An elk in the garageThe sound of the shot is swept away by the wind, the elk disappear like ghosts in the timber, and I am left standing alone near the Jeep, the wind still raging out of the Gallatin. “You missed him,” Tony says simply. “I didn’t see that you hit it,” adds Laurie. “That spike bull just ran away.”
By: Bernie Kuntz, Outdoors, The Jamestown Sun
The sound of the shot is swept away by the wind, the elk disappear like ghosts in the timber, and I am left standing alone near the Jeep, the wind still raging out of the Gallatin.
“You missed him,” Tony says simply.
“I didn’t see that you hit it,” adds Laurie. “That spike bull just ran away.”
“I wasn’t shooting at the spike,” I reply. “There was a branch-antlered bull back in the timber pushing a cow. I waited until he turned … I thought I made a good shot.”
But none of us heard the bullet strike. Tony drives the Jeep around to the head of the draw, follows the two-track mountain road to just below where the elk had been standing. He and Laurie search in the snow. Tony follows the tracks for 75 yards.
“No blood, no hair, no elk,” he says simply when he returns.
I cannot believe it. Until last year I killed nearly every elk I shot at. Then I shot under a bull in Nevada at 340 yards. Maybe this was going to become a pattern. The old 7mm Weatherby has always done the job when I do my part. But it appears that I failed once again. Maybe it is time to quit hunting.
Tony had told me a few weeks ago that he might be able to get me onto this ranch that accommodated disabled hunters. When he called again in mid-November and invited me, I agreed to meet him in Gallatin Gateway an hour before legal shooting light. Tony, a 66-year-old Navy veteran who looks like Roy Rogers, is an avid shooter I met almost 20 years ago on the rifle range. He is an expert shot with any firearm and a genuine nice guy.
But now I was sitting at home an hour later, still thinking about the bungled shot when the phone rang.
“What are you doing this afternoon?” It was Tony.
“I’ve got your bull elk. It was shot perfectly through the lungs. I figured you were too good a shot to miss an opportunity like that so I went back up there, followed the tracks another 50 yards and found blood, then the elk lying dead. I’ve got him gutted out. Need some help getting him out though.”
Laurie and I scramble, calling everyone we can think of. But the young guys are working, and the old guys are like me — not much help in wrestling an elk carcass. We decide to go it alone, so we join Tony once again. He has “recruited” the ranch owner, who wishes to be known only as “Doug.”
It is marvelous to watch the retrieval — Tony attaches chains and a pulley wheel to the trunk of a Douglas fir, Doug runs the cable down to the elk carcass, the other end to the Jeep. In minutes the elk carcass is up on the two-track road. Doug drags it behind the Jeep until we run out of snow, then they muscle the carcass onto a trailer and tow it down to the bottom where my old Suburban sits.
“They are like boys with big toys — they seem to enjoy it so much.” Laurie observes as Doug hoists up the entire elk with a front-end loader, Tony splits the carcass with a DeWalt battery-powered saw, and I help cut the halves into quarters with the same saw and my knife. Laurie backs up the Suburban and Doug and Tony swing one quarter at a time into the Suburban.
We drive home just ahead of a snowstorm. Now, there was a time when I would just grab an elk quarter and hoist it up onto the meat hooks in my garage, but those days are gone. So we tie a line to a quarter, and one at a time, run the line up through a small metal wheel and to the Suburban hitch. Laurie pulls forward, and I slip each quarter onto a respective meat hook.
It is almost dark, we both are tired but elated to have a bull elk hanging in the garage. “My first elk in six years,” I remind Laurie. “First bull elk in 10 years. How does one thank guys like Tony and Doug? What a deal…”