My 2019 oregon elk hunt

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Oregononeshot

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This was my first year ever elk hunting with a muzzloader. I've been deer hunting with a muzzloader for 10 years and usually bowhunt elk, but decided to cash in my points for a muzzloader elk hunt. Knowing I would draw the tag, I spent the last 2 years developing a load, and practicing like crazy to become accurate. I also had to deal with the barrel recall on my lyman GPR, which set me back 6 months. I became VERY confident out to 125 yards using a cast 535 ball and ticking patches over 85 grains of 3f black powder.

THE HUNT
The area we deer hunt is the area my elk hunt took place, so we were very familiar with the areas the elk like. They vary from heavy timber to open/sparsely timbered areas. I prefer spot and stalk hunting, so I like it when the elk are in the more open country. I scouted 2 days before the season and found elk in the timbered areas, with some rut action still taking place. I'm fairly good at calling so I was excited for opening day.

Day 1-hiked 8-10 miles with only 1 elk spotted-running away. No bugles heard. Back at camp my partners report seeing multiple elk, including a nice 6 point in the open country.

Day 2-went out trying to locate the 6 point from Saturday evening. Found a large (30+) herd with a BIG 6 point, not the one from Saturday evening. While making a plan to go after him a vehicle drives and spooks them into a canyon. I head into the head of the Canyon around 12 to try and find the herd. While sneaking I bump a small 5 point from his bed. I make it down to where the elk went into the Canyon and they are feeding lower towards the open country. I get within 225 yards of the herd when a vehicle drives by and scares the herd back to where they came from, no time to pursue.

Day 3- spot a small 6 point that I decide not to go after, hoping to find the big herd from Sunday. Don't find any more elk that day.

Day 4-5: spend these days trying to find elk. Seems as though they are where I'm not, based on the fact that all my friends at camp report seeing bulls, except me.

Day 6-driving to my gassing spot I come across a big herd that has a big 5 point in the herd, they my friends have seen several times. The herd feeds by at 120 yards. I am resting my arm on a tree, and fire off my arm. Through the smoke I thought I saw the bull react like he was hit, and hear a thwap sound. The herd bails off into a big canyon so I can't see how the bull is acting. I go get my friends and we start tracking after waiting 2.5 hours. The tracks are easy to follow, but we find no blood. After 1/2 mile the herd hits a game trail with other multiple tracks, and we can no longer follow them. We never found any sign of a hit. Around 4 that afternoon a cowboy gathering cows tells me about a herd of elk he just saw with a big 5x5 and a small raghorn in it, with 20 or so cows. I immediately know this is the same bull I shot at. The cowboy said he was acting just fine and saw no sign of an injury. I go after them but am unable to find them.

Day 7-hunt a new area in the morning and see nothing. Get back to camp to reports of bulls sighted, along with the same 5 point I missed yesterday. He is in the same area and unharmed. The BIG 6 point from Sunday is also spotted again, and I'm shown a picture of him as he is feeding broadside 100 yards from a hunting partner. Try to find them in the evening with no luck.

Day 8-find the BIG 6 point and 30+ cows about a mile lower on the open country. Watch them until 11 when my buddies show up to watch them so I can drive down low and make a stalk. Finally get down low and start walking to close the distance. As I approach I see a side by side stopped and looking at the elk, which are now up and nervous. I approach the side by side and find its two friends from another camp, but they only have deer tags. As were watching, the herd spooks over the hill. I follow and find them bedded in the wide open. Somehow I am able to sneak within 150 yards of the bedded herd. Then the waiting game begins. It's around 1 o'clock. Now let me set this situation up for you. I'm out of cover and hiding behind a fallen log. The wind is blowing 30 mph easy, and thats no joke. There are trees blowing down around me, and it's COLD. I have multiple layers on but laying on the ground is not fun. At one point I light a small fire to keep my hands warm. 3 hours pass without the herd getting up. Finally they get up, but start feeding away from me. I sneak up to a closer tree and the bull turns the herd back my direction! The cows pass by me at 100 yards, but the bull stays at 140. They start feeding away again, and the bull turns them back my direction again. They get within 80 yards and bed back down! The bull is bedded at 120. I wait another 1.5 hours and they finally get back up and start feeding my way! The cows feed by at 80, but the bull passes at 108. I am resting on my shooting sticks and very solid. I take into account the STRONG crosswind, and am in his guts to compensate. I fire and the whole herd bails into this canyon, except the bull. He stops before going over the hill and stands there for 5 minutes. I reload and watch him trying to see signs of a hit. He finally walks over the hill so I run over to try to get another shot. He is walking away at around 100 yards. He turns slightly and I fire again. He runs down into the Canyon his cows went. With just a few minutes of light left I go to where he stood after I shot to try to find blood. Can't find anything so I back out and will come back the next morning.

Day 9- my father in law and myself head low to follow the tracks. On our way in we spook a herd similar in size to the herd that had the bull. This herd had a similar size 6 point, but I can't tell for sure if it's him through the timber. We get to where the bull was and am unable to find blood. We follow tracks for a half mile, not finding any sign of a hit. We followed the tracks until they came to a rocky area and were unable to follow them any longer. The tracks were headed to the area we spooked that 6 point on the way in that morning.

I am convinced, based on the fact we didn't find any indication of a hit, that the wind blew my shots off target. I have shot in 10 mph wind, but nothing like what was blowing that day. Im sure the balls drifted farther than I compensated for.

Even though I didn't punch my tag, I had an extremely fun hunt. I hope to draw the tag again soon. On my next hunt I'm thinking of working up a load for a conical. I like the idea of using round balls, but in the windy conditions I am likely to face where I hunt, I think a conical would cut the wind just a bit better.
First picture is of a bull I found during scouting, second is of the herd that had the bull I shot at in it, he's in the very back. The last 3 are of the bull I missed.
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ny griz

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Great story.To bad about the misses.Better luck next time.NY GRIZ
 

Britsmoothy

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Next time brother. At least you know how to get on them and that's something!
 

FishnRod

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WOW, you guys definitely have those elk dialed in. I muzzleloader elk hunted Eastern Oregon for the first time this year. Way more elk than I'm used to finding on the W slope of the Cascades. Had to learn a new area, and still got into elk every couple of days. Long story short, I missed a hurried shot and my Buddy had his cap go off, but gun not fire. I can't wait to go back. Next time fur will fly. Enjoyed your story. Rod
 

FishnRod

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I have taken a few elk over the years on the W Cascades Muzzleloader hunt, all in the McKenzie Unit. Took a small buck one year also.
This year we applied for E Grant muzzle elk, and Sixes muzzle deer. Look forward to hunting E Grant again, and took a buck last Saturday here on the coast with the 54.
 

zerosprk

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Great story and awesome pictures. Elk hunting is a hoot! I've hunted elk with my bow for the past couple of decades. But I'm looking forward to hunting them with my muzzleloader if I'm blessed enough to draw a tag.
 
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