There have been a lot posts recently about what hunting means to us and why we choose the way we do. I have been very lucky to be raised by someone who believes and taught me that it is about family, friends and nature NOT about kiling.
I think that I have posted this before but I cant remember. This story is to me what hunting should always be. Sometimes the best hunts dont always end how you might think.
What Makes a Hunt Memorable?
What makes a hunt memorable? Many people have asked me that question, but few times have I really thought about it. I’ve always thought that every hunt was memorable in its own way. Growing up in northern Wyoming, I took for granted so many of the things that I had — I was very fortunate to be part of a family that loved to hunt and loved the outdoors. My Dad took me hunting with him when I was young, and when I was old enough, he prepared me to hunt by myself. He got me my first bow when I was too young to even remember it and taught me how to shoot. My Dad showed me the art of hunting everything from prairie dogs to black bear. The best part was that we did it together.
It was not just my Dad, though — it was my uncles as well. My uncle Mark was the one that had the most influence. He was there when I was learning how to shoot my bow, he helped me when I was learning to load shells for my rifle and was right next to me when I shot my first elk. Uncle Mark was always there when it was time to go track my animals that had run into a tough spot and had to be packed out. He and my Aunt Cindy where there to help when it was time to clean and butcher every one of my animals.
Since those early days, I have harvested many animals, with both gun and bow. I remember my first animal with a bow was a rock dog. I took my first turkey when I was 12, my first deer and first elk the year I turned 14, and my first bear with my bow at 15. That same fall, on Oct. 17, 1999, I was fortunate enough to harvest the elk of a lifetime — he was seven points on the right, eight on the left, and he gross-scored an awesome 402 inches Boone and Crockett. Three years later, in 2002, I took my second black bear with a bow. I think that my dad was more exited than I was! A couple of years later I shot a pronghorn that also made the P&Y record book.
But as in most aspects of life, hunting doesn’t always go smoothly. I made my first really poor shot on an animal in 2004, an elk that scored 298 P&Y points. It took six hours of tracking, with my Dad’s help, in order to find him and make it right.
These are just a few of my adventures, but none of them can top the hunt I will always consider my most memorable.
In 2005, my Dad called me and asked if I wanted to put in for a different hunt area in the Bighorn Mountains and go with a group of friends that he used to hunt with years ago. I was excited — this would be a whole new area for me, and I could not wait for the September 15 to come around. Our group arrived on the evening of the 14th, and I was ready to go by morning. Over the next few days I found myself in the middle of lots of elk. On the night of the 21st, Dad, a good friend Ramey, and I went up Buckley Creek and found three big bulls and a fair number of cows. This was the setting for what was to be the greatest day of hunting I might ever have.
Dark and early the next morning Dad and I set out for Buckley Creek. Despite six inches of fresh snow and bitter-cold -16 degree temperatures, we were as warm as we could be thinking of all the elk we’d seen the night before. As we hiked in the darkness, we heard the call of the wild — the majestic bugle of the bull elk — shattered the pre-dawn silence. We got into a position where we could get a good look at the elk and make a game plan when light broke. As the sunrise lit up the hills, we picked out our target — a nice six-point with 13 cows and a rag horn. Dad and I started toward them up the canyon, which turned out to be a lot steeper than we had anticipated the wind in our favor and the sun on our backs.
Just as we got to the top of the trees where we could see them again, we heard another bull bugle. I looked at Dad as if to ask without words if that was the same bull that we’d set out after. The bugle had come from way up above us, and that was not the direction the bull had been heading the last time we’d seen him. We hurried to a better vantage point, and what a surprise we got. On the skyline above us there stood a monster, with several cows and two satellite bulls.
The elk that we were in pursuit of, much smaller than the second bull, took his cows around the corner to the other side so as not to lose them to this truly superior bull. Dad was quick to say, “Let’s go after him.” Little did we know what kind of endeavor that would be! The huge bull moved off of the skyline and down into a canyon that we refer to as “No-Name.” We scrambled to the ridge, only to see him going over the next one, cows in the lead, moving quickly. It was two or three miles around the head of the canyon.
We took our time getting to the other side, stopping to look over the divide into a valley with a small lake and take a few pictures (which, incidentally, did not turn out. I guess the shutter on the camera was not opening all the way.). We even found a few elk bedded near the lake. Dad took a little time to play with his new GPS and mark the coordinates —a fruitless endeavor, as he won’t remember what he called it, not having learned how to use letters to name things on it yet. With the day getting shorter by the minute and not having heard the bull bugle for quite a while, we decided that we’d better get to the other side and see if we could find this magnificent bull elk.
We pressed on, climbing through rock piles and over boulders. When we climbed over the last ridge, he was nowhere to be found. After eating lunch and glassing all that we could see, we were almost out of ideas. Then a coyote came running up the bottom chasing a bird. I grabbed my cow call and started to squeak on it, and he came running. The ’yote went behind a little hill, and just then I heard it — the bugle of the bull that we were after. We forgot about the coyote and started glassing again, so engrossed in watching for the elk that we didn’t even realize the coyote had come right up to us. He spooked and ran away, after we laughed for a minute we were back to looking for the elk.
