Thursday, December 18, 2008

Father and Son Elk Hunts

The most memorable hunts I have been on were with fathers and sons. Many hunters have unrealistically high expectations of hunting. One would think that a father/son team would have equally high expectations, but I have found that those expectations are usually more in line with reality than is normally the case.

Oddly enough, the father/son teams are unusually successful. Maybe it is because fathers seem to set aside their dreams and focus on helping their sons have a memorable experience--similar to some experience the fathers had in their youth.

The last year I was an outfitter I had a father/son team who were both successful. When we left camp, the sky was bright, but the rising sun had yet to touch the western peaks. There was little snow, but a heavy frost. Less than a half mile from camp, we saw a herd of over 200 elk. This was Thanksgiving week and the elk had bunched for their migration.

We tied the horses and made a sneak to get ahead of the herd. (Knowing where the elk usually travel makes a big difference here.) I set the hunters up in a tree line of a large meadow. At first we didn't see any bulls. The elk had stopped in the meadow and were grazing. Because of the slope we couldn't see the main bunch below us. As they milled around several bulls drifted in front of us. The son didn't see one that he liked. I asked the father if he wanted to take one. The dad hymed and hawed and said he didn't want to spoil things for his son.
I replied, "If you see one you like take it. Sort of one in the hand kinda thing. With this herd here we can hunt for a big one for your son all day, and possibly tomorrow."

He chose the largest of the six-by-sixes (good mature bull with a 32" spread), and shot. The bull was down.
I had everyone stay low and took the son down a hump in the meadow to watch how things developed. We just kneeled down in the frosty grass. Was it the way the sound echoed in the meadow, or the way the stars had aligned that night, who knows, but the entire herd went past us in almost single file.
I told the son, "You'll have to wait for a while. The biggest bulls will be the last ten elk in the line. When they get here pick the one you want and take him. You'll have about 30 seconds to decide on the one."

The son was trying hard to contain himself. For over three minutes elk walked single file within 40 yards of us. The lead cow never even showed us her "Mickey Mouse ears." (I always refer to a cow that spots me as having Mickey Mouse ears. That is how they look when they spread the ears and look directly at you--just before they run off!)

The bull chosen was third from the end. Forty yards away--bang--he was down--then the young man could feel his knees shake without wondering if it would affect his aim.

The photos in this post were taken just after the shots, but before we caped and gutted them.
Another great Father and Son Elk Hunt.

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