Elk Season 2016.
Bugles are still a rare commodity this elk season. If they could be bought, we'd be first in line. The bulls remain ghosts in the pines, shadows slipping just out of reach, leaving only footprints, scarred trees and other clues indicating their existence. We are ready to play the vocalization game, but apparently they are not.
Tonight, with storm clouds rolling across the Colorado sky, hopes are high that it would be the trigger for a bull to give away his location. Troy, Todd and myself are loaded up in TED, our hunting jeep, aptly named for the animals we love to chase ... Turkey, Elk, Deer. Heads bobble as TED navigates over boulders on a road marked with a sign warning "travel at your own risk." Afternoon cotton candy clouds have quickly clustered together and now look more ominous than their previously carefree appearance.
TED reaches a curve in the road with one of the largest pines around prominently marking the entrance to the beginning of tonight's hunt. We make quick work in grabbing our bows, securing rain gear and loading packs. Saturated ground silences our movement down the mountain slope. First Lite Gators guard against rain-soaked vegitation threatening to soak through camoflauge pants. As we venture down in silence, rain softly falls around us. Thunder rolls and a lightening bolt streaks across the western sky.
The intensity of the flashes of lightening stops us in our tracks. As we hunker down, the next series of thunder and lightening makes quick work of trying to compete with the last round. Our eyes meet. Without saying a word, the three of us could read each other's thoughts. It's probably best to NOT find the largest tree to stay dry and wait out the storm this time -- our footsteps are reversed and we make our way right back to TED, just as the another lightening series gives way! None of us want to add to the statistic making Colorado one of the top lightening death states.
There's usually a junction during each hunt with a critical decision point; however, the importance of the choice rarely is revealed until future reflection. It's unrecognizable at the time. While sitting under the cover of TED, several discussions were held... Stay and wait out the storm? Call it a night? The allure of a campfire, food and a nightcap was strong. The sky taunted us as small rays of sun pierced through storm clouds in the distance. Will the storm clear in time for a quick hunt before sundown?
Finally, the rain lessened and the flashes of light slowly moved on to distant targets. It was go time and we were glad the decision to wait it out was made! Stealthily we worked our way down the now soaked mountain. The lingering storm clouds decided to wring out their remaining weight, as if reluctantly ending the storm's furry. The smells of the earth, pine and mountain vegetation tickled our senses as we once again found thick pine branches to hide underneath, while the last heavy downfall of rain washed down around us. Each of us now 10 feet apart under our own pine tree, cow calling periodically, listening and watching for signs of elk. As I looked up at Troy, he was holding his bow at the ready, looking to the left. I eyed Todd in the pine tree behind me. He too was motionless, looking up past Troy. He mouthed the words I already knew ... "elk!"
We all were now poised and ready for the bull silently headed our way.
Looking back up at Troy, I caught movement. A bull was now 10 yards above him on the other side of thick cover. There was a small opening and as the bull took a step, I watched Troy release an arrow. The sound was unmistakable. His arrow found its mark and the bull ran downhill right past Todd and I. Mentally marking his location, I glanced back at Troy who was now motioning to us that he had killed his bull. I mouthed the words, "I know! I saw it all!" As we made our way to each other, he quickly said, "Oh he is DEAD!" Again, I told him, "I know ... I saw him fall and heard his last breath! He is right over there!"
Part of the thrill of the hunt is experiencing it with someone. Sharing the excitement of a successful hunt, in a way puts an exclamation point on it all. The joy in the moment is greater when among friends, and a bonus... the work of hauling the elk off the mountain is lessened!
Here is a glimpse into the moment after the shot...
A big thanks to Mark and Darwin for their help in packing out Troy's elk. We love our elk hunting "neighbors" and appreciate this friendship made on the mountain. We look forward to next time we are in the same elk camp!
This year started out with a bang! On January 19, 2016 I was promoted to Driver Engineer for the fire department I have worked for 12 years. With my wife on the road, work duties at Shot Show 2016, I was blessed to have my father-in-law pin my driver badge on for me. It's a tradition where the individual being promoted has a family member pins the new badge that they are promoting to on their chest. I was honored to have Jon to the pinning for me since Emily wasn't able to be there.
With the promotion behind me, my thoughts started to set in on the hunting season ahead. Emily and I had drawn our elk and deer tags for the unit we have been hunting for the past 12 years. With that said, there were a couple of times we didn’t draw and had to go "over the counter" in another unit. So we were excited to get back into the area we know and love to be in, because we have become good friends with most of the folks that we have met up on the mountain over the years.
This year was no different. Jeff, a friend I had met and helped get an elk, was coming back to Colorado from Illinois for his elk hunt. Along with Jeff, two other gentleman we know, Mark and Darwin, will be there also. They would be in camp for thirty days and Jeff would come the last two weeks with another guy that’s new to camp. We texted most of the summer once we had drawn our tags.
With opening day only a couple weeks away, I had been trying to get the camper packed up and all my gear and Emily’s gear situated. Suddenly, one morning at work I woke up and my right elbow started to hurt. In fact, it hurt so bad that I was unable to pick up a cup of coffee with my right hand! I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was unsure if with pain I felt in my right elbow if I could even draw back my new 70lb Hoyt Carbon Defiant 34. Immediately I called another guy on the department that had the exact problem but he couldn’t even hold on to a pen to write his name. This guy is a pro shooter and also owns the archery pro shop in town. After speaking to him, he told me more then likely I had a case of bursitis in my elbow. He also stated that he just finished electrotherapy on his and it’s back to 100% but it took over six months of therapy. I was in disbelief that this was happening. It was like I was on the ground because someone just kicked me in the stomach and took all the wind out of me.
