With Luke’s youth deer tag filled a couple days early, we were left with two extra days to scout for elk. Little did we know how valuable those two days would be.
My favorite time of year is September. I love chasing elk with my bow during the rut. It’s a magical time to be in the mountains. However, with my oldest son, Luke, finally reaching the ripe old age of ten, I knew that 2019 might look a little different.
Luke was already an experienced hunter. In late December 2018, about a week after he turned ten, he took his first big game animal, a whitetail doe with a 20 gauge slug. Just a few months after that he shot his first gobbler on an Idaho youth spring turkey hunt (20 gauge again!). We figured some of this good luck might translate to pulling an elk or deer tag during Idaho’s controlled hunt application period. It sure did.
Luke and I drew late season elk tags as a group, and he also pulled a youth deer tag! We had big plans to scout both the elk and deer areas in anticipation of the hunts. However, as life tends to do, our plans were complicated. I accepted a new job, which required our family to move from the area where we had drawn these tags to a larger city about five hours’ drive away. Nevertheless, before we moved, Luke and I hung a trail camera in his deer area and planned on checking it as the season approached. And fortunately, we had spent much of April, May, and June, in our elk area running a bear bait. We had a good idea of where the elk were spending time during the tail end of the winter.
The summer passed quickly, and we tagged the last three days of October (and the last week of his deer hunt) to chase deer, and the first five days of November for the elk hunt (opening day was November 1). Luke’s deer hunt is a post for another day, but suffice it to say, he shot his first mule deer buck on the first morning of our hunt. This freed up two additional days to scout for elk in advance of the season opener.
We had a few areas picked out as plans B and C if our spring bear hunting area didn’t pan out. And were able to put eyes on these two areas that first day of scouting. We located a substantial number of elk, including one big bull and a bunch of smaller bulls. However, they were in a pretty easy to access area and we knew that about half the town had seen them too. We decided to spend the evening and next day checking back in on our bear area. We located a good number of bulls that evening and again the next morning, both times at the same tree-line trail. We decided to stick with our plan A area for opening morning. (Lucky for Luke, we had the afternoon and evening free, and he even managed to get in a little trick or treating in his old hometown. I’m sure you can guess what he dressed up as….)
Opening morning Luke and I were up and ready at exactly the time we had planned for. This doesn’t always happen. But it did this time. Our game plan was to hike in from the bottom with good wind and get set up near the point in the treeline where the elk fed in to on their way to their bedding area. We hiked for about 90 minutes in the dark, and although it was all up hill and slow going, we were looking to get up to the treeline right around first light. We’d seen the bulls hanging out in the sage brush opening near the treeline until about 10 a.m. the day earlier, so we figured we had plenty of time.
About 500 yards from our planned setup, I spotted a bull 120 yards ahead of us. It was light enough to shoot. He was a big, mature five-point. At this point my thoughts were all on how to get Luke set up for a shot. We were just below the crest of a small rise, and there was no cover to speak of. The bull was not spooked, but he was walking steadily toward the trees. There just wasn’t a good option available to get a ten-year-old set up in time to make a shot on this bull. And we still had our original plan that seemed viable. So we didn’t rush things. The bull hit the trees in a matter of seconds. We gave him a couple more minutes to be sure he was out of sight and then continued our upward climb.
The hill steepened, and I pointed out a couple boulder patches, telling Luke we just needed to get to one of those and we should be able to set up our ambush. When we reached the first patch, it wasn’t high enough up the mountain. So Luke and I gutted it up to the next one. He was about fifteen yards behind me when I reached the boulders. I spotted three bulls out in the sage brush, working their to the trees. They were early!
I ducked down and motioned to Luke to quietly hurry. I ranged the bulls at just over 350 yards. We had the Tikka 6.5 Creedmore sighted in to around 600 yards, so this was a reasonable distance with a good rest. We sprung the bipod legs and the rock ended up being the perfect height for Luke. He was able to rest the bipod on the boulder and stand with a steady rest. He picked the bull he wanted to shoot out of the three. Boom! His bull slowed, and we knew he was hit. “Put another one in him if you can, Luke!” I whispered hurriedly. Boom! The bull didn’t drop, and we were not sure if this shot hit. But he was able to get one final bullet in to his bull and dropped him! The look on Luke’s face was a mixture of adrenaline and excitement! We’d dreamed about filling this tag all year, and we’d worked hard for it, but it still took both of our breath away when it actually happened!
