Since he was 2 yrs old my oldest son would faithfully call me every night that I was away from home on my annual elk hunt to ask me if I had gotten an elk and he couldn't wait until he was old enough to come with me. So the year finally comes he is 12 and a brand new hunter saftey card in his pocket to break in. I told him last year if his grades continued to remain what they have always been I would take him to the mountains with me. Just like always all A's and one B. Before I get attacked for taking him out of school for a week let me first say that my grandpa always told me "don't let school always interfere with your education."
Well it is opening day we were on my favorite ridge waiting for the sun to get high enough to give us enough light to see before we made our stalk down the ridge. (I like to still hunt next to the dark timber catching elk on their way to bed) We are about 600 yrds down the ridge when the silence of the morning was broke by a bugling bull. Talk about standing the hair up on the back of your neck. We go into serious mode get the wind in our favor and sneek up to the edge of the ridge. Just like we planned standing at the edge of a stand of aspen was a bull. A real nice one at that. I told Sean to sneek up beside me and get his gun on the sticks I had set up for him. He got up to me and to my surprise the look on his face was cool as ice. The bull (320 to 330) was standing broad side about 200 yrds down the hill. Sean bared down and squeezed off a shot. I had a million things running though my mind. Mostly that we have been hunting for 30 minutes and he is going to shoot a great bull. He is going to think there is nothing to elk hunting. Is this going to spoil him?
I about puked as I heard no report from a bullet making a conection and watching the bull run down the hill into cover not to be seen again. At least by us. The disappointment on Sean's face was about more than I could take. As we sat there going through all the events that had taken place he asked me "where did I shoot?" I told him that he shot over him. He asks "how far was he?" 200 hundred yrds I respond. "Dad I make that shot all the time I didn't flintch, what happened?" Then it him me. What I have taken for granite and failed to pass on to him in the heat of the molment. "Sean where did you aim?" "I held about 2/3rds up his back and behind his shoulder." Damnit...I told him that I was sorry it was my fault. I felt terrible. Back in the rolling hills of Nebraska we don't have to worry so much about holding low on downhill shots and this shot was darn sure down hill. I explained to him about down hill/up hill shots and told him if he got another opportunity I would tell him where to hold so he didn't have extra stuff to think about while making the shot.
Like a trooper he is he made me feel better about myself saying "we'll get another chance and did you hear him bugle? That was awesome. Shooting him would just have been the icing on the cake. It's already been a great hunt dad thanks for taking me." The wheather was hot and dry and the elk were hard to come by. They were all in there steep drainage dark timber hideouts. Two days go by and I take Sean to another one of my honey holes. We sat there for 2 hrs that evening when I look up and through the trees I spot some movement. I nudge Sean and tell him that a bull is coming in. He comes out to the water hole and it is a rag horn 4x5 at 100 yrds. I tell him to hold right on him and let him have it. He looks at me like I'm crazy. I say shoot him. He says "he's not very big." As we continue to discuss shooting this elk the wind swirls and like a ghost the elk is gone.
As I sat there disapointed I asked Sean why didn't shoot. He says "he wasn't quite what I'm looking for." I explain to him that he is hunting on public land in a unit that has an unlimited sale for bull permits. I explain it's not like being back on the ranch where we are going to hunt, Moose, Mr Big or Big Sexy. "Sean we are only 75 yrds from an atv trail. He would of been easy to get out of here." He looks at me and smiles and asked "don't you have a tag in your pocket? If you thought he has such a good deal maybe you should of shot him." Ok ......spoken like a chip off the ole block.
On Thursday evening (we had to pack up Friday morning to come home) we had one more chance. We decided to hunt low and I hadn't had the chance to show him where I shot the bull that is in my profile pic. It snowed during the week so we were driving the atv down to my hunting spot and cut some fresh bull tracks. After a little investigating I told Sean that I was pretty sure I knew where he was going. We made our plan and started our stalk. Ironiclly we ended up in the same little drepression I shot the bull in my profile pic. As we sat there getting our wind I told Sean "you see that tree right over there? That's where I shot the bull back in 07." Then movment caught my eye. "Sean there he is." He was a nice 300 inch 6x6. I got the shooting stix set and Sean got down to set up for the shot. I told him to hold the cross hairs about 6 inches down from the top of his back. He aims and then asked me "how far is he?" I respond about 300 yrds. This is when I had one proud father moments. He said dad he's just too far for me you shoot him. Well as most of you that have been elk hunting know he gave us about 15 secs more than most of them will and as I readied for the shot he was gone not to be seen again.
As we drove home we visited about our week and how much fun it had been even though we never punched a tag. We saw several cows and calves, a couple huge muley bucks and got to spend a weeks worth of one on one time were we talked everything from hunting, fishing, sports school, his friends, my friends and everything in between. Looking back I see what grandpa had preached to me all those years....."don't let school interfere with your education."