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Beginners Luck

By Justin Engle

It was a summer afternoon in the year 2012. My buddy and I were sitting at the lunch table at work talking about life. We were talking about fishing, trapping, hunting and what that fall was going to bring with deer season approaching fast.

Trail camera pictures were pouring in and some nice bucks were making the hit list. While showing a friend of ours these bucks he had asked if we ever thought about going elk hunting. As an 18 year veteran of hunting elk he begins to show us his trophies that he had taken over the years.
As a kid growing up I have always had a passion to be in the outdoors. Elk hunting was definitely on my bucket list and I knew it was on Kaleb's also. Sitting there admiring the trophies our friend has taken, my mind started planning.

That day on the way home we decided that we were going to plan an Elk hunt in Colorado for the year 2014. We spent the next two years doing the research of where to go, looking up elk herd numbers and building a game plan. We had planned our trip for the opening week of archery season in 2014.

The time came and Kaleb, his dad and I headed to beautiful Colorado on our very own DIY Elk hunt. We conquered a week of hard hunting and chasing elk but never was able to close the deal on many opportunities. On our last day of our hunt, while we were packing up to leave we met a local guide that happened to be passing by to his lease.

Scott Calhoun with Calhoun Outfitters was his name and hunting elk was a passion that he also enjoyed. He told us about his business, gave us his card and went on his way. Kicking around the idea of going to an Outfitter for our next hunt led to turn out into something special.

We called over a buddy of ours to see if he would like to join us on our second elk hunt. He sat with excitement as he began to tell us that it was something that he has always wanted to do. So we talked about Calhoun Outfitters and how all the public ground that is in that area surrounds the 25,000 acre lease that they have. It was a no brainer that everything in that area would be pushed on to his property by the second week of archery season. We planned our dates for 2016 and called up Scott and put down our down payment and the wait was on.

September of 2016 came and Friday was here. Finally, the third week of Colorado Archery Elk season was here. We arrive after a long 14.5 hour drive to one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen on god’s green earth. There were aspens and junipers everywhere with a nice south breeze of pure freshness. Not a vehicle sound or human trace around.

 Mr. Calhoun introduced us to the guys that were helping him. Jacob (ProStaffer) was in awe as he looked around and said “it’s going to be a good hunt fella's". Him and I eagerly gathered our bows and began to shoot. After two hours of checking our equipment we were ready for the morning hunt.

That evening we got squared away with Scott and he gave us a good location on where to start in the morning and the best strategies to try.

  5:30am Sunday morning came. Kaleb and his dad headed out to the Northwest, Jacob and I to the Northeast. We were on opposite sides of "The Hole" which is basically Hell down through the middle of the Kelso Mesa. Jacob and I were following a nice little trail through the aspens and oak brush and I have to say “We might have gotten twisted around a few times here and there" on the walk in.

Its 6:30am now with the sky lighting up and the songbirds are starting to sing. While walking across a little beaver pond dam we heard our first elk bugle of the hunt. Jacob turned to look at me with his eyes wide open and complete excitement across his face. "You hear that!" I replied yes let's get into position. With me having only been elk hunting once and him never we quietly scurried over to some cover to sit and develop a game plan. I hung back about 45 yards and cow called a few times here and there. The bull fired up every time with his voice echoing through the valley.

As we sat there waiting for the bull to come to us it became clear that he was only concerned about the cows that he had in his heard already. His bugle is a way of him saying "I'm here, come to me". We decided to close the distance and put a stalk on him due to the fact his bugle started to get more and fainter. He may have been only 350 yards away but the challenge only began.

Our game plan was to locate a good access point downwind from the bull and climb the hill that was below the shelf of the mountains edge he was on. We climbed over fallen logs and crawled through brush trying our best to get as close to this bull as possible.

