Bwana Bubba’s Thoughts – Reaching Elk miles away.

Chasing down Elk from afar!

Thoughts go back to my early days of hunting elk with a rifle and bow.   I would rifle hunt in the eastern part of Oregon for Rocky Mountain bulls, while bow hunting was in the western part of Oregon for Roosevelt bulls.  So those early hunts to the east were about going into the timber and waiting for elk to come by within shooting range.   One thing I never did was to build a fire to keep warm, but my uncles all did it.  I remember on one hunt Uncle Floyd was deep into the pines up near Texas Butte.  You could hear him cough, as he was a smoker, plus he had his fire going.  That was something that his sons and I would never do.  Low and behold a nice respectable 5X5 came by his fire and he put him down…   So in the western part of the state, we would go into our favorite spot and walk pockets listening for elk movement and try to get in close enough to get shot.  They never seem to do the calling like Rocky Mtn. elk would do.  This process of hunting worked for us in those days.

This happens to be from the 2015 first season Rocky Mtn. Elk season in Oregon. It is an old haunt an my son and his cousin, knowing the area, but never running a GPS went hunting with the new Garmin 64's and onXmaps Hunt Plat map installed. As you can see he stayed legal. There is some access for the public near the river, that is grandfathered in for about 50 years or more. In this country it is about seeing the elk, deer and pronghorn and chasing after them. Open country with Junipers, sagebrush, rimrock, cheat grass and seed grazing grasses.

Getting to the basis of this article about chasing elk down as I would put it came about some years later when we were bowhunting the rimrock, juniper and sagebrush of central Oregon for big mule deer bucks on the B.L.M., National Forest that was bordered and encompassed with private land.  One particular deer scouting trip prior to the opening archery season, glassing at a mile into a basin we could see from our observation point while looking for the famous bucks of the Big Muddy, we spotted elk, not just one elk, but about 12 bulls, all being branch bulls.

This bull was spotted with another bull at about 2000 yards. I shot this bull at 50 yards. Both bulls were taken, one by myself and my partner, after we split up in the draw. We watched the bull at about 200 yards split up.

This launched our elk hunting in this country for more than  20 years and still to this day when I have time.  Spotting elk from distance does give you an advantage; this has led to least at 85% average of getting elk this way for me, partners and others within the hunting circles.  I will say that in the early days, GPS and mapping (software) was nil.  Most of the guys I hunted with were all past military and few of us still in the military, so venturing into the so call unknown and reading the land was pretty easy going.

I have found glassing ridges, hillsides, shaded areas and even into basins on an afternoon after the average hunter has headed back to camp and settle down for the late afternoon and evening happens to be my favorite time to glass for elk.  The country is vast with B.L.M. and National Forest for miles in all directions.  You have been glassing for about 30 minutes and you spot a group of elk which you feel is about 2 miles away.  You can see with your binoculars there are some pretty good bulls in the herd.  They are just grazing, with a few bedded down.  It is said by most that we have probably harvest more elk in the afternoon after 1PM, than ever in the morning hours.

This bull was taken by my son. We all spotted the elk at a mile away. I decided with my son, Brian Henninger's brother John and a buddy of my son to go after him. I got my son within 50 feet of the bedded bull. In the picture if Brian Henninger PGA. On this hunt all the hunters got a bull within 2 hours of each other.

It is now to setup a plan to get onto these elk, as it is about 1400 or 2PM in the afternoon with visibility of at least a mile.

Getting this plan underway in the 21st century is so much easier with Garmin GPS’s and onXmaps HUNT mapping software and being able to dial in the lay of the land with precision accuracy, sort of like getting 10X’s on a target during a shooting tournament…

First off, I would have my Garmin GPS, with the Montana being my favorite which is loaded with my onXmaps HUNT PLAT map.   Seeing that there is a peak off in the distance between the elk and myself, I can judge the precise distance to the elk with the mapping and GPS.  The maps are up to date and show the private, federal lands, state lands and other.

This bull was spotted at about 1/2 mile away. On this bull, I thought it was another bull seen earlier. Only had a side profile when I launched a 210 gr. Nosler Partition at 600 yards.

The second thing I am going to do is install a number of waypoints, such as the peak and the proximity of elk as I see it on the map.

Now I take a look at the topo aspect of the terrain with my GPS and my eyes, working on a quick plan to cover the distance to within a ¼ mile of the elk.   The elk appear to be very comfortable were they are and I feel they will settle down in the area for part of the evening.

Personally I have always felt to cover the ground quickly, whether I am running, sliding down a hill, but always slowly down coming up on a rise.   Many times I personally feel that mistakes are made by taking too much time getting in the zone of the elk.

This bull was called in to within 20 yards after being spotted about 1000 yards away. We covered ground to within 100 yards of the herd. A bit of small bull and cow call called him in. Plus we had cut off some of his cows.

During my pursuit I am mentally thinking how I am going ambush the elk.  I also assume that the elk will be close to where I had made sight of them.   If rifle hunting, the thought of the ambush will be different than if I am bowhunting the elk as to how close I close the distance.  I am a loner, but if I have a partner, he is going to be in my shadows normally, but under the same game plan.  I am in combat mode when working this scenario during the hunt.

Along the way I have checked my GPS and even put more waypoints, which gives me a mental picture, plus I have setup estimated time to get to my final observation point, whether a vantage point above or even level eyesight.

This bull was spotted from a mountain top a very long ways away. Michael Jame of Bend, OR took him out at 100 yards. Michael has always been a believer of getting in fast.

Now if I am rifle hunting, I will be on the ready and try to have a vantage point within my comfortable shooting distance.  A great deal of time that doesn’t always happen, but I have set this stalk up the way it works for me.   I know my weapon or rifle of choice that I use on elk and I also know the capabilities of its shooting distance and putting the elk down.

Oregon Elk (7)

When it comes to archery, I am more of a stalker of elk too within shooting range, a great deal depends with the elk, being in the rut or not, but I always have cow call and a bugle if I am going to work the herd and bring a try bull in.

With the technology of GPS (Garmin) and onXmaps HUNT mapping software, the hunter can pinpoint the game.   As said before, my thoughts have always been to move fast and not worry about being careful about foot noise, until I am within a ¼ mile.   In reality this is one of the funniest ways to hunt down an elk in my opinion!  My partners and I have taken many bulls over the years by hunting this way.

#onxmaps #teamhunt #huntsmarter

Frank Biggs aka Bwana Bubba

4 thoughts on “Bwana Bubba’s Thoughts – Reaching Elk miles away.”

  1. Bell, always great to hear from you. The days of past were great, but the 21st Century is even better.
    Now if we can control the Wolves and Cougars in the West, we would really have it made.

    Later
    Bwana

  2. Good Stuff Bwana,

    We have lots of open country in Texas, but no free ranging elk.
    I just might have to come to Oregon and hunt elk. Give you a call and get something lined up!

    G.W.B.

  3. Hey! Cobra,

    I got an email from one your buddies forwarded it to me. So you still can out shoot anyone under 66. Funny, but ya, I wouldn’t take you on for long distance shooting old school style. Great stuff and I know that you hunt that way. I remember Bailey when he brought his group from Maine and they spotted about 200 head of elk on the middle section of the Grizzly Unit. It took them some time to get on them doing the same thing. I think he had 9 buddies on the hunt. They all got a good bull on that hunt. The elk still run hard there and that sagebrush hunting is a lot of fun.
    Best Regards,
    Bell Lang

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