Luke wanted to call his uncle, Ryan, to share the good news. About ten seconds in to the call, I glanced down the draw we were in. I was shocked to see a group of around twenty elk making their way up the draw from around 1000 yards away. We quickly told Ryan we had to go, and that we’d call him back. Luke stayed put, and I dropped down about 300 yards. I settled in and started watching the elk down the ravine, about 400 yards away at this point. Suddenly, I heard some rocks rolling to my left. I slowly looked over: the lead cow was way out ahead of the rest of the herd.
Fortunately, she hadn’t seen me or winded me. I held tight as she continued to work her way up the mountain. Soon, she was followed by a few more cows, and then a few small bulls. I looked over each bull as they made their way up the mountain. I didn’t see any I was ready to shoot opening morning of a good Idaho controlled hunt. However, the final bull appeared, pushing the rest of the herd up the mountain. I decided he was the bull I wanted to take, and I was able to pile him up about 250 yards from where I sat.
I looked down. Not even 9 a.m. Luke and I had both filled our tags the first hour (considering shooting light) of the first day of our first elk hunt together. Although we had a ton of work ahead of us (i.e., cutting up and packing out meat until 10 p.m. that night, only to come up again the next day for the heads and antlers, then hours of meat processing a few days later), we couldn’t have dreamed up a better ending. And even though it wasn’t September, and the elk weren’t bugling, there was still something magical about this hunt.
The ElkNut Series is loaded with golden nuggets from the ElkNut about different situations he’s encountered in the elk woods. We’d like to open up the floor on the next podcast to a few of our listeners. Talk with the ElkNut about the situations you encountered this year and get his two cents on what went right, what went wrong, and suggestions to improve!
We will have between four and six guests on the show. If you are interested, please send an email to email@example.com with a picture from your hunt (killing an elk in 2019 is not a requirement to appear on the show), and a brief description of your elk hunt this year (years of experience, state hunted, weapon, how many days, how many elk encounters, shot opportunities, results, etc.). We’ll try to get a good cross-section of elk hunters to make this show as informative as possible.
We’ll accept applications to appear up until 11:59 p.m. MST on November 13, 2019. Guests will be selected, and we’ll coordinate podcast interview times from there. Watch for this podcast to be released around Thanksgiving!
We partnered with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to put together an amazing night of elk calling instruction and fun. The ElkNut, Paul Medel, was joined by owner of Elk Addicts, Chris Horton, to provide elk calling and hunting instruction to over seventy hunters at the new Idaho Department of Fish and Game building in Nampa, Idaho on August 23. We recorded the event, and the ElkNut’s seminar has been posted to the Got Game Technologies podcast and YouTube channel. Definitely check it out!
At the seminar, every attendee was able to leave with a door prize of one kind or another from our great event sponsors: Phelps Game Calls (bugle tubes and mouth calls), Exo Mountain Gear (hats, T-shirts, and a gift card), Nature’s Paint (face paint), Trips for Trade (lifetime membership), Elk Shape (one-year Elk Shape online membership), Elk Addicts (hats and T-shirts), Got Game Technologies (free ElkNut app downloads), and Sneaky Hunter (boot lamps). These are great companies and we hope you’ll check out their products and services.
We have already booked the building for another seminar next year. Mark you calendars for Friday, August 21, 2020. In the meantime, we hope you’ll take what you can from this seminar and punch some tags this fall!
We are excited to announce that we have partnered with the Idaho Fish and Game to provide a free elk calling seminar at the new IDFG building in Nampa, Idaho on August 23, 2019 at 6:30 p.m MT. The keynote presenter will be the ElkNut, Paul Medel. He will be joined by Chris Horton, founder of Elk Addicts. And for the youth attending, the recently crowned World Peewee Elk Calling Champion, Chris Fong, will also be in attendance.
This star-studded panel will be providing their insight into the art of elk calling and hunting over the counter public land elk. There will also be door prizes that have been donated by Exo Mountain Gear, Phelps Game Calls, Elk Addicts, and the ElkNut mobile app. Be sure to show your appreciation for these great companies by checking out their products in advance of the event!
