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Elk, Bears and Hunters Don’t Mix


We were out hunting one morning, and I heard an elk grunt. We decided to go after that bull. We were side-hilling (walking up the side of a mountain to gain elevation instead of walking straight up the mountain). We got just a little ways below the bull, because elk had rather come downhill than go uphill. I started calling to the bull, but the bull was acting much like an ole, smart tom turkey – hanging up about 100-yards away - just out of bow range and not coming in to the hunter. I thought to myself, “What the heck is happening? There's no reason that bull shouldn’t come in to my calling. He should be trying to herd cows, and I'm sounding like several cows. I'm giving that bull all the right calls he needs to come to me.” 

MikeM_day2Then, I noticed something on the ridge behind us at about the same elevation as the bull - a mama black bear that was popping her jaws, looking at us and huffing at us with two cubs. She attempted to lead her cubs away from us. But, then in just a few minutes, like mischievous children, those cubs would start running back toward us. That mama bear saw and smelled us. I could tell that the bull elk completely had forgotten about my cow calls. All his attention was focused on that mama black bear and her two cubs, and he was huffing and blowing at her. The male bear kept coming closer to us until he was about 50-yards away. We were in a bad situation, because a sow with cubs can be very dangerous. She kept scolding her cubs and trying to get them away from us by getting in front of her cubs, rounding them up and taking them away from us. 

Then that bull elk began to make a very nasal sound that I’d had only heard once before. It sounded like a snort/wheeze that a white-tailed deer would make. A bull elk would make this sound when he was nervous and not really sure what was happening. The bull sucked in a lot of air and blew it out his nose and mouth, and sometimes grunted at the end of blowing out the air. 

The wind began to swirl, and I think the bull elk got a little of our human odor at the same time. I figured his brain had to be messed up, because he saw the mama bear and her cubs, smelled them and then smelled human odor too. Finally, this really-nice bull turned around and walked off. If the bears hadn’t come into where we were set-up, I’m fairly confident we would have taken him, but that’s elk hunting. We had a really exciting morning, even though we didn’t take an elk. 

For more information about hunting mule deer and/or elk, you can contact Mike Miller at or call him at 719-240-3738.

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