So after a long night up on the mountain, and an even longer hike back to base camp, we chose to get some rest and do some listening in the morning. I was curious to find out if the bulls we heard before the opener, were still hanging around. Well, one was... And he was only about a 1/3 of a mile from where we got busted by that branched bull I saw on the opener.
So I was watching the sun rise with a hot cup of coffee in my hands, and my eyes and ears were focused on a few ridges to the east. It was about a half an hour of listening when I heard him, one of the worst sounding bugles ever. He actually did it twice. It sounded like he was trying to chuckle and bugle all at once. Thus, we gave him the name chuckles.
At camp, pops and I devised a plan to go after him. I was certain he was going to bed in a particular area, so we tried to work into it, keeping the wind in our favor. What a challenge the wind is up here, and I know exactly why chuckles hangs out where he does. He gets to smell from every direction. Smart bull for sure, and he only gives us a slight clue each morning as to where he is and where he is going. I wish elk hunting was like a game of chess. At least in chess, you can see all the moves, you can make predictions, you can read your opponent. Hunting elk with a bow, is more like a puzzle, where you have a piece in your hand and you're just constantly trying to figure out where it goes.
So we were working towards chuckles, strategically navigating through draws and ridges trying to close the distance. Constantly checking the wind, and moving accordingly with it. Wind rules all, you have to obey it. We were about a mile and a half from camp, when we paused and softly started cow calling. Real simple chirps and what not, locator calls. Immediately, we get an answer from a cow. This unit we are in is "Any Elk" and in fact, with out elk tag we put on any deer, bear, cougar or wolf. I would gladly out an arrow through a cow. Anyway, so we dropped our packs and tried to get ourselves into position... I got up to a tree and my pops went to move into opening above me, I think he took maybe seven steps and just as he was nocking an arrow, there he found himself busted... face to face with a calf. There was no opportunity for a shot, the calf never busted, it just moved off. I had no idea this was happening, to much brush in the way and the calf moved silently. After my pops told me what happened, we tried to keep the cow and the calf in the same area and the cow continued to talk to us, but it was clear she was moving out. This whole thing went on for about 20 minutes, before we finally abandoned ship and focused our attention back to the bull and finding him. About 5 minutes passed, while we were heading up the draw when we heard him... Only about 100 yards away, he let out two chuckles! I checked the wind and it was swirling, my dad moved about 40 yards behind me and started calling... Checked the wind again and it was pushing right towards him. He had us... Nothing left to see here. He never talked to is again, and we decided not to push him. We moved out and tried to guess where he move to in the evening. More miles on the boots, but we got a good idea of where he is traveling to in the morning. The evening was uneventful, and very quiet. These bulls in the early season, they talk, very little. At sun down we headed back to camp. Met up with Curtis and his dad Randy, and we swapped stories. They were up about halfway on the big mountain, watching a couple mule deer, a moose and Curtis tried to stalk a big cinnamon bear. Got close from what he says, but no dice.
The warmth of the fire and some friendly banter between good friends. It's such a fine thing, and I am glad to share this experience with the other three men up here in Idaho. The night ended with the usual sound of sheep, sheep dogs and coyotes... However, tonight there was something different in the howl we heard up on the ridge behind us... It was deep, long and drawn out. Calm, controlled and somewhat haunting. A lone wolf, whom I envision surveying the land below him, as if he is the ruler. Immediately uneasy, frustrated, worried what would happen to the elk in our area...but still honored to hear such a thing as it was only the second wolf I have heard in the wild... Day 7 ended in the most erie way.