The new IDFG building is located at 15950 N. Gate Blvd., Nampa, Idaho. If you would like to attend in person, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also be broadcasting the seminar live for those who cannot attend in person. This will happen on the ElkNut mobile app Instagram page, @elknutapp. Either way, mark your calendars for Friday, August 23 at 6:30 p.m. MT. You don’t want to miss this!
We have received some great feedback from customers since our last update to the ElkNut App. And while we can’t put all the suggestions to work, we have been able to make a couple major changes that you will see on this new version of the ElkNut App. If you already have the app downloaded, the update will be automatically pushed out through the App Store or Google Play store depending upon your device. If you don’t have the ElkNut App, you may purchase it on the App Store here or the Google Play Store here and it will be in this new format.
The most noticeable update to the app is the menu bar that is located at the bottom of the screen. We learned there is too much information on the app that not enough of our users were able to navigate to very easily. This new navigation bar lets users now right away that the ElkNut app is more than just a library of elk calls. It’s loaded with tips, tactics, and elk calling sequences to help you become a more successful elk hunter.
Speaking of sequences, we have added a substantially more detailed Slow Play sequence! This used to be tucked away in the Tactics section as one of the “ElkNut Nuggets.” But it’s such an important sequence, and Paul has expounded on it so much in this update, that we knew it needed to be more prominently featured. If you want to understand how to work every bull you encounter, you need the slow play sequence in your life!
We have also added two additional tactics to help the Early Season and Solo elk hunters. Check those out and let us know what you think! We get a lot of questions about these two topics, so we hope you will find the information helpful. We’ve also added a couple more ElkNut Nuggets (in the Tactics section), but we don’t want to spoil the surprise. Open up the app and see for yourself!
You’re also going to want to check out the newly updated “Products Used” section. Here you can find the products we recommend to help you to find the most success in the field. This section can be found under each elk sound included on the app. Select the sound, then you’ll see the screen showing the video, audio, tips, and products used. Definitely give these companies and products your consideration.
In sum, it’s short time; elk season is next month for many of us. We hope you will dive in to this app update and let us know what you think and other things we can do to improve it. As always, thank you for your loyalty and for sharing the app with friends and family. Remember, friends don’t let friends elk hunt without the ElkNut app.
After following along with Top Priority Hunting’s 2018 bear hunting season on YouTube this spring, we (Joel, Ryan, and myself) decided running a bear bait could be a great way to get out this spring, stretch the legs, do some scouting for fall, and perhaps even take a bear or two. We had no idea how much excitement this bear season would hold. Here is a recap of our season.
Pick a General Location. We knew a few areas that held bears from our experience hunting, and we listened up whenever there was a good bear hunting podcast. Brian Barney with Eastman’s Elevated put a couple great ones late winter that helped us decide on a location–close to grass, close to or near rocky areas where a den might be, and not too low in the elevation (as the snow would continually melt through the season and impact bear activity).
This was the night we picked the general area for our bear bait. Saw a bunch of elk to boot!
Start Gathering Supplies. We used a combination of molasses oats and old bread as the base for our bait. We also tried out a variety of scents and flavorings, including Moutlrie’s and Boar Masters among others. We also contacted a few local eateries about getting their old grease and picked up some chocolate sauce containers on the cheap from Costco. One truck load from the bread shop took care of our bread needs for about $20. As for the barrel, a friend helped us weld a chain to the barrel and cut a small hole in the side to limit the amount the bears could get to at a time.
Bear baiting is a family affair.
Set the Bait and Camera. We mulled over a few specific locations, but ultimately went a little higher up the mountain to set the barrel. We rode four wheelers a mile or two in and then hiked the last half mile or so straight up. It wasn’t so bad the first time. But the second, third, fourth, etc. time doing that hike with heavy packs full of bear bait got old fast. (Note to self for next time.) We picked a flat spot near a grassy park, dammed off the back of the barrel to force bears to enter from the direction of our stands and camera, and hacked off some limbs for the tree stands.
Bear baiting was a different type of heavy pack–good training for fall!
