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ElkShape Camp Graduate KNOCKS Down His First Bull

ElkShape Camp Graduate KNOCKS Down His First Bull
My First Archery Elk Harvest
-Dan Kathman
I Hunted for a quick 5 days in Colorado before deciding to leave early and head to Idaho in attempt to fill my tag there. Took 40 miles on foot in 3.5 days to find the elk in CO, it was brutal.  On a positive note I may have a leg up for next time I make a trip back to CO to archery hunt for elk.

2019 OTC Public Land Archery Bull. On day 11 of my Archery Elk Hunting trip and day 6 of my Hunt in Idaho it all came together on this beautiful Herd Bull. After a missed opportunity on this same bull a few days prior we decided to give the herd a break for a few days to hunt other areas. On Monday morning September 16th at sun up, from an adjacent ridge system we had relocated the same herd. After a couple hours of ridge hoping and glassing, we observed the whole herd get settled in their beds. At this point we knew this was the same herd bull that we were chasing a few days prior. Considering their bedding location, thermals, mid day wind patterns and unsuccessful setups earlier in the hunt, the initial approach to get in close to this bedded herd was in full effect.

The Initial approach to within a couple hundred yards of their bedding area went off without a hitch. We immediately spooked a spike and it took off directly toward the herd. Deja Vu to the first set on this herd a few days before when two bedded satellite bulls on the outskirts of the herd spooked sending the herd into utter chaos and spoiling the chance at a harvest before we were even able to setup and start calling. My instant reaction to jumping this bedded spike was “Darn Satellite Bull screwed us again”.  At this point with with changing winds and the spike on the move both heading in the direct direction of the bedded herd, I made a decision to move back up in the ridge face in hopes that I would be able to elude them from winding me.

As I continued to move in on the bedding area, I glanced down the ridge to observe about 9 cows working up the ridge below me on a hammered game trail. I tucked close to a nearby tree and had time for one quick range for reference. Another quick glance back to the rear of the cows, I saw his tops. As I came to full draw he stopped behind two large trees. I held at full draw for about 2 minutes. Once he continued to follow his cows and his rear quarter cleared the obstructions, and stepped into my shot window. One cow call he stopped on a dime and looked up-ridge at me, simultaneously I pulled through the shot. At 42 yards quartering to me, I tucked the an arrow tight behind his near side front shoulder. The bull whirled, cows split and I quickly dropped 25 yards in attempt to get another arrow in him while he was standing there trying to figure out what just happened. Before I could release another arrow he ran another 30 or so yards down the ridge face and out of sight. I heard him cough a few times, a few seconds of silence, then I heard him crash. I backed out as the wind switched heading right down ridge to where I heard the bull go down. An hour wait, less than 100 yard track job, I was approaching my first archery elk harvest. Words can’t express what that moment meant to me! All the hard work, planning, determination and the drive to keep pushing mentally and physically after the many missed opportunities earlier in the hunt, I felt something that I had never felt in my life. Archery Elk hunting is such a humbling game, I will keep the memories of this hunt close to me for the rest of my life.

After two days of packing meat out of the woods (18 Miles total of Packing Meat). I thought of what I have heard Dan Staton of ElkShape mention in his podcasts, when breaking down my bull. I ran the gutless method on the first side, then had to gut him out in order to roll him over to process the other side! Good tip. I served as caller for a buddy of mine for the remaining 5 days in Idaho. We were in Elk everyday with numerous encounters in Idaho. Not much more a guy can ask for.


Excerpt from Dan Kathman's Instagram Post

"It's Hard to believe that September has already come and gone so quickly! Many mistakes, lessons learned, and take-aways from my second September chasing Elk with my bow! These experiences and encounters that summed up my September are stored closely in my memory bank and have me more motivated than ever to stay consistent, keep pushing myself mentally and physically to further advance myself in the many facets of archery elk hunting! As hunters we prepare all off season through countless hours of research, e-scouting, workouts, and reps with the bow all for the chance at chasing opportunities. We grind, face defeat, push past previous mental and physical bounds in hopes of creating harvest opportunities. While Mentally preparing ourselves for a variety of different situations so that when the opportunity presents itself, we can execute a clean and effective shot."

Take-Aways from this Season:

- Never Give Up. (This is number 1 in my opinion). Push Mentally & Physically 

- Hunt Hard everyday. 

- If you can push through the mental hurdles of defeat and missed opportunities then you can push through physical exhaustion.

- If you aren't learning something everyday, then you aren't doing it the right way. Learn from Mistakes and Positives and use those experiences to better yourself.

- Staying Physically Active and Healthy throughout the Off-season pays huge dividends in my ability to cover alot of miles to achieve success. (I Put in over 150 miles on my hooves on this trip). If I hadn't put in the off-season effort, then I am sure I would've been to take day's off or cover less ground.

Things I did well:
- Glassing Elk, Putting them to bed, and observing all of them bed down. I utilized OnX to mark various locations where I observed the Elk Bed (As Many as I could) prior to making my approach into their bedding area. 
    This served to be very beneficial when closing the distance, so that I had good reference of when I was "In" or "Close" to the Red-Zone prior to calling. 
- Getting in close before Calling. Or not even calling if the Bull(s) were bugling on their own.
- Minding the Wind. Playing Thermal Patterns (Time of Day) Reference/Shade vs. Sun on Faces. (As much as we can this is our best option, funky things happen with the wind due to various terrain features). 
    (IE - Wind/Thermal Tendencies near Creek Drainage's or Seeps on Ridge Faces. Always seem to be moved down with path of Water Flow.)
Things I Could do better:
- Be more patient with calling situations. Always leave the ball in the bulls court. (One Example: Got in close on a herd bull and a few satellites. The herd bull had about 30 head of Cows with him. I started the Calling sequence off with Violent Raking, the bull    lit off immediately. I cut him off and mimicked his Bugle. I went back to Racking. (Apparently which I couldn't see the Bull had gotten out of his bed, and began moving in the shooters direction). After a minute or so without hearing him Bugle Again I let out a raspy challenge bugle. (The Bull Whirled the other way and went directly back to his cows - This I couldn't see either). In hindsight I should've kept racking and been confident that I had the bulls attention after his first challenge bugle that I received after raking. Wait for him to bugle again.
- Be Patient, Let Situations evolve and don't force the situation, unless there are limitations to the situation/encounter.
- Gain More Experience & more Elk Encounters. 
 I want to say thanks to ElkShape for all that you have done to serve, as someone that I look up to in the world of archery elk hunting.  Elkshape Camp 1 provided me with some key take-aways that helped aid in my success this year. Top Notch Podcast & Top Notch Elkshape Camp.

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