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Two Bulls in Two Days!!!

Two Bulls Two Days! Day One:

My final week of the ’06 archery season turned out to be a thigh burning, heart pumping, bull bugling, mountain climbing, cow calling, elk rutting adventure I’ll never forget!

Two Bulls in Two Days!!!

In a sudden change of plans, both Anthony and Ben were able to elk hunt the final weekend of the archery season. I was shocked and elated when Ben said he could hunt the last two days of the season.  I must say, his wife is a trooper sending Ben off to hunt with a 3-week old infant at home.   Even though I didn’t have an elk tag I was eager to help Ben and Anthony fill their tags.  

My eagerness came from my experience the previous year.  In 2005, with two days to hunt, Ben and I hiked a few miles into a wilderness area with backpacks and camped in the backcountry. We were in bull rutting paradise the first day.  And by sun-down on the second day Ben shot a nice, wide, heavy 6-point bull.  We couldn’t believe our success.  2005 was only our second year archery hunting! And what made it even more exciting was the way the bull responded to our calls!

So, when Ben and Anthony told me they were game for another two-day backpack hunt in the last two days of the season, I was in.  I didn’t think we could repeat 2005, but we were certainly going to try.  

About 9:00 p.m. on Thursday night, two days prior to season end, we piled into Ben’s 350 Ford and headed off for the mountains. My brother and I slept while Ben and Anthony drove.  Through bouts of fitful sleep, I occasionally heard bits and pieces of embellished hunting stories as they shared past adventures with one another (and to hear them talk, you’d think they were Pope & Young come back to life!). We arrived at our destination around 4:30 a.m. 

We got our packs on and hit the trail minutes after arrival.  Our plan was to hike 4 miles into the wilderness under the cover of darkness to our favorite lookout and camp spot.  With luck, we hoped to locate a hot bull screaming in the early morning darkness that we could entice with our calling routine.

So, under cover of darkness we made our way through twisted tangles of fallen logs, creek crossings, rocks, trees and brush to reach our destination. The scene was picturesque, like some epic wilderness adventure movie. Everything was covered in a few inches of fresh snow. It was dark but not so dark we couldn’t see with our naked eyes.  The snow seemed to light up the night and made it possible for us to see the area directly in front of us.  There was an eerie silence in the air as the four of us made our way through the shadows and early morning mist.  

We had hiked about 2 miles when we heard it... a shrill, blood chilling, dominant scream from an exceedingly close bull.  The nearness and intensity of the bugle caught us completely off guard! He was enraged, and not more than 50 yards from us! The bull bugled a second time and the hairs on my neck pricked up. 

We stood there--frozen.  Not sure what to do, we just looked at each other with mixed expressions of glee and panic on our faces! The memory of it still makes me laugh.

It was too dark to see the bull, but he was right there in front of us, so close! We could hear him challenging us.  And the smell of him was thick in our nostrils.  Anthony, the veteran hunter, snapped us out of our stunned silence and the hunt was on.  “Brian, drop back about fifty yards and start calling, Ben and I are going to stalk this bull.  Start out with soft cow calls and work your way into bugles,” Anthony said.  

My brother and I dropped back into some cover and began our calling.  My heart was pounding madly as the bull, in full rut, bellowed his challenge in response to us.  I was doing my best to sound like another heard of elk and the bull was responding aggressively.  But after a few moments, to my dismay, I realized the bull wasn’t moving toward us.  I could hear his deep, piercing bugle slowly moving in the opposite direction.  I was desperate for him to stop and give Ben and Anthony more time to move in on him.  

It was still dark when Ben and Anthony began stalking the bull.  And the bull never stopped bugling.  I was confident they hadn’t spooked the bull because he sounded quite calm; he was in his element, screaming and rutting the whole way.  After about ten minutes I saw the bull for the first time.  He was about 250 yards mid-way up the mountain.  The early morning mist was burning off and the sun was just lighting things up.  Only 10 minutes earlier we were shrouded in darkness.

