Sitka Mountain Gear
Prairie Fire
Elk
Contributors to this thread:
otcWill 26-Mar-19
Thornton 26-Mar-19
otcWill 26-Mar-19
otcWill 26-Mar-19
otcWill 26-Mar-19
Stoneman 26-Mar-19
Scrappy 26-Mar-19
otcWill 26-Mar-19
otcWill 26-Mar-19
otcWill 26-Mar-19
otcWill 26-Mar-19
Treeline 26-Mar-19
otcWill 26-Mar-19
elvspec 26-Mar-19
otcWill 26-Mar-19
otcWill 26-Mar-19
otcWill 26-Mar-19
Ucsdryder 26-Mar-19
Mark Watkins 26-Mar-19
Treeline 26-Mar-19
yooper89 26-Mar-19
longspeak74 26-Mar-19
SBH 26-Mar-19
Charlie Rehor 26-Mar-19
'Ike' (Phone) 26-Mar-19
Jaquomo 26-Mar-19
Inshart 26-Mar-19
mrelite 26-Mar-19
BULELK1 27-Mar-19
midwest 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
Inshart 27-Mar-19
Treeline 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
otcWill 27-Mar-19
Treeline 27-Mar-19
Vonfoust 27-Mar-19
Inshart 27-Mar-19
Wv hillbilly 27-Mar-19
Willieboat 27-Mar-19
midwest 27-Mar-19
HUNT MAN 27-Mar-19
SBH 27-Mar-19
Spookinelk 27-Mar-19
PoudreCanyon 27-Mar-19
bowhunter24 27-Mar-19
Marty 28-Mar-19
t-roy 28-Mar-19
LUNG$HOT 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
Boreal 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
Brotsky 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
Jaquomo 28-Mar-19
longspeak74 28-Mar-19
Treeline 28-Mar-19
Charlie Rehor 28-Mar-19
Z Barebow 28-Mar-19
Ucsdryder 28-Mar-19
Paul@thefort 28-Mar-19
Scoot 28-Mar-19
Bowbender 28-Mar-19
LINK 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
Bowfreak 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
JB 28-Mar-19
otcWill 28-Mar-19
Gotta Hunt 28-Mar-19
elkmtngear 28-Mar-19
Jaquomo 28-Mar-19
longspeak74 28-Mar-19
HUNT MAN 28-Mar-19
Dirty D 28-Mar-19
Iowa_Archer 28-Mar-19
t-roy 28-Mar-19
Brotsky 28-Mar-19
grossklw 28-Mar-19
Nick Muche 28-Mar-19
zabwelch 28-Mar-19
ryanrc 28-Mar-19
WV Mountaineer 28-Mar-19
Whip 28-Mar-19
Brun 28-Mar-19
Inshart 28-Mar-19
BigStriper 28-Mar-19
1HankS 28-Mar-19
LUNG$HOT 28-Mar-19
Matt 29-Mar-19
IdyllwildArcher 29-Mar-19
ElkNut1 29-Mar-19
APauls 29-Mar-19
otcWill 29-Mar-19
Shiras42 29-Mar-19
Matt Palmquist 29-Mar-19
Ron Niziolek 29-Mar-19
ElkNut1 29-Mar-19
midwest 30-Mar-19
Bowboy 30-Mar-19
KHunter 30-Mar-19
elkstabber 01-Apr-19
Beav 02-Apr-19
elkster 02-Apr-19
orionsbrother 02-Apr-19
From: otcWill
26-Mar-19

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Ever do a prairie fire shot? I believe it’s tequila and tabasco. It’s hotter than hell. So is New Mexico elk country.

If I don’t get this done now, I won’t ever find the time. I love these types of threads and I want to thank those of you that take the time to share your adventures, as your stories are what drew me here in the first place. This story includes some lows as well as highs, but it is a bowhunter’s truth just the way it happened. Enjoy..............And bare with me.

From: Thornton
26-Mar-19
I love the open country of New Mexico. I've never done prairie fire but I'll give it a shot sometime. Happy adventures.

From: otcWill
26-Mar-19

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This past April my wife and I had our second son, Porter, and I’d already told her I’d “take the year off”. The year off, by my definition, means 5 days with a good friend on his high country muley hunt, 17 days in September for elk scoutn/huntn/helping friends, a week or so huntn upland birds with Dad, an undecided amount of time helping Dad with his first ever mule deer tag and a couple days of mentoring/hunting with a first time hunters. Yes, my wife is an incredible woman and yes, this is very little hunting in my world. I’ll try to bang out the elk story and then post a bunch of pics of other memories made during my year “off”.

From: otcWill
26-Mar-19

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Hunting is surely not a hobby for me. It’s who I am. I like to think that some men are born to a calling that no longer exists. I was born to be a hunter, a rambler, an adventurer, an outdoorsman. I do my best with the world God placed me in. It pains me to hear people describe us as anything other than nature’s greatest advocates as, in a world without wild places we cease to exist.

"Maybe stalking the woods is as vital to the human condition as playing music or putting words to paper. Maybe hunting has as much of a claim on our civilized selves as anything else. After all, the earliest forms of representational art reflect hunters and prey. While the arts were making us spiritually viable, hunting did the heavy lifting of not only keeping us alive but inspiring us. To abhor hunting is to hate the place from which you came, which is akin to hating yourself in some distant, abstract way.” — Steven Rinella AMEN!

From: otcWill
26-Mar-19

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Bugling bulls make my soul sing. When a friend asked me if I’d like to apply together in NM in the “minimally guided” pool, I jumped on it. Porter was 11 days old when he and I checked my NM draw results. GREEN! I spent the summer being a Dad and trying to sneak in some research/prep when possible.

From: Stoneman
26-Mar-19
Looking forward to following along Will, thanks in advance! Good quote from SR.

From: Scrappy
26-Mar-19
Thanks in advance for taking us along.

