Oregon Hunters Association Elk Calling/Hunting Seminar

On Thursday June 20th, the Mid Columbia Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association hosted the community in a free Elk Scouting/Hunting/Calling seminar presented by me. The two hour seminar was held at Sorosis Park in the Pavillion in The Dalles Oregon.

Admission was free and attendees dined on hotdogs. The seminar was a great time and everyone left pumped up to get scouting/hunting for elk season.

The First Bugle

The thick vegetation is beginning to cure.

The vegetation was over my head, zigzagging through the corn stalk like shoots, my boots were sinking into the thick mud bog, with Otis in tow, every step was made quick to keep ahead of the mule’s enormous stride. Dad was just ahead, video camera in hand filming as we floundered towards him. Reaching the other side, my dad put the camera down and casually said that he had heard Elk. 

 

With the sounds of the mud holding my feet tight and the vegetation that was nearly taller than me filling my ears, I certainly had not heard any Elk. My father has questionable hearing on a good day, so I stood still and listened. Only moments later I hear it; the first bugle of the year. The nursery herd of cows, calves, spikes and rag horned bulls had been living in the area for more than two weeks and sure enough, one of the eager young bulls was singing his heart out, echoing the hauntingly beautiful sound across the mountainside.
Knowing that Elk season’s opener was in less than two weeks, excitement was coursing through my veins, we kept going so not to disturb the herd below us. Otis was loaded with two tree stands, and a camera arm to aid in filming, we had a day’s work cut out for us and could not afford to waste any time. 
Jumping over fallen logs, side hilling across the mountainside, we walked right into them, a substantial herd of resident cows and calves, numerous spike bulls and one single branched rag horn bull. The herd was running down the mountain towards the bottom when they suddenly stopped to get a better look at us. While the herd was busy mewing and chirping, I took the opportunity to take video of them milling around the mountainside less than 80 yards away from us. A spectacular sight it was that lasted only a couple of precious minutes when they continued their decent down the mountain. 
Downloading my pictures onto my laptop.
Checking my first of three locations, I found that a 6x6 and a 7x7 bull both still in the velvet had been in on the same day, August 14th. The 7x7 was definitely a relative to a bull that I had called in for my father over four years before as they have unmistakable webbing at the top of their antlers. I was excited to see this unique trait being passed down. As I stood there only one day later, I immediately knew that these were two bulls that I had not seen before. This spot in particular was known to have at least one nearby nursery herd of Elk and these two bulls were in there for one reason and one reason only, they were starting to move out of their summer ground feeling the rut approaching from within.
Making our way across an open flat, the stripped tree immediately caught my eye. A bull had rubbed the velvet off of his antlers only hours before. His victim had been two trees set 30 yards apart. The tender velvet was so fresh the membrane that had attached it to the antler was still moist and bloody. The changes within the Elk had started to show seemingly overnight, hearing my first bugle, evidence of new bulls moving in from my trial camera pictures, and now finding this, I was excited beyond words!
The bull had tore up this tree only hours before.
The velvet was so fresh the membrane was still moist and bloody.
Otis checking out the velvet.
Eagerly I approached my trail camera and the location where I was going to hang my tree stand only to find out that I had neglected to turn the power on my camera when I had left it over 10 days before. 10 days of valuable information lost. There was fresh Elk sign and I knew there was at least two 300+ bulls that had been living in the area. Never the less, I was disappointed to have lost the opportunity to check my camera this one last time before the season opened.  My dad I and I hung my stand  and camera arm with confidence knowing in less than two weeks, I would be back to review my new trail camera pictures and have my shot at harvesting one of the magnificent bulls that were living on the ridge. 
Our next stop was to hang a stand for my dad. Fortunately, I had turned this camera on and had many pictures of Elk. The last photo of my larger 300+ class bull in this particular location was taken on the 25th of July; the herds of spike bulls and young branched bulls were still frequenting the area. The biggest notable change occurred on the 9th of August when the cows mixed with spikes and one rag horned bull appeared together on my camera. This location had been previously occupied by bachelor bulls only.  
The tree was set for my dad’s return opening weekend and we walked out with very valuable information about the Elk behavior that would help us tremendously opening weekend. The bulls were beginning to feel the biological changes from within and were bugling, the older more mature bulls had began to scrape the velvet off their antlers and had started to move out of their summer range soon to begin territorial marking. 
The rut was close the Elk felt it and I saw it in their behavioral changes. When I return again during season in less than two weeks, the photos I capture, the sign I read, and what I hear echoing across the mountainside will all help me in planning my strategy for taking down one of the mature bulls I have been watching all summer long. 

