Hunting in December is cold and can be a miserable experience. I left Council Bluffs in a snow storm with reduced visibility and one lane open on the I-29 all the way to St. Joseph, Missouri. Great news then took place. The snow stopped and the left lane opened up. The bad news was the moisture did not stop but became a light freezing mist. At times it was like driving on a skating rink. East of Kansas City the interstate was like a display of a demolition derby. They drove fast on the ice and drove tight behind the person they were following. Driving slowly and steadily, with a lot of concentration, I was able to drive out of most of it at Columbia, Missouri. Then I turned south to St. James, Missouri. The next day the hunt would be on at High Adventure Ranch.
The lodge is set up with two bedrooms and a common bath. This is my bedroom, and as you can see, I dumped my bag and headed to the woods.
After several hours, it felt like my bottom needed roller skates to keep moving through the snow and timber. We moved to the top of a ridge with a trail and small road on it. The guide had seen the 4 x 5 on several occasions in this area. However, he did not appear and we could not spot him. As we moved slowly along the trail at a distance of about 50 yards, a giant bull stood up and looked straight at us. We stopped. Then slowly we stepped backward to a spot where we could get behind some cover. Then another one came up from the valley below. We stood still. I could feel my heart pumping and I am still not sure if it was from all the walking up hill or the two bull elk that stared at us. Each was a minimum of a 350 class bull or bigger.
They moved across the trail in front of us. We stood as still as possible. Then a third one came up and moved out right in front of us. He stood and stared.
He must have stood there for ten minutes staring at us and not moving. Notice the low slung belly and the cape that is not as dark as the other two, which means he is younger. But the exciting thing about him is the rack. Notice how the right side is shaped. The guide commented that this was unusual. He said, "Take him if you want, but it is out of your budget." At that moment, budget meant nothing and he had to be had. The guide believed he was five years old, but he could be younger. Young meat was preferred.
He crossed the trail and started feeding on a pile of branches with some type of leaf on them and it was believed the shot was lost. We could not move for fear of being seen and a shot through the branches was bad idea. If he continued down the hill there was a small opening in the trees where a shot could be made, provided he moved slowly. All of a sudden he turned around and started to back track. Stepping out from behind the pile of timber, he stopped and looked straight at us. We stood extremely still. The rifle was already mounted to my shoulder and his head was right in the scope. The gun got heavy. I pushed my hand holding the gun against a tree to steady the shot. It helped, but the gun stayed heavy. I said to myself, "Be patient." Then he took two more steps forward and turned again to stare at us. That was a fatal mistake for him. The shot was made with a Winchester Model 70-300 Win Mag. The bullet was a Nosler 180 grain. It was over quickly.
What an exciting day.