An elk bugles in the field

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A hunter with his downed elk

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Randy Ulmer Stalks Close to Bowhunt Elk Day 3: How Randy Ulmer Bags Bull Elk

A hunter packing out an elk
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Editor’s Note: In the world of archery, Arizona is one of the most-recognized names in the history of competition shooting and hunting elk with a bow. Randy Ulmer has used his tournament skills to become one of the most-efficient and accurate trophy elk hunters ever. This week Ulmer will help you learn how to get in close to a big bull elk with a bow.

A hunter takes aim with his bowAfter the elk passed Randy Ulmer on this day of hunting (see Day 2), he quickly caught up with the cows in the herd. “I remained within about 60 yards of the herd, moving through the timber,” Ulmer recalls. “A conifer forest mixed with meadows made up the rolling White Mountains. I didn’t want to get too close and spook the animals. But I needed to stay close enough to get a shot when the big bull came to my side of the herd.” As the animals browsed through the territory, Ulmer often ran to keep up with the herd. Ulmer had found that by hunting in stocking feet in thick cover and on soft ground, he could run silently, keep up with the elk and not spook them. Looking under the juniper trees, Ulmer watched the elks’ legs and spotted the white patches of their rumps as the animals continued to browse. The herd bull bugled periodically, disclosing his location, as Ulmer moved with the herd. By staying on the downwind side of the herd, Ulmer could hold his shot until the bull came to him.

“I know a herd bull will walk in all directions among the herd to keep his cows together,” Ulmer says. “But the herd bull usually stays behind the cows. Whenever the herd bull bugles or rakes trees with his antlers, I close ground quickly to get within bow range.” After following the herd 1/4-mile in his stocking feet, Ulmer heard the bull bugle and branches breaking as the bull elk walked through the thick juniper forest. Finally, when Ulmer heard the bull’s antlers rake a tree, he sprinted about 40 yards to get within 30 yards of the bull.

A hunter with his downed elk“A bull will rub a tree with his antlers for about 10 or 15 seconds,” Ulmer reports. “Since the elk can’t see or hear anything during that time, you can close ground on him quickly without his detecting you.” Ulmer cautions that you not allow the herd to see you as you attempt to get close when you move rapidly to a bull. Generally when a bull stops to rake a tree with his antlers, the cows walk on and continue grazing.

Once Ulmer finally spotted the huge bull, he knew the animal stood in an ideal place for him to get a shot. “The bull raked a tree surrounded by dense brush,” Ulmer mentions. “I moved in while the bull raked the tree. Then when he stopped raking, I froze.” Ulmer moved within 15 yards of the bull. However, because of the thick cover, he couldn’t get a clean shot. “I started to panic,” Ulmer says. “I knew the bull wouldn’t rake the tree forever. Then the cows began moving away from the bull. Finding a place to take a shot became a critical problem.”

An elk in the field

Lowering himself to his knees, Ulmer crept forward and looked underneath the bushes and trees for an open shot. Ulmer finally found the hole he’d searched for about 12-yards from the elk. Ulmer could see the lower third of the big elk’s chest when he leaned forward. Ulmer drew his bow from his knees. Taking deadly aim about 1-inch below the brush, Ulmer attempted to steady himself. “I felt awkward and nervous so close to a big bull,” Ulmer says. “But when I settled my sights on the animal’s vitals, I touched the trigger on my mechanical release.” Ulmer’s arrow cleared the brush by less then 1 inch and found its mark in the big bull. His trophy of a lifetime piled-up after sprinting only 20 yards. Ulmer’s arrow had penetrated both lungs and brought the 375-point B & C elk down quickly and efficiently. Ulmer finally had captured his dream bull.

Cover: How to Find Your Elk and Get Him In CloseTo learn more about elk hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “How to Find Your Elk and Get Him in Close,” available in Kindle, print and Audible versions at You may have to copy and paste this click into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon allows you to read and hear 10% of the book for free).On the right side of the page and below the offer for a free Audible trial, you can click on Buy the Audible with one click.

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