Have you ever had that feeling that someone or something was watching you only to turn and see someone doing just that? Or felt somewhere out of the blue that you should do a certain thing, that only seconds or minutes later you are kicking yourself in the butt because you didn’t. The feeling being spot on…and an opportunity missed.
I bet each and every one of you are saying yes.
I can’t tell you how many times while out in the woods, I have ‘felt’ that I should do something that I followed up on. Only to find that the feeling was absolutely correct. Now, I can’t honestly tell you that what I felt wasn’t just a realization, at another level, of something that I was actually hearing or smelling. But it’s pretty hard to pin it on my other senses when I am walking one way, have a feeling to look back and there, through the trees standing perfectly still, is a huge buck staring right at me! Chance?…Coincidence? Maybe at one time in my life I would have said possibly. But after having been a hunter for almost 50 years, I know better.
I must have been about 13 the first time my Pop told me about an animals “Sixth Sense”. Their ability to “feel” certain things. I was told not to look into the eyes of a deer that was coming close or looking my way, that they would sense it and become nervous. Well being a kid, you know what happens next… I just HAD to do it to find out if my dad was full of it or not. Now, I can’t truly know if that buck wasn’t already nervous or suspicious, but the first time I had a deer coming close to me in the woods, I could feel my heart beating drum hard and my breathing getting nervous. I tried to see every eyelash and hair on his face only to have him stop and stare right in my direction. When he just turned and walked away, I sat back still shaking a little and quietly said to myself…”No friggin way”.
The first big bull I ever killed was when I was in my 20’s and was probably the first time that I made sure not to take ANY chances, real or myth. I had been with his herd for over 6 hours and had been right in amongst them. Several times I had to cow mew to settle cows around me that weren’t quite sure what my movements were in the brush. This went on for what seemed like forever, mile after mile. The bull was somewhere within 80 yards, but I just couldn’t get a glimpse and his herd, with all of those eyes, made it almost impossible to cut the distance between us.
I’m not sure if it was all the time spent, the miles traveled, the hours of intensity or what. But there was a point when the herd had pulled a move I didn’t expect and actually turned in an opposite direction away from me on this little hill. That was when I had finally had enough. In frustration, I decided to literally become a bull in the proverbial china closet. I picked up a stick and with a diaphragm in my mouth, my bow in one hand and a stick in the other, I started running straight at the herd through the brush, screaming bugles and beating branches as I ran. After running about 150 yards, I stopped at a small park scattered with pines, sat down and tried to regain my breath as I placed three different diaphragms on my leg. Then I started putting on a show. A scenario where I act like three different bulls escalating and converging on each other. I figured with multiple bulls screaming like there was a hot cow, maybe, just maybe I could get the herd bull to come check it out.
After a few minutes of calling I saw movement about 100 yards off. It was three spike bulls that were bedded on the other side of the park, but they were watching something in another direction. Then all of a sudden they jumped up and began running away from whatever they had been watching. That was when I first saw his body. It was definitely a large mature bull from the body size, but I couldn’t see his head because of the scattered pines between us. He was about 60 yards out and coming my way when he had to lower his head and rack to get under a low hanging branch from one of the pines. That was the first moment in my life that I about lost my cookies while hunting. Oh my God! He was massive!
I was in my usual shooting position on my knees, bow in front and arrow knocked. The brush behind me broke up my silhouette perfectly. Wind was perfect and plenty of shooting lanes. Possibly too many.
After he had cleared the limb, he stopped to look my way and taking no chances I looked down at the ground so he wouldn’t feel me watching him. I looked down as much to pull myself together as anything. I physically tried to slow down my breathing and told myself to pull it together. In my peripheral vision, I saw him start moving again and when I looked up he was coming at an angle from my right to my left, but right to me. I kid you not y’all, I could literally hear my heart cbeating out of my mouth!
40 yards…30…25. At 25 yards he turned broadside to walk right in front of me. He was now walking behind the trunks of two large pines and in my mind I had already planned to bugle and draw at the same time once he was clear of the pines. Then, as if on some unknown cue, he stopped and looked directly my way! At twenty yards with the pines covering the kill zone, it was the most intense moment of my hunting career to date. I immediately looked again at the ground between me and him. I could hear my Pops in my head, “Don’t look him in the eye”. I’m not sure which voice in my head was the loudest, his or my own telling myself to “keep it together…breath….relax…focus”.
In what seemed like an eternity but was probably only seconds, he turned his head and took two steps. Focused on his kill the whole time, I screamed a bugle as I drew and all I remember really is my realization that my spot was no longer moving. He had stopped and before either of us knew what had happened, my arrow hit and passed completely through! What had seemed like a moment of complete and slow moving silence turned into an absolute explosion of movement and crashing sounds as my bull turned almost inside out to get away from whatever had just stung him. Instinctively I screamed a bugle to calm him down and he disappeared into the oak brush with the of breaking branches slowly becoming more distant. That was when I just fell back on the ground and lost it y’all. The whole thing kept playing over and over and over in my mind. The realization of what had just happened.
When I found him after the longest 30 minute wait of my life and only 100 yards downhill, he was absolutely breathtakingly incredible. His body was Sherman tank massive. A majestic beautiful mature herd bull. His main beams were 52 inches long with each of his tines over 19 inches. The full package of a hunters dream bull. A dream that I still get to relive to this day that include so many ups and downs and some lessons that have become a part of who I am as a hunter, and what I share with other hunters that I mentor, teach or coach.
Since that day so many years ago, I have had SO MANY incredible encounters. Many of them that happened because I either smelled, or heard, or saw something to let me know an animal was there. But I am here to tell you that I pay as much attention to my sixth sense as any other sense when I am hunting. And I know it has been responsible for a lot of my success. Listening to that little voice that told me to go down a particular trial. To look in a certain direction. To knock an arrow only seconds before a bull walked in on me. To give one more call in an area that I was about to walk through…and GET AN ANSWER!
As your elk hunting coach, I am telling you to learn to listen to those feelings. Stop and listen, look or smell when you get that funny feeling. If you are stalking through the woods and you get even the slightest feeling that something is different, immediately knock an arrow. Learn to accept that special awareness and use it to your advantage. Maybe it’s a natural instinct. Maybe it’s an energy that connects all living things. I couldn’t tell you for sure and really in my realm of things, I really don’t need an answer. I just have to know it’s there and let it be a part of what I do.
So, the next time you have that funny feeling that something is watching you and turn and see two eyes staring your way, just smile and know that you have just used your senses on a whole new level.
Keep your broadheads sharp and your powder dry!