Get in Close to Monster Bull Elk with Your Bow with Randy Ulmer
Randy Ulmer’s Day of Elk Hunting
Editor’s Note: In the world of archery, Randy Ulmer of Arizona is one of the most-recognized names in the history of competition shooting. But Ulmer is more than a tournament-archery pro. He’s used his tournament skills to become one of the most- efficient and accurate trophy elk hunters. This week Ulmer will help you learn how to get in close to a big bull elk with a bow.
Before daylight, internationally-known archer and hunter, Randy Ulmer parked his truck in the stillness of the pre-dawn light. He listened carefully as bull elks bugled in the distance of Arizona's 6,000- to 10,000-foot White Mountains near his home. Because of their deep-throated, high-pitched calls, he believed one of the bulls was the one he’d seen previously. This elk would score better than 370 points on Boone & Crockett (B & C). "I heard three or four bulls bugling that morning, but one bull sounded much larger than the others," Ulmer says. "However, I didn't know for sure that I wanted to hunt the big bull I heard." With darkness still engulfing the landscape, Ulmer put on his pack and picked up his PSE bow and quiver of Easton arrows fronted with Muzzy 145-grain broadheads before circling downwind of the chorus of bulls.
Through the years, Ulmer had learned that to take a large bull elk with his bow he had to get into position before daylight. He also had to sneak downwind of the animals because of the elks' daylight migration pattern in Arizona and New Mexico. Ulmer determined the line of travel the animals would take and got ahead of the herd to let the elk move to him. He removed his tennis shoes, put plastic bags over his cotton socks and placed heavy, thick wool socks over the plastic to prepare for the stalk he would make. In his stocking feet, Ulmer moved swiftly and silently to get into a position to shoot any of the bulls he might see.
Before daylight, the elk began moving toward Ulmer. He sprinted quickly through the darkness to stay in front of the herd. Then the animals wouldn't pass by him before he could shoot. As dawn played upon the horizon, Ulmer first saw patches of brown and finally high-racked bulls within close range. “Five satellite bulls surrounded me, including one spike, two 5X5s, a 6X6 and a 6X7," Ulmer reports. "The 6X6 and the 6X7 would score between 335 and 350 points each on B & C. I saw a strange sight before me as the satellite bulls moved ahead of the cows and the herd bull. Although satellite bulls usually would remain outside or behind the herd, on this morning, the satellite bulls came to me first."
Behind the procession of mountain monarchs, Ulmer spotted a harem of eight cows approaching with the big bull he had heard that would score about 370 points on B & C. Ulmer hid behind a bushy, cedar-looking juniper tree and watched the satellite bulls lock horns and push and shove and rake trees with their antlers. Seventy-yards away, the monster bull and his harem slowly passed. The satellite bulls 50 yards in front of him and the herd bull and his harem 70 yards behind him checkmated Ulmer. He waited because he knew any move he made would spook the elk.
As the satellite bulls moved closer to his stand site, Ulmer had a tough decision to make. He realized any bowhunter would want to bag the 6X7, which would have scored from 340 to 350 points. Ulmer felt sure he could make the stalk to take this bull only 50-yards away. However, because he’d seen the huge herd bull the day before, he decided to wait, even though he knew he would have a risky stalk and less chance of success. The cows came closer and brought the herd bull within 45 yards of Ulmer. He’d made stalks at that distance in the past. But he realized that any movement might spook the cows, the herd bulls or the satellite bulls, and archers often didn't take trophy bull elk because they hurried the shot and the hunt. However, Ulmer had experience and confidence in his
ability that enabled him to move close enough to get a shot at the elk. He waited to let the elk pass by him and disappear into the juniper trees. Then he used one of the oldest and deadliest hunting methods known to man - stalking in his stocking feet.
Tomorrow: Why Stalk in Your Stockings