By Robert Hanneman, August 2014
Robert Hanneman Elk • Montana
This hunt actually started in 2012 when I drew a rifle elk tag for unit 590 in Montana. The elk that live in unit 590 are found almost entirely on private land. With this knowledge, I had lined up private land to hunt prior to ever applying for the tag. The only catch was that the landowners would only let me hunt the rifle season. Long story short, I was not the only one with access, and the opening weekend of the rifle hunt was a bust, so I traveled back to the west side of the state, planning for a return trip. After a lot of searching I found a landowner who would allow me access at the end of the season. I was able to kill a 6-point bull right before dark on the last day of the season. The best thing about this hunt was that I met Kevin Williams who owns Bull Mountain Outfitters. After talking with him about how great the archery elk hunt is and looking at his clients’ pictures, I decided right then that I would hunt archery elk with him in 2013.
For 2013 Montana once again changed the elk units on the eastern side of the state and created a new 900 archery elk tag. The new 900 elk tag allows hunters to hunt over 20 different units in eastern Montana. As expected I drew the tag and was ready. As life goes I was unable to make my hunt as planned for the opening week of the season. I already had the rest of my fall hunts planned out, so I told Kevin that I would not be able to make the hunt this year. He was very accommodating and advised me to call him if I found an opening in my schedule. I finished another hunt early and had 5 days before my New Mexico elk hunt, so after a phone call to Kevin I was on my way across the state to hunt unit 590, but this time I would be hunting with a bow.
I arrived just before dark and was met by my guide, Kolt Tellock. One thing that impressed me about Kolt was that right away he asked me how far I was capable of shooting at a bull. As soon as I gave him my answer he said, “Let’s see you prove it.” so out to the range we went. After shooting my bow we had a great dinner and then I tried to sleep, but the thoughts of big bulls kept me up most of the night.
On the first day of the hunt we had tough conditions with swirling winds, so we glassed the area from a distance. That first day I saw seven different bulls, with five over 300" and two in the 350 class. The bulls were still rutting like crazy, even though it was October 8th.
The next day the winds were perfect, so we made our move in on the elk. I wish I would have had a video camera as we had bulls screaming all around us. I spotted a big bull pushing cows through the timber, and after one look at his rack I knew he was a shooter. Playing cat and mouse with a herd bull with 20 cows and satellite bulls is tough to do, and I am sorry to say I lost the game that day.
The third morning was quiet with no bugling at all. We made our way into one of the waterholes to see what we could turn up. I was thinking we might have bumped the elk out of the area the day before when the silence was broken with a bugle. With most of the herd bulls in the area having a pile of cows, and since I prefer to move in on a bull rather than call him in, I decided to sneak in on this bull. I left Kolt on the ridge and made my way toward the bull. The country was very broken, and as I made my way over the next ridge I could see cows feeding down below on an old logging road. I sat down and started glassing and spotted seven different cows. With the wind in my favor I started to move in every time they resumed feeding. The next thing I knew I was standing on a 40' cliff above the cows with no way to get down. With the elk in range it was just a matter of time before the bull stepped into one of my shooting lanes. With an arrow nocked I waited, hoping the wind would not swirl. Time seemed to stand still until I saw tines moving my way. The bull walked right into my shooting lane and stopped, quartering away. I came to full draw, and just as I reached my anchor point he bugled one last time. I watched in slow motion as my arrow buried to the fletching. At that moment Kolt bugled and elk exploded in every direction. I marked the spot I had shot from and slowly walked the 300 yards back to Kolt. Before I could say anything he apologized for blowing out the elk when he had bugled. I started laughing and told him that he did not blow the elk out. He asked me what had happened, and I told him I had shot the bull. I learned right there that Kolt is very good at giving a hug. We decided to give the bull some time, so we hiked back to the truck.
I would love to say that the bull was within 40 yards of where I had hit him, but that was not the case. I had only hit one lung, and we found the bull 1/2 mile from where I had shot him. It was hours of blood trailing on our knees, but we never gave up and were rewarded with this great bull!