September • 16th • 2023
With daylight just making way, we started driving up our drainage to the top of the mountain, so we could hunt our way down as the sun rose. We made it to the top of the mountain just before the sun broke over the peaks. Our packs ready for the unthinkable, the goats ready to pack, and Aspen ready for another big hike, we took off and headed down. Down the mountain fast, with hopes of being able to hunt our way into the herd while our winds carried out scent below any elk. When we got to an old road cut, we started working slow; calling, stopping, listening, calling. After an hour or so of slowly moving along this old road cut we sat down to take a break and just listen and glass a little bit as the sun started to finally hit the hillsides. I looked over at Benji as he smirked and did a little chuckle, he said “ya know babe, we are pretty handicapped today. We have 2 recurves, 2 goats, and a dog by our sides. So let’s not get our hopes up”. We spotted a herd working their way up across the canyon from us towards the dark timber to bed. A few more calls and a bull answered with a bugle. With minimal elk sign and him being quite far away, we started closing the distance to have a better chance of calling him in. With one set up and no luck by a wallow we had came across, we rounded into the next draw we thought the bull perhaps bugled from. As we rounded the corner Benji spotted the bull about 1000 yards away, watching us walk across an open hillside on the old road cut. He was black with freshly covered mud from wallowing in the draw ahead of us. We knew we had been caught out in the open but with the goats by our sides we threw out some cow calls and bugles, which he responded to. He must have thought we were a small herd of elk headed towards him. When we got to the corner of the road cut below him, it was a very steep rocky draw, not exactly ideal to call a bull down. We wanted to go further to more favorable terrain but the sun had started to hit the hillside and we worried that the thermals would start to change and carry our scent up to the bull. With the bull moving closer to us faster than we expected, we decided to set up right where we were. There was an elk trail coming straight down the very steep rocky hillside onto the old road cut. 5 yards from the elk trail, I tucked in as best I could into a few small Aspens. After 10 minutes of calling back and forth, he was close. Very close. As Benji sat 30 yards away from me with Aspen tucked in close to his side and our goats right in between us, out in the open, I could feel my heart beating out of my chest as I knew this plan might work. As the bugles were now 40-50 yards away, the bull started raking a tree. Our goats paused from feeding, watched up the mountain in fear, and ran to Benjis side as they knew what they had just heard had much bigger horns than them. I could hear him coming in slow and caught a small glimpse of his antlers just before he quickly bombed off the steep rocky hillside. There he was 5 yards in front of me, covered in mud, he paused for a split second. I should’ve been at full draw but it all happened so fast, I guess you could say I was in shock as the big mud covered bull towered over me. I tried to draw back, my arrow came off the shelf and he turned and ran as fast as he could straight towards Benji. He came to a sliding stop, falling to his knees when he saw Benji, Aspen and the two goats in the open flat of the road cut, less than ten yards in front of him. I watched as the bull spun out, getting back to his feet and launching his huge body over the slide rock edge of the road. As I heard the slide rock and boulders rolling down the mountain I hung my head knowing that as fast as it happened, it was all over and I blew my chance at a big bull. I looked up and saw Benji run to where the bull had bailed over the edge while knocking an arrow. I thought to myself “why is he just now knocking an arrow”, he turned and said to me “I just heart shot that bull”. It was hard for me comprehend all that had just happened in a matter of seconds. When he had slid to a stop Benji was already at full draw and released a perfectly timed arrow into the bulls heart as he stood and turned to jump over the edge of the road. As the rocks quit rolling we both looked where the bull had stopped on a rocky outcropping just in time to watch him side step and fall out of sight. We both were shook up from the experience and I am pretty sure I was in complete shock at this point. We almost couldn’t believe what had just happened. We praised the goats and aspen for holding their ground and relived the moment looking at the bulls slide marks and blood left where he had been shot. We walked down the boulders to where the bull had piled up on the hillside. We took some pictures where he laid without moving him because he would have rolled another 100 yards into a rocky revine. With warm temps, we worked fast, breaking down the bull and packing the quarters over to a small opening in a cool shaded cliff. It is amazing how a day can change so fast. We now had hundreds of pounds of meat,1200 feet and close to 2 miles to get back up to the truck. We loaded our packs and the two goats packs with as much of the bull as we could carry and started making our way back up and out of the hole we dropped into. Knowing that tomorrow we would be right back here doing it all over again to get the rest of the bull out. We were back at daylight with Aspen and our three other goats who had fresh legs for the second trip. It all went almost too smooth but not without a ton of hard work. It felt good to be able to share it all with Benji, Aspen and our goats, my tribe.