As unpredictable as elk usually are, I was fortunate enough to pattern a small herd to be feeding across a stubble field between heavily treed pasture and standing corn. Having eyes on them morning and night for 3 continual days before the season, I was able to identify the two main points of entry which they were using in and out of the timber. Although 12 elk nonchalantly crossed the field opening morning, I unfortunately chose the wrong trail to set up on. Sitting in anguish, but knowing there was really no other choice, I decided to not pressure. Admittedly I did at first take a few steps closer, but soon thereafter my brain sent a clear message to not mess up the good thing I had going on here. Instead I made the decision to just watch them pass and ensure not getting busted and blowing them out of the area for good. A feat of restraint that would have been a lot less likely to occur in my younger, more zealous years. Sitting here now reflecting upon that, I am very pleased and a little surprised to report that with lots of age I have gained at least a few small morsels of wisdom.
The evening hunt was a better story after setting up on the other route with the wind in my favour. I hunkered down in the fence line, as much as a 6’5 Polish specimen can hunker anyways, but set back 80 yds off of the trail to stay in better cover. Only 3 elk would show tonight but there were plenty of whitetail come out to feed much earlier which kept things entertaining. Included in the deer was a 140 class buck that came in and presented a near gimme broadside shot at 40 yards. Temptation was immense but he received a free pass as Wapiti was on the forefront of the priority list. Maybe it was with good luck, but I prefer to think of it rather as good Karma, the elk would eventually make an appearance. The first elk to come out was a better bull, but to my dismay he worked on a line directly further away from my vantage point. I attempted to turn his course of direction with some light cow calls but he seemed to be immune to my attempted sweet talk. It is often said that elk are a different breed, and I now know it be true. Either that or I’m losing my touch, for few Cougars from the happy hunting grounds of the Palomino could resist my enticing calls back in the late 90’s.
Anyhow, roughly 10 minutes later two bulls of similar size, and both smaller than the first, came out of the same spot in the tree line. To my good fortune they set out on the path of travel I had anticipated. They continued to work across, coming ever closer in front of me, with multiple stops to either graze on the fresh regrowth or lock antlers in a couple light wrestling matches for my viewing pleasure. Nearing last light, during their final low intensity Donnybrook, I ranged the pair at 60 yards. As I lowered my heart rate, and drew back the Hoyt, they separated and worked a few yards closer yet. I picked the slightly larger of the two bulls and anchored on his vitals with 55 yards in mind. As soon as he stepped that front leg forward the 100gr Annihilator broadhead on a 340gr FMJ was sent his way. Watching the orange nocturnal fly into the 10 ring and disappear shortly thereafter was nothing less than a thing of beauty. A moment in time, one in seemingly slow motion, which perfectly mirrored the numerous times I had already seen that arrow flight play out in my mind. He quickly spun and took off on a quick sprint for a little over 100 yds, however the run soon slowed to a wobble and ended in a statuesque last stand.
As he toppled over in plain sight I have to admit that the adrenaline and excitement overcame my usual restraint, and may have culminated in a couple personal fist pumps and my best Ric Flair impersonation for a few short seconds. A reaction that I honestly am not overly fond of, however since it stemmed from a true sense of accomplishment I don’t believe that it can be faulted. Be that as it may, the much more profound feelings of appreciation for the moment, and respect for the animal, quickly came into their rightful place of importance. And to be perfectly honest, it’s now two days later and those emotions haven’t subsided very much if any. This will forever be a constant reminder of my good fortune in this world and a source of great pride for all the years or days I have left afield. The immense personal affect that this incredible experience has bestowed upon myself is nearly impossible to put into typed words. So if I can’t do it eloquently, I’ll have to do it as matter of fact. As Colonel Hannibal Smith reiterated all through my formative years . . . . “I love it when a plan comes together”