What was going on with me? I had never experienced this before. I had never really had any joint problems, even in the 10 + years of riding bulls. Finally I decided to keep it under my hat and to tuff it out. After finishing my last day of duty before leaving for elk camp, my elbow was still giving me grief and I had not shot my bow since the Extreme Archery Challenge at Snowbird Utah. I set out to elk camp on the Wednesday before opening day. I arrived to camp and there was no one other camp in the area. (The very reason I leave so early, so I get the camping spot we like.)
I set up camp that day and took two ibuprofen before climing into bed and calling it a night. The next morning I woke up and it felt like someone had drilled a 3” deck screw right into my elbow. It was pain like I had never felt before. I got up, put ice on my elbow, took two more ibuprofen and made a cup of coffee. After stretching my elbow out and working it a little bit, it started to loosen up and felt better.
Grabbing my pack and optics, I headed for a hillside known for having elk on it. Arriving at my destination late in the afternoon there was absolutely NO SIGN of elk in the area. This is completely crazy!
I have never seen it like this before. I have seen the elk population declining in the area for the past 5 – 7 years but not to see a elk at all is hard to swallow. I know this area like the mountains around the town I grew up in, in Wyoming . Never have I been up here in this area and not so much as seen a cow before opening day. Going back to camp in the dark I was feeling a little out of sorts. What was the deal this year with me? First it’s the elbow and now no sign of elk in the area I have come to know so well.
Arriving back at camp, Mark and Darwin were setting up their camp. Greeting them with the news of my elbow and not seeing any elk they still were very positive about the up coming season. These guys are great! I have a tendency to be a glass is half empty and they on the other hand are the total opposite. They are very upbeat and always have a glass half full attitude. Emily arrived that night prior to opening day, the next morning we headed down to get a closer look at the area I had glassed two nights prior and it was as it seemed. Nothing! No fresh sign anywhere… What was going on? Emily and I spent the full day walking and glassing for elk and found ZERO. That night we got back to camp to find Mark and Darwin grinning from ear to ear. We jumped out of our jeep and asked, "did you guys get one?" Darwin’s reply was “ONE.!?” (as he laughed)
We followed them around the tree at the back of their camp and hanging in the tree were not one, but two elk racks! One 4x4 and one 5x5 hanging there. They had both tagged out within the first 20 minutes of opening day. I stood there in awe of these guys. I was so happy for them, especially since they had filled their tags that cost them so much money to put in for every year. It's always nice to see friends fill their freezer and go home with good healthy meat to feed their families. While talking to them, they told us the locations of where they had harvested their bulls and we knew the exact areas. We had never seen any elk in that area, but had seen some good mule deer in there. Elk are a crazy animal to chase because you never can tell where they will be and how they will be acting at that point in time.
That was only the first day. The season was about to heat up for us! Part II of this story is up next.
"Faith is a muscle. It grows in the face of struggle."
I'm familiar with waiting, but didn't recognize eclipsed hallelujahs ... until now.
There are Hallelujahs sprinkled throughout life's journey, blessings that cause your heart to spontaneously pour out a shout of praise. A smile creeps across your face, giving evidence of an inexplainable, unexpected joy. In these moments, the only appropriate response seems to be a shout of Hallelujah. Sometimes it is inaudible. Sometimes it is through tears. Sometimes it is a song. However, when joy is realized it is unstoppable -- no matter the response.
The tragedy is when joy is unrecognized. How does that happen? I think we are unaware of eclipsed hallelujahs in life. A shadow casts itself across our hearts, obstructing the joy from shining through. We get trapped in busyness, life, loss or even tucked-away hope. Although at times the hallelujah is simply waiting to be released. Its reality isn't diminished, it is only hidden, waiting for the appropriate time to shine.
Laying on an ultrasound table staring up at an empty womb, patiently waiting for the tech to take pictures in order to analyze where the pain was coming from, rips at the heart of someone familiar with the word infertility. The pain buried deep in the heart threatens to be greater than the possible disease. Good news comes - no cancer. Bad news follows - "no wonder you never were able to get pregnant. Your ovaries are severely polycystic."
Hunting season easily becomes an oasis that quenches unrealized hope. In truth, hope was long released some time ago, giving way to the reality of filling time with endless hunting adventures that consisted primarily of a party of two. It's easy to get lost, find life lessons and bring home lasting memories after spending time in the wonderful wilderness of nature. So Troy and I continue on, dreaming of the next adventure, just me and him.
Autumn air has a way of filling a hunter's lungs with new hope. The crispness of a cool morning, causes breath to expel leaving a trail of fog floating away almost unseen if not for the truck's headlights. A quick run-down of supplies is made, checking to make sure the important necessities are packed for the morning hunt.
Bow - check; Release - check; Headlamp - check; Snacks - check; Safety harness - check, etc.
The soft crunch of frost laden grass announces the hunter's arrival. Darkness blankets the early morning hours, providing a shield to both prey and hunter. As I sit alone in thought, the veil slowly lifts as Dawn makes her appearance and daylight breaks through. The stage comes alive as each woodland creature plays a part. The birds bring a song. The pheasant's cackle announce distance movement. A Tom responds from his roost. The rustle of leaves reveal a bushy tail. The hunter watches and waits for a cue to reach for her bow. The right cue doesn't always come, but the hunt is never wasted. In the lifting of darkness this morning, the hunter is reminded of unexpected joy that has broken though. A soft hallelujah from the heart pours out.
Rewind to a little past a month ago, during elk season. Elk is my unicorn. Each year, I'm hopeful that my first archery bull will be taken. Each year, as the season comes to an end, I am left looking forward to next year. This year was no exception. However, something was different this year. After helping to pack out two elk, my appetite had increased more than expected. I even complained about getting out of my sleeping bag in the morning because my stomach muscles hurt so bad. Age is blamed for taking a toll on my hunting aspirations.
