One time I had trail camera pictures of a herd bull that scored 352 inches. Within 30 minutes of legal shooting time during muzzleloader season that year, that bull was on the ground. I got up in camp at about 5 a.m., and my hunter was so excited he had been up and ready to go since 4 a.m. We checked out all our gear to make sure my hunter had bullets, powder and percussion caps for his muzzleloader and extras, in case he had to take a second shot. We both made sure we had our binoculars and that I had a spotting scope and food, water and all the other equipment we needed for the day of hunting. We drove to this 1,000-acre property where I had seen the herd bull and several other bulls before blackpowder season arrived. We parked the truck and then walked about a mile to our stand site near a watering hole where I knew the big bull and other bulls would come and water. I had my trail camera taking pictures of the elk using the water. When we arrived, the woods and the mountains around the water were silent as a tomb, so I made a few cow calls. But we still didn’t hear a sound. Next, I got out my bugle and made a very low, soft bugle. Just as I finished the bugle, that bull fired off a big, loud bugle in response. I knew from the sound of the bugle that the bull and his cows already had been to the watering hole before we arrived and had left.
I wanted to try new technique to see if I could call the bull back, so I started walking around the watering hole giving different cow calls to paint pictures in that bull’s mind that several other cows had come to the watering hole after he and his herd of cow elk had left. Sure enough, he turned around and started coming back toward the watering hole and bugling. However, when he was 100-yards away, he hung up and refused to come any closer. I quit cow calling to him and bugled to the bull to cause him to start running toward the watering hole. That bull ran so hard that he went right in the water hole up to his belly. My hunter, who was in front of me, looked over at me and whispered, “Holy crap. There is a giant elk out here in this water hole about 60 yards away.” I whispered to my hunter, “Wait until the bull walks out of the water hole, and then shoot him.” My hunter looked at me once the elk was out of the water hole, and I whispered, “Shoot him.” My hunter’s custom-made blackpowder rifle reported, and the elk fell in the same tracks where he’d been standing. We checked the elk out and made sure he was down for good.
I called the landowner and said, “Jim, we’ve over by the watering hole and are getting ready to quarter and cape an elk. By the time you get here, we should be able to load him on an ATV, get the meat and the trophy out and back to the truck.” After I washed my knife off, and we had loaded the elk up and headed back to the camp, my hunter looked at me, smiled and asked, “Is it always this easy to get a big bull?“ I smiled back and said, “Oh, yeah, if you hunt with me it is.” My hunter smiled back knowing that I was lying. I explained, “Actually this is the fastest I’ve ever gotten a hunter to an elk and had the elk harvested in my entire life.”