Don had given up hope, and really didn't want to go. We had been planning for a while to go out hunting. 11/11/11 was his opening day for a Bull Elk hunt. In a unit he loves to hunt. He had been planning and scheming about it for a while, and then the night before he is backing down.
I didn't let him.
We took the girls to my sister in law the night before so we could get up at 4:30am, drive an hour and half to the mountains, and one of my favorite places, Island Park.
We got there just as the sun was rising, there was almost 12" of snow on the ground, and a frigid 6 degrees. I was so excited, I don't know why for sure, but this morning reminded me of mornings long ago.
We started our trek straight up a mountain....not my favorite, but I was so excited. I had made a decision to not whine once all day. We tromped through the snow for two hours or so, when I saw some elk.....very, very far away. Just a couple of cows, we think, but at least some elk.
We walked for a couple of more hours, decided to stop on the top of a ridge, for a snack. There were our elk directly across from us on the other ridge, about 750 yards as the crow flies. We watched them and started counting head, some cows, a spike (baby bull). All laying and resting, soaking in the sun. Not a care in their world.
No bulls, so we decided to circle around our ridge, headed back. Once we were standing I stopped to have one last look at these elk. I love hunting.....the real reason I love it, is seeing these amazing animals in the wild, being right there, right then. It is fun, to bring them home on occasion, but the real hunt for me is simply just finding them.
Anyways, I am watching the little herd, not really aware that Don is watching them too, when he gets all excited.
"Branch Antler Bull" he exclaims!
Sure enough I scan the mountain side, and there lying under a tree sleeping is a beautiful bull. Now the hunt is really on. I put my binos down and look at Don, who has this ridiculous grin on his face.
"What?" I ask.
His reply..."I am just wondering if I might kill you."
I already know what he is thinking, which would require reaching the peak of our ridge, dropping into a bowl, cross to the other ridge and drop down on these elk. How can I saw no, but it will kill me. I offer to stay behind, and watch...he won't let me. I think he is worried I might do something stupid and break a leg. He offers to head back....saying there are more elk in here. A concession that I can't take from him, he deserves to try.
So try we do. We reach the top of our ridge, a straight 200 yards up a rock face. We stop to watch the elk again, and make a path. The bowl is not passible, so we need to go down. I am spent, and we are directly across from the elk. We decide that I am going to climb out on these sheer rocks, and wait to give Don hand signals as he gets close. (Dippy forgot his cell phone!)
So Don goes down, and I climb out onto this ledge. It is amazing, I am sitting on a Lava Rock ledge, if I slip it is a really long ways to the bottom. I can see all of Island Park Resevior which is really saying something.
I get to sit there for two full hours watching these amazing animals. I watch as the Spike (baby bull) is rolling in the snow like a dog. Two baby calves are playing in the snow. There are TWO BIG BULLS! I keeping looking for Don, but I never see him.
I watch as the bigger bull of the two lays down by some trees, with a grumpy old hag cow right below him. His watch dog. Still no Don. A little more time goes by, and then out of no where the hag comes running down the mountain. The bull leaves his bed right behind her. I guess they see Don.
I start doing hand signals like crazy, as Don steps out of the trees, but it is all to late and the Elk are gone. I feel sad to see them go, and I can feel Dons defeat from across the ridge. I climb out of my post, and hike/slide down the mountain. When I reach Don, he confirms that he saw the big bull run out right in front of him, but never had a good shot. He is sad, but thrilled to have been that close to such a beautiful bull. Next time, we have all month....guess he won't have much work motivation, and I might get in shape (or die trying)!!!
The hike out is hell, we have to go through the bottom of the ravine, over lots of down fall, cross Blue creek, where yes Daddy, I got soaked. We run into our Elk again, but we are right behind them, and no good views. I made it out....I did trip and fall about 3/4 mile from the truck and just laid there wondering if I could get back up, but I didn't whine not once.
It was an Amazing Day.