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Jeff Propst on the 7-Yard Public Land Bull Elk


Editor’s Note: Jeff Propst of northeast Missouri has been wearing Mossy Oak for the last 13 years. “Although I like all the Mossy Oak patterns,” Propst says, “over the last year or so, I’ve been mainly wearing Infinity. In the past, I have worn Mossy Oak Break-Up, Treestand, Shadow Grass Blades and the original Bottomland. My son, Chris, and I are hunting and videoing partners for “Bow Madness” on the Outdoor Channel.”

Although hunting public land can be a pain for some, I enjoy hunting public land for elk, especially in New Mexico, because I like to be in control of the hunt. New Mexico’s elk season spans 10 days on the land that I hunt. Hence, I can go there and hunt all 10 days of the season. I prefer this lengthy period, because I don’t like being limited to a 5- or a 6-day hunt when hunting with an outfitter. Obviously, I have hunted with numbers of first-rate guides, and I certainly have nothing against outfitters. However, sometimes I just prefer to hunt on my own. Elk hunting has always been my passion and I feel that I have enough experience that the odds are in my favor, especially when I’m hunting public land on my own.

I had been hunting all morning long with my buddy, Steve, near the end of our 10-day hunt. Although elk had been around us all morning, I hadn’t been able to get a shot for Steve who was shooting his recurve. At 11:15 am, we decided to head back to camp when we heard a bull bugle. He was on a mountain above us and was causing quite a commotion, bugling his head off. Immediately, I thought to myself, “This bull is acting like a late-morning turkey. He really wants to breed. I bet he would appreciate an audible cue that a cow has heard him and is coming toward him.”

Propst4_llInstead of returning to camp, we turned around and trotted into a drainage ditch just below the loud, amorous bull. When we were getting close, Steve took the lead in front of me, and I made one cow call. We were both silently pleading for the bull to get close enough for Steve to get the shot. In almost no time, I saw the bull coming straight for his invisible love. He never saw Steve off to the side. Steve drew his recurve, and released the arrow, but it sailed just over the bull’s back. To this day, I still remember watching the bull slightly lose his footing and tripping an iota of an inch just before Steve released the arrow. That missed step broke Steve’s concentration on his target at the wrong time. Steve is a good shot and has taken many animals with his recurve, but sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw, literally.

When Steve released the arrow, the bull ran right past me. I cow called to him. As soon as he heard the cow call, he stopped. The bull turned around quickly, looked right at me and bugled. He looked away, searching for his girl. I then called to him again, and he lumbered my way. Conveniently, the big guy stopped behind a tree seven steps away from me to bugle, giving me time to come to full draw. When he stepped forward, I released my arrow. The broadhead passed through the liver and out the left lung, farther back than I was aiming, a product of a jumpy 7X6 elk. We later found him just across the drainage ditch.

I still believe the bull spotted me. At seven steps, he couldn’t exactly miss seeing me. But because I decided to wear Mossy Oak Break-Up that day, he couldn’t distinguish exactly what I was. This moment is when camouflage really proves its value – when you’re seven steps from a bugling elk and he looks straight at you and doesn’t see you. Now that’s value. It’s the moment you know that you have become invisible, which is what all hunters want to be when they are in the woods. 

Day 3: Jeff Propst on Here Comes the Bull Elk 

Tomorrow: Jeff Propst on Big Whitetails, Bulls, Family and Mossy Oak


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