Editor’s Note: Cliff Hockett from Grand Junction, Colorado, started elk hunting when he was 12, and has been chasing those brown buglers for more than 15 years. Hockett has been a Mossy Oak pro for the last 3 years. His two favorite patterns for elk hunting are Mossy Oak Brush and Mossy Oak Treestand. Hockett explains, “My very favorite pattern is the Mossy Oak Duck Blind. However, since the Duck Blind pattern was created for waterfowl hunters, finding that pattern in lightweight clothing that I can wear for archery hunting is often difficult. The reason I like this pattern is regardless of where you hunt there's always going to be dry grass, and Mossy Oak Duck Blind looks just like dry grass. Colorado’s archery season for elk starts the last weekend in August and ends the last weekend in September. During this time of the year, our average temperatures are in the 80s, especially in the first 2 weeks of the season.”
On the way in to hunt on this day, my Dad, my brother Dale, and I walked past seven other bowhunters. When we got to the last bowhunter we saw, he said, “That’s it. I'm done. I'm going home. I've already seen too many bowhunters today, and there's no elk here.” But right after we talked to him, we hadn’t gone very far at all before we called in a 4x4 bull and two cows.
I was 17-years old, and I was on my first bowhunt for elk. My dad wouldn’t let me hunt with a bow until I could pull back 55 pounds, and I had to be able to hold that weight for 30 seconds. He was really strict about that test. After I let that 4x4 walk past me, my Dad got on my case. He told me, “Hunting elk with a bow is much harder than hunting elk with a rifle. You won’t get very many chances to take a bull with your bow, and you can’t eat horns.” I knew instantly that my dad was really disappointed that I had let that nice young bull walk past me without taking a shot at him.
We walked 10 more yards on this small aspen bench. Not 5 minutes had passed since I didn’t take the shot at the 4x4. Then, another 4x4 and a 3x4 walked past me, and I didn’t take those shots. My dad really got upset this time. He told me, “If you let another legal bull walk past you without taking a shot, I'm taking you home right then.” The next bull we called in was a 285-inch, 6x6 bull. He was coming up a little drainage chuckling. I heard many other hunters calling on the same side of the mountain where we were. Most of the hunters were really trying to blow the reeds out of their bugles and cow calls, but Dad and I were giving soft, quiet cow calls. We sounded very different from all the hunters hunting on our side of the mountain. When the bull was 8 yards from me and looking straight at me, I took the shot. I put the arrow just to the side of his brisket, so I knew the broadhead wouldn’t hit any bone. It came out on the opposite side of the elk just behind his third rib. The arrow went all the way up to the nock in the bull’s chest.
The bull whipped around and tried to run up the little drainage close to where he had been standing. Then, he fell backwards. When he fell, he landed on his right antler and snapped his back two tines off. After my dad and I had been sitting watching the elk lay still, my dad said. “You sit here. I'm going after one of the bulls you passed up.” Since the bull had his head up, I sat still for a long time waiting for the bull to die. Until I reached the elk, I didn’t know that he had died just as soon as he hit the ground. He had expired with his head up. I'd never seen a bull die with his head up like that. The bull was sitting up like he was alert, and I had been sitting, looking at that bull, for 20 minutes and didn’t know that he already had expired. When I got up and started going to him, I found both of the broken tines.
Dad wasn’t gone long before he came back. He had called to the two young bulls I had passed up, but then he remembered a lot of bears were in the area where we were hunting. He decided he'd better come back and get me and my elk. So, we caped, skinned and quartered the elk and carried him out.
To learn more about hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ new eBook, “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oaks Pros Know Bucks and Bows.” You also can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or SmartPhone.
For information on making jerky from your elk and other big game animals to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book.
Tomorrow: The Hindquarter Elk Slide with Clifford Hockett