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The Last Minute Elk --- The Story Of “Ole Crooked Horn”

The Last Minute Elk --- The Story Of “Ole Crooked Horn”

By Allen Jones

It was around 1985, I think, when I had this happen. I had scouted pretty hard the 2 weekends leading up to the opening day of the Colorado archery elk season and found several bunches of elk. The bulls had just started doing a little bugling and were starting to feel their oats. I have always liked archery hunting because of the challenges it provides you in pitting woods skills and hunting savvy against your quarry. Elk are my favorite quarry to pursue.

elk hunting

Being from the deep south, I had always loved turkey hunting and I equate hunting elk in the rut a lot the same. Even though my hearing is not the greatest there is something about using all your senses to your advantage. The sound of an elk bugling through the clear air of the Rocky Mountains is something to behold. It will certainly send shivers up your spine.

I had backpacked into this remote area in hunt unit 86 that was approximately 6 miles from the trail head. I had set up a dry camp with no fire the night before the season opened. As I lay in my sleeping bag under the stars on a bed of aromatic pine bows, I heard several bugles throughout the night. The one luxury I allowed myself the next morning was a cup of scalding coffee and the pastry from my MRE that I had saved from dinner the night before.

My preferred method of hunting at the time was to backpack away from the crowds and to where the elk were. I could carry approximately 45 to 50 lbs of gear in my Cabela’s Alaska pack frame pretty comfortably back then....before old age crept into my knee joints. I would usually splurge on weight going in and carry a thick steak and a pre-baked potato, figuring that would be weight I would not have to carry out. Then I would allow 1 MRE per day that I planned to stay, along with a pound of rice or so and a few packages of dry ramen noodles. This always seemed to carry me through with a little left over for emergencies.

As I drank my coffee that morning the elk started talking a lot more and pretty soon , as the sun started tingeing the eastern horizon pink, I could distinctly make out the sounds of at least 5 different bulls. I left camp with high hopes and circled downwind and down hill from where the elk were. I was hunting at an elevation right at timberline and the elk had fed out above timber during the night. My plan was to get between them and dark timber and work them as they were going to bed up for the day.

I was treated to quite a show as the sun came up. There was a herd of approximately 20 cows all out in the open and one huge 6X6 bull that was without a doubt the harem master. He was riding herd on those cows as if he were a sheepdog and they the sheep. There were also 7 different satellite bulls, all 4x4's and 5X5's that were vying for position to maybe sneak a cow out of the herd when he wasn’t looking. The big bull was having none of that and the younger bulls were not quite up to the task of taking him on. I hoped o ambush one of these satellite bulls around the periphery of the herd.

As I moved into position I noticed one of the smaller bulls had a distinctive set of 5X5 horns that turned forward at the top instead of the usual swept backward direction at the 5th point. I christened him “Ole Crooked Horn”. I set up with the wind strong in my face blowing directly downhill from the bulls and took out my call. I made a few chirping cow calls then bugled loudly, hoping all the elk would think I was another herd bull coming through the timber to join the crowd. I also hoped that they would come to challenge me with the advantage of height.

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