This elk hunt may go down as the toughest and scariest hunt of my career. Dad and I headed back up to sacred hunting grounds to maintain the tradition of a father/son elk hunting trip. I took the week off work and planned to stay until we filled one or two tags. Opening day was good to us. We saw a cow that morning and I got into a herd that evening right at dark. I saw a spike, a couple cows and a 5x5. So, without hesitation, I took a shot at the bull, heard the whap, and watched him run off. I went down to where he was and followed his tracks. I jumped him 50 yards into the trees and decided to back out of the area and come back in the morning to resume tracking. There was a fair amount of blood to follow, I just did not want to push him into the steep, thick pines as we were already 4.5 miles in on foot.
The next morning we woke up to snow. There was 5 inches down and still snowing hard! All hopes of finding this bull were gone. It was foggy, windy, and snowing like crazy. We set out on foot anyway to do the responsible thing.
Once in the area, we split up and started gridding. I had made one pass and was coming back up when I smelt elk. Another 50 yards and I look over to see my bull laying at the edge of the trees. Talk about luck! I fully expected to never find this animal due to the circumstances. (I guess I should change my user name from Blood Tracker to LUCKY!
Or was I luckyÖ..
I spent the rest of day cutting and leap frogging meat up the mountain to the top where I could centralize everything for the next days pack out. Mother Nature spent the rest of the day dumping snow on us until evening; there was roughly 12 inches of snow down when dad and I decided we had better get out of there. The snow was so deep that we could not ride our mountain bikes out. It was snowing and blowing so hard that we struggled to see where we were going. On top of all this, my dad, (age 71) started having heart complications due to overexertion. We had no cell phone service, and we were 4.5 miles in. At that point, I have never felt so helpless in my life.
Iíll admit, I was scared, and even had an anxiety attack when I realized the situation we were now in. If anything further happened to my dads health, we would be spending the night inside a pine or worse. We left my dads mountain bike on the mountain, I started kicking a trail out of that area, going as slow as possible so as to not push my dad beyond his health limitations. Somehow, (through one 3 hour continuous prayer) we made it to camp. The next day, (hours later) we woke up to more snow. The snow was so deep (and still snowing) that we decided to get off that mountain, leave the elk, dads bike, and come back later for everything.
The truck tires were chained up, the 29 foot trailer hooked up, and we were off. Pulling that rig out of there was a bit sketchy but we got it out.
Fast forward to yesterday. I went back up with a brother, located all the meat, and packed it all out (yes, even the mountain bike). The whole drive up it was sunny. Once we started up the trail, the snow hit and it never stopped snowing until 2:00 am this morning when we got closer to home. Got home at 3:00 am this morning.
Regardless of the circumstances this year, success is success. I used to think you couldnít put a price tag on a successful hunt. I sing a different tune today, as I am lucky to still have my old man standing beside me after that ordeal on the mountain. No elk or animal is worth the life of a loved one. We now await the results from the heart doctorís tests. I am sure the good old days of trudging up that mountain with me are over for my dad. However, having him around for many more years is more important than any old hunting tradition.
Dad on the day before the opener
Dad on the opener. (starting to get cold)
The snow hits
The elk is found!
The work begins
Dad keeping the fire going while I make trips up the mountain with meat
yes, those are mountain bikes...
At the sight of this, it was time to get off the mountain.