Editor’s Note: Dave Forbes with his wife Carman not only own Hunter’s Specialties, headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but both are avid hunters. Here Dave talks about the elk he remembers the most.
The Giant Bull Elk That Got Away
In late September, 2008, I hunted with Floyd Sanders at Vermejo Park Ranch in northern New Mexico. We heard a number of bulls bugling on the first morning of the hunt and had six bull encounters. However, the bull I finally took, which was the sixth bull we encountered, wasn’t my most-memorable bull on that hunt. The elk I remembered most was the one that got away.
We found a bull earlier in the day, but when cows came between me, Sanders and the bull, the bull left with the cows. Sanders and I moved, walked down a woods road to find another bull and located a bugling bull about 100-yards away from us in the woods. We closed the distance to the bull by about 20 yards. Sanders pointed to a pine tree where he wanted me to stand, while he called to the bull. A cameraman was recording the hunt for one of Hunter’s Specialties’ elk videos. Sanders instructed the cameraman to get behind me. Then when the bull stepped out into an opening where I could get a shot, he’d be able to see me and the bull in the viewfinder. He also could capture an over-the-shoulder shot of me drawing, releasing and arrowing the bull.
When I reached the tree where Sanders instructed me to stand, the bull already had started closing the distance. He was only 15 yards from me. While I watched the bull elk, he ripped a 10-foot-tall tree out of the ground with his antlers and threw the tree over his head. I couldn’t believe the power and the strength of this bull. Unfortunately, the bull wasn’t in a place where I could take a shot. As Sanders started calling, the bull began walking toward me. I knew the bull should pass within 10 feet of me, offering an easy shot with my bow. Sanders had scored this huge, heavily-antlered bull elk at about 380 points on the Boone & Crockett scale. He was a bull of a lifetime.
As the bull came around the tree, he stopped 12 inches away from the spot where I could get a good shot when he spotted the cameraman who was sitting right in the middle of his trail. The cameraman wasn’t wearing a face mask or gloves, because we’d gotten close to the elk quickly. So, the elk realized exactly what was about to happen. Since I was concentrating on the elk, I didn’t know where the cameraman had positioned himself, until the elk spooked, wheeled and ran about 50 yards. Sanders continued to call to the elk, and the elk stopped. But finally the bull moseyed-off, never presenting an opportunity for a shot. Although I didn’t know why the elk had spooked, Sanders later explained what happened, and why I didn’t take my bull of a lifetime. After seeing that bull, I imagined every bull that bugled that morning was the same size as the monster bull that got away.
The Bull Elk I Took
The last bull we hunted bugled about 200 yards from us. We moved up to within 150 yards of the bull. Sanders put me out in front of him, while he stayed back to call to the bull. By having the caller behind the hunter, when the elk came into the call, he’d be looking past the hunter, instead of at the hunter to see the cow that was calling to him. With this set-up, I had a better chance to position myself to draw and shoot the bow without the elk’s seeing me, than if the caller was sitting or standing right next to me.
As the bull started coming toward me, I could see he was a 300-plus-class bull. However, since I’d just seen a bull close to 400 B&C points, this bull paled in comparison. But because of this bull’s nice size, I made the decision to take the shot. When the bull moved to within 25 yards, Sanders called, causing the bull to turn and present me a shot at his lung area. I released the arrow, the shaft drove the broadhead home, and the bull ran only about 80 yards before he piled-up. This day was awesome. I’d had six encounters with six different bulls and the chance at a bull of a lifetime. Too, I was finally able to take a really nice bull at the end of the day. The bull you remember the most on a hunt oftentimes isn’t the bull hanging in your trophy room. More than likely he’s the bull you haven’t taken that got away from you.