Feed the Bears. The next few weeks were a waiting game. Since it was a new bait site, it took a while for the bears to start hitting it. We had it set up on April 17 or so, and didn’t have our first bear until May 7, I believe. But once the bears started to come in, it didn’t take long for a lot of different bears to start hitting the bait. Between the three of us, we made sure to restock the bait about once a week, sometimes twice a week. We arm twisted whatever buddies we could get to come help us carry the bait up the steep hill to the site. Most of the bear action was at night, but early morning and later evening hours also started to produce some bear activity.
Here’s a good sized boar we happened to catch on camera during daylight hours.
The Hunt. We initially hunted the bait from the tree stands we set up. Unfortunately, we had assumed thermals would get the wind in our favor nicely for an evening hunt, without thoroughly vetting the directionals that time of day. Unfortunately, there was a fairly constant directional blowing up the draw. The bears were coming in above the stand, so any chance at sitting the stand and taking a bear were nixed early on. However, we shifted strategy a bit by coming in around and high, above the bait, and watching from a distance before stalking in. This produced some good encounters.
Joel’s Shot. The first encounter that produced a shot occurred in late May. Joel went in with archery tackle, hung out above the bait, the snuck in when he saw activity. He was able to sneak in to about 40 yards, and made what we thought was a pretty good shot on a bear. But unfortunately he was not able to recover the bear. We saw it show up a few days later on the trail camera and were not able to locate a carcass as the season went on.
Tayler’s Bear. I went up again a few days later, rifle in hand. I’d never taken a bear and didn’t have much more time to hunt. I wanted to get it done. So I sat up above the bait about 200 yards away with a good wind and waited. For about three or four hours. Finally, I heard the chains of the bait rattle. A couple blonde color phase black bears (they were regulars) showed up. I had already decided if the bigger of the two showed up, I would make an effort to take him. The trees around the bait were thick, and I didn’t have a clear shot, so I started slowly sneaking in. It took about five minutes, but I crept through the trees to about 60 yards before I had a good opening. I sat, rested the Tikka 6.5 Creedmore on my knee and waited for the right shot. The bigger of the two blondies walked back into view near the bait and sat down, facing immediately away from me. He slowly started to quarter to the left. I waited until he quartered enough to give me a good shot at the lungs on his opposite side–he did so a few second later, and I squeezed the trigger. He jumped, yowled and headed down hill out of view. The other bear lumbered off in confusion and stopped about forty yards to my right. I told him to move along and he obliged. After calling Ryan, my wife, and my dad, giving the bear a bit to bleed out and die, I hiked down to the bait. There was good blood. I peeked over the ledge and could see my bear piled up. Success! He was a younger boar with a beautiful blonde coat!
Blake’s Shot. Ryan’s younger brother Blake had been staying with us this summer, moving pipe for a local rancher. He hasn’t shown a lot of interest in hunting, but when he came up, he decided to give a bear hunt a go. So we signed him up for Idaho’s mentored hunter passport and Ryan and Joel took Blake to the bait. (Blake had also helped me haul in bait on one prior occasion, so he had some skin in the game.) On back to back nights Blake had a shot at that smaller blonde bear and unfortunately wasn’t able to connect. It was a good lesson for him that hunting doesn’t always come easy, and it’s important to invest time on the front end to practice shooting more and make sure you’re comfortable behind the trigger.
Summary. We made about 20 collective trips in to our bait with 50-70 pound packs. We probably saw about 25 different bears on camera, including two or three really quality boars. These big males rarely hit the bait during shooting hours, but it was fun to watch them through trail camera pictures. Ultimately we were able to come away with one really cool blonde bear and a ton of memories and lessons for next year. We feel bear hunting is an important part of conservation and were glad to do our part this year. Not only is bear meat good eating, but controlling the bear population is important to our elk and deer populations.
We have enjoyed working with Scott Ellis in developing the Turkey Tech mobile app. His turkey calling credentials are tried and tested in the field every year, and 2019 was no different. He completed another single season slam (his third), bagging each of the four species of gobbler in the United States. You can keep up with these hunts, and many great others, but subscribing to his YouTube channel, Hunt Quest.
