Many truths can be found prior to ever starting out on a hunting adventure. Truth be told, on this trip I was less than 100% dedicated to the cause, if you know what I mean. Late season rifle hunts usually mean one thing…time to share my hunting heritage with my little shadow, Garrett, who is 7. This wasn’t a trophy hunt, but a fun hunt for Colorado bulls. Garrett experienced his first hunting trip at the age of 3, when he lay right beside me as (we) took a trophy central coast mule deer in California. Ever since that day, I’ve made sure in my busy schedule that there is always a trip planned for him.
This year was no different and as we prepared for our elk hunt, I sensed his excitement growing for the hunt. Unfortunately as most kids do, Garrett contracted an awful ear infection ousting him from heading to the mountains, hence my lack of dedication. The hunting heritage, to me, is dying and we need as many youngsters out learning and participating as we can get…listen to me, I sound like my dad, but with video games and other technological distraction, today too many kids find themselves inside and not outside.
Even with Garrett not able to go, I still made sure he was part of the trip. He picked out the rifle I would use, he helped with the grocery list, and even showed me on a couple pictures where I should place a shot if by chance I was lucky enough to take one. It was an added pressure that his expectations were high and that I needed to perform not just for my own self-gratification, but for his!
Wednesday morning found me staring at my 3 year hunting plan on a whiteboard in my office. I’m pretty sure my employer didn’t get their money’s worth that day, but I’ve made up for it in days past. Soon a text rang in…my hunting partner and good friend RAMZ had successfully helped his wonderful wife, Yolanda take her first big game animal. (Kudos to her) With one animal on the deck, my anxiety to get out of the office and on the road reached panic levels…finally 1pm, I’m out!
Upon arrival it was time to strap on the pack and help RAMZ get the last load of Yolanda’s elk out. We made pretty quick work of it and decided to head to the top of a ridge to glass before dark be-fell us.
Now, prior to thinking that I’m a spotting crackerjack, I’ll tell you my eyes tend to fail me in most cases, but this evening was different. I immediately spotted 3 bulls at about 1500 yards from our position. Not knowing the quality we made a quick decision to see if we could get in on them at before nightfall.
Boy did that start the fire drill! “Where’s my orange hat, where’s my rangefinder, do you want to bring the pack?” These were the last minute questions being tossed out before we bailed off the side of the hill to make our stalk. The big question was could we cover at least 1300 yards before we lose the light to shoot?
When we dropped into the bottom from the ridge where I figured we could get a shot, my confidence began to grow. I got to thinking “this actually might happen…” We descended about 1000 ft and were headed back up to what looked like a perfect spot to make the shot. As we got to the top of the ridge, RAMZ creped over and confirmed the bulls were still there. 3 bulls were in the aspens with 2 lying down and 1 lethargically feeding.
It’s November 14th, and with about a foot of snow, these bulls were definitely in their winter pattern. I slowly moved forward to a rock where I could rest my pack and take a good prone position. 183 yards with just minutes to spare before light was lost to darkness. We had successfully closed the gap, now the big question, do I take the shot? With the bull standing being a legal bull it came down to, do I want to shoot a smaller bull or hold out for a couple of 6 points that RAMZ had been seeing in the area?
All of us desired to pursue and kill trophy animals, but in the 1300 yards I just covered; was there not a trophy in every step? If Garrett was here there would be no question in taking the shot. The HUNT was complete except for the trigger squeeze. I had accomplished every aspect of a trophy hunt and it was time to decide whether I would be satisfied with an average bull by Colorado standards.
One last breath came out before I squeezed the first shot off. Perfect hit on a quartering shot! – Thank you Garrett we discussed that shot…The bull turned broadside and the second shot anchored him to the blank of snow. High fives and grins of satisfaction were exchanged between RAMZ and I as we felt complete in our accomplishment!
Now the why! I’ve experience many great trophy elk hunts. From Arizona to Montana, every elk hunt has been a great adventure. But, I’ve learned through the experiences with my son, that the trophy is in the HUNT. The pursuit with friends, family or on my own means more than the size of the antlers. The decent from the ridge right before dark, or the success of someone else taking their first elk earlier that day, was a culmination of success’, topped off by my bull.
Wow, am I treating the hunt more about life. Most certainly, and my goal from this hunt to another is to make every hunt more about the experience, more about the time spent in pursuit. More about the time spent with family and friends.
I want to make the trophy…The HUNT!