I thought that I could hear him in the bottom, so we moved down the ridge and looked some more. We had only heard the one bugle to go off of, but it was more than enough to motivate us. Dad told me to go around the corner a little farther and see what I could find. As I was climbing out on a little rock ledge, he bugled again. He was right under me, but I had yet to spot him. I picked up my binoculars and found a cow almost immediately, then another and another. Then there he was, bedded just above his cows in a little grassy spot in the scattered trees, with the wind coming from below him. He had wisely set himself up with a great vantage point to spot intruding hunters.
I ran back to Dad and told him I had found the bull and was not sure if we could get to him. After climbing out to the ledge and assessing the situation himself for a few minutes, Dad was quick make a plan. His game plan for getting there: “Let’s get around this cliff and go straight to him.” I wasn’t sure that would even come close to working, but I trusted Dad’s years of experience, and away we went. It would be a good mile over treacherously steep, rocky terrain just to get close to where the elk were settled.
The area where the bull had gathered his harem was a place that I later nicknamed the Labyrinth. It is in the bottom of a canyon. Relatively flat compared to the rest of the area around it, the Labyrinth is scattered with pines and several little rock rims that vary in height from two to 10 feet. There were two big ponds in it that looked to be about three feet deep. I could see that this was elk heaven, and the closer we got, the more I saw that Dad was right on the money in his plan of attack.
We moved into the edge of the Labyrinth at about 3 p.m. and glassed around to find a path that would not take us right into the middle of the cows. I could see just the antlers of the bull not even 60 yards away. This was the first good look that we’d gotten of him since early that morning. He had seven points per side and had great mass that carried all the way to the top and was strong on top except for his G6s, which where only about two inches long.
We found a way to approach while staying hidden, and the wind was in our favor. This big bull was starting to get restless and was bugling every minute or so. I decided to get on top of a little ridge and let Dad make the rest of the stalk solo. Either way, one of us was going to get a shot — or at least that was the plan.
I took my position and got set up, and Dad began to make his move. The bull got up and started toward me. He stopped at about 35 yards, nearly broadside but slightly quartering-toward. I really wanted Dad to get a chance at this amazing animal; he had worked hard for it and deserved it more than I ever will. At long last, I heard the twang! of his bow, followed by a string of choice words from Dad when the bull bolted. I jumped off the rock and ran across to see where the bull and his cows had retreated to. I gave a few cow calls and the herd slowed down, but I knew there was no chance of getting the bull back within range. After a few minutes of watching the herd I started looking for Dad. Dad was following and almost to me, smiling and fuming at the same time. His arrow had hit a branch on the tree right in front of him. Nonetheless, Dad was happy for having had the opportunity to stand just 20 yards from such an impressive animal —something I’ve always respected about him.
I learned a lot that day, some from nature, some from God, but most from my Dad. His smile after missing the bull of a lifetime, a dream of his forever, taught me that we don’t hunt to kill. That’s not what this is about. Rather, it’s about spending time with friends and family, being out in the Gods creation, getting in touch with nature and respecting the animals that God gave us. If we are lucky enough to take an animal, that’s just a bonus, an added benefit — but by no means is it what makes or breaks the hunt. More than all the stories I can tell about animals I have taken on my own, being with my Dad on a marathon chase for a big bull elk was the most memorable hunt I might ever have.
-------------------- TGMM Family of The Bow Posts: 4473 | From: Cheyenne Wy | Registered: Jul 2007
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-------------------- "There is no excellence in archery without great labor" - Maurice Thompson "I avoid anything that make my dogs gag" - Dusty Nethery Posts: 706 | From: Hillsboro Oregon | Registered: Feb 2009
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-------------------- "Always feel the wind, and walk just like the leaves". ("LongBow Country"--Chad Slagle, "High, Wild, and Free"). Posts: 3961 | From: Sayreville, New Jersey | Registered: Feb 2007
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An awesome hunt and the feeling at the end made it a truly successful hunt-wish my Dad had been a hunter but his encouragement is still with me. You have the right attitude-friends, family and God's world.
-------------------- Hunting-it is not a choice but what is in my blood. Posts: 2245 | From: Grottoes,Virginia, Shenandoah Valley | Registered: Jan 2004
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-------------------- Trying to make a difference Psalm 37:4 God's grace and love! Roy L "Mudd" Williams TGMM- Family Of The Bow Archery isn't something I do, it's who I am! Posts: 9831 | From: Mid-Missouri | Registered: Mar 2003
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Nice job of taking us along and sharing a wonderful experience. And you know what, Randy? This flat-lander didn't even get the least bit winded! Awesome. And I'm sure you'll never forget the look on your Dads face at that moment.
Posts: 879 | From: Plymouth WI | Registered: Nov 2003
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