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flewthecoupe's picture
Joined: 06/07/2011
Posts: 79
My first elk

I started and stopped writing this and here I am starting again. It seems everyone gets so excited over a successful hunt whether it is their first or their 50th. Why did my hunt, first successful hunt in 5 seasons and first elk ever, end so anticlimactically? It was a hunt that started out like many other seasons. 1st rifle. Had an either sex tag this year instead of a cow tag like usual. It was a new area for me and I wasn't able to get boots on the ground but did get some advice for a general area. I got there the day prior to get some light scouting done. Saw 2 muleys and 1 bear that evening at dusk. The first ridge and valley system was tough. Maybe 4 miles the first day with 2000' of elevation gain. The unit is known for two directions when hunting, either up or down. I surprised 1 good sized muley but nothing else big. Lots of old sign, tracks, poop, rubs, etc. Nothing newer than a couple days old. Did see several birds that looked like huge grouse. Maybe they were. On day 2 I started up an old wagon/jeep trail that quickly turned into a mess that was impassible by horse. Good thing I was on foot, right? Well, between the thickets, deadfalls, creek crossings, etc. I only made about a mile by about 2pm that day. Not to mention I move slow and quiet. I was able to sneak up on 3 more muleys. I also lost about 30 minutes waiting out a couple small storms. Knowing what I came through and what weather was forecast I almost started heading back to a spot where I wanted to watch come sundown. Looking at my map and the time I decided to forge ahead, going a little deeper, a little further. There was a nice fork in the canyon about a 3/4 mile away and I wanted to get there to see what may be in the grassy area at the fork. I made it maybe another 1/2 mile or so to a point where the valley walls weren't quite so steep and rocky and was able to look to the north at a nice saddle. The slope was steep and grassy and perfect. Perfect for 2 bulls and 6-8 cows to be grazing and resting in the afternoon sun. Here I was. About 20 yds from me to the north is where the treeline ended. I looked at the valley wall and knew there was no way I could break the cover of the trees without getting busted and losing my chance. It was about 3pm by now. My range finder told me 300yds... uphill, steep uphill. My fear was of them trotting the additional 100yds across the saddle and being gone in the heavy, dark, north slope timber. I knew I didn't have a lot of time. Definitely didn't think there was enough time to go back down the valley and use the small spurs and draws to get closer. The fear of them running was real. I wasn't 100% thrilled at taking a 300yd shot up that steep of a hill. I tried calling them down. Bugles, cow calls, nothing. The bull would answer but they wouldn't budge. It was like he was saying, "We are here, come to us." After about 15 minutes of analyzing and with a few calls here and there I decided I had to take the shot. I had broken my 30" bipod earlier that day. It was a homemade bipod that doubled as a walking stick and would have been perfect. So I extended the bipod on my rifle... only10 inches... not high enough for that type of a shot uphill. Slowly sliding my pack off my back and positioning it in front of me, I got a nice stable base. The next thought was, "shooting uphill, more affect of gravity, I need to aim a little higher." The bull was beautifully broadside. I put the 300yd dot about 4-6" higher than normal, took a nice breath, and pulled the trigger. He tried to take a step and dropped. Twice he tried to get up and couldn't. 15 seconds and it was over. Every hunting trip I have 2 prayers, keep me safe and, should I have a chance, make my bullet fly true and the kill be quick. This was an answer to my prayers. There was no adrenaline rush. No overflow of emotion. Maybe if the elk was at 20 yds and charging. I don't know. All I remember is; here's my chance, now he's down, the work begins. I spent the next 4 hours cutting up the hind the quarters, front shoulders, and backstraps. Now it's almost 730pm, it's cold, it had been snowing the little dippin' dots for over 2 hours, and I'm tired. I drag/half carry 3 game bags with about 120# of meat down the hill. The backstraps were all I could fit in my daypack. I never did get them to the the treeline that night. I found a nice big rock and threw the rear quarters and the shoulders on it and prepared myself for the mile and a half walk back to my truck. A mile and a half. Another 2000' of elevation, mostly down hill. But still had the deadfalls, briar patches, stream bed, etc. I thought I was in decent shape. Thought. Once back at the truck I could relax, get some food, call the family. Sleep was elusive, as elusive as the elk normally are. I didn't get up until 8am that following morning. Once up and out and back at the kill site a drug those 3 game bags down to treeline and put them under a nice evergreen in the shade. Knowing the temps in the valley would stay in the high 30's, maybe low 40's, the meat would stay cool from the just below freezing temps from overnight. Now, the trek back uphill to get the tenderloins, rib meat, some neck meat, and any scraps that weren't cleanly cut from the night before. I made 2 trips that day. By the time I got back to the truck after trip 2 I knew I couldn't get up and back before nightfall and wasn't keen on the idea of making another trip through that terrain in the dark with upwards of 80# on my back. So, I stayed at the truck. Another night of asking God to keep the bears and buzzards away from my game bags. That following morning had me up earlier than the previous day even though sleep was fitful. I climbed the hill a third time to take the antlers and the ivory, went back down to grab the final 2 bags, and was back at the truck, headed home by noon. That last trip was the heaviest by far. Pure ornery. Nothing else explains why I took the rest of the meat in one trip instead of two. I just knew there was no way I wanted to make a fourth trip. I learned 2 things that trip. First, if you think you're in good enough shape, work out some more. And second, no matter how big and bulky the illusion of too much backpack your game hauler is for a day trip.. take it. Being able to take out 40-60# or more of meat on the first trip is a hell of a lot better than only being able to take back straps because it's all that fits in your day pack and making for an extra trip when you do have the big pack.

Thanks for sticking with the long post. Now, my one quesion: Does anyone else not have the adrenaline rush, etc. or am I just odd?


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Critter's picture
Grand Slam Challenge Winner!Moderator
Location: Western Colorado
Joined: 03/26/2009
Posts: 4423
Congrats on the elk.  We like

Congrats on the elk. 

We like the stories because a lot of us have been there done that and we love to hear other stories and read about other hunters experiences.  They never get old, it is a lot like reading Outdoor Life or Sports Afield over and over again you never get enough of it. 

As for the adrenaline rush, we all get it weather it is a meat cow or a trophy bull.  When that drug starts pumping through your veins there is no better feeling and it will last a good long while.  At least until you really have to get down to business and start packing out all that good meat.  The first trip usually isn't too bad, the second makes you wonder, the third you start to question your good judgement, the fourth you know that you have now gone insane but know that you have to get that meat off of the mountain.  Now comes the fith, sixth, seventh, and even the eighth trip and you are about to swear off mountain hunting forever, at least until the next morning when the soreness has worn off and you can just sit there with a cup of coffee or your favorite beverage and bask in the glory of what you have just accomplished. 

A lot of people just don't understand us hunters but then that is why this forum is here, to help the adicted. 

flewthecoupe's picture
Joined: 06/07/2011
Posts: 79
Thanks, Critter, for the

Thanks, Critter, for the congrats. But for the adrenaline rush... it never happened for me. It was like a day at the range. I was more overwhelmed by how underwhelmed I was in that I completely didn't experience the euphoria that most hunters have. I really thought I'd be giddy like a school girl. It was almost a let down. I agree with the craziness of the trips packing out the meat and swore after my last that I would ever do it again.. until I got home and was able to put in the freezer... For the simple fact of putting meat in the freezer I can hardly wait to tag another!

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