Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The First Bugle

Big game.big prep.always prepared. Always lethal

The thick vegetation is beginning to cure.

The vegetation was over my head, zigzagging through the corn stalk like shoots, my boots were sinking into the thick mud bog, with Otis in tow, every step was made quick to keep ahead of the mule’s enormous stride. Dad was just ahead, video camera in hand filming as we floundered towards him. Reaching the other side, my dad put the camera down and casually said that he had heard Elk. 

With the sounds of the mud holding my feet tight and the vegetation that was nearly taller than me filling my ears, I certainly had not heard any Elk. My father has questionable hearing on a good day, so I stood still and listened. Only moments later I hear it; the first bugle of the year. The nursery herd of cows, calves, spikes and rag horned bulls had been living in the area for more than two weeks and sure enough, one of the eager young bulls was singing his heart out, echoing the hauntingly beautiful sound across the mountainside.

Knowing that Elk season’s opener was in less than two weeks, excitement was coursing through my veins, we kept going so not to disturb the herd below us. Otis was loaded with two tree stands, and a camera arm to aid in filming, we had a day’s work cut out for us and could not afford to waste any time. 

Jumping over fallen logs, side hilling across the mountainside, we walked right into them, a substantial herd of resident cows and calves, numerous spike bulls and one single branched rag horn bull. The herd was running down the mountain towards the bottom when they suddenly stopped to get a better look at us. While the herd was busy mewing and chirping, I took the opportunity to take video of them milling around the mountainside less than 80 yards away from us. A spectacular sight it was that lasted only a couple of precious minutes when they continued their decent down the mountain. 

Downloading my pictures onto my laptop.

Checking my first of three locations, I found that a 6x6 and a 7x7 bull both still in the velvet had been in on the same day, August 14th. The 7x7 was definitely a relative to a bull that I had called in for my father over four years before as they have unmistakable webbing at the top of their antlers. I was excited to see this unique trait being passed down. As I stood there only one day later, I immediately knew that these were two bulls that I had not seen before. This spot in particular was known to have at least one nearby nursery herd of Elk and these two bulls were in there for one reason and one reason only, they were starting to move out of their summer ground feeling the rut approaching from within.

Making our way across an open flat, the stripped tree immediately caught my eye. A bull had rubbed the velvet off of his antlers only hours before. His victim had been two trees set 30 yards apart. The tender velvet was so fresh the membrane that had attached it to the antler was still moist and bloody. The changes within the Elk had started to show seemingly overnight, hearing my first bugle, evidence of new bulls moving in from my trial camera pictures, and now finding this, I was excited beyond words!

The bull had tore up this tree only hours before.
The velvet was so fresh the membrane was still moist and bloody.
Otis checking out the velvet.

Eagerly I approached my trail camera and the location where I was going to hang my tree stand only to find out that I had neglected to turn the power on my camera when I had left it over 10 days before. 10 days of valuable information lost. There was fresh Elk sign and I knew there was at least two 300+ bulls that had been living in the area. Never the less, I was disappointed to have lost the opportunity to check my camera this one last time before the season opened.  My dad I and I hung my stand  and camera arm with confidence knowing in less than two weeks, I would be back to review my new trail camera pictures and have my shot at harvesting one of the magnificent bulls that were living on the ridge. 

Our next stop was to hang a stand for my dad. Fortunately, I had turned this camera on and had many pictures of Elk. The last photo of my larger 300+ class bull in this particular location was taken on the 25th of July; the herds of spike bulls and young branched bulls were still frequenting the area. The biggest notable change occurred on the 9th of August when the cows mixed with spikes and one rag horned bull appeared together on my camera. This location had been previously occupied by bachelor bulls only.  

The tree was set for my dad’s return opening weekend and we walked out with very valuable information about the Elk behavior that would help us tremendously opening weekend. The bulls were beginning to feel the biological changes from within and were bugling, the older more mature bulls had began to scrape the velvet off their antlers and had started to move out of their summer range soon to begin territorial marking. 

The rut was close the Elk felt it and I saw it in their behavioral changes. When I return again during season in less than two weeks, the photos I capture, the sign I read, and what I hear echoing across the mountainside will all help me in planning my strategy for taking down one of the mature bulls I have been watching all summer long. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 Central Oregon Elk Camp

This year’s 2011 Central Oregon Elk Camp by Cent-Wise Sporting Goods and Steve and Kathy Simpson was held at the Simpson’s private Elk ranch in Terrebonne Oregon. Nestled along the foothills of the majestic Cascade Mountain Range, the Simpson Elk Ranch features a mix of 100 cows and 100 bull Elk. The Lower Bridge herd is bred for their unique renewable resource, velvet. For centuries past, the Far East has used velvet covered Elk antler to increase energy and endurance, strengthen joints and the immune system, improve memory, and other medicinal purposes.