From: otcWill
26-Mar-19

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This guy is excited
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This guy is excited
September 9 came in a flash and I was headed South. I’d decided to forgo a rushed OTC hunt and instead was going to meet 2 friends who’d picked up decent leftover tags for CO. I’d help them for a few days before heading to New Mexico to scout my unit for 4 days prior to the Sept. 15th opener.

Ever been so high, you’re literally clenching your teeth, holding on for the ride? That’s how I feel every time I leave for a bowhunting adventure. I’m about to come out of my skin! I NEED this like an addict needs his fix. I saw the most spectacular rainbow I’ve ever seen on the drive down. This went directly over a mountain I’d spent several days on last season with a couple Bowsiters who are now two of my best friends. My mind flooded with memories of that hunt. Too much fun. Did I mention I’m about to come unglued?!

I rolled in to camp in time for an afternoon hunt with my buddy Ryan. We hit a relatively easy access spot that almost always has elk in it. Not that afternoon. Kirby met us back at camp that evening and had heard several bulls bugling from different areas that night. We’d be there well before light the next day.

From: otcWill
26-Mar-19
We were parked and listening for bugles at least an hour before light that next morning. With about 20 minutes before dawn, silence was broken as a bull whistled a response from well below our vantage point. We waited to hear him again, hoping to pinpoint his location. When he ripped off again it was obvious he was moving fast uphill on a course to cross about a mile in front of us. Let’s go! We scrambled downhill fast and before long he hit a dark timbered patch and seemed to slow down a bit; the only issue being that we were going to need to cross a wide open willow patch to access the timber he was now bugling from. If we could get across this opening fast, we had a real chance at being in the red zone, in effective calling terms. We made it and I took his temperature with a few soft cow calls. He was certainly interested but not going to come in that easy. I got him a bit wound up before adding a bugle to the mix. He hated that, but still wasn’t going to leave his cows. I switched gears and threw him some aggravated cow and calf sounds; take into account, I’m running around like a lunatic, breaking brush, raking and foot stomping. Ryan is 20 yds in front of me. The bull lost his mind when he heard the sounds of calves being pestered. I have no idea what about some emotional cow sounds makes a bull come undone, but I’ve seen this more than a few times. I could hear the bull break and charge from about 150 yds away crashing through anything in his way on a direct path to me. He stopped no more than 40 yds in front of me and blew up the woods with a scream that made me wish I had hearing protection. These encounters blow my mind every time. Thank God for bugling bulls, the Rocky Mountains, and September!

Thunk! The sound of an arrow hitting the body cavity followed by hooves stomping and brush breaking as he ran back the way he came. Ryan wasn’t moving. No turn to give a thumbs up. I was bugling within a second of the shot, hoping to slow him down. A few minutes passed before Ryan turned around and gave the “I’m not sure what just happened” shrug. The bull had stopped at about 15 yds facing him and Ryan shot him in the chest through a very small window.

From: otcWill
26-Mar-19
We were nervous until investigating the point of impact and finding this (pic in next post). We decided to wait 45 minutes to be sure as we were still unclear of the exact hit. Long story short we should have probably backed out. The blood trail was literally the most profuse that I’ve ever seen (in 30 years of bowhunting and hundreds upon hundreds of animals trailed) without an animal at the end. We tracked this bull for well over a mile if not 2 before blood disappeared. Dejected but determined, we grid searched for the rest of the day and into the next. I'm still at a loss as to what happened, but I like to learn from my mistakes and I believe the only thing we should have done differently is we should have backed out without absolute certainty of exactly where the hit was.

From: otcWill
26-Mar-19

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A few pics from the trail. This was within steps of the impact. Insane. Bull went maybe 200 yds before bedding. 20/20 hindsight but I sure wish we'd have backed out for half day

From: Treeline
26-Mar-19
Damn! Crap luck on that one for sure.

Spectacular tale so far! Lovin’ every word!

Gonna be sneakin’ peeks all day and killing my work productivity...

From: otcWill
26-Mar-19

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His first bed. Also never found the arrow. Depressing to say the least. I don't know how many miles we covered searching. Still doesn't make sense to me

From: elvspec
26-Mar-19
Cool, looking forward to the rest of the story. Handsome brace of boys you got there. I think you'll have your hands full in the future.

From: otcWill
26-Mar-19

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The following evening all 3 of us were in a new area. Bulls were screaming. Last light was fast approaching when we finally got close. A bugle ripped out from less than 100 yds and we were forced to set up fast. Ryan and Kirby split off to opposite sides in a hurry and I dropped back to call. Within minutes of my first calls, several bulls were hammering and one was committed. I caught movement as he came by Kirby at about 20 yds. Kirby was tucked up against a spruce and had no shot from where he stood. The bull kept coming before stopping, knowing the cow he heard should be right on top of him by now. I actually could have stuck him where he stopped. Typical. The only guy without a bow is the one presented with a shot. I can’t count how many similar stories I’ve got like this. Go elk hunting-see mulies. Go deer hunting-see a giant bull. Go pheasant hunting-giant whitetail standing at 40yds watching the dogs work (that actually happened this past season). You’ve been there. You get it.

The bull hung out for several minutes before turning and easing off. If we’d had just a few minutes to pick a better set up rather than being forced to scramble, this bull would have been dead for sure. I can’t tell you how many times a poor set up has cost me or my hunting partners a shot.

We left them bugling that night. Ryan and I had a LONG uphill walk back to the truck. Kirby had an ATV. I might need one of those things at some point ?. A few drinks in camp that evening mixed with talk of what could have, should have been. Dang near killed 2 bulls in 2 days and my season hadn’t even started.

From: otcWill
26-Mar-19

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If it's legal, Ryan's shooting :)
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If it's legal, Ryan's shooting :)
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Can't beat fresh grouse over the fire.
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Can't beat fresh grouse over the fire.
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A couple more pics from the Colorado prelude.

