Try Something new, Why?

Trying something new is hard for many of us. We fall in love with something that gives us joy, entertainment or peace. Why do anything different? Good question. Sometimes we have new or different experiences that maybe were not really planned or desired. And guess what? We may walk away saying, “Hey, that was pretty cool”!

Happened to me this fall. I’ve been bowhunting elk for almost 40 years now. Except for a couple of years in the early 80’s when I succumbed to the latest and greatest bug (early days of the compound bows) I have always hunted with traditional archery equipment. Never in my life have I hunted anything but hogs and coyotes with a rifle. Never wanted to, I thought.

Lot of things happened in 2020. For me, one of those was a new boss. Thankfully, he is a great guy and loves to hunt. He is a rifle deer hunter and hunts in Oklahoma and Texas every year. I thought it might be a good way to get to know each other, so I asked him if he would be interested in going elk hunting during rifle season in Colorado. Absolutely, he said! So, I made plans for us to make the trip.

This is a little funny. I’m standing in front of my gun safe looking at the contents. There are four pistols, four shotguns, two muzzle loaders (which have never been fired), a Browning lever action 243 (my old childhood coyote getter) three AR15’s (don’t know why, everyone has to have at least one) and a Ruger 308 I bought from a friend who needed to sell it. I decided the 308 was the most likely candidate. Here’s the funny part. I paid someone to sight it in as I didn’t think I was capable.

A couple of weeks before the mid-November hunt my boss bugged out. Work was piling up and with a Texas deer hunt immediately after the elk hunt he was worried his boss and/or wife might not be happy with him going. I had already paid for a cow tag, focusing on meat for the freezer and planning on primarily acting as a guide. After promising my wife a freezer full of elk burger and always longing to spend time in the mountains I called a younger guy I work with. He had hunted deer years ago and he was willing. So off we went, two newbie rifle elk hunters on the 1,000 mile trek to elk country.

Now I’m confident in my abilities to call and hunt elk with a bow. But I had no idea how to hunt elk during rifle season. Had a good friend in the area we were hunting who is a ranch manager and seasoned rifle elk hunter. Asked him if I could call the elk during this time of the year. Nope, can’t be done during rifle season. What do we do? Well, really just depends on the weather. If the snow is heavy enough they’ll bunch up and you may catch them moving to lower elevation and winter-feeding grounds. That’s it? Yep, that’s what you do. Sit, watch, wait. With only 4 days to hunt didn’t sound like a sure fire way to keep my promise of filling the freezer. So, I did what I know how to do. Bow hunted for elk, with a rifle.

We called, still hunted and slowly tracked elk to their bedding areas in the 15 degree temperatures and snow. Remarkedly, called in and located several herds (even though it can’t be done in rifle season). One of these calling sessions resulted in getting into a herd of over 70 elk with about 15 bulls. Focused on getting my hunting partner a bull I directed him to move up the mountain and out over the top of an opening where he could see down the mountain. As I’m waiting for him to get into position a nice bull walked by me at 50 yards. I was rethinking my a cow tag. He crept out to where he could see down the mountain. I had given him my shooting stick and he set up to shoot down the steep hillside. Elk were milling about all over below us. I could see several bulls and ranged them at about 150 yards. After what seemed like eternity one of the larger bulls stopped broadside. The single shot 7mm magnum he had dug out of his closet boomed!

Looking at the elk through my scope I didn’t see the hit. The bull looked around and trotted down the mountain. It was a miss. Over the next 30 seconds elk were running in every direction. Another bull stopped in about the same location as the first. Boom, again! Like the first, this bull also trotted off down the mountain, none the worse for wear.

The video below shows Levi forlornly looking down from his shooting position as the elk congregate at the bottom of the mountain after the shots.

Later, we did get within a 100 yards of another bull, but he never got a clear shot. On the last day thought I’d better get serious about filling the cow tag. Found the trail of four elk in the new fallen snow. After about a two hour sneak I shot a cow as she stood up from her bed at 30 yards. Guess the rifle was sighted in for at least 30 yards. She weighed 500 lbs. and our freezer is now completely filled with the best protein on the planet.

So, hunting elk with a rifle in November. Silently walking through the woods with a beautiful blanket of snow shimmering on the pines. Watching the tiny cloud forming from frozen breath as a bull bulges to answer my call. Feeling the rifle jump in your hands. I will be back in September with my long bow in hand. And again in November, if all goes as planned.

There are many things I haven’t done in the outdoors that, just maybe, would be worth trying. I’ve learned a lesson. Don’t wait to try something new by happenstance. Do in intentionally and regularly. If it gets you outdoors it’s worthwhile. Maybe even rewarding in ways you never thought of. In a few months I’ll have another first. My sister and brother-in-law have been bowhunting bears in Canada for twenty years. Personally, never really thought about doing it. Realizing we haven’t hunted together in about 30 years they invited me to join them this May. I’m starting to get more excited about it. As I stare at the skinny long bow that I will be taking I’m beginning to get excited —- in couple of different ways!

One Comment on “Try Something new, Why?

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