Amongst hunters there is a sense of adventure and spirit of camaraderie that occurs. For untold generations hunters have gone into the woods and fields and streams together to work as a group and harvest their own meat. This is my story of a unique elk hunting trip in Washington State.
This is where it gets interesting, and I hang my head in shame...
I’ve shot a bow a lot and practice very regularly in and out of hunting season. My bow was recently tuned and I had been shooting before the trip. My broadheads are dialed with my setup. I’ve had my bow setup the way it is for three years now. I KNOW this bow.
I came to a full draw down low in the grass. I knew I need to mask my movement as long as possible, but that I could sink an arrow in at 26 yards very quickly.
As I sat up above the grass, I realized the cow I was drawing on was actually very young.
Contrary to popular belief, hunters do care about the environment, and aren’t out there for the sake of just killing. I prefer to take an older, mature animal so that the herds can stay strong and continue to prosper. Seeing that I had drawn down on calf, I switched my sights to a different cow, now standing at this point as the whole herd has realized something is amiss.
Grip is set. Pin is set at 26 yards. It’s an easy downhill shot. Bubble on my sight is level. Pin lined up just behind the shoulder and center. A breath out. Slow steady squeeze of the release. Follow through. The arrow sings past the cow, just over her back. Shit.
Any good hunter wants a fast, clean, and ethical kill. To miss an animal is only made better by the solace that you didn’t wound them. What I didn’t take into account was the extreme angle of the hill, at that distance I should have shot much lower on the animal.
Oddly, due to a lack of noise and generally a lack of movement, the herd didn’t move too far off immediately. I knew they would eventually push away if they scented me, but I stayed put. The guys on the opposing ridgelines would be able to get in and stalk the herd if they bedded back down nearby. I sat there on the hill about 80 yards from the elk, watching them in their confusion, watching the herd bull bugle, rounding up his herd. After they moved further into the tree line down the hill, I looked for an arrow with blood on it just to make sure I hadn’t wounded anything. I never found an arrow, heard an impact on an animal, or spotted a blood trail. If you have a bad shot, you just hope that you miss completely and don’t wound an elk to die of infection.
Hunting Is Not Perfect Every Time
I made my way back to the hill Griff was on, about an hour long process. I wasn’t going to chase the herd anymore that day, and I took the miss pretty hard on myself. When I got to Griff he was all smiles, as he often is. He could see the missing arrow in my quiver and took the opportunity to give me a good ribbing. He was over it, if it went perfect every time it would just be called killing, not hunting. He let me know that the herd had pushed up the hill just like we thought they would. He was going to set up an ambush at a break in an old fence they appeared to be running through.
So that’s what we did: we set up an ambush site at a break in the fence.
After about ten minutes, we both began to doze off.
After a few minutes, I could hear Griff say, “Brent, check it out.” Behind us, about 150 yards, were two elk trotting away from us. We were upwind from them, and they had scented us on their way to the break in the fence. After some more waiting in ambush (read:napping) Wes showed up to set in an third ambush point for the break in the fence.
Much to our dismay, nothing came along for the break in the fence that afternoon. We gathered up the boys and headed off the mountain to scout some more spots and maybe road hunt for some mule deer.
Back at the truck it was all smiles; for a first day of elk hunting this was pretty much unparalleled. Running the ridgelines in our rental, we came across the perfect photo op for the hunt. Shortly after, we decided to pack it in. The sun was setting and dinner was calling in town; why eat dehydrated meals when you can get real meals a quick ride from camp. Of course, we threw a couple bows in the truck incase we ran into any mulies on the roads going to town.
After making the left hand turn onto the main road, we spotted a couple decent mule deer about 200m off the road. Griff jumped out with Jayson, still rocking his flip flops, to try and get an ambush on one of the deer. After about ten minutes, they called us back over: the deer had scented them and taken off.
No worries, we’ll hunt another day.
We will be releasing his hunting journal as a serial over the next month, stay tuned for more adventures to come.