Wow, It Ain’t Even September Yet!
I love setting big goals and then, spilling blood, sweat and tears trying to achieve them. My goal prior to this season was to help Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Team Elk TV, airing on Outdoor Channel, make powerful outdoor television and along the way fill all my archery tags by arrowing quality animals on film. Yes, I know, easier said than done. Bowhunting is difficult enough without the whole cameraman factor. Success on elk usually runs about 10% meaning 90% of the guys that head out each year FAIL. And, keep in mind this is success on any elk…small bulls and cows included. If the truth was known, success on mature bulls for most states probably hovers around 2%, sans the TV cameras. Pretty steep odds eh? I am not telling you longtime bowhunters anything you don’t know. But as I like to say, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” It is not easy and that is why I am drawn to the way of life known as bowhunting!
It is because of the difficult nature of my pursuit that I live each day the following bowhunting dogmas , “The Greater the Sacrifice. The Greater the Reward”, “Train Hard. Hunt Easy.”, “Run. Lift. Shoot.” and lastly, “Beast Mode Bowhunting.” These sayings motivate me and remind me that hard work, commitment and dedication to bowhunting are factors in my control.
This 2011 season started out well….in Africa and Alaska combined, I released four arrows and killed four trophy class animals. Efficient and effective to be sure, but make no mistake, those hunts did not take place in the rugged country of the west. Granted, bowhuting anywhere is difficult, but for me, bowhunting the mountains takes the challenge to the next level. It is because of the mental and physical test associated with the backcountry hunts I am drawn to that I put so much into preparing for my Fall archery hunts. I don’t think you can be in too good of shape, too tough or too tunnel-visioned for the mountains. This off-season I ramped up my preparation and skill set from last season, just as I tried to do the season prior and each season before that. If you are not getting better, you are getting worse right? Nothing and no one ever stays the same. I’ve convinced myself that if I can prepare for my Fall, like a professional athlete would prepare for their Super Bowl, World Series or Olympics, I could experience success on a level I’ve only dreamed of. I’ve always thought I worked hard to achieve my dreams, but this year I realized, I’d have to give more to reach the ultimate goal…..Perfection!
Utah Mule Deer & Elk
Spot and staling mule deer with a bow and a camera can be a lesson in frustration, but when it all works out, wow, we are talking special hunting TV. In Utah last week I was able to put together a text book stalk on a heavy-antlered 4-point deer in stocking feet as the hot afternoon sun beat down. I eased in to 9 yards where I set up, ready to shoot. The buck had no idea I was there. With Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Team Elk cameras rolling, I tossed a rock over the buck hoping he would stand, look away from my location and give me a shot. He did…and I pinwheeled him. It was an awesome, challenging hunt. I then packed him off the hill hoping to keep the velvet on his antlers in tact as I want to preserve it for my wall-mount. Dragging the buck by the antlers or legs always tears up the fragile velvet. By packing the deer over my shoulders, I ended up getting him down the mountain with nary a scratch on the velvet. Mission accomplished.
What a great start to the Fall. Special thanks to John Bergmann on the camera and mule deer master Ashley Wolstenhulme….we made a great team and hopefully, powerful TV. Also special thanks to the entire Wolstenhulme family. Their outfit, Red Creek Outfitters, is first rate from the top down. They are passionate and professional, I feel grateful for having the chance to meet such a quality family. I also had the chance to share camp with Lee and Tiffany Lakosky for the first time. That was a special honor for me. I really look up to those two for all they have accomplished through hard work and focus. And, I can say after spending a week with them, they both can shoot the lights out. Wow. Lee is a machine and Tiffany was laying them in there from 85 yards! Her shooting form was flawless. I was impressed. Lee ended up arrowing a monster 180-class buck on film….it will make great TV, which is something they both are 100% committed to. I was inspired after hanging out with them.
Man, it feels good when everything comes together. I capped off an awesome Utah double by arrowing a nice 5-point bull near some secluded wallows, which was a nice bookend to the 4-point buck I killed two days prior.
It was very HOT and beings it was so early in the year there was absolutely no rutting action, so I decided to try to take advantage of a chink in the bull’s armour by sitting active wallows. I’d never killed a bull over a wallow and I am always welcome new challenges…game on! We’d be still-hunting previously and been in on a few bulls, passing on some smaller ones and spooking our fair share, but as the week progressed the still-hunting with me and a cameraman was getting tougher. Our first night on the wallow we caught a break.
Again, me and John Bergmann teamed up and captured some awesome footage. We had a big bull come through and when he paused at long bow range I held off, telling John that I thought he’d keep coming and seeing him close in was so cool in the evening sun that I’d just wait, enjoy the experience, and shoot him at 30 yards. I thought for sure he was coming our way. And, he was until he saw a few bulls down the hill.
Feeling the early twinges of the rut maybe, he took off down the hill and chased them a bit before disappearing into the timber. The three other bulls moved our way before they too veered off. That is when I decided to get “western”. I told John I could get down and stalk the 5-point that was moving off, the bigger of the three, and hopefully, while he filmed from the tree stand, get a good arrow in him. It worked perfect. I eased out of the tree with my bow, stalked the bull and arrowed him from 33 yards as John captured all the action.
As a bonus, I even got a trail camera photo of my bull just before I shot him. What a trip, my first time hunting Utah and I earned a buck & bull double. Watch for all this action on Team Elk TV on Outdoor Channel. Not to mention, Team Elk co-host Brandon Bates put the hammer down a his first ever bull elk with a bow. I nice 5 x 5. Congrats buddy!!!
