To say that Laurel resident Steve Anderson has had some bad luck when it comes to archery elk hunting may be an understatement.

One year his Missouri River Breaks hunt was nullified by the federal government shutdown, which meant no access to federal lands. The year he helicoptered in to an isolated parcel of BLM land the surrounding landowners had just encircled it in five strands of barbed wire.

“I sat on the other side of the fence and watched hundreds of elk walk by me,” he said.

Luckily, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president Dave Allen took pity on his acquaintance and set him up with an archery elk hunt on private land north of Pompeys Pillar last September. The hunt was filmed for the RMEF Team Elk television show and will air on Saturday at 3 a.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. on the Outdoor Channel.

But this is Anderson we’re talking about, so it wasn’t an easy hunt.

“I hunted nine straight days,” Anderson said. “It was only supposed to be six or seven.”

Long time coming

The 52-year-old began hunting when he was a youngster growing up in Glendive. Archery hunting faded in importance while he attended college, got married and helped raise a family. But for the past 20 years he’s been trying to fill that bull elk archery tag and has been continually frustrated.

“I’ve had rejection a lot,” he said.

The ranch hunt north of Pompeys should have been an easy score then, right? But elk are smart whether they are on private or public land. And getting them within an archer’s range — ideally no more than 40 yards — is no easy task.

“We were constantly in elk, but with a bow you have to be so darned close,” said Ray Basta, Anderson’s hunting buddy who accompanied him.

“We saw bulls almost every day and had close encounters,” Anderson said.

Twice he pulled back his bow to shoot but the bull did not cooperate.

“I had one at 10 yards and it wouldn’t step out from behind the tree,” he said. “Then it snorted and took off.”

One bull growled at him, almost like the noise a bear would make.

Hunt TV

Basta, who has hunted with Anderson every year for about the past 15 years and was invited along on the RMEF hunt, said it’s much tougher hunting with a cameraman than without one, simply because it’s one more person moving around.

“Our cameraman was really great about being discreet, but the priority was filming so you had to be aware about it all the time,” Basta said.

Then on the ninth day the group of hunters — Anderson was accompanied by Allen and cameraman Gary Milton because Basta had to return home — spotted a bull at about 600 to 700 yards. A bugle brought him closer.

“He started coming on a line,” Anderson recalled.

Then the bull got leery. He stopped about 80 yards short of where Anderson was set up. Cow calling brought the bull in closer before he shied away again in a frustrating game of cat and mouse. Finally the bull came in at a different angle, stepped out from behind a bush and “That’s all she wrote,” Anderson said.

Fantasy fulfilled

Anderson filled his tag with a 7x7-point bull. The whole scenario took about 45 minutes to play out.

“He was probably only a 2 ½ year old bull,” Anderson said. “He has these little devil tines that come off his brow tines. He’s probably the smallest seven point ever seen. But he died next to the trail, so that was nice.”

Now Anderson is hoping that maybe his buddy Ray Basta will get to go on another RMEF hunt to fill his tag for the first time.

“I think Dave likes to take out people who haven’t shot one before,” Anderson said.

Now, Steve Anderson no longer belongs to that club.

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Montana Untamed Editor

Montana Untamed editor for the Billings Gazette.