By Rachel Chamblin, Outdoor Campus volunteer coordinator
My husband, Cody, and I departed on Monday, September 28, in search of the elusive Black Hills elk. We stayed in Rapid City for the night and then headed out to our campground, Redbank Spring is located in the Black Hills National Forest, about 20 miles east of the Wyoming border. We scouted for elk for the next 2 days with very little sightings until the night before opener. We had walked about a mile and a half up a ridgeline and were trying to plan out where we would go for opening day when we heard a bugle. I have never heard an elk bugle before so it was pretty awesome to say the least. We determined there were probably 2-3 bull elk bugling at each other that night. So we decided to sneak out and head back to the same spot the next morning.
On opening day, Oct. 1, we left camp and walked up the ridge line with our trusty head lamps helping guide the way. We heard lots of bugling and continued to slowly walk up the ridge line. A few hours into the morning Cody suggested we keep walking when he immediately kneeled to the ground. There was a huge bull elk walking right toward us! Immediately my nerves kicked in and my entire body was shaking. I couldn’t get a good shot at the elk and miscalculated and unfortunately missed the big one. He took off running and to rub it in stopped to look back at us before returning to the heard that was now walking away. It was extremely upsetting and I was ready to throw in the towel on my hunt. Cody wasn’t too impressed with my skills either!
So we decided to take a break and head into Hill City to fuel up and calm down. We headed back out to our spot after noon and ate a quick lunch and took a short nap. Around 3 pm we heard some noise and 2 bulls and 4 cows came running our way. This time I was prepared and calm (well calmer at least!) and took my time waiting for a good shot and harvested my first elk! This one was smaller then the one I missed in the morning but still a trophy in my book. The only problem was we were 3 miles from the truck! Luckily we have a really neat app on our phone called My Tracks that uses GPS and showed us an ATV trail that was much closer to us. We had friends staying with us at the campground and they were able to bring an ATV to help us get the elk out.
A lot of great people helped make this hunt awesome and memorable! I was told once I go elk hunting I will be addicted, I can tell you it is true! Only now I will have to wait a long time to draw another Black Hills rifle elk tag.