• The Big Game Hunter

    Another interesting story. Like you said, you don’t really understand the enormity of elk hunting until you do it. I’m getting an interesting glimpse into that world through your posts!

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, BGH! Elk hunting is an overwhelming, addicting adventure!

  • Jeff Kowell

    One thing I learned from this years hunt was to close the distance more quickly to the calls or movement of elk – especially in timber. I lost two good opportunities at two different bulls. It may have gone differently if I had moved faster. The wind was in my favor both times and I had nothing to lose. The elk walked away quietly in both cases.

    PS. Those alpine cows are killers! Watch out and be safe!

    • SoleAdventure

      Good tip, Jeff. It can be hard to know when to move, or how much movement you can get a way with – especially for those of us with a whitetail hunting background. There are times on this trip when I wish I would have been more aggressive, but there were also moments where I wonder if more patience would have been the right move. It’s tough!

    • jared newman

      Too funny stumbling on this site and then seeing the post from non other than Jeff Kowell. Elk are ghosts very similar to unicorns in fact. This year I moved in quick like Jeff said. I was lucky enough this year to have a bugling bull respond to my bugles and it was close. I moved in quick. Within a 30 minute period I had effectively blown two amazing hunting opportunities. I had two separate bulls get within 60 yards without me seeing or hearing them. I would move based on where I thought I last heard their bugle and sometimes that would be within 5 seconds of their last response. Twice I moved subtly less than 5 ft. to get in a shooting position with a clear lane in the timber. In both cases the bulls saw me move and took off before I even knew they were there. How a huge animal like that can come that close without you hearing them is crazy to me. So in response to Jeff who I know personally as an incredibly wise man the lesson I learned is to be patient and don’t rush in if you know they are close. Later I had a third bull make some grunting noises nearby. I sat tight, made a few calls, and just waited. I never saw anything there. Maybe I should have rushed in. Maybe the lesson for me is to do the exact opposite of what I think the right move is and then I will find success. I learn something every year from failure always hoping that it will eventually lead to dinner on the table.

      • SoleAdventure

        I think you’re on to something with the, “do the exact opposite of what I think the right move is” idea. Glad I’m not the only one that has felt that way at times! Keep hunting, keep learning!

      • Jeff Kowell

        Jared! I was by myself for the 1st 4 days of my bowhunt. The quietness was amazing. In the heavy timber the line of sight disadvantage works both ways, I think. The wind was in my favor and each time I lingered, the bull walked off. The net result was the same…I lost the opportunity. I’d rather lose it when I’m in bowshot range. Just sayin.

  • Rob McConnell

    Oh man..HATE moo cows.. That timber looks thick! And all that deadfall.. In the backcountry EVERYTHING is harder. Way to keep at it.. Cant wait to hear more!

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Rob! The deadfall was exhausting in spots!

  • Tom Sorenson

    Bovine, the scourge of the earth when elk hunting. Hate them buggers. But, on a season like this when I failed to put elk meat in the freezer…well, they’re looking a little more appealing right now. Great recount of your hunt – looking forward to your new camp.

    BTW – I was on the mountain in Idaho about this time, too – holy smokes that full moon Thurs – Saturday…you ain’t kidding. Kept me up at night and several times I woke in a panic that we overslept our alarms!

    • SoleAdventure

      Yeah, the stars looked good, but that moon was always keeping things a bit lit. Hopefully I’ll be dining on elk/deer this coming year, not just beef!

  • Al Quackenbush

    Loved catching up on your adventure, Mark. Those damn cows can be such a pain. I have to agree with Jeff, too. We had to haul some serious tail to keep up and in front of the elk. Fast, quiet and nimble! Great photos, too. Love seeing everything combined. You guys had to deal with some seriously crazy weather. Yowza!

    • SoleAdventure

      I laugh when I think of being fast, quiet, and nimble in elk country. That trifecta seems impossible! LOL! I know exactly what you’re saying though.

  • Allan K.


