2004, November 9, at 11:10 – Rocky Mountain Elk Bull
I was hunting in North East Oregon on the Nature Conservancy’s 27,000 acres called the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve with Nick Vidan from Imnaha River Inn Bed and Breakfast as my guide.
We started today’s hunt with putting the sneak on a herd of Elk that was about 4 miles out on Monument Ridge.
We spent the greater part of 2 hours hiking to the ridge, and then we did the 'ole belly crawl for about the last 100 yards. When we got to the ridge, we were to the South West with the wind in our favor. We were able to look down on the herd 360 yards away.
It was magnificent. There in front of us was the largest collection of Elk I had ever seen in one place. There were 116 Elk with 25 of them being Bulls. They didn’t know we were there so we had all day to look them over.
There were 4 good sized 6 X 6's but still no "Bad Boy's.” Nick gave me the option to "Call the Shot." I asked him what he thought. He looked at me and smiled and said, "We got bigger." On the rise above and to the East we could see another herd with at least one big bull so we decided to back out and take a big walk about to get around and come in from East on them.
As we walked we came to the East edge of the Prairie and dropped over the edge about 100 yards as we worked our way around the herd. After walking a ways and dropping down and back up some small draws, we both looked to our right and down the canyon and at the same moment saw some Elk. Nick grabbed my arm and pulled me to the ground I turned to him and we both said "ELK." We waited a few seconds and began our observance of the draw. Nick was to my left and had a bit of a different view than I did. What I saw was two Elk, one facing towards us; he was a six pointer and another one in the bushes just above him that looked like a six pointer to me.
Nick was looking through his binoculars and burst out with jubilation as he turned to me and exclaimed, “It’s a Monster!” I then looked down the draw again with my Zeiss 10X field glasses. I saw the two Elk noted above. I didn’t see a Monster! I turned to Nick and told him that I did not see him and he said look up in the bushes. I did see the same Bull that I mentioned earlier but it did not seem like a monster to me. So I told Nick that I would work my way down the slope we were sitting on and take another look. As I carefully worked my way ever so slowly down the ridge, about another eight yards, I looked over the edge and there he was, “The Monster” Nick was so excited about. I turned to Nick and repeated to him with the same level of enthusiasm that he did to me just moments earlier, “It’s a Monster!” We were both absolutely thrilled. I did my best to calm down and regain my breathing; my heart was pounding with that intensity of excitement one can only have in this sort of situation.
I looked at my watch and it was 1100. We watched the draw for a while longer and we saw a total of 6 big Bull Elk. This Monster 6 X 7 Herd Bull was lying in his bed facing away from us at about a 45 degree angle. There was another 6 X 6 to his left and a bit down hill from him; there was another 6 X 6 in the brush above him about 50 feet away; another 6 X 6 below him about 50 feet away. What we didn’t see was two more rag horns to the right about 50 feet away in the brush. It seems these other Bulls were watching over the Herd Bull as he slept.
Nick had worked his way down the slope next to me on my left. He had his day pack pillowed up against his upper back as he laid back with his binoculars at the ready and his feet crossed. He said, “I’m just going to watch, you call the shot.” We had all day, the Elk had no idea we were there. Nick did a range with his range finder and told me it was 230 yards. I watched for a bit longer and really calmed myself. I pulled out my Stoney Point Genuine Pole Cat bipod and adjusted it for my shot. I pulled up my rifle, a Model 70 Winchester .300 Magnum, and placed it on the Pole Cat. I adjusted my scope, a Zeiss 4.5-14x44 Conquest, to 6 power and adjusted the parallax to crystal clarity. I zeroed in on this Herd Bull and my pulse quickened. I knew it was all up to me now. I turned to Nick and asked him if he was ready, he was watching the Elk through his glasses did not answer and just smiled. I looked at my watch again, it was 1110. I turned back and put the cross hair right on his lung area released the safety & let it fly. My Winchester roared to life and the bullet, a Swift Scirocco Bonded Polymer Tipped Boat Tail 180 grain was on the way. It was well placed. The Bull never moved his body, his head raised a bit to the left and slowly rolled to the right. Nick was not sure I hit him, but I was. Nick told me to give him another just to make sure so I jacked another round in and sent it straight into this beautiful Bull. Within seconds he raised his head for the last time and gently lowered it to his right, up against a tree stump. It was a clean kill.
We waited for a few minutes and watched. We wanted to make sure there were no errors in this hunt. We had our personal celebration and I thanked Nick for helping me find this magnificent creature. As we stood up and began our trek down the mountain and across the draw to the Bull, the other Bull’s slowly rose from their beds and walked away. None of them reacted to the shots as one might expect, they stayed lying down in their beds. I was quite surprised.
When we finally got to the Bull he just kept getting bigger and bigger. There he was in all his Majestic Glory, the Zumwalt Prairie Herd Bull, a 6 X 7 Rocky Mountain Elk. We took many pictures both digital and with film and we began the task ahead of us. Nick caped this great animal and butchered him right on the spot. We hung the meat in the trees and we prepared to make our first trip back to the truck with the rack and the tenderloins. We had a two hour march back to the truck in the dark.
The next day we were in touch with the Nature Conservancy crew and they accompanied us out on the range as they allowed us to drive to about a mile from where the Bull laid. We still had a significant back pack to get the meat out and back to the truck. We made three trips in all and that took most of the second day. We were back to the Inn just before dark. My “Hunt of a Lifetime” was complete.