From: otcWill
26-Mar-19

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That's all I have time for now. Much more to come

From: Ucsdryder
26-Mar-19
Yes!!!!!! Let’s hear it!

From: Mark Watkins
26-Mar-19
Keep this rockin Will!!!!

Mark

From: Treeline
26-Mar-19
Be waiting with baited breath. You spin amazing tales for sure!

From: yooper89
26-Mar-19
Thank you for keeping my sanity in check this week. Looking forward to more!

From: longspeak74
26-Mar-19
Following for sure! Always look forward to your adventures!

From: SBH
26-Mar-19
Fantastic! Good timing Will. Thanks for the post. Looking forward to the rest.

Sidenote.......where do you think that bull was hit?

26-Mar-19
Good luck Mr. Will!!!

26-Mar-19
Awesome....

From: Jaquomo
26-Mar-19
Geeat job so far! Keep it coming, buddy, and don't make us wait too long. We know where you live!

From: Inshart
26-Mar-19
Yup, just what the sole needs this time of year. Outstanding.

From: mrelite
26-Mar-19
Well you started your trip off with a bang that's for sure! you must of been in full hunt mode by the time you got to NM.

From: BULELK1
27-Mar-19
Very Kool indeed.

Thanks for sharing with us.

Good luck, Robb

From: midwest
27-Mar-19
'bout time.

:):):):):) Lovin' it!

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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Thanks guys.

Matt, your guess is as good as mine on where the hit was. I didn't see the shot but Ryan thought there may have been some deflection near impact. Maybe some major artery/one lung. It hurts but I think we were able to take something from the experience. Oh yeah, I never mentioned it was a great bull......

Couple more CO pics

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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I hunted the next morning without an encounter before pointing the rig South. I had 4.5 days to scout my NM unit.

I’ll pause to thank those of you who offered up intel. Thank you, Charlie, JP, David, Cory, and Jim. If any of you ever need anything, please ask.

The drive down, as usual, was a total daydream. There is no time I feel more thankful, more blessed, than when I’m traveling to or from a hunt. This is life at its finest and I’m soaking it up.

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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I arrived at my first stop that afternoon, drove to the end of the access road and, to my surprise, there was a blind sitting literally ON the road next to a tank. What the Hell? Why anyone would want to sit on a road and kill an elk is beyond me, but I was in for a learning experience. Dang near every tank has a road to it and dang near every tank has a treestand, blind, or both on it. To each his own, but sitting over water is the furthest thing from what I want to do when I go elk hunting.

I did some hiking and glassing that evening. I heard a few bugles and put a solid plan together for the morning scouting mission before settling in to camp. Happy hour. That night I drank whiskey like it was my last chance, so excited I wouldn’t have slept at all otherwise. God Bless America!

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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The next morning I was up early and gaining elevation well before light. I bugled a bit in the dark. Crickets. It was just after the sun began to make shadows that I heard my first bugle of the day. I moved in on two different bulls, pinpointing their travel direction and staying with them until they picked a bedding area. Even with the season 3 days away, it was still hard for me to finally pull out and leave them alone without ever getting a glimpse. Spot #1 was a success. I had an exact hunt plan and a good idea of how the wind/thermals moved and when. On to the next. I left em bugling and hiked back to the truck. I only made it about a mile before blowing a tire. NO! Now I’m playing with fire rolling around in super rocky country without a spare. Oh well, I had some more scouting to do.

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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Spectacular country. If you don't like photos you won't like this thread :)

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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I checked out a spot that night that looked prime that afternoon. Bumped a small bull on the hike in to a good listening/glassing point but that was the only action I saw. I sat until well after dark, got up, and walked out without my bugle. Rough start with a popped tire and lost bugle. Luckily, I had a great hunting partner in Kirby. I talked to him that evening. He’d fallen and derailed his bow string in CO and was headed to Albuquerque to get new strings. He offered to pick me up a tire and a bugle. Thanks again, my friend! Great hunting partners aren’t easy to come by. Kirby is solid.

I drove to the next spot on my scouting list that night. Once parked, I poured myself a drink and ripped off a bugle over the steep canyon I was parked on. Immediate response! Bugles Over Bourbon

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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Did I mention it was hotter than hell? I spent my mornings and evenings scouting and my days hiding from the sun, often under my truck as much of this country has no shade.

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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This was my type of country, steep and deep. I spent the next hour or so (time doesn’t seem to matter when I’m on “vacation”) sipping whiskey, listening to bugles, and imagining what caliber of bull might be tearing it up below me. Calm. Focused. Grateful. Ready to fling an arrow.

I spent the morning covering ground, getting a feel for the terrain and the wind tendencies while keeping my distance from what sounded like a good bull. I’d meet up with Kirby later that day and get my tire put on in one of the two towns in the entire unit.

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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One quick shot to make sure my bow works :) and I was headed to town. 50yds. That'll do. I'm so ready

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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So different from any terrain I've ever hunted
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So different from any terrain I've ever hunted
We drove around and looked at a few spots that afternoon before meeting up with our “guide”. The rules were, we had to be with our guide for 2 days. We split up to glass the evening before our season opened. I hiked a little ways to some higher ground and Kirby and Raul set up overlooking another piece of country. Even with the scorching heat, we saw elk. I saw one herd at least a mile away that had some obvious rutting action going on though I couldn’t tell exactly what quality of bull I was looking at. In the two days with the guide, we had a few close encounters with smaller bulls. I was looking forward to being “free” of the legal obligation of being with the guide, but certainly happy to have drawn the tag with the assistance of guide pool odds.

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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I swear we're going hunting soon. Thanks for following

From: Inshart
27-Mar-19
ha, one key stroke at a time, lots of pics .... keep em come'n. Love it!

