Almost Too Close
This elk hunt took place in 1989 and I was 19 years old. It was the first combined season (back then the first season was combined deer and elk) and some relatives from Nebraska were hunting with us. We arrived to set up camp the Friday before season in the afternoon.
Opening morning I found myself hunting in the same spot I took my very first bull the year before. I got within ten yards of a spike bull in some heavy oak brush, but did not find a legal bull that morning. That afternoon we tried making a drive to push elk to several of the guys in our hunting party. Just after we got started into the drive a wicked storm moved in on us with blowing snow and the clouds right on the ground. You could only see all of ten yards in front of you and I thought for sure that the new guys were going to be in for a long night and not come out where they were meant to, but to my surprize everybody made out to where we could find them.
Day two found us hunting the top again with a little bit of snow on the ground and colder temps. We did not find any elk in the morning, but while we were making another drive in the afternoon on another ridge top, one of the Nebraskan relatives connected on a small 3x2 muley. He did not know, but when he connected on the deer he pushed five elk right to me. There were four cows, a calf, and another spike bull. Nothing legal again.
Day three found us hunting in warmer weather and things started drying out. We did not even see a single elk, but it was just great being out there.
Day four I took off on my own hunting just a little lower country (pinion, junipers, and cedar trees). I did not find anything in the morning, but things were about to change. In the afternoon I took off on my own again and headed down off the end of some big sagebrush flats. I was moving slowly through some very thick cover and most of the time I could not see more than twenty yards. I was getting to where I was two miles from the vehicle when I heard the familar sound of elk hoofs clicking on rocks. They were not making a single sound (cow calls or mews) while they were sneaking along heading back up country to feed for the night. I could not see them, but I knew they were getting close. I started sneaking even slower to where I thought they were coming from when all of a sudden the lead cow was standing six yards in front of me and looking right at me. "I WAS BUSTED !" I slowly started turning the bolt on the rifle and trying to get a shell in and I just knew she was going to bust out of there when another cow pushed her out of the way. She turned and headed to the right of me while another small bull pushed the second cow out of the way. Then two more little bulls came up and did the same thing and finally a legal bull pushed them out of the way and was standing head on looking at me. My scope was on three power and the bull was now at five yards. I raised my rifle and looked threw the scope, but it was to close and all I could see was a brown blur, so I looked down the side of the rifle and put it on the center of his neck and pulled the trigger. He dropped instantly as he was paralyzed from the neck down so I put one more in his head. It was crazy as elk were busting brush every where around me as they all took off. I had to get him taken care of quickly as the sun was heading down fast. After I had him taken care of I had to get back out of there and be able to find him in the morning so I started cutting my blaze orange into small strips and tieing them into trees as I walked out. It was so dark that night I could not see my hand in front of my face so I just kept walking and tieing the blaze orange in the trees hoping that I was walking straight out and I would still be able to find the markers in the morning. I found the truck luckily just by sticking my hand out where I thought the truck would be. It took me until 9:30 p.m. to get back to the truck and I made it back to camp around 10:15 p.m. As I told the guys at camp the about the great experience I had I knew that I had just ended the hunt for the rest of them because we now had an elk to pack out.
The next morning we got our packs together and headed back down country. As I followed my orange and pulled it from the trees I could not believe how straight I had walked out of there in the pitch black darkness. We made it to the bull around 8:30 a.m. and took some picks and got him loaded in the packs. We made it back to camp around 4:00 p.m.
We had a great hunt even though I was the only one to take elk that season, but I did send the Nebraskans back home with an elk hide, some elk legs for a gun rack, and even shared some tasty elk with them.