Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Wyoming- Do you ever wonder, "Is today the day?" Trying to envision yourself being in the situation where your stalk has come together? Wondering if, and how, it’ll play out while going from hiking along one second, to all of the sudden, you have an animal on the ground in front of you? I do. Usually however, it is never how I envisioned and this was no exception.
My 8th day of archery elk hunting had started just like the rest. In what typically is a great area, I could only find far off bulls through the spotter on chunks of private land. Our usual honey holes were blown out by people that felt the need to set up tent camps right in the middle of the most productive spots. By mid morning, I had made the call to search for a general deer and salvage the day and as luck would have it, I found them from the side by side. I had spotted them feeding on a north facing hillside about 900 yards away and watched them feed up to the trees and shade above them. I backed my ride out of sight, parked, and deployed my last reserves of 5 hour energy and Kratom, my go to’s for serious hikes and pack outs.
Moving low through a draw, out of sight and down wind, I worked the long way around the base of the ridge that my targets were on. My plan was to make a wide sweep past them to the south side of the ridge before heading up and dropping down to the north side timber that the group had fed to.
Step one accomplished. I made it to the trees, dumped my pack and nocked an arrow before creeping along the tree line in the direction of the deer. I knew the odds were against me here, as there was a lot of eye balls around. The group was roughly eight does and four bucks. Par for the course and despite good wind, the first deer I see is a doe staring at me. Busted! The group breaks through the trees towards the west but slows to a walk a couple hundred yards out. “Well, might as well try until they blow out completely,” I said to myself. Circling again down wind and out of sight, I closed the gap to 130 yards from the biggest buck. Again, busted by another doe! They made a break back to the east along the ridge top.
This is where I started trying to envision this situation playing out. Thirsty and with sinking morale, my forecast included walking empty handed to the side by side with a story of a failed close encounter. Still, they hadn’t blown out completely so I decided to keep after them.
I moved to the north side of the ridge now, out of sight from my targets on the south. Paralleling them just out of their sight, I could catch glimpses of the bucks through the thin timber. I stepped up my pace and caught up to the group, and then came over the top towards the bucks. Yet another doe busted me here, determined, I shrugged her off and walked right past her as a man on a mission. This brazen move paid off in spades. I crested the hill in the midst of the timber and from behind a fallen tree the biggest of the bucks stepped out. No time to get a range, I drew back and let one fly, putting my top two pins on his lungs. Smoked him!
I picked up my arrow, noted it was coated in pink lung blood, and put it back in my quiver. Confident in my hit, I didn’t bother following a blood trail and began walking the direction he went. Less than one hundred yards later I found him. You could hear my excited whooping and hollering a county away, this stalk definitely did not play out how I expected!