Upon returning home, the truth for the orange juice and potato chip feasts came to light. Staring at two straight lines where previously one always appeared, had me repeating over and over, "What? Really? What?" After years of wearing the label of childless, I was now the proud owner of a new title ... mom. An hallelujah slipped out. The eclipse dissipated in an instant, stripping away the infertile title. Pure Joy!
Fast forward back to whitetail season - Sunday, November 6th.
Sitting alone again in a tree stand, I let the beauty of the woods wash over me. It's been an eventful day already. Troy spotted a huge muley at first light and Evan made quick work of a spot & stalk hunt. I welcomed a quick break to help with the recovery and picture taking. Turns out, all I was allowed to do is take pictures ... being pregnant for the first time has already prompted caution from the Hubs.
My reflections of the day's events are interrupted by movement across the meadow. A shift in weather has the deer moving early tonight. A solid eight point buck is making his way down the tree line and has me studying him closely. He's young. I resolve to not reach for my bow and settle in to enjoy the show. At thirty yards, he stops and surveys the woods for a solid five minutes. I'm getting irritated slightly since I decided to give my bladder a break before 5pm. It is approaching 4:30pm. He now seems relaxed and I wait for him to move on so I can climb on down undetected. I'm not that lucky ... he decides to bed twenty yards from my stand, looking out to the field where Vapple attractant was put down the day before, as if guarding his prize. What?! For thirty minutes I watch and patiently wait for him to move. Finally he ventures on, letting the woods envelop him up, safely out of my arrow's reach.
As daylight begins to fade into the golden hour, the woods come alive. A rattling sequence brings in a few smaller bucks and I'm hopeful that a shooter buck will make an appearance tonight. I resolve to rattle again thirty minutes before last light. A big bodied deer appears on the distant edge of the meadow before me. I reach for my binoculars which confirms it is a buck and he is a shooter! I allow myself to quickly glance at his antlers and see multiple points and mass, indicating it is time to reach for my bow. As he makes his way directly towards me down the tree line, he stops briefly to check a scrape. If he continues down and cuts to my left, I have a clear open shot. If he cuts into the tree line, I may have a chance as he steps into a small clearing but I'll need to take the shot standing up. With my Hoyt Carbon Spyder now in my hands, I know that I need to slowly stand up to be ready. The buck is closing in and at twenty yards stops, cuts to the right into the trees and I find myself drawing back as he crosses the biggest tree. One more step and he is walking into the clearing at ten yards. At full draw, I see fur through my peep, make the most awful grunt sound which somehow works to stop the buck in his tracks. Settling my pin on vitals, hugging tight to his shoulder due to a slightly quartering to me shot, I watch my arrow find its mark. The buck bolts into the open meadow and I watch massive antlers disappear over the hill fifty yards away. He never appears again.
The heavy mist hanging in the air slowly turns to rain and I offer up a prayer of thankfulness. I hear myself calling Troy as if in a dream, and the words pour out, "I just shot a BIG buck. Can you come help me?" They are just finishing hanging Evan's buck and I can hear the excitement of them getting to help with another buck. What a day!
After waiting a while in the stand, darkness and rain begin to fall over me. Climbing out of the stand, I make my way out of the woods to get out of the rain and wait in the truck for the guys to arrive. Nervous about not actually seeing or hearing my buck go down, I opt to wait for the guys before attempting to trail him, hoping it's the right decision with the possibility of a blood trail getting washed away.
With headlamps lighting the way, the three of us crest the hill where my buck disappeared. As Troy reaches the top, he's the first to say, "I see white belly!" My buck had only run about 70 yards and expired quickly.
As I reflect back over the last several months, I can honestly say that moments of joy have shined through at just the right times. Yah, I may have complained about not getting my elk this year, but God is faithful in supplying our needs. *We didn't need two elk in our freezer. It is full now with just the right amount of meat to get us through feeding us for another winter - or two. It's possible that this baby may slow us down next year during hunting season. We'll see.
I don't have answers for why God chooses to delay joy at times, but I do know that his timing is perfect. It's hard in the waiting but I've heard recently that "Faith is a muscle. It grows in the face of struggle." Beloved reader, there's truth in that. Whatever you are waiting on, struggling with or hoping for, remember that at some point, a hallelujah will break out. Will you recognize it and rejoice in it?
P.s., I think I'll name my buck this year ... "Hal"
*Wait until you hear the story of Troy's elk. Coming soon!
I'd been watching a group of eight bucks in a bachelor herd since late June, down near Casper, Wyoming. On, September 1st, I was able to get down and hunt early afternoon. When I snuck into where I've been seeing the group of bucks over the summer, I had the whole bachelor herd within eighty yards of me. As I started to slip into closer range, I unfortunately had a small fork horn buck bedded within fifteen yards of me. The buck busted out, but luckily the rest of the bucks just trotted to about one hundred and fifty yards and started feeding again. I slipped out of there without further disturbing the bachelor herds.
The next morning, on September 2nd, I snuck back into the same place, and found the bucks roughly eight hundred yards away, but feeding towards me. The group of bucks ended up bedding about two hundred and fifty yards from me by 7:30am. I slipped out and decided to come back a little earlier than the day prior, to make sure I was in position of where they were before they were. I came back at 3:00pm, and quietly walked back into the place I'd been seeing the bucks. Around 3:30pm, I was just getting to the small ridge, and came up over a little rise.
This buck was standing there, feeding at just 50 yards!
With just getting to my position, I hadn't even nocked an arrow, as I was in complete shock this buck was already up and feeding, and more importantly, all alone!! I eased back down, behind the sage brush, nocked an arrow and snuck to my left another five yards. As I raised up onto my knees, I looked over the sage, and ranged the buck as he fed. 44 Yards. I drew my Hoyt Defiant, settled the pin, and eased off the release. Instantly, I heard the familiar thump of when that arrow finds it's mark into the chest cavity. The Easton Hexx found it's mark -- a double lung shot! The buck made two small bounds and fell over, less than 20 yards from where I'd shot him. I had just shot my first archery mule deer, also my first opportunity to shoot a buck in full velvet. Not to mention, a pretty dang good buck, to boot.