From: Treeline
27-Mar-19
Great adventure so far! Yet another of your EPIC tales, Will!

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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Flat I ran across that morning. Actually caught a small bull wallowing right in the middle of it. Put my pin on him for good measure :)
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Flat I ran across that morning. Actually caught a small bull wallowing right in the middle of it. Put my pin on him for good measure :)
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Piece of Anasazi pottery. You can feel the American Indian history in this place
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Piece of Anasazi pottery. You can feel the American Indian history in this place
Day 3 we split up and followed bugles in opposite directions. I was close to the herd in the dark but they were moving fast. I ended up following them all the way across an open flat before first light. As things became clear I got my first glimpse through my binos of what I’d hoped to see on this trip, a stud of a bull screaming his fool head off at several smaller 6 points while pushing his cows towards the timber. He was every bit of 340” if not better. That’ll do! I raced forward as they dropped behind a little rise right next to a 2 track road. These elk don’t care in the slightest about roads. As I moved into what felt like the perfect position slightly ahead of the herd, I heard cow calls coming from behind them, very obviously a hunter. To make matters worse I had the wind right in my face meaning that whoever was dogging them had their scent blowing right into the herd. Oh well, this is about to happen and though I didn’t want an audience, I wasn’t letting this bull walk. The cows began to trickle by at 35 yds, slightly agitated. Please, let him take the same path. I peeked around some scrub and saw antlers coming. It was one of the satellites, a 260-270” 6 point. He may as well have been a cow with the big bull coming behind him. All of a sudden the cows started running. I drew and gave a loud nervous grunt as the herd bull flew by me well within range, but he never even broke stride. DANG!

I often point out to friends who are dejected about a close call that successful elk hunting involves a pile of almosts until it finally all comes together. That doesn’t ease the pain of a close call with a great animal, but it’s all part of the story. My heart was still pounding out of my chest during the long walk back to the truck.

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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Wish I'd brought my spotter and tripod. Would've got some awesome pics. This taken just holding my phone to my 15s
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Wish I'd brought my spotter and tripod. Would've got some awesome pics. This taken just holding my phone to my 15s
That morning, after some moose burritos, we decided to try to get over to where I’d seen the rut action the day before the season opened. It was a good move. We found a group of right around 100 head with 26 bulls not including spikes. The only downside being the biggest bull was just a solid 5 point. At this point, between my scouting and hunting, I’d glassed at least 40 bulls and only one was much over 300”. I’d also seen a handful of racks on trucks without a single one scratching 280”. No worries. I’ve never been much of a trophy hunter anyway. I decided right then that I’d kill the next decent bull I got a chance at. I don’t like eating tags and I like using my bow. We didn’t have the time or the cover to make a move on the herd that night. We’d head that way in the AM. That night, Bugles Over Bourbon.

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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The next morning, Day 4 of our hunt with only 6 to go, found us dogging what sounded like a good bull just after first light. As we caught up to him in a small drainage, one bull turned into two. I dropped back to call but this guy wasn’t coming. He held up just out of sight and bugled at about everything I threw at him. The terrain is such that they come to about 150 yds before they hold up, knowing they should see something. Here in CO, I’m normally hunting thick, dark timber and I like my shooter to be about 20-40 yds in front of me. I was learning quickly that this open desert country required the caller to be WAY further back. Long story short, a shouting match turned to silence as the bulls moved off to bed that morning. The scorching heat left a very short window of AM action.

That evening, we split up and decided to sit and wait for a bugle to redirect our plans. I heard one bugle late but it was an otherwise uneventful night. Where in the hell did the 100 head from yesterday go?! We got back to camp well after dark that evening, poured a drink, and what do you know? We had bulls bugling from at least 3-4 directions that night. We’d split up in the morning in hopes of doubling our chances of success. It was day 5, half way through the hunt, and I was getting an itchy trigger finger. If there's one debilitating factor to NM elk, it's the 10 day window. Filling two tags on decent bulls in 10 days is a tall order. Ya’ll know the feeling. When you’re soaking up every bit of a great hunt, but in the back of your mind is the self-induced pressure of actual success. As my good friend Hunter would say, it was Hammertime!

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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My final setup
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My final setup
I set out after a gnarly sounding bugle a solid hour and a half before light that morning. In short order, I was well within bow range of the herd, 2 bulls firing angry bugles into the dark. As the sky lightened, still at least 20-30 min before legal light, I caught a skylined rack moving in front of me. Montser! I ranged the tree behind him at 40 yds. Now I only need it to get light and I’ll be putting an arrow through one of the biggest bulls I’ve ever seen in the wild. I can still see his rack as I catch movement to my left. Another giant steps out at similar distance, skylining himself within 15 yds of the other. The image of the two of them standing together, black racks against the purple blue of dawn, is burned indelibly in my mind. This is what I hunt for, if not what I live for. They moved toward eachother before turning directly away from me, paralleling eachother, obviously drawing a line in the sand, and screaming the whole time. I’m still 10 minutes from legal light and more like 20 from being able to see my pins to shoot as they move away, slowly breaking off their respective herds. Still, I’m in a great position, 50-60 yds away, carefully moving with them, arrow knocked. As light gathers bugles decrease rapidly. The herd is picking up speed as if running from the light of day on their way to bedding. Terrain was relatively flat and I was able to keep within 100 yds or so until they hit a wide open flat probably ¼ mile long. I had to let them get out of reach in order to stay out of sight. When they cleared the open area and hit timber I booked it over to where they entered the woods. The occasional bugle from either of the two bulls let me know I was still on the trail. I actually crossed a two track twice while dogging them. As they led me further and further into the timber they finally seemed to slow down. Surely they were approaching their bedding area as several bugles rang out from the same location maybe 150-200 yds ahead. This is it

“The best thing about hunting and fishing,’ the Old Man said, ‘is that you don’t have to actually do it to enjoy it. You can go to bed every night thinking about how much fun you had twenty years ago, and it all comes back clear as moonlight.’” — Robert Ruark-

