After returning from Wyoming to Idaho, I put up my tent and parked my truck in the stream valley where it clearly blocked access to the ridge line and hillside where the big bull elk lived and blocked access to two of the three stream forks. I rechecked the zero on Tiger Stripes and each morning and each evening I made the half mile climb up the bulldozer trail to the switchback that was my shooting point. Opening day of deer season came and the only bucks observed were two little spike fawns over on an opposing ridgeline. Day after day wore on and no elk were seen and only brief glimpses of a few forked horn deer. One morning I took a shot at one of the spike fawns and was 1.5 MOA low. That was disturbing so I went back and checked all of my notes from the dial in and drop charts and decided to pull out a factor I had used for mirage during the dialin. I also noticed that my drop charts were set up for 8500 ft elevation and I was hunting at about 4500. There was too much white stuff up at 8,500 for the Bama boy. I ditched my old drop chart and laminated a new one that was more conservative. The day before elk season opened I got worried and drove to the top of the mountain and sure enough I found elk up there. I was down low and the heat had driven the elk up high.
Opening day of elk season it rained down low and snowed up high. I got soaking wet from hiking through the timber down low looking for sign and was greatly discouraged from finding none. The next morning I went up to my shooting point but once again got rained out. About 1:00 the road hunters caught a herd of elk coming up out of the one stream fork that I couldn’t protect and they killed a 5X6 bull. Following that there was a steady stream of trucks and ATVs patrolling the road and shooting anything that tried to get a drink of water. I was really down in the dumps then, homesick and lonesome.
I needed to go into town to get some groceries and check my emails. On the way back, I decided to go by Panther Creek and see how the bull was doing that I had found over there. What I found was about 20 horse hunters who were just day hunting out of the trailhead, so I figured either they had gotten that bull or he was elsewhere. I started to go check out the last bull that I knew of but it was clear to me that the hunting style in Idaho would have seen the deer hunters spot him and spook him. That left me with only two choices: go high and try to take a 34 inch barreled gun into the timber and shoot an elk or to have faith in where I was. I concluded that the elk had been there in late September following a good snow and the place had water, open meadow, scrub brush and deep timber, so sooner or later the elk would be back if the snow kept dropping in the high country. I also figured that for every herd bull that there should be several bachelor bulls who had to be somewhere. A couple of days went by with not a single antlered animal of any description so I thought that I would on the morrow go up the hill as usual and glass everything and then come right back down and go to town and call home and send a few emails.
As usual I got up and fixed myself oatmeal and coffee and got my backback with all the shooting gear and Tiger Stripes and hiked up the hill. It was overcast and misty and a quick scan of everything showed there was no herd of elk on the hillside. I switched over to slow traverse scan with the Kowa and a 32 X eyepiece and still nothing. I poured a cup of coffee out of the thermos and got my worthless binoculars with which I have never ever seen any animal that I could not already see and walked about 30 yards to get a slightly different angle and was looking for deer when suddenly the head and massive rack of an elk materialized out of nowhere. He was near the top of one of the scrub brush fields and only ten yards laterally from the dark timber. I hurried to the Kowa and swung it around and it was clear that he was at least a 5X5 or better and he was alone. The Bushnell 1500 showed the tree line behind him at 968 yds. I checked my firing range chart (old infantry technique from Vietnam) of the hillside and that was about correct for the top right edge of that clearing. Never knowing when your batteries will quit (of course it was Jimm’s battery in my rangefinder – you remember that battery I “borrowed” from you) or when a situation will occur that the laser rangefinder would not work I had prepared a detailed map of the whole hillside and ranges to every prominent feature. The angle was very steep for prone shooting and the short Harris bipods would not extend enough to provide the correct elevation so I moved to the two boulders that I previously lugged over for just such a steep angle shot. I flopped Tiger Stripes bipods onto the rocks and slid the two homemade beanie bags under the butt and it lined up perfectly. Not particularly being fond of the ultra high power settings of the Nightforce, I just twisted enough magnification into where I was very comfortable with the crosshair placement on the bull. Afterwards I checked and that it was at about 20 X. I don’t know why Kirby let me put such a too powerful scope on the gun. Once the gun was steady and the crosshairs were ready to go I eased a cartridge into the action and closed the bolt and waited for the animal to turn broadside for the shot. The elk was very intent on eating and was spending about 30 seconds between steps and was going pretty much straight away. About that time I realized I had not put anything between the rocks and the bipod legs to absorb shock and that the gun might bounce and cause the shot to go high like my old Ruger #1 always does. I started to get up and go to the back pack but remembered the last time I had taken my eyes off of a buck deer in the same area and never seen him again. So I just lay there hoping the gun was not too sensitive to what was under the bipod. After about ten minutes of peering through the scope at that steep angle my shoulder muscles started getting tired and quivering. I knew that would not go well for the shot and suddenly realized that I had paid extra for an adjustable cheek piece on the A-5 and I had better use it or lose this elk. With the cheek piece raised up I could relax my neck and then it became a waiting game. Briefly, I thought of the wind and felt none and saw none, so dismissed it. After about five more minutes, the elk turned toward the timber which gave me a quartering shot but he suddenly switched back to get a particularly good bite of something to eat and that gave me a true broadside so I lined up exactly back of the shoulder and mid way up the chest. The crosshairs were just really dead steady so I put pressure on the Jewel and it broke and the 200 grain wildcat was away. When all of the exhaust gases cleared away Tiger Stripes was still lined up on target – Shawn builds a good brake. The bull ran about 10 yards and stopped broadsie again and began swinging its head around looking for danger. It clearly knew something bad had happened but did not know what. I had not seen any impact but the bull was getting ready to run so I slide another 7AM wildcat into the Nesika and closed the bolt. A remembrance from the Longerange Hunting Forum flashed through my mind of Shawn Carlock saying that it was not a good idea to have to track a bull in the steep Idaho mountains and therefore the shoulder shot was preferred. For the first time in my life I lined up on the ball joint of the shoulder and fired. Time of travel is about one second but it seemed like forever before the bull reacted and tried to make a run off the hill. He took two steps and seemed to stumble on the shoulder I had tried to break as he went out of sight behind some small pines.
