The 2013 archery season started out well for me with a late August antelope hunt. While short by most standards, it started with a bedded buck, a long stalk, some tenuous moments and a perfectly placed shot at 36 yards. The buck was one of the better ones I have taken with a bow, and I was beyond pleased with how well the stalk went; that alone was the high point.
Fast forward a few weeks into bow season. On September 19th I finally broke the wapiti curse that had hung over me for far too long. Years, in fact. Elk had been the one game animal that I had hunted both during archery and rifle season that had eluded me. Blown stalks, hung up bulls, wrong wind, no elk, too far, no clear shot — everything had gotten in my way.
But on a recent backcountry hunt with good friend and hunting partner Josh Kuntz, we finally got into a few elk. The hunting was tough, as they were unusually quiet. After a few setups and some cow calling, a small bull crept out of the timber and offered up a perfect broadside shot at 36 yards; oddly enough, the exact same distance as the antelope. The bull dropped within less than 15 yards, and I punched my tag, and we began the hard work of breaking down the animal and packing quarters out on a cool September night, the mountains darkening around us, headlamps leading the way.
It has been a great season, and I feel especially lucky to have tagged out on two great animals. The antelope was a solo hunt that stands out due to the stalk, and how well it all unfolded.
The elk hunt was, in many ways, a relief to finally take an elk with my bow, but also because of the area I hunted was spectacular (anywhere elk live is amazing), and I was glad Josh was there for it. He is a solid hunting partner, part mountain goat, with an uncanny navigational skill, and we have shared many great hunts, weathering wild storms, long days, close encounters and taken some great animals along the way.
The rest of the season is front of me. I will chase deer when I can, and am eager for the rut to arrive, and see if I can rattle up a nice whitetail or spot and stalk a big mule deer in the high country. As always, the days in the woods are etched into my memory. The horns and antlers are on the wall. The photos are saved on the hard drive. The meat is in the freezer, and will be enjoyed by many for many months to come. Hunting gives me far more than I give it, and for that, I am very grateful.