width=500 Well, if you’re keeping score, it’s Elk—1, Ben—0. I returned late last night from a short, early season archery hunt for elk. Even though it’s still a little too early for any solid bugling action, I didn’t want the holiday weekend to go to waste. So I jammed my pack full (including some last minute items per your suggestions from The Things You Carry), and started climbing. The first day I moved a little over three miles as the crow flies, but because of the steep mountains it felt twice as far. I reached a basin, set up camp on a nearby ridge, and spent the better part of the mornings and evenings glassing the springs and meadows below. By the end of the third day, I had yet to see or hear an elk (though I ran into plenty of bears—more on that later). Wouldn’t you know it, on my way back to the truck, I crossed some fresh elk sign and I decided to casually call as I walked along. I never heard him, and I certainly didn’t see him until it was too late, but apparently my seductive cow tones captured the attention of a nice bull, and he was coming to investigate. Barely 40 yards apart, he and I stared at each other for 10 minutes before he lost interest, and I finished my stumbling trek out of the mountains. So what’s the bottom line? Basically, I’m down, but I’m not out. The peak of the rut is coming, and I plan to be there when it hits. Who else was out-and-about this past weekend? Any excitement on the last good holiday before school really gets rolling? —Ben