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Author Topic: The Bow That Saved My Life - By Joel Smith  (Read 274 times)

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The Bow That Saved My Life - By Joel Smith
« on: April 18, 2003, 10:04:00 AM »
The Bow That Saved My Life

By Joel Smith

Usually, when you read or hear about someone's bowsaving their life, it's an encounter with a dangerouswild beast that gets dispatched with a well-placedarrow. This is not one of those stories. This one'sabout how doing stupid things can get you in troubleand sometimes you're lucky enough not to die.

I had one day off to hunt before I'd be picking upanother hunter in Denver. I knew where a really bigfive point bull was hanging out and, since most ofhunter/clients preferred to chase six-bys, I decidedto hunt him.

I got a good start that morning, easing to withinsixty yards of the wallow before the wind gotsquirrelly and I had to circle around. Just before igot in bow range from the opposite side, six cows cameparading by, followed by the very bull I was lookingfor. He was the most massive five-by I've ever seen,with massive bases, long beams and abnormally longbrow points---in short, a very nice and easilyidentifiable bull. Unfortunately, they were a littlebeyond my confidence range for moving critters, evenas large a critter as a bull elk. I got a really goodwhiff of that distinctive, barnyard odor but norealistic shot opportunity.

I had a pretty good idea of the general route they'dfollow to the dark stuff, so I backed off a couplehundred yards and started running (I was ten yearsyounger and 45 popunds lighter then) toward theintersection of the main ridge and a finger I knewthey used to get to their bedding grounds over towardwhat we called Red Elephant. It was good plan but Iwasn't fast enough. I bumped one of the cows justbefore I got to my chosen ambush point and you canguess what happened next. She barked and the littleherd scattered like a covey of quail. The only brightspot in the whole deal was that the bull went straightup the ridge and over, completely separating himselffrom his cows. This might not be too bad ! I took offto the top of the ridge and just as I got to thebackbone, heard him bugle from the far side. Sweet ! Icow called to him and he sang to me again.

I really thought this bull was about to be mine. Thethermals had kicked in by now so I dropped over theridge and started shadowing him by his bugles and theoccasional crunch of the brush. I figured once he hada little time to settle down he was gonna be all overme. The only thing I couldn't figure why he seemed tobe moving bcak out the main ridge-he should have beentrying to come back toward the bedding area and hiscows. So much for elk psychology.

We kept up our exchange for at least two hours withhim staying downridge from me a hundred or so yardsmost of the time--but steadily moving toward anotherdrainage. I could even see his rack occasionally. Hewas moving too fast for me to circle ahead in thatterrain and I couldn't seem to get him hot enough tostop. I finally decided to bugle at him and work onthe jealousy angle. It sounded good in my head (and Iwas getting tired which probably made it sound like abetter idea than it was). I cow called in my mostseductive manner and followed it closely with a buglethat I hoped sounded like something he could whipeasily.

I got an immediate response--total silence. I couldn'teven hear him walking anymore. Finally couldn't standit any longer so I eased down toward him and walkedright up to him in some thick spruce---got to within15 yards but it was too thick to even think aboutshooting. He stood around for a little bit thenremembered he was headed west and started walkingagain. I just fell in behind him (wind blowing acrossour direction of travel) and figured sooner or laterhe'd give me a shot if i stayed with him. I wasgetting further from the truck and into unfamiliarground but as long as I could see Cone Mountain I knewI could find my way back.

When it got too dark to shoot I was forced to admit tomyself that he wasn't going to give me that shot (I'mstubborn that way sometimes). The worst part wasrealizing I was a long way from the truck and therewas no moon. I started back and after a whileconvinced myself that my eyes had adjusted to thedarkness well enough to pick up the pace--yeah, right.

I had just crested a side ridge and was trottingdownhill when the earth just evaporatedfrom under myfeet. I remember sort of stumbling and the next thingI knew my feet were dangling and I was holding onto mybow for dear life--it was suddenly very quiet and Icould hear rocks bouncing off other rocks--way downthere somewhere. Once I calmed down (relativelyspeaking), I realized I must be hanging inside a mineshaft. Feeling around a little with my feet, I foundthat the shaft was pretty narrow. Eventually I wasable to wedge my feet against one wall and my handsagainst the other and (after knocking several morerocks loose and shaking as i listened to them bounceout of hearing)work my way out of the mouth of themine. Moving much more carefully now, I made my way tothe truck and drove back to camp.

As luck would have it, my hunter missed his flightnext day so i had another day off. I was anxious tosee this mine in daylight and see if i could putsomething across it or around it and hopefully keepsomeone else from falling in. Besides, I had lost twoof my arrows out of my quiver and hoped i mightretrieve them.

I never knew what it meant when someone said theirblood ran cold until the moment I stood at the mouthof that mine. The shaft was almost vertical and notquite four feet across--believe me I was really happyI was toting my 56" Jeffery---I don't think my 41"compound (I was shooting both at the time) would havestopped me. I could just barely see something aboutforty or fifty feet down the shaft and when i steppedto one side, the sun fell on the yellow fletch of myarrow. I started shaking so bad I had to sit down. Iwas pretty sure i wasn't getting that arrow back.After a while, I calmed down enough to toss a fewrocks in and got scared all over agin listening tosome of them bounce for what seemed like a long time.

My Father always said "if you're gonna be stupid yougotta be tough"--i would paraphrase that to say "ifyou're gonna be stupid you gotta be lucky---and carrya stickbow."

I would urge anyone hunting mining country to be extracareful, especially in poor light. This happened onthe Front Range in Colorado, near Empire. The area hasthousands of old mining claims, some are just markersbut some have mighty deep holes and most are steep oreven vertical.Watch for the tailings and don't get ina hury--especially if you get over between RedElephant and Cone Mountain. Oh yeah, as far as i know,nobody ever got that five-point.

P.S. A couple of years back I hunted the Four Cornersarea near Gateway Colorado, site of a lot of uraniummining. Those holes are much deeper....be careful outthere.

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