I know this is more of an archery story but it is the final feat of all weapons including long range.
Every year I try to go hunting on my birthday by myself of at least part of the day. My birthday (the 10th of Sept) was plugged up with kids football meetings an evening birthday party etc. So with my September 10 schedule full I decided to take the morning of the 9th and go archery hunting for elk for the morning. I have one sweet spot for early season elk I have been work on for 4 years now. It has everything you need for early season, close access, easy approach, heavy cover and lots of traffic. I have 4 years of trail cameras pictures for data on times, days and animal size. It has been fun watching most of the same bulls over the years grow and mature. This spot has a rare feature in that the animals seldom cross here at night and tend to come just after first light and have even bedded down right in front of the camera.
On the morning of the 9th, I rolled out of bed at 04:00 hours, drove to my spot, put on my gear and quietly slipped into my spot in the dark where my ground blind was waiting. I got one of my Beeman carbon fiber arrows in the rest and set my bow in the ground holder I made. As I sat motionless in the dark I thought about having just got the stitches out of my right forearm just 3 days prior from a broken arm surgery and how I could only hold the bow at full draw for 25-30 seconds before starting to shake.
Just as it got light enough to see, the pine squirrels started in dropping cones on the forest floor (a couple even hit my blind) and making all kinds of racked, amazing how much noise the little guys can make. It had been hot and dry for several weeks now and the woods were very noisy to move around in. From my many trail camera photos I knew that most of the elk approached the area from my direct right or left but a few ran up and down the ridge itself. My setup was great this morning with a very slight breeze directly into my face and the trail intersection ahead of me. This was just perfect and like any hunt for the first hour of shooting light my focus on every sound and movement was intense. After an uneventful first hour I started to let my focus down a bit, I mean after all it is so noisy here there is no way an elk could approach without me getting plenty of heads up that he was coming.
At about the hour and a half mark of shooting light I catch a small movement to my left and very close maybe 16-17 yards away in the brush. I move only my eyes and focus on the spot where I saw the movement. After 8 or 10 seconds I realize I am looking at an elk leg in a small hole in the brush. Then it move just a little more. As I am focused all around the leg I see antler tops in the brush. Immediately I see it is a branch antlered bull, probably a 5 point from the side I can see. The bull takes one more step and now I can just see most of the full outline of the body through the brush along with a pretty good rack. My heart rate skyrockets and is about to beat out of my chest. I never heard it coming, no clue, nothing and bam there he is 16 yards, but clearly no shot. I get my Alpine Fatal Impact in my hands slowly and clip my Scotts release on the string loop. The bull takes and step and disappears from my view in a clump of brush. 30 seconds or longer go by and the bull has not stepped out in to my shooting lane. I am starting to panic a little even though I know he is still there. I wait for a couple of minutes and still no bull. Thoughts are racing through my mind, “Did he bed down right there in the brush and I have to sit here motionless until he figures it is time to get up? Did he wind me somehow? He didn’t blow out of here he must now have winded me. What in the hell is he waiting for?” These thoughts are interrupted by the fact that my bow hand, my right hand I just had surgery on is starting to ache from holding the bow. I slowly and I do mean SLOWLY lower the bow and set it in my holder. Curiosity is killing me, I know that the bull is right in front of me inside of 20 yards. I certainly don’t want to move more than is necessary but I want to see where he is. I move very carefully to my left “slicing the pie” of the shooting port in my blind until I see the light colored rump patch of the bull. That was all I needed to see, I tell myself “Don’t be stupid and expose yourself to his line of vision or you’ll get busted”. I watch the rump patch for minutes and try to use this time to slow my heart rate and calm myself down a bit. The bull finally takes another step and his head is visible in my shooting lane. I slowly move my hand to the bow but do not take it out of the holder. The bull looks up the hill and forward but does not move. Another minute passes, “What in the hell is he waiting for?” Finally he takes another step and turns extreme quartering away. I get the release on the loop again and rest my arms on my legs ready to go. The bull stands there looking up the ridge from me after 20 or 30 second he takes a step back toward me making the quartering angle not so extreme but still not what I like. I just know in my mind he is going to take another step toward me and continue down the trail he came in on, so I draw the bow to my anchor point and wait looking at my 20 yard pin. The bull is at 18 yards and still quartering away. He turns and looks straight at me for a few seconds and takes the last step I have been waiting for. A certain amount of calm comes over me and holding the 20 yard pin right in the crease I release the arrow. I watch as the arrows fletching’s disappear right in the crease at top of the heart level.
The bull jumps after the hit, forward and I grab my cow call I kept handy this whole time for this and call quickly to him, he stops in his tracks and looks at me. He just stares for maybe 20 seconds then looks ahead with that “1000 yard stare” and I know he is done. He starts to shake just a little and takes 2 or 3 steps and falls over, feet in the air only 25 or 26 yards form my blind. The calm I felt right before I released the arrow is gone. I try to text my dad as I watch the bull and can’t hardly get a 5 word message typed in. Finally it occurs to me that I have 2 bars of signal and simply call him.
With the call in to my dad I walk over to the bull and check him out. On my way over I stop to look for my arrow and find it stuck in a tree after passing through the bull, pretty cool.
He is a good solid mature 5x5. It is going to be in the mid 80’s today and I start to bone him out and get the sacks ready to pack. I had hiked almost a mile and a half into my spot but my dad is able to drive an ATV within 200 yards of the bull. This was of course no mistake and something worth considering when hunting hot weather when the meat has to get to cooler spots in a hurry. I meet dad at the ATV with 2 quarters worth and he brought a pack frame so we hustled down and finished boning out the last out the bull. We made one trip bringing out the rest of the meat and the head in one trip.
I have tried for a few years to get a mature bull with archery gear to complete the bull elk “hat trick” I have now taken a bull with a rifle, pistol, muzzleloader, shotgun and now a bow. What a great early birthday present.