Just got home night before last at 1a and to bed at 2a after dropping off 8 elk quarters (2 spike bulls) at a friends cooler for aging.
My brother and I headed over to the eastside of the state (can only shoot a spike bull during a 9 day season) on Friday to backpack in a bit to our favorite elk hunting designated wilderness area. That night we spotted several cows, a calf and a spike bull at just over 700 yds giving me a great presentation and time to set up for a lr shot--I was hoping for the same opportunity the next morning, but that was not to be.
We set up to spot on opening and saw nothing. Went and checked out a couple of other spots and it seemed like there wasn't a whole lot of movement today--weather wasn't the greatest and there was up to a foot of crusted snow up at 6K plus elevation, especially on the north slopes, so not the easiest to eat for 'em. We'd be relying more on our southern slope spotting it looked like. We could hear guys 'banging away' routinely down below 2-3K feet in elevation on opening in the roaded areas. Our plan in this location has been that if the elk aren't up there, the pressure from hunting below will drive 'em back up to us through 2-3 terrain choke points that we keep an eye on and this has worked well several years. We checked out a couple of meadow just north of camp as well and as we crested a rise on the second meadow, only about 100yds from camp, spotted a cow feeding in the darkish foggy evening. A few minutes later I noticed a calf at the edge of the trees watching us from not more than 30 yds away. Now shooting light was over. As we picked our way back to camp, we almost ran into a cow and calf!
Day 2 had us setting up at our favorite spotting location. After a cold morning, the sun won out, but we hadn't spotted a thing. Then at mid morning, my brother spots an easily shootable, nice 5x5 at 450 yds heading up the hill. Fun to see, but we can only shoot spikes....arcghhh...we see more bigger bulls than spikes. In fact before this year, my brother had never even seen a spike in 6 years of elk hunting and pretty much had them in the same mystical category as unicorns! Seeing a spike, then clearly IDing a spike with all the legal defintion in mind, especially at lr, and then getting a good shot off is a challenge that some other here in WA can appreciate. About an hour later, he spots a cow in the same spot as the earlier bull. Awhile later, he spots a cow down below us in a place I've seen elk several times before and right after that he spots another quite nice 5x5 bull at at easy 480 yd shot...not again...arrghh...nice to watch though. I was starting to wonder about my spotting skills at this point as he was spotting everything! We watched the cow and then another cow and 2 calves down below us at 380 yds for quite awhile, even watching one cow sleep out in the snow for nearly 4 hrs. I was keeping en eye dwon there as the one feeding 5x5 bull hadn't been more than a couple of hundred yards away from these down below and was starting to think there's a herd with a spike back in the trees that might come out more into the open. The one cow gets up at 2p and feeds with the calves and other cow for awhile and then I see a spike walk out of the trees. Our plan is whoever spots it gets to shoot it. My brother confirmed it on the scope and I already had the NF on the Kirby built 338 Allen Xpress dialed for the shot, but I could not get prone due to terrain and a 20 deg down angle shot. So, just (like my deer earlier this year) squatted kinda behind the bipod and waited for good presentation. The spike was behind some trees feeding and was likely to come out in the open soon, but I could see about a 1' by 1' opening in the trees exposing the base of his neck and part of the onside shoulder. Good enough. I touched off the 300g SMK doing 2980 fps in front of 102.0g of Retumbo. The bullet tore through the spine at the base of the neck, went on through the chest, jellying that, and blew out the offside shoulder. The spike collapsed w/o so much as a twitch! That's 3 one shot kills (the first three for this new rifle) on at 370 yds on a 4x4 muley, a 445 yd shot on a 200lb bear heavy into the hucks and now a spike bull elk for the 338 AX--3 kills with immediate collapse.
The cows and calves were only 20-30 yds away but just over a little hill so they didn't see the spike go down. The couldn't figure out what was going on and a couple of minutes later, went back to feeding. It was only a couple minutes later as we were trying to manuever the spotting scope to get it on the mostly tree hidden spike to confirm what had happened that the cows/calves saw us and moved out. We headed on down to the spike.
We cut him up and packed out the fronts, straps and tenderloins out to the trailhead after stashing the bagged hinds in snow for pickup the next day. The next day was very windy and cold (almost lost my spotting scope over the cliff) in the morning with small ice pellets getting driven into the eye at 20mph+ while trying to spot. This, however, soon turned to rain and it continued to rain for about 18hrs-- a wet miserable day. we packed out the hinds of my spike in a drenching rain. It had been forecast for up to 3/4" of rain that day and I think we received all of that. Trying to dry out in my tent with the little stove took most of our energy that evening as we prepared for day 4.
Day 4 found us up at our favorite spotting location with strong bright and very welcome sun coming after a fruitless early spotting session. My brother would have to get hoem that day and I had no more reason to stick around if he was going home. He decided we'd leave at 10a if we hadn't seen anything. At 930a, we see a spike come out at 436 yds. Our rifles were set up prone for this shot at this distance already and since he was shooting a 300WSM with 180 AB's. His shot was true and we had another dead elk. Wheww! Man, were we thankful to be able to do this and fill the freezer. Congratualtions all around and then the work started. We packed out another 4 quarters out of the wilderness area to the trail head and went back for camp in the dark. Then a 5-6 hour drive home. I got the meat dropped off in a friends cooler at 1a and to bed at 2a. Tired, but very happy. Cutting some backstraps today and get to the quarters next week.
Hope you all are packing the meat in the freezer this fall! Jon