Story and Photo by William Shafar

Opening day of the season found my dad and I high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains surrounded by thick, dark timber and a bachelor group of at least 6 quiet, but very curious bull elk. We deployed the Slip System with the Timber Elk slip attached, and began sending out a series of cow calls. The bulls would circle around us through the timber, and on a couple of occasions, one of them would sneak in towards the decoy but wouldn’t quite give us a shot opportunity.

 

At one point I had a small 5×5 coming right at the decoy and heading towards a perfect shooting lane. When he was 10 yards away, he made a sudden turn to my left, forcing me to turn as well, as he went behind a tree. I started to draw but only made it half way when he stepped out from behind the tree and busted me at 5 yards. He turned and ran down through the timber about 20 yards before I stopped him with a hard bugle. At this point, they were done playing, and soon they all disappeared into the trees, never to be heard or seen again. It was this first experience with the Slip that I knew they had seen it and it appealed to their curiosity.

 

We didn’t hunt again until the last week of the season, which was the week we were really looking forward to this year. It was a wet, snowy day as we set out around 10 AM for an area we thought may hold some elk, once the weather we had been experiencing started to clear. At about 11 AM and a mile into our hike, the bulls began to bugle nonstop. As they were on the opposite side of a river we had been paralleling, we had to find a good place to cross and stay downwind from them at the same time. After what seemed like a never ending search for a good place to cross, we were able to make it to the other side and worked our way up a steep hill to hopefully gain an advantage on their position.

 

Once at the top, we waited and listened for them to talk. Immediately, one of the bulls let out a bugle in the timber below us, so we cautiously made our way down the opposite side of the mountain we had just climbed. The “Trekking Pole” aspect of the Slip System saved my butt numerous times coming down the other side of that mountain. I have never felt as confident coming down such a steep incline as I did that day. It was like having a 3rd leg to stand on as I moved downhill!

 

When we reached the bottom, we set up in a Caller/Decoy/Shooter configuration with me being about 40 yards in front of the decoy and dad 40 yards behind doing the calling. Our first series of calls found the elk to be further down the mountain than we originally thought, so we quickly picked up the decoy and made our way another 200-300 yards down through the trees where we would set up and begin calling again. We were getting closer, but still needed to make up some more distance, so we repeated our move 2 more times until we were finally on top of them. Things were really heating up now!

 

At dad’s first bugle, we received a challenge down and to our left not more than 70 to 80 yards away. There was a small knoll between us and the elk, so I kept a close eye to the left with that being the direction the bugle had come from. It wasn’t too long before I caught some movement to my right, coming from the opposite side of the knoll. As I looked a little closer, I realized it was a good bull coming silently right to our position. I turned my body to the right, hoping he wouldn’t catch my movement, and got ready for the shot. There was a large opening to my right of which I was totally exposed to. The bull walked up just shy of this opening and stopped 18 yards away to smell the ground. He then looked past me in the direction of the decoy and began to move towards it, taking 3 more steps and stopping dead in the middle of the opening. I knew it was now or never!

 

As I came to full draw, the bull knew something was not right as I was in plain view! No sooner did I pull the string back to my cheek, dad let out a bugle that turned the bull’s attention momentarily towards the decoy. As I released the arrow, the bull lunged forward and to his left. My first thought was that I had hit him too far back when he jumped, but as he ran away from me, I could see the back end of the arrow sticking out towards the back of his ribcage and angling forward towards the off side shoulder. I let out a bugle with my diaphragm and he slowed up at about 40 yards away, stopped for a moment, and then slowly walked over a rise in the trees until he disappeared. My heart was pounding from the series of events that had just transpired!

 

I quickly gained my composure and pulled out my GPS to mark the area I had hit the bull. I also tied some surveyor’s tape to a couple of trees for an easy visual indicator. The bull had tore up the ground around him when he jumped, so I followed his tracks for a few feet and found blood within 5 yards of where he was hit. Not totally confident of the shot, I gathered my things and headed towards dad and the decoy. When I got there, he asked me what had just happened, as he only heard the commotion and didn’t actually see the bull come in. I told him I had just put an arrow in a good bull. The look on his face was priceless! After a heartbreaking miss a couple of years before, and too many close calls to even count, I had finally put what appeared to be a fatal arrow into a bull with my recurve!

 

He wanted to see for himself the spot where it had all taken place, so we walked back over and followed the bull’s trail for about 25 yards. There was enough blood on the ground for us to pick it up easily, but we decided that since sunset was quickly coming upon us, it would be better to come back in the morning and trail him then. The temperature that night would get down into the upper teens, so we didn’t have much of a worry about the animal spoiling. We felt it was best to leave him over night.

 

Early the next morning, after not much sleep of course, we made our way back up the trail. We were within 500 yards of our destination when the elk began bugling again in the same spot they were in the day before. I knew this would bode well for us as we had not spooked anything out of the area with what had happened the previous day. We finally made it to the spot where I had hit the bull and began following a fairly good blood trail. The snow that had fallen 2 nights before really helped out. We were about 80 yards into tracking when the snow disappeared and the trail became harder to see. I found a set of tracks that went left, which I decided to follow, while dad continued straight ahead. We were both about 30 yards from where we had split up when I heard a whistle from my right. It was dad, and he was signaling me towards him.

 

I quickly made my way over to him, where he pointed to a tan object laying on the hillside not more than 60 yards away. I pulled out my binoculars and confirmed the obvious. It was my bull! He had only made it 176 yards from where I had taken the shot. A feeling of relief and great pride ran through my body. We swiftly made our way towards him, shaking hands and smiling ear to ear knowing that all of the hard work we had put in over the last few years had finally paid off.

shafar  bull

William Shafar's Awesome Colorado Bull, DIY, Public Land, 2013

After a long session of picture taking, high fives, hugs, and re-telling the story as it happened the day before, we got to work on breaking the bull down and packing him out to the truck. That is a whole other story in itself, but I will say there are 4 good ole boys from Missouri out there that I am forever grateful to for helping us get that bull back to the trailhead!

 

As far as the performance of the Slip System, I would have to say it exceeded all of my expectations during this year’s elk hunt. I can honestly say that using it as cover and shelter, and from trekking to decoying, it was put to the test and I firmly believe it played a major role in my success this year! I look forward to using your product for many years to come!