Patience and Persistence: Keys to Ek Hunting

Wet snow chilled me to the bone. I held back shivers and tried to remain focused. A half hour earlier I had taken my rain gear off for the fist time in days, trying to be quiet. Laying horizontal, alongside a downed tree trunk, I peered toward the elk. A cow had me dead to rights only forty yards away. She stood up from her bed to keep a watchful eye.

The sun was trying to make an appearance. Its rays worked hard to penetrate the canopy of steel gray clouds. Heavy drops of water and gobs of slush dropped from the trees like a barrage of shrapnel. I winced every time they smacked my neck. The cacophony of splats and drops was loud and constant. My gun, laying beside me, was coated in slush. Precipitation fogged the scope.

The bull came into view. Cows were bedded all around him. He stood tall, distracted by another bull bugling further up the ridge. Obscured by timber, it took a while to get a decent look. Large brow tines crowned a face that showed signs of age. Thick dark fur, wet from the snow, and caked with mud covered his forehead. After days of work, we had snuck into his house.

The house was more like Alcatraz. We had spotted elk on this ridge two days prior. It seemed too far to even consider hunting. Never mind that if reached, it appeared to be guarded by a series of deep gorges and cliff bands making it inaccessible. We couldn’t resist. The previous day we made an attempt, only to end up perched on a several hundred foot precipice with the elk still 500 yards away.

Navigating terrain that seemed more suited to ice tools than hunting rifles we had gained the ridge where we had seen elk the previous day.  Now we were in the middle of them. Over the years I’ve had limited success sneaking up on elk in dense timber. But fresh snow and the noise of the dripping forest provided unique conditions that masked our sound.

SBB_1583There was no shot. At 80 yards, branches and tree trunks guarded the bull. Minutes ticked by as I waited, pinned to the wet earth. I had no where to go. Moving three steps back into the trees the bull nearly disappeared from view. My thoughts wandered and getting a shot began to seem increasingly unlikely. Alternately, I searched my brain for ideas and shifted my body to get relief from the wet snow which had penetrated all my layers.

The bull turned and moved slowly forward. One step every minute or so. Two more steps and I had a washing machine sized window that might provide a shot. I raised my gun, rested it on the fallen tree and  peered through the fogged scope, waiting. As soon as the bull stepped forward he bedded down. The shot I’d hoped for disappeared.

Waiting for the bull to stand up was agonizing. I wasn’t interested in staying in my current position for hours. Doing something rash, causing him to stand also seemed out of the question. Upon closer examination and after making a slight adjustment to my position, I determined I had a shot at the upper half of his front quarter. I’d have to go through the shoulder blade, but given the distance I decided to try my hand.

Shaking from a combination of cold and adrenaline I sat 30 yards from a gorgeous bull that had given its life to me. Waiting to make sure he was dead and needing to put on layers, I took my time. After several moments of reflection it was time for the real work to begin.

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