I Am Defiant! - Dale Evans
My 2015 Elk season was one for the record books in my opinion. But to get to 2015, we need to look back to what brought me to this point.
In 2010 I was able to go on my first elk hunt in Wyoming, after 12 straight days of archery hunting without even close to an opportunity, rifle season rolled around on October 1st. On the second day of rifle season I was able to take my first bull, a nice 6x6. I drew the tag again in 2011, and once again spent 13 days archery hunting. On the 6th evening, my buddy Brad called in a great 6x6 to roughly 25 yards, as I drew my bow the bull caught movement and spun. I quickly reacted and let out a cow call with my mouth and the bull stopped at 47 yards. I took the shot and felt I smoked the bull. We trailed blood for over 400 yards, before it ran out. We scoured that mountain for the next three days without avail of finding that bull. On the first afternoon of rifle season, I was able to take a great old 5x5 bull. After that I was hooked, and bound and determined to move to Wyoming, so I would have an opportunity to hunt elk year after year.
In 2014 I was finally able to make out my way out west, but had to wait the standard 365 day wait period to apply for resident tags. So, 2015 rolls around and I’ve finally got my first resident tags in the state of Wyoming. Shortly after, I decided to go back to school, and I moved to Bozeman, Montana to pursue a degree at Montana State University. With the added stress and work load of going to college, I knew I wouldn’t have as much time as I liked to hunt; not to mention being in Montana meant I’d have a minimum of a 5 hour drive to hunt anywhere in Wyoming. So, I quickly started plotting out different dates where I could utilize time off from school, and maximize my time in the woods. After looking into it, I realized my first opportunity would be September 11th. September 10th quickly came, I loaded up the truck and headed to Wyoming to meet my buddy and taxidermist, Brad, at the trailhead to hike into our hunting location in the Shoshone National Forest. We were able to get to the camp site with about an hour or so of daylight left, and setup camp all while hearing bulls bugle in different directions. It quickly boosted our spirits for the next morning to come.
September 11th, first morning, we woke up to cool weather in the high 30s and could hear three different bulls bugling before we ever got out of our tents. After making some quick oatmeal and getting our gear in order, we decided to head out in the direction where we heard two different bulls bugling. After crossing the creek and heading up a hill roughly a half mile from camp, we stopped in a small meadow and bugled the first time. Instantly a bull bugled back fiercely, further up the mountain. We quickly covered another four to five hundred yards and found a long meadow where we thought we could call the bull into. I proceeded another hundred yards up, while Brad setup behind and started calling and working the bull. With every bugle Brad made, the bull continued to bugle and from what sounded like a little closer each time. After about ten to fifteen minutes, I caught movement in the timber across the meadow from me. A small raghorn 5x5 bull walked out to the edge, 42 yards away from me. Now, never taking a bull with my bow and having lost a bull back in 2011, it was a tough decision to pass that small bull, but we could still hear the other bull bugling further up the ridge. After a few minutes, the small bull left. At this point, I eased my way back to Brad and made a game plan. The other bull was bugling his head off, but just not closing the distance. So, I told Brad to just keep him bugling, and I would make a big loop to keep the wind in my favor and just try to slip in on him.
As I headed out on my “grand plan”, I made about a 200 yard loop, which included walking up a ridge and dropping in to where I could hear the bull. Brad kept him bugling every 3-5 minutes, which gave me a great way to keep track of where I needed to go. As I slipped into position, I could see another small meadow below me, and hear the bugle coming out of it, and periodically see some legs through the timber. I was trying to be as quite as a mouse as I eased down the hill and closer to this meadow where he was. About 50 yards from where the bull was, I tripped over a blow down and snapped a few branches, instantly my heart sank. But, to my surprise, the bull fired off with a deep guttural growl bugle, and instantly turned and started walking my way. I quickly covered another ten to fifteen yards, and got ready, the bull was coming right at me. The bull started into the timber, and the thing I remember most is he turned his head to get between some trees as he came up the game trail, he’s now within 25 yards. As he got through the trees, he let’s out another bugle, and turns up the trail directly below me. After that, things just ran on auto pilot, I’m at full draw, the bull is walking now within 20 yards, and he takes a few more steps. As he walks, and is in such close proximity, I didn’t even want to make a peep or try to stop him. I settled the pin on his front shoulder, and as he takes a step, I touch off the release. The arrow zips through him like a knife through warm butter, and the bull bucks and takes two bounds and stops. The bull isn’t but 30 yards away, and just stands there. I think both he and I are in complete shock, he obviously doesn’t know what just happened, and I’m in disbelief. We hadn’t been hunting an hour, and I just slipped an arrow through a great bull. The bull takes a few more steps, and is standing on the edge of the meadow; I look through my binoculars and can just see blood pouring out both sides of him. As I try to ease into position to grab my arrow, I fall again over some blow downs; I blame it on my shaky legs from the post shot fever I was experiencing, and the bull starts walking across the meadow. I find my arrow, it’s lodged eight inches into the Earth, absolutely dripping with bright red blood. I quickly go back and find Brad, and can hardly contain my emotion. He’s looking at me like I must have screwed up, because all he knew was the bull stopped bugling. I show him the arrow and we quickly have a little dance party on the mountain. I tell him I just shot my largest bull ever. We go find where he came out of the timber into the meadow and start blood trailing him. The bull didn’t go but 75 yards and piled up.