    Nice second day, you located sign and decided to follow what you saw and follow the sign. I’m hoping you’re rewarded in the following days. Really interesting you ran into cows close to 11,000′. If you’re still up for that KY Cow hunt, get ready for another nuisance animal – horses. I ran into a couple rather large herds of horses and some of them can be very protective.

    • SoleAdventure

      I’m headed to KY later this month, Allan. I’ll keep an eye out for those horses!

  • Terry Howe

    Reading this just makes me wish I was back out there.

    • SoleAdventure

      Writing it makes me wish the same… :-)

  • Steve Miller

    Another great installment.

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Steve! Glad you’re enjoying it.

  • Good stuff, Mark – way to “read” the sign and maximize your time by adapting to conditions. Where there is fresh sign, there are elk. You’re on the right track – find one and put an arrow in its ribcage! No pressure, but please don’t turn this into a nail biter ;-)

    Had my fair share of bovine run-ins in the high country. Those cows can be as spooky as a herd bull too so you have to be careful not to send them thundering off in a ruckus. But don’t let cattle dampen your spirits – I’ve seen elk and cattle hanging together within 50-100 yards and even watched a bull bugling his throat out while several Herefords stood around grazing!

    Good luck man, can’t wait till the next post!

    • SoleAdventure

      It’s interesting to hear that, Tom. I would have thought that the elk would steer (verb) clear of the steer (noun). (Wow, that’s a bad pun.)

  • Tucker

    Is the shelter better than a tent?

    • SoleAdventure

      Hey Tucker – I can’t say it’s better or not in all circumstances; it just depends on your wants/needs, and the conditions that you’ll be using it in. I like it because it is very light, easy to setup, takes up very little room when packed, but still provides room for two guys to sleep comfortably. There’s downsides though, especially if you’re using it on a warmer hunt, where bugs would be a concern.

  • Jordan

    Really enjoying your story. Tells the more realistic side…one you dont always hear about in elk movies and articles!

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Jordan. I can’t tell every detail of every day, because no one would want to read that much, but I am trying to tell the “whole story” in terms of the conditions we battled, the struggles we faced, etc. I think it’s a shame that hunting has become all about the end and the “hero shot” and not about the hunt and the journey.

  • Aznealz

    More good reading. I find myself rewinding and replaying my own elk hunts here. Livestock in the backcountry is aggrevating indeed. Many areas in prime AZ units now endure feral horses in increasing numbers. Nothing good can come from this.

    The balance between passive and aggressive elk hunting is fine. I’ve chosen the wrong one numerous times. Trying to think like an elk and move how and where you’d think they would is difficult. Still exciting though. On to Day Three!

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Neal. The “chess match” is a fun part of elk hunting.

  • EDub

    Perhaps one of the lessons learned is: “ask Wayne everything he knows.” Or, at least everything he’s willing to tell you. Wandering the woods with a horse, a 20-year-old bow, and tennis shoes, with a 50% success rate, he’s got something figured out. Pretty gear is nice, but elk in the freezer is better. Interesting he scouted from the air, in Washington its illegal to scout from a plane.

    • SoleAdventure

      You’re right, and we did glean as much info from Wayne as possible. I didn’t think his weapon or clothing was an indication that he was a lesser hunter, but as you mentioned – I thought it spoke of his skills even more.

  • stew

    Ha, I thought I was the only elk hunter to ever put a stalk on a moo cow! Things were everywhere my first trip out west. Great article!

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Stew. It’s crazy to see cattle roaming at over 10,000′, isn’t it?

  • JB

    Thank you for taking the time to build this web site. I am planning my first elk hunt after 20 years of waiting / dreaming and this is an invaluable resource, really gets me excited to get into the mountains and start hunting. Great documentary of this 2013 hunt.

    • SoleAdventure

      I appreciate that, JB. Best of luck on your hunt! Please let me know how it goes, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

  • MMFO75

    That rub you pictured is at least 5 year old. I realize this is your 13′ hunt, so I hope you have learned by now what a fresh rub looks like and what has been there for years, Not trying to be negative here, just pointing it out.