Yep

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

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Bull stopped just to the left of the American flag in the center of the pic
otcWill's embedded Photo
Bull stopped just to the left of the American flag in the center of the pic
I eased up another 75 yds or so before I caught some movement. Arrow knocked I hit a few soft mews to test the water. BAM! He fired back almost before I finished my second call. I immediately hit him with the “magic” cow call and he broke like a fat kid for the ice cream truck. As he closed from 100 to 60 to 40 the head gear wasn’t what I’d expected, maybe a 3 year old 5 point. Still, I drew as he went behind a tree at 35 yds. He came all the way to about 8 yds before coming to a stop dead broadside, top pin on his chest. It was his lucky day I guess as I let down. We were already planning on moving camp after the morning hunt so I pressed on after the herd bull. Eventually I pressed a bit too hard as I heard the woods explode in front of me. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t second guessing my decision to let the 5 point walk as I listened to hooves thump and branches snap. Back at camp I found out Kirby had some action that morning as well, passing a smallish 6 point. We were getting closer to drawing blood. Good thing because this hunt is about ½ way over. The afternoon of Day 5 things would take a turn.

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
whole elk tendy seemed appropriate
otcWill's embedded Photo
whole elk tendy seemed appropriate
After breakfast we drove about an hour to one of the spots I’d scouted; also one of the only actual mountain ranges and certainly some of the steepest stuff in the entire unit. This was more my speed. Buzzkill as we rolled up on my first choice only to see a truck. We drove another half mile down the access road, picked another mountain, and set up camp hoping fate might deal us aces. It did.

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
At maybe 2pm, we strolled out of camp heading for unknown country. Within minutes of leaving camp a bugle startled us from under 100 yds. Oh hell yes! We split up maybe 20 yds apart, arrows nocked, and I hit him with a few soft contact calls. He fired back immediately and stepped into view at about 80 yds. As he’s standing his ground bugling every 20 seconds or so for the cow he heard to come over to him, I caught movement maybe 15 yds to his right. It’s a bear!! What in the Hell?! The bull is hammering away and the bear is just lollygagging about his business. They never even so much as looked in eachother’s direction. Crazy! After a short time the bull lost interest and turned to leave. I had to use some ventriloquism, cupping my hand over my mouth, turning away from the bull, and giving him the magic with the diaphragm at the softest level I could. He turned without a peep on a dead walk right to us. It was pretty dang open with pondos maybe every 10 yds or so. As he cleared some brush at 50 I got ready to draw. I made a quick glance over at Kirby and saw him draw his bow so I held off. 40, 35, 30, 25. As he stepped into the open at under 20 yds from Kirby I stopped him. WHACK! He ran maybe 20 yds and stopped to look back, completely unaware of what just happened. In hindsight I should have drawn and shot him again right there, but I just stood there, heart pounding through my chest, waiting for him to drop. He didn’t stand there long before trotting back the way he came. I whipped up my binos as he moved out of sight and saw the exit hole. Way back, with a bit of gut protruding. Oh no.

We made the easy decision to wait until the next day to look for him. We were optimistic and totally dejected at the same time. To make matters worse, it began to rain; hard. There was another bull bugling across the valley so we decided to head that way and steer clear of the area Kirby’s bull headed. We didn’t go far before walking up on the same bear from earlier feeding 36 yds above us. I’d thought seriously about grabbing a bear tag so it figures I’d see a good one without a tag in my pocket. Oh well, as a good friend would say, “It’s just a bear”.

Nothing else to tell about that night. Hopeful anxiety is the only way to describe it. This feeling can be diluted with Makers Mark but the only cure is closure in the form of 4 quarters, 2 straps, and 2 tendies. That evening was a wash literally, as it poured all night. We spent most of the next day grid searching without finding so much as a drop of blood or a tuft of hair. Bulls were bugling the whole time from well before light until we headed for camp around 2 or so. Kirby would continue searching for the rest of the day. I would head out in the direction of the last bugle I’d heard.

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
He was tucked into some super thick stuff just beyond the top right of this picture.
otcWill's embedded Photo
He was tucked into some super thick stuff just beyond the top right of this picture.
I had a quick snack and hit the woods. Not long after, I was in it; 4-5 bulls bugling at eachother every 30 seconds or so. They were across the valley and about ¾ up the mountain on the other side. I made quick work of getting over there and within 30 minutes I was within bow range of what sounded like the biggest of the group. They were obviously bedded. Every time the big bull bugled I’d move a little closer until finally, I saw antlers through thick brush only 25 yds away. I could tell just from a few tines and the mass that this was a stud. Little did I know I’d be staring at him for the next hour and a half. It was too early and I’d gotten too close. I thought any minute the wind would ruin me as my mind raced with what to do. Was it possible to get an arrow in there somehow? It was way too thick. Even if I could move without being detected there was just no way to get a good shot at him where he was bedded. So I waited. By the time I heard one of the other bulls get up, my legs were in so much pain I thought I might just be the first to stand. As if on cue, the Volkswagen sized brute stood up and walked straight away. I stood up with him, almost going down at first without much for feeling in my legs. It’s crazy how they just get up and are gone so fast. He walked with purpose out and around the thicket he was bedded in before stopping to alert the world that he was king. I had my bugle at the ready and I believe I even startled him when I cut him off with a scream he could’ve mistaken for his own. He turned on a dime and headed right for an opening that I already had ranged at 45 yds. At this point I’d had plenty of time to get a look at him but still I was short of breath watching a bull, every bit of 360” if not better, walk directly into my shooting lane. As he neared the clearing I calmed myself and drew. My heart stopped as I heard brush break to my right. A smaller bull caught me draw and trotted uphill. I don’t know that I’ll ever forget that moment. I just about puked as I watched the monarch turn and walk away only steps prior to exposing his vitals. Looking back I’m grateful and I know that the incredible highs I get as a hunter can’t come without these lows, but I felt at that time like I’d had the air let out of my lungs. Fitting. I absolutely live for this stuff! I know that someday I’ll close the deal on a bull of this caliber but I will never forget this encounter.