A beautiful 6x6 bull, that would end up grossing 302 2/8 inches. To say that I was overjoyed would be an understatement. After losing that bull in 2011, I couldn’t get it off my mind. It felt like this black cloud hanging over my head, I dreamt about it for nearly four years; wanting, needing, to make it right. In 2015, the next chance I got, I did. In less than an hour.
I LOVE ELK HUNTING!
Becoming a hunter is a personal experience. It is bittersweet. It is emotional. It is so much more than just the act of killing. It is challenging. It is rewarding. It is a blessing.
This is my recent experience in the woods.
Hunting, for me, has become a release. I look forward to each season and the excuse it brings to escape to the woods, allowing me to simply sit and enjoy the peacefulness of the morning awakening. I'm finding more and more, the end goal of a bloody arrow isn't the sole reason for the passion I have, named hunting. The possibility of arrowing an animal and bringing home fresh steak is only a bonus, a small piece of it all.
The best I can put words to it ...
The crunch of frost laden grass beneath my boots breaks the silence of early morning. My footsteps find a methodical rhythm, slow and steady, with the hope of fooling any deer nearby. Kneeling down in the darkness, I break a small branch, open a container filled with the scent of a doe in heat, and coat the edges of my soles. There is a mature buck in the area, who has alluded my stand, staying just out of effective bow range. He is smart, as evidenced by his large antlers crowning his head, allowed to grow larger year after year, upon successful escapes from each deer season. Maybe today he will slip up, give this hunter a chance to pierce his lungs, and lay his antlers down one last time.
The darkness of night is now lifting, blackness giving way to shades of gray as the first hints of light swallow up a star blanketed sky. As I tie my bow to a rope dangling from the stand above, I stop and listen one more time before climbing 20 feet up to sit amongst the branches. Silence. The squeak of the ladder announces my arrival as I make my way up the base of the tree. I'm hopeful that the sound doesn't alert any deer.
As I sit in silence, the peacefulness of it all washes over me. A gentle breeze drifts across my face, reminding me of a drop in temperature on this early December morning. A face mask is lifted upwards covering the last bit of exposed skin, leaving only eyes unmasked, and I wait on sunrise, alone with my thoughts.
The glow on the horizon illuminates the earth below. Birds one by one begin to sing, then a blue bird glides into view and a voice echoes in my head. A number, still marked in a phone with a favorite star, no longer brings the cheery sound of a familiar voice when dialed; instead it has turned into a sweet memory of a loved one. Venison was one of Mom's favorite meals, or so she said. I think part of it was simply the joy she shared and expressed in telling others that her daughter brought home dinner by way of an arrow! This year would be different.
Often times in life we find ourselves looking for the next best thing - a new house, promotion, new car, more land, always striving for bigger and better. We constantly yearn for more. I'm reminded of the importance of taking a breath, slowing down and appreciating the blessing in today. While there is value in hoping for something better, as it is motivation to press on, a healthy dose of "putting on the brakes" allows for the genuineness of reality in today. It is easy to get caught up in the longing that we miss out in the now. What am I talking about? It's simple really - cherish the blessings of Now, aka Today. After all, life is composed of moments. Moments construct days. Days build upon days, which ultimately tell your life story.
I recently heard someone put it this way .... The secret to having a great life? Have great days, one at a time, then string them together. Live in the now. Cherish every moment you've been given.
A coyote howls in the distance, an eerie song of pursuit, interrupting my thoughts and the calmness of the morning. I've already released several arrows this year, one of them silencing a song dog and the others falling short of their target. Clean misses on a couple Pope & Young bucks, both due to my own error. In the heat of the moment, buck fever got the best of me.
Today is Sunday, December 6th and my hunting days are limited now, as whitetail season is coming to an end. I've held out all season, passing on younger bucks, hoping to get a chance at the big boy. Our freezer is in need of replenishment. Honestly, I'm hoping for a doe so I don't have to make a last minute decision on a buck. As the morning hours give way to the lunch hour, I escape back to the ranch house for a quick bite to eat, walk our new puppy and return back to the stand with plenty of time to sneak in undetected before the deer begin moving again.
Quietly anticipating what the evening will bring, I settle in and find myself dozing off, safely anchored against the tree. The sound of a vehicle driving down the dirt road, bordering the field blanketing my tree-stand view, gets my attention. As it disappears behind the ridge where my jeep is parked, I wait for it to reappear on the other side and continue down the road. The absence of a dirt dust cloud gives indication that they stopped and are checking out my vehicle. Why do people have to meddle!? Eventually the jeep appears and is now heading back from the direction it came. I make a mental note of their vehicle, as it seemed a little strange, but am ultimately thankful they left.
The dust cloud had barely settled when I see the same vehicle making it's way back down the road. This time, the driver parks in the wide open, along the fence line. At this point, I'm frustrated because I've been sitting in my stand all afternoon, and the prime time for deer movement is fast approaching. Two individuals get out, put on orange vests, and one slings a rifle over his shoulder. Over the fence they come, onto the private property I'm hunting on. I'm thinking maybe they don't see me, which would be strange because I also have orange on since it is rifle season. Standing up to give my location away, I waive my orange hat. They continue to walk straight towards me. Since I'm by myself, I immediately call my husband, feeling the need for some back up. No answer. I call another land owner. No answer. Great!
They've now crossed the ditch, and I can clearly see it is a guy and a girl. The girl is in the lead, with her attitude spilling out in her actions, she blurts out in her first breath, "Do you have permission to hunt here?" I respond quickly with, "Yes, and you don't. Please leave."
Here we go ... she didn't like that and challenges me, "Whose property is this?" Again, I tell her it is private property and I've been hunting here for several years. I have permission and it is leased. Since she is talking loudly, I'm getting more and more annoyed, thinking my evening hunt is ruined. She doesn't like that I didn't immediately offer up the name of the land owner, so I finally divulge the name in hopes she would quiet down. She then disagrees and tells me it belongs to someone else. (Um, no it doesn't)
I can't believe this is happening!
