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First Elk

By Pat Culligan

Pat CulliganElk hunters in Oregon have to enter a drawing to get an “any bull” or “spike only” tag, or no tag at all.  I had been entering my son Tim in the draw for several years, thinking the odds of him getting drawn were slim. Then he got lucky, and it was time to figure out how to get him to elk camp.

My wonderful wife volunteered to drive him the 250 miles to the closest town.  He would miss only one day of school, and a dispensation from sports for the weekend was arranged.

Tim arrived on Thursday, and I drove from camp to pick him up.  Back to camp we went to prepare for the next day’s hunt.

Tim had practiced shooting Winchester Model 70 bolt action at a variety of targets and in different weather conditions, and was ready. My buddy Wayne and I had spent two days scouting. We’d located a nice bunch of elk with a few bulls in the herd.  One was very nice 6 point, and there were a couple of 5 points as well. We put them to bed Thursday night with the hope that they would be in the same area the next day.

On Friday morning, we worked our way up the mountain in the dark. We sneaked and peeked around for a while, but did not see a thing. Wayne, who I has swear elk blood in his veins, took off to the North to work some canyons. He was gone only for a short time when I spotted two elk feeding around the side of a knob above the timber line about a mile away.

I showed Tim, and his hopes changed immediately.  I called Wayne on the radio and told him where the elk were.  He said he knew right where I was talking about and to get over to him fast.

We took off.  Tim is a pretty good athlete and in much better shape than I am. I had to rein him in several times just to stay within 20 yards of him. We caught up with Wayne and took off for the area we had seen the elk.

About 30 minutes later, we were sneaking into the area. Wayne and Tim were in the lead, and I was about 20 yards behind them.

Suddenly Wayne stopped and hunkered down on the side of the hill.  He waved Tim up with him.

Tim crept up to Wayne and crawled another 10 yards to get a good shooting rest. About that time I spotted five cows with a nice 5-point bull along with them.  Tim had found a rock to steady himself and I heard Wayne whisper to him to shoot. 

Tim pulled the trigger. At the report, the bull took a few steps and stopped. Wayne told Tim to shoot again. Tim had already worked the bolt, just like we practiced and took aim again.  This time the elk folded. 

Wayne and I gave out a whoop and celebrated, slapping Tim on the back and congratulating him.

We headed into the saddle where the elk had been standing.  I stopped at the rock Tim shot from and ranged the elk at 296 yards.  It was a great shot on a great elk, led by Wayne, a great elk hunter.

After the picture taking session, we started the work of skinning and quartering the elk.  Tim had been fairly quiet.  I asked him why.  He said, “This is the part I dreaded.”  Some buddies had told him of the terrible experience he would have if he had to actually field dress, skin and quarter an elk. 

Well, as it turned out, he did great.  He got right in the middle of the cleaning process and handled it fine.  As soon as he realized it was okay, his smile got big and the excitement of what he had accomplished on his first elk hunt came to him.

I let him celebrate and have a good time before I had him climb into the pack board to carry his piece of the action the 1 1/2 miles back to the rig and reminded him of his return trip to pack out the remainder of his elk. He took the news enthusiastically!

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