The Gate Keeper: 22S Muzzleloader Bull Elk
Updated: Oct 6
It was a long time coming for one of my best friends, Cody to take his first elk. Ten years ago we both had archery tags together and neither tagged out. It was only fitting that I got to call a great bull into point blank range for him on this hunt and he did the rest. It was an intense situation with the bull strolling in screaming, bellowing, and bugling the whole way. Hank and Cole both joined us for the mountain rodeo and got front row seats to the fireworks showdown!
Hot air flooded through the open windshield of the Pioneer and loose rock rolled beneath the tires as the four of us headed towards our evening hunting location. We stopped at the top of a densely covered ridge line where the day prior Cody and Hank had been on bulls. The air thick with haze from a wildfire on the other side of the mountains that formed the horizon, we gathered our packs to hike out to our glassing spot. Wind was whipping up the hillside yet we could hear the distinct bugle of a bull not far below us in the saddle. He sounded mean. The highs of his call cut through the wind as if it wasn’t there.
Quickly we dropped down the ridge and closed the distance. As we moved forward the bull faded off to the side of the bushy and unstable mountain backbone. Our feet rolled loose gravel, dirt, and rock below as we pushed our way up through the boulders above us. Cresting the next high point we paused and I let out a bugle. The bull promptly responded in the distance. He was heading south, off the heat soaked ridge line, towards a large water source below. “If we can hear him, we can kill him. Let’s go!” I stated as we rerouted ourselves to an easier path.
Several hundred yards later we were gaining on the bull who was occasionally sounding off. We dropped off three benches and descended down the spine. In an opening where we could hear out below us, we stopped. I let out a subtle cow call. The bull screeched to life in the trees ahead. Cody dropped his pack and stepped on top of a large rock for a better view. Hank held up behind Cody by several yards. Cole sucked to the left behind a dense juniper tree. I continued to call towards the bull and drifted to my left. He made the hillside shutter as he repeatedly bugled and slowly turned to walk up the mountainside in our direction. I could see antler tips approaching yards away and I continued to softly call. The bull bellowed loud enough to make your ears ring and the hair stand on your arms.
Cody leaned back and forth trying to clear the brush with his muzzleloader. The broken 6x6’s head cleared the last tree. Cody was ready. When his crosshairs settled on the vitals, a blast of smoke tore from the barrel. The recoil pushed Cody back off of his shooting perch. The bull stood motionless, shuttering across his body. After a dramatic pause he lurched forward a few steps, wobbled, and fell to the ground. At 20 yards the muzzleloader had answered the bulls last bugle with a bang. Cody had taken his first elk, a fantastic mature bull, in spectacular fashion.
A short session on pictures ensued as the sun settled behind the peaks and cast amber, orange, and red across the sky. We said a short prayer and the four of us got to work breaking down the bull as the light faded. The cool blackness of the night was our companion for the pack out. A mile of rocks and brush would bring him back to where we could get the SxS. At 1:45 AM we rolled back into camp, laid the meat out from the packs and called it a hunt. Part 2 of the hunt was complete.
Read Part 1 of the hunt here: Desert Bull: 22S Muzzleloader Elk.