 

Solo Scouting: Gain the Public Land Advantage

 

Typically the sound of my alarm going off at 4:00 am causes me to roll over, hit the snooze button and pull the covers over my head wishing that I could go back to sleep uninterrupted; on this morning however when my alarm sounded off, I jumped out of bed. 
My first solo scouting trip of the year into the backcountry signifies that my favorite time of year, archery Elk season, is just over the horizon. Once I loaded my horse Fury and mule Otis into my trailer, we made the two and a half hour drive to a majestic place in the National Forest that I have been fortunate enough to hunt over the years. 
Hunting public land, I am always looking for ways to gain the advantage over the next hunter whether it comes to spending countless hours conditioning in the gym, shooting my bow, preseason scouting, mastering the art of calling Elk, or reading anything and everything that I can get my hands on hunting related. My philosophy is that you can never learn too much and often times you can take bits and pieces of information that you find relevant from a plethora of sources and figure out what works best for you. 
I found this bull in a bachelor herd.
My goal for this trip was to set up three different locations with trail cameras so that I can better establish patterns of Elk movement, determine which bulls are in the area as residents or passing through, and of course I want to see antlers on film, a sneak peek of what is to come during hunting season. 

 

As time goes by, with the help of my trail cameras, I will be able to better monitor when the herds of bachelor bulls start to break up in search for estrous cows. Plus as I revisit the area over the next 5 weeks, I will be able to identify the exact week that the bulls start to scrape the velvet off their antlers and begin territorial marking areas. The more I can learn before season starts about past and current behavior patterns, the better I am able to anticipate future behavior and strategies for hunting. 
I made quick work of organizing and loading all my gear onto Otis and struck out cross country through some of Mother Nature’s steepest, roughest terrain covering over a 12 mile span (as a crow flies).  I had anticipated riding most of the trip because I was leading a pack mule; what I hadn’t anticipated was the change in terrain over the course of a single year that would force me to walk most of the trip. 
The vegetation had grown to heights that I have never before witnessed, creeks and streams in places that are normally dry, countless mud bogs, and new windfall that caused me to zigzag mercilessly across the mountain. All of this on top of topography that is either straight up or straight down. I had my work cut out for me; double that work load since I was solo and I chose to take the “Rookies” of my livestock herd. 
Thick vegetation made for slow travel.
Going in, I had already pre-determined where my trail cameras were going to be placed. All three locations have similar attributes; close proximity to heavily used game trails between bedding and feeding areas in an area that has a nearby water source or wallow. I did vary the elevation levels of my chosen camera sights in order to capture movement patterns more accurately. 
This wallow will be tore up in another month.
After 11 hours, I finally made it back to my horse trailer; exhausted but thrilled in having accomplished my goal.  Successfully hunting public lands requires a lot of hard work and even more heart. I am passionate in my pursuit of Elk and am constantly working towards finding ways to make it happen, giving myself the advantage over the next hunter. 
Training hard, scouting hard, doing what it takes, pushing through preconceived personal limitations, you are on public land, you are doing it yourself, you have to dig deep and give it everything you’ve got. 

 

 

The same day I set up my trail camera, this bull was photographed. 
Big game.big prep.always prepared. Always lethal

Under armour clothing

Evo Cold Gear Pants
Base 1.0 Long Sleeve Top
Charged Cotton T-Shirt
Ridge Reaper Crew Socks
Under armour footwear
Valsetz Boots

 

Gear List & equipment
Swarovski EL 42 Binoculars
Eberlestock X1 Backpack
Garmin GPS
Hunten Outdoors Trail Cameras