As she calls her dad to confirm she is right (which she wasn't), I will admit to letting a cuss word slip out, apparently loud enough for my trespasser to hear. She whips around, boisterously pronouncing, "You don't have to swear! You don't have to swear!" In my head I'm thinking, "yeah and you don't have to be a loud mouth trespasser either!" Instead I bit my tongue, saying nothing, because I didn't want to argue further and was trying to figure out how to simply shut her up, short of me jumping out of the tree. Finally she realized her error and proceeded to leave, talking loudly and continuously all the way across the pasture.
As their vehicle made it's way down the dirt road one last time, I contemplated leaving the stand early. Surely every deer in the area is now gone. I decided to wait and see what happened. There was still two hours left of day light, and I was curious ... what if.
It didn't take long for the peacefulness of the woods to calm my restless heart. I resolved to simply enjoy the last few hours in the stand, waiting for evening to paint a sunset display across the Kansas sky. If a deer walked by tonight that would be a bonus, but I was doubtful that was in the cards. I had reached my daily dose of adrenaline, and with no more room for Buck Fever to rattle my rhythm, taking aim at whatever crossed my path would be as easy as target practice. Or so I thought ...
As the blue light of twilight sunk down, a sound caught my attention. Turning slowly around the base of the tree, I caught movement. It was low to the ground. Coyote closing in, heading straight down the path! I reached for my bow, keeping my eyes on the song dog. If he comes to 30 yards and stops on the path above, I resolved that I would shoot him. I've already silenced one a couple weeks earlier on the same path. If I'm not able to fill my deer tag, I might as well do some predator control to balance things out. As I slowly stand up to get a clear shot, I simultaneously draw my bow, placing my 30 yard pin on a tuft of fur, marking vitals. *THWACK*! My arrow splits in two and looks to have fallen 2 feet behind the coyote. WHAT the ??? I look again through my binos and discover a small branch that my arrow must have caught. Miss!
I am now completely frustrated and with under an hour left of daylight, I desperately want to climb down, throw my bow on the ground and pout. How could I miss that shot? Granted the small tree branch "jumped" in front of my arrow, but I should have seen that!
I'm not sure how I talked myself into staying in that tree. Actually, I don't think it was me. It was more like a whisper from within to "stick it out."
Hunting is often a game of patience. At times, seasons come to a close the first morning of the hunt, as the hunter grabs opening day success. Other times, it is a season full of close encounters, endless hours of pursuit, waiting, hoping, and dreaming. I'll confess that the sound of opening day success intrigues me, but the long hours in the woods fulfill me, a collaboration of moments giving so much more than a mere red arrow. For me, the accumulation of time, building up to the anticipation for the moment marking the end of a season, becomes more important than the end result. It's hard to explain, unless you've experienced it. Somehow all of these moments combined give way to a bigger picture, giving focus. The reality is that my God speaks in the quiet moments, and often the difficult, frustrating moments. But the greatness is there, if you recognize it.
As I sit, head down, with bow in hand, I hear a strange noise behind me. It isn't a snap of a twig, but more like a hoof stumbling over a log. Slowly turning to the left I see a large doe. My heart skips a beat. I've yet to arrow a doe and I would be thrilled to come out of the woods tonight with my tag on her, especially after everything that has happened. As I watch, I see a yearling following close behind. My heart drops. This is the very reason why I've yet to arrow a doe. My heart melts.
Mere seconds pass and I realize a small buck, along with a bigger buck is in the group. I watch as the bigger buck takes the same path as the coyote. He is going to cross above in the open at 30 yards. Wait! I notice more movement and see a third buck shadowing the group. Showing me enough of his antlers to grab my attention, I know it is the big boy! I can tell by the path that he is taking, it is likely that he will stay out of range and not come in. I'm tempted to hold out, but force myself to look closely at the bucks in front of me. As the 2nd buck continues on the coyote path, I now have a more clear look at his antlers and am immediately impressed by the length of his G2s and the size of his body. He is a shooter in my book! I intentionally tear my eyes away from the buck out of my range and look at the one in front of me. He is now perfectly broadside at 30 yards. I draw and admit that for a split second think about the bigger buck. My buck takes one more step forward, stops and gives me a bowhunter's dream of a shot. I can't resist. It is gift and I'm taking it ... Now.
*THWACK* My arrow finds its mark.
Immediately, I see that the shot is a little forward, but feel confident that it is lethal. As I watch my buck travel down the path, taking my arrow with him, I wait for the crash indicating the end. Silence. My heart sinks. Knowing he may need a little time to expire, hoping my arrow didn't catch his shoulder, I back out quietly.
It is a long walk back to the jeep, especially by yourself. After what seemed like hours, Troy finally arrived to begin the tracking job via flashlight. Only finding a few drops of blood, the decision is made to back out and give him a little more time to expire. When we head back in a second time, the blood trail becomes more evident and I hear Troy announce up above, "Oh, Emily, that's a nice buck!!"
The reason I didn't hear him crash ... upon his final breath, he had jumped down into a creek bottom, a silent mud slide.
After a few quick pictures and admiring this gorgeous buck that truly felt like an unexpected blessing, we realized that we now had the task of trying to get him out of this mud hole and up the steep slippery bank. Oh how I wish I had video documentation of the event! Honestly, I'm not sure how we managed to get him out of there. After several attempts of pulling that buck up and sliding back down the muddy slope, I wanted to sit down and cry, scream or punch something. It was a slow process of inching our way up, laying in the mud, and bracing against trees. There was also a mixture of interesting sounds, grunting, and colorful language. Finally getting him over the ledge was such a relief, that it didn't matter we were covered in mud, blood and tears!
That wasn't the last trouble from this buck either ...
