NewsMontana and Regional News


The elk are out there, so we all hope

Posted at 10:52 AM, Sep 05, 2023

Like my own personal north star, I follow the light from this headlamp up a narrow horse trail. The roaring creek below makes the consequences of falling from the light very clear.

A perfect way to start archery season.

Pretty soon my hunting buddy Nick and I ditch the flashlights and gain some elevation here in the mountains not too far from the Bob Marshal Wilderness to start our search for elk.

We reach a flat spot between drainages and Nick lets out a locator bugle to see if we can hear from any of the elk that might be lingering around

We got a few faint responses, and found some very fresh bull signs – just enough to get our hopes up.

But as the day wore on and temperatures rose things got quiet all over the mountain. Elk typically are not fans of hot, sunny weather, like we had on opening day.

Which meant a lot of sitting... And waiting... And sitting... And watching...

After about 10 hours, hopes spiked again because off in the distance, we spotted at least two bulls two ridges over. But with daylight disappearing and the elk being in a spot not exactly friendly to bow hunters, we moved into a nearby drainage, hoping we could catch another bull up on it’s feet.

But that’s opening day – where the bulls aren’t as aggressive as they will be in the rut.

And archery hunting is flat-out hard to begin with. In 2022 of the almost 87-thousand resident hunters going after elk – only 2,786 were successful with a bow and arrow compared to over 20-thousand with a rifle.

I wish those numbers made me feel better, but they didn’t. And I became a statistic to this year’s hungry hunter count as we hit the trail back to the truck.

After about 2,000 feet of total gained elevation and 13 hours of hunting to end my opening day all I had to show for it was an empty pack. But you’re not going to shoot a bull from your couch – so I’ll be back out to do it again.

At least I got my steps in.