ONLY $7.00

(includes shipping)

It is 3:38 am as I swing my legs out of bed in the trailer. The coffee pot auto brewed at quarter past three. I slept well last night, much unlike the few nights before. Although I finally slept, I did not sleep nearly long enough. A 3:30 am alarm comes quite early no matter what time you go to bed, and I went to bed well after 9:00 pm last night.

As I start my day, I grow optimistic of the coming hunt. I would be pushing the boundaries of my character today. My body is still aching from the 38 kilometres I had put under my boots this week already. Then, at 4:55 am, I hit the trail.

I’d be hiking in five kilometres once again to a spot that I had found two days prior. In the very dark of the early morning, the stars were plentiful, bright, and beautiful. The moon, a thin waxing crescent. The fog quite heavy, leaving a dew on everything, including myself. The silence was humbling, still far too early for even the birds to make a chirp. My game plan was simple. To hike in and then start calling to the elk, and hopefully, I’d finally get a response. Then I would pursue.

I moved gracefully along the trail with just a dim green headlight, being careful of the sounds I made, as I know there very well could be an animal just mere meters away. To alarm them of my presence would hinder the entire morning hunt. When I hit the fence line, I dropped my pack and took a short rest with a refreshing drink of G2. I knew that as soon as I called to the elk, and if I got a response, the chase would be on.

Now ready, I let out some cow chirps and listened carefully for a few minutes. Nothing... still silent. With high hopes and nothing to lose, I let out my best locating bugle using my Wapiti River Outdoors reed and Rocky Mountain tube. My bugle echoed through the hills and trees all around me, then again coming to complete silence. I remember begging for a bull to bugle back to me. I wanted to hear that bugle back more than anything at this point, as that would be a success in itself. It had been a long quiet few days hunting thus far, despite being on top of very fresh sign of elk in the area. I had covered several sections of land on foot and had yet to hear an elk. Then, out of the southwest, it happens! A bugle crisply breaks the silence and echoes so pure and real through the darkness!

I fist pump the air with excitement! “Yeah! Heck yeah!” I was pumped! I hit the bugle tube once again but this time in the direction of the bull’s response, and again he bugles back to me. He sounded about two kilometres away from my location, so I knew I had some ground to cover. I set my APA Viper Nano over the 4-strand barbed wire fence and then carefully scaled the fence to start taking quick steps down the sandy trails to the east. Every few hundred metres I would call to him and he would fire right back each time! I was getting this bull fired up and I could tell his location was also changing; he was coming towards me too. I used a mix of cow chirps and bugles, both seeming to excite this bull more and more. We closed the distance between us, making our way through the steep rolling hills and coulees in the darkness. I stay cautious of the tree lines around me, hoping to not bump any laid up animals, as this area also holds impressive mule deer and whitetails alike, as well as moose.

Daylight is just breaking and I can now make out the terrain in front of me. The wind picks up and it’s right at my back out of the west. Maybe just thermals but nonetheless, not in my favour at all. I had to hoof it at least another kilometre to a good ambush spot I had found two days ago. This would give me several options if the bull closed the final distance. I needed to be east of his line of travel, or he’d most certainly catch my scent and bust me. So, I hustle, calling to the bull periodically, every time getting a closer and more aggressive response.

Once I reached my destination, I dropped my pack once again and took a much needed drink. I gained my composure and let out an aggressive bugle, right towards the bull. He quickly answers back and I can tell he wants to tango. He’s right ticked off and he’s coming in on a string. My intuition tells me that he must be a decent sized bull if he’s willing to come all this way to size me up. Finally, with the wind ever so slightly in my favour, I let out some cow chirps as he starts thrashing a tree. The bull is now only about 150 metres away on the other side of a skinny brush line south of me.

The poplar tree was the author’s last bit of cover as the elk worked his way down the trail.
I crept back west towards the trail I anticipated him walking up, which fully exposed me. With my bow in one hand and bugle tube in the other, I book it about 50 metres towards him without any cover. This risky play was essential, as I was hunting solo and I needed to be closer to him than he was expecting. A game of chess if you will, every move I make is to set up the next move, and the next one after that.

Now I can barely see through the brush line that separates me from the bull, and I definitely can’t shoot through it.

Then he finally appears. He’s right there, about 75 metres away! I can’t make out how impressive he may be, but that didn’t matter to me whatsoever. I made the choice to hunt this elk from the very moment we first spoke to one another. I hunkered down on my knees just off the trail about 10 steps to the east, in the wide open. The bull would have to come around the skinny brush line between us and work his way northwest into the wind to reach the trail. If he committed up the trail, he would pass one large tree and then I’d have a large shot window, as I was literally wide open. There’s not a bush or blade of grass taller than my knees in front of me. I see his large tan body working the exact path I just described. He’s completely committed. Then, instantly, my mind goes blank and I slightly panic. This bull is strutting in towards me less than 50 metres away and I didn’t range my surroundings! For whatever reason, I tell myself that I need to range the trail when realistically I definitely did not need to. In the heat of the moment, I momentarily lost my sense of reality. My focus was honed in on the 700-pound beast about to turn the corner and expose himself for a very, very close shot. I quickly pulled the Nikon rangefinder from my bino harness and range the far side of the trail at 10 metres. I laugh at myself as I tuck my rangefinder back into my harness. All this happening in only a few seconds with the bull now just steps away.