Somehow we lost the trail back to the truck and I agreed to stay with the buck while Troy went to look for the flashlight hung on a tree branch marking our entrance to the woods. As I watched Troy disappear over a bank, taking the light with him, the darkness of the night enveloped me. From crazy chaos to indescribable silence, the woods took on new light. I stood there still, taking it all in. The buck next to me, now lifeless, used to live where I'm standing. A deep gratitude washed over me. His death would bring sustaining life. The stars stood out in the night sky a little brighter. I can't fully describe in words the moment impressed upon my heart. It was beautiful. Again, I felt as if God was whispering to me ... each day brings blessings, it's up to you to recognize them.
I wish I could tell you that was the end of the story, but there is a little more worth telling.
After loading my buck up in the truck, and bringing him to a different section of ground to begin the gutting process, we noticed the smell. He was a little more rank than what I've experienced with other bucks. This awful odor, usually associated with a gut-shot animal, about knocked us over upon cutting him open, which was strange because I had made a perfect double lung shot. It was cold and he had only been laying in the creek for 3-4 hours, so that shouldn't have made a difference. I could see the heaves coming. As I stood over my buck, holding the brisket open, Troy launched to the side as a river of yuck gushed from his mouth. I about lost it, holding my breath to keep my stomach contents down. Now the smell was a mixture of puke and buck gut stench. A second round spewed out from Troy - vomit volcano! We laughed and cried as we finished the gutting process. Apparently my arrow had sliced his esophagus and the stomach gases had seeped up, causing the stench.
Even with all the trouble this buck gave us, it was worth the effort. We've already had several burgers and they were delicious!
Troy jokes that we should call this buck "Pig Pen" because of the mud hole incident, followed by the vomit. However, I smile when he suggests that because I know better. To me, he will always be a reminder of the blessing of Now, giving thanks for the gift of today.
In the end, Mom had a blue bird that visited each day outside her window. I think of the joy that it brought her - a simple blue bird that she called "hers." While she kept one eye on her future hope, she knew how to live in the now, enjoying each day. I want to live like that. Mom, this buck is for you ...
His name is NOW.
Each day brings blessings, it's up to you to recognize them.
"I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in Him." - Ps 40:1-3
The ultimate hide & seek game in the mountains
against timber ghosts
slipping in and out of the shadows,
only to let out a bone chilling bugle letting you know he
is still the king of the mountain "marco polo" challenge.
Elk Season 2015. It is now but a distant memory, but not forgotten. I'm left with additional stories, bugles that echo across mountains, and another year of close encounters. I consider myself an elk hunter, yet have not come home with bull antlers my own.
The years pile on, making this story perhaps continue to build with anticipation of a dramatic conclusion. It's a story still in the making, yet I'm weary of the writing and hoping for the final chapter to be written soon. It's only a matter of time. Each season I enter the game with new anticipation. There's a bull out there who will soon hear me say ... "checkmate."
I was recently asked by Lucky Shot (Realbullets.com) to review a few of their products. Are you kidding me? I was thrilled to offer my opinion! Jewelry and accessories made from real bullets, that is a combination that can't go wrong.
Lucky Shot brand, operated by Monkey Trading, LLC, is a family owned company and all products are proudly made in the USA. They produce bullet jewelry, bullet keychains, bullet bottle openers, and bullet pens.
BULLET JEWELRY FOR WOMEN
The women bullet necklaces offered by Lucky Shots are reasonably priced. I opted for the 40 caliber pendant necklace. The moment I received this necklace, I put it on and basically haven't taken if off since. In my opinion, it is easily transitions from the office to casual wear. The chain is not bulky, yet has a sporty feel. I like the fact that the bullet charm will not fall off the chain if you forget to fasten it. The chain is constructed nicely to prevent this. One difference in the necklace I received vs. the one pictured on their site is that it doesn't contain the extra clear glass crystal. I actually prefer it better that way.
BULLET JEWELRY FOR MEN
One of their most popular products for guys is the .308 Paracord Projectile Necklace. I think it looks great on my guy! Troy likes the fact that it is light weight and easy to adjust. With different paracord color options (black, woodland camo and olive drab) this would make a great, unique gift for the special guy in your life!
BULLET KEYCHAINS & BOTTLE OPENERS
Various caliber keychains are available through Lucky Shot. And if you are looking for one of the coolest bottle openers ... you can even order a keychain .308 bullet bottle opener keychain. A steal at only $10.99!
But wait ... it gets better. They have a 50 caliber bullet bottle opener! What? Yes! If you've never held a 50 caliber bullet, you will not believe the size of this thing. It is awesome. You will be the hero at the next tail gate party, when you break out a 50 caliber bullet to open the next drink. Yes, you need one of these!
One more novelty item I need to tell you about is the 50 caliber bullet pen. You heard me. There is no longer any question on whether or not the pen is mightier than the sword. How about using this to take notes at your next meeting?
For a full product listing of the various bullet products available, check out Realbullets.com!
My Kind of Date Night
Sharing the thrill of a first turkey kill with someone is exciting, and when that someone is your spouse, it's the making for a perfect Friday night date.
Kansas has great hunting opportunities for Spring turkey. Beautiful Rio Grande turkeys can be found throughout the state and hunters are allowed to kill two birds, an alluring offer to those traveling from out of state. Driving to Kansas is feasible for a weekend hunt for my husband, Troy, and myself since we live one state away.
Last year we took several weekend road trips to hunt Rios in the eastern side of Kansas. Our friend, Jeff, filled his tags and I took my first Rio, which I may spend the rest of my hunting career trying to top. I came home with a 25 lb turkey, 11 1/2 inch beard and 1 1/4 inch spurs. It was a memory that I will always cherish. (Thank you, sweet Kansas!) Even though Troy did not fill his tag our first year of hunting turkeys in Kansas, he shared in my turkey success excitement, and feigned ambivalence to going home empty handed. Convincing us he was not disappointed, was an easy act to play.
