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DOOD Trophys!
May 2010
Gene Carmickle

Drawn for the 2009 archery bull elk hunt, now the pressure is on us. I am hardly a trophy bowhunter. Whatever the big guy upstairs puts before me, which is legal, I will try my best to arrow it. Being so successful on opening day with my newest partner (compound bow - 5 for 7), I nicknamed it D.O.O.D. - Death On Opening Day! Hopefully our opening day luck would continue with the elk hunt.

Fergie (my human hunt partner/ blood tracker all these years) and I camped a few times in the summer scouting the unit. We have hunted this unit for 20+ years and normally donít scout at all. Usually there are elk everywhere. These trips we found very few elk in our scouting. It was a very dry and hot summer. The water holes were not dry but getting very low. Ranchers had put a lot of cattle in our area that were supposed to be moved out opening day Ė oh boy.

DOOD had no chance on opening day. It was still very hot, dry and crunchy with no bugling. There were no elk in this area of a great hunting unit. My honey hole tree that Iíve killed 6 or so elk from, didnít have one animal come by the first three days of the hunt. Conditions were not good enough to waste vacation days on, so we came home to regroup.

After working a few days, we heard the elk were starting to bugle. Off to the forest again but still no luck. On Friday afternoon, it rained and hailed hard Ė yeah! Afterwards I set off on foot from camp. I finally could stalk and not make noise. I found a bull but couldnít get close enough by dark. Nothing Saturday morning but in the afternoon hunt I started getting that good stalking feeling back. I played with two bulls till dark.

Sunday I told Fergie I was going to forgo the tree stand, in lieu stalking, because I still hadnít seen an elk come by the stand. Driving up to our hot spot, I joked about Sunday sunrise services and praying to the big guy in the sky to help us out. I hiked into this area that was dense bedding and easy hiding. Fergie went to his normal tree stand. In the previous few mornings, Iíve heard elk up higher from my stand. I found a spot and hunkered down in this clump of trees and hung my bow, with arrow nocked, on a tree branch. Waiting for daybreak and the sun to rise, I could hear a few elk in the distance, hopefully coming my way.

About daybreak, I noticed this blurry black thing coming down an established trail towards me. When this blur got closer and broke out of the trees, into the open about 15 yards away, I made it out to be a black bear. Yikes, the trail he was on came almost thru my hiding spot!

Being on my knees, I started swaying my upper body and the bear saw this and stopped. He stopped in this spring mode stance. I reached over and grabbed D.O.O.D., stood up and drew back in one motion. I started swaying my whole body but was ready to wing an arrow if this bear moved one more inch my way. Bears are super fast in short distances and he was way closer than I wanted. He really didnít know what to make of me. My ghillie suit

and great scent management had him fooled. He twisted his head sideways as if that would help him make me out. After what seemed like eternity (60 seconds), he finally turned out and went about 30 yards away and stopped taking another look at me. He proceeded in the same direction as he was initially going, but made a semi-circle around me. He stopped another 3 times to try to wind and figure me out. I must be doing something right if I can beat a bearís nose and eyes. He gave up on me and continued on his way. Wow, that was an exciting way to start a morning!

An hour later elk were coming towards me and I thought this ambush was going to work perfect. Then the bugling started to go away from me in the direction it was originally coming towards me. Being proactive, I bailed on my setup and started sneaking towards the place I had heard bugling coming from. I caught some motion and froze. It was two cows feeding in my general direction. When they werenít looking, I went down on my knees and slowly crawled, twenty feet, to this huge downed pine Ė for cover. The next 40ish minutes were just awesome. 12 cows fed past me to about 60 yards out in front of me.

The herd bull (6x6) appeared and kept chasing the cows around but they werenít in the rut yet. I thought the herd was going to pass me by when some of the cows switched directions and came towards me. After a while, I had cows feeding in a 180 degree arc around me. They ranged from 15 to 45 yards away. Two of the cows playfully stood on their back legs and sparred with their front ones - never seen that before!

The bull would blast through this open area around 35 yards away, trying to mount anything in sight. I wonít take a moving shot out of respect for the animal. He kept pushing the cows closer towards me. He finally came busting through the open area and stopped under a pine tree at the fringe at 24 yards from me. To take the shot I had to camber my body and bow. I had to miss the branches on the downed tree I was hiding behind and also the pine branches hanging from the tree he was standing under. This happened so fast but was like slow motion. I had to draw slowly so the cows surrounding me wouldnít spook or bark from my motion.

Bingo Ė I let the arrow wing but as I did, he launched forward as if he had another cow in his sights. My arrow hit too far back but angled forward up to the fletching. The only noise was the string pop and the thud of the arrow burying into him. I didnít move as he did a 180 degree arc. He stopped 50 yards alongside of a feeding cow. All eyes were my way but within minutes the cows went back to feeding! My bull casually walked off to the north Ė out of sight.

