A Hunter’s Dream Will had grown up hunting with his father and felt that he had the sport down to a science. Hunting for both food and sport, his rifle had brought down even the most wary of prey. With the coming of a new season; however, a new challenge had arisen: bow-hunting. Setting off into familiar mountains with an unfamiliar weapon, he began his hunt for a male, bull, elk. It was here that his whole perception of hunting changed. While sitting in his tree stand over a wallow, a spring dug up by animals, a massive bull wandered in to get a drink and initiated a single moment, lasting seconds, which he would never forget.
Leaving their truck at the base of a giant canyon, Will and his father gathered the gear that would be essential for the next five days and started the four mile hike to the camp they had set up a week earlier. An hour later, at camp, they ate a quick meal of granola bars before crawling into their tents to try and get as much sleep as they could, for tomorrow start at three-thirty in the morning. Will hadn’t slept well and watched the minutes pass until his alarm sounded, signaling the opening day of archery elk season. His breath was white with cold as he dressed and emerged from his tent.
A pitch black forest welcomed him as his excitement for the coming day started to build. Despite the freezing weather, he wore only a light jacket. It would be warm soon enough. Turning on his headlamp, so he could see, Will double-checked his camouflage, strapped on his backpack, and grabbed his bow from its case. Now ready, he started the three mile hike to the place he would hunt. Sunrise was about half an hour away when Will reached the wallow he would be using as his hunting area. 25 feet off the ground, was his tree stand he had installed the previous week; however, before he could go up he needed to erase his scent from the area.
The wallow itself was about a quarter the size of a football field and was littered with the tracks of various animals. Taking a lap around, Will sprayed female elk scent about every five to ten feet until he was back at his tree. Using a rope hanging from the tree stand he pulled his backpack and bow up to the stand, and then climbed the giant pine himself. Once in the tree stand, he strapped himself into the seat, 25 feet is a long way to fall. With the sun cresting the mountain behind him, Will fixed his gaze on the surrounding forest, watching and listening for the arrival of his prey.
Hours passed in the tree stand and the forest had stayed silent. From far away, Will’s first sign of elk came. Bull elk use a loud call, a bugle, to ward off other bull elk and this is what Will heard. Across the canyon at least five bulls were bugling at each other, at this sound Will’s anticipation heightened because this meant the elk were moving. Goose bumps accompanied the chill he felt down his neck. Sitting up straight in his tree stand, Will notched and arrow into his bow. Crashing in the forest was the first warning of an approaching bull. Bull elk like to use trees and logs to sharpen their antlers.
Scanning the forest for movement, Will waited. Downhill, to his left, the bull appeared. Still too far for a good shot, he watched as this enormous creature used its antlers to hurl a log twice its size across the clearing before it began to slowly walk up to the water at the wallow. With the bull now about 40 yards from him, Will’s adrenaline was making his heart beat fiercely in his chest. Readying his bow, he waited for an opportunity to take a shot. Disappearing behind a clump of trees, only to reappear seconds later at the top of the wallow to his right, where the spring gurgled out of the ground, Will realized just how big this elk was.
Easily weighing over 1500 pounds, the bull’s rippling muscles could be seen beneath its golden brown fur. Two antlers, over three feet long each, extended from either side of its head branching out into seven sharp points on each one. Will’s heart was pounding in his ears and his adrenaline was making his hands shake as he raised his bow to take the shot at the giant animal not 10 yards to the right of him. Turning slowly and as quiet as possible, he drew back his bow and rotated his shoulders towards the elk.
Just then, the strap of the tree stand caught his left shoulder and he was unable to turn the meager six inches more he needed to, that would allow him to take the shot. As the bull drank from the spring, Will took the tension off his bow and carefully tried to slide his shoulder out of the harness. Harness off, he again drew his bow back, but as he did his elbow grazed the bark of the pine tree making just enough noise to alert the bull. Startled, the elk jumped out of the wallow and sprinted up the hill, out of range. Before disappearing into the forest, the bull stopped and seemed to look directly at Will.
All of the large animal’s splendor and magnificence seemed to penetrate straight into Will, transforming the elk from creature to the king of the forest in his eyes. An experienced and confident hunter, Will began this trip thinking only in terms or either success or failure only to find a new outlook on hunting. On a warm September afternoon his entire outlook on hunting, the outdoors, and the animals in the forest had been transformed into a new appreciation. A single moment, where he had been inches away from success, to beholding the wonder of nature, had changed him forever.