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
That bull flirted with death for the rest of the evening before darkness saved his life. Kirby had spent the rest of the day looking for his bull without success. Bowhunting can be the most humbling experience life has to offer. This was one of those times. Days were melting away like ice over whiskey. Time was slipping away.

The next day we were on several buglers. When one fired off from close range Kirby looked at me and said, "This is your bull, Will."

I got this. I dropped my pack, knocked an arrow, and blacked out. I was determined, hungry with each careful step I made. He wasn't moving. I'd already tried calling to him earlier and he seemed dead set on calling me to him. A twig snapped in his direction and I saw antlers. I knew as soon as I laid eyes on him that I was gonna eat him. Settled in relatively thick cover, I made a quick guess where he'd go, ranged an opening at 32 yds, and drew. When he hit the spot I stopped him. He went about 6 inches further than I'd have liked but I had a basketball sized opening to his quartered away vitals. Thwack! The arrow disappeared exactly where I was aiming (liver) and exited the off side shoulder. That's a wrap. He made the biggest mule kick I've ever seen an elk make, made a short semi-circle, and stopped at 25 yds. I was already drawn and aiming when he stumbled a bit (later I found out the stumble was Kirby putting one in him) and ran jello legged another 10 yds. When he stopped I shot him again. He was dead in seconds. No matter how many times I'm in this situation, particularly with elk, I'm overwhelmed, thankful, humbled beyond words.

From: otcWill
27-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
As he lay. I actually didn't realize he only had one antler until I walked right up on him :)

I've got to get back to work, but I'll finish up the elk hunt and post some pics/tales from other adventures before this is over.

From: Treeline
27-Mar-19
Excellent hunt and writeup! Great job killing a bull!

Looking forward to the rest of the adventures!

From: Vonfoust
27-Mar-19
You can't work right now!! I'm not!

From: Inshart
27-Mar-19
Hell yeah!

27-Mar-19
Wow. Thanks for taking the time to share. Great story!!!

From: Willieboat
27-Mar-19
Thanks for taking us along !

From: midwest
27-Mar-19
Great read!

From: HUNT MAN
27-Mar-19
Never do you disappoint us. Thanks for taking the time. What’s on your schedule this fall ? Hunt

From: SBH
27-Mar-19
Great post Will! More pics of your bull please.

From: Spookinelk
27-Mar-19
Nice thread Will!

Thanks for sharing

From: PoudreCanyon
27-Mar-19
Awesome stuff Will. Loving every word. Can’t wait to hear the rest! Poudre

From: bowhunter24
27-Mar-19
Thanks Will for taking us along, great story and pics!

From: Marty
28-Mar-19
Awesome, on my wish list! Great story telling too.

From: t-roy
28-Mar-19
Awesome write up, Will! Great pics as well. Looking forward to the rest after you get back from work. Congrats!

From: LUNG$HOT
28-Mar-19
Awesome thread as always Will! Your the real deal sir. Thanks for sharing.

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
Thanks guys.

This bull is as blonde as any I've ever seen. Every bull I've ever shot has had an almost black neck. Cool looking bull for sure.

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
Some celebrating and reliving the encounter before getting to work. Did I mention it's hotter than hell in New Mexico?

From: Boreal
28-Mar-19
Great stuff Will! Congrats!

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
Pack with approx. 160# (half a bull)
otcWill's embedded Photo
Pack with approx. 160# (half a bull)
otcWill's embedded Photo
Lil snack first. YUM!
otcWill's embedded Photo
Lil snack first. YUM!
I make these little lean to in order to protect the meat from the sun. Use branches and some clothing. It was at least 70 degrees when I took the photo and I wouldn't be able to get back for 4-5 hours to retrieve the last load. Time to do what I do best.

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
Made it back to the 2 track road in good time. Kirby was grabbing my truck for me when a guy came by in a side by side. Nice guy; a border patrol officer with some good stories, but better yet, a cooler full of Keystone Light. I'm not a big fan of Keystone but it was the best beer I've ever had in my life. We had several in the few minutes before Kirby came back with the truck. It's the little things in life

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
Found a shed while getting the last load of meat
otcWill's embedded Photo
Found a shed while getting the last load of meat
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
I went back for the rest of the meat after some lunch and Kirby went hunting that afternoon. Heard a few bugles but nothing close. We got fired up that night. Reinvigorated by success and hopeful for more. The next morning we were on bulls almost nonstop. They'd come a little ways to my calling but hang up just out of range. Several times I thought sure I was going to hear the bow go off. This open country requires the shooter to be at least 100 yds in front of the caller. Also, it is far less predictable as to exactly where they'll come to investigate than it is in thick/steep cover. If/when I draw again, I'll be better prepared for these long range call-ins.

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
We chased bugles for the next few days before the sun set on our New Mexico adventure. I'm sure I left out some encounters/details but they all seem to melt together. It was as good an experience as I could ask for, a "trip of a lifetime". I consider myself blessed to have great friends and even better opportunities. Shameless plug: If you feel the same please join your state and national bowhunting organizations! We need the support now more than ever.

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
Started messing with some custom knife/sheath making
otcWill's embedded Photo
Started messing with some custom knife/sheath making
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
I had the opportunity to take a few first time hunters out later in the fall. I actually spent more time helping others this past season than I did hunting for myself. Not a lot more rewarding than helping a new hunter find success. Hopefully this guy doesn't think it's easy. First ever hunt

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
Got to take a friend on his first lope hunt as well. Alex killed his first elk the previous year. Both guys are fathers, voters, and hooked on hunting for life. Insert thumbs up

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
The rest of my free time last year was spent with my best friend, my Dad. I'll add a few more pics as well as the story of the single best hunt of my life and we can call this done.