The bulls ivory tips glistened in the morning light as he came into view.  He was massive! His body was huge and his rack was high and wide.  He stood out prominently from the rest of the herd as he walked with that massive bull swagger.  His head swung side to side as he dogged his cows.  Then he stopped, bugled, and turned his massive head toward me.  He stared a moment, and seeing nothing, he bugled again and continued on.  Over twenty-five cows in tow.  I knew he was an incredible bull, and felt helpless to stop him. 

I had no idea where Ben and Anthony were.  They had left their radios in their backpacks sitting on the ground next to me.  I didn’t know it, but in their mad rush after the bull they had left a number of items behind. Their binoculars, rangefinders, GPS, coats, and perhaps most importantly, their toilet paper (I’ll explain later)! 

So Brent and I were left wondering how the two were doing.  We continued calling for 45 minutes or so.  I hoped the calls would keep the bull distracted and alow Ben and Anthony to locate the bull’s position.  

As it turned out, they were hot on the trail of the bull from the beginning.  Anthony was in the midst of the herd traveling with the group--Stalking from cover to cover trying to get in position to take a shot at the bull.  Once or twice he had to stop because the cows lagging behind the bull were only 25 to 30 yards away from him.  The cows were a menace and Anthony struggled to get close to the bull with so many cows present.  Anthony had an opportunity a couple of times to take a 60+ yard shot at the monster bull.  That’s a long shot by any standards and Anthony ruled it out immediately, especially without his rangefinder.  His only hope was to keep stalking the bull, hope he wasn’t detected and wait for an open shot.

The herd reached a wide, open clearing and Anthony had no cover to cross with the herd.  He had to sit tight and wait for the herd to cross and then catch up to them.

In the meantime, Anthony could see Ben high above the herd on the mountain.  He watched as the elk moved across the opening.  When the coast was clear he took off after the elk. He was dismayed as he reached the other side of the clearing and realized the wind had changed and was blowing straight up the hill toward the herd.  Knowing Ben was in a better position to kill the bull; Anthony backed off and gave up pursuit.

Anthony returned and told us what happened.  Brent and I eagerly listened to Anthony’s story as he explained how good the bull was close up.  Even from my distant view of the bull I could see that the bull’s antlers, neck and head were almost orange in color as Anthony described.  He was truly a unique trophy bull!

We waited a short time for Ben and then picked up our gear and made our way to camp.  After setting up camp we glassed throughout the afternoon.  Anthony, like usual, glassed a few elk, but nothing worth pursuing.  Finally, around 12:30 in the afternoon, Ben came stumbling into camp.  He looked dog tired and ready to collapse.  The moment I saw his face I knew he had arrowed that bull! Anthony, not knowing Ben as well as me, waiting for Ben to say something.  “I killed him,” Ben said tiredly.  Anthony said, “No, no way, you didn’t!”

But I knew the bull was dead.  Ben is extremely calm after success, almost embarrassed.  A tell tale sign of his success, is how he plays down his excitement.  He had that familiar grin on his face.  The grin that says, “I’m a monster elk slayer and you’re not!” I recognize the grin and started whooping and hollering my congratulations at him.  

It took a moment for Anthony to take it in--Ben had killed the massive bull.

And with high spirits we listened to Ben’s recount of the experience.  He explained how he stalked the herd for a couple of hours--doggedly shadowing them from above the mountainside.  The elk slowly fed their way along the hillside and Ben, after studying the terrain, thought he could intercept the bull if he moved down the mountain into position.  He crept into his spot and waited.  His only cover was a tiny, spindly fir tree no taller then he was.  And just as he’d anticipated, the bull fed right to him. A moment later, the bull stepped through a small opening between two dead trees and Ben arrowed the bull through both lungs at 33 yards.  The shot was not an easy one, but he aced it.  And he did it without his rangefinder.

After the shot, not knowing if he had killed the bull, Ben felt a tremendous urge to unload his bowels! He had been holding it all morning and couldn’t wait a moment longer.  He’d stalked the bull, shot him, and it was time to relax! But wait, NO TOILET PAPER! He had the urge and no tools to handle it! Needless to say, like the resourceful outdoorsman that he is, he found a way to git-r-done (although, I thought I smelled something funny when he came into camp). 