Oregon Roosevelt Elk
As most probably know, I grew up hunting Roosevelt elk. A spike Roosevelt bull was my first ever bowhunting kill back in 1989. Back then I shot a Golden Eagle Super Hawk Turbo Cam bow and launched my arrows at three stacked hay bales with a white paper plate fastened to the middle bale. Back then (like now), what I thought of when shooting my bow for hours on end was arrowing a big Roosevelt bull. Yeah, going on 24 years and while much has changed in my life, my passion for bull elk remains the same….all-encompassing.
Last season I achieved the pinnacle of my elk hunting career by arrowing a Boone & Crockett 6 x 6 Roosevelt that officially scored 296. Killing that bull, my 8th straight 6-point or better, while hunting the big timber of the Oregon Coast Range meant more than words could ever describe. And, truthfully, I don’t care if I ever top that bull. Technically speaking, I am not a trophy hunter. Yes, I want to take mature animals, but I seldom get wrapped up in antler score or other hunter’s judgment on what is a “trophy class” animal. I look at each hunt individually and if I earn a chance at a shot I’ll take it or pass, dependent on the challenge and the situation of THE MOMENT….Pope & Young score means little to me.
Yeah, I killed the bull of a lifetime in 2010 and doing so had no bearing on my approach to this year’s hunt. I was ready to give it all I had and let the chips fall where they may. Being it was the first week of Oregon’s bow season and still not yet September I wasn’t expecting a lot of rutting action. My first day hunting my buddy Jody Cyr was able to join us. I really like hunting with Jody. He is passionate and as talented of Roosevelt elk hunter as I’ve met. With his calling that first evening we were able to coax a big 6 x 6 in to bow range, 13 yards in fact. Because of the thick brush I wasn’t able to get a good shot. That was very frustrating. I remember saying into the camera, “I can’t let a bull like that come within 13 yards and not get him killed. Chances like that at big Roosevelt bulls don’t happen very often.”
It was a great night, a cool encounter and will make for memorable TV, but man I wanted that 270-280 inch bull. Dang. Jody had to leave that night as he was to be at work first thing the next morning. With him leaving I figured it would be a spot and stalk show if I was going to get a bull on the ground. That was fine by me. Growing up hunting heavily pressured animals of western Oregon, those elk calls stayed stuffed deep in my pack. Blowing a bugle would generally send the bulls running the other way. Consequently, I got real good at spot and stalking bulls. In fact, that is how I have killed most of my bulls to date.
The next morning at daybreak me, cameraman John Bergmann and Ron Hofsess, glassed logging clear cuts from a high vantage point looking for elk. Ron spotted a lone bull and the hunt was on. John and I went after him as he looked to be a big mature, black-horned 5-point…a bull I would have no hesitation arrowing if given a chance. The problem was, I knew two guys closing in to bow range in the thick reprod while dragging along a big camera and tripod was going to be difficult. To get him killed, we’d have to buck the odds!
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We had elevation on him and after watching the bull feed for a bit I had a pretty good idea of where he was heading. I aimed our stalk to cut him off. Easing along, using a sharp spine ridge as a shield, we worked our way towards the bull. Each step was carefully placed and the wind was regularly monitored. I drove John crazy by saying we gotta be quiet, 73 times he figures. I told him I said that just to help him focus. Ha. Finally, after about an hour of easing through the mist of the Oregon Coast, the bull was directly below us with the wind in our face. A smile cracked my lips as I asked John, “You ready?” We just needed the bull to offer me a clear shot. John and I were both standing on stumps to give us some elevation over the thick brush. I bounced my rangefinder laser off the bull and it came back saying 67 yards. I shoot my bow every day of the year and knew, that is a shot I can make. I drew, anchored and waited. The bull flashed through the reprod like a fish flashing in the water. I told John when he got to the “black stump” I was going to shoot if he could see him through the camera. As the bull broke clear I gave him a mouth grunt and stopped him. I asked John if we were good and he hissed back, “Shoot.” I picked a spot and slowly squeezed my release sending my arrow arching toward the bull. It disappeared into his shoulder, a little forward, but thanks to my razor-sharp broadhead and deadly true arrow pushed by my 80 lbs. bow it blew clear through him. He crashed through the 10 foot tall reprod and went down after a frantic 20 yard sprint.
Walking up on another big, bow killed Roosevelt bull is humbling. I remember working so hard as a new bowhunter just for a chance. Begging for just ONE CHANCE. It seemed like I was light years away from success. Then finally my third year I arrowed a nice Pope & Young 5 point and man, I thought, if I never kill another bull I’d be satisfied. They are such a special animal to me….seeing a hulking bull moving through a logging unit reminds me of my boyhood dreams. Holding the antlers of my bull two days ago reminds me, dreams do come true!
Again, special thanks to Ron Hofsess for allowing me access to what I think is the most amazing Roosevelt elk country in the world. Ron and his wife are two of the nicest and most genuine people I’ve ever met and since last year’s hunt we’ve become more than hunting acquaintances we’re now friends which means a lot to me. For an incredible elk, deer, bear or turkey hunt, I’d recommend contacting Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the Horizon
The next hunt up in the on deck circle, is high country, Colorado elk. Adam LaRoche, of Buck Commanders and first baseman for the Washington Nationals will be joining me hoping to arrow his first bull. Going to be epic.
Keep hammering guys…Beast Mode!!!! Cam
Cameron R. Hanes
Train Hard. Hunt Easy.