Pictured from left to right is me, Russ, Mary, Ken,and Bill. Russ has quite a few horses, and keeps some cattle as well. Mary and Russ love to ride their horses, and have a big trailer with sleeping quarters, for overnighters! They had left the ranch, during the middle of the week, to explore some beautiful country, with a group of fellow cowboys and cowgirls. We assured them we would be able to manage without them, even though it was going to be tough-yeh right!
Now back to Thursday morning. We had decided to explore the ranch in the morning and elk hunt in the evening. We packed allot of adventure into that day! First we went to the Pine River, and caught dinner for that evening. On our trip we saw a flock of Merriman turkeys (first I’d ever seen,) and one nice mule deer buck. Once back at the ranch, we took a hike, and came across bear scat, and a huge lion track. This track was over top of my boot prints from the day before. Now if that don’t get your heart pumping, your already dead! Mountain lion are rarely seen, even though there is a viable population around the ranch. During our stay we came across the remains of a mule deer, clearly taken down by a lion. (scat in the area) A side arm would of been nice to have,, were my thoughts, as I gripped my now puny looking bow!
That evening, before I went to my blind, I took some cow elk scent wafers with me, as I walked about a quarter mile past my blind. every 100 yards or so I placed a wafer in the trees. As I started back to my blind I had a stick, and was “smacking” it on the low tree branches, as I ran, squeezing my “Hoochie Momma” elk call! Once at the blind I gave a series of cow calls, and then waited. It wasn’t 5 minutes later that I saw the tawny brown side of an elk coming down the ridge they had been using. He was a lovely 5×5, and I’m sure he was the same bull we had seen the first evening on the ranch. He came trotting into the clearing, I was watching, then stopped 30 yard out. I was confident at that yardage, and the angle was quartering away-perfect! He stood still looking for the cow that was inviting him for a rendezvous. I put my 30 yard pin on his chest, aiming for the last rib. Upon release I knew before the arrow hit it was going to be a “good” shot! “Smack!” The distinct sound of ribs being penetrated echoed through the little valley floor. As he took off in a semi-circle back toward where he came, I noticed more arrow sticking out than I felt comfortable with. I also saw blood appear, around the shaft, upon contact.
In my head I’m thinking “ok you only got one lung, but that should be enough if you don’t push him this evening!” I did go over to where he started back up the ridge, and found blood, so I headed back to give the other guys with the good news. What a sleepless night I put in.
Once we had enough light, it took about a half hour to pick up his trail. He was on a game trail, and heading toward the ranch on top of a ridge. During the tracking process he started to bleed from both sides of his chest. We assumed he pushed the arrow all the way through, and it wasn’t going to be long until we found him piled up. When we got to the end of the ridge, we lost the blood trail! We fanned out in all directions trying to think like an elk, to no avail. For two hours we tried to pick up the trail again, but he seemed to have vanished into thin air. We were now cutting into the evening hunting schedule, and we still had to pack for the flight home. Needless to say I did not hunt that evening. I have never before, or since, been so depressed about a hunting experience like I was about this one. How? Why? What could have been done differently? Was I shooting enough poundage? (68#) If I knew that elk was going to survive I probably wouldn’t have felt as bad, but in my heart I knew he was lion bait! I even considered giving up hunting-for about five minutes that is. This was not the happy ending to the dream hunt of a lifetime! To this day I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think of not cleanly taking that magnificent animal.
There is a post script to this story-stay tuned.