The deed accomplished, he searched for his bull.  Sure enough, not 50 yards from where he’d shot him, the bull lay dead.

We worked through the afternoon and into the night to pack the behemoth out.  We reached the truck in the middle of the night around one ‘o’ clock in the morning.  Dead and bedraggled we slept the night away in the truck--the feeling of triumph thick in the air.  Little did we know, our good fortune had just begun and by evening the next day, we would experience another thrilling hunt.

We slept quite well considering all our gear was in the wilderness three miles away at camp.  We kept warm using the truck’s heater throughout the night.  My brother, Brent, was amazing, sleeping through the cold snoring like a logger! He worked hard and I was proud of him. 

TWO BULLS IN TWO DAYS!  DAY TWO:

The next day, Anthony hit the trail at first light and began hunting his way to camp while the rest of us cared for the meat from Ben’s bull.

Of the four of us, none had hunted harder throughout the year than Anthony.  And as Anthony left the truck, he was haunted by the realization that this was the last day of the archery season.  It was a tough year; he’d given his all, and the thought of going home empty-handed unsettled him. “I’ve got to get a bull. I’m going to get a bull today,” were his parting words as he left the truck.

Resolute determination radiated from him as he departed. 

We all knew that if anyone could pull-it-off, in the last minutes of the last day of the season, Anthony was our man.  We all felt he deserved it and we were determined to make it happen.

After setting the meat out to cool, washing up, and locking things down, we hit the trail.  We were eager to reach Anthony and to find another raging bull.  After hiking one mile into the wilderness, Ben and I began bugling at regular intervals as we hiked through the timber. It was about 10:30 a.m., bright and sunny.  We didn’t really expect any bulls to return our calls so late in the morning on such a hot day.  But on our second mile in, we heard a faint bugle in the distance.  We bugled again, and again we heard a faint bugle.  Then a moment later, we heard another bugle from somewhere else.  We kept calling as we made our way to camp and continued to hear far-off bugles.  The hills were alive with rutting elk and our blood was pumping with excitement! We quickened our pace and hurried to camp.

“Shhhhhhhh, there’s a bull not 250 yards behind me,” were Anthony’s greeting words as we strolled into camp.  “I heard another bull screaming at maybe 500 yards from the top of that ridge,” he said pointing at the mountain top behind him.  Anthony told us the elk had bugled 2-3 times and then went silent.  

It was hot, we were tired and the elk had gone silent.   Anthony decided that the best course of action was to sit tight, be patient, and wait until just before dark to hunt the bulls.  And with luck the bulls would be screaming without our encouragement.

To pass the time, we slept in our warm tents on soft, luxurious, sleeping pads for the first time since our hunt began.  We ate dinner, glassed, had apple strudel for dessert and packed up camp for the hike out.  Despite the evening barreling down on us, the mood was optimistic, and we orchestrated an attack on the hopes a bull would be located.

At 6:00 p.m., we decided we had better get things rolling or the hunt would fade into the night without the proper ending.  We each tried a few bugles with no response. 

Ben and I, relatively new to elk calling, were keen to learn Anthony’s technique for bugling.  Anthony’s bugles are distinctive and sound impressive.  So, we asked Anthony to teach us how it’s done.  Ben and I tried to imitate his calls using a diaphragm.  And although the sounds we emitted were distinctive, they were definitely not like Anthony’s!

Every now and then, while practicing, one of us would sound-off a bugle from our Primos Terminator bugle as well.  This “practice session” continued for about thirty minutes when we heard a ripping bugle from the ridge behind camp, about 500 yards away!

The hunt was on! Light was fading fast and we knew we only had minutes to close on the bull before darkness fell.  Anthony, with a grin on his face, took off running after the bull.  Ben and I were going to do our best to get the bull fired up and bring him in. It didn’t take much either! From the bull’s first bugle he was coming in strong.  Ben was glassing the ridge desperately to find the bull and to let Anthony know where he was via radio.  Brent and I were breaking limbs, cow calling, bugling, and doing our best to sound like a hotbed of elk activity.  The bull bellowed at us as he came headlong toward the elk sounds.

