Once in a lifetime...ND Elk Tag!

NDguy

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Aug 12, 2016
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Still on Cloud Nine…. it was the hunt of a lifetime, literally. To re-hash this year I was lucky enough to draw a North Dakota elk tag. Because we have a limited amount of elk here, these tags are only attainable once in a lifetime. You have less than 1% chance of drawing and there are countless people that put in their entire lives and never draw. I was in unit E4 which covers the north side of Medora and Teddy Roosevelt Park. It’s a small unit with 9 other tag holders in addition to the dozen or two landowner tags they give for depredation. We have the unit to ourselves for the first weekend and then the E3 tag holders and us can hunt in either unit interchangeably. Historically E4 has held a lot of elk close to the park so it’s arguably the “premier” tag of all the OIL tags we give out.

After months of obsessing, organizing gear, practicing calling I left early Thursday morning for Medora. Season started Friday and in my small unit for opening weekend I already had a solid plan laid out and decided I wanted to take more vacation days with a rifle in hand vs scouting. My brother, and good friend joined me and through him acquired some good land access as well as opened a new network of landowners to reach out to. Some of the nicest people on the planet and most were at least willing to give general advice and ideas for me.
 

NDguy

Active Member
Aug 12, 2016
186
64
We scouted Thursday 9/2 and found a complete tanker on TRP and he was bedded within 400 yards of the grasslands border. I wanted to give it a shot even with our private access because this bull was massive and after opening weekend this part of the unit would be ripe with other hunters. The bull was with 20 or so cows and was bugling so we figured we might have a shot to call him off the park or catch him outside of it if he was rounding up other cows we had seen in the area. It was a mile or so walk from our parking spot so we got up and started walking 1.5 hours or so from shooting time. Boy did we misjudge terrain lol there was a creek bed that we figured was dry and easily walkable, it ended up being a steep 30ft down creek bed. We had to open OnX and navigate a good route to get around it because it was too deep to safety climb in most spots. lol Eventually we made it to where we wanted to be and got setup.

About 20 mins before shooting light we heard some bugling pretty close to us. All of us had the hair start to stand up on our necks haha. I’ve never elk hunted so this was my first time hearing a real elk bugle. The addiction is real! I started bugling back to him and we could tell he was moving our way. As it happens on public land sometimes, 5 minutes before shooting light we heard a truck rumbling coming up the grasslands two track not far from where we were. Sure as chit, a damn truck pulls up all the way to the park fence. Initially we thought it was G&F or a rancher but lo and behold out step two gentleman wearing orange. With lights still on and the daylight starting to show the fellas in the truck let out some bugles. Best part is they were between us and the bull, so we relented and moved to another area we had seen elk. We walked a few miles and ran into another elk hunter coming in from the opposite side as us. Chatted a bit, he seen a good bull in here as well and it was a different one then we did but unfortunately was in the park so he kept moving. I warned him about Truck Hunting Mcgee and we went out separate ways. Now with two hunters on both ends of the stuff I wanted to hunt we hiked back out to regroup and plan the next move.




 
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NDguy

Active Member
Aug 12, 2016
186
64
We hadn’t checked cams at my main spot and knew a lot of hunters were near it on the public stuff so I figured after opening morning a lot of elk would get pushed onto it or the park nearby. So we packed up camp and headed over. We took a nap and headed out around 4pm to setup. My brother and buddy stayed high to glass on the butte overlooking the property and I went down to the river bottom where the elk usually move through towards dark. Somehow got cell service so about 45 mins after settling in my brother called me and said there’s other hunters on the adjacent property across the river and on the grasslands next to it. They also said there’s a bedded bull up there drainage on the private land. He looked decent but they couldn’t get a good side view of him. Didn’t matter because he either caught someone’s wind or something else spooked him and he hightailed it out of there! Someone must have been watching him because they started chasing after him once he crested the flat top haha.

Not long after brother let’s me know that a pile of elk came out of the trees and sage brush in the bottoms and started grazing. No big bulls only spikes and rag horns with them. Didn’t take long though about 2 hours before sunset we heard a faint bugle, that started to become louder and more frequent quickly. Brother texts me 2 GIANT bulls and one really nice one working their way to the cows. The next hour and a half is what I’d imagine all elk hunters dream of. Screaming and I mean screaming prehistoric sounding bulls rounding up their cows. I being so low elevation wise never got to see the action only hear it but the other two said it was the craziest thing they’ve ever seen. The bulls were spinning in circles, smashing up sage brush, chasing cows and eachother all the while bugling, lip bawling, and chuckling. It was pure elk heaven as much as I can imagine it being. Soon after I started getting in on the fun and started challenge bugling at them, they did not like me swooping in on their ladies and started running towards my location.

