Well let me start by saying this years hunt has been two years in the making. Last year my wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy, September the 6th(*note to self, stay away from wife in December). So needless to say I was a tag holder last year but not a hunter. I enjoyed using my vacation time to be with my family.
Fast forward to February of this year. It was on, my intensity and thought process was racing toward September of this year. I purchased a new bow on AT(not that I needed one) and had it ****** and doped in before the snow had melted in the high cascades here in Oregon. The Next seven months was in preparation of this week in September. I didn't ever think it was going to get here. Now I have bow hunted the last 20 years and am only 32 but I had never caught the bug as bad as this year nor had I ever punched any harvest card, maybe it was the need to get away from everything for 7 days more than hunting but I was on a mission. Getting geared up and shooting everyday was about to drive my wife to the loony bin. Throw on top of that we each have jobs that almost counter act the other being gone, and both kids are under 3 years old I myself was about to go nuts. I was glad to see the days get longer so I could shoot after the kids went to bed. So about August my dad says he would like to come up and be camp "cook". He would hunt in the mornings and have fire and dinner ready when we got in at night. In our haste packing we forgot the grill to make burgers an d steaks so dad washed up the shovel and made some “**** shovel steaks, they were great and Justin and I got a real laugh out of it, by the way they were some of the best steaks I have ever had..
Now my dad is no angel and we have had our differences coming from a divorced family like so many of my generation it was to be expected. But I was happy to have him come up and he seemed like he had a little spark of excitement that gave him something to look forward to as well thru the long hot summer, so I said sure we would love to have you come up and see how far the game has progressed since you last played it. Plus J and I took turns making fun of his lack of hearing, saying things in a real low voice knowing full well he wouldn't hear us joking around with him.
Third day of the hunt my good friend and long time hunting partner, dad and myself are piled into the mighty Ranger, we woke up a little later than we had hoped so no breakfast but of course dad has to have his morning coffee which he proceeds to slop into my lap of my non-scented, ready to kill Vanish camos by Wayne Carlton, “wake up dad” I yell at him, “you just spilled your coffee on my pants, now I am going to smell like a Starbucks creeping thru the woods”, "no I didn't" he snipes back, like I can't feel the hot liquid now running down to my family jewels, (side note; never let dad ride biatch.) So we get out and are creeping along where we had bedded some elk the night before with one screamer bull in the mix. The wind is wrong so we circle around to get it in our favor. About 8:30ish these pack of coyotes light up howling, barking like a pack of **** dogs on a fox. They are about 50-75 yards away going nuts, scared me at first didn't know what was going on. Then over the next little knob this bull fires off a bugle, he is getting nervous as to what those dogs are doing and he starts screaming at his handful of cows to get the heck out of there. We never saw that bull but when the cows started calling back, almost in an estrus scream, we could see them shuffle off at a pretty good clip, tried to coax the big boy back to us as if were a lost cow looking for him but he was not interested. So we kept creeping along looking and listening walking down an old skid road, we seen some cattle moving thru a creek bottom, cracking and chewing cud as they moved along. Now every time on this trip we have bumped into some cattle they have busted everything out in sight, so we crept up and all walked really close in a line until they had kind of just moved off at a calm walk. Look downed and saw a day old cow patty that was crusted on the outside but right in the middle was a fresh bull track, two hooves with two dewclaw imprints. Perfect we knew we were on them. Not 40 paces later we transitioned from open creek drainage/road to dark north faced timber stand. I am knocked up, at the request of my partner, and clipped on knowing how these stalks usually end up. My partner Justin is right behind me and my dad behind him. Look up and see this big bull perfectly broadside, neck at a 90 dead on us you could see him asking himself “are those cows and if not how did it get so close to me?” I do a double take because he is in dark timber and I can not see any color just shape, see its a bull, at this point don’t care how big, no time to range find, instinctively draw, find anchor, pin is rock steady, in fact I have never felt my pin so still, one small hemlock bough just high on the vitals but I think I can either shoot through it or the arrow will pull down before it, it was hard to judge how far for sure it was away but it seemed to be pretty close maybe 4' from him, HHA is set at 30, nope he's not 30, 8" high squeeze the trigger.
Arrow disappears into the dark timber he spins at a fast trot slow run. At this point I am not sure of the shot, it was dead nuts for left to right but I wasn't sure of the yardage and where the arrow ended up I thought I heard something but not the THWACK I was expecting. Sit down, breathe breathe breathe ask the guys if they saw the arrow, they had not, hear some hooves like scraping maybe death kicking, hear a cough cough not sure what’s happening. Getting cold now in fact shaking cold, put chew in, sit, breathe. Ok no one saw the arrow enter the dark timber so I tell dad to stay there and tie a pink flag up as Justin and I go check where he was standing. Justin is in front as we enter the dirt bed where he was laid up, his arm comes out sharp down toward the ground and there lays the reddest arrow tip to top I have ever seen, it glowed bright red.
Bear hugs as I wave dad up the hill and tackle him with a huge hug. He wants to start tracking as he is sure what he heard was his last death kicks and groans. J and I tell dad we must wait the minimum hour since we didn't see the shot enter. Shake some more, take a couple pictures and wait, wait wait, wait, every five minutes someone is asking me how long it’s been as if they were the shooters. Finally those two are cut loose to start leap frog tracking, every log has blood on both sides, and I know he can't be far but nothing is for sure. 75 yards up the hill to the right he lies in a big blond heap. Dad lets out an F me as we approach. Perfect double lung, maybe a touch low he’s down, say a little prayer of thanks, tackle J as he is in awe. He has killed some nice bulls but dad has never arrowed an elk and both were as excited as I was. I will have him shoulder mounted, not for his size but for the memories he gave us, I wasn’t big on horns, especially for my first one, but I owe it to that memory.
And lastly thanks to dad, who 20 years ago this fall took me to Larry’s Sporting Goods and bought me a new Martin Cougar and then proceeded to drag a lanky 7th grader out of his second week of a new school to Ironside mountain so he could be slowed down and watch me get sick from drinking out of the cow trough facet. Who let me lift a bottle of Sour Mash to my lips for the first time and didn’t scold me when I had a little Skoal Bandit. Dad had a new hip put in around January the years of delivering mail on a city route finally caught up with him and I was more than happy to be the one watching over my shoulder to make sure he was keeping up as well as packing enough food and fluids for both of us. I think this experience has re-lit his fuse I know it has mine.