Editor’s Note: Mossy Oak Pro Lisa Thompson of Littleton, Colorado, who’s married to her hunter husband Keith and has twin daughters, is one of the most-knowledgeable and physical elk hunters you'll ever meet. She’s also a mom, a business woman, a basketball player and an expert woodswoman. A member of Cabela’s and Nock On, that produces lighted nocks for arrows, pro staffs, Thompson’s successful at taking big bulls on public lands. If you'll apply the tips and tactics she suggests this week, you’ll have a much-greater chance of filling your elk tag on public lands this fall instead of returning home with an elk tag in your pocket.
I've been extremely fortunate. In 12 years, I've harvested eight, 6-point bull elk in Colorado all on public lands. I don’t hunt from a vehicle. I get off the beaten path. When I climb out of my vehicle, I hike back into steep and rugged ravines that most elk hunters won’t hunt. I realize going in that if I harvest a bull, I'll have to carry him out on a frame pack, and I'm okay with that. I bone all the meat out. Then I plan to make as many trips as I have to make to get the head and all the meat back to my vehicle. Usually, my husband or other people I hunt with will come and help me pack my meat out. I believe one of the reasons that more hunters don’t take more big bulls on public lands is that they're concerned about having to pack the meat out if they're successful.
One time I was lucky enough to draw a muzzleloader tag to hunt for a big bull in Utah. Although I’d seen a lot of bulls, I hadn’t spotted a bull I wanted to take. So, finally on the last day of my hunt, I just about had decided that I’d have to eat my Utah tag. However, 15 minutes later, I heard an elk bugle, and I got in close enough to see a nice 6-point bull raking a tree with his antlers. I said to myself, “I'm not going home with a tag in my pocket. This is a nice bull. He’ll provide plenty of meals for my family (we love to eat elk).” I called the bull to within 95 yards. I lay down on the ground, set my bipod and took the shot at 95 yards. As soon as the bull took the bullet, he dropped. I had taken the shot with about five to 10 minutes left in legal shooting time.
My husband, Keith, and our friend Kerri was on the hunt with me. We all had frame packs. When I called Keith, he got in touch with Kerri. They both got their frame packs on to come and help me get my elk out. I checked the distance from my truck to where the elk fell - 6 miles the way the crow flies. But to take the route we had to take to come out, we had to walk 7 miles. Together we were able to get that bull out in one trip. Due to taking the meat and the trophy on those three frame packs, we didn’t get back to the truck until 2:00 am.
On the way home from that Utah hunt, I asked Keith some random question. He said, “Don’t talk to me. I'm still mad at you for shooting that bull so far from the truck.” Remember, he and Kerri had to walk 7 miles in to get to where I was with the elk. Then, they had to walk back that same 7 miles out - each with a frame pack heavily loaded with boned-out elk meat. Many elk hunters, who hunt public lands, don’t move as deep in the woods as I go, because they don’t know how to navigate in the dark. They're concerned about being lost, if they're a great distance from their truck, having to bone out their elk in the dark and then trying to find their way back to the truck. To solve this problem, I carry a Garmin GPS and always mark the spot where I leave my truck as a waypoint.
In recent years, I've relied on my cell phone as my GPS. The company I work with, HuntData www.huntdata.com, loads on software called PDF maps. So with my phone, I can see a map of the unit where I'm hunting, the spot where I've left my truck and my position where I’ve downed my elk. I can drop pins all along the route on the map on my cell phone. This app has a backtrack device that will allow me to follow the same route out of the woods that I’ve taken into the woods. The app and the maps are all satellite driven and have nothing to do with cell towers. So, even when I'm out of range of a cell tower for my phone, I can look at the map. I can see where I am and where the truck is. I can follow the waypoints I've left to walk the same track back to the vehicle that I’ve walked to the spot where I’ve taken the elk. I've turned my cell phone into a hunting GPS, but I still carry my Garmin also.