Saturday, October 25, 2014

Elk Hunt Chronicles - Day Six

Another long day today. We repeated the 5:00 a.m. rise and shine routine. Headed up into the mountains shortly thereafter. I was riding Blue, a steed specially selected to haul my large but firm and well-sculpted ass up and down the mountainside.

What, you want to get back on AGAIN?

The biggest problem with heading up the mountain before sunrise is that it is dark! I don't mean city dark, where there is always some sort of light source. I don't mean suburban dark, where you might need a flashlight to navigate. I mean country dark, where it's darker than my ex-wife's heart.

There is absolutely no made-made light source anywhere around. There was no moon, and although the stars were 'big and bright,' they didn't give off enough light to make a difference. We were headed up a steep and rocky trail that bordered a sheer dropoff. I couldn't see a damn thing, and could only hope that Blue could see the trail better than I could.

This is the trail as seen on the return trip, after the sun came up. It's hard to get a feel for the scope and scale from this picture, but you can see part of the trail in the upper right. Now imagine coming up over the top, where those lonesome pine trees are in the upper right hand corner, in pitch dark conditions. Nerve-wracking...

We finally made it up the mountainside and settled in to glass in search of the elusive wapiti. We were searching the area where we had seen several bulls while out scouting the previous afternoon. As is so often hoped for but rarely happens, we actually spotted the elk where we hoped thought they would be. They were grazing in the foothills below us, moving up and angling towards the treeline. We were above them. Simple geometry dictated that if they continued moving up at an angle, while we moved in a straight line across the slope, we would beat them to the point of intersection, where we could set up a nice little ambush.

Of course, that neglected to take into consideration the fact that elk move faster than horses, especially when the horse riders are trying to be quiet. That relative speed of movement is further influenced by the fact that we were riding through brush and woods, while they were ambling across an open plain. Nevertheless, we got into position before they arrived. We set up on top of a wooded ridge overlooking an open meadow approximately four or five acres in size. Then the fun began.

We were sitting back in the treeline, using the pines to screen us. That also meant that the pines at times screened our view of the elk. It was a bachelor group of six young bulls, all about the same size and same stage of antler development. No huge trophy bulls among, them, but they all fell into the 'good bull' category.

Since the pine branches obscured my view and shooting lanes somewhat, I decided to move up five yards to the edge of the treeline. Utilizing all my woodcraft skills honed by years of mostly succesful hunting, I eased forward one step, only to kick a rock.

Fortunately, we had judged the wind correctly. It was blowing from them to us, so the 'clunk' went unheard. I breathed a sigh of relief and took another step.

My foot came down on a nice crunchy pine cone.

Again, the wind saved me. But now I was determined to watch where I put my feet, so, looking down, I slowly took another step.

My head hit a low-hanging limb so hard it knocked my hat off.

At this point the elk started to sense that something was amiss, and commenced to milling about. But I had finally reached a point where I had a clear shot. I waited for them to settle down, picked one out, and brought my rifle to my shoulder.

Here's where all the time at the range paid off. My mind was so busy procesing the variables (range = 200 yards, rifle zeroed in at 200 yards, no adjustment needed; wind light and into my face, no adjustment needed; shooting downhill at a fairly steep angle (approx. 45 degrees), aim slightly lower; target quartering slightly away, aim a little farther back) that the mechanics of actually shooting went on autopilot (breath control; sight picture; cheek weld, squeeze the trigger...).

For many years there has been an ongoing debate over the appropriate caliber to use when elk hunting. Some folks say a .270, which I was shooting, is fine. Others say it is not enough gun. I don't want to open that particular can of worms, but I will say for the record that this particular elk, shot with a 150 grain .270 round, took about four or five steps and then fell over. No muss, no fuss.

I shot from the knob at the treeline over my right shoulder (your left). The distance was right at 200 yards.

It took a couple of hours to clean him and transport him back to the ranch, where it took another couple of hours to cape and quarter him. Like I said, he's not going to make it into the Boone & Crockett record book, but for a first elk I think he's pretty damn good.

There is a celebration planned for tonight. Future posts may be late and/or garbled...


Well Seasoned Fool said...

Congratulations on a successful hunt.

Old NFO said...

Congrats!!! All the prep and pre-work paid off!!! :-)

CenTexTim said...

WSF - thanks. Had a great time.

NFO - Amazing, isn't it, how often being prepared reslts in success. Too bad more people don't know that secret.

Randy said...


CenTexTim said...

Randy - Gracias.

Bear said...

Beautiful pics, amd a fine bull, indeed. Well done!

CenTexTim said...

Thanks, Bear. This has been one of the most enjoyable hunts I've ever gone on.

Bag Blog said...

Elk steaks on the grill - Yum!

CenTexTim said...

BB - I can't wait...