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Having a Face-to-Face Elk Encounter

provided by John Phillips

Every outdoors enthusiast needs to read this blog before it’s too late for him or her to impact a daughter, a niece or some other female to love being outdoors. Mossy Oak Pro Donnelle Johnson of Franktown, Colorado, spotlights something that many of us overlook and don’t do – take our girls hunting and teach them a love for the outdoors. Johnson has been a Mossy Oak ProStaffer for 9 years, speaks at numerous hunting seminars each year and owns with her husband HuntData LLC that many hunters depend on for information to know the best places to hunt, how to hunt them and learn their elevations, hunter density success and percentage of public lands. HuntData includes information on hunting sheep, goats, moose, elk, mule deer and antelope in Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Washington and California. A well-established elk hunter, Johnson has been hunting for 30 years.

bugling elk up close

One morning on our 2004 hunt when the rain was pouring down, and fog was on the mountain, I decided to hunt elk by myself. I walked out into the woods before daylight. I bugled, and I heard a sound like a horse galloping, coming toward me. When I looked in the direction from where the sound was coming, I spotted a bull elk running toward me with hurt on his mind. He was coming in to do battle with the bull elk I’d pretended to be by bugling. All I had behind me was a big boulder and tiny aspen tree. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen, but I felt certain that nothing good could come from this encounter. 

The bull then stopped 8 yards from me with both of his legs straight out like he was putting on brakes. He looked at me and bugled straight into my face. My knees were knocking, I was scared, and I was preparing for hurt to happen. Until that time, I’d never realized how loud a bull elk could bugle. I’m a musician, so I understood tones and pitches. That bull was so loud, he would have rattled windows, if any had been in the vicinity. Then the bull left, and I got myself together, I returned the next day to the same place, found the bull’s tracks, pinpointed where I’d been standing and paced the distance off. It was 8 yards, so I knew for sure how far he’d been standing from me. 

On this hunt, my dad had the opportunity to see me call in several different bulls. My parents always were proud of anything I accomplished. I saw my dad be extremely proud of my ability to call in bull elk bigger than me on this hunt. This aspect of this hunt was one I’d always remember and cherish. When I played sports, my mom came to the events with her camera in-hand to make pictures of my friends and me and cheer for me. But this was one of the few times I actually could perform for my dad, and he could recognize and appreciate my abilities to call in elk and be a woman hunter. I think that elk hunt was one of the reasons I was able to convince my dad to come out on my 2020 moose hunt when he was 85 years old.

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