From: Brotsky
28-Mar-19
This is awesome Will! Doesn't get much better than this, you're living right!

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
Dad's favorite thing to do is bird hunt behind our setters, but I was able to talk him into putting in for his first ever mule deer hunt this fall. Our window of opportunity is definitely closing. We make the most of every day together.

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
Have you ever met someone that you get an immediate "this is a good dude" feeling about at hello? My father is one of those. He is as genuine and kind a person as I've ever been around. He deserves to have a chance at a deer this season. I'd do anything to get him a chance.

We said a prayer of thanks as we left the truck for our first mule deer hunt together. Nowhere I'd rather be. Literally within 100 yds of the truck I spotted a monster. A Gift from God for sure. The buck was just on the other side of the fence from the property I'd gained access to. I got Dad set up with the tripod just in case we were lucky enough to get a chance. Sure enough the buck jumped the fence. He's standing broadside at maybe 50 yds and Dad can't find him in the scope! There's not much I can do other than try to be calm and tell myself that it's not about the kill as I watch a mid 170s buck walk into thick cover.

We were on him several more times with the same results (couldn't find him in the scope) when he finally offered a shot at about 70 yds. Miss. We were both dejected and wondering if we had any business being out there after a miss on a slam dunk rifle shot. The drive home was quiet, a kick to the gut for both of us.

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
This isn't the one he missed. It's another that never came on legal ground but not too much bigger than the missed buck. It stung but we weren't quitting. Time for work but definitely finish this at lunch.

From: Jaquomo
28-Mar-19
I'll second it about that "good dude" feeling when first meeting him! What a great guy.

From: longspeak74
28-Mar-19
Outstanding story for sure Will! Thanks for taking us along!

From: Treeline
28-Mar-19
You are livin’ large for sure! Love that you were able to get out there with your dad. Nothing better!

28-Mar-19
Went threw that stage with my Dad many years ago. I thought “getting him a deer” mattered then but now realize just how irrelevant tagging one was. When it’s all said and done the goal is always “no regrets”! Make it happen!

Best always Will!!!!

From: Z Barebow
28-Mar-19
Will. You never disappoint. Thank you.

From: Ucsdryder
28-Mar-19
Awesome stuff as always Will!

From: Paul@thefort
28-Mar-19
Nicely done neighbor. My best to you, dad, and family, Paul

From: Scoot
28-Mar-19
Will, as always, this is awesome! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your excellent adventure on your "year off".

"Hunting is surely not a hobby for me. It’s who I am." You said this early on and I can soooo relate to this! It really comes through in your writing. Also, in your excellent pictures.

From: Bowbender
28-Mar-19
Simply. Amazing. Another good read. Thanks, Will. Love the pics of you and your dad.

From: LINK
28-Mar-19
Nice read Will.

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
He relies on me to wake him up when something happens :)
otcWill's embedded Photo
He relies on me to wake him up when something happens :)
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
Dad and I gave it our best the few chances we had to get out during his season. We had close calls every time. Honestly, I could have easily killed one almost every time we went, but Dad was having trouble seeing them. In hindsight I really should have bought a new scope for him. We sat in the blind and also hiked around a bit. Not bad for an 82 year old. Proud of you Dad

From: Bowfreak
28-Mar-19
Great thread. It is awesome to see 3 generations of Towles in this thread.

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19
The season was winding down. We had one more chance to get out. It snowed the evening prior to our last hunt of the season. It was one of the mornings that's so stunning it's easy just to be thankful you're alive and hunting. I don't think either of us thought we'd make it happen, but we were soaking up life regardless. When we got to where we could see the basin we'd been hunting I spotted a buck near the top. The hike would be a good one even for me and it seemed far fetched to think Dad could climb all the way up there. Even so, we'd just go slow and give it a try in hopes the buck didn't move off in the hour or more it'd take to get Dad into range. As we rounded a knob and I got a second view of the basin, the buck was miraculously still there. We were now under 500yds, closing extremely slowly, but making progress. I looked up to see the buck moving toward us. Please, let this happen. I tried to get Dad set up when the buck crossed in the wide open at about 200 yds but still he couldn't see him. He moved out of sight, appearing to be going away from us. I let out a doe bleat with my mouth and we settled in. Fingers crossed. After waiting for what felt like forever the deer popped up in front of us heading our way at 75 yds. Dad could see him. I'm not sure I breathed or allowed my heart to beat over the next minute or so as Dad tried to get settled. He was visibly shook, adrenaline flowing. I said, "Take your time. Be calm. Its just a..." BAAAAM! Dropped him.

I'm not one to get teary about a kill but I'm not gonna lie, we both cried in the moment and it's a physical feeling for me just to write about it. We hugged and then just stood there. I'm not sure for how long. It was truly one of the best moments of my life and surely my best hunting experience. Words could never do justice. We were/are so grateful.

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
Watching Dad walk up on his first muley at 82 years old.

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo

From: JB
28-Mar-19
This thread is amazing and the last post is double damn amazing! Congrats to your dad and so good of you to help him make it happen. Hunting is even more special when we can do it with an aging parent. Thank you for taking us along.

From: otcWill
28-Mar-19

otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
otcWill's embedded Photo
I'll never forget this day. Thank you Dad, for everything. I love you

From: Gotta Hunt
28-Mar-19
Wow! Great read. I look forward to this hunt every year

From: elkmtngear
28-Mar-19
Thanks Will, you never disappoint!

Awesome recap, and the finale left me speechless, with moist eyes. So glad you got to share that moment with your Dad, along with all the others over the Years!

From: Jaquomo
28-Mar-19
Great work all around, Will. Thanks for sharing this! The invitation is always open to bring your dad back up to fish, too.

