By Sean Dawson
It’s the first day of our hunt. We are on the mountain and it’s drizzling and raining on and off all day. My partner Clay and I have already walked 13 miles trying to find some kind of sign. We stop again and make some calls. Listen and hear…. nothing.
Clay has about had it for the day, and now the temp drops a little. As if to make things worse, it’s kind of sleeting. We come to an opening that looks to be used for a helicopter pad and I say I am going to go ahead and give a bugle just one more time and see what happens. What the heck, it’s worth a try.
I get set up on a rock and wait to see if anything comes into this meadow after my bugle. When all of a sudden I see this big body come walking out. I can’t believe it! It’s only 400 yards away in the far corner of this meadow and so I excitedly turn to tell Clay I found one and…he’s not there!
I walk up to the trail hoping to find him and Clay, beat from the long and nasty day, is already walking back. I literally run, catch up to Clay and tell him I just bugled a bull into the meadow. Checking the wind, Clay’s like “how big?”. I say “If it’s a legal Montana bull, I am gonna shoot it!”.
Checking my OnX, there looks to be a good spot on the downwind side of him to try and sneak in and close the gap.
In position, with Clay set up about 40 yards kitty corner to me, I make a cow call and all of a sudden there he is! Standing at about 60 yards perfectly broadside and looking away in Clay’s direction. I draw back and wait for him to move to a spot that I had already ranged. He steps out and I let fly.
Now through all of this I was weirdly calm, but when that arrow flew and I heard it hit… I lost it. I mean I went into full blown seizure mode! I couldn’t even knock another arrow!
Still shaking, I sit back to get myself together and wait. It’s still raining, mind you, and when Clay comes over I ask if he had seen him. He says “All I heard was the arrow hit the elk, but I never saw the shot”.
Having to check it out, I find where he was when I shot and it’s actually closer to 50 yards. So I’m now assuming my shot was a little lower than I expected. I make the decision to wait until morning and go back out and look for him. In my mind, not knowing if the shot was marginal, it’s the right thing to do. Definitely not easy, but the right thing nevertheless.
The next day with no blood trail from the rain, I know how hard this is going to be and I’m going to have to rely somewhat on either just dumb luck, or the hunt gods shining down on me.
Walking in the direction he went from where I was yesterday, I look up and I can’t believe it. So unbelievable. Only 600 yards from where I shot, lies my first bull elk!
In my mind, all I can think about is how even under such horrible conditions. After putting in thirteen plus miles on our first day and to the point of being ready to check it in….this awesome beautiful creature and everything I am now feeling, is all because of just one more bugle.
Just one more try.
NOTE: One thing I should mention is that after we had the elk quartered out and strapped to our packs, my brother who is a jokester yells out BEAR!! We all shrugged him off because he’s always pulling our legs. You know…That Guy. We then looked up and there it was… a BIG BROWN BEAR staring down at us! As I scrambled to get my mace out, we all went shoulder to shoulder and started yelling “HEY BEAR! HEY BEAR!”. It turned and walked away a few steps, turned back around and looked back at us as we yelled again and finally it walked off. I can guarantee you that it was the fastest, four boys from the Midwest, ever packed out an elk in Montana! Even packing out, my mace was glued to my hand!