Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

An Archery Elk Hunt To Remember

Written by David Cederlund

An Archery Elk Hunt To Remember - WITH A TWIST
David's Buck Gross Scores 202!
It was the fourth week of the 2004 Montana archery elk season and I had booked a hunt with Mark Baumeister ( a super outfitter and guide with whom I had hunted on three previous occasions. The weather in central Montana was unseasonably hot and thus the strategy for the hunt would be tree stands positioned between the alfalfa fields and the bedding grounds in the morning, maybe do some calling during the mid day (if the bulls were receptive) and hunt ground blinds over water for the warm evenings.

The activity level was at its greatest during the cool morning hunts and I was consistently seeing large numbers of elk from my stand. Each morning I would have 5-15 cows and spike bulls pass within 40 yards of my stand. I was also seeing 3-5 mature bulls (multiple big 5x5's, 6x6's and a monster 7x7) each morning as well, though as luck was having it, the bulls were passing 70-125 yards out, but what a show nonetheless. Unfortunately, the mid-day heat was keeping activity low and the bulls were just not too responsive to calling attempts. The evening hunts over water were always exciting and the anticipation of what belonged to the approaching foot falls never got old, though the cows and spikes were on my schedule, unfortunately the mature bulls were not.

It was the fourth day on my morning stand when the twist occurred. The sun was just breaking on the horizon and bugles were echoing in the distance when I noticed a lone mule deer walking a well worn trail that eventually crosses a ranch road, a fence, and then right past my stand. This wasn't too unusual as the deer had typically been the first past the stand on the previous mornings. Initially, I didn't pay much attention as my thoughts were with the bugles off in the distance, but then my brain kicked in and realized that the deer I had previously been seeing were traveling in groups of 3 and 4. This deer was slipping along alone and deserved my attention. At about 50 yards I realized this was no average mule deer. I did have a deer tag, but I knew Mark (the outfitter) would kill me if I used it on anything but a monster buck during elk season.

The deer would not be in a shooting lane until it crossed the road and jumped the fence, but through my tree I could see that he was big, at least a 5x5 with deep forks and good mass all the way out. He was a shooter. When he reached the road I thought I could time my draw to his jump. Adrenalin...nerves... I messed up, I drew too early, and a bit too quickly and I was now in a stare down contest with a monster buck a half step from jumping the fence. Don't move, don't look, and don't breathe. A minute passed that felt like ten, but the buck did finally jump. He bounded off the trail a bit but still left me a 22 yard quartering away shot. I took the shot and heard a loud rib splitting thump. The buck raced away and entered a patch of woods 50 yards away.

The remainder of that morning continued to be exciting as once again a large heard of elk made their way past the stand, but once again the mature bulls were out of my range. At about 10:15 am I made my way down out of the tree to get a look at the arrow that I have been squinting at for the last 3 hours. To my horror the arrow showed some blood, but was also covered in green alfalfa goo. I had hit the deer a bit back. Did it jump the string...was I at full draw for too long....the reason didn't much matter at that point.

Telling Mark about my morning (which should have been exhilarating) felt like the time I had to tell my dad I had wrecked his car. Mark's diagnosis of the situation was accurate, lay off the area and let the buck lie down and look for him after 24 hours. Long story short, the buck ended up being an almost perfect 7x7 which gross scored around 202, and luckily he had expired within 150 yards of where I shot him. No elk for me on that trip, but it was an archery mule deer hunt of a lifetime!!

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

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

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