Hunt Quest is in its third season, and in addition to a ton of great turkey hunting, you’ll also get to see Scott, his friends, and family, chase trophy whitetails, hunt hogs, and work some waterfowl. Watching these shows is a great way to sharpen your turkey hunting abilities during the off season, enjoy high quality hunting video productions, and get to know Scott a little better.
Please subscribe to Hunt Quest and let us know what you think of the show.
Our business is working with expert callers and hunters and disseminating their knowledge into a format that’s accessible and intuitive to our customers through mobile apps.
Providing additional information through a podcast platform goes hand in hand with this model. To this end, we’ve launched the Got Game University Podcast, which will be organized by series.
Each series will focus on hunting a certain game animal. Right now, our series include ElkNut, Turkey Tech, Duck Tech and Whitetail Tech (one for each app we’ve developed). Each series will primarily feature our expert callers on each app, with occasional guest appearance from other industry experts.
The focus of each series and episode will be to help the do-it-yourself hunter increase their odds of success hunting. If it’s elk you’re after, we want to help you learn the language so you can have more meaningful encounters with elk. Turkeys? The goal is to help you take gobblers pulse and tailor your calling to that specific bird in that specific situation, and then execute a well-placed shot. I think you get the picture. Knowledge equals power, and we want to help you become a force to be reckoned with in the woods!
This article was written by Luke, the oldest son of Got Game Tech founder, Tayler Tibbitts, putting into words his first big game animal hunt where he was the shooter.
Although I’ve been hunting with my dad before when he’s shot something, this late whitetail deer season was my first time having the gun in my hands. On December 29, 2018, I had turned ten, eight days ago, which is when youth can hunt big game in Idaho. The only general season open in my area was a late short-range weapon whitetail doe hunt. I was hunting with a Savage bolt-action .20 gauge shotgun with a slug.
My dad and I woke up at 6 a.m. and planned on hunting the
river bottoms that bordered some fields. I had butterflies in my stomach as we
left the truck and headed down to the creek bottom. We first saw some whitetail
does around 7:30 a.m., but shooting light wasn’t until 7:45 a.m.
At 7:45 a.m., the does we had seen moved to about 160 yards
away. This gun was sighted in for longer ranges than a typical shotgun and had
a scope, but that was still a long ways away. I tried to find the deer in my
scope to see how I felt, but had a hard time finding the deer.
Fortunately, another group of deer walked out in front of me
at 30 yards! I held still and was really quiet. I had some trouble taking the
safety off the gun as the first deer came into my sights. I thought I had it on
fire, but when I pulled the trigger nothing happened. This happened a second
time too! Finally, I was able to get the safety all the way off and settled the
cross hairs on one of the does.
I was resting the gun on the fence in front of me, and when
I pulled the trigger, the doe didn’t even run. She just dropped. I shot her
through both lungs. After I shot this deer, I felt happy and proud of myself
because I managed to shoot my first big game animal. My first phone call was to
my mom, and she was really excited for me. I also called my grandpa and uncle,
and they were excited too.
I helped field dress the deer by unzipping the hide on the
belly and holding the legs while my dad worked with the knife inside. After
finishing, we dragged the deer through the creek and across the field to our
truck. We aged the meat and turned it into steaks and jerky. We’ve eaten the
meat from my deer for dinner. It feels good to provide food for my family.
My favorite part of this hunt was the feeling of shooting
the deer, because of how exciting it was. I like hunting because of how hard it
can be–you might need to walk a long ways and do hard things to get the right
In 2019, I plan on shooting a mule deer buck and a bull elk.
I am going to apply for controlled hunt tags in Idaho, and if I don’t draw,
I’ll hunt over the counter. I am planning on scouting with my dad during the
summer and fall to prepare for my hunts.
The Got Game Tech team has partnered with whitetail wizard, Steve Stoltz, of Buckmen TV, to bring you a great tool that will help you become a better and more successful whitetail deer hunter.
The Whitetail Tech mobile app takes Steve’s hunting wisdom, which is expansive, and breaks it down in easy to digest sections and topics. On the app you can learn rattling sequences, review myriad hunting tactics, and even sharpen your deer calling skills. This app is a game changer, and it’s free for a limited time! Download it on the App Store and Google Play today!