A Season without Dad

For me, elk hunting is synonymous with my Dad. We bow hunted for elk off and on for almost 40 years. With Dad passing away last December I know this year will be different.  On our last bow hunt for elk together Dad was 81 years old. Deciding that elk hunting was a little too strenuous he switched from elk hunting to bear hunting bagging his last bear in Canada at age 86. Although it’s been 10 years since Dad was with us in elk camp he couldn’t wait to hear our escapades of chasing elk around the mountain. My son Matt recorded videos of at the end of each day to share with Dad so he could continue to be a part of the hunt.  

Matt and I will head west the end of this week with bows in hand for an exhausting, exhilarating hunt. For us it’s an almost spiritual renewal of mind and body.  I am so thankful God gave me many seasons of walking the mountain trails in pursuit of bugling bulls with my father. Every September the mountains beckon knowing the bulls are beginning to bugle. And every September will be a fond reminder of time spent in the woods with my Dad. I could write a book about our adventures and misadventures hunting elk together. Will never forget the hour-long stock Dad and I put on a bedded bull in New Mexico.  When we had closed the distance to 20 yards we realized that we had never seen the antlers move, not even a bit. Turned out to be a huge 5-point bull. However, he’d been dead for at least a year. It was a beautiful rack, I have and still treasure.

In 2006 Dad and I were hunting together in Colorado. He had decided to get a muzzle loader cow tag as it had been a while since he had practiced with his bow. I called in a couple of cows and Dad took a shot with the smoke pole. He thought the shot was good, but the trail was marginal and it was getting dark. Decided to come back in the morning to look for the cow. The next morning, close to where we had left off there was a huge commotion about 40 yards away in the brush. Upon inspection we found Dad’s cow! And found that we had spooked off a bear who had been enjoying a wonderful breakfast of elk meat. The only thing salvageable was the ivories. A little disappointed we decided we just as well keep on hunting. Within 15 minutes we heard a bugle. I answered the call and within minutes elk were headed through the timber towards us.

About a dozen cows led the way followed by the herd bull. The cows went by at about 15 yards; here he came. Shooting a traditional bow the challenging part is when to draw, not having the luxury of being able to hold at full draw forever. About the time he was getting close I could hear behind us the cows had caught our scent and were taking off! His head went behind a tree, I pulled back, he saw the movement jumped and stopped. As these darn things usually do he stopped with his body behind the trees with only his head visible starring directly at me. Holding the 65lb. bow at full draw it didn’t take long for me to start shaking and he blew out of there. Dad and I, setting side by side, just grinned at each other and said, “WOW”! Then we heard a bugle. Getting my bino’s out I could see another bull bedded down about 150 yards away. I tried every cow call I could think of and he nonchalantly payed zero attention. A little frustrated I let a bugle rip! His head shot our way, he jumped up and here he came. Closer, closer, then a little bit too close. There was little cover and I thought he was going to trot by us and catch our scent. I begin to draw, he saw the movement. No not again! He took off but stopped at about 30 yards. The next thing I noticed was my bright yellow fletching protruding from the middle of his chest! He went down within sight.

Forever, I will be thankful for that moment shared together. I don’t have to wonder what that experience was like for Dad. A few years later, I called in a bull in the same mountains and watched my son Matt take him with his bow at 11 yards. I know I will have the urge to pick up the phone and call Dad after the first day of the hunt. He won’t be there. Or will he? Dad knew Jesus and  had accepted him as his Lord and savior.  I know Jesus is as fond of him as all of us. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he doesn’t give Dad a front row seat above those clouds floating over the Rockies next week.

2 Comments on “A Season without Dad

  1. Thanks for letting me hunt with you through your words. Your dad was a fine gentleman and no wonder he raised a fine son.


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