With the muzzleloader season already having started on September 10, 2016, and lasting for 10 days, I remembered a muzzleloader hunter I’d had last year. We had covered a lot of ground on this hunt. Then we heard a large group of elk out in front of us, but night was fast approaching. So, we decided to go back to camp and make a plan. As we talked in camp that night, we decided the best strategy was for us to try to make a 3-1/2-mile hike the next morning to get in front of the herd. If we walked straight to the herd, we were only about a mile away. But we felt like this 3-1/2-mile hike would put us in a better position for my hunter to get a shot.
When we reached the herd, two bull elk were fighting, clashing antlers, pushing, shoving and trying to determine which one was the dominant bull. Moving slowly and quietly, we positioned ourselves between the two fighting bulls and their herd of cows. When my hunter was setup and ready to take a shot, I bugled. The biggest bull gave up the fight and started running straight to my hunter. I was sitting beside my hunter and knew all he had to do was squeeze the trigger. Then I could spend the rest of the day field dressing and quartering the bull elk and getting the meat out. I told my hunter, “Okay, there's your shot. He's at 90 yards. You should be able to take him.”
We were sitting on the side of a mountain. I heard the muzzleloader crack, and a big puff of smoke come out of the barrel. Then I heard and saw something I’d never seen before. The bullet from the muzzleloader was rolling down the mountain like a bowling ball. The only thing that I could think of that might have happened was my hunter either short loaded (didn’t put enough powder in his muzzleloader), or somehow a portion of his powder might have gotten wet. The bull started herding his cows up. Although the elk didn’t know what happened, he did know he didn’t want to be where he was. My hunter was frantically reloading his muzzleloader. We tried to move and call the bull and herd again but were unsuccessful.
That afternoon we returned to the lodge. My hunter loaded and shot his muzzleloader several times, and it shot perfectly. So, that night we began to make plans. I explained to my hunter, “We know where that herd is. Although we’ve spooked them, I don’t think we’ve terrified them. They know something’s wrong, but they don’t know exactly what that is. Let’s go back in the morning, and see if we can get on that bull again. If not, there are so many does in that herd there should be another bull either in the herd or near the herd. The bull that’s fighting the bull we’ve tried to take should still be in the herd.”
Once again, we got up well before daylight. We found the herd, and we saw three good bulls. We bugled to them and listened to them fight in the dark. The cows started moving up the mountain. We were able to get in a little ditch and began going up to where the cows were going over the mountain. As the cows passed us, we spotted a nice 6-point bull off to our left. Just as the day was becoming light, that bull and the cows started talking to each other. As they moved over the top of the hill, I told my hunter, “You may get a shot at a bull before the morning is over. I can’t promise you that this bull will be the same big bull you’ve tried to shoot yesterday, because he was a 6X7. But we may get lucky and either take him or the other bull that’s fighting.”
I started bugling and got the attention of the 6-point bull out in front of us. Then another herd of elk on the other side of the mountain began moving toward us. I heard a big bull bugle behind the 6-pointer. He was pushing his cows toward the herd that we were following. Although a couple of satellite bulls came by us within easy-shooting range, I told my hunter, “Hold your shot. I feel certain that the herd bull that’s pushing his cows toward us will come to us.” Because the cows were talking to that herd bull, I quit calling. When the bull came over the top of the mountain, I told my hunter, “This is the bull we missed last night - a 6X7.” When the bull was at about 50 yards, I cow-called to stop him. My hunter took the shot. The bull turned around quickly and fell in his tracks. The bull scored 360.
For more information about hunting mule deer and/or elk, you can contact Mike Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 719-240-3738.
Tomorrow: The Pajama Mule Deer Buck