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.
Day two started out earlier than day one, and with less coffee.
Did I mention that Griff was sleeping in a pile of meat bags and tarps since he forgot his sleeping bag? He was up first, due largely in my summation to him being cold as shit through the night. I can’t throw him under the bus without a battle buddy though, so I must admit that I had forgotten all of my socks and underwear. We both were terrible Boy Scouts.
On the road out, the plan was essentially the same: get up high and glass the herd then push out guys strategically to try getting in on some elk.
Griff was in the lead going up the mountain, and we could see fresh sign of elk the entire way up. We moved slow and quiet, listening for elk and making sure we moved into the wind. At one point halfway up the hill, Griff pushed ahead slightly to make sure there wasn’t any elk directly ahead that our large hunting party would spook. Nothing was there, so we kept on.
Closing In On the Elk
As we came around the back side of the high point, Griff stopped and took a knee. Much like a patrol, we all took a knee on his cue. Griff let us know that he could hear an elk just over the ridge that we were about to come over.
Staying low, Griff moved up toward the elk. We used the trees in front of us as screening between us and the animals, with most of our hunting party hanging a good way back from Griff to let him do his thing. Being the closest to Griff, I could see the entire sequence of his shot.
Watching that shot go down is one of the memories I will take with me for a long time.
Moving methodically and slowly, Griff pulled an arrow from his quiver. Then he knocked it and seated the rest. He hooked in his release. Getting to this point was probably a 35-45 second process; pretty long if you think about it. He then waited for the spike to move.
Oh, did I mention it was a spike? We had tags for cow elk and spikes only, and finding a true spike is about as rare of an elk as you can find.
Once the spike was screened from Griff’s movement, he drew. With a LONG pause between shot and draw, Griff went from a low double knee, to a high double knee to take the shot. After a perfect follow through, I could hear the “CRACK” of the arrow striking its target. Or a tree.
For a split second, I wasn’t sure what I heard the arrow hit; it wasn’t a “thud” like you often hear with an arrow. It was a loud crack, like you might hear if the arrow breaks or smacks a dry tree. Regardless, my question was immediately answered when Griff gave a silent fist pump of stoke. At this moment I knew he had hit his mark, and watched the spike take a few steps into the sagebrush. The entire hunting party stayed silent and didn’t move. The spike took a few steps around the back side of a small hill and we all looked at each other. I can’t say enough how stoked everyone was for Griff.
We laid up on the hill for about a half an hour, hoping to give the spike enough time to lay down and expire peacefully. Normally in this situation I would catch a quick catnap and put a deposit in the sleep bank, however, the stoke was too high and we all just sat there, really embracing the hunt.
Hunting Down the Wounded Spike
After a half an hour we formulated a new plan: I would take the high ground while Griff, Jayson, and Wes moved to recover the spike. I would glass the ridgelines and try to find the herd while the other guys moved further away from our vantage point. I let the guys move on the spike first, not wanting to spook him if he was nearby. After another half hour or so, I moved to my vantage point and started to glass.
After a mere 15 minutes sleeping, err, I mean glassing, the guys sent me a text:
Guys: “We found more elk.”
Me: “Where, whats happening? Should I come down.”
Guys: “There are two more.”
Me: “Should I come down? Are there more?”
Guys: “They are all dead.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the last text, and asked the guys for a description of where they were. After a little bit of a walk, I saw Wes standing about 20 yards up the side of a ravine. In the ravine was a dead cow elk with an arrow sticking perfectly out of her heart. Wes informed me he was staying there, and the other guys were further down the ravine with two other dead elk. After moving about 800m to Griff and Jayson, I was greeted by their smiles and two more elk. The spike and another cow, maybe 25 meters apart. The spike was dead in the ravine and the cow elk had run up behind Griff and Jayson, Jayson shot the cow and she fell down the hill into the ravine and died not far from the spike.
My first thought was “fuck yes, they somehow all died right next to each other.” Then I looked around at the terrain which climbed about 1500 feet then back down to get back to the truck. The day prior, Griff had confidently said that he was staying positive: we were gonna put down 4 elk on the trip. Being a bit more pragmatic and maybe less optimistic of that happening, I told him if we did I was going to rent a 4-wheeler to get them out. From where we were in the ravine, we couldn’t even get a 4-wheeler in to pull these elk out. Anyone who has packed elk out of big country knows how big of an undertaking that is with ¾ of an elk per man.
Luckily, Griff called an outfitter who could rent us a 4-wheeler. We could get the 4-wheeler in about a mile or so up the ravine from the furthest elk carcass.
We will be releasing the finale of this hunting journal next week, stay tuned for more adventures to come.