Gastro Gnome - Eat Better Wherever

15 year old sons first elk hunt


Well-known member
Jun 2, 2023
My fifteen year old son drew a third season cow elk tag in Colorado in one of the areas that was hit by the hard winter. We got him outfitted over the summer with proper boots, clothing, and other necessities. What he couldn't borrow from his uncle's he purchased with his own money. He's been working since he's been 12 years old mucking out horse stalls, and has saved up quite a bit and wanted to pay his own way! Had my brother who is a long range target shooter help coach him on the fundamentals of long range shooting. Had him shooting here at home out to 200 yards till that got boring! Went to a 1000 yard range and first target at 700 he placed 3 in about a 4" group centered on the plate. Rest of the range session he proceeded to show up his old man! We loaded up and headed out to Colorado Tuesday afternoon before the season opened. Got there Wednesday afternoon to do a bit of scouting, glassing from the road. Scouted, glassed the area all day Thursday and I ended up buying a bull tag. There was more elk than I had expected!!We packed in on Friday and got our camp situated about 700 yards from the drainage the elk were bedding in. Hopes were high!! Opening morning, we're eating breakfast and waiting on the thermals to change to try to make a play on the herd when here comes two hunters stomping right thru our camp headed toward the herd! I stopped them and explained to them where the elk were and how the thermals worked in that drainage. I'd hunted this area the past 6 years. Invited them to just hang out in our camp till the thermals switched and then we'll work together. They weren't having it! Said they had hunted here a lot of years and knew what they were doing, said they were going up the hillside 300 yards beyond our camp to glass the herd. Told them they'll blow the elk out! The nimrods did it anyways!! Watched from camp as they start out to glass and the whole herd takes off for private land!! Told my son that hunting public ground you will always have people like that to deal with, and that's why we have plans a-b-c.IMG_20231109_162943134.jpg
Nimrod's a good description,especially considering the open invitation to work collectively vs to each their own - and blown out herds... They worried others may have the same agenda - thus they pressed to get on them? As you say, public land hunting - always have a backup of a backup or... I'm trying to figure where the game will push if other pumpkins are pressing into a herd I'm watching. Long story short, I tend to hunt where there's less elk (=less pumpkin patcch) for this very reason. I'd be pretty amped if I came across a herd as you shared. NW Montana for open parks to glass is much more limited.

