Anticipation was super high as we hit the breaks about 30 minutes before sunrise with Mark, from Armell Creek Outfitters. If you have never been to Montana, especially if you have never been up in the mountains, words cannot explain the majesty that surrounds you. The mere sight of the sun coming over the peaks is enough to heighten your sense of self awareness, confidence and all around excitement, especially when you’re geared up to do the thing you love best, hunt!
The first few days we spent a majority of our time at The Canyon and the The Bowl, really chasing, stalking, setting up and of course, waiting. I have to say that if this hunt had not been successful, it would still have been one heck of an experience for me. Never in my life have I experience so many highs, lows and sights in the course of a hunting day. In one instance, we saw a 6×6 bull moving his cows across a meadow below us, a moment awe, if you will, that had me a little mesmerized by its magnitude.
The days kept on and we continued to spot, stalk and hike. We watched as 10+ bulls bugled, fought and moved their cows around. We even saw a rocking elk party, that will be hard to explain, but I will say, we sure would have liked to have an invite to that shin-ding. At the end of 3 days, back at camp I was starting to think, “these Danner boots are made for walking… I sure wish my feet were as well”.
Day Four: Kill Day
The fourth morning had some steady action, but no shots were taken. At around 4:30 that afternoon, we found ourselves back in the same general area as the morning hunt. Knowing we didn’t want to begin our plan of attack until at least 5:30 due to the full moon and late moving elk, we hung out under the pines and had a Tom Sawyer moment. I awoke as the sun started to draw closer to the horizon, we began our set-ups with Mark calling to the Elk we knew had to be within ear reach.
Right before Sunset that we had our first bugle response. Which was then quickly followed by at least two others. It was Game On!
Once we determined the likely location of this first bull, we got into position. Mark suggested I use a Juniper about 20 yards away as my cover, with my cameraman just a few yards beyond me. As the bull started to commit, his bugles suggested he might come further from my left, forcing my intuition to take over and make me wonder if a better shot opportunity could presented if I moved…. and so I did. Much to my dismay, the bull arrived and walked directly to Mark, putting him a mere 18 yards from where I SHOULD HAVE BEEN STANDING! This was a moment of true disgust and failure for me.
As Mark and I quickly chatted about the moments prior, I knew he was probably thinking, “why didn’t he listen to me”, yet his exact words to me were, “this is like golf, forget the last shot.” And so we did. We headed to the next spot, just a few hundred yards away, positioning ourselves into ears reach of the next drainage. Once again, Mark suggested where I should find cover… and this time I listened. Mark yelped out his first bugle evoking a bull to respond by running across a meadow directly at us. Enraged, he entered our woods at about 65 yards looking for this cow in heat. Mark hit him with a few soft “mews” and he instantly let out a hair-raising bugle. As he took a few more steps, he was now in the clearing and very close to a tree I had ranged at 45 yards. Sensing something might not be right; the bull began to “lock up” and was unfortunately staring directly at the cameraman and I. At full draw, settled in, I quietly asked “are you on him”, which was the green light to let my Gold Tip Kinetic arrow tipped with my G5 Stryker broad head, fly at warp speed. The release was set free and in a matter of a split second, my Elite Answer delivered an arrow that truly met its mark and buried deep inside my first every archery elk.
Once it hit me what had just happened, I was immediately overcome with emotion. I wish words could explain the feeling, as I have no doubt in my mind this was the highlight of my entire hunting career. Perhaps it was because of the adrenaline I experienced every single day, from super highs to extreme lows, becoming physically draining, all of which has never existed on any other hunt. Or maybe it was the twenty plus miles we put on our boots in just 4 days, the views from places I never knew existed or the roaming fair chase elk that gave us a look, a tease and a daily challenge that made this hunt one I would hope everyone can experience. We hope the video and the story we share in 2013 can actually do it justice.