The light of the morning sun was just beginning to fill the frigid air surrounding the silent mountain when Dad exclaimed elk in an excited whisper. We were spotting from the truck to get an idea of where we wanted to go for the day and now we knew. We could see three elk on the down slope in the distance and that was where we were headed.
Dad and I were quick out of the truck while still being quite knowing we could jump up more elk before we got to the ones we were after. We came over one ridge after another, losing and regaining sight of the elk time after time until we were crawling up the ridge that we could shoot from. Dad and I took a moment to collect ourselves knowing we needed our breath to shoot. When we were ready we inched our way over the ridge looking for the elk. There they were, right where we had left them. At first we saw the original three, three cows and one spotted us right off the bat. Dad and I sat entirely motionless and the cow resumed feeding. A few more started to appear but Dad and I couldn’t spot a bull. Before we had crept over the hill Dad had said that the wind was entirely wrong, blowing at our backs, and it came into play then. The rest of the heard was up slope out of our sight and they winded us and started to move out. Dad knew he had mere seconds, laid out his .270 Weatherby Magnum across his Badlands Pack and shot the first cow in his scope. With that the herd was gone. Dad and I saw the cow go down but couldn’t see her behind the trees. We regrouped and Dad headed down the trail trying to spot the cow and I stayed behind to make sure she didn’t sneak out behind us. Not thirty seconds later Dad called out that I could head his way, the cow was down.
He had made the perfect shot. The cow had been moving so he placed his shot about six inches out in-front over her front shoulder and dropped her with one shot right to the vitals. Knowing she was down for good we headed in her direction to get her field dressed out. When we reached her Dad and I split up, deciding I should go look for a bull with the rest of the herd as I didn’t have a cow tag. I left Dad on the cow and headed for the ridge. Reaching the ridge I decided it best to hike up until I reached tracks rather than walk in blind. When I reached the tracks and fresh droppings I knew I was going to have to move with stealth because I wasn’t long behind the herd. I tracked the herd over the next ridge and was glassing a down slope, the wind at my back, and I could still smell the elk. I pulled the binos from my face and peaked over the swail of the ridge. There they were, not even 25 yards away. I instantly grabbed my gun from my shoulder and sat down, right behind a tiny Charlie Brown tree hoping not to be noticed by the herd. Right below me was the bull standing right in front of a cow, the rest of the herd a ways below, feeding. While I couldn’t shoot the bull I was set up perfectly. Not an elk in the bunch could see me and the bull was headed the opposite way as the cow. If I waited patiently he would step out and I would have the perfect broadside shot at 25 yards. Unbeknownst to me I had split the herd and the other half were just reaching the ridge behind me. Within thirty seconds the entire herd crashed out, the other cows having spotted me. I sprinted back to the ridge knowing I would have mere seconds when they crossed the ridge below me but they hung up. I could hear cows and calves squawking but I couldn’t tell where they had gone, the head of many draws where they headed. I dropped off the side of the ridge quite a ways before I decided to head towards the next ridge, the way the bull had been facing before he disappeared. Unfortunately I made it to the next ridge only kicking out a few deer. With that I headed back to Dad and the cow, adrenaline still racing, ready to pack her out.
Before this year Dad and I had always carried fanny-packs as we are very minimalist hunters. This year we decided to switch to backpacks though in order to make every trip count. We almost always have to pack our critters out of the woods in pieces and the first trip back to the truck loaded with meat is crucial. The packs definitely payed off as it was much easier to carry out the cow on our backs than over our sholder s as we had done in years past.
The first trip out I took a front shoulder (on the bone for hanging) and the neck and Dad took the back straps (again on the bone) and the tenderloins. Needless to say our packs did their parts. Although leaving the bone in makes for a lot more effort to get it out of the woods it is totally worth it. By leaving it on the bone the meat stays cleaner and makes the meat much easier to cure. Less is wasted! Once back to the truck we decided that we would have better access to the rest of the elk from the other direction with ATVs so we headed back to camp.
The ATVs added lots of extra fun and shortened the pack out of the back half by a lot. We had the cow hanging in the tree and fresh steaks on the table by dark.
In review, that Saturday was one of the best of my life. Dad and I spotted the elusive Rocky Mountain Elk, stalked them, and managed to get one on the ground. This was no canned hunt or drive up and shoot on private ground. Dad and I hunted our butts off on public ground and harvested yet another elk in one of our favorite spots. Then I was able to catch the herd a second time, by myself, and get within 25 yards of the bull. It was definitely the closest I’ve been to an elk while in the woods hunting and an experience I will surely never forget. Dad and I also shared lots of laughs and got to do something that we both love to do together. To me this is the good life!
Yesterday we got the cow butchered and moved from the cooler to the freezer. It was a family effort and we will eat well all year because of it!
Be sure to comment your hunting stories below or share them with me on Twitter using #huntinglifegoodlife! Thanks for reading! Liza