On September 20th, I accompanied members of Team WASP (Guy Weaver, Zach Weaver and Fred Dougherty) on an elk archery hunt to Wyoming. The hunt was booked with Powder Horn Outfitters, Ranchester, WY on private property on the western side of the Big Horn Mountains. Preparation for the hunt began almost two years ago with the application for preference points under the WY license draw system. After receiving notice that all four of us were successful in the 2011 draw, my preparation intensified over the summer months with hours of practice making sure my equipment (and me) was ready for the hunt. Starting in mid August, all target shooting was done with the SharpShooter broadhead so I could do any fine tuning with the bow and “matching” the broadheads to the arrows.
Upon arrival at the camp on September 22nd, we had the opportunity to shoot our bows to confirm the hazards of air travel had not impacted the accuracy of the equipment. Fortunately, my practice arrows hit the mark and no adjustments were necessary. September 23rd was our first day of actual hunting and I drew a tree stand for the first day (we drew numbers from a hat each day). Almost all of the hunting was done from either tree stands or ground blinds near water holes. Day one ended with numerous elk passing by my tree stand including several small bulls.
On day two, I drew a ground blind located at a water hole on the western end of the property. As we scouted the elk movement during the morning hours, I didn’t get into the blind until just before noon. There was no activity and it was quite hot in the blind until 4:20 pm when a cow, a calf and a 6 X 6 bull came to the water hole. As it was only day two of our six day hunt, I passed on this young bull elk. Then, just after 5:30 pm, the action really started when I heard approaching cows calling and bulls bugling behind my blind. Within a minute, I had over 30 elk including 8 bulls entering the water hole within 10 yards of my blind. Then, the big 6 X 6 came from behind my blind and joined the group of elk in the water hole. The next five minutes were intense to say the least. The big bull was broadside at 25 yards in front of my blind for several minutes bugling constantly, but I couldn’t shoot due to the number of elk either in front or behind this animal at any given time. The unintended results of a pass through shot at 25 yards could have ruined the experience.
After several minutes, the elk started moving to my left and leaving the water hole. At that point, I came to a full draw with the bull stopping broadside at 20 yards. Same problem again! Elk were passing between me and the bull as well as elk behind the bull. The bull then turned and walked towards the left side of my blind and again stood broadside, but at 15 yards. I had to slowly slide to the side of my chair to shoot through another window opening while still at full draw. Once again, there were other elk moving directly behind the bull and I couldn’t take the shot.
The next event was something totally unexpected. While still at full draw, a calf stuck its nose in the window that I had just moved away from. At that point, I assumed I was busted, but to my surprise the calf withdrew and moved on. At the same time the big bull turned and walked back to my right so I had to change windows again at full draw by sliding across the seat of my chair. As the bull suddenly turned left quartering away, the shooting zone was finally clear and the elk presented a shot at 20 yards. I put my 20 yard pin just behind the left rib cage and released the arrow. I can’t begin to express my excitement and relief as I watched the arrow tipped with the SharpShooter broadhead disappear into the bull just behind the left rib cage. The bull didn’t react immediately, but started to slow its pace after about 30 yards. At 50 yards it was clear that the broadhead had penetrated deep into the body cavity and reached the lungs. The bull stopped, started to stagger in a circular walk and blew blood through its nostrils while turning its head from side to side.
It was clear at that point that the bull was going to go down within seconds. Then, to my surprise, another bull sensing this big herd bull was weakening charged from the rear and pushed the bull 30 yards into the sage brush before it collapsed and expired.
When we field dressed the bull, we had to be very careful as the arrow was buried deep in the body cavity of the bull. We found that the SharpShooter broadhead had cut completely through the body cavity (stomach, liver and lungs) and then exited the cavity between the ribs just in front of the right shoulder. The carbon arrow actually snapped under the weight of the bull when it fell as 3 inches of the shaft plus the broadhead were lodged in the shoulder. We estimated that the razor sharp broadhead had traveled over 4 feet through the body of the bull before coming to rest in the shoulder. That’s tremendous penetration especially since I’m only shooting 57 ½ pounds!
At the time I released the arrow, I knew it was a good bull, but the field scoring of the bull confirmed the size of this majestic animal. This was my first bull elk taken with a bow and the experience is one that will always remain with me.
Thanks to WASP for making great broadheads!