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"A Hunt to Remember"

Jeffery's Trophy Bull
Jeffery's Colorado Trophy Bull
My 1998 hunt took place in Colorado's unit 10. It was a muzzleloader hunt that opened on the 10th of September, which perfectly coincides with the rut. We arrived 2 days early and found a real nice 350-class bull. On opening day we headed straight for the canyon where he was last seen. Along the way we saw quite a few other bulls, and several that I consider taking. Unfortunately, most of them were across a canyon on private land. We tried bugling and chirping, but were unsuccessful in luring them from their safety zone.

Eventually we found our way into the area where the 350-class bull had been hanging out. Quickly we spotted the group, but they already had us pegged. My buddy, Chris Carroll, put the rangefinder on them and reported back that they were 212 yards away. As the group began moving I spotted the bull. I aimed just over his back and tried leading him as he moved across the hillside. I fired, but missed.

After the group of elk disappeared into the timber, we continued hiking. We had traveled several miles when I slipped while walking along a creek and hurt my leg something fierce. I could hardly walk and barely made it back to the truck. I thought for sure that my hunt was done. Eight years worth of waiting and gaining bonus points were gone with one slip.

The next day, my buddy, Doug, and I talked it over and decided that I had better just take it easy for a while and hunt from the truck. We spotted one really good bull with the spotting scope, but he was about 2 miles away and I knew there was no way I'd be able to make it up the mountain. I could tell that Doug was a bit disappointed, but not half as much as I.

We began driving again when suddenly, Doug hit the brakes pulled over and pulled out a map. He asked me if I thought I could atleast walk down hill, because he knew of a road that would put us about 2 miles above the bull. I wanted a chance at the big bull and thought, "No pain, no gain!"
Well, this hobbling hunter made it to the bull. I was able to crawl to within 40 yards of the elk. My knee was throbbing in pain, but I was within range. All I had to do now was locate the bull amongst the large herd.

We had last seen the bull bedded near a big rock that was just below me, so I slowly began working closer. Then, only 15 yards away stood a cow elk feeding. I froze, hoping she wouldn't pickup on my presence. I slowly looked to my right and there he was, only a few yards away. He had an incredible rack, I guessed he would score around a 320. He was lying down facing straight away. What a sight it was!
All I could see was his horns, so I motioned for Doug to bugle or cow call. It took several tries, but eventually he stood up and responded. Unfortunately, I still didn't have a good shot. I began getting nervous as he started moving through the brush. As the bull disappeared behind some rocks below me, I switched shooting positions, hoping to catch him when he reappeared.

I moved slowly and peeked over a rock. I couldn't believe it when the first thing I saw was about 35 head of elk all staring at me. I knew that all hell was going to break loose real soon. I quickly readied for a shot and when the bull appeared heading down the hill, I fired.

I hit him, but too far back. I quickly reloaded and fired again, but missed. As I reloaded for a third shot, I could hear Doug and Chris yelling me orders from above, though I have no idea what they were saying. After reloading, I began moving down the hill, hoping to gain ground and get a better shot, but missed again.

I continued pursuing the bull down the hill. The pain in my knee was intense. I never knew how much that sagebrush could grab my legs while trying to run and hurdle through it.
The bull remained about 100 yards ahead of me before he finally reached the top of a ridge where he turned broadside and stopped. Doug had told me earlier that I was shooting high, so I took a rest, aimed a little low and fired, hitting him square in the shoulder. It looked like he went down just over the hill, and after a few high-fives, we headed over to take a look at my trophy bull.
He wasn't there! We began glassing the canyon below and Doug spotted him standing below. We tried getting closer, but had no luck. He just kept moving further down the hill and we were afraid we might lose him, so we decided to just let him expire on his own.

What a hunt, and what a pack out of there! As I walked out of that canyon, I realized why all of this was happening. The good lord above wanted me to have a greater respect for a muzzleloader, for the mountains, for my friends, and for my body.
So much for our day of taking it easy and healing!

Written by Jeffery Ashley