We wake up to my alarm one last morning, and initiate the morning routine. "Did you hear anything last night?" I ask my Dad. "Nope, nothing." he replies. I had slept with the window open and stayed up late into the evening hoping to hear a bugle, but either Santa never came or I fell asleep when he did. "Well, let's stick to the plan and hit that patch of timber over there." I point with my coffee mug to the spot we had hit on day 5 of the hunt. "I'll follow you" the Old Man says. We walk up to the spot that had been so magical only a week prior. We stood silently and listened. A few trucks came cruising down the road by us, seemingly unaware of the potential this patch of trees held. After sitting there for 20 minutes, we hear him. The angry bugler from last week sounds off. Our eyes light up. A million thoughts crossed my mind as the sun starting coming out, and we made our way in towards the bull. Should I go silent, or bugle? Geez, we're so close to the road, I hope he shuts up real soon. Is this finally going to happen? Are we going to get a bull down... together?! I look at my Dad and say "We're doing this together. You have to keep up, it sounds like we're going to be in pursuit mode this morning." I'm fresh off my experience chasing the last herd bull and blowing it, and my Dad knows it is going to be a tough play. While hiking up the hill into the herd my Dad's Parkinson's starts acting up. When he gets nervous his right hand starts trembling pretty bad. I look at him and can tell he's frustrated with himself. He wants to be able to keep up with his boy. He wants to make a play on this bull. He doesn't want to be a factor leading to a failed stalk. He wants to see success more than I do at this point. We stop to catch our breathe for a moment, and hear the bull bugle and chuckle only 100 yards away. Before the bull could finish, we were on the move towards him. Once again, we were putting ourselves right in the middle of this same bull and his harem. On this play I was moving much more aggressively than before, being that it was our last hunt. I had already tried the tiptoeing and ninja tactic many times with no success. We moved quickly through the loud pine needles and twigs in an attempt to get within bow range, but as we moved 50 yards closer he moved 70 yards further. We kick it into a border line run, and the bull continues moving just a click ahead. He starts turning off in a direction I was not anticipating at all. We stop to listen and check the map. This bull was now moving towards a high traffic road, and was likely going to cross it at any moment by the sound of things. "No freaking way!" we both say. The bull lets out another bugle and confirms our suspicions. He had crossed the road, and was in another pocket of timber. We jam up towards him, follow the tracks across the dirt road, take a moment to wave at our parked truck, and continue the pursuit. Unfortunately for us, this bull was starting to get too rowdy too close to the road. My Dad and I look at the map and find a spot to try and intercept him, on the opposite side of an open meadow he'd have to cross. We use the dirt road to make fast time and hook around the meadow. We check the wind, and things are looking good. The bull lets off another bugle, and he is headed right in our direction. I pull up the binos and look at the opposite side of the meadow, and the bull is standing on the edge with his cows. "It's him!!" I say with a crack in my voice. "Holy moly" Dad replies. He was only 80-100 yards away. We had great cover and I hadn't made a peep yet. It was at this moment I thought things were finally going to come together. I was starting to taste the elk, to visualize the epic photo of Dad and I with a bull down, and I was starting to formulate the words of the amazing story we had lived through the last 2 weeks. But, this is no fairytale ending fellas. As we got setup for this bull another hunter comes driving down the road in his pickup. He had heard the commotion and wanted to be apart of it just as much as us. He parked his truck and let out a road bugle. He waited for 10 seconds, and drives another 100 yards to repeat the sequence. Unbeknownst to him, the bull wasn't buying it. He snapped his head, and was fixed on the hunters position. After the third road bugle our bull packed up his cows and quickly headed for a nasty deadfall ridden hillside, one that I was not about to drag my Dad up. Dad and I look at each other in disbelief. I put my arrow back in its quiver. We sat silently for a few minutes to see if the situation would turn around, but the elk were now several hundred yards off.
"That was pretty cool, huh?" I say to my Dad. I was trying to lighten the mood. "You killed it, Dad" I continue. "That was not an easy chase, and we dang near sealed the deal.". "Ya. That was pretty special. This whole hunt was pretty special. We experienced a heck of a lot more than I was expecting" He says. "Alright, well let's go pack up our stuff I guess?" I say. We make our way back to the trailer 1 last time.
I think about the goals that I had set for myself a month prior. I wanted my Dad to see a bull and hear a bugle, and we most definitely achieved that. Did we get a bull down? Nope. Did we have an epic adventure? Absolutely. I thought long and hard weather or not I'd spend the time to do this write up. I'm glad I did. While writing it I was reminded just how special of a hunt this was, and one that my Dad and I will remember forever. I don't have a cool picture of a bull for you guys, but I'm not looking for those kind of "likes". In writing this recap I wanted to give everyone something to chew on. I wanted to speak to the veteran hunters, and the new guys - like me. I want the veteran hunters to remember good times in the past, and recalibrate if necessary. Look in your freezer. That meat you have will be gone next year, but the memories won't be. I want the new guys to see that a successful hunt requires a lot. It's not easy. It's not supposed to be easy. The pathway to success should be paved with failure. It just makes it all the sweeter when you know you have given something your all, and you shared that with someone you love.
Thanks for reading folks, I enjoyed this.
Man, add this hunt recap to the other great ones of this fall. You had me at the edge of my seat waiting for each new chapter. What a great hunt and great time spent between you and your dad. Thank you for sharing your story with us here.
Thanks for the great feedback everyone!! I am grateful that so many of you enjoyed reading along, considering I was so long winded. One of the better hunt recaps @rtraverdavis ? Wow!! Thanks for that compliment. That’s awesome.
A few of you @kansasdad are asking about headed back for rifle season. The answer is…. Absolutely!!!! I have plans to arrive October 16th with the hopes of shooting the first elk I see. Huge bull, dink bull, cow…. They all better watch out hahaha
One of the best hunting stories I’ve ever read.
congrats to you and your dad.
you have a special talent with words. Oh yeah I would pull the trigger on the first elk you see. good luck and fill the freezer.
That was a great story!!
I am going out to Montana, and my wife is tagging along with me. This story will make me appreciate my hunt that much more. Thank you for re-centering my perspective. This is what these forum are supposed to be like. Good luck on your rifle hunt!