The sun came up, the hours started to tick by, and I didn’t see anything. After a while, the fact that I had been up since 4:00 started to catch up with me, and I could feel my head starting to droop. Eventually, I straight-up fell asleep. I’m not sure how long I was out, but I remember being suddenly awakened by the loudest, most hair-raising sound I had ever heard in the woods…a giant bull elk bugled directly behind me. I snapped awake, and slowly turned my head to see a bull and five cows standing less than 10 yards from my blind. The adrenaline dumped into my veins, my heart-rate went through the roof, and I remember thinking, “holy crap…this is about to happen!”
Well, it’s been a couple months since my first post walking through all the facets of planning an out of state hunt. At this point, I will be hitting the mountain in almost exactly three months, and I couldn’t be more excited! I also couldn’t be more aware that there is still so much to do. So, at the three-months and counting mark, here is what I’ve done and where the whole process stands.
So, you didn’t get drawn for elk in your home state (story of my life here in AZ), or you live in a part of the country that simply doesn’t have elk hunting. You’ve watched all the shows, been sucked deeply into the YouTube vortex of Western elk hunting, and would LOVE to chase these majestic creatures this fall. But, where do you even start? It’s hard enough to navigate your local hunting options…now you’re gonna throw a dart on a map in an area you’ve NEVER been before, travel hundreds of miles, and hit the trail hoping that everything comes together? The idea of taking your first out of state hunting adventure is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.
Most of the time, a weekend of scouting for game is the most relaxing part of hunting. You walk around the woods, observe some nature, but you don't have any of the intensity of actually hunting an animal yet. Basically, it's a purposeful nature-walk, and is generally low key and very refreshing. This weekend, however, was NOT one of those times. It seemed that everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and you know it's a bad day when you actually think through how you'd direct a rescue helicopter to your location. The things we do for this glorious sport!
As I approached the trees in a surgically slow army crawl, I popped my head up to check that the bull hadn’t grown suspicious. To my horror, the bull was now standing where he was bedded and staring right at me. Haltingly, I retrieved an arrow from my quiver, knocked it, and waited for him to avert his gaze for just a moment to give me the chance to draw. He stared through me to my partner who was blowing cow calls 40 yards behind me for what felt like hours. Flinching through an intensifying hamstring cramp, I forced myself to remain perfectly still. Finally, he moved briskly behind some thicker timber, giving me the chance to come to full draw. He stopped for another cow call, just on the other side of the timber, quartered away, with his vitals inside of an 18-inch window in the trees. I took a deep breath, squeezed back on the release, and watched the arrow sail through the air…