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Tracking Elk on Snow: Rick Labbe's 2020 Wyoming Bull

Tracking an elk isn’t so different from tracking a buck, Rick Labbe says—a bull will take you on the same rollercoaster ride through thick, steep, and downright rough terrain that a whitetail buck will. But, like a whitetail track, if you stay on it and persevere, there will be a big bull on the other end of it, like this bull Rick shot in 2020 in Wyoming.

It was October 7, and the rut was over, but there were a couple inches of fresh snow on the ground in the mountains near Rick’s camp in Wyoming. Rick set out at dawn and eventually cut the track of a big bull. “It’s just like whitetail tracking,” Rick said. “You’re looking for the biggest track with the biggest stance and stagger.” Rick got right on that bull, hammering to make up time.

As the sun got higher in the sky, the temperature warmed up and the snow began to melt, becoming patchy in more exposed areas. Where the track got thinner, Rick made loops around the spot he’d lost it, just like he’d do in the north Maine woods on a buck track. He stayed on the bull for seven hours, passing 7 other bulls along the way.

Rick followed this bull down into a canyon next to a river, through “wicked ledgy” rolling terrain filled with spruce and aspens. “It was going up wicked rugged terrain, straight up and straight down, filled with blowdowns,” Rick said. “The ruggeder it is, the better they like it.” This bull was all alone, cruising around the canyon and up and down the mountain checking cow groups. And then, right at the top of the mountain, Rick found his opportunity.

“All of a sudden he married up with a cow and a calf, and they headed off to the right, and the bull followed them back down into the canyon,” Rick said. He followed after them and came to a bluff—“a good place to sit down and eat a sandwich,” Rick thought. He sat down, leaned his rifle up against the ledge, got his pack out, and started eating his sandwich. He took a drink of Gatorade, grabbed his bugle, and let a bugle rip.

“I hadn’t even finished bugling and he immediately bugled right back at 250 yards,” Rick said. Rick put down the sandwich and the Gatorade and grabbed his rifle. Less than thirty seconds later, the bull walked right over into an opening on a ledge below. Rick saw his horns coming, and thought “he’s a good one.” The bull stood there looking around for the other bull, and bugled again. Rick shot him with his Sako 300 WSM and the bull went down. Rick packed out the bull with the help of his neighbor’s horses.

Watch the video: