All the hard work finally paid off. I recently went elk hunting with a good friend of mine that I've known since 9th grade. He met me on a Thursday morning and we loaded up in my truck and set out on our adventures. I'd be lying if I didn't say that our initial adventures were more misadventures. Getting the camper from the rental place and figuring out that I needed a hitch with a higher rise was "fun" and cost us one scissor jack. After a two-hour delay and $100, we were on our way. We had to brave meth-head tweakers, gawking douchers, and a scavenger hunt through Ute lands to get the propane and water filled on the camper. Then, to top it all off, I lost my wedding ring setting up camp.
The next day wasn't much better. Someone had set-up in my spot that I wanted to hunt. We saw them on the trail; a couple of horsemen coming out of the woods like two defeated warriors leaving a battle. That night we decided to hit the glade where I had heard all the cow elk screaming like banshees. After a couple hours of freezing our butts off, we decided to call it a night.
It snowed a lot up there the first two days, which I think was part of the reason we didn't see or hear anything. The next day we decided to go into town to get some more fuel for the generator, as well as some supplies. On the way out, I wanted to check out a couple of spots I scouted on my first trip up there. The sun was out and the weather had turned which made it a nice day. The spot I wanted to check out, was a big open meadow that had a stream running through it. In the middle of the meadow was a small copse of pine trees. When we got out there, we saw some fresh elk tracks that led from one side to the other. We figured it would be a good spot to come back to that evening. On our way down the mountain into town, we saw even more tracks, so we had some alternate spots to sit just in case.
That evening, we set up in the small copse of trees. My buddy on one side, me on the other. This gave us a 360 degree view of the entire open meadow. My buddy started hitting the cow call every ten minutes or so, as well as spraying some cow estrus in the air. We sat for about an hour and a half when the bull came walking out of the trees headed toward us.
I put a round in my gun which caught the bull's attention (mental note for next year, have the gun ready to go). However, he couldn't see me. I was set up in front of the tree which helped break up my outline. That, coupled with my camouflage patterned clothes (my blaze orange had a pattern as well) helped hide me from its sight. I took aim, and figured it was between 200-250 yards out. My aim was all over the place and I decided I needed to sit on my butt and post up. This in turn created more noise, but the bull still couldn't figure out what the noise was. I took a couple of deep breathes, let my final breath half-way out, and squeezed the trigger.
The shot rang out and the bull jumped a little and turned in a circle. It meandered off to the tree line and stopped. I was trying to see if I hit him, but couldn't see any obvious wounds. He looked back at me from the tree line, and lowered his head. It looked like he was grazing which made me think I missed. I was about to shoot again when he disappeared into the trees.
I met up with my buddy and explained what happened. He was just as excited as I was. We decided to wait 20-30 minutes, and then go check for blood. We wanted to wait just in case I had hit him. That way he wouldn't feel pressured and would hopefully lay down and die. Otherwise, we could end up chasing him all over the mountain. After the time passed (which is forever when you're waiting for something like that) we headed up that way. I found the spot where he was standing when I shot, but I couldn't see any blood. We tracked him to the treeline just to check, and I found a blood trail there! We started tracking him further, but after a moment, we both looked up and saw him laying in the trees. He wasn't more than 20 yards in the treeline.
We ensured he was dead and then started the work. Initially, I couldn't find the entry-wound, although later when we examined the pictures, it's clear as day. I hit him right behind the shoulder, exactly where I was aiming. We found the exit while quartering him.
This was the first time I'd ever quartered an animal, and I found out pretty quickly that the knife I brought wasn't the best choice. Inexperience, doubled with the wrong knife meant it took us three hours to skin and quarter him, and get back to camp. I think next time it will go much faster now that I know what I'm doing, plus I'll ensure I have the right tools.
The next day, we packed up and left. My ring is still up there. I'll probably end up getting a different one, but I want to go back in the spring with a metal detector just for sentimental reasons. I should be getting the meat back from the processors in a few weeks. All in all, it was an experience I'll never forget. I spent time with family and friends both scouting and hunting. I shot my first elk ever. And I've provided us with meat that will last quite some time. I couldn't ask for much more than that.
