Out of the Fog
Fog, in most cases, is the enemy of a hunter, and over history has ruined many a stalk on just about every big game species there is. There are some limited occasions though, where it can work to a hunters advantage.
Why? Well, several times in the past, on elk hunts, I have found that all elk seem to feel very comfortable about coming out into open areas when it’s foggy. As long as the elk are not any great distance from a hunter, one can still pick them out reasonably well if the fog is not of the pea-soup variety.
I learned a valuable lesson about that again just a few years ago when hunting with friend, Kevin Wensley from Victoria.
We were on a ten-day hunt deep in the backcountry and wrestling with tremendously dry conditions and 30 degree celsius temperatures during the day. We knew the elk were there but actually calling them in or locating them consistently had been very tough. The bulls would give us the odd bugle the first half hour of daylight, or again 20 minutes before dark, and then go silent, confining themselves to the heavy timber avoiding any openings whatsoever. The overly dry conditions made it an almost impossibility to go in after them. We tried a couple of times but to no avail, and we probably spooked more elk than we care to admit.
However, on the sixth day of our hunt a storm blew in overnight and dropped about two hours worth of light rain on the parched landscape. We woke up to clearing skies and heavy fog right around our camp.
We elected to stay out of the now soaked forest canopy, and climb a fairly open ridge in the dark and take a position to wait for daylight. When we were about halfway up the ridge a shrill bugle pierced the morning air.
The cool wind blowing in my face told me that conditions were favourable for us, and if the fog lifted or was not too thick, we had a good chance of seeing this bull. Five minutes later the bull screeched another challenge call into the rapidly fading darkness. I sent Kevin 25 yards ahead to a spot I had shown him a few days before, where he had some cover, and I remained below and situated myself against a fallen tree. My plan was to return the bulls challenge as soon as we had legal shooting light.
The bull called two more times and I could tell he was in the heavy timber bordering the top of the ridge. Our visibility range in the fog was limited to about 30 yards at the most, as daylight finally arrived.
To get things going and to see how the bull would react to my calling I just loudly chirped on my cow call one time. The bull responded immediately and answered back — he was much closer now. I quickly caught some movement up ahead and the shadowy form of a bull on the move appeared out of the morning fog.
What a sight he was-like a photo out of an expensive nature calendar. The bull was facing me head on. I spotted a large fork behind the “dagger tine” which is the tallest point straight up on a bull’s rack, and I knew he was a big six-point and he was coming my way. I had no idea if Kevin could see him or not.
I locked the crosshairs on my scope on the bull’s front chest, but before I could squeeze the trigger, the roar of Kevin’s gun echoed across the draw below. The bull now in high gear, angled straight towards me, so I placed another close range shot just above the front shoulder, but to my surprise the bull did not go down instantly. He turned and was headed for the deep ravine and I attempted another shot to the base of his neck just before he went out of view.
I was almost certain that the bull would not go far, but the last thing I wanted to see happen was to push him into the bottom of the ravine by going after him too quickly. That would substantially increase the arduous pack out.
I yelled to Kevin to stay put for 10 minutes to give the bull a chance to lay down. After the time had elapsed, Kevin made his way down to me, and we followed the blood trail for a short distance where we found the bull piled up on top of some small alders. The “Foggy Mountain” bull was ours.
The change of weather had no doubt made this bull much more active than he had been in the previous week, and that combined with the fog, gave the bull a false sense of security when he exited the heavy timber and he crossed the opening on the ridge without giving it too much consideration.
So in this case and a couple of other hunts I have been involved with, the fog proved to be a boon not a hindrance. Therefore, I formed the conclusion a long time ago, that fog seems to act as a security blanket of sorts for elk, and most importantly they can be walking around at any time of day when fog is present. That is something I always keep in mind while on a fall hunt, especially when a weather change occurs which could precipitate some fog.
F.J. Hurtak is the author of the books Elk Hunting in the Kootenays and Hunting the Antlered Big Game of the Kootenays available at selected retailers in B.C. and Southern Alberta. All profits go to land for wildlife or habitat restoration.