And thank you sooo much for not writing "for what seemed like an eternity"! ;-)

From: longspeak74
28-Mar-19
That looks like an old Remington Wood Master your dad's got there!

From: HUNT MAN
28-Mar-19
This is what makes me open Bowsite everyday!!! Thanks you for posting and can’t wait for your next adventure . Hunt

From: Dirty D
28-Mar-19
Great stuff Will! Appreciate you taking the time to write it all up.

From: Iowa_Archer
28-Mar-19
Great stuff!! Especially the part with your dad getting his first muley at 82. Congrats to all!!

From: t-roy
28-Mar-19
Definitely treasured memories both of you will never forget! Great finish to the story, Will! My dad is 83 and, as I know you definitely do as well, as evidenced in the above thread, I feel truly blessed to still get to share experiences like these with him. Many on here are not as fortunate to still have their fathers (or mothers) around. My heart goes out to those.

Thanks again for sharing!

From: Brotsky
28-Mar-19
I'm not crying, you're crying! :-) Great end to the story Will! My dad is turning 70 this year and still gets around great. He has 16 points for archery elk here in SD. I pray everyday he gets that tag this year while he's still physically able to get after it.

From: grossklw
28-Mar-19
Great stuff man! Love it.

From: Nick Muche
28-Mar-19
Excellent thread! Your dedication certainly shines through, way to go!

From: zabwelch
28-Mar-19
Awesome stuff, thanks for sharing! Congrats to all!

From: ryanrc
28-Mar-19
Awesome write-up! Will is selling himself short on calling in elk. That CO bull had no intention of coming back down the mountain to us. Will was so damn believable I kept having to look back and make sure he wasn't an elk! Thanks again for helping out. Next time there will be a bull at the end of the blood trail.

28-Mar-19
Awesome stuff man. I loved it!

From: Whip
28-Mar-19
Your elk stories are always my favorites on Bowsite and your NM tale is no exception. But this finale with your Dad is in a class of its own. Outstanding! So cool that you could share that memory - it will be with you forever!

From: Brun
28-Mar-19
Fantastic stuff! Congrats to all and thanks for sharing this.

From: Inshart
28-Mar-19
WOW, that was truly an amazing climax to a great read. Will, you are an amazing and inspirational person. God speed to you and your Pops.

From: BigStriper
28-Mar-19
Very good at taking us along on with you on your hunt's Will, and glad you got to spend precious time with your Dad.I'm thinking your Dad was shooting a Remington 700 BDL on his hunt ?

Kurt

From: 1HankS
28-Mar-19
Just a fabulous story...thanks for sharing!

From: LUNG$HOT
28-Mar-19
Wow! How awesome is that! Congrats to you and your Dad. Good on you for making sure to get him in the woods and spend some time together. Thanks for sharing.

From: Matt
29-Mar-19
Great thread.

Enjoy your time with your father. I lost mine last year at 71 - far too young. There were lots of things he and I had planned to do together that we won't have the opportunity to, but you are making that happen and I commend you.

29-Mar-19
"Have you ever met someone that you get an immediate "this is a good dude" feeling about at hello? My father is one of those. He is as genuine and kind a person as I've ever been around."

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree my friend.

I meant what I said the other day when I said that this was the best thing on the internet right now.

Grats to you and your dad. I'm happy for you both. And thanks for taking us along.

From: ElkNut1
29-Mar-19
Awesome stuff Will, thanks bud!

ElkNut/Paul

From: APauls
29-Mar-19
Excellent doesn't begin to describe the thread Will. The writing, the experiences, the imagery, you have a gift. Well, many gifts. Thanks for taking the time to share this. What a read. I'd rather read this than any magazine or TV show.

From: otcWill
29-Mar-19
Thanks guys. Glad you enjoyed.

Dad's gun is a Rem 700.

I really appreciate all the kind words. No elk hunt this year as I'll be in AK for most of September with some redneck I met on the internet :) Dad and I will hopefully share another first in our 2019 adventures as well. Either way we'll be smiling. Cannot wait! Cheers

From: Shiras42
29-Mar-19
Not even sure I have words on this. Awesome, outstanding, heart warming and on and on...

29-Mar-19
Awesome!! All the way around!! See ya in 10 days!!

Matt

From: Ron Niziolek
29-Mar-19
Excellent thread Will. I love what you shared with your dad.

From: ElkNut1
29-Mar-19
Dude, no way you can miss a year hunting elk!

ElkNut/Paul

From: midwest
30-Mar-19
You're a lucky son, he's a lucky dad. Really great stories.

My dad didn't hunt but he LOVED to hear my hunting stories and see my photos. Encouraged me in my pursuits and bragged to anyone who would listen when I had success. This thread has me missing him. Cherish the moments.

From: Bowboy
30-Mar-19
Awesome story and pictures Wiil. Thanks for taking us on your adventure!

From: KHunter
30-Mar-19
Great stuff as usual Will. We sure had a ball. I’ll look through some of my photos to see what I have...

From: elkstabber
01-Apr-19
Excellent writeup. Thank you so much for sharing. It should be a bowsite requirement that anybody who draws a good tag should be required to write about their trip. :)

From: Beav
02-Apr-19
I've said this before but this is an instant classic for Bowsite. Great pics and an even better job of putting your experience into elegant words that allowed a guy to feel like he was watching it go down. Thanks for sharing Will!!

From: elkster
02-Apr-19
I appreciate you taking the time to post this. You expressed my thoughts on several subjects so well. What elk hunting means to you, and time spent with your father, friends and family all in one post. Excellent.

02-Apr-19
As usual, great stuff Will. Pictures, story and perspective. Your dad is very fortunate. As are you.

Just had a great Spring Break trip with my youngest. I am hoping we can emulate your "Dad Trip" well into our future.

Well done, sir.

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