My 2018 Pa Cow Elk Hunt
After having been putting into the elk draw for the past 17 years as any sex/any zone entry, I got the unexpected call. I was drawn for a cow tag in zone 2. My immediate thoughts were on whether to hire a guide or not. Being that I lived in Dubois for 6 years, I was pretty familiar with the region. I also had plenty of help in the area so I was leaning to doing a DIY hunt. I then messaged a couple of HPA members that had already done elk hunt and was reassured that if I wanted to do it DIY, it was possible.( Thanks BugleBoy and TPlank).
In mid September, I made my first scouting trip to the area. Being in zone 2, I knew I would be focusing on SGL 311. It was just a matter of where I was going to access it. I put on alot of miles that day checking fields and looking at my aerial photos. The one area I wanted to check out was a restricted area between the months of June and opening of archery season. Since this was september, I could not go in there. I ended up seeing one cow near the parking area and had an awesome experience with a giant bull that gave me a show by bugling like crazy while he was less than 50 yards away from me. Even though I didn't see many elk, I knew they would be there come october and november.
I talked to 3 of my good friends from Dubois to see if they would accompany me on the hunt. One of them had moved to texas and he decided to hop on a plane and come up to join me for the hunt. The other 2 were in as well and so I would have three buddies joining me on Monday. I didn't scout anymore cause I knew we would be scouting the sunday before the hunt.
I arrived at my buddies place on saturday. Sunday morning we get up early to be in the field where we were thinking of starting monday. No elk, but we can hear them bugling. We look up on the next hill over and see close to 50 elk feeding. Change of plans, that is where we are going to start in the morning! The elk move off the hill and head to a gulley where they bedded for afternoon. At that point, we head up to that hill and decide where we want to set up initially. With all the benches and such, sometimes hard to see very far. We picked out a spot that we really liked and then left.
Sunday evening my anxiety was kicking in cause the one thing we didn't know was how much pressure and competition was going to be there. We figured whatever happened, we would just roll with it.
Monday morning comes and it is steady rain. We arrive at parking lot at 5:00 am. Legal shooting time is 6:22. We are third car in lot but other two were a hunter and his guide, so just one other hunter. I get my gear together and head up hill with the other hunter right behind me. They follow me up hill until I get to where I am going to cut off trail. I stop and talk to them and they are going to continue on up and around hill. From their headlamps, they are about 150 yards away from us. From our vantage point we can see the headlights of cars comind down hill toward parking lot. Oh boy!
While the four of us are waiting for daylight, elk are bugling right next to us. When the one elk bugled, he had to be less that 50 yards from us. We could hear the elk walking around in the field, it was awesome. At this point, there was the one hunter above us and now there was another hunter below us about 100 yards. Getting close to LST, I can't believe we are only 3 on this hill! Ha! LST arrives and I look behind me and there must be 30 people in orange heading up the trail past me trying to get to the top. Probably only 5 of them were hunters and the rest guides or helpers. Crazy.
The first shot came from the guy that was behind me going up hill in the morning. Then another shot rings out just past where he was setup. Now that it is getting light, I decide to move up a little more so I can see this bench below me better and when I do, I look up and see 5 elk looking at me. They are directly between me and the guy above me. The elk take off back over the knoll and I'm thinking I just screwed up the hunt. I move up even further to get better look at bench and with that I see elk coming around the hill on the bench I am watching.
All of a sudden, the floodgates open and no less than 70 elk move onto that bench in front of me. It is crazy. My mind is racing. I got to do three things, make sure it's a cow, make sure it's not a calf, and make sure it is isolated so I don't hit two. There are three bulls in the group. There were three options to shoot, beginning of herd, middle, or end. Couldn't shoot middle cause of hitting more than one. The front of the herd there was a cow but she was being chased by a bull and constantly moving. I then focus of back of herd and I see a cow by herself quartered to me slightly. I told my buddy next to me that I was aiming at cow at end of herd. I put crosshairs on shoulder and squeezed. My buddy says he could see the water spray off her and he was able to follow her in binocs and confirm that she went down. Thank goodness cause it was craziness with elk running after the shot. We walked up and confirmed she was down and then all the emotions came out. Happiness, relief, excitement, sadness, just a wave of emotions. I couldn't believe I had actually done it, and to have three of my best friends there made it all the better.
The gun I used was a Ruger .338 win mag that my dad had bought for an elk hunt in british columbia in 1985. He killed a beauty 6x6 with it. He passed in 1995. I carry it for bear, but it had not shot anything else. But now it has a pa elk to go along with it!
I shot her at 6:51. We got her gutted, on cart and got to truck at 9:15. The game warden was at gate when we got there and was very friendly and checked license and everything. Check station was just down road and we were probably fifth in line. She weighed 382 lbs with est live weight of 496.
Sorry for the long read! I'm not good at posting pics but let's see if they come through. Don't know what order they will be in. In the one where I am aiming on tripod, you can see all the elk in front of me.