Yesterday myself, my brother, father and life long friend headed up to one of our spots in NW Colorado to try and fill my brothers late season cow tag. With the snow we've gotten up there recently, we decided to try the lower winter range first thing in the morning. We spent from sun up to about noon hiking and glassing all over that area without even cutting a deer or an elk track. We did see a big old coyote, lucky for him he saw us right when we saw him so he managed to run off unharmed.
After lunch we figured we'd head up to the high country, since we hadn't seen any sign down low. We talked and decided to go to one of our spots that is more geared toward long range shots, as we are set up for those and this area we've noticed receives much less pressure due to the difficulty to hunt the area. When we arrived, we popped over the first ridge and immediately spotted two cows, and better yet, they looked to be in a spot that would be a walk in the park to get one out. I ranged them at 1,901 yards with the Leica initially. We gathered up the gear and made a plan that we believed would get us within 500-600 yards of them and started at them. This was at 2:00 pm.
As we made our stalk however, the fence line road we had planned on using to get the elk out had several drifts on it where the snow was hip deep on me. This made me a little nervous as I wasn't sure if we'd be able to get the quads in there, but, I figured we could deal with that problem later. The elk move down into a quaky patch during our stalk, and at this point we were within 643 yards of the elk. The quaky's the elk had moved into however were now out of sight. There was a ridge between us and them blocking our view. We discussed our options and decided all of us would hike to the base of that ridge, then my brother and I would move up it slowly while my father and buddy waited at the base.
We started up the ridge, and near the top we stopped and caught our breathe in case the elk were right in front of us when we crested. We topped the ridge and couldn't see the elk yet. We started crawling on our hands and knees through the sage in the knee deep snow 10-15 feet at a time, really slowly glassing along the way. After about 200 yards of crawling through the snow, we spotted the elk, and some how the two cows had turned into a herd of forty. I ranged them at about 150 yards and got my brother situated on the rifle. The elk had no idea we were there, we made sure we were both looking at the same elk, that it wasn't a bull, had no obstructions or any other elk behind it. When we were both clear I told him go ahead. A couple second later the 210 grain Berger impacted her about a third of the way down from her back right on her shoulder. Her legs came up to her chest and she folded, never even took a step. The rest of the herd took off and came right at us! They got within about 20 yards of us before they saw us and turned, it was a fun experience.
We made it over to the cow and met up with the other guys. I decided I would hike back to the quads and bring one back along with all of our pack frames while they went to work on her. I marked the elk on the gps and made my way back to the quads. The hike back to the quads from the elk ended up being 2.7 miles, a lot further than I thought. Unfortunately too, with the deep snow drifts I was only able to get the quad within about a mile of the cow. So I strapped on all the frames and headed up to the guys. By the time I got there the guys had her quartered and ready to go. We each grabbed a quarter and divided up the other loose meat and hiked down to the quad, loaded the meat and one guy and dropped it off with the other quads, I then went back and picked up the other guys. We all finally got back to the quads at 9:00 PM.
We had left the house at 4:30 in the morning and finally got back to the house at 2:00 AM due to nasty roads. So after a 22 hour day, a lot of hiking, and teen degree weather all day, a bunch of tired and sore hunters finally made it home.
It was a great time and a lot of fun. We all shoot long ranges very regularly, and were prepared to take an 800 yard shot if need be, and ended up taking a cow at 157 yards. The closer you can get the better, but if a long shot is needed, it is nice to know you have the option. Being in close on the elk is an experience in itself as well. To hear them calling and be able to smell them is something else. My brothers last cow was taken at 412 yards and the one before that was taken at 600, so being in close on them was new to him and he really enjoyed it. Definitely made a bunch of great memories!
The bullet impacted the cow about 1/3 of the way down from her back right on the shoulder. The bullet entered below the spine but the spine was still severed and the lungs were compete soup, it broke two ribs going in, and there was bruising on the off side muscles of the rib cage. The bullet did not exit and we did not find the bullet. The cow was dead before it hit the ground. Impact velocity was approximately 2,753 ft/s with 3,536 ft-lbs of energy. I am very happy with this performance. Every animal we have shot with the Berger's has dropped right in it's tracks. I do find the bullet exits elk at 500+ yards more than up close, but on deer and antelope exits have always occurred from my experience.
Also, anyone ever seen a du-claw growth like that on an elk before? I never have, she had it on both hooves.
Great story, and great shot! I still have a UT cow elk tag in my pocket, runs until 01-31-13! If the Mayans don't destroy the world, I should be able to go out Friday and Saturday to fill it. Then she can have a rightful place in my freezer next to my bull!