First Elk Hunt for Rayann
My first elk hunt I was twelve years old, passenger seat of my father’s gold dodge headed into the brinks of the salmon river. I remember the mix of emotions that consumed me as I prepared to harvest my first cow elk. My father kept looking over at me, telling me how excited he was for me, recalling his first elk with his father. After a 4:30 am wake up and anxious hour-long drive, we finally arrived. It was cold out, the grass was frosted, and I could see my breathe. I grabbed my pack and my 243 and looked towards the grueling climb I was about to make, my skin crawling with anticipation.
We started the treacherous slope that my father claimed was “slicker than a cows face”. The beginning of our hunt moved slow, I thought that our climb up would never end as I struggled for my footing. Finally, we reached a low saddle and began to glass; my father had spotted the heard first. We scanned for our best route to them, but it was going to be tricky. The top of the ridge was a tree line that could give us enough cover to drop in on them, but the wind wasn’t right, we couldn’t drop below them because they would see us. Our best shot was to carefully side-hill through a cliffy area and hopefully get a shot. This is when my heart began to race as I knew our hunt was becoming real.
We moved slowly across the open hill side, watching the elk as we did. When we got cover, we darted to our next spot to glass, calculating our next move. Soon enough we reached the ridge that ran right above the heard. We crawled on our stomachs until we reached a rock that we could peak over. My father and I scanned, looking for a shot. Everything was too far away for me. My father turned to me as he slid down the rock out of sight. “I think our best shot is to move up and hope that there is going to be an elk. Go slow, lay low, and follow me.” We moved about another 100 yards up the ridge from our spot and peaked over. I couldn’t believe it. A mature cow elk stood within range from us. My dad shoved me onto this rock and told me it would be a good rest. I put my gun up and started to slow my breath as my heart raced. Right then she turned and faced me. I waited for her to move but she would never turn broadside. I whispered to my dad, “I can’t get a shot. She’s facing me.” My dad peaked over my shoulder, just then she seemed alerted of danger in the area. She was cautious and never broke eye contact. My dad whispered to me, “You’re going to have to aim for the heart. If you don’t think you can make that shot, then don’t do it. If you have the confidence, then take it.” I sat there and debated the shot. I had never taken a shot like this even though I had practiced. In my head I knew I only had moments to decided and I found myself slowing my breath again, gripping the gun hard against my shoulder, leaning in, and breathing out…my finger slowly pulled the trigger. Perfect shot. I was shocked, I turned to my father who hugged me hard and told me how proud he was.