I am sitting at a water hole watching a herd of 50 plus elk in a meadow. They are laying in full sun and I am confident that by noon, they will head to the water that I am hidden near.
Mendocino Country, California is some of the best Tule elk hunting in the country.
At 11:30 cows and calves start heading my direction and the herd bull is following, screaming out warnings to all the satellite bulls to keep their distance. Another herd bull bugle to the north! Then, from the west, mire elk are bulging. In minutes I have elk 360 degrees around me and I am hoping for an "Ah Ha" moment from my Ozonics.
I can hear bulls fighting and elk splashing in the pond. Out of my blind, I see a 6x6 bull at 40 yards wade into the pond to drink. I settle my pin at the last rib at the quartering way bull and aim for the opposite shoulder. At the shot, elk explode everywhere and my bull walks 20 yards and goes down!!!
In all the confusion elk start watering and calling again. There are over 150 elk within site. Some running away and others coming in to water with bulls going crazy and calves and cows frantically trying to locate each other.
I call my son and explain what has just taking place, as I had just witnessed three herds of elk coming together at once to a water hole!
The adrenaline rush will never get old!
It is just about quitting time on the second day of my hunt.Seeing elk has not been a problem, getting close enough for a shot has been challenging. I am able to watch a large herd of 120 elk in a wide open flat.
Tomorrow is a new day and I have located a water hole that was visited by a few elk today.If the wind is right that will be my location of choice.
I am tucked away in a blind waiting in ambush as elk come over a small knoll. My adrenaline is in overdrive as cows and small bulls come to water. I can hear the screaming bulls in the meadow that are hopefully getting thristy.
I have seen turkeys, Blacktail deer and about 20 elk. Two small bulls were 30 yards, but hopefully a bigger one comes in before the wind changes.
I am in the coastal mountains of Northwestern California sitting in a saddle. Not a saddle that is on a horse but a low area between two mountains. I am positioned near a heavily used elk trail, waiting for action.
I find myself in a very unique position. I will have the opportunity to hunt all three elk species of North American elk in the next thirty days. I will be hunting Tule Elk here in the coastal mountains of Northwestern California, Roosevelt Elk in Western Oregon and Yellowstone Elk in Western Nebraska. This was not a planned venture, so let me explain how it has come to be.
I have been faithfully applying for years to many of the western states trying to build points and draw quality tags for all big game animals. Having 21 points for species in some states puts my chances of drawing tags quite high.
With nearly maximum post in Oregon my drawing odds were almost 95%. I had researched the Powers unit and was hoping to draw in 2015. In early summer I checked for my draw results and I had indeed drawn.
I had also researched the possibility of hunting Tule Elk and found most good opportunities to be very expensive and on private ground. I happened to mention this fact to a well-known hunter, saying to him I would probably never be able to afford a Tule hunt and he smiled and gave me a phone number. I called the number and discuss the possibility of hunting for a management bull. This particular ranch is granted from the state 5 tags per year and take one management bull every other year. I decided to send a deposit for 2017. I also was told that the ranch was for sale and my money may be returned. As luck would have it I was contacted and told that a trophy hunter had canceled and they were willing to take me this season.
I discussed the situation with my wife Rhonda and told her that I would finally sell all those shed antlers filling up the garage. With a frown for her face and a smile on mine, the hunt was booked for today.
THEN! About a week later came the notification that I had drawn a Nebraska elk tag!!
I am very blessed.
Without the understanding of my spouse and employees handling my business professionally in my absence, these hunts would not be possible.
So if you would like follow along the next few weeks as I post this blog, please feel free to ask questions and let me know what you are interested in hearing about.
Have you ever been hunting with a group friends and they are already tagged out? Brian Cooke, a former Nebraska resident and life member of the NBA, found himself in just that situation. Brain had spent 70 hours in a ground blind hunting antelope. He had passed shot opportunities on smaller buck and shaved hair off the brisket of another.
Earlier this week, Jeff Uleman and myself filled our tags. Jeff headed back to Nebraska and I hung out to help Brian.
We discussed plans of having Brian sit until about noon Friday and then packing up and heading home. Brian, now a resident of West Virginia, was facing the possibility of eating "tag soup" for the whole 23 plus hour ride home.
While talking to the rancher the other evening and having a cool one, Hap, the rancher wanted to know how the antelope hunting was progressing .We told him it was tough with all the rain but we where having a great time.
Hap told us to hurry and get an antelope because he is in charge of the bear hunting on the famous UU Bar Ranch and the Filmont Boy Scout Ranch. He said the bears where causing a lot of problems down low in the mountains and he was getting pressure to take more bears. Hap said he would take us if we got a tag.
I decided to get my tag early because you can't hunt until 48 hours after the purchase of the tag.
So after filling my antelope tag yesterday we were all set to go hunting bear. Around 10:00 a.m. in a canyon that was full of bear candy, "acorns", a mature bear was spotted. This is a beautiful chocolate boar with a white v marking under his chin, is gorgeous and going to make a great mount.
The last 6 days have been a great time with great people and friends. There is one buddy left to fill his antelope tags, so keep checking for results...
Four bucks crossed this morning at about 40 yards, and the biggest one crossed last. I took a shot at about 42 yards and hit just low behind the shoulder.
I glassed the buck and could see the entry hole and blood pouring out the center of his chest. I was waiting for the buck to go down and he kept walking behind the three smaller bucks. About 20 minutes later they disappeared over the horizon.
An hour before dark the bucks returned and the three smaller bucks crossed in the same spot but the largest one began heading for the crossing on the other side of my blind. This time the buck was hit good at 34 yards. I never thought I would get another chance at that buck again.
A group of bucks are feeding my way from the south and more bucks to the north!
He looks to be a shooter! I am hoping one of the groups of goats comes through the fence yet today. "Relax Mike and be patient."
Bow hunting is like a lot of other sports, it is a huge mental game. You can have the best equipment, be in top physical shape and shoot a 2 inch circle at 59 yards. But if you can't keep your mind in the game you can fail.
I have struggled the most with my shooting ability. I jerk at the release, double clutch and a number of other things.
Two years ago it started shooting an Xpedition bow and that has improved my confidence greatly.
Patience and confidence are also a major part of the hunt. Sitting for hours and hours in a blind or stand can work on your mental game. You have to tell yourself it will happen and stay confident: something good is still in the cards.
I look at the hunting success in a unit or state. If it shows an 18% harvest rate, I am confident or cocky enough to feel that I am in that 18%.
If it was easy, it would not be as rewarding. And if a person isn't enjoying nature and the little things it has to offer, you are missing out!
Buddy and fellow NBA member scores on a great New Mexico Antelope! Congratulations to Jeff Uleman of Elkhorn. Now he is heading home to see his new grandson Finnley, born Sunday!!!
Mike Lutt has been bow hunting since 1976 and has been a member of the NBA for 30 years. He has been married for 32 years to Rhonda and they have three children that are out of the nest! Mike spends hours scouting and bow hunting in Nebraska and any other place he can find.