Like any successful elk hunter, I will never forget my first bull. I got him the first year that I took over planning for our group's hunts. I did a ton of electronic and phone scouting prior to the draw that year and came up with what I figured to be the answer to our group's elk hunting dilemma. Our scouting trip to the area in August got us revved up. We were seeing groups of 15-30 elk on a regular basis. I even got video of bulls fighting and bugling. Needless to say, when opening morning rolled around, complete with 1.5 inches of freshly fallen snow, I was ready to put an elk on the ground. I made the 3 mile hike to my pre-determined spot in the dark. I got to my spot 45 minutes before the shooting light and it started to snow... and yes, I was covered in sweat and FREEZING. As soon as it got light enough to see, I saw cows with calves.
They were about 700 yards away and moving down into scrub oak where I wouldn't have a chance in hell at them, so I took off in their direction. By the time I got to where they had been, they had descended into the "Congo" and I was even colder than ever. Then all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I spotted movement. The biggest bull I have seen within rifle range (during a season that I had a bull tag for) stepped out and bugled in the direction of the cows. I dropped to a knee, he looked my way, I settled the crosshairs a third of the way up behind the shoulder and slowly added pressure to the trigger. The shot rang out.
He spun and ran but otherwise didn't act hit. After two hours of looking for blood in the snow I gave up. I put in all that time scouting to be paid off with an opportunity at a great bull and I had MISSED? I couldn't believe it. I didn't fill any big game tag before night fall and thus according to camp tradition... the bill of my hat was cut off since I had missed a shot and hadn't brought back meat. After running through the scenario a million times I realized what had happened. My Rem 700 SS DM in 270 Winchester is a real shooter (sub-moa) and always has been. But the first shot out of a clean and oiled barrel is always thrown high and right. I had cleaned the rifle but hadn't burned the oil as I call it (even though I do not store it with excess oil floating around in there). But the real kicker was the amount of snow that had made it into muzzle and just made matters worse.
I returned to that spot morning after morning, hoping for the opportunity to re-present itself. Finally on the fourth and last day of the hunt it did. It was about 11:00 when my brother and dad emerged from the aspens, ending the push that they had just done in order to meet up with me. By the time my brother had made it up to me, my dad was still 300 yards out. Then I heard crashing in the aspens coming our way from the opposite direction that they had hiked. I yanked my brother to the ground and got my rifle up in the kneeling position. Six bulls came charging into view filtering through the aspens. I tried to get the crosshairs on the lead bull (which happened to be the largest) but when I looked through the scope, all I could see was hair. I had made the greenhorn mistake of leaving my scope cranked up to full power. By the time I got the scope adjusted back down to 4X the lead bull had made it around a knob and was out of sight. The crosshairs traced on the first bull that I came to. At a full run and at a little over 100 yards, I held on the forward part of the shoulder as a lead and let a 130 grain western silvertip fly. My lead was perfect and clipped the top of the heart. He stumbled and broke off from the "conga line" of bulls still running full bore through the trees. He got back up and kept running and I shot again using the same lead. The second bullet hit 1 inch above the first. Not too bad for running shots!
When he stumbled, my brother proclaimed, "he broke his antler in the fall!" I knew that wasn't possible but I had briefly noticed something strange with his left antler before he fell out of sight. We were in for quite the surprise when we got up to him. He WAS A NON-TYPICAL CLUB BULL! My first bull elk and it was a freak! But I couldn't have been happier. My dad ran up to us and the celebration began. It took the rest of the day to pack him the 3 miles uphill back to our truck. But I didn't even feel the pain in my legs that night around the campfire. I had become an elk hunter.