"Another Day to Remember"
Written by Donald Travis
Hunting elk in the high country is always hard, exciting and unforgettable. This fall I was blessed with another day to remember. We were all up before daylight silently preparing for the days' hunt. Each lost in thought of the previous day's events, and what would come with the new day. My guide, Rodney Prince, and I would be hunting below camp and I was extra excited. Rotating areas daily gave everyone equal opportunities. The guys hunting below camp had the most action in recent days. Even high winds that morning did not lesson my hopes.
Rodney led the way through the dark timber on a well worn elk trail. We were heading toward some meadows below the cabin where I had a few memorable days in the past. Once again lost in thought as we silently slipped through the timber, I couldn't help but to reflect on how special and exciting it was to be in the high country again.
The winds made it hard to hear the usual chorus of predawn bugles, but I was confident elk would be in the meadows. Rodney stopped to regroup and discuss the plan before we got any closer to the first meadow. Slowing considerably, we continued as the faint edge of the timber lightened before us.
We both scanned the gray shadows looking for the light colored bodies of elk. I spotted a shadowy form that looked like a tree with legs on each side of the trunk. Just as I spotted it, Rodney started to move on. After a few yards, I caught him and tapped him on the shoulder. We stopped again and I whispered my impression of the shadowy form. Another scan proved it to indeed be a cow elk and it wasn't alone, two more shadows came to life. The morning continued to brighten and within the next ten minutes a total of nine cows advanced over the crest of the rolling meadow. With the wind still in our favor, we crawled on hands and knees to a better ambush location.
Timing was good, because we had no sooner set up when the tips of the bull's antlers began to appear over the horizon. For a moment it looked as though he would push his harem right over us. I thought no way would they walk by without spooking. Just as quick, the bull adjusted his path toward the center of the meadow past a few lone pine trees and back into the open. If the trailing bull passed inside those pines, he would be 30 yards!
He paused once facing us as if deciding on how to proceed, then followed his herd outside the trees. As he walked behind the first tree, Rodney said, "46 yards" and I drew. At the next opening Rodney cow called and the bull stopped. The pin settled tight on the back of the bull's shoulder and I released. It was over in a fraction of a second. The wind took its toll, causing the arrow to look like a curve ball going out. The hit was back, but the penetration was to the vanes. He trotted out another 30 yards, stopping when Rodney cut loose with a bugle, followed by a couple more cow calls. The forward angle of the arrow also looked good.
As quick as that went through my mind, things got even better. The bull laid down and within a minute or two, rolled over and expired. What a rush, what a blessing, what a bull!! There was no question when he first came into view that he was a shooter, but as I approached the bull he looked even better. Even with the antlers in hand, our conservative estimates were on the low side.
The climb back up "Cardiac Ridge" to camp was a breeze. Amazing what a successful hunt can do for the stamina. We waited in camp for the others to return from their morning hunts. After breakfast everyone shared in the pictures and packing of the animal back to camp. As the day went on, the winds continued. The skies filled with heavy cloud cover and afternoon thunder storms rattled our teeth. Rain changed to sleet, sleet changed to snow and by dark it was snowing heavily. By morning there was a foot of snow, blowing hard, and no mountain in sight. No one was going anywhere. My special day was over, but it had been blessed with that special moment where everything went right and standing outside the cabin covered with snow stood the antlers of my 6x6 350 P&Y bull. Never do I feel more spiritual than when hunting the high country; whether alone in my thoughts or with friends sharing God's gifts. It truly was; "Another day to remember".