My newest piece of flash fiction, "Skalden Ord" just appeared on blog called The Word Wood. They run a unique site dedicated to flash fiction of different varieties. They'll pick a noun and a verb that have to show up during the story. Go read my flash fiction and spend some time poking around on their blog. You won't regret it.
Wednesday marked the last day of my hunt. I had to work on the official last day, so I tried my best to get something while I was out. It didn't start off too well; I slept in. I didn't even hear the alarm go off. A text from a friend, who ironically wished me luck, woke me. By the time I got up to my spot, the sun was already out.
I sat there for about 45 minutes until I heard some rocks along the cliff-side. I got up to investigate and saw a herd of about six doe walking along base of the cliff. On the other side of the valley, I spied a two-point through my binoculars. I think it was the same two-point I took a shot at earlier in my hunt. I decided I wanted to try to get closer, so I started cutting across. I decided to climb up the mountainside and come out nearby to where it was feeding. I knew it would more than likely move on as I got closer, but I figured I it was worth a shot. I made a bad judgement and went the wrong way. At one point it was so steep and rocky that I was on my hands and knees, basically crawling up the mountain. Scared the shit out of me really.
As I figured, the buck was gone when I popped out on top. I tried to take a nap because the sun was up and I figured the deer would be resting as well, but the wind picked up something fierce and I decided to move on. I wanted to push through some brush before heading down, and lucky enough, I kicked that two-point up. It was gone too fast though, I couldn't even get a shot off before it disappeared from sight.
I went after it and made my way down into the adjoining canyon. The picture above is where I stopped to eat my lunch. After watching a couple more doe, I figured it was time to make my way back into my original canyon. So I climbed back up the ridge and over to the other side. The temperature was dropping, and I was getting tired. I spied a couple more doe way up top, and I also found a kill-site from another hunter; nothing more than a few lower legs and a cleaned out torso/rib-cage. At least someone was lucky.
As I made my way down the ridge, I saw a young buck grazing near some aspen trees. It was only a spike, but a decent size spike. Since it was my last day, and only the second buck I'd seen since I started hunting this season, I decided to take a shot. I figure it was about 150 yards away, which is pushing the limit of my rifle, but still do-able. The other issue, was that it was downhill. No I had to play the guessing game of aiming at something far-off and downhill. When shooting downhill, you generally aim under your target because of how the bullet will travel. However, since it was further away, I had to take that into account and aim high, because the bullet will drop. I aimed just above it and fired. The bullet must have gotten close, because the buck took off like a bat out of hell. It ran all the way across the valley, halfway back, then across the valley again before crossing over a ridge.
I didn't think I hit it, but I wanted to be sure. There wasn't any blood or hair where it was feeding, but I wanted to go after it anyway. I hiked over to where it had crossed the ridge and I followed the draw down. I never found it again. I did, however, find a weather station nestled in the draw. Kind of interesting to come across an antenna array in the middle of nowhere.
Near the end of my hike, I ran out of water. Now I packed my iodine tablets with me just in case, so I could have filled my camelback with creek water and been fine. However, I didn't want to have to clean my camelback out and go through that ass pain, so I just endured. Let me tell you something. When you run out of essential items, that's all that's on your mind.
I got back to my ATV and the sun was still up. I could have waited until dark and maybe gotten another shot at something, but I was tired, sore, and thirsty. It was time to go home, my hunt was over.
Although I didn't fill my deer tag, I became more familiar with the area. I'll be even more prepared next season. Plus, any day on the mountain is better than sitting at work. Now please enjoy the picture below of the happiest lichen on the mountain.
C.R. Langille writes horror, fantasy, urban-fantasy, dark fantasy, and is considering stepping into the sci-fi realm. He has a grasp of survival techniques, and has been a table-top gamer for over 16 years.