August 30, 2019
It's opening day of archery elk and I have a rifle tag. My husband calls me and suggests I trade my rifle tag in for an archery tag. With a moose tag and a big horn sheep tag in the family, and an upcoming art show, I might not get to hunt alot during the rifle season. So, I headed to fish & Game and traded my tag in. After work that evening, we headed up in the mountains. The weather was perfect and when we got to our spot, the wind was calm. As we hiked up the mountain, we could smell elk, our wind was perfect. There was fresh sign and rubs all around us. Knowing we would be the first hunters these elk have seen since last season, had us a little excited for the evenings hunt. Not long after I had nocked an arrow and settled in for the chilly long wait, I heard the sound of a far off bugle in the direction we figured the elk would come from. Benji sat 50 yards behind me so he could call if needed. Off in the distance, I could hear them coming, the elk were so loud as they busted through the dark timber. The herd was about 50-60 yards below where I was set up. My heart sank as they were just out of my shooting range and moving fast! I could see a few smaller bulls and lots of cows. Because Benji was 50 yards below me on the mountain, I knew the herd had to be feet from him. As a cow walked 5 feet from him, she stopped, turned to him, and tried to figure out what he was. Benji, still as a stone, closed his eyes, not to let her even see him blink. If 1 cow were to spook, the whole herd would be gone. She found him to be no threat, and finally moved on. Just as I had thought the entire herd had passed by, a cow came quitely walking by, 20 yards from me. She stopped, turned and looked in my direction, and tried to figure out what I was. I too, closed my eyes as she starred my way. As soon as I heard her take a step, I knew the coast was clear to open my eyes. WHAT DID I OPEN MY EYES TO? A bull with his head down, following this cow. My heart started beating faster, I knew this was my opportunity. As his head went behind a tree, I drew my bow back, and he stopped. It felt like forever at full draw. I knew if I let down, the cow would probably see or hear me, and they would both be gone. Adrenaline held my bow back just a little bit longer, waiting for him to take another step. He took another step, my shooting lane wasn't the best with lots of branches between us, but I could see where his vitals were, and knew it was time. With the fading light in the dark timber I didn't see exactly where the arrow hit, but it felt good. As he moved through a clearing a few yards up the hill, I saw the arrow, the shot was a little low. Benji immediately started calling to keep the bull from running too far. With light fading fast, Benji made his way up the hill to where I was sitting. We talked about the shot and he felt that it's hard to hit too low and be that tight to shoulder without hitting the bulls heart. We moved up to where the bull was last seen and found very little blood. We tracked him up the hill far enough to worry us. We waited a bit and got our lights out. Shortly after starting the trail again, our hearts sank as we jumped the bull, and heard and saw glimpses of him running through the timber. He didn't go far though and we heard some noises that sounded like he hadn't moved too far away. We found ourselves in a tough situation. The safe thing to have done to find the bull would be to back out and wait till morning to recover him and not risk pushing him with little blood to follow. However, we would risk the possibility of losing meat with warm temperatures, and the size of an animal like an elk holding so much heat and not cooling off. I wasnt going to let that happen, I told Benji "I will stay on this mountain all night if I have to, we aren't leaving this bull". We decided to wait about 30 minutes and then moved up to where we had last seen him and heard him. When we got to the spot we had last heard him, we saw his eye reflecting our head lamps light just down the hill, piled up against a downed tree. All of our fears and worries were lifted knowing that we could now get him skinned and quartered cooling off fast. Tears instantly started running down my cheeks. Benji and I aren't super religous, but for some reason I felt the need for each of us to hold onto his antlers and to say a prayer. It wasn't just a dead elk that laid there in front of us, it was years of determination, practice, hundreds of miles on my feet, and a freezer full of meat. We sometimes set personal goals for a bull or buck or to maybe get a record book animal. The reality is that, the meat that fills our freezer for the entire year to come is what we enjoy the most. That is what brings us full circle and reminds us on a daily basis what it really means to be a hunter. The work of breaking down the bull came easy knowing that I had done my part in making a good lethal shot. Packs loaded with all we could haul, Benji and I hung the rest of the meat in game bags in a tree. We headed down the mountain with heavy packs and high spirts. Seven years of hunting archery, 5 of which were for elk. Many miles, days, and years afield, all came together in that evenings hunt and I was blessed to take my first elk with my bow. Filling our family's freezer for the year, gives me a great sense of accomplishment.