Things happened so fast, one moment, the bull was bugling from the top of the ridge, the next he was 100 yards closer and moving our way.  At first, I thought it was a different bull!  

The beast screamed at every call and sometimes he doubled bugled! He was coming in on a string!

And, all of a sudden, there was silence. No response.  The bull was gone... We had no idea where Anthony was or if he’d ever seen the bull.  I continued calling, softening the sounds in case the bull was close and coming in quietly.  I crouched there, calling hoping that Anthony had closed the deal on the bull.  What seemed like forever later, a crackle pierced through the radio, and in a whisper I heard, “I shot him...”

I could not believe it! Anthony had done it! He arrowed the bull in the last few moments of shooting light, on the last day of the season! He had done it! We had done it! 

Later Anthony described the following details: “Brian was the key to my success (alright, maybe he didn’t use those exact words, but you get the idea).” 

He continued, “I took off running to cover the 400 yards of flatland before I started to climb the mountain the bull was on.  As I neared the base of the mountain, I could tell the bull was fired up and I had cut the distance between us in half.”  “The bull screamed at every call my friends made and was double bugling. I glassed up the hill and saw him literally charging towards me.  He stopped twice to thrash some innocent pine trees.  I barely had time to nock an arrow and kneel behind a dead tree when he burst into an opening at 15 yards.  I called to stop him, he froze, and I released my arrow.  My arrow passed through him and the bull bolted.  I stopped him again with a cow call at 70 yards.  The bull, in a rutting frenzy, searched frantically for the cows he’d heard.  And, after a long moment, he bedded down.  To my dismay, I thought my shot was a little too far back for a quick kill.”

“I found my arrow and could see it was covered in dark red blood.  I decided to stalk in a little closer just in case he got up.  As I closed the gap to 60 yards the bull stood up.  I shot and missed just over his back. He started to bolt, but stopped again when I cow called! He immediately laid back down.  I crept up to him again and was able to get within 15 yards of him.  Facing straight away from me, the bull stood up. I drew my bow--held my draw as long as I could, but finally, had to let down.  Then the bull moved to the side and I shot him quartering away at 15 yards.  The arrow looked to be perfect. 

The bull ran off again, but circled back around as I called to him.  He bedded down a third time.  I watched him until it was almost too dark to see through my binos.  Just as I thought I would lose sight of him, he stood up on all fours and then tipped over with  a crash!”  

Anthony was totally pumped! Two great bulls in two days! 

That night we celebrated as we packed out our camp, the bull’s cape and antlers.  We got to the truck at 2:00 a.m. We slept in the truck again and went back at 6:00am for the meat.  

What a great hunt! Anthony kept telling himself that his only satisfaction of the year might have to be that he hunted until the last possible moment of daylight of the last day of the archery season.

Ben and Anthony, you are a tough act to follow. You’re welcome at my campfire anytime.

Elk Slayer - Master Hunter and Friend

Disclaimer:

I, Brian Call, as the author of this post, hereby declare the right and privilege to document facts as I recall them. It is my privilege to exaggerate details, distort events, bend the truth, and misinterpret evidence. 

The conditions of this post are these:

All stories, pictures, connections, performances, associations, or expectations, that are not met and sealed in this post, are your problem, not mine. ;-)

Ben's First Bull Elk

I’m addicted to archery hunting. So is my cousin, Benjamin Christopher Morris. Ben bought his first bow the summer of 2004.  When I was a kid my Dad was an avid bow hunter and he got me hooked on the sport. But after I turned sixteen, high school, a mission, girls, college, and a career prevented me from pursuing my passion for hunting. Ben likes to remind me that my priorities were just screwed up--and it’s about time I saw the light and reengaged my soul in this great work. 

The summer of 2004 marked the 10th year since I had shot a bow.  Ben told me 10 years was long enough to be away from the sport and that it was time to pony up the cash and buy myself a bow. So I did. And soon after, Ben had his own bow too.  

