After quite the challenging opener in the Soapstone area filled with miles of hiking only to see a few does, a handful of hunters and one lonely cow elk, Jeff and I went back one week later to the same area that he had scouted so diligently and by 8am he had filled his Yellowstone South Slope cow tag with a 32 yard frontal shot perfectly placed….
Fortunately we were about 1 mile from the truck and 2 trips later found us headed home just after noon. I went out that night and retrieved my trail camera – PICTURES POSTED HERE which had plenty of cows on it but unfortunately its location is not in my cow tag area. I kept thinking if I could only fill the cow tag and ensure the freezer filled it would take off any pressure and allow me to pursue antlers or adventure, whichever I could find, or perhaps both.
Although our (Jeff and I) cow tag dates are Oct 8-20, the caveat of the antlerless tag allowing you to fill it with archery so long as you hunt in the same area with a bull tag in your pocket is really quite awesome. If a bull comes along, opportunity. If a cow, again opportunity. Since our buddy Bill wanted to hunt with us, I reasoned that I would only spend one more Saturday hunting in Soapstone and then I would start to explore other areas that I had scouted. But Labor Day weekend? Surely it would be crowded, but we went anyways.
We met Bill on the Highway at the Soapstone turnoff and drove up to the area only seeing a couple of camps in the area. We immediately spread out about 50 yards apart and headed up through the forest. After a little while, we regrouped and shared notes of minimal sign and thoughts on what next. We opted to continue towards an area that we suspected held elk and thanks to the cooler temps (31 at the truck when we departed at 6:15am) the hiking was quite enjoyable. After a bit Jeff signaled to me that he heard elk walking and we changed direction slightly. Bill and I were above him on the gently sloped hillside and I continued trending upward while Jeff went across. Less than 5 minutes later he aggressively signaled for me to come downward and across rather than up so I changed direction again. Moments after that, arrow knocked and stalking slowly through the woods I glanced downhill to my left to see a big brown spot, a cow elk looking intently forward giving me a near perfect broadside shot. There was a small aspen even with her head and another with her hind and a tall stump guarding her mid section to about mid belly height so I could see a small window of space between her mid belly and shoulder that I could sneak a shot in.
She glanced upward toward me and then back in front (her and Jeff were having a staring contest) I knew she was nervous and that my time was short. Because of this I didn’t range her but gauging her to be 45 yards with a clear window I drew back and instincts took over.
As I was doing this Jeff was thinking “This picture looks familiar. A front shot on a cow…I wonder if Bill sees her…where is Kendall?…Wow, that’s a big cow. It’ll sure be a lot of work if one of us…” SCHWAACK!!!
She darted away with sounds of twigs and branches breaking. Another few elk that were behind her took off as well. I instantly turned to Bill who was behind me, fortunately out of her view thanks to a thicket of pines, and said “I missed, I’m sure of it”, thinking the sounds of a branch breaking as she bolted was my arrow hitting the stump. Adrenalin rushed through my veins, as I disappointingly shook my head. Bill started off in the direction of the cows that bolted as I slowly walked downhill to retrieve my arrow, marking the path with glances behind me. I glanced around and didn’t see my arrow, and Jeff came up asking what I was looking for. “My arrow” I replied. “It’s in her, I saw her turn and run with it sticking out. You were a little forward but with good height, mid body for sure”. I went from pessimistic to nervousness because of my “little forward” shot.
From the point of contact I ranged back to see it was actually 52 yards. We followed first footprints in the pine needles to then found good blood and my arrow about 15 yards later(broken off at the broadhead but looking like decent amount of penetration). Not wanting to bump her in case she was still alive, we waited another 45 min and followed a good blood trail 75 yards to see the cow piled up.
– Warning – bloody entry wound picture below –
While inspecting and quartering her, I realized that my arrow (Easton FJM with the Grim Reaper broadhead) went through the blade of the shoulder, punched through the upper section of both lungs and lodged in the opposite shoulder. She was ever so slightly quartered away rather than a true broadside so it allowed my arrow a spot to enter through the thinner part of the shoulder blade. The Grim Reaper did a great job for me once again:
The cutting inside with the hole in the top of the lungs (about 4-5″ from entry to exit on the lungs) and the cutting in the opposite shoulder was exactly what I needed to get a quick and effective kill.
Took me a bit to gut her as I had only ever done the gutless method, (two elk, two deer) but thanks to 2 good friends and a little coaching the work went pretty quick and the heavy lifting, and it was quite heavy, was done through 2 trips. I was sure glad for the cooler temps as the meat cooled off quickly in the shade.
Once again blessed with good elk meat in the freezer. My wife, who grew up in a non-hunting family, has warmed up to the thought of me hunting and was awesome when I got home being super supportive and congratulating me with an enthusiastic high five. The kids are stoked for elk steaks and I’m feeling a lot less pressure to get the family fed with elk meat just 2 weeks into the season.
Here is a video I took testing out a new saw that I purchased. I blow through hand saws and found this one thanks to a customer referral. Even thought it’s not intended for a bone saw, it did pretty dang good.