I’ve always had a love for Elk. Personally, I’ve crowned them as the greatest big game animal you can hunt. They are loud, smart, elusive, stink to high heaven and are flat out majestic. I don’t know how anyone can be around elk and not love every second. They are truly an icon of the West and a personal favorite to pursue each fall. This year, for 2017, I opted to roll the dice and hunt CO with close friends Carson and fellow MTN OPS employee, David DeAustin. Carson has hunted CO more than myself so we leaned on his expertise to make sure we were in the right area at the right time. After months of planning, changing the plan and changing the plan some more, we decided on hunting during the 2nd Season rifle hunt in the western plains of the state. Our hopes were that the elk would still be vocal and easy to locate, giving us an opportunity to potentially punch my tag using my recurve.
After a grueling 10 hour drive, filled with pit-stops, roadside yoga leg-stretching sessions and grinding through a Wyoming blizzard, we arrived near where we planned on spending the next 6 days hunting. Carson, who knew the area well, suggested we sleep in the truck that night as there was a large meadow near where we were camping that usually held elk during the night, and we didn’t want to push the elk out. Tired, stiff and sore, we all grabbed our sleeping bags and fell asleep at about 2:30 am.
After hiking to a vantage point, we soon glassed up a handful of different bulls, bedded sporatically across the steep mountainside in the thickest, nastiest stuff they could find. Unfortunately none of these bulls really tickled our fancy and defintely didn’t meet the requirement to be first day bulls.
We continued to glass and pick apart the country, hoping we’d find a bull worth going after. As the day was begining to end, we glassed down to the meadow below our camp and saw roughly 200 elk filing out to feed. The wind was still ripping but held consistent enough that we knew if we bombed off the top to get a better look, we’d have a solid chance at getting in range. We quickly worked our way down and as we got within about 1000 yards, out stepped a beautiful 6 point bull. He was substantially larger than any of the other small rag horns or bulls that we’d seen that day. I looked at Carson and asked him, “What do you think?”. He replied without hesitation, “You need to kill that bull.” After a quick look at the situation, knowing that we had roughly 30 minutes left of light and that it would be very difficult to beat over 200 sets of eyes, to get within bow range, I opted to take Carson’s rifle and work into a comfortable range. At 300 yards the bull cleared the other elk and offered a wide-open broadside shot. The crosshairs settled and the Weatherby 300 Win. Mag barked. The gun shot was answered by the reassuring sound of the bullet finding it’s mark. Elk ran every direction possible and began to leave the meadow. The bull was not with them.
We made our way down to where the bull was standing minutes before and were greeted by the bulls beautiful dark antlers sticking out of the tall grass. A few moments of congratulations and hugs were shared between friends and we spent some time admiring the fallen warrior, talking about how much we each enjoyed hunting them and how grateful we were for the many meals and memories this bull would provide.
We spent the next few hours butchering and getting the meat back to camp, where it would hang for the night in the cool evening temperatures. Call me crazy, but preparing the meat is my favorite part of the hunt. Heck, the meat is why I hunt; not because I enjoy gore or am some carnal monster, it’s because I know that I’m going to be consuming the cleanest meat in the world. No growth hormones, no disease and zero potential of getting something other than what I wanted. It feeds my family, friends and anyone else who raises their hands and wants to try elk for the first time. The bottom line – Hunting is conservation and hunting is a lifestyle. It’s part of who I am and something that will never change.