We practiced, watched videos, asked questions, tested elk calls, attended elk calling seminars, and did our best to prepare for opening day elk season.

The ’04 season turned out to be an experience I’ll never forget-- a comedy of errors! We never tagged an animal, but we shot a few arrows. We had close encounters and close calls. We learned many things the hard way that year.

I’ll never forget Ben whacking himself in the eye when his release slipped off his string at half draw, his arrow skittered at the feet of two cow elk as they bolted away. Or the time I drove away in my Jeep with his bow sitting on my roof.  His bow bounced on the ground a few times, but was like new with a little super glue. Mistakes were plenty, and I’m glad we made them.  

Mistakes teach us lessons, and those lessons are what equipped us for success the following year.

From the beginning, our 2005 archery season was an exciting one. Opening week we called in a handful of elk, including a rag-horn 5x5 that Ben shot.  The hunt was text book! And except for Ben’s errant shot and the pouring rain, the hunt would have been perfect.  

We setup in an area to call some elk using Jim Horn’s early season tactics.  It was a test run; we’d never done it before.  I was elk calling from about 60 yards behind Ben.  My buddy Chad was with me and we were doing our best to sound like a herd of elk with a hot cow in our midst.  After about 45 minutes of calling, Ben turned and told us an elk was heading our way.  We didn’t have our radios, so he was using hand signals.  With his hands  on top of his head like antlers he let us know it was a bull.  

I could not believe it!  Chad and I kept up the commotion and the bull trotted in.  He slowed a couple times, looked around and then continued our way.  Finally, the Bull stopped at 50 yards.  Ben was anxious, and he was worried the bull was going to get wise to us at any moment and disappear in a cloud of dust!

Neither of us were experienced or prepared for bulls sauntering into our elk calling setups! And instead of waiting for the bull to come in to close range, Ben launched his arrow at 50 yards! It was a long shot and Ben hit his mark too low on the body.  The arrow passed through leaving little blood.  And making matters worse, a literal monsoon struck not ten minutes into our tracking job and washed everything away.  Torrents of rain came down on us and washed away all hopes of tracking the animal.  We searched for hours in the rain, but to no avail. There was nothing to go on.  

Ben was terribly distraught over losing the bull__ the shot haunted him for weeks.  And, at the same time, he celebrated the experience.  We had called in a bull!  It worked just like in the movies! Ben was hooked, the thrill of watching a bull come to him as he lay in ambush was awesome! And I asked Ben to retell the experience many times the days following.  We called elk into our setup three more times in the subsequent days.  But we never did get the shot we needed to come home with an animal.  

That was opening week.  We were able to make two more weekend hunting trips before the season ended. On the last weekend of the season, with only two days remaining, we loaded our gear into Ben’s pickup and headed to the mountains to do a wilderness backpack hunt.  Little did we know, that weekend would prove to be an unforgettable experience.  

We arrived in our favorite hunting unit on a Friday afternoon.  We put our backpacks on and started hiking.  We didn’t exactly have a destination in mind; we just wanted to get remote, away from all other hunters and civilization.  After hiking about 4 miles through the world’s nastiest wilderness over fallen trees, blow downs, steep ravines,and swampy bogs, we finally settled on a place to setup camp.

I setup the tent while Ben glassed the countryside.  Elk were talking and we had about two hours before dark to put a hunt on some. Ben spotted a nice herd bull and about thirty cows about 500 yards away from us. We were stoked! I put a stalk on the herd trying to get in range to make a play on the bull.  Ben was supposed to guide me on the radio, but he screwed it up.  He could never locate me in the thick timber.  All he could tell me was that the elk hadn’t moved.  The problem was, I had no idea where I was in relation to the elk ( I’m easily lost in the woods).  The elk weren't’ making any noise that I could hear.  And Ben, try as he did, could not find me.  I ended up about 150 yards above the herd with the wind blowing right at them.  The elk spooked and crashed away.  

This is the funny part, they ran right to Ben! It was so unexpected he wasn’t prepared for it.  All he could do was watch as they came running up the hill toward him! Especially because his bow was about 80 yards behind him back at the tent.  

