Re: Colorado DIY
10- 12- 13
As expected the alarm came early (3:30), but with it being the first day of the season it was easy to get everyone up and moving and we were out the door by 4:20. The only misstep we had to start off with was when we got to the UTV’s, one of our guys realized he forgot the key for his back at camp, so he had to run back up to the cabin and then back down.
We got the first 2 guys dropped off and then myself and another guy were off to the hollow we had been watching and had, had success in, in the past. Unfortunately, as we turned the corner I saw the unmistakable reflection of a truck reflector already parked there! We then had to quickly come up with a new plan of attack. my buddy decided (reluctantly) to go up to the first rock slide and I would try to find a spot at the second rock slide.
At this point my day began taking a turn for the absolute worst! Here we were on the opening morning, a day I had planned, thought about, even been dreaming about for the last 2 years and I was scrambling to pick some random spot I really hadn’t given much thought to at all! Then as I got off of the UTV I didn’t walk 20 feet until I stepped into a creek and got my right foot soaking wet. Then as I chose a spot in the dark, that I had no idea whether it would be any good or not I couldn’t help but be frustrated beyond belief.
To make things worse, while I’m sitting there I see a truck pull up and 3 guys get out about 500 yards down below me. For some reason this area seemed to be crawling with guys this year, fortunately I watched them begin hiking up the other side of the valley.
Then not long after that my hydration bladder froze so I had nothing to drink for the day. On top of that, I could already hear one of my good friends saying to me “I told you, you need to get as far back in as possible”. I knew I would never hear the end of this, and it seemed to just be one thing after another!
Finally around 7:30 our luck began to change for the better. One of the guys came on the radio and he could see 21 elk up on the top of the mountain where his brother was (and atleast 8 of them were bulls)! They were chatting about which bull they were going to shoot and which one was the biggest. At times, they were even watching some of the smaller bulls fighting with one another!
Things were definitely taking a turn for the better!
After about an hour I couldn’t take it anymore as I was so cold and that coupled with my frustration level, I decided that I was going to walk up the meadow a little bit in hopes of closing the distance on any possible shots and also to warm up.
I was only walking for about 10 minutes when I noticed the group of hunters that went up the other mountain were just sitting about 200 yards off of the road (and I wasn’t sure what they were up to...turns out they were glassing a bull moving in my direction). Well after continuing on, I glanced up to my right and to my disbelief a bull was walking up the mountain ! I quickly dropped to my knees and ranged him (311 yards), than I dove into the snow to try and get in the prone position and shoot off of my bipod, which quickly failed as the snow was too deep and the angle wasn’t right. I popped back up and sat down and rested the gun on my knees. As I readied the crosshairs he was walking straight away from me up the mountain and I remember saying “turn, turn” and eventually he did!
That’s when the fun started! The crosshairs steadied right behind his shoulder and BANG!
It wasn’t clear if the first shot hit its mark or not, but after that first shot he continued quickly walking up the hill. The second shot, I knew was not ideal, but I knew this was the bed that I had now made! So, as he walked straight away I remember centering the crosshairs on the back of his neck, BANG. After that, I put another shell in and he turned broadside, BANG.
I switched clips and as I got the gun back up, he was still standing there on the knoll of this mountain, simply standing there. So again, BANG. Put another shell in, BANG. Put another shell in, BANG. I remember it crossing my mind, that he must be hit, but, if he's still on his feet, im going to keep shooting.
He continued to stand there and I was now down to 3 single bullets left! As I was fumbling to get a bullet into the chamber (I can vividly remember looking down at my gun, and watching the bullet load into the chamber) I remember bringing my gun up and thinking to myself “look for blood on his side, look for blood in the snow, he has to be hit”....but there was nothing. Again I fired, BANG. Quickly I scrambled to get another shell into the chamber and as I repeated the same thoughts in my head (looking for blood and he must be hit) I thought “take your time, make sure those crosshairs are where you want them and make this one count”, BANG.
My stress level was now through the roof as I was reaching for my last bullet. As I was sliding it into the chamber my thoughts now turned to “this is it, after this shot I’m out of bullets, Oh My Gosh I’m going to miss out on the opportunity to get an elk because I didn’t bring enough bullets with me” and then as I was bringing the scope back to his shoulder, one of those sites you will never forget!
The bull slowly began to lean backwards, slightly stumbling and then ultimately falling down into the snow!
I didn’t know what to do. I quickly checked my watch 8:16 and then grabbed my radio.
I called my buddies on the radio and let them know i just shot a bull
I still wasn’t 100% positive that he was down for good and with only one bullet left I wanted to get up there as quickly as possible so I could finish him off if need be. I quickly started hiking up when I got to about 50 yards away I could tell that he was officially down.
For the record, we later found out that I did connect on 6 of the 8 shots!
At this point, I’ll admit I got a bit emotional, as this was the culmination of hundreds of hours of running, backpacking, lifting, shooting, and preparing for an opportunity like this. As I finally put my hands on him and looked around its hard to put into words what was in front of me. Certainly I could appreciate everything that had just unfolded, with a great bull and the beautiful scenery. And certainly my anticipation for that call home to tell my daughters and wife. But to sit there and realize how lucky i was to have a nice bull on the ground and to be surrounded by such beautiful country is something I will never forget.
Unfortunately, the guys never caught up to the herd of 21 elk, but that was better for me, as i know had help to get my elk of of the mountain!
At that point all the guys eventually came up to help me skin and quarter my elk. They got to me around 11 am and the work truelly started. I must admit that between the four of us (who had never done this before) we did a bang up job, quartering, deboning and caping the elk for the pack out!
We finally were heading back down the mountain around 3:30 and it was brutal. I thought I was physically prepared for packing an elk out, but nothing can prepare you for throwing a pack of about 75-100 pounds on your back and then walking down a mountain across rock slides, over fallen trees and through a foot of snow!
By the time we got back to the road, we were all done. We packed the elk onto the UTV’s and took a nice slow ride back to camp.