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Author Topic: FINALLY A RESIDENT ELK HUNTER - Doug Campbell  (Read 1476 times)

Offline Terry_Green

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« on: November 04, 2003, 06:55:00 AM »
by Doug Campbell

Well it wasn’t exactly a monster bull or a big mulie buck I’d hoped for
but it would do. Twenty yards away a nice fat whitetail buck lies on
his side needing to be field dressed and drug out of the creek bottom.
The broken four X something rack didn’t dampen the thrill one bit. It
had been a season of serious ups and downs. My first one as a resident
elk hunter, which had been a dream of mine since I was 16 years old.

Almost a year ago my wife, Karen, daughter Jessie and I had had an
auction loaded a big trailer and headed west. It had been several years
in the making but had finally happened. We were moving to the Rocky
Mountains, southwest Montana to be exact. We had a job on a ranch just
outside the Gallatin National Forest. A couple years earlier some
friends of ours had moved to this area from Missouri. When I helped
them move out I knew I had found the spot where I wanted to be.
Fortunately Karen liked it too.

In Sept of 2000 we had came out for a visit, we decided to go over to
one of the neighbors and see what was going on. When we got there the
owner was showing a young couple around the place. Naturally being the
nosey type I inquired into what was going on. The owner said he was
giving the couple an interview. This got my attention in a big way.
Before the week was out Karen and I had our own interview and within a
couple weeks more were preparing to move to Montana.

As you can imagine this proved to be a major undertaking. We had both
lived and worked in MO all our lives. We owned a farm just outside of
Stockton Missouri and as those who know us can vouch for more junk than
you could shake a stick at. It was auction time. To simplify it
immensely by December we were actually getting close to being ready to
move. The big day was going to be Dec 26th but with an ice storm headed
our way we headed out on Christmas night. It was a tearful good by but
we were on our way. After two days of driving and week of unpacking the
house on the hill above the West Boulder River was starting to look
like a home.

We had a great spring and summer as hired hands on the Burnt Leather
Ranch then in August when Karen was back in MO visiting family and
friends I got news that the manager on the West Boulder Ranch just down
the river from us was leaving. After a couple calls an interview was
arranged as soon as Karen returned home. Within two weeks we were
getting ready to move again but this time only about a mile down the

September 1st was when we officially took over. This was great except
that it was also opening day of elk and deer season. Now we were on a
different ranch trying to get settled in and very busy getting oriented
with our new jobs. So much for several months of scouting, I’d have to
start all over. I know I wont get much sympathy from you guys who
travel west to strange country in the fall but this was a major setback
to my plans. I wound up tromping over a lot of country and finding out
we had some fine elk and deer habitat.

I called in a small rag horn bull the first evening out but couldn’t
get a shot. That proved to be the way things were going to go for the
remainder of the season. I was into elk about every time out but just
couldn’t beat the wind or curious cows or a hundred other things that
Mother Nature decided to throw my way. I found several mule deer bucks
but nothing I wanted to shoot. I went through archery season like this,
lots of close calls and even a couple misses, we’ll not talk about
those, but no cigar.

I wanted this to be a special season because I was shooting my dream
bow, a Choctaw Recurve made by Jerry Pierce. I had lusted after on of
these beauties since the first time I’d seen one. As you all know Jerry
passed away in the spring of 2000 not only was this a great tragedy to
all who knew him I figured it was the end of my chances of ever owning
one of his fantastic bows. As it turned out a friend called and said
he’d heard about a Choctaw for sale. I immediately got on the phone and
not long after a check was in the mail. Ask anyone who’s shot one and
they will tell you the Choctaw is as sweet to shoot as it is beautiful.

Although my performance on elk left some to be desired I was learning
fast. Next year those elk are in trouble. I don’t know when I’ve had
more fun being frustrated and humiliated. I’d gotten in the middle of
some prime opportunities and didn’t have anything to show for it.
Archery season was ancient history and firearms season was rapidly
coming to a close. In a couple days it would all be over and I’d have
hunted almost three months with out sticking an arrow in anything. Time
to regroup.

Several whitetails had been moving up and down the creek bottom a mile
or so above our house. I slipped into a brushy thicket and put a
portable stand in a small cottonwood, the only decent sized tree there.
I’m not really a trophy hunter but would naturally like to shoot a nice
buck but since it was the last weekend of the season the time for being
picky was over. The first deer by me was in trouble. As it happened the
first deer by were moving at light speed with a big coyote right on
their tails. A few squeals on the predator call and I got to shoot
another arrow into the dirt. I’m pretty sure I hit right where I
intended but the song dog wasn’t where he was supposed to be.

Thirty minutes before dark I cold see a buck coming off the hill to the
west. He had a long way to come but stranger things have happened. It
seemed like he was on a string as he traveled a quarter mile straight
to me. When he passed at twenty yards almost at eye level on the hill
above me the arrow just seemed to appear behind his shoulder. It sure
felt good to put one exactly where it was supposed to be after seeing
them not do that with much bigger targets. I felt like Jerry was
finally smiling at me after a couple a big letdowns. It turned out to
be a great end to a great season with many ups and downs. What an
education in a beautiful thrilling country my first year as a resident
elk hunter.

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