Still, he was a huge bull.  Much larger than anything we’d seen all year.  And as we climbed into our tent that night we were elated by the day’s action.

The next day was incredible! We awoke to the sound of bugling elk! I poked my head out of the tent and about 80 yards from me a group of cows were hurrying by.  One bugle was very close as well.  About 500 yards from us a bull was screaming his guts out.  He was on a ridge behind our camp and he was rutting mad!

We eagerly dressed, grabbed our gear and headed toward him.  At the base of the mountain he was on I began bugling to him.  He immediately responded! And so for about 30 minutes I bugled and bugled to get him to come to us. 

After a while, Ben and I realized we had better try something else because the bull was not coming our way.  Ben was going to sneak as close as he could to the bull so he could be in position to intercept him if the bull came to my calls.  After Ben was in position, the plan was for me to call one last time from my location and then sprint to within 100 or 200 yards of the bull and call again.  Our hope was to madden the bull and provoke a confrontation.  

After sprinting to where the bull was, I began calling.  There was no response.  The bull went silent immediately.  I tried a few more times and fearing I had frightened the bull, I ran back to my original spot and began calling again.  Sure enough he responded immediately, with vigor! So I sprinted back to the bull’s living room and called again. And again, no response. The bull just clammed up I called and called... and heard only silence.  So I sprinted back down the hill, across the open field and back to my original location and let off another bugle.  Immediately, the bull bellowed in response! It was clear to Ben and I that this bull loved to sound big and bad as long as he thought we were a safe distance away.  So we changed tactics.  Obviously, Plan A and Plan B sucked.  I must say that Plan B was especially lacking--it left me sweating like a pig.  

Since Plan A and Plan B were no good, we implemented Plan C. Plan C was for me to keep the bull screaming and engaged while Ben put a stalk on him.

This actually worked out quite well.  And if a couple of hunters had not blundered after the bull during Ben’s stalk, Ben may have actually had a chance at the big boy. But instead, the overzealous and interfering hunters pushed the herd into the next county.  

Nevertheless, it was an exciting morning and we learned a couple of things. Next time, we vowed not to waste time trying to call the bull to us. Instead, we would go directly to Plan C and hunt the bull down.

By mid-morning the action was over and the season’s first snow began to fall.  We ate a brief snack and then began hiking through the snow to cut some fresh tracks.  After a short walk we found some large bull tracks.  We trudged through the snow for hours tracking the bull.  We knew the bull was very close by the fresh sign the bull was leaving  behind.  The bull’s tracks showed he was obviously unaware of us by his frequent grazing and easy walk.  Knowing the bull was close, we walked at a painfully show pace in his footsteps. 

We followed the tracks to the edge of a bluff.  Then, to our shock a huge 6x6 bull leapt out of his bed twenty yards from us! The bull was bedded just over the edge of the bluff.  He was as shocked as we were! In seconds the bull was half way down the mountain running from us.  Ben was drawn, but it did no good.  The bull was gone in the blink of an eye.  The bull slowed at about 85 yards and gave us plenty of time to get a good look at him as he sauntered away.  His wide, mature rack was truly stunning and Ben and i were happy to see another large bull in the area.  

Of course, we kicked ourselves a bit, wish we’d seen the bull before he saw us.  Success was a breadth away, and we failed to reach it! Oh well... we licked our wounds and searched for another one.  

As evening approached we decided to head back to camp and have a hot meal.  The entire day we were never more than 500 yards from camp.  In fact, the bedded bull was less than 350 yards from our tent.

We made a short trip back to camp and I had just begun to boil water on the cook stove when we heard a magnificent bugle on the same ridge from the morning hunt.  It was awesome! To this day, I swear it was the same bull from the morning.  Ben is not so sure.  The bull sounded exactly the same to me.  He had a unique bugle, a guttural growl that made your adrenaline pump!

He bugled more than once and we exchanged incredulous looks.  Ben’s face wore an expression of disbelief and utter joy! We knew the score from the morning hunt and skipped directly to Plan C.

It was less than an hour before darkness enveloped the countryside--we had little time.

