‘Tis a bold statement for sure, ’cause in the end, an elk is an elk is an elk, and will never go easily to ground. Anyone that would tell you differently simply has yet to be properly humiliated, and oh, let me tell you the ways. Yet, I am confident, resolute, patient even. You must be that way to be an elk hunter, lest you have a very short elk hunting career. And besides, you just never know what you may find over the next ridge before the sun hits the peaks.
It’s late August here in Western Colorado, with the opening day of archery season close at hand. Thanks to the wonders of game camera imagery I know that this particular bull elk has walked on the trail under my favorite sitting tree on at least four mornings in the last week. That’s about as patternable as a big elk is ever going to get under almost any circumstance, albeit briefly. He’s obviously been doing his job, and now it’s time for my recurve and heavy arrow to help me do mine.
My mind flashes with anticipation and future possibilities, and I can just about see my hands wrapped around those newly polished antlers. Can I take him…, will I kill him? So many variables, so little time, and so many potential could haves and should haves right around the corner. Left alone, we could really do it right, this bull and I, immersed in a contest of fates and the hunting of memories.
Only time can tell if we shall ever have our close up encounter. For he stands most tentatively on easily accessible public land, after all, and it appears that my once semi-secret big bull hideaway has been crashed by some other party goers. Say it ain’t so, but the boot tracks and other signs most clearly tell the tale.
Like so many good things in life that seem to come and go, my last, best elk hunting area has been discovered, and that’s almost never a good thing for one’s peace of mind and continued success. I’ve watched nervously as other hunters have probed the perimeters of my realm, praying that they would not unlock it’s secrets and realize just how good an area it was. Last year I was absolutely surrounded, and now, obviously, it’s only going to slide downhill from here. I would hate to give up on a once, truly great elk hunting spot, again. Truth is, I may never find another.
It’s just a tiny pocket of pre-rut heaven, an anomaly really, found somewhere below the towering vistas of the western horizons. The terrain doesn’t speak much of elk either, which is exactly why it has been overlooked. It only took me forty years of hard hunting and serious scouting to find it, and then only with a fortunate dose of immeasurable providence.
It’s also an area that is extremely vulnerable to any kind of hunting pressure. One boot track in the wrong place, one whiff of human scent, and this big boy will be gone like a giant whitetail in the fog and shimmering mist of a gray, midwestern winter.
The thought of another hunter pushing him off his patterns is troubling to say the least, and the next several days may find me anxious and sad. It’s like losing a best friend, though it hasn’t even happened yet. Most things in hunting cannot be controlled, and the where’s and when’s of hunter’s choice are certainly in the uncontrollable category. On the other hand, it’s exactly how things ought to be, because we all need that kind of freedom too.
That being said, I will get over it, and the game and game face will soon be on. I can’t begrudge anyone from wanting to experience just a little bit of what I have done and loved so much for so many years. Besides, even in the best of circumstance, I may never lay eyes upon this bull again, camera or not. Hunt on, I must, for the beauty of our bow & arrow journey lies in the belief that it just might happen, once again or for the first time, on this day or the next.
Of one thing I am sure. It’s no time to quit, for there is no quit in an elk, nor in most bowhunter’s I know. A bowman must always have faith in the arc of the shaft, and in the spirit of elk, forever. It will always be a wondrous and inspiring way to view the world.
This very good bull I shall kill, god willing…
You Might Also Like An Elk Hunter Looks at Fifty – And Beyond
“From our point of view the bull elk is a pitiless and unaffected creature, and he expects nothing of you that he would not expect of himself. He is a “game animal” with a lot of game, so much game in fact that he can create his own rules. There is no doubt that he believes strongly in the concept of equal opportunity too, for he will take on all comers with hardly a care in the world. Should you decide to enter his backyard and hunt him up, you can tread lightly and show little effort, like many, and experience small success, like most. Hunt him big, and you can peg the throttles until the rockets burn out.
He can take it. Can you? “ – Michael Patrick McCarty