I can still remember the day, like most previous hunts... The smell of mountain air welcomes the day and the morning beckons me to come wander the mountain side in search of elk. Usually we decide which side of "our" mountain to hunt the night before, but some mornings the weather or other random factors determine where we begin. Due to the lack of road signs in the mountains, the conversation usually goes something like, "Where should we hunt tomorrow? Big Tree? Green Gate? Beaver Ponds?" This morning, we were headed to the "Big Tree" because it had rained the night before and the road to "Big Bull Meadow" would be rained out. There is a very steep drop off to the valley below along that road and when it is muddy it is not an enjoyable trip... At least in my opinion. For the guys, it never seems to be a big deal.. more of a challenge I think and an excuse to use the tire chains and "stay in the ruts". However, no one usually speaks while the driver has a white knuckled grip on the steering wheel all the way up the mountain. So, for this particular morning we opted for the Big Tree where there are no steep inclines along the road - just a muddy, bumpy path to where we unload and wander off.
My husband had just arrowed his elk over by "Big Bull Meadow" (another reason to let that side of the mountain rest), so he was automatically assigned to being our caller for the day. And call he did! We had a bull answer back to one of the first morning calls; however, he was across the canyon, so we just played with him for a bit - calling back and forth. It is one thing to enjoy watching and listening to a bull "talking" on a filmed hunt; however, I have to admit that actually being there in the moment is something that video footage never seems to do justice to. Until you actually experience it with all your senses, you have no idea what it is really like. The mist creeping up from a canyon separating you from a bull on the other side that is calling back to you in an echoing, haunting sort of fashion is.. is... I can't describe it. It is burned in my memory though.
This particular bull was hotter than we thought. After several moments of stillness, we quickly learned that he had actually crossed the canyon, gathered his cows and came back to show us how tough he was. We were all impressed! These animals definitely deserve respect for performing feats like this. He put on quite the show and came close enough in the open meadow for one of the guys to get an arrow in him.
And this is where the story gets interesting. After sweet success of getting your bull, the hard part begins. Gutting. Carefully skinning for a potential mount. Packing it out.
Alan decided that this time, it would be a good idea to take his camo off so as not to get it all bloody. So, there he was on the side of the hill dressing out the elk in his bright white long johns. Where is my camera when I need it?? However, they were not white for long. And unfortunately, it wasn't just the elk's blood changing the color of the long johns. Alan was trying to skin that elk a little too fast. I had noticed him shaking a bit b/c he was tired and didn't think too much of it.. I thought to myself that he has gutted so many elk, he knows what he is doing. Accidents happen to everyone though. He quietly said to me as I turned around, "tell the guys to come down here." From the tone and message I had no idea that he was hurt. I thought he just needed help. Until I actually looked at his leg. There it was. A HUGE gash that sliced his leg clean open. CRAP! We quickly wrapped his leg in torn game bags to stop the stream of blood. He managed to walk up the canyon back to the truck, but there were a couple of times I thought he was going to pass out. I was trying not to think about what we would happen if he actually did pass out. There were a few jokes about loading him up on one of the pack frames. Although funny now, I'm glad we didn't have to figure out how to carry him out.
I was designated to be the chauffeur to the hospital. After all, there was still an elk to get off the mountain. So, Alan and I headed down the mountain in search of someone to stitch the gash in his leg back together. I believe I made it in record time because he was looking pretty white about now - almost matching the white long underwear apparel he was sporting.
Here is the best part - once we reached the hospital, I ran inside ahead of our leg gashed hunter to let them know we needed help. Upon reaching the nurses station, I simply said that I had a guy who needed some stitches. She nonchalantly said okay and then looked down the long hallway. There he was. It was quite the site really. Imagine a man limping along wearing only muddy hunting boots and white long johns soaked in blood. One side of the long johns was ripped off and his leg wrapped with elk game bags to stop the bleeding. The nurses eyes were immediately wide open as she ran to prepare a room. I really think she thought all the blood on Alan was his - I forgot to tell her he was gutting an elk. Oopsy.
I guess the moral of the story is - remember your first aid kit in your pack and SLOW DOWN when gutting your animal. There is probably something much wiser that could be said here, but I'm tired and just wishing I was hunting right now.
From the Draw
A website devoted to sharing bowhunting stories. From the draw in the mountains to the draw on paper, the moments live on.