Monday, November 15, 2010

First bull 11/10/10

If there were a theme for my recent hunt it would be a toss up between anticipation and expectation. After spending a few springs branding cattle on my good friends ranch, I was invited for a rifle hunt for a bull. From that day on this hunt was in the front of my mind. I played out countless scenes of success, various bulls lay before my mind's eye, all just enchanted dreams. Several other friends had the opportunity to hunt this property, all of them were successful in taking a nice Paradise Valley bulls. The ranch sits in prime elk country 20 miles north of Yellowstone. When you think about this place, you think about elk.

I became more and more anxious by the day as hunting season began. Guys at the firehouse quizzed me on my plans and discussed the possibilities. In general, made me feel like I might actually have a chance of bagging something. During the first two weeks of the season I had several close encounters with elk (no bulls), giving me enough excitement to keep my nerves at bay for the upcoming main event. I hit the shooting range more than I have in the past, hoping that it might make a difference.

A good friend offered to film the hunt. He's gained some great experience from the bow season hunts he's been on the last several seasons. We loaded the meal plans, paired some Coors with a bottle of Makers Mark. Then there was only the driving. Four hours across the state, Montana fall was in a perfect state of being. River bottom cottonwoods still held there golden leaves and the golden grasses folded in the wind. The fall had been on the better ones in recent memory, with many mild days stretching into October.

Pulling up at the ranch the temperature hung in the upper 60s. We headed out immediately and hit the top for some glassing. From our perch up top we located several bulls that we would target the next morning.

Start abbreviated story: Day 1 hunt- Wake at 5, into elk right away. Get too close (50 yards) to two our same bulls from the night before. A 350 bull takes off; asses as they cross road above. Day 2- Spitting rain; Hit the top, and then 400 yards from ranger see antlers coming down; proceed to blow the shot on a great bull; see 2 other nice bulls with another missed opportunity; 6 inches of snow today. Day 3 - cold morning, bad visibility; Evening glass a 375 bull 7x7 from mile. Day 4 - Sit in dark as 150 head work 200 yards away, no bulls. Meet up with RS, head to top; Options are there, see a moose; Set up on a downed log, perfect prone. RS ranged the area they would first come out at 275 yds. 3rd bull looked nice and the Weatherby 30.06 barked. It barks more than I would like, but goes down clean.

He's down 100 yards below the road in the slash. I hoot and holler at the top of my lungs, pure rush and joy. First bull and he's a mature 6x6, not the true giant as some of the ones we had seen, but a perfect first. Gutted and drank whiskey. Kent called and comes up with saw and tractor, some saw work and he rallies the tractor to the elk. He goes down whole in the John Deere to the barn where we put him on the gambrel. Hung for the night in barn. Makers Mark and some steaks finish off the night with scoring the bull. Scored 265.

Back home I butchered him up in the garage, 8 solid hours of work. Ended up with 110 pounds going to the meat shop for sausages and burger. ~30lbs of steaks in the vacuum seal. H and H will hand back 45 lbs of thuringer/pepperoni, 45 lbs of breakfast sausage and 50lbs of hamburger. Anyone hungry?

Here's to the man that made it all possible. Thanks for the help and tolerating my rookiness.

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