Montana Archery Elk Hunt

After my 4th archery elk hunt, I was able to finally seal the deal

Sep 22 2015 - Oct 1 2015

by
Tyler Hock

First posted Feb 3 2016 Last updated Feb 7 2016

For me, hunting has been a passion of mine since I was just a little kid. Venturing out across the fields at my paps farm, hunting pheasants, ducks, geese and whitetails was something I did on the regular, attached to my grandfather's hip. As I grew up, my passion for hunting was fueled even more and I was determined to have a career in the outdoor industry. I bought a video camera when I was in high school and began to let my bow at home, hoping to capture my friends hunts on film. Flash forward 14 years and today I am extremely blessed to have produced multiple National TV Series and am currently the editor of video content for Guidefitter. Since graduating college in 2010 I have been fortunate to be able to go on numerous elk hunts, both running the camera and hunting on some myself. From the first day I stepped into the mountains of elk country, I told myself that I had to do everything in my power to not miss a year of the September elk rut going forward (It's unbelievable). This past September, the Guidefitter TV crew headed to Rawhide Guide Service in Montana with high hopes of putting a few bulls on the ground. It was September 22nd and I had arrived in White Sulphur Springs. My excitement level was at an all time high. This was my 4th year of hunting elk with the bow and so far, each year, the bulls have managed to come out on top.

When I arrive in camp, one of the first things I do is shoot my bow. I've seen how the airlines handle our luggage and trust me, it's not pretty. My theory is this; anything I can do to try to give myself an edge when it comes to hunting these animals, I'm going to do it. Something as simple as shooting your bow when arriving at camp can help give you that edge. It may sound funny but you wait all year for this week; who wants to have something as simple as your sights being knocked off from traveling ruin a hunt. NOT ME!

When hunting in Montana, be prepared to spend a lot of time behind the optics. The country is vast and an animal can easily get overlooked if your not picking apart the country piece by piece. Luckily, my guide, Lenny Miller is a very seasoned and talented elk guide. Lenny is one of the most passionate people I have ever met when it comes to his job as a guide so I felt confident that we were in for an exciting week of hunting.

Lenny spotted a herd of elk off in the distance about as far as we could see. A GIANT HERD! There was roughly 100-125 head. The problem was, they were on the neighboring property. Anyone who has hunted Montana knows that if there's two things that are going to mess you up on an elk hunt it's #1. The Wind and #2. Property lines. I just came off of a hunt I was filming in New Mexico the week prior to this hunt which was one of the most physically challenging hunts I have ever been on. When hunting New Mexico, property lines aren't an issue because you are primarily hunting all public ground. So, needless to say, I was a little eager to get after these elk we spotted off in the distance. Lenny told me to stay calm and reassured me that within a few days, this herd would move onto Rawhide's property and we would be in business.

We continued to hunt hard the next few days. Being up against a full moon made for beautiful lighting to get some cool photos but didn't help us from the standpoint of trying to get a bull killed; We did locate multiple bulls but they weren't moving until we were out of camera light.

After the 4th day, we ended up moving to another ranch and the first evening there, we spotted a smaller herd of elk with a big bull in it. We could have killed this bull so easily but he was down on neighboring property and we couldn't cross the fence. From what Lenny said, the good news was that these elk would be feeding in our direction before the end of the night.

Nightfall came and the elk had moved in our direction but we decided to back out and get back in there the next evening (this wasn't a spot you could easily get to in the morning).

If your going on an elk hunt, make sure you take plenty of windicator (It will be your best friend). Lenny is very knowlegable when it comes to thermals. There were times when I would want to just push down in an area and go after the elk but he held me back, knowing that the way the thermals were pulling our scent down, we would get busted.

We we're down to our last 2 days to hunt. We had seen elk every day, and I had decided to pass up on a small 5x5, hoping to get an opportunity at a bigger bull. Some people might think I'm crazy for passing up a bull when I haven't killed one before but to me it's more about the hunt. I want to out smart a mature animal in his stomping grounds and generally speaking the bigger bulls are the more mature bulls. We were in the truck covering some country trying to spot a herd of elk and came across two nice muley bucks. They knew we were there but the way the country laid, we were able to let them walk over the hill and get out of sight before we made a move. We attempted to stalk in on them but there was absolutely no cover at all. I had an elk/deer combo tag and I would have been more than happy to put an arrow through one of these bucks. Unfortunately, they spotted us before we spotted them as we were rounding the hill and they bolted.
Over the course of a 7 day hunt there are so many highs and lows it's crazy. You go from an adrenaline rush that's through the roof to a sigh of disappointment at a missed opportunity. All you can do is keep your head up and keep hunting hard.

For that evening's hunt, we were back up on top of the ridge where we had spotted the big bull the day prior. We decided to drop down into lower country, hoping to be in place and setup when the elk came down to feed. Sure enough, we were sitting there and about 30 minutes before dark, a bull let out a screaming bugle on the ridge right in front of us. We knew we were in business. The elk were coming from a neighboring property so we had to be patient and let them come to us. Lenny crawled up on the side of the hill and put out a decoy. Just like we had hoped, the herd started feeding down the ridge towards us. There were three bulls, a giant nontypical, a spike and a good respectable 6x6. The nontypical was the herd bull and wouldn't respond to a cow call. He was more worried about staying up with his cows and keeping them close. The 6x6 on the other hand, got a little bit too curious for his own good. He skirted the herd and came out down lower on the side of the ridge; he was now on our property. Lenny cow called, the bull spotted the decoy and slowly started walking towards us. The bull got a little edgy like he didn't like the decoy but thankfully he continued to keep walking in our direction once Lenny hit the cow call again. I had ranged a small piece of green moss on the hill at 50 yards prior to the bull coming in. The way the bull was walking, I knew if he continued he was going to walk into a spot where I cold get drawn without him seeing me. It was going to be a 70 yard shot. I drew back, tried to settle in (I was shaking like a leaf) and talked myself through it. I finally got the pin dialed in where I wanted it to be and I squeezed off. I heard a thump so I knew I hit him but wasn't sure exactly where. This is when 15 seconds feels like 30 minutes. The bull took off, ran about 60 yards then stopped. I didn't know if I was wanting to see the bull get wobbly legged or if he was actually doing it on his own. Sure enough, the bull starts to stagger and within 5 seconds flips over backwards, on camera. I went ballistic. Four years of hunting elk and 7 elk hunts under my belt and we finally connected with a great bull on camera. I can't thank Lenny Miller and Rawhide Guide Service enough for helping make this happen for me. This is a hunt that I'll cherish and remember my whole life!!!!

8 COMMENTS

  • Ryan Plumb

    Ryan Plumb

    Very good hunt,story and pictures excellent

  • Lenny Miller

    Lenny Miller

    Well written. It was a great time and fun hunt, even though frustrating at times but that makes the success that much sweeter.Thanks for the compliments.
    Until next time....

  • Tyler Hock

    Tyler Hock

    Thanks guys!

  • Dennis Caracciolo

    Dennis Caracciolo

    sweet! great hunt! congrats.

  • Ron Koontz

    Ron Koontz

    Great story Tyler. Those are memories that you'll always cherish. What a RUSH!

  • Roy Reiff

    Roy Reiff

    Great story Tyler! Loved reading about the details of your hunt! Memories of a lifetime, for sure! Congrats!

  • Doug Fahnestock

    Doug Fahnestock

    Congratulations on your bull Tyler! Rawhide is a great place to hunt.

  • Bryan Koontz

    Bryan Koontz

    Great story, Tyler!