Archer shares his tips for tricking elk

August 23, 2006 11:00 pm

Do you have a tip for archery season?

By JAYSON JACOBY

To even begin to understand the sort of archery hunter Russell Elms is, you need to know that he keeps his hunting clothes in a plastic bag stuffed with pine boughs.

This, though he owns perfectly serviceable dressers.

Elms, who lives in Baker City, doesn't smile when he tells you the story, which seems like it ought to conclude with a punch line.

But he's not kidding.

What he's trying to do is trick a bull elk, which is no easy thing to pull off even when you're as dead serious as a chess player whose queen is stuck in the corner.

"You can fool an elk's ears and you can fool an elk's eyes, but you can never fool an elk's nose," Elms said. "Everything centers on scent."

Elms can't help, of course, that he's a human.

But he tries awfully hard not to smell like one.

In fact, during the month-long archery hunting season that starts Saturday in Oregon, Elms will strive to convince his quarry, which includes buck deer as well as elk, that he's anything but human.

A pine tree, preferably.

That bagful of pungent boughs isn't the only arrow in Elms' quiver of olfactory deceptions, though.

Over the past month he has repeatedly washed his hunting outfit in a soap that's supposed to scrub from the garments every trace of human odor.

He sprinkles on the clothes a substance that smells of sagebrush.

During the archery season, Elms won't fill the fuel tank in his rig while he's wearing his hunting clothes, for fear gas fumes will infuse the fabric. Elk might not associate the aroma of petroleum products with people who wield weapons and carry tags that authorize them to kill elk, but you've got to figure the acrid scent is not one that the elk's fellow forest dwellers normally produce. Anyway, you don't see raccoons and squirrels working at service stations.

Elms, who's 36, has hunted since before he was a teenager.

At first he carried a rifle. But then, when he was 13 or 14, he got his first bow from his aunt, who worked for Martin, a bow-making company from Walla Walla, Wash.

Elms had never flung an arrow.

"It was kind of a steep learning curve," he said.

But over the next several years Elms honed his skills.

He gleaned valuable advice from a pair of local archery hunters, Jake Jones and Mike Spriet.

And Elms took an archery class while he was attending Oregon State University.

Still, he fired quite a few arrows in those early years that flew astray.

"I missed a lot of critters I'd like to have another chance at," Elms said.

Archers tend to get a lot of second chances, though, which goes a long way toward explaining why Elms remains a devoted bowhunter.

In Oregon, the annual archery season for deer and elk is a general hunt, which means it's open to most any hunter who didn't buy a tag for a rifle season.

And the archery season extends for a month, making it a veritable luxury vacation compared with rifle seasons, most of which last less than two weeks.

The archery hunt runs from late August until late September, so the sun's up longer each day than it is during most rifle seasons.

By early November, for instance, when the second rifle elk season starts in Northeastern Oregon, hunters (at least hunters who prefer the shelter of a tent and soft sleeping bag to the drafty hollow beneath a fallen tree) usually trudge back to camp before 5 p.m.

"You just get to hunt more during archery season," Elms said.

And as far as Elms is concerned, more hunting always is better than less.

And that adage applies whether he returns from a hunt with a couple hundred pounds of meat, or just the accumulated weight of memories.

He hunted Dall sheep in Alaska for 10 days one year and he never shot an arrow.

It was one of his favorite hunts.

"I just love being out there — bottom line," Elms said. "I like hearing elk bugle. It's an addictive sport."

Do you have a tip for archery season?

BOW SEASON BEGINS

WHAT: Archery hunting season for deer and elk

WHEN: Aug. 26 through Sept. 24

WHERE: Throughout Oregon

BAG LIMITS: In Eastern Oregon the bag limit for deer hunters is one buck with visible antler; for elk, the bag limits varies. In three of Baker County's four units — Sumpter, Lookout Mountain and Pine Creek — archers can kill any elk. In the Keating unit, and several others in Northeastern Oregon, the bag limit for bowhunters is one bull.

RESTRICTIONS

Due to extreme fire danger, local, state and federal agencies have imposed a variety of regulations. Campfires are allowed only in campgrounds and other designated recreation sites, and in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

It's illegal to drive motorized vehicles on closed roads and trails — including roads blocked by a dirt berm.

Information on closures is available from several sources:

egov.oregon.gov/ODF/FIRE/precautionlevel.shtml

523-5831; 541/963-3168

www.blm.gov/or/news/newsreleases.htm

523-1256

www.fs.fed.us/r6/w-w/

523-6391