We arrive to the shelf he was on and it was one of the thickest and hairiest places we have ever been. We sought after an elevated position with as much open area to shoot as possible. While walking to our open area we heard him bugle once again. He was extremely close as he had turned around to come back and gather what he thought was his lost cow that he had been hearing. The woods were crashing and there were thuds from his horns smacking on trees as he passed by. Every stick and branch he broke was an indication of how close he was getting.

 "There they are!” Jacob said as the lead cow popped up from this ravine 20 yards out in from of us. We both nocked an arrow and I went to full draw. “Are you going to shoot that cow?" Jacob asked, as I nodded yes. He replied “wait, that bull has to be here somewhere" and at that moment there was a loud crash to the side of us and there he stood at 17 yards!!! I instantly turned from the cow and sighted in on the bull. There were branches in front of me and I had no shot. Jacob was at full draw. He leaned out from behind the tree where he was standing and put an arrow right the grocery store. The bull took off crashing through the woods.

Still at full draw I quickly turned back to the lead cow that I originally was going to arrow and tried to get a shot on her. There was no open shot so I let down my draw and grabbed my elk call to stop Jacobs’s bull, trying to get another arrow in him. He was too far out with no clear shot the vitals. I approached Jacob to congratulate him and to tell you the truth, I really don't know who was more excited me or him.

 We sat there for a few minutes to let things calm down a bit. Knowing the bull didn't run too far we decided to have lunch and give him plenty of time to expire. After an hour we began to follow the blood trail. After about 60 yards I heard something take off running through the woods. Could it have been Jacobs’s bull? Was it another animal that had moved into the area? It's so thick in there that you just can’t see very far. We proceeded another 50 yards and started running into really fresh blood so we decided to back out for another hour and find his arrow. We went back to the area where the bull was standing and found Jacobs arrow. It had penetrated a good 16 inches but the broad head had malfunctioned as to where all we had was the broadhead shaft with no blades on it. The welds broke from the shaft after it was inside the elk and when he had turned to run off the arrow just slid right out. Worry started to set in as we were beginning to wonder if the bull had actually had a fatal shot. The blood trail was amazing but this animal went farther than we ever expected with what appeared to be an excellent shot.

Our second hour is up and we pursued on further with the blood trail. After 100 yards further from where we stopped the first time we came up on Jacobs’s bull bedded down. Jacob was able to get a final arrow in him and the bull expired within a minute. This was probably the happiest I have ever seen Jacob. The wait was over when he wrapped his hands around the antlers. "We did it Justin" he says as I sit there in complete awe and replaying every second of this hunt over and over in my mind.

The work had only begun. It's time to cape and quarter this amazing animal to get ready to pack out. I helped Jacob gut the bull and get the hide back so he can start quartering it. I left and headed down the hill so I could get radio reception to call Scott and let him know we had a bull down. I gave him our GPS location and headed back up the mountain to help Jacob finish packing up his harvest.

All the meat is packed up and ready for transport and we hear voices at the bottom of the hill. Scott was there with Kaleb, Eugene and the horses to help us pack out Jacobs’s trophy. We loaded all the meat up on the horses and head back to camp. The group was waiting eagerly to see the trophy.

Kaleb, les and I hunted the rest of the week hard and were on elk every day. There just wasn't any shot opportunities. Some might say that it's easy to just walk out and shoot something. I mean it's an elk! They are huge! How hard can it be? Well folks let me tell you that it is a hard hunt and very physical.

Scott Calhoun with Calhoun Outfitters and his crew are some of the best people around. I feel very fortunate to have been able to come out and hunt with these fine folks. The generosity and hospitality is at the utmost very best I have ever experienced at any outfitter. If you were to choose a place for an experience of a lifetime elk hunt this place is well worth its weight in gold.  As For Jacob Beamer, to you my friend I congratulate you on your first bull. It was a pleasure hunting beside you and being a part of your BEGINNERS Luck!!!

I would like to thank the lord, our   families and our sponsors for helping our dreams and passions to come true.

Special Thanks To:
Scott and Kersea Calhoun, Charlie and Eugene for making our elk hunt very memorable!