Idaho Archery Bull

I began archery hunting in 2005 out of necessity more than because I wanted to. Oregon is a draw only state for rifle, so it didn’t take me long to see that if I wanted to hunt more than once every 4 years, I’d better learn a thing or two about archery hunting. But, after calling in a bull that first year that screamed his lungs out at me every 30 seconds, I became addicted to the way of the bow.

Fast forward to this season, now an Idaho resident with the choice to hunt bow or rifle, and despite having been humbled in the act of bowhunting, I’ve chosen archery as my preferred method of hunting – especially for elk. After four seasons, I still only had stories and memories to show for my efforts. As this season was approaching, my brother and I talked ourselves up big and vowed that this would be the year we got the monkey off our backs.  We planned a 4 day hunt to kick off the season beginning on opening day.

The opener was wet – very unusual weather for Idaho’s archery opener. August is generally the hottest and driest month, but the rain was coming down as we found ourselves eying the end of the road for our first crack at the 2009 elk season. Lightning cracked seemingly all around us, but our anticipation could not be held back.

We set up on a huge flat bench that ran along a steep wall in a drainage we’d scouted earlier in the year. Our calls produced a couple lazy bugles, but nothing to get overly excited about. Eagerly, we eased to the next spot – near a big water hole that we knew elk frequent. Once we hit the ridge above the water, we could smell the elk. Fresh droppings, beds, tracks – the whole nine yards. We were in them. We set up and started off with some cow calls followed by a single bugle. Pretty soon, we’d located two herds below us as cows were mewing back and forth. Then a bugle came from one herd. Our hearts leaped – this was what we’d been waiting 11 months for! Another round of calling, and then from above us came the scream of a mature bull. I looked over at Todd and gave a fist pump. The wind was in our favor and I was on the uphill side from Todd meaning I would probably be getting a shot if this bull came in. And come in he did.  His bugles began to come closer and anticipation began to build. When the elk appeared, he had circled a little bit, and his antlers tipped the ridge just 40 yards from Todd – and then the wind shifted. Todd, who got a better look at this magnificent bull, said he’d come in with his nose in the air and as soon as the wind shifted, he was gone. After such a build up, it was hard to believe it was over so soon.

During those four days, we called in three bulls, stalked to within 15 yards of one (Todd) and missed one at 40 yards (me). It was enough to leave us frustrated, but also optimistic that we were seeing bulls – and getting close. To us, it seemed it was just a matter of time.

The next weekend, Todd had previous engagements, so I went up the mountain by myself. I went to a new area – an area I’d shot three bulls from in previous years with my rifle. I knew the area, I liked it, and simply being there gave me a mental edge. I started up the ridge and was bumping deer every few steps it seemed. As I neared an old overgrown logging road, I bumped into a bull. As I started across a wide open flat, the bull spotted me and as he wheeled and ran, I thought I’d just missed a golden opportunity. Not willing to admit defeat, however, I got by the only tree nearby and started to call. I knew there was no way I could call that bull back across the wide open spot as he could surely see me – and he wouldn’t see any cows. After calling a few times, though, he answered back with a bugle, and off in the distance another bull answered him. You talk about a perfect morning, this was it. Being by myself, I was trying to utilize a camera mount on my bow given to me by Brian Piltz from Insane Archery rather than lugging my big camera around. The footage isn’t great because I was using a point and shoot picture camera, but I was glad to have the camera mount to capture some of the action.


The bull stood about 140 yards away and refused to come any closer across that wide open space.  I quieted and allowed him to wander off into the brush, and then using the brush to conceal my movements I began working my way closer to him. Pretty soon I could hear his footsteps as he sampled the mountain’s menu. Losing patience, I moved toward the sound just as the bull stepped out and caught my movement. I came to full draw and chose my spot. As I released, the bull lunged forward and I watched in disappointment as my arrow went in too far back.  There was no blood trail, no arrow, nothing. I began to question if I’d hit him at all. After giving him several hours, I followed his tracks as best I could, but pretty soon they mixed with so many other elk it was hard to tell what was what. Eventually I found myself on the next ridge over combing through the thick, viney brush that seems almost impenetrable. At this point many hours had passed since the shot, and worry was weighing heavy on me. I was picking my way through that thick brush when I spotted the tan body of an elk. The monkey has been evicted from my back.