My knees were on fire after being on them for an hour. After the bull was gone about 10 minutes, I had to sit down. I slowly got onto my butt without making too much noise. This one cow, not the closest one, suspected something and kept staring my way. After about 5 minutes she just started walking slowly across in front of me towards the way they had fed into this area. All the other cows followed her lead. Was this the lead cow?!

I sat there feeling pretty good for 30 minutes while eating everything in my fanny pack. I was concerned about the arrow not hitting my kill zone. This will be a long day as I needed to give the bull time to expire. I sure was proud of D.O.O.D. coming through again in such a difficult hunt. I couldnít believe this was the only bull with all these cows. I would have shot any legal bull that was close because of these hunt conditions. I couldnít believe all these other hunters and non-hunters (we had seen every morning) didnít ruin my setup scheme.

I followed the path that my bull made, looking for blood. No blood found. I did find where he purged scat/ urine, (a lot) in a couple of places. This meant he was hurt bad and his body was shutting down. Following a hoof print (pine needles scuffed) every so often, I found two good puddles of blood 100 yards away from the shot location. It was on a rim at the edge of this really dark thickly wooded canyon. I needed to back out and go get my blood hound partnerís help.

I almost ran to where I could see Fergieís tree stand from above. I didnít want to spook any game before I entered the area. I glassed his tree stand and he wasnít in it. I walked slowly into that area before I saw him marking a blood trail, not far away. When I closed the distance, he said he hit a 6x6 bull. I told him I hit a 6x6 bull also. We exchanged stories and I told him I had time to blood trail his first.

The arrow pulled out of this bull within 20 yards. It had meat on the end of the broadhead and didnít appear to have penetrated well. He couldnít tell me where he hit it because it was a 40 yard shot along with his excitement. He thought it was close to the front shoulder, in front of where he was aiming. The blood trail indicated the bull was going uphill. Fatally hurt animals usually donít go up.

About 1/3 of the way up, the blood started coagulating like little clumps of jello. Then the blood trail stopped totally. 1Ĺ hrs later we gave up thinking this bull wasnít hurt that bad and will heal up fine. We HATE losing game though.

We agreed to see if we had better luck recovering my bull. I brought us to the place I had found blood. We slowly went down a steep path, into the thick treed canyon, searching for blood. We found nothing on the trail down into this canyon. I did a quick animal search in the bottom of the canyonís thick trees. I started getting this bad feeling in my gut circling through this maze of trees. My partner said what I was thinking. ďWe may not find this bull either!Ē We were searching for a needle in a haystack without blood. I said, ďLetís go back up top to the blood. Maybe he didnít come down this trail.Ē

At the top edge of this rim, I went one way and Fergie went the other. He found a few little drops of blood. We followed the blood trail for about 40 yards. We came to where two trails split into a Y down into the canyon. Fergie took the left trail while I took the steeper of the two to the right. I found the next drop of blood. As he and I followed this narrow steep trail down into the canyon, I would tell him when finding blood. He was watching ahead so we wouldnít spook a non-expired animal. I was so focused in looking for blood that when Fergie said, ďThere he is!Ē, I said, ďI donít see any blood.Ē He got my attention and said it again, while pointing at my expired bull. He was masked ahead of us in a thick patch of thorny bushes, wedged between big boulders and a canyon wall. My arrow was still buried in his side.

Looking my prize over, I knew this 6x6 bull would get me into the Pope and Young record book. Fergie said the bull he shot wasnít as big but was nice. After the drying period the P&Y score was 304 (minimum required is 260 with the record being 420+). The butcher, taxidermist, and P&Y scorer all said it was a very lean year for harvesting elk during archery season. Getting junior out of this canyon is another long story. He was 279 pounds on the hoof and approximately 737 pounds live weight.

Revisiting my morning hunt thoughts, I concluded that the bull elk Fergie hit was probably a satellite bull that my herd bull pushed out (remember the bugles went away for a period of time that made me relocate, and no other bulls in the herd) and he was trying to sneak back into the herd via the back door!

We hunted a few more days and although Fergie didnít harvest an animal this year, he told me this was his best hunt ever. He was a huge game hog - seeing a lot of game from his treestand. A beautiful 8 point deer at 25 yards, a mother and baby bobcat playing at 25 yards, a young mountain lion or a ring tailed cat at 30 yards, a black and a brown colored bear at 45 yards, and he almost harvested a 6x6 bull elk at 40 yards.

When you wing an arrow, you canít depend on the animal staying still until impact, especially when they are being pushed during a hunt. As always, we are a team and he gets his share of sacred elk meat!

Thank you DOOD and Fergie, I couldnít do it without you!

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