The First 1st

9/1/15 It was HERE! I didn’t sleep much that night. I figured I would sleep in and miss my hunting debut! But 4 a.m. rolled around, and I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. Well, sort of. I’m not a morning person, and I’m definitely not a middle-of-the-freakin-night person. But I was up, and that’s all that mattered.

One eye pried open. Borrowed camo on, check! Borrowed bow, arrows, and release, check, check, and check! Dad and I left the house and went off into the night.

I like to think my dad was just as excited as I was. He loves hunting and has been at it since he was a teenager. So he’s no stranger to the excitement of September’s arrival, but this time was obviously way cooler because his favorite daughter was coming with him for the first time ever! (I may or may not be his only daughter, but that is not the point.)

The hard part about telling all my hunting stories is the secrecy of our locale. What makes half of our adventures so crazy is WHERE we were when they happened. But I will try not to let anything slip that would lead to a betrayal of the family hunting legacy. So here we go.

We were driving on a road. On a mountain. Probably with trees and rocks. Probably some grass or brush or other moutainy type vegetation. I’m not sure, it was dark. (There. Is that vague enough? I hope so.) So we get there, and my dad bolts out of the jeep and takes off. Meanwhile, here I am in my sleep coma, having a battle with my fanny pack. I also have no idea how many layers to wear. It feels cold, but I didn’t know what to expect, and I figured we were about to climb Mount Everest, and I would overheat. Such decisions. Then I try to fumble with my bow case and get my quiver attached to my bow. (One of the hazards of being the Hand-me-down Archer is that my bow doesn’t fit in the freakin bow case unless I take the quiver off every time, which is really special.) I get the bow assembled, and my dad has arrived back to the jeep wondering what the hell I’m doing. So I jump up in a hurry and off we go.

Now I like to think I’m a pretty fit individual… like, at least more than my dad. (Sorry, Dad.) BUT OH NO!! I am here to tell you that the man is a mountain goat. His legs are a little longer than mine, and I don’t know if that has to do with anything or not, or if I’m just delusional about my own fitness, but I was practically running to keep up with him.
Here I thought we were going to be all stealthy and be creepin’ along. Apparently not. So we walk (he walks, I run) for maybe 10 minutes. This is not an exaggeration! Just 10 minutes and he slams on the brakes. “Elk!” He whispers, and glasses for a second, “There’s a few bulls,” and he takes off somewhere to my right. So here I am, squinting through the dark, wondering where the hell the elk are, and why the hell are they so close to the vehicle?! Is that normal?! Wait. WHAT DO WE DO NOW?! I panic. “Pssst, Dad!!” He stops. “What?!” “Should I put my release on now?” I asked.

Now don’t judge me, assholes. I didn’t know. It was my first freakin hunt ever, and my dad was rushing me! I had no idea where the elk were supposed to be or what was about to go down. I just knew I didn’t want to piss him off back at the jeep by taking any longer than I already had, so I had just jumped up and taken off with him.

Okay, so I get the damn release put on, and we have ourselves at a good vantage point, and it starts to get light enough for me (the mere mortal) to see them. There are cows and calves down on our level and up on the next ridge. We scan, nothing bigger than a 5 point.

Wait. Time out. Okay, so there’s something else you have to know about us. My dad still doesn’t eat wild game, so he is just looking for a decent bull and doesn’t really care if he kills anything or not. If he gets an elk, he gives the meat away to some elderly ladies in town (and me), so he really is just trophy hunting. He has the rule “6 point or better.” Then there’s me, who has very high expectations for myself, and decides “well that seems like a good rule. I will also shoot something that’s a 6 point or better.” Now, Dad is really trying to find a bull bigger than the one he shot when he was 18. It’s his biggest one to date. I am just trying to kill one. But not a small one. And now you’re rolling your eyes. I don’t care. You don’t know this about me (or maybe you do), but I am extremely stubborn. Stubborn and driven, which is good, because bow hunting a damn herd bull is not for the faint of heart. So there. That’s the background you need for this story.

Where were we? Oh yes. Elk running rampant. So we scan around. There’s a few spikes within shooting range, but of course, that doesn’t matter. One of them came walking past at probably 15 yards. (They’re adorrrable! So fluffy. With big ears and an innocent look in their eyes. For some reason, spikes remind me of Charlie Horse. I don’t know why.) There were also two raghorns that started fighting out in the middle of the herd. And there was a 5-point probably 35 yards away that was pretty nice. He was out of range for my self-regulated 25 yard shot with my baby bow. Dad actually debated taking one for the team and shooting it, since he knew I wanted the meat, but we didn’t want to educate the whole herd on opening morning, and I told him he would have time to find a bigger one.

So we decided none of these were shooters. I can’t remember if Dad bugled or not. I think he must have because then a bull bugled from off in the trees that we couldn’t see. It was the worst bugle ever. Must have been embarrassing for the poor guy. I’m pretty sure it was his first bugle of the season because it was all raspy and cut in and out like he was out of practice. Him and dad had a conversation, but we couldn’t get any closer to him thanks to his location behind the herd, and he had no interest in coming out to play. So we let him be and watched the herd for probably a half hour. Finally the 5 point came and rounded up some cows, and they started moving over the ridge a bit. (We did take some photographic evidence on my dad’s phone, but his phone recently died a slow, painful death at the bottom of a lake, and all was lost. Of course.)

It was really early still, but what were we supposed to do? In an ideal world, maybe we could have left the herd, and came in a different direction or went and looked for another herd. But I had to work at noon that day, and Dad was just excited we found elk on opening morning. We decided to call it quits and count our luck for the day.

We sneaked back to the jeep, and Dad warned me “Don’t get used to that! That pretty much never happens. Half the time we go out and don’t even hear a peep, let alone see 30 elk first thing in the morning!” I believed him, but I really hoped he would be wrong. I would love to be surrounded by elk on a daily basis, with my biggest problem being that there’s only a 5-point close to range. Needless to say, after that morning’s adventure, I was hooked, and it’s been all uphill both ways and sleep deprivation from there.