Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Elk is in the Freezer

Gander Mountain

I passed on the mountain states for elk this year because of the great experience I have had at High Adventure Ranch.  I don't have to put up with the altitude in the mountain states or the expensive licenses each state has for an out of state hunter.  While there have been some great experiences in the mountains, I want results. It is only a six and a half hour drive versus spending all day and half the night just getting to the location where you will hunt.  Old age is creeping up on me, and I want to have first class luxuries and a good hunt all rolled into one.  

Nestled in the Ozark Mountains of southeast Missouri lies High Adventure Ranch.  Snuggled back in the timbered hills with a pasture here and there, the ranch offers elk hunting and other exotic animals.  You stay in either a lodge setting or a private cabin, whichever is available.  Meals are taken in the dining room and lounge located on the ranch.  The food is absolutely outstanding and you have the opportunity to feast on some of the local game harvested on the ranch. 

You arrive the night before the hunt and stay in one of the motels at St. James, Missouri.  Restaurants are a little limited, but you can drive a few miles more and stay in Rolla, Missouri and have a bigger selection.  

The next morning it was only a 20 minute drive to the ranch, and there I got re-acquainted with the ranch manager, Monty Pitts.  I have had nothing but a great experience working with Monty.  He wants you to have a great experience and harvest the type of animal you are after.  Shortly after came my guide, Oliver, who has taken excellent care of me on two other trips.  I like to go one on one with a guide when hunting big game.  
The cabin where I stayed.

We talked about the kind of experience I was looking to have.  This trip was not about horns, but about meat.  I have plenty of horns and all they do is collect dust.  My wife and I really like the wild game, and that was what this trip was all about.  I wanted a good shooting experience and to harvest a young inexperienced bull elk.  
The dining room at the ranch

Monty and Oliver said the ranch had what I was looking for.  While there were plenty of cows to harvest, the age was unknown and you may be shooting an old lady.  They both agreed on an approximate 2 year old bull with one antler.  The other had been broken off in a fight.  There was a problem with this boy.  He was very skittish and the minute he would see or wind you, he would split.  There would be no hesitation and you would have very little time to get off a shot. 

The plan was to drive over to a general area where he was last seen and start hoofing it over the hills and valleys of the ranch.  I needed the workout and this would be a good one.  The weather could not have been more beautiful.  The leaves were about 80% off the trees and so walking would be a little crunchy.  This was going to take some time. 

We took off in a four wheeled truck and drove up a valley between two hills.  We would stop and walk to the top of the hill on each side of the vehicle.  The temperature was in the low 50s so it was very pleasant.  I was lightly clothed not wanting to work up a big sweat, but just to stay comfortable.  After checking out a couple of spots and a small pasture, we headed to a different location.

We saw these big boys while looking for the one horned youngster
All at once Oliver said, " Good grief!  There goes a coyote.  Can you hit it after we stop the truck?"  "Of course I can," was the response.  Now, if that coyote took off, there were two chances of me hitting it and they were slim and none, and slim has left town.  The coyote spotted us and I never even got the door open on the truck because he was really moving.  All I saw was his backside.  We were still moving along the valley floor and I looked up the hill to my right.  There stood an elk with one horn.  He was staring straight at us.  Oliver said we must keep going and should go around the hill and then walk up the back side.  Sounded like a good plan to me.  
We saw this big boy with his ladies just off to the left of the picture.  Look at the symmetry of the antlers.
On the other side of the hill we started the climb.  Oliver grabbed my shooting sticks, and I put two shells into the magazine.  Trying to walk as quietly as possible was a chore, but we climbed the mountain.  After reaching the top, we slowly moved in the direction of the elk.  There was a slight breeze out of the northwest and we were walking straight into it.  How lucky could we be.  I was wearing Sitka Open Country clothing and Oliver had the jungle camo on, so we felt we were somewhat covered.  

Where the one horned elk had been standing was a really nice 6 x 6.  As I stared at him it was very tempting.  Just off to the big boy's left was the one horned elk.  His backside was facing directly up hill to us.  He was barely visible as I had to look between the trees to spot him.  Oliver used his binoculars and I used the scope on the rifle.  This would be a tough shot, but I needed him to turn around. 

Just down the hill was the one horned youngster. 
Slowly he moved up the hill and then turned and was facing both of us.  I was shooting between the trees, and as I looked through the scope only his left front was visible.  A neck shot was a possibility, but that thought was not a good one. A miss or a crippled animal might be the result.  Also I was shooting downhill about 50 yards and at about the 40 yard point the ground rose up. 

He moved toward us, but still did not know we were there.  Then he turned to his right and looked down hill.  He was broadside to me, but his left front shoulder was not visible due to the ground.  The cross hairs were put as low as possible, and the round was sent.  Boom!  That was all it took.  He made three steps and fell over dead.  For me, that was a tough shot between the standing trees.  Shooting a 300 Win Mag, the bullet entered above the left shoulder and went right through the lungs and exited the other side.  

Nice young meat, and he will eat well. 

My guide
The animal was picked up by the ranch staff, skinned, gutted outside, and then hung in a cooler overnight.  In the morning the elk was deboned and the meat packed into bags and coolers in the back of my truck.  Iced down, the meat would be kept cold till we got to the processor the next day in Iowa. 

Gander Mountain


Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank


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