This was a phrase that had been running through my mind even before punching my first ever Elk tag last week.
My Dad and I have scouted pretty hard the last several years... typically reserving Friday mornings in the Summer to get boots on the ground and binos on the hill sides.
This year, being tired of waiting for mid-October for rifle season to open, I bit the bullet and purchased a compound bow. I embraced my role as a novice, and asked all the dumb questions that one asks when taking up a brand new pastime. (This is quite the role reversal from my day job education surfers about their surf equipment).
I practiced all Summer and we continued our regularly scheduled Friday scouting. We looked over new country, familiar country, and ultimately ended up at a spot that neither of us had never stepped foot on before.
The first day I saw several whitetail bucks, blew a couple stalk attempts, and left encouraged that with the right dose of patience, I might actually be able to fill an archery tag.
The second day, I was resolved to resist the urge to get up and move, and I was going to try to stay put uphill from a heavily traveled game trail, so long as the wind stayed in my favor.
I had barely gotten settled when I heard the stick-breaking approach of a large animal beyond the screen of trees to my right. Before I had time to decide whether to move positions—and still in the early morning light—I watched not one, but two, bull elk casually feed their way out in front of me.
In 6 years of rifle hunting, I had seen Bull Elk on private and I had seen Cows on public, we had busted our fair share and narrowly missed seeing plenty of others, but never had I sat with a tag in my pocket and a Bull Elk within range.
The Bull in the lead was a big-bodied spike, still in velvet. The one behind him was a raghorn who had more points on his antlers and noticeably less mass to his body.
I did my best to be patient as they fed closer to me. I ranged them at 41 yards—which was a bit further than the 30 I was hoping for as a novice bowhunter. Both Elk continued to feed up toward me and I became increasingly aware of how exposed I was in my position.
The big spike turned broadside and continued to feed. In that moment, 6 years of logging miles in search of a public land North Idaho Elk came to a head. I settled my 40 yard pin on the vitals of the Elk and let an arrow fly. The report of the arrow was so loud and sharp that I initially thought I had missed and hit a tree.
Several hours later, and with the help of my Dad and two friends (big thanks to Tanden & Josh) we packed that Elk out of the mountain and back to the truck. Much about the process was complex and my emotions were too. Amidst the highs and lows, excitement and remorse, the feelings of thankfulness ring loudest.
I don't totally feel deserving, as a newcomer to archery, but I certainly understand the significance of taking an Elk—and I am looking forward to sharing some backstrap at the next Wild Fish & Wild Game potluck dinner. Very thankful for this experience and all the folks who willingly shared of their knowledge and wisdom this Summer.