Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Desert Elk

       Back in May, we all raised our eyebrows this spring when Apprenticedad applied for a long shot elk license in an area with only a 6.6 percent chance of drawing. But he was confident, and sure enough, he drew it. We shook our heads at the wonder of it all. He was the only adult elk hunter in our family who had never hunted there, and it must have been his turn. When it came time to go find that elk, it was a team effort, with Apprenticedad in the lead and the Apprentice and Grandpa trying to do everything we could to help him. We all met at The Cabin on a beautiful Monday afternoon. All systems go.
       There are some things, though, that even good luck and good help (well, pretty good help) won’t fix. Maybe you’ve heard the saying “if something can go wrong, it will.” So imagine our surprise when we woke up to a couple inches of snow. That, in and of itself, wasn’t the problem. The problem was discovered when we were driving down the dirt road, and we saw the tire pressure warning light start blinking. So as hunters who’ve been in at least one too many rough spots because of auto problems we went down into the nearest town and got the tires checked. We had expected to be hunting at first light, instead, we celebrated the dawning of a new day at the Ford dealership.
      With air in all four tires and fuel for both men and machine at “Adventure’s First Stop” we were on our way. Breakfast burritos and a Coke put a new shine on things and before long, we were sailing the sagebrush sea. We got in the home country around 9:00 AM and started poking our noses around the places we love. The first thing we noticed was that rabbits were rampant. The Apprentice and Grandpa took turns missing them with a .22 pistol. It was some comfort to know that all those missed shots were piling up federal excise taxes that would fund wildlife conservation projects somewhere. After funding three prescribed burns and a water development, we actually got a bunny. It is possible that Apprenticedad was less than impressed with the support crew…
       Onward down the creek and up a favorite canyon, we glassed and scoped and watched for elk. Sure enough, we saw a herd of about seven bedded in a draw about 800 yards away. We watched, frozen in place and tried to figure out how to approach them. They were in a tough spot. As we inched our way forward to about 799 yards, those seven elk and all the other 63 that we hadn’t seen stood up and ran over the ridge. It’s amazing how 7 elk can become 70 so quickly, and become 0 elk even quicker.

       We watched for a minute and quickly formulated a plan. Grandpa got in behind the elk, and made no attempt to conceal himself. They were half a mile away, but as soon as they saw him they stopped and watched him intently. Apprenticedad and I made a big circle around them and got as close as we could without them seeing us. They were jumpy, like REALLY jumpy. They let us get almost close enough, but not quite. There’s a certain way elk tell you, "don’t get any closer," they start pacing, and showing the
whites of their eyes. We knew we didn’t have much time – it was now or never. So Apprenticedad plopped down in a patch of sagebrush for cover and picked a lone cow. He made the best shot I’ve ever seen with a .30-06. She was down! I was proud and happy for my dad – he hadn’t killed an elk for a couple of years and this one was a memorable one.
       When the elk is down, the work begins. We field dressed her and got the truck as close as we could to her. It took a while, but we got her loaded in the truck and headed for civilization. Somehow, Grandpa made sure the way home went through our favorite ice cream stop. We don’t always have ice cream for lunch when we’re elk hunting, but when we do it’s a wonderful thing.

-The Apprentice