Thirty-six-year-old Matthew Drury, the son of Terry Drury, is the general manager of Drury Outdoors. Although Matt’s been on many turkey and deer hunts, this season he went on his first elk hunt. The lessons he learned and the experiences he had could help us all learn how to and when to take trophy elk. Matt also put the new Mossy Oak Mountain Country pattern to the test to see for himself how effective this pattern could be under the watchful eye of the big bulls that came in close.
On this five-day hunt, we saw and heard plenty of bulls on the first day that we didn’t take. The morning hunt on day two was a little slow, and we didn’t see very many bulls. But on the afternoon hunt, the woods were on fire with bugling elk.
On the second day of the hunt, we spent more time seriously trying to hunt the elk rather than just seeing them and getting acquainted with them. On the afternoon hunt, we had three or four bulls come within bow range. One of the bulls was a really, really nice bull. I would’ve shot him in a heartbeat, and most elk hunters wouldn’t have hesitated to take him, but the bull wasn’t the caliber of bull that our guide Ammo wanted us to take. We passed up four good bulls and had exciting hunts for all four of them. We got some great video footage and enjoyed an exciting day of hunting.
Before the hunt started, we had told Ammo that we wanted to hunt the elk like we had our bows. Even though I was hunting with a rifle, to get the up-close and personal footage that we needed for the TV show, before I took the shot, we wanted to get elk within bow range. If I had to sum up what I learned on day two, I’d say we passed up some really good bulls. We also began to understand that we were flatlanders in mountain country, and there was a lot we needed to know about hunting in the mountains and about the elk we never had seen before in the wild until we went on this hunt.
On the first and second days of the hunt, we were getting plenty of good video footage, and we had numerous opportunities to take a bull, but we quickly realized that we had no idea what a shooter bull really looked like. Our afternoon hunt was made up of climbing, sitting down, resting, studying the terrain with our binoculars, watching Ammo cow call and then getting up and moving again. One of the things I learned was that when hunting in mountain country is that you need to take rest stops to make the hunt enjoyable.
On day three of the hunt, we learned that each guide had a certain portion of this very big ranch that he hunted. Although we had covered a large section of the property that Ammo guided on, he was satisfied that he wasn’t seeing the caliber of bulls that he wanted us to take, or that he was accustomed to seeing in his area. We started hunting harder than we had been the first two days. We were going up and down mountains and pushing to find a bull like Ammo wanted us to take. Finally, we were on the side of a mountain, looking down into a meadow, and a large bull was bugling about 400 yards below us.
We had a bull with two cows come up on the side of the mountain within 10 yards of where we were. When they spotted us, they spooked, but they didn’t spook the big bull down below we were trying to take. Ammo called that bull from about 300 or 400 yards across a meadow. The bull started coming up the mountain to us. He stopped and raked a tree with his rack, and this gave us the opportunity to get great footage. Then he turned and came straight up the mountain to us, bugling all the way.
Although he came to within 10 steps of us, we were wearing Mossy Oak Mountain Country camo and blended right into our environment. That bull was so big and so close that I felt like I almost could reach out and touch him. If Ammo hadn’t been with us, I would have shot that bull, because he was a really, really nice bull. Although he was a 6x6, he didn’t have the tine length that Ammo felt he needed to have. So, we passed on that bull also. But when you can get a bull within 10 steps, he’s looking straight at you, and he can’t see you, then you know your Mossy Oak Mountain Country camo is really working.
On this hunt, we saw 30 or 40 bulls, and 10 or 15 of them were within easy range of a .30-06. If I had been hunting on my own, I would’ve probably taken one of those bulls. However, I had learned to rely on Ammo and let him choose the bull that he thought was best for me. So by day three, I had learned that one of the keys to taking your dream elk is to allow the guide or the person who knows the most about elk decide which bull you should harvest, especially on your first elk hunt. Ammo told me when we arrived in camp, “The rut is on, the bulls are bugling, and we should see a lot of good bulls. But I’d really like for you to hold off harvesting a bull, until we can find what I believe to be a true trophy.”
For more info on hunting elk where Matt hunted, check out Wild Mountain Outfitters www.wildmtnoutfitters.com.
To get John and Denise Phillips’ free cookbook, “Miz Denise’s Outdoor Cooking: More Than 35 Recipes for Elk and Mule Deer,” go to http://johninthewild.com/free-books.