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The Fuse Lake Bull

Anaconda, Montana

During the fall of 1995, I was guiding for an outfitter in Philipsburg, Montana. I had a hunter from Boston who was intent on taking a trophy bull elk with archery equipment. We had hunted the Rock Creek area for the better part of a week and hadn't seen even one elk. I decided to go up toward Fuse Lake and see what we could scare up. We pulled into a little one-horse campsite early in the morning, and, just about the time the sun started to come up, we heard what had to be a herd bull start to bugle with some of the biggest blasts I have ever heard. I told the older fellow I was with that that was his bull, so get ready.

The Fuse Lake Bull

I put him behind a tree in front of me about 35 yards or so, and commenced to do some cow talking and bugling. At the first bugle I made that old boy went nuts. I could hear him in the creek bottom below us tearing up brush and trees. I tried to get him to come up out of the creek he was in, and up the hill about 75 feet or so, so that my hunter could get a shot. Cow calling furiously, I expected that any minute this old boy would come to collect this cow.

Alas, no matter how hard I called, he was having none of it. I finally decided that the only way to get a shot would be to go down to the creek and get closer. I collected my hunter and we went downwind to where I thought he was. I stood on the road with my hunter and explained the game plan. As we started down into the creek I noticed that it was still pretty dark in the old growth forest in the creek bed area, so I went real slow and we moved in very, very quietly. I put my hunter in a good spot, backed off about 20 yards and then blasted a bugle out. The bull went crazy and again started screaming and tearing everything up he could. I figured that the bull had to be about where my hunter was because I could smell the beast, and he was about to break my eardrums he was so loud. This kept up for about twenty minutes or so, and it got so I couldn't stand it any longer.

The Fuse Lake Bull

I eased up to the tree where I had left my hunter, and there he was with eight arrows on the ground in front of him, like he had dropped them or something. I asked him if he ever had a shot, and he told me that yes he had. He had the bull at less than ten yards, and had emptied his quiver at him. I also noticed that this old boy was shaking pretty good. I asked him about his arrows on the ground in front of him, and he looked at them like they were from Mars. "I don't know," he said.

It seems that this guy had this 1,200 pound bull so close that it had nearly scared him to death, and he had never even nocked an arrow, much less take a shot. In his mind though he had fired eight arrows at this bull. I took him back to camp, fed him some lunch and asked him if he would like to go back for the evening hunt. He told me, "No, I think I would like to do a little fishing." The rest of the time he was in camp, we went fishing. I now have that bow the guy was using. He gave it to me as a tip when he left camp.

David Stephens

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