Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Like Father Like Son (Part II)

When my dad drew on his elk hunt and harvested his big bull I was 10 years old. I had applied several times for that same elk hunt. Finally, 14 years after my dad bagged his bull, I drew out on the same hunt. I had to call and read the hunt number to my dad and he couldn't believe it. I was lucky enough to be able to draw out on this hunt and just like that..... the countdown was on.

Unfortunately during archery season I was busy with college, work, and providing for my family that I wasn't able to get out very much at all. Luckily my dad was "willing" to go scout the area we were planning to hunt. I was nervous that my dad was going to shoot some big bull in that unit and by the time I got out to hunt, the elk would have moved out of the unit. My dad told me not to worry that he would save some elk for me to shoot. He spent a lot of September "scouting" for elk. He had several encounters with some very nice bulls and got busted by several cows. He would come home and tell me all these stories and pictures of some nice bulls, but that wouldn't help speed up time.

This is a spot where the elk tore up the ground to the dirt.

Finally October 1st, 2007 had arrived and I remember not sleeping very much the night before. We left my dad's house around 4:00 am and I was overly excited. I had asked my dad if I could use his Ruger 300 Win Mag on this hunt and you should have seen my old man light up. I think he liked the idea. On the way to our spot we began talking about what size of elk I was willing to shoot. I joked around and told him that I was going to hold out fo one bigger than his, but in reality I would anything bigger than a spike. Considering I have never shot an elk in my life I wasn't going to be too picky.

We arrived and began unloading our gear on the crisp, clear October morning. We began our hike up to the bottom of the first canyon we would be going up and had walked about a hundred yards and we  heard a cow elk of to our right. We paused thinking that we had just been busted by a stray cow. But just then of to our left up the canyon a ways we heard another cow. Luckily the breeze was in our favor and they didn't spook as we sat there and listed to them walk up the canyon. We waited for a while until they were ahead of us a ways and decided to cross over behind them and try to get ahead of them. The wind changes directions at daybreak and usually blows up the canyon so we hoped ot get ahead of the heard before the wind decided to change. We hiked a good 45 minutes to a big fir tree where we decided to wait until daybreak.

My dad decided to chime off a bugle just to see if anything would answer and sure enough a bull answered down below us. Shortly after that one bugled back to him off to our left and before that one finished there was one off to our right down even lower. I couldn't believe it. This was the most action I have heard from elk in a long time. We had planned it just right as the wind changed directions and was blowing right up the canyon. As we glassed and listened to the elk, we started noticing that the elk were moving back down the canyon. We put the move on to see if we could get a peak at the elk and where they were headed. About 600 yards away we noticed a herd of elk with two bulls that looked pretty good and a few satellite bulls. We noticed one elk had a unique rack that almost looked like a caribou with long fronts and pal mated tops. He didn't have much in between. I thought this bull was awesome and we decided to put the sneak on.

We moved about a hundred yards when we noticed the elk taking off across the canyon. We busted it over to the edge of the canyon and decided to cross over to the next ridge. So down one side and up the other to get in place. We glassed and glassed looking for the elk. Nothing. My dad bugled and a bull answered about 200 yards below us, then another answer. We knew they were just below us again. Everything was perfect. The wind was in our favor, we were above the elk and they were coming our way. We started to close the distance to get into place and just then there were two cow elk standing just 50 yards in front of us and had us pegged. The stare down was on. We sat there for what felt like 30 minutes until they spooked. We knew they were going to head back across the canyon so we busted it over to the edge and sure enough there were a herd of cows crossing the canyon below us and up the other side. So I got into position and put the ole 300 Win Mag on the first elk and watched them as they single filed out of the trees and up the other side of the canyon.

I hear my dad say, "there's a five point coming out" and I thought that this was it, this is the bull I'm going to take. As I watched him walk out and I stared him down in the scope I was just about to pull the trigger when my dad said,"here comes a six point and he is far bigger than that five point". That's all it took. I pulled off the five and searched for the six. Just as he was heading up the other side the cows on top paused and stopped. This caused the bull to stop on the uphill side of the canyon, broadside. I remember my dad asking me, "Is he big enough?" Just as he finished asking the question you could hear the BOOM of the 300 Win Mag bellow through the canyon. I remember seeing the bull hunch and started making his way up the canyon. I reloaded, steadied the crosshairs, and just as he topped the canyon I squeezed the trigger. This time the bull staggered and fell over. I couldn't believe it. I had just shot my first bull elk. I remember shaking with excitement and I could barely talk. We looked at the time and it was 8:30 a.m.

We made our way across the canyon one last time but this time we made much better time. I walked up and put my hands on my first Bull Elk. He was everything I wanted and then some. We took pictures, skinned, and boned the elk which was a mere half mile away from the pickup. I shot my bull on October 1st 2007 at 8:30 a.m. with my dad's Ruger 300 Win Mag. My dad shot his big bull on October 1st 1994 at 9:30 a.m. with the same rifle. It was definitely one of the most memorable and rewarding hunts I have ever been on.  My bull ended up scoring 298 and my dads was a staggering 358. But in my book there wasn't anything better than having my dad let me use his rifle to harvest my first bull elk.


  1. Great story, Dustin! Congrats to both you and your dad for making it happen. Has to be an awesome feeling when you get your first elk. How long did it take you guys to pack it out?

  2. Thanks Al. Luckily we were just a half mile from the truck but it took us a couple hours and a couple trips.

  3. I have been waiting for this (Part II). Great story, Dustin! Congrats!!!

  4. Thanks Mark. It was one that I will never forget.

  5. We need to have Sarah tell her story super short on here with a few pictures of her bull. Maybe I could type it for her.

  6. For sure! I'm all for it. Just send me the story and pictures and I will throw it on here.

  7. Hey I fixed it so you can tell who I am when I make comments on your blog