I had a good vantage point of the whole drainage and there was only one alley the bull could use that I might not see him and get a shot if he was on the run. I decided that even though I had broke the trigger cleanly both times that maybe my dialin was still not correct so I would wait for one hour to see if he was alive and trying to move out of the basin. It was 9:01 in the morning and exactly the time I had decided the night before that I would quit hunting and go to town.
After and hour I began the ascent, wearing my peltor 7 earmuffs so if he broke cover I could hear him and still shoot. I had Tiger Stripes rigged in the old M-60 hip carry with a sling length that allowed for a lockin on the shoulder for a running shot and the scope tuned down to 8X. I checked the bulldozer trail as I went up for any sign of him crossing and the higher I got the slower I went. Finally I was 50 yards or so downhill of where he had been when I fired and still I had seen no tracks crossing the trail. Being a bowhunter I am fairly decent at tracking. I began the climb uphill through the brush and found him lying dead. When I had seen him stumble, it was a fall that would cause him to slide 20 yards downhill and probably he was dead before he stopped sliding. The gun Kirby Allen had built had placed both bullets within three inches of each other at a range of at least 968 yards. The first 200 grain Wildcat had slide in behind the shoulder exactly as I had aimed and expanded and hit at least both lungs if not also heart and exited breaking a rib and making a 1.5 inch hole. The second bullet had exactly centered the ball joint and blown the joint into the chest cavity. The ball joint bone shrapnel sliced up everything inside the chest including most of the heart arteries. The bullet itself did not exit nor did I find any real piece of it. At one time in my life I would have been dismayed by a bullet that did not exit but the explosion of the ball joint into the chest cavity was extremely effective. It was difficult to tell but it appeared that both bullets had hid the arteries at the top of the heart and almost completely separated them. The first bullet would have been fatal within seconds but I simply had not seen the impact to know how well placed it was. As Jimm can testify, my bullet reloading techniques are something from the medieval dark ages. The ability to place two bullets within an inch or so of the aiming point says something about the craftsmanship of Kirby in building the gun and Richard in building the bullet.
I guess I need to apologize to Kirby for forgetting my camera and not getting a picture of Tiger Stripes with the bull. I had been playing on the computer the night before downloading pictures from the camera (See Peeonit) and had forgotten to repack the camera in my hunting gear the next morning. The bull was about four miles from the truck and as Kirby knows, Tiger Stripes is not a featherweight and I am not as young as I once was and I was not going to tote the gun back up the hill for a picture. When I did get the camera up the hill the bull had been gutted out and so I just took the head shot to show the antlers. My apologies for not getting the traditional gun and animal picture.
The bull is a true 6X6 with two broken tines from fighting and several gouges in the head from fighting. The check station measured the length at 41.5 inches. The rack is pretty massive and really wide. I like the broken tines because it shows he was a warrior with good character. I don’t know how big a big bull is, but I will tell you my back is so bad I can not sit up in bed anymore and I am eating Tylenol and still my back is in spasms. Next time I am just going to shoot a little one or maybe I will take up roadhunting. Did I mention that it snowed on me while I was cutting him up and I got all nasty wet and cold. Oh yeah and there is a new bull in there now who is putting big tracks over my tracks every night. I can hardly wait till next year, I hope he is really big.
First picture is my shooting point on a typical day with Tiger Stripes.
Second picture is the hillside where I took the shot
Third picture is the head of the bull.
Fourth picture is the heart showing the damage by the 200 grain wildcats and bone shrapnel. The white grainy stuff is snow. There is a knife cut on the side of the heart but all of the red tissue is bullet and bone shrapnel damage
Thanks Roy for a great hunting spot.
Thanks Jimm for all the great practice in Wyoming
Thanks Kirby for a great longrange gun
Thanks Richard for a great longrange bullet.
Thanks Shawn for a great brake and advice
Thanks Len B for a great forum