Ben shed all of his excess gear and sprinted across the flatland dividing us from the bull.  The area between us was an old burn and standing dead trees and fallen logs littered the landscape.  The bull was on the mountain top on the far side of the old burn.  As Ben dashed away I began calling the bull.  

The instant I began calling the old bull returned the challenge.  It was exciting to hear the bull in a rutting frenzy! He was completely wound up! The bull was moving toward me as he bugled.  I was shocked! During the morning hunt the bull just sat on the mountain and bellowed down at me.  This time, the bull was actually making his way closer to me.

Then, surprisingly the bull went silent.  I kept calling but received no response for about five minutes.  About then I was sure it was over.  “Ben blew it,” I told myself.  “The old bull gave Ben the slip before Ben even knew the game had begun.”

Then I heard the familiar sound of stampeding elk crashing through the woods. “Yep, Ben definitely blew it,” I said aloud.  Vainly, I kept calling anyway--a small part of me hoping I was wrong.

Ben had sprinted through the maze of fallen trees to the base of the mountain the bull was on.  All arrows still in his quiver, head and hands bare, winded and sweaty; Ben took a moment to compose himself.  He calmed his breathing, pulled gloves from his pockets, adorned his head net, nocked and arrow and looked up.  He was standing on a game trail that wound its way up the mountain to where the elk had been that morning and his throat caught...

It was like a jolt of electricity shot through him! Angling down the hill, coming right at him, was the biggest, toughest looking bull he’d ever been in position to take.  Ben did his best to suppress the rush pulsing through him and calmly assessed the situation.  The bull was coming toward him at a steady pace.  He searched desperately for a way to draw his bow without being discovered.  The bull was getting closer and the pitiful hillside was almost entirely barren of cover.  At the last possible moment the bull made a left turn and crossed in front of Ben at 20 yards!

Ben glimpsed his opportunity! A huge, blackened tree--the only tree sufficient to conceal his movement stood just ahead of the bull! The bull was moving quickly and Ben knew he had only moments to get the bow back and settled on the bull before he passed out from behind the tree.  He yanked back his bow and settled his twenty yard pin on the bull.  He had a diaphragm call in his mouth but was hesitant to use it (more often than not the wrong sound came out of it).  Just then, the bull stopped!

Ben didn’t even have time to think, he just let go.  The shot was beautiful! Although, Ben didn’t know it at the time.  The arrow pierced both lungs right behind the shoulder, hit the shoulder on the opposite side and bounced back half-way out the entry hole.

The bull crashed off on a death run that lasted 100 yards.  I thought for sure the death run was a fleeing herd of elk Ben unwittingly spooked.  But I knew something was amiss when the sound of crashing elk stopped almost immediately after it began.  Elk, when spooked like that, do not stop running until they’ve left you miles behind them.

Seconds later, Ben’s voice crackled over the radio, “Brian, I shot him!” “He’s a big branched bull.” “I think the shot was good.” “I know I hit him because I saw the arrow sticking out of him as he ran away.” 

Darkness fell moments later and Ben could hear the bull in the night.  He wasn’t sure how good his shot was and decided to back out of the area and come back in the morning.  

It was a restless night. Ben rehashed the story for me over and over again.  I wanted all the details! We stayed up for hours talking in the tent in the darkness.  Ben’s excitement was palpable, it hung thick in the air as he relived the experience through storytelling.

Anxiously, we awoke in the pre-dawn light and prepared to find Ben’s bull.  The snow had come down through the night and everything was blanketed in white.  The morning was beautiful and silent--just two hunters alone in the wilderness with God’s creations.  The feeling was surreal as we made our way through the snow covered landscape toward the base of the mountain.  

I could not believe my eyes when I saw the bull for the first time.  The bull was majestic, covered in a layer of snow.  He had expired in the night and he looked magnificent in the dawning light.  Ben kept staring at the bull in wonderment, a look of admiration and disbelief showed on his face.  A feeling of pride washed over me--pride in my cousin, pride in his accomplishment, pride in our friendship.

Well done, cousin. :)