My first bow kill - 2009 Idaho bull.

Wish he could have been there. My grandfather has been a big influence on my love for the outdoors.

Wish he could have been there. My grandfather has had a big influence on my love for the outdoors.



23 Responses to “Idaho Archery Bull”

  1. Arthur on September 11th, 2009 5:48 am

    Awesome, awesome, awesome! Now that you have your first bow kill under your belt, you’ll be addicted for life. I love gun hunting, but there is just something completely different about hunting with a bow.

    Congrats. That is sweet!

  2. Wendy-Surf and Sheds on September 11th, 2009 7:38 am

    Great video! Glad you had the opportunity to capture that moment!!!

    Thanks for including Surf and Sheds on your Hunt!! Thank you so much!!!

  3. Jonathan Dahlstrom on September 11th, 2009 7:54 am

    Great bull! Good luck sleeping for the next couple months without that big ol’ boy screamin’ in your head. I so love this time of year!

  4. whiteotter on September 11th, 2009 8:07 am

    WHOOOO HOOOO… congrats Tom.. well earned… We are proud of you!

  5. Rick on September 11th, 2009 8:31 am

    Congratulations on a awesome harvest. It is a great feeling to have an accomplishment like that.

  6. Travis on September 11th, 2009 8:35 am

    Congratulations Tom! That is a very exciting accomplishment, hopefully I can experience a hunt like that soon.

  7. AllAboutExotics on September 11th, 2009 8:49 am

    Congrats, Tom! If we could freeze frame that feeling…My first bow buck came after 15yrs of on/off bowhunting and culminated in my taking of a 130″ 8 pt wt that had me struggling not to fall out of the stand. What a thrill!

  8. The Hunter's Wife on September 11th, 2009 9:21 am

    I know how much you would have loved to have the whole thing on tape. Congratulations!

  9. Brian Piltz on September 11th, 2009 9:23 am

    CONGRATULATION, Tom – a new baby and your first bow elk in the same year! God’s smiling on you!!! I’m so glad you were able to capture some of the moments on the camera bow mount. Next time be sure to have the camera rolling during your shot! ;o) Thanks for sharing, that was awesome.

  10. Dan Lamoreux on September 11th, 2009 1:19 pm

    Well earned is well remembered.

  11. Chris Burget on September 11th, 2009 3:45 pm

    Congratulations! great story and pictures.

  12. Blessed on September 11th, 2009 7:38 pm

    There won’t be any hunting for me this year – my shooting is pretty atrocious right now! But stories like this one keep me motivated to keep working on it so that I can get back out there and hunt too!

  13. Idaho Archery Bull : Team Wild Outdoors on September 12th, 2009 6:33 am

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  14. Terry on September 12th, 2009 3:16 pm

    Congratulations Tom! Way to go. I am still optimistic even though the weather has been hot the entire season here so far. Just paying my dues and putting in my time. That will probably be the best tasting elk you’ve ever eaten! Enjoy.

  15. Emily on September 15th, 2009 9:11 pm

    Nicely done! Congrats on a great bull. I’m hoping to have a success story next week. I need to get the monkey off my back also – especially after missing a really nice bull last year.

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  17. Cory Glauner on September 16th, 2009 6:38 am

    Awesome! Congratulations.

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  23. Luke Fitzwater on May 7th, 2010 2:45 pm

    Excellent article. I believe that if more people tried bow hunting, they would be surprised how much fun this can be. I invite you and your readers to visit my new site, Silent Draw Outdoors. This is a new breed of hunting and outdoor adventure. Watch bow archery hunting videos of big game in North America.

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