Hunting My Pressured Elk
By Bryce Wells
After a week of hunting bear with Ian Harford, a member of the Realtree U.K. Pro Staff, with no success, Ian told me to concentrate on elk. He wanted a good story when he got home. I had assured Ian to be careful as I would take him up on his offer to help pack elk out.
It all started on Monday the 11th with my son and father. I had managed to locate at least 30 bulls in the month of September. I just needed to decide which one to shoot. My son Cody had found a spike bull that decided it was his time to die. After Cody spotted the bull, he and my dad got within 75 yards of him. With one shot of his .7MM Ultra Mag fitted with a March scope, it was over. I was thrilled that my father was with my son for his elk. This was the easiest elk I have ever got out. He was dead within 40 yards of a road. I went and got the ATV and we winched him out whole. It was great having a scope that could do it all from long range to reaching way out. The next day my adventure started. Now it was my turn.
This year was my hardest time to shoot a bull ever. I had injured my back and promised my wife no archery elk this year. September was incredibly hard for me to deal with. I spent my time keeping bear sites baited up and scouting bulls from afar. I had found a couple studs I was eager to shoot come rifle season.
One bull was very shy and was way off the main beaten path. This bull, like many elk of the west, had been pressured and had left the area it was usually seen in. Areas that have a lot of pressure cause you to change things up. I was getting worried about finding the big bull. There were vehicles everywhere. Elk will only tolerate so much before they leave an area. When they decide to leave, you’d better start looking in the most remote areas. This means lots of time behind your binocs and spotting scopes.
At this point, I reached into my pocket and got my phone out. Chris had watched me take the phone out and said, ”What the heck are you doing making a call now?” I had to break the news to him and calm him down. I told him I was looking at my ballistic charts and to hold on. At this point I was trying not to laugh. I adjusted the scope and got ready for the shot. I told Chris to plug his ear closest to me and to watch for the hit with his Minox binocs.
The bull was hit HARD. Chris said in a very excited voice, “You nailed him.” I said back, “Hang on. I am going to put another in him just to be sure.”
A few seconds later the second shot rang out. The big bull fell to the ground and kicked a couple times. We had just started celebrating when all of a sudden he started rolling down the hill head over heels. After what seemed like forever, he stopped near the bottom of the clearing, now at least 300 yards from where he went down. Chris and I hoofed it back to the rigs and went to where I knew we had phone service. I rounded up the crew and we went to get the bull out.
When we arrived, we had a bit of trouble finding him. We knew where he was, but it was so steep that the further you went down the hill the steeper it got. My son was the first one to him and I heard a big, “HE’S HUGE!” erupt from the canyon. Upon closer inspection, both bullets had hit the bull right behind the shoulder 4 inches apart.
It was going to be a lot of work from here because it was very steep for the 1st 300 yards. My crew was up to the task and consisted of Ian Harford, who had come from the U.K. to try his hand at bear, my father, Bryce Sr., my son Cody, and my friend for 25 years, Chris Trotter. We had the pack frames with us and I had the best help you could find. So went to work quartering the elk up. After a bit we were ready for the first trip.
Ian Harford volunteered for the task at hand. Ian is a triathlete and as hardy a man as you would ever meet. He actually made it look easy. I have never seen anyone carry a quarter up a hill like that before. Needless to say, he is welcome in my camp anytime. My 16 year old son Cody took up the next quarter as I continued to work on the bull. We had to tie the bull off with rope for fear of him rolling further down the hill. The men returned for their second trips and boy, it was nice having all the great help. At this point we had decided to pack out everything to the old road, which was no small task.
After several hours we finally were at our rendezvous point. My dad had walked the game carrier in and we were ready for the first trip. Hours later we got to the truck. I am very glad to have made Ian’s acquaintance. This was his first trip to the states. I am sure he will be a lifelong friend. I would like to thank my crew for all the help. It was very special for me to have my family and friends with me to savor the moment. It is a trip I will not soon forget! My parting advice is to remember to look where others won’t…
7MM Ultra Mag
March Optics 5-32X52
Rivers West waterproof gear
Rocky Mountain Packs
Nikon Monarch 1200 Range Finder
Bryce Wells is a sponsored hunter and shooter From Sagle, Idaho. He is married to his great wife Sabrina and has two kids. His wife and kids also get in on the hunting, and enjoy long range shooting and bowhunting. Some of his sponsors include Kelbly's custom rifles, March Scopes, Minox, Rivers West, Limbsaver, Rocky Mountain Packs, Berger, Trophy Taker, Tru Glo, Sabermaxx, Wolverine, Day 6 Outdoors, Spypoint and more. You will find Bryce out each season hunting across the West. He spends at least 200 days in the field each season. Bryce has been fortunate enough to have taken many world class trophies over his career. Many consider him to be one of the best black bear hunters on the planet.
My choice for binocs includes the Minox series of binoculars. My favorite are the Apo series in 10X43. I also use a set of 15x56 for super long distance. I also pack a 62mm ED Minox spotting scope. I have found Minox to be some of the best glass available. Great glass can really help with finding animals that have disappeared from your area. Sometimes all you have to do is go a little deeper into your area to find the elk. Get your glass out and start looking for out of the ordinary places and be prepared to be in place well before light. Start by looking in areas where you think they will feed. Once you find them, you need to figure out where to set up.
For my hunt this year there was simply no good place where you could get close to this bull. So I found the only location a solid shot could be taken from. My good friend Chris Trotter was hunting deer in the area and I had told him about the elk I was watching. He said he would also look out for him. I was watching another bull when I got a message from him saying he had spotted what appeared to be a giant bull with only a couple of cows with him. I was very tempted to shoot the bull I was on but it was only my 1st day hunting elk, so I was not really ready to end my season with this bull. Chris told me he looked huge so I left shortly thereafter and headed to where Chris was at.
As soon as I parked the ATV, I could see the huge bull feeding with its cows. He was over 1.5 miles away as the crow flies. My plan was to hustle out on the old skid road that was there and hook up with him. I got there as soon as I could. Now there was no missing Chris. He looked like an orange version of the Gorton’s fisherman. He was really easy to find out on the point. It was obvious the bull had spotted Chris and was keeping close tabs on him.
As soon as I saw the bull I knew I wanted him. Chris and I looked him over really good. I just needed to find the right place to take the shot. After trying a dozen places to shoot from, we finally found the right spot. I ranged the big bull at 905 yards. I looked at Chris and asked him what he thought. His response was all I needed: “If you get him, I will help you pack it out.”
Now, I know my equipment well and practice a lot. I knew I could make the shot, but I had to make sure it was perfect. I knew that my equipment and I were up to the task. I shoot a custom built 7mm ultra mag, shooting Berger 180 grain VLD bullets, and topped with a March Optics 5-32x52 scope with MTR-1 reticle. This scope’s repeatability is the best there is, and is so important in being able to make a long shot. The bull was not moving from where he was, and I had ample time to adjust and calculate the shot.