You have to understand that my husband is an elk hunter to the core. Almost every elk season, he kills an elk. He knows and understands how they think, can talk like them and by the end of season even smells a little bit like one. When turkey season rolls around each Spring, he mildly complains while Jeff and I chat incessantly about how excited we are to hear the first gobble. It is common to hear statements uttered from Troy's lips such as, "An elk feeds me all year, and that bird is good for one meal, maybe too" or "All of that work for one or two birds," and there's even this ... "I don't understand what all the fuss is about over a bird!"
Each time these statements are made, Jeff and I try to convince him that turkey hunting is like elk hunting. Turkeys are vocal, allowing you to call and locate them, and sometimes even spot and stalk - if you are very sneaky and have luck on your side! At this point we usually get eyeballs rolled clear back to Colorado's Western skies. Jeff and I look at each other, smile and quietly whisper the words, "wait until he shoots his first bird. He'll be hooked!"
Now you understand a little why it was our mission this year to "hook" him.
Our car was loaded up like a turkey hunting toy-chest. Open the door wrong and decoys, camouflage, bows, arrows, shot guns, and more would spill out. As the horizon slowly swallowed up the mountain silhouette behind us, we pressed forward towards beautiful Kansas land. Turkey discussions filled the hours as the highway miles piled up, and it was easy to come to an agreement - Troy gets the first shot this year!
Late Friday morning we arrived on Jeff's family's ranch. We are fortunate to have private land for our turkey hunt. It is a rare treat, since we are used to hunting public land in our home state of Colorado. After a quick scouting trip, we quickly realized the turkeys were hanging out on the opposite side of the ranch, a different pattern than last year. Bountiful rain showers this spring changed the vegetation and the section to the west of the ranch house now offered the best strutting ground, but that also means less cover, making it a little more tricky for a set up.
Parallel narrow tree lines separated three open fields. The turkeys were congregating on the northern section. We snaked our way carefully along the south end, hopscotching between each tree. Jeff was in the lead, Troy and I following behind, each grabbing the person's shirt in front of them. With a heads up decoy at the ready in case we needed to quickly stop and present some type of cover, we navigated our way closer to the middle tree line. As a soft rain slowly started to fall, enriching the smell of the pasture around us, we dodged cow pies and mud puddles.
Finally reaching the largest tree in the middle tree line, we waited behind it until the last turkey head on the opposite side of the field ducked down out of sight. As Troy and I moved around the trunk of the tree to set up, Jeff swiftly moved out into the pasture and set out a few Avian X decoys, a jake and a hen. Let the games begin!
When turkey hunting, it is extremely important to keep your movement to a minimum. We knew that at any moment we could now get "busted." Now that Troy and I were concealed against the base of the tree, sitting side by side, we slowly moved our shot guns into position. Jeff and Troy began calling, a sweet turkey cadence of calls that immediately got the attention of the turkeys in the next field over. It was only a matter of minutes and I saw a head pop up in the tree line across the field. Cows to the right started mooing, and I began to worry that their curiosity would cause them to interferre with our turkey ambush. Luckily they went back to their grazing and fertilizing the pasture, staying a safe distance from what was about to happen ...
Continue reading on Kansas Travel website.
Troy and I have sore feet, new friends, and knowledge of exciting new outdoor products, compliments of attending the Archery Trade Association show the last couple of days. What an experience! Thank you, ATA, for exceeding our expectations.
After attending Shot Show last year, we had an idea of what to expect at an event like this ... aisles and aisles of outdoor industry leaders showing off new product for the year, along with upcoming companies looking to gain visibility, sales and make an impression in the industry. While Shot is an amazing experience, ATA has an unique lure in that Bowhunters / Archery enthusiasts are the target audience. Music to my ears!
We have several products / companies that we would like to highlight. Here are the first four new products for 2015 that captured our attention:
First Lite Merino Wool Base Layers - Women's Line
RAM CAT Broadheads / Quivers
We've been shooting Ram Cat broadheads for several years now and can testify that they truly are king of the kill. The cutting power of these blades are amazing. With the chisel tip and back cut technology, I'm never nervous about whether or not my broadhead will get the job done.
A new feature that Ram Cat is introducing is the tips of the blades will be trimmed slightly, which will help in preventing them from getting bent. In addition, they will now more easily fit in an arrow quiver. Speaking of quivers ... Ram Cat has designed a quiver specifically shaped to their broadheads. Smart!
QALO ~ 100% medical grade silicone wedding rings
Initially, you may be wondering why silicone wedding rings made our top outdoor archery products for 2015. However, let me convince you .... What is the first thing you do when packing for a hunting trip? I know for me, I make sure my wedding ring is tucked away in a safe location. I don't want to risk losing it up on the mountain, or have my diamond ring catch a ray of sun just at the wrong time, alerting a buck of a life-time that I'm at full draw. QALO has solved that problem for the serious sportsman, outdoors man, hunter.
In their words, "After getting married we realized what a nuisance wearing our traditional wedding band was. While we love our wives, and love being married, the reality was that our ring was getting in the way (literally) of our active lifestyle. The married men we talked with shared the same frustrations. ... we searched for a solution that would allow us to show our commitment of marriage, and wear a comfortable wedding band that could withstand our active lifestyle."
This is where QALO was born. A 100% medical grade silicone wedding ring. I can get on board with that and support a company wanting to help husbands and wives display their commitment to each other while enjoying an active lifestyle. I have my camouflage QALO ring, do you?
Quality * Athletics * Love * Outdoors
From the Draw
We are devoted to sharing our bowhunting stories. We have a passion for passing on our hunting heritage to our kids. From the draw in the mountains to the draw on paper, the moments live on.