You'll never forget that first bull, especially that first bull taken with a bow. From growing up hunting the flatlands of Florida to coming out West and fulfilling a lifelong dream of harvesting a bull elk in the mountains.
We got there the day before and bulls were bugling in several different drainages. Let me back up just a second. Prior to this, I had never been inside 200 yards of a bugling bull. My hunting partner, Joe, hadn't either and he was the caller with me having the tag.
He had been practicing a ton listening to calling seminars and YouTube videos along with educating himself on strategy. We were bought in to the Corey Jacobsen Elk 101 method of calling elk wholeheartedly. Also, I had purchased two of the early release "Contender" diaphragm calls from Rocky Mountain Game Calls and presented him with one the day before season. He loved i and decided to use it.
I'll cut to the chase. Needless to say, it was hard to sleep the night before the opener. Day 1 arrived and we had two solid encounters where Joe called in two different bulls to 40 yards but didn't present clear shots. Each encounter, we had the wind just right and the bulls didn't know we were there. Just couldn't seal it. In both cases, we employed Elk101 methods and were amazed and excited as they followed the script perfectly. We learned several important lessons that day mostly having to do with setup between caller and shooter. We would take that into Day 2.
Day 2 arrived and once again the bulls were active. We spent the morning trying a couple of failed setups and deciding what bull to go after. About 10 am when the thermals shifted around, the bulls went silent. We tried locate bugles in a couple of different drainages to no avail, but heeding Corey's advice, we didn't waste time there and went to find a bull that wanted to cooperate.
Two drainages over, we found a lone bull about 300-400 yds away by employing a location bugle. Off we went with the wind in our faces the whole time. We walked a couple hundred yards and did another locate. The bull responded 150 yards away now. We crept another 50-60 yards and set up with Joe and 15 yr old son, Brody 50 yards behind and slightly to my left. He started a few soft cow calls, and the bull answered. Joe immediately cut him off with a challenge bugle. We heard limbs breaking as he stopped and raked a tree. Still can't see him. The bull bugled again and once again, Joe cut him off with a challenge.
Meanwhile, I tell God that I am thankful for this opportunity and if it's His will, let it be. I then crouch to one knee because the sun had hit my face (maybe a sign from above?). I immediately catch movement 80 yards out in front coming right up a natural lane in the trees toward me. I hadn't yet drawn my bow. It was the bull and he was slowly closing the gap. As he approached 70, 60, 50 yards, I'm looking for an opportunity to draw my bow hoping he will bear off his path and go behind a tree or bush for a sec. He was a nice 6X6.
The whole time, I'm saying to myself, "Don't look at his antlers." I thought it would help me to concentrate on the possible shot. He continues ahead and stops at 8 yards looking in my direction. He knows something isn't quite right about the set of bushes in front of him. All is silent. Wind still good. Just then he started to tense up, and I knew he was about to blow.
As he turned to run, I drew my bow, and Joe and I both hit him with a cow call. He immediately stopped at 25 yards perfectly broadside. I settled my pin on the spot, and squeezed my release. My arrow flight was true and it found its mark. I will never forget that sound.
We both cow called as the bull bolted slowing him to a trot and then to a walk. 50 yards from where the arrow hit him, he started to stagger and then fell over. As we watched, he managed to stumble to his feet but came to his final resting place between two downed trees a few yards away. Joe, Brody, and I quietly came together, exchanged hugs and handshakes, and sat down to wait it out for a bit.
At this point, I can hardly believe I had been blessed with the opportunity to harvest my first bull, not to mention my first big game animal with a bow. All smiles as we waited.Finally, we felt enough time had expired to let the bull lie, and walked up to where he rested. I hit my knees in front of him and was overwhelmed with emotion, praise, and gratitude of the sacrifice the bull had made yet the blessing that came with it. I'll never forget that moment.