When I got to the truck my buddy from work was waiting for me. He knew where I would be and had given up way earlier than I had. We spent the rest of the morning at my camp waiting out the rain.

In the afternoon, we went back to my original starting place and tried to see if we could get him his first bull. We found a herd of cows in the same place I had found the nice 6x6 on the opening morning and I finally found a very nice bull in the trees above them. I couldn't believe how big he was when he finally walked out of the trees. He was easily a 350 class bull, and he was coming straight at us. I had Mike set up in front of me about fifty yards and started to softly cow call to him. He left his cows behind and was only forty yards when the hill erupted with four mule deer bucks leading the way to the next county! We sat there dumbfounded wondering what had just happened when I saw a hunter on top of the hill above us. He had walked right into the middle of it all and screwed it all up! After talking to him for a while we went on up and over the hill and back to camp a little upset.
After hunting the next day and having a couple of close calls I had to go back to work, so I told Mike good luck and offered him some advice that he might try sitting on a waterhole for a day or two.

The next Sunday officially started my vacation. We chased bugling bulls all day long in some of the nastiest country I have ever hunted and passed on four different raghorns. The next day, Monday, we got up to the hills around 3:30 and started into my new area but only got a mile or so down the road when I spotted a herd in the trees on top of a hill. Closer looks revealed a very nice bull, but we couldn't make out just how big he was. I decided he was worth a closer look so the stalk was on. When we got within about 500 yards of the herd they decided it was time to get up and graze, so I went it alone and got to within 40 yards of him, but didn't have a shot. This bull was somewhere in the 360 class and had a crown on his right side like a red deer. I really wanted him but the wind got me and he finally left me standing there alone. After this episode, I decided to go ahead and see where the road went just to get a feel for my new canyon.

I had marked a waterhole on my GPS from my topo map and wanted to see how close I could get to it. The road ended at the waterhole! I was hoping to have to hike about a mile to this water, but it didn't work out that way. I decided to sit on the water to see what came in as I had only an hour or so until dark. Ten minutes after my cousin drove away, I saw movement coming right down the road! It was a 310-320 6x6 coming for a drink, but he must have sensed something wrong as he just turned and walked away. My mind was made up as to what I would be doing the next day and where! On the way back home, I called another buddy and asked if I could borrow his Double Bull blind and he said it would be ok.

The next morning I set the blind up and climbed in at 6:00am. On two different occasions I heard elk spook on the downwind side of the blind, but I had the windows closed on that side to cut down on light in the blind. As I sat there at around noon I heard a vehicle coming up the road. As I sat there looking out it was kind of funny seeing the look on that guys face when he realized I was watching him! I got out and introduced myself. He apologized and I told him that I kind of expected to see vehicles when I set up beside a road! After he drove away I climbed back in and settled in for another long wait.

I must add here that I don't sit still too well at all and this was a brand new experience for me. I dozed off around 3:30 but woke up at 3:45 and thought "better look outside" I just about had a heart attack when I saw horns, very thick ones, at the edge of the water. I ducked back behind the window and told myself to calm down. This is why I sat here all day! I looked out again to be sure I really had seen what I thought I had. Yep, he was still there with a cow and calf. I ducked back again and picked up my bow, nocked an arrow, drew and leaned forward until I could see him again. I put the forty yard pin a little behind the front shoulder, exhaled and let it go. I can't describe the feeling of accomplishment of seeing my fletching, and only my fletching sticking out of his side right where I wanted it to be!

I have been trying to get a nice set of elk antlers with my bow for exactly 20 years, and this was it! Now I will concentrate on getting a REALLY big one next year. Many thanks to Mike for finding and picking up my voucher, Tony for driving me up and sticking with me when I couldn't quite keep up with his mountain goat butt. Jason for the use of the blind which I feel made the difference in this hunt. And finally to my family for supporting me in my obsession!

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos

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