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"Mt First Elk"
Written by Russ Williamson

Russ' First Bull Elk
My elk season began well before the opener with some preseason scouting. In August, my father and I received the letter in the mail saying we had drawn bull elk tags for a limited entry hunt. It was the unit we selected as our second choice on the preference card, but we were as thrilled as we could have been to hunt the Toutle unit around Mt. St. Helens in my home state of Washington. My dad, Paul, and I began scouting almost the same weekend we received the news. And after a few days in the field, our hopes were high on taking a couple nice bulls.

We saw a lot of elk and a lot of legal bulls. In the very first place we looked, we saw a group of five nice bulls. The next few trips turned out even better. One particular morning we spotted a very nice six point along with mature five point, that really had us excited! Now, if we could just track them down when the season opened?

We would have to let the bow hunters and muzzle loaders have their hunts before ours, but we were pretty confident that we would be able to find a bull when our season rolled around. Opening day of our hunt just happened to be my birthday, but sad to say I didn't get the present I really wanted, a big bull. The opportunity at a shot did present itself, but it was just a small three point and I didn't want to shoot the first thing I saw.
All the guys we talked to said not to shoot the first bull, so I followed their instructions. The following morning found my father and I sitting near a clearcut before first light. As it became light enough to see, we spotted a big herd running down the hillside, but there was one running in the opposite direction, back up the hill. We couldn't get a good look at it and didn't think we could catch up to the herd, so we pursuded the lone animal. He was headed straight for an old logging road, so we high-tailed it to that spot. Upon reaching the road we found the elk, it was a great mature bull!
I set up to take the 300 yard shot, but it wasn't a clear shot, so I was forced to hold off. No other opportunity presented itself, and after he moved out of the area and into the dark woods my heart fell to my boots. He would have been a great trophy!

That night my dad and I split up, he went to his favorite spot, a place just behind camp, and I went to mine. My spot was a nice meadow with a stream running through it. I found a good viewing spot and waited. A herd came in, but there were no legal bulls, until just before dark. The way it always is, just too dark to shoot and I think they know it. Upon reaching camp I learned that one of my dad's buddies, who was camping with us, had downed a nice 5x5, so packing him out is how I spent most of my Sunday night. We returned to camp very late and could only get a few hours of sleep in before the next days hunt. The next day was horrible for me. I went to my spot and spent all day trying to track down a bull I had spotted at first light, but I never could catch up to him. Then, to make matters worse, that night I came down with some form of the flu and couldn't keep anything down, so I headed home. Dad hunted the next day, but had no luck.

It didn't take long before I couldn't stand another day at home while the elk hunt was in full-swing, so the next day found my dad and I in a new area. We decided to hunt away from everyone else, in an area just south of our home near the Kalama River. In the morning, we spotted a small herd, but couldn't put antlers on them from that distance, but there were a few lighter colored animals, so we thought they might be bulls. We headed for the hillside and upon arrival we spotted two bulls. A few minutes, and two shots from my 300 Magnum later, I had my bull, a nice 3x4.

Dad had thought that I was shooting at the other bull, so he didn't fire. It turns out the bull he thought I was shooting at was much larger and he wanted me to have it, but I shot the other one. Oh well, I am extremely happy with my first bull!

After downing him, the real work began. It took us several hours to pack him out to the truck. And, since we weren't far from home, we took it to the butcher and got in an evening hunt for my dad. He later took a nice bull for himself and we are very happy with how our season unfolded. On the year, we both took deer and elk. It was an awesome season. Thanks dad for a great hunt!