September looms ever closer and the anticipation is overwhelming! I keep dreaming of that first bugle of the year—the high, throaty notes building as they cut through the morning dawn, over bubbling creeks, through crisp meadows, and finally dissipating into misty timber. Many hunts with family and friends are already on the books with more amazing memories to be lived.
But for now, it is time to prepare and the preparations are quite fun in themselves. Gear is organized, food stockpiled, bows tuned, bodies strengthened, calling finessed, and maps plotted. Around the busy preparations, I find it important to reflect on lessons learned. There are mistakes I don’t want to make twice. I reflect on bull encounters when I was at full draw. Bulls that were less than 30 yards distance. Bulls that live all the wiser due to my mistakes.
First and foremost, I need to improve my setups on solo opportunities. Sometimes, the moment happens so fast I don’t get to pick where I will set up on an incoming bull. Other encounters, I do have time. I need to stop calling a moment sooner and move another 30 to 50 yards up to an efficient shooting lane. Incoming bulls often “hang up” or stop to look for and confirm the source of the calls they are hearing. This year, I will be more savvy about picking the spot to stop calling as well as picking the spot to shoot from. This will require patience—which leads to my next point.
Patience. A virtue unnatural for me. Regardless, I will increase my capacity for patience. For direct application, I will be more patient for the bull that only bugles once. Historically, I fall into the “run and gun” style of hunting—always looking for the bull that is fired up. However, the bull that only bugles once and shuts up, he is still there. Opportunity exists. I want to be the hunter proficient at calling the passive bull in. I must build the scenario to pique the bull’s interest. Just because he stopped calling, doesn’t mean he isn’t there. Patience.
Finally, I want to continue improving my knowledge of the elk language. This year, like last year, my goal is to improve on this knowledge. Anyone can make elk sounds. The real challenge that few master is understanding what the elk are saying, the moods of the bulls, what they want, and how to respond accordingly.
Are you wandering mindlessly around the woods each year? Or do you have purpose to improve as a hunter?
It’s crunch time. Remember, nothing good comes easy.
- Jess Patrick