Me and Cathy Allman from Cent-Wise Sporting Goods
There is nothing that gets over 75 Elk hunters more excited and ready for hunting season than spending the day surrounded by beautiful mountains and a herd of over 200 head of Elk, talking Elk and Elk hunting all while sharpening their hunting skills. The action packed day featured a fantastic lineup of guest speakers and seminar topics. Hunters prepared themselves for season with a wide range of topics and a multitude of speakers such as:

  •  Steve Chappell of Bugling Bull Game Calls discussed “Calling Big Bulls”
  •  Blake Miller of Outdoor Quest taught “Understanding GPS and Topo Maps”
  •  Karl Findling of Oregon Pack Works “10 Tips for Successful Backcountry Packing”
  • Troy Niemann, co-author of the Northwest Elk Academy video “Rifle & Archery Tactics for Elk”
  • Gary Lewis award winning author and host of Gary Lewis’ Adventure Journal “After the Shot Tracking & Follow-Up
  • Mike Slinkard of Winner’s Choice Strings & HECS “ HECS Technology”
  • Karl Matous retired Navy emergency responder “Medical & Practical Preparedness in the Wilderness”
  • Scott Wegner, Wildlife Specialist with Land O’ Lakes Purina Feed Company “Successful Food & Feed Plots”
  • Steve Simpson, owner of the Simpson Elk Ranch “Field Judging & Scoring Bull Elk”
Sharing my public land Elk scouting adventures to the crowd, I discussed my pre-season scouting tactics. Everyone loved seeing the multiple 300+ class public land bull Elk trail camera pictures that I integrated into my seminar. That chance at a big public land bull keeps us heading back into the high country year after year. I enjoyed having given everyone some tips on how to find those big bulls before season increasing their odds of success on public lands.
One of the trail camera photos that I shared with the audience.
Excitement was peaked while experiencing the thrill of being up close and personal with a herd of multiple 400+ class bull Elk. For lunch, award winning Outdoor Chef Kurt Ploetz, grilled up BBQ’d Bacon Swiss Elk burgers with all the fixin’s.
Troy Niemann and I with Chef Kurt getting ready to fill up on Elk burgers.
By the end of the day over $2,500 worth of door prizes were distributed to attendees with proceeds from the day’s events going to the Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation. Sending out a huge thank you to Cent-Wise Sporting Goods and Steve and Kathy Simpson for putting together such a remarkable event uniting hunters and helping fulfill a lifelong hunting dream to children who have been diagnosed with a life threatening illness. I am proud to have been a small part of such an incredible day and am looking forward to participating in an even bigger event next year.
Participants looking over a few of the many door prizes at the day's event.

For additional information about 2012’s Central Oregon Elk Camp contact 
Tori Allman at Cent-Wise Sporting Goods at 541-548-4422

For additional information about Hunt of a Lifetime Oregon Chapter, please visit the website at 

A special thanks to the fantastic line up of sponsors

Steve & Kathy Simpson
All Sports                                                                                          Sightron 10x32 Binoculars
Alpen Optics                                                                                     Shasta Ridge 390 SR Binoculars
Ameristep Blinds                                                                               Hunting Blind
AMP-3                                                                                             Professional Grade First Aid Kit
ASAT                                                                                               ASAT Camoflauge Suit
Bank of the Cascades                                                                        Howa .338 Rile Package fro Rifle
BaseImage                                                                                        Hunting Unit Topo Map Set
Bowtech Archery                                                                              Assassin Bow Package
Cent-Wise Sporting Goods                                                               Martin Firecat Bow
Cent-Wise Sporting Goods                                                               Garmin E-Trex Summit GPS
Cent-Wise Sporting Goods                                                               5 Pounds of Elk Backstrap Steak
Cent-Wise Sporting Goods                                                               Cent-Wise Elk Hats
Cent-Wise Sporting Goods                                                               4 Burner BBQ Grill
Game Plan Gear                                                                                Soft Bow Case
HECS, LLC                                                                                      HECS Suit
Hunten Outdoors                                                                               Infrared Trail Camera
Hydrographics                                                                                   Two $150 Dipping Certificates
Lifetime Memories                                                                             Wooden Hunters Photo Album
Montana Decoys                                                                               Elk Decoy
NRA                                                                                                 Three Gun Cases
Oregon Pack Works                                                                         Orion Back Pack System
Outdoor Edge                                                                                   Skin n’ Bone Knife Set
Pole Pack                                                                                         Pole Pack Unit
Land O’ Lakes                                                                                 Purina Deer & Elk Chow
Rocky Mountain Spices                                                                    Assortment of Sauces
Skulladermy                                                                                     $150 Gift Certificate