He then turns the corner and heads up the trail, almost as if I had rehearsed it with him. He only had several strides to the first big tree a few metres in front of me, my last physical mode of concealment. As his eyes pass behind the big poplar tree, I drew my bow back and held. The big brute takes two more steps and we make eye contact at a thrilling 10 metres! I’m now frozen still, but he keeps on coming. He doesn’t slow one bit, as he is proud and confident. He is quartering hard towards me but I need him to get even closer so the angle isn’t as drastic; I hold my draw. He keeps walking but now he is fixated on this unfamiliar blip to his right, me! This is where camouflage is paramount in my opinion; when the quarry is close enough to count their eyelashes and see the whiskers on their cheeks, you had better be invisible to them. He gets so close to me that I remember asking myself why I haven’t shot yet... like, how close does he need to be! He takes three more strides and then just the slightest touch of the trigger surprises both the bull and I. Thwap! The sound of my arrow releasing from my bow and the sound of it driving three-quarters of the way through his chest happens so fast it’s as if they happened simultaneously. I buried my arrow right behind the front leg and well below his massive shoulder blade.

He stutter steps hard to his left with a deep snort, spraying snot on the ground right in front of me. He veers away from me and bolts to the far side of the trail, loudly crashing through the trees. I watch and listen to the heavy poplars snapping like twigs, with debris kicking up from his hooves. The power and strength of these incredible animals is absolutely impressive. In this very same moment, I bugle loudly at him and he stops. It’s silent for just a few seconds but then his large body hits the ground just metres away from me. He’s down! HE’S DOWN!

Then the rush hits me... it hits me about as hard as being t-boned by a gravel truck, abruptly and fierce, completely out of my control. I’m stuck in it, that gripping vice of euphoria. I drop my bow and spit out my reed call on the ground in front of me. I bury my face in my hands and fall to my knees. The emotion and adrenaline radiates through me causing my body to shake and my vision to go blurry. It’s indescribable just how intense the moment is. The rush, the thrill; it’s absolutely potent, healthy, and addicting. The chase and then the rush is what bowhunters live for. No rifle-harvested animal has ever given me a rush nearly this intense. I can’t remember how long it lasts before I come back to a slight state of reality, but the seconds feel like minutes.

Still on my knees, I lift my head and look out in front of me, trying to gain focus. The woods again are quiet, just as they were before. To be living in this moment knowing that a magnificent creature is taking its last few breaths because of my choices is an overwhelming responsibility that requires a magnitude of discipline and respect. I will now own the consequences of this choice for the rest of my life.

I pull out my phone to text my good friend Jesse to tell him that I just downed a big bull elk, knowing darn well he would be there to help without question. Then, as I held my phone in shaking sweaty hands, it lights up with a text notification from my beautiful wife saying, “Good Morning sunshine.” She is hundreds of kilometres away at our home. Somehow, someway, our universes collide once again. You can’t convince me that this is just a mere coincidence, that she wakes and messages me in the very same moment I just shot my first archery bull elk at only seven metres! She subconsciously must have felt something too.

It’s now only 6:55 am, exactly two hours from my first step on the trail roughly five kilometres ago. I hit dial FaceTime and she quickly answers. She’s in the dark and clearly still in bed. I’m trying to get out the words, my whole body still shaking as the high overcomes me entirely.

“Babe! I just drilled a bull elk under 10 metres!”

She’s confused at first. All she can really hear is the loudness of geese on a nearby lake about to take flight to the fields. So I repeat myself and finally she realizes that I did in fact connect on a bull elk. We share in a special moment together, as she too is overcome with emotion. She should be beside me, as she is the best hunting partner I’ve ever had, and she’s a darn good one. She works her tail off and we share a common passion for the outdoors. Getting off the beaten path and exploring is what we love to do. We live for the adventure and the thrills that the wilderness has to offer, knowing quite well we are fortunate to call Alberta home. We are now parents of two young boys so she is obligated to stay home sometimes. It’s extremely difficult on both of us to not share in person these milestones. At least now with advancing technology, a video call sure helps ease the vast distance that separates us at these special times. Our son Brantley, now 14 months old, also joins the call.

“Daddy got a big elk!” says mamma. Seeing his face light up makes the moment that much more special.

After about 10 minutes, I take them with me to the expired bull, showing and telling them both on FaceTime the story of what just happened. We all walk up to the bull for the first time, as if we were together. The moment is breathtaking. It’s these moments in our lives that make our lives worth living. This memory will live on in our hearts for decades, and the true bounty of our efforts will provide incredible table fare for our family and friends for another year.

I then said goodbye for now and ended our call. The final leg of this journey and the real hard work was just about to begin. ■

For previous Reader Stories click here.

Sports Scene Publications Inc.
10450 - 174 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5S 2G9
Phone: 780-413-0331 • Fax: 780-413-0388

Privacy Policy

© 2016 Sports Scene Publications Inc. All Rights Reserved