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The Lucky One

By Kyle Zuercher

Since the beginning of summer this year I had been taking my girlfriend Erika archery scouting and hunting with me. Her interest for hunting sky rocketed with millions of questions….about everything, which some were amusing. It was fun to see her get excited to be out in the woods. I ended up taking her deer hunting with me during the archery season. I harvested a nice 4 pt Blacktail, and her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. I knew then she was hooked and I would be asked to take her elk hunting this year during the general season tag. I told her the only way I would take her is if she proved to me that she was ready, and that she could take it serious. My biggest issue with hunters now is the ones that don’t take care of their equipment or the ones that shoot their gun once before season. It’s important to me to have no doubt in your ability to shoot, and the equipment you’re using. I laid the ground rules for Erika and she was willing to do anything to start hunting. About a month before the season started we began practicing with my Remington VTR 308. Erika has been around guns her whole life so she was no newbie on how they worked or how to shoot. I just wanted her to be prepared for a shot standing, kneeling, or prone if given the opportunity. We shot over 80 rounds thru my Remington, from 100 to 300 yards. During that month I had her watching videos, quizzing her on shot placements and placing situations into her head we might encounter. After all the preparation I knew she would be ready, If we were given the right chance I knew I could set her up and she would make the right shot. A few days before the season we went down to buy her first elk tag.

            On Oct. 30th we headed up before daylight to get into an area I had been seeing elk weeks before. Of course nothing pans out the way you want it too, the weather was not cooperating. The rain was falling hard but the thick fog was terrible, we couldn’t see more than 80 yards in front of us. I assumed the wind would blow the fog out of its bed after a few hours so we dropped into the area anyways. After we got down into the bottom of the draw the fog was no better or worse. We kicked up a few deer and could barely see them at 50 yards. I made the decision we would just sit and hopefully wait out the fog and get a break in the weather. I looked at my phone…11:00am; it was time to make our long climb back to the truck. I could tell she was a little disappointed, but that’s just how hunting goes. Socked in with fog walking around would just screw up the area we were trying to hunt. Maybe we would have better luck tomorrow with the fog situation.

            Oct. 31st Halloween morning I made the call to just take a drive to see where the fog line was, then we could plan our elk attack. The conditions were just as terrible as the day before, fog was thick…the wind was howling up on the ridge. At about 8:15am the fog began to move from the canyons, for split seconds it would clear up and then roll back in. I am as stubborn as the next person….maybe a little worse but it was time to get out and wander around where I wanted to be. I set my Garmin 450T GPS with Hunt Maps at the truck. We descended into the bottom of the canyon working slow and listening. The farther down we went the more the fog was moving, FINALLY we could see more than 100 yards. I just had that feeling in my mind….we will see something, just be patient, work slow. I checked the GPS we were just over 1.5 miles from the truck, working the side hill glassing across for movement. Checking the soft wet mud for any sign of fresh elk tracks. The elk had been in the area at some point this morning. There were a bunch of smaller fingers and draws coming off the hill, each one we stopped and listened for any movement from below us. We crested the top of this small ridge; right as we got on top I heard a limb pop and echo. I grabbed Erika by the arm and had her stand close so I could set her up when the time came. We stood there for close to 5 minutes nothing appeared or made another sound…must have been the wind. There was a large down log we were standing by as we moved I took about 6 steps around the log and looked up. I think every hunter has had the “is that what I think it is, or are my eyes playing tricks on me again” moment at some point. There was a pile of green brush, with smaller limbs about 50 yards from us. I slowly raised my Vortex Diamondback 10x42 binoculars to investigate if what my eyes are thinking is a horn sticking out of the brush really is a horn. My Vortex touched my eye and I focused the picture…HOLY CRAP! All I saw were the tops of a thick, large rack. The horns looked like an oak branch growing all directions, I immediately hit the ground. Erika dropped down as fast as I did, “There is a bull right here!” I popped out the Harris Bipods on the 308 and got her situated. I knew from what I saw this bull was huge. These are the types of animals you see for a split second running away from you never to be seen again. She didn’t have a clear shot; all we could see was half his ear and the back of his head. I kept whispering to Erika “stay ready, be calm, remember what we practiced.” The wind was howling. That had to be the reason he didn’t hear us. I hope he doesn’t smell us and bolt! Just as I thought that in my head the giant jumped out of his bed took one step and turned his head locking onto us. It was like he knew we were there the whole time. Erika got lined up…. but the bulls body was covered with brush and branches. At this close of a distance I knew she could make any shot I asked her to take. “Shoot him in the head, Shoot him in the head”, knowing that a body shot was out of the question and if he bolted we would never see him again. At this range and angle if she squares up the shot he will drop. Just as I said shoot for the second time I heard the 308 sing its song. The second the shot was over I heard Erika chamber another round instantly. Which was something we practiced, she was right on point. The bull fell straight backwards into the brush and I jumped up. I could see the bushes moving and thrashing, “get up”! I yelled. Not knowing where the bullet hit, we rushed over and she shot him again right in the chest…. he was down. I looked at the bull lying there knowing just what she had killed. My attention went back to Erika holding the rifle, her eyes were as big as a basketball…and she said “I GOT AN ELK!” as she stood there her whole body was shaking like she was about to fall over with excitement that she “got an elk”, I said “Not just An ELK, A GIANT.” I’m pretty sure I said more than that in my excitement to see such an amazing animal, but I will leave those words out. After we calmed down a little I asked her where she shot the bull, and she said “right thru the eyeball.” I had to see for myself, she didn’t hit an eyelash. This whole morning was unreal, it was about 9:30am and I knew our day had just begun. We took a couple quick pictures, notched her tag and decided to climb out to try getting cell service. I called for re-enforcements, two longtime friends Allan and Jeremy came to our rescue. Erika was literally running back down to show them her prized elk, which we kept a secret on how big he was until they got there. Obviously when they laid eyes on it they were just as speechless as I was. The mass on this bull, his tine length, the extra points, and the amazing circumstances make this bull so unique. We all walked out with heavy packs, and had to leave the front shoulders for the next day.

The greatest part about this hunt isn’t the fact that the bull green scored at 350” It was the fact that Erika was so happy she killed an elk, it honestly could have been a spike and she would have been just as excited. People are losing sight of why we hunt…for the experience, fun, and for the love of the outdoors. It’s not all about inches and this made me think long about this story. Erika worked her butt off; I didn’t make this hunt easy for her. She didn’t complain once and kept positive the whole time. This is a once and a lifetime experience neither of us will ever forget, it was definitely a Happy Halloween.