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"Colorado Elk Hunting"
Written by Joey Gacnik

Colorado Elk Hunting
My first bull, and I couldn't have been happier! I was hunting with my dad, Dave, and brother, Jason, in Colorado's unit 76. After 7 years of applying, then receiving unsuccessful letters, we finally drew. It was the first year that I have ever hunted with a muzzleloader, and I am hooked! I don't think I'll ever hunt elk with a rifle again.

We hunted hard for the first 5 days, calling in countless bulls, but never could get a good shot. On the 6th morning, we set out to an area that looked good on the topo map. We began our 1 ˝ to 2 mile walk just as the sun was coming up, hunting along the way. Upon arriving at the big bowl we wanted to hunt, we setup and started calling. About that time, we felt a sharp change in temperature, and through the dark timber we could see a storm cloud moving in from the west.
This temperature change must have also affected the elk, because not 2 seconds after the first cow call came off the Primos Hyper-Lip cow estrus call, the mountains came alive with different bulls bugling. We estimated that there were 5 different bulls bugling back at us.

Within minutes we realized that atleast 3 of the bulls were moving towards us---Fast! We quickly found a small clearing about 20 yards by 20 yards to setup in, then continued calling. My brother Jason, who was our guide on this amazing hunt sat behind and to the left of me and began working his magic. My dad was sitting to my right.
Not ten seconds later, we had elk coming in. We could hear all three of the bulls bugling, snorting, busting trees, and grunting as they moved closer. Wow! It was really exciting!

All three bulls were very close, and each was coming in from a different direction. My heart was racing when I first laid eyes on the bull that was coming in right in front of us. He was only 30 yards away, running towards the clearing where we sat. Then, time seemed to slow down. I forgot about my breathing, heart rate, and adrenalin. I was focused only on this bull.

Every footstep the bull took was amplified by 10, and when he hit the edge of the timber he was only 12 yards away! He stopped in his tracks where he let out a tremendous bugle, followed by a long, loud growl. Then the beast continued into the clearing about four more steps where he stopped once again at 10 yards.
I had my Thompson/Center Black Diamond SS 50 Cal., loaded with a 348 grain Powerbelt hollow point, aimed just at the edge of his left shoulder. I slowly squeezed the trigger, which at that time seemed to have a 100 pound pull on it! KABOOOM…The air filled with a huge cloud of white smoke.

Colorado Elk Hunting
Just as the smoke began to clear, I caught sight of the bull just as he was entering the timber on the opposite side of the clearing. My first thought was that I had missed, but no way, that bull couldn't have been more than 30 feet from me!
So, to the cheers from my dad and brother, I reloaded my gun, the whole time thinking to myself, "Surely I hit him, Surely!"

Well, we heard some thrashing in the timber below us, just out of sight, and were sure that it was him going down. We waited about 10 minutes, the entire time listening to bugling bulls. The other two were still coming in!
Of course, it was hard to whisper with all the adrenaline and excitement going on. To this day, I wonder why those other two bulls didn't completely spook off the mountain at the sound of the gun shot. We waited, hoping they would come closer, but they never did.

Soon we were looking at blood from the bull I had just shot, and 30 yards into the dark timber laid my first bull elk. "There he is J, right there he is!" replied my brother as he saw the bull. And along with a good job rub on the head from my brother, we approached the big boy. "You double lunged him Joe, nice shot!" my brother said. I couldn't believe it! I said a silent prayer thanking the maker for the experience I just had, while looking through the trees towards Bristol Head Mountain. Never in my life have I ever had such a great time. There is no hunting like Colorado Elk Hunting!