They closed the distance to about 600-800 yards and stopped. (again I can’t see anything this is all 2nd hand from my brother) They didn’t want to leave their cows but the whole herd started coming towards me albeit slowly. I would challenge bugle and wait for them to answer trying my best to not overcall. About a half hour with shooting light I started cow calling mixed with my bugles to try to get those bulls more interested but it just got too dark and I didn’t want to risk bumping something or letting a big bull spot me. I snuck out bugling as I worked my way back to the truck to let them know I was further into the property. Also I found out later from the adjacent landowner as I was leaving a nice 6 point bull was within 100 yards of me being able to see and shoot him [emoji2369]. My brother and buddy said the cows and nice bulls stayed on the park but were bedding close to the land we were on and knowing that we knew we had a great shot for the morning sit.





 
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NDguy

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Aug 12, 2016
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It was COLD Friday night/Saturday morning so that fall feeling was creeping into my veins waking up the next AM. We got out to our spot on the butte crest, the wind had died down pretty good but was still a good direction. There was an eerie fog rolling in too with how cold and humid it was. We weren’t sitting long in the dark before we heard some elk. My brother and buddy stayed high and I worked down to the base of the butte where there was a little knob with some thicker trees and bushes. I started to bugle and listened.

There were some bulls right where we left the cows to our S and then we heard more bugles directly SE of us. The wind was SSE so we were in prime position. After listening to the bulls getting worked up with all the commotion I started to get more aggressive and started smashing the trees and shrubs where I was standing with a stick. The bulls to our SE did not like that and let us know. I peaked around that corner and saw 15 elk quite a few cows and 3-4 bulls. Nothing big but I figured there was a good one back there from the bugles I heard. So I thrashed around a bit and challenge bugled a few more times then cow called. I see some elk start working my way. I climbed back up the butte a bit into a overlook ledge and got setup with my buddy who climbed down.

We noticed the fog had gotten crazy thick and then started hearing bugling directly to our west towards the lowland and where I was setup the night before. The adjacent landowner was back and also bugling at the bulls. I had to decide if I wanted to head that way or risk it and hope the bulls behind us were working to us and there was a shooter. I was tempted to head down with the fog cover because if there was a bull there chances are I’d have been able to shoot him on the land we were on. But we decided to wait it out and watch especially in case one of the giants came out of the park. Well it wasn’t long and my decision became the right one. My brother waved at us that elk were coming right to us from the SE.

We were in prime position hidden behind and above the butte to where they’d be waking. First came a decent 5x5 walked 100 yards from us and walked across the field towards the other property landowner bugling. Two rag horns followed shortly behind, stopping briefly for a short spar and kept going. I took the opportunity to give one more bugle to keep attention to the area, I was quickly answered by a pissed off bull coming from the SE like the others. Then we saw more movement from behind the corner and trees. Two more bulls, the front one looked pretty decent and then I saw another bull... He looked GIANT. Clearly bigger than anything we’d seen up close, chocolate rack with ivory tips. I saw him from the front and he man looked solid and then he turned his head for a side view. Yep no brainer, I set my pack out in front of me and creeped up to the cliff edge. Got my rifle in position and waited. Him and the other bull trickled out following the same path as the other 3. He’d be about 100 yards from me where he was walking.

I waited until he cleared the trees and shot! Nothing! He didn’t flinch and barely moved, just stood there. I reloaded and shot again, still nothing! I remembered from Mr. Randy Newberg and other elk hunters I’ve followed saying “if a bull is standing I’m still shooting”. I couldn’t risk him making it back to TRP and if he did I’d have to call a park ranger and wait for them to escort me to retrieve him. Yeah no thanks! He started to trot NW towards the other elk, I shot a third time and then he finally acted hit. He turned slightly quartering me and I shot again, he flinched and tipped over. My bull was down and my once in a lifetime tag was filled! My brother and buddy started yelling and came over and tackled me. We couldn’t believe how everything came together.

All of us were shaking, grinning from ear to ear. We could see he expired within 30 seconds of him toppling over but we watched him for a few minutes to be sure. Then we heard a BANG! In the direction of the other landowner, he also shot an elk within minutes of me taking mine. Pretty damn cool! We went down to my bull and wow, he got bigger with every step we took towards him. I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to take a bull of his caliber in my own state. Grip n grin photos and then the real work began. All 4 of my shots connected and my first two shots were perfect, right behind the shoulder within an inch of each other. He would have likely expired quickly but not knowing if I hit him and not risking him getting to the park or private land next door I am glad I anchored him where I did.
 

NDguy

Active Member
Aug 12, 2016
186
64
I’m overwhelmed with joy and sadness that it’s over already but no way I’d ever pass up this bull. He’s exactly like I dreamed of shooting, couldn’t be happier. Being in the middle of big screaming bulls was an unforgettable experience in itself. My bull green scored at 357 1/4", knowing anyone in any state would be ecstatic to shoot a bull like this was the cherry on top of this adventure. I’m honored and proud of the opportunity to take my first ever elk in my home state that thousands of others never get to experience. I’m glad I was able to make the most of my opportunity. Truly the trip of a lifetime that I’ll never forget!

Thanks for tuning into the crazy ride!

PS My wild facial hair is a good luck thing my buddies and I do, maybe it does work?