Almost Too Perfect
December of 2010, I had gone off a horse and broken my arm in three places. It took a lot of hard work to regain the strength I needed for the approaching archery season. Purchasing a new Mathews EZ7 was the best decision I made. The smooth draw made it possible for me to work my poundage back up where I needed it for hunting. Dialed in, healed up, and a tired of waiting, I was so very ready for September.
My anticipation had reached its highest level for me after six seasons of unfilled tags. There were plenty of learning experiences along the way, though. And I approached this Fall with more determination and confidence than ever.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to harvest a few animals with my bow, but the elk had always eluded me. During my earliest hunting years it only took a mudded up bugler to leave me shaking so hard I couldn’t even muster the strength to pull my bow. In later seasons, hard learned lessons on draw timing, elk that come in silent, and ranging trees upon initial set up would bring me to the preparation point of this year.
The afternoon of the second day in camp, we headed out with a definite destination in mind. A heavily wooded ridge with a creek flowing through the bottom had shown us signs of recent elk movement. Fresh tracks, new rubs, and munched on mushrooms indicated an area we wanted to be.
As we headed out, we passed a trail that qualified as something I call an “elk highway.” We set up and called for a bit but nothing responded. It was early evening so we had plenty of time ahead of us. Continuing up the ridge we did find our way into an exciting situation.
At one point I was nearly surrounded. Cows were chirping behind and in front of me. A bull was bugling to my right. I could see the afternoon sun highlighting his golden brown eyes. His muzzle peaked high into the air every time he released his gruff bugle. There was no way he was leaving those cows and I couldn’t move in or his girls would have ratted me out. I settled in and enjoyed the sounds and smells of being smack dab in the middle of a really great start to elk season.
We soon decided we were really far from camp and it would be good to start making our way back. Because it’s wise to always hunt your way out, we set up in a few places but only heard the distant sound of bulls responding. Eventually, once again coming to the “elk highway,” we decided to try it one more time.
My husband, Eric, set up in the trees behind me to begin calling. I placed myself on a log downwind of the trail. With young trees as my backdrop, I felt well concealed. In front of me, a small hill extended about 30 feet from the forest floor.
As Eric called, we heard a few bulls but they were pretty far in the distance. The evening air was becoming brisk and I was enjoying the relaxing sounds of the elk. That is, until they were right on top of me.
Suddenly there were some cows just on the other side of the hill in front of me. They were chirping loudly and closing in fast. Then, I heard the low groan of a bull who was becoming very upset. His cows were leaving him to come into our calls and he was not pleased.
Within moments, he moved just to the left of the hill but was still out of sight. My eyes widened as he let out the largest, angriest, roughest bugle he could muster. I thought, “This is happening, and it’s happening right now!” I got ready and when his nose appeared at the edge of the trees, I started to draw my bow. He was coming in at a fast trot. I panned to my left as I drew back, so I could keep up with how fast he was coming in.
Directly to my left was a clearing in the trees that would give me a broadside shot. I cow called just in time for him to skid to a stop, perfectly placed in the clearing. I could not believe how this worked out. I had a beautiful bull, broadside, and at 15 yards. I picked a spot, centered my pin, and let it fly. My pink Lumenok did its job and let me know the arrow had landed right where I wanted. He charged forward and veered to his right, circling back up into the thick trees. It had been mere seconds since the shot when I heard the incredible sound of logs and limbs being torn apart as he crashed to the ground.
Shaking with adrenaline, I laid my bow on the ground. When I looked up, there appeared a yearling cow elk. She had followed the path that bull had made just moments before. Yards from me, she stood confused. Searching for the bull and not finding the elk that should be visual in the trees where Eric’s calls continued. Her confusion was endearing. Eventually becoming almost bored with the situation, she meandered back up the trail.
It was then that I hopped to my feet and nearly ran to my husband’s side. His smile matched mine and we exchanged hugs and high fives. In that moment I realized, I had successfully harvested my first archery elk.