Your young man is dialed in!
I'm one placing rounds on game mostly 300 (+/-) yards w/in 2-4" (closer the better, of course). For fun sport we may send rounds 500+. Your son holds some even breathing, soft squeeze temperment for 4' @ 700! Grats!
So after finishing breakfast and waiting till the thermals started switching I took my son and showed him how the thermals work. The elk were blown out of there anyway! We hike out to where tweedle dee and tweedle dum said they'd be and low and behold they weren't there. So we climb up to a vantage and spot them walking across a meadow right towards my spot #2 and watched them blow the elk out of there! Boy they definitely knew what they were doing! So by that time thermals had switched completely so we head over the top and down the backside into nasty stuff that we hadn't been able to glass previously. We slowly worked out way down watching the wind and sneaking into pockets. We hit a pocket and I caught a whiff of elk!! Checked the wind and oh crap it's swirling!! I was close to the edge of a steep drop into a fairly deep hole so quickly peeked over and caught movement 40 yards below me! Whispered at my son quick they're right below us! He stepped up beside me as a big cow stepped into view. I was way to excited and told him SHOOT!! SHOOT NOW!! There gonna smell us!! (I rushed him) shame on me! Any way from my vantage I had a clear shot to the vitals, he was to my right and had a different view. He did the best he could and shot!! Cow just stands there for about 2 seconds and takes off! I realized instantly that I was a bad Dad and he hit a little to far back. After kicking myself for rushing him, I settle down and apologize for rushing him. I told him we'll go check for blood then wait a minimum of an hour to track. Was pretty sure it was a liver hit. We waited,,,,,, and waited,,,,,,,, and waited,,,,,,, finally after about a week it seemed we took up the blood trail! Tracking was pretty easy at first but started to peter out after the first 100 yards. Lost it a few times but he picked it back up!!! At one point we couldn't find blood so I went by instinct and found her bed!! Blood everywhere! When she jumped she headed straight downhill bleeding heavily!! Spotted her below us about 200 yards standing and watching her back trail looking pretty sick!! This time I held my excitement down and one 220 grain slug and she was down!!! We made our way down and found found her laying right on a blm trail!! His first shot was too far back with liver and a little gut. Second was true, tight behind the shoulder!! Total tracking from initial shot to final resting place was about 350 yards. Don't think she would've made it much further. We got her skinned and cut up in about 2 hours and meat hung to cool. We head back to camp and relax and roast some fresh elk tenderloin on willow sticks for dinner over an Aspen fire. Sunday I had a packer come in and pack the meat out. Rest of the week we battled other hunters that made their way in there. Other years we had snow and no other hunters , this year no snow, easy hiking, and six different guys descended on us almost every day! We found some more cows that hadn't been blown out by careless hunters but no bulls for me. Last day I decided to still hunt a big loop through some dark steep timber and see if we could find a legal bull. Found a lot of good looking area but no bulls. We worked our way down, and set up on a small ridge overlooking the area my son's cow had been in. We heard elk in the timber up top but couldn't see them. With it being warm I figured they probably wouldn't come out till dark. We decided to hunt our way up and see if we could intercept them in the timber. We drop down through the valley and my boy finds a 6×6 deadhead. I strap it too my pack and we start working our way up a steep incline. With about a half hour of shooting light left we stop to rest and a bull rips a bugle behind us!! There's a legal bull on the ridge we just dropped off of!! I drop my pack to use as a rest but the deadhead is not cooperating!!! Look to my left and spot a flat rock perfect height for going prone. Range 318 yards, dial, quartering to me, private land not far away, have to anchor him on the spot. Pick a spot to break him down, and squeeze!!!! He stiffens up and turns broadside. What ? He should have dropped!! Put another round in him and he's down!!!!! We get him cut up and hung and get back to camp about 10 p.m. too tired to even make mountain house. Two major lessons from this trip- lesson one- I get way too excited helping my kids. I need to calm down and execute the way I do when I'm behind the trigger!! Lesson -2- public land can get crowded, don't let it get you down! Head for the stuff they don't want to be in and that's where they'll push the elk. IMG_20231111_133918576_HDR~2.jpgIMG_20231115_172703236~2.jpgIMG_20231118_134810718.jpg
Good job! Your plans a, b and c worked for you. Idiots (know it alls) on public land, not much one can say to them. They had the right to proceed, but if they would have listened to you and joined you it probably would have worked out well for all of you. There are always lessons learned for next time. It was obvious your persistence paid off. Thanks for sharing...maybe the nimrods will read your story and learn something!
I'm hoping they read it!! From where they headed they probably couldn't see the elk dump out of the drainage below them. I know they didn't see they elk dumping out of my plan b spot with the approach they took!
Great job! Tough to deal with too smart to fail people but you handled it well and taught your son valuable lessons. His shooting puts me to shame, it's hard for me to overcome my shotgun instincts and really focus on my breathing and squeeze.
What caliber is he shooting?
He's shooting my customized browning x-bolt 300 win mag suppressed with handloaded 220 grain eld-x. I had his uncle work with him on his long range shooting. My brother is a lot better shooter than I am and also a better teacher!
Congrats on your son joining in so well with his uncle, it's great he has done so well with a big caliber. Maybe your brother could teach those nimrods a few hunting tactics. 😆 lol. Thanks for sharing your story.
Congratulations! That’s awesome that you both found success! I am looking forward to getting my kids after it when they are a bit older!
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