Editor’s Note: Fifty-year-old Pat Reeve from Minnesota has been hunting elk since he was 5-years old, even when he couldn’t carry a gun. He now hunts with his wife Nicole as they host their TV show, “Driven with Pat & Nicole” (https://www.drivenhunter.com/) on the Outdoor Channel (https://www.outdoorchannel.com/hosts/pat-nicole-reeve/30969). For more information, visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DrivenTV/.
On Day 3 of our hunt for Hook, a slight cool front came through that dropped the temperature about 10 degrees, which was cool for September in Kentucky. Late in the afternoon, we spotted a nice bull moving out into the feeding region, but while we were watching him, we heard what sounded like an older bull bugling and assumed that this was Hook. He was across the feeding area from where we were set-up between some big timber. Nichole and I knew there was no way we could get to the bull and have enough light to take a shot at him before dark.
So, we decided that we’d get up early the next morning, while still dark, and give ourselves plenty of time to park far away from where we expected the bull to be. We could move quietly and hopefully get in position to see and possibly take this big bull before daylight. We had hoped to hear Hook bugle before daylight to determine where he was. If we guessed right, we would have enough time to move closer to the bull before full daylight.
As luck would have it, we heard an elk bugle that we thought was Hook several hundred yards above our location. He was above a large water hole, and we made sure that we had a favorable wind as we started stalking Hook more closely. The sky lightened-up, and the elk moved from the feeding area toward the bedding place. Hook didn’t bugle a lot, however, he did bugle enough for us to determine the direction he was traveling. We moved as quietly and as quickly as we could up this very-steep hillside. As we continued to get closer to Hook, we constantly checked the wind direction to make sure the bull wouldn’t smell us. When we reached a spot where the hillside created a plateau, the area was really thick. Even though we couldn’t see the bull, because we were downwind, we could smell him.
Suddenly, a cow was standing about 30 yards away, right in front of us. The cameraman and I froze. We assumed the bull elk had to be somewhere nearby. As the cow continued to walk toward us, we could see the bushes behind her shaking, and I heard a bull growl. Next, the cow stopped and started feeding on the bushes. The vegetation was so thick that we only could spot bits and pieces of the cow, but the good news was, she couldn’t see or smell us. As she was standing right in front of us, we saw antler tips emerge from the brush and move right toward the cow. We watched as Hook bumped her with his antlers. She walked about 10 steps in front of us, without seeing or smelling us and then continued on her way.
Eventually, Hook moved in closer and fed on the same bush where the cow had been feeding. However, I didn’t have a clear shot at the bull’s vitals. We only could see antler tips and bits and pieces of his body as he continued to feed on the bushes and rake them with his antlers for about 15 minutes. My cameraman was filming the entire time. I was concerned that the bull was going to bed down right there, and I wouldn’t get a shot at him. But I knew that if Hook walked into a small opening just to the right of the bush, I’d have a clear shot. Waiting on that bull to decide what he would do was one of the most-intense periods of time I ever could remember in my years of elk hunting. As I analyzed what was happening, I realized that the cow had walked through that same opening before she walked past us. I figured there would be a good chance that Hook would take the same route as the cow.
My crew and I were like two fence posts – we stood in place and never moved. We were fortunate enough to get close to this bull without him seeing or smelling us. After 15 minutes of watching and waiting on that bull to make its move, I started praying, “Dear Lord, let this bull walk into that opening where I can get a shot.” Within 15 seconds, we saw the bull’s rack headed straight toward us. I drew my Mathews Vertix bow (https://www.mathewsinc.com/product/vertix/) set at 70 pounds with my Bloodsport Justice arrow (https://www.bloodsportarchery.com/justice) tipped with a NAP Hellrazor 6-BladeBroadhead (https://www.newarchery.com/product/hellrazor/). I hit him perfectly. The bull jumped forward, ran about 20 yards and stopped. Then, he ran another 20 yards, and I heard him go down. I didn’t believe that Hook was alive more than 10 seconds after I released the arrow. When the bull went down, I celebrated with my cameraman. As we talked about the hunt, I knew that I just had shot Hook because of the height and the length of his antlers and the hook on his brow tine. After waiting a while, we followed the blood trail to the bull, and I couldn’t believe how big and majestic Hook was.
To learn more about hunting elk, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “How to Find Your Elk and Get Him in Close,” available in Kindle, print and Audible versions at http://amzn.to/17ENNqK, or copy and paste this click into your browser.
Tomorrow: Pat Reeve Explains What Happened Next with the Elk Hook