While researching the late season elk hunting opportunities in Washington, I generally found two types of opinions: 1) It's great! I usually get my elk during the late season, and 2) It's nearly impossible to kill an elk with a bow during the late season - a total waste of time. I hate to be a pessimist, but after 4.5 days of hard hunting I'm siding with the latter.
I hunted Sunday evening through Thursday morning this week near Yakima in the Cowiche unit. I found my first animals mid day on Monday, which included five deer. On Tuesday morning I spotted some elk! I saw three or four though a narrow gap in the trees, but figured there were more. They were about 1,000 feet above me, near the top of a ridge. I knew they would move before I got there, but I had to make an attempt. When I got close I found lots of sign, including tracks, fresh scat, and the smell of elk urine. I followed their tracks and spotted them about 1.5 miles later at a much lower elevation. I now counted between 20 and 30 altogether. They were moving as if they were spooked, which was understandable given the amount of hunters around. My goal was to figure out where they would spook to and get there before they did. I ended up guessing about 100 yards off the mark as they crossed below me. One cow got separated and was maybe 50 yards away, based on the sound of her call as I never saw her. I attempted to get closer only to find her gone when I could finally see where I thought she was.
Wednesday was filled with furry animals, starting with jumping a black bear at 30 yards. He stood up and slowly lumbered away. Next I spotted a coyote with my binoculars. After walking another hundred yards, I spotted another coyote. A few miles later I jumped a deer at close range in thick forest. A half mile after that I jumped a herd of elk, which crashed through the forest at close range but I never managed to see them. After following their tracks for about a mile, I saw them trotting across an open area about 800 yards away. When they disappeared over the ridge, I attempted to close the distance but never found them again. By this point I was probably 6 miles from my camp. On the way back, I spotted yet another coyote.
Thursday morning was entirely uneventful. I think I walked between 50 and 60 miles this trip, all off-trail over hilly terrain. While this effort didn't put any meat in my freezer, it effectively removed any Thanksgiving pounds I might have put on. Kris and I will be heading out again this weekend to the same area. I know there are elk there, they're just extremely good at hiding and extra wary after being shot at by rifle hunters for two weeks last month.