Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Hunt Of A Lifetime

Lois J. Stoffle

October 10, 2012

The Hunt of a Lifetime


The date was October 1st, 2006; I was up before dawn, ate breakfast with the guys and was ready to go hunting for my Elk. David, Ron and I walked to the truck.

Ron and I had filled out applications in April for fifteen years, hoping to draw early elk licenses for hunting premier trophy area 2 for the coming fall. Ron had drawn his license in 2005 and had had a successful hunt. Now it was going to be my turn. I had waited sixteen years for this opportunity and I had prepared well, or so I thought.

From the time I received my license in the mail in mid June, I began my preparation. Our son, David, guided for the Sagebrush Outfitters, a business owned by Sherrie Johnson, who lived in Maybell. She had told me that I could hunt on her leased land with a group of other lucky hunters who had drawn that year. But I was really the lucky one, as David was going to be my personal guide. First, I had to get some good hunting (and walking) boots, as we would probably be afoot for several miles each day. My daughter-in-law, Tanya, took me to Grand Junction to go shopping. I got my boots, ammo, some odorless soap, shampoo and deodorant, and some good boot socks and some small shooting sticks that I would be able to use while sitting down. I already had my pants, shirts, and blaze orange sweatshirt, cap and vest and of course, my rifle and sling. Good deal, all the material things were taken care of. Now to the physical training! David wanted me to be able to run up the side of the hill across the highway from our house and not get winded. Ha, he was sure asking a lot! I started by doing a lot of walking on level ground and after a week or so, I started to climb the hill. Slow at first, but I finally worked up to a pretty fast climb (and sweat). Never could RUN up that hill, but I did get to the top without a lot of heavy breathing. That took a good two months to accomplish! Next, I had to sight in my rifle. I like to take "sure" shots at about 100 to 125 yards. Right on the money at that yardage, but David was not impressed. If the elk were not full in the rut and being careless during my hunting time, he said that I would have to take a lot further of a shot. So I burned through another two boxes of shells, practicing at 200 yards and then at 300 yards! David’s range only goes to 200 yards, so I visited our neighbor, Dick Becker, and sighted in for 300 yards at his range. By the middle of September I was ready to go! My boots were broken in, my rifle was on target and I could carry a pack and climb that hill with no problem! I packed my suitcase and one for Ron, too, as he was coming with me, but would probably stay in the truck while David and I did our scouting. Funny thing was, I was not welcome on his hunt the year before, but he fully expected to come with me! Strange how that works! I was planning on staying at the Sombrero ranch for at least a 3 to 4 day hunt, and I packed accordingly, and brought a lot of snacks, too.

Ron and I got to stay in one of the houses at the ranch that had several bedrooms. David’s room was next to ours upstairs and several other hunters were staying downstairs. We would go to the main house for our meals and social time.

We got in to the truck and headed out to the highway to get to some other road that would lead us into the back country. I was sitting forward trying to watch everything I could. My unloaded rifle was next to my seat and my ammo was ready in the pocket of my blaze orange sweatshirt. My license was safety pinned in my jeans pocket along with a small pencil. Binoculars were hanging around my neck, and my blaze orange cap was fitted tightly to my head, ready to shade my eyes when the sun would come up.

David found the road he wanted, and we drove a short way in. David and I got out and started to walk. As the sky began to lighten up, David began to call the elk. He got some response, so he started to "talk" to them. The elk were quite a distance away, but were moving toward us. When they came into view with our binoculars, we decided that they weren’t quite big enough so we walked on out of that area. Pretty soon we stopped and David called some more. He got a little response, but not what he wanted so we went back to the truck and drove to another location that he had scouted earlier. Once again, we left Ron and took off on foot. After walking a while, we stopped and David called again, this time there was a really loud response! David told me to get in position, so I sat down in a small clearing, got my shooting sticks set-up, loaded my rifle, checked the scope sighting and kept quiet so I could be listening if the elk moved toward us. Well, move toward us he did. He was coming up the draw, stomping and thrashing through the trees as he moved closer and closer and got louder and louder. Suddenly, there he was right in front of us shaking his head from side to side and stomping one of his front feet!

David whispered to me, "Do you want him or not? Cause if not, let’s get the heck out of here!" I said "I want him". The elk looked huge to me, but I couldn’t find him in my scope! Oh, no, what should I do? In that split second of decision, I looked to the side of my rifle, as my scope was of no use to me, and took aim. After all of that practice at those long distances and sighting in for 300 yards, here I had an elk not 20 yards away from me! So I squeezed the trigger and "BLAM" quickly followed by "THUNK" and the bull was down! I let out a sigh of relief. I truly thought that the elk was going to run right over the top of me-he was that close and looked that angry standing there shaking his majestic head. David said something like "Good job, Mom!" and when I finally found my legs so I could stand up, he patted me on my back and told me that I had done really well. Do you know where I sighted my rifle to shoot him? Right between his front legs and the bullet went into the base of his neck and right into his spinal column! What a lucky shot! I always told my classes of Hunter Education students to avoid a head on, frontal shot if at all possible, cause the chest cavity is so dense with bone, and here I didn’t even think to follow my own advice! But because I was sighted in for such a long distance the bullet went high and right where I had hoped it would go.

Now the work would begin. David went back to get the truck and bring it as close as he could to load my elk. While he was gone, I finished filling out my license and tagged my animal. Then I just stood there crying while I admired him, petted him and thanked him for giving me such a good shot. When David and Ron were back, we took some pictures and then I helped David field dress my elk. He used a wench to load him up into the back of the truck and we went back to the ranch. It wasn’t even 9:00 yet and my hunt was over! And to think I had planned to stay and hunt for several days!

I may not have gotten the "King of the Mountain", but he was certainly the "Prince" of my dreams, a nice 6 X 7, a real trophy in my eyes, and who else counts anyway? It was the hunt of a lifetime, thanks to our son, David and sixteen years of wishing and waiting.

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