The Bull

It was the fourth day of my elk hunt in southern Colorado.  As we had geared up for our evening hunt, the sky was threatening again after the afternoon storm.  It had rained every day so far, at least some in the afternoon.  My second evening hunt ended with an hour climb up the mountain in the dark and in a driving rain!  So, the rain gear was packed carefully in my day pack.  Jay and I were hoping to ambush an elk moving from the National Forest into some ranch pastures.  The forest was a mixture of Ponderosa Pines and Aspens and the ground was covered with fresh tracks and elk droppings.  Although somewhat open, any shot would be limited to about 40 yards, the forest thickened up quickly.

It was about an hour before sunset when I caught movement uphill and to my right.  This is it, I thought!  Watching carefully, and making sure not to fixate on only one thing, I watched the animal emerge out of the timber.  The wind was right, there was plenty of light and it was coming right down a trail within 20 yards of my carefully crafted and fastidiously assembled perfect ground blind (architected by Jay) {Jay made me modify this description} …

This was not the first animal Jay, my huntin’ buddy, and I had seen in our four days.  We both had either sex elk tags and Jay had an either sex deer tag as well.  Jay had a doe sneek within about 15 yards of him before it busted him, and he couldn’t get a shot!  I had a doe stroll by me at 20 yards the second day, and a buck busted Jay on the third day as well.

Spike BullWe had seen some elk as well.  Just night before last, about this same time, an elk calf meandered by my blind at 22 yards.  She was a beaut, but just a calf and I wasn’t about to try to take her.  But I sure was hoping that she was the vanguard of a group of elk that would follow.  Not to be.  She drifted down the mountain and along the fence separating Forest land from private ranch land and nothing followed.

Last night, right at dark a group of 6 cow elk were headed toward the pasture right at the end of shooting light.  I could see them, I even ranged them, but they surprised me from the direction they came, and I couldn’t be sure of a clean shot through unknown obstacles.  With heart pounding, I watched them cross the fence into their feeding ground.

So, we had been seeing animals.  Maybe this one would provide me a shot opportunity.

… I could tell it was an elk.  It was much too big for a deer and the color was right for an elk.  It was not in a hurry, and was just very slowly, and carefully headed to the pasture.  It would stop every few steps, and just watch and listen.  I lost sight of it, more than once and there was a time for about five minutes when I thought it had just slipped away without me seeing it.  Nope, there it is again, closer!

I could tell it was browsing, grabbing a leaf now and then, and I could even watch as it chewed its recently grabbed snack.  Then when it reached down for another bite, I saw antler.  A bull!  But even as my heart skipped a beat, I realized he was just a spike bull.  Probably only a year and a half, and not a legal elk in our 4-point restricted area.

My heart slowed, and I watched carefully all around hoping, like what I hoped the calf before him was, the beginning of more elk.  He wasn’t in a hurry.  I watched him munch on leaves, and flick pesky bugs off his ears by flicking them around.  He was very watchful, but very calm. 

I did get a little very poor-quality video of him, and at one point he stood broadside to me at 30 yards.  It would have made a perfect setup and an easy shot.  But I was not disappointed.  It really isn’t about the harvesting of animals that keeps me coming back to the wilderness, although I always hope to close the deal.  Rather, it is the fascination with God’s creation, and pitting my sorry skills against their instincts to see if I can get close enough to be successful.  I have been close enough, three times already on this hunt.  Although I still don’t have any meat to take home, it has been a very successful hunt, and I will treasure my time with that young spike bull.