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Winning the Lottery

RazzaBy Marc Razza

-- On the East Coast, elk hunting isn't a reality. It is a dream, especially for those of us who have spent our days afield in search of whitetails.

A couple of years ago, after seeing yet another amazing elk hunt on television, I finally did the research and entered into the Wyoming elk lottery. I was disappointed when my name wasn't drawn, but it didn't stop me from entering again the following year.

Given my history with lotteries, I was pretty sure that I wouldn't be going on an elk hunt anytime soon.

My luck changed on Feb. 27, 2008, when I drew a tag for the Wyoming elk hunt. I could not believe it. I was on my way to the Big Horn Mountains for a public land hunt!

For the next eight months, I was completely focused on getting myself ready for my dream hunting trip. I studied the habits of elk, worked out with weights, did a lot of running, and, of course, a lot of shooting at the range. There was no way I was going to Wyoming unprepared.

Finally, I was off to the airport. Two deer crossed the road in front of my car just as I turned out of my street. A sign, maybe?

I met my guide at noon on the day I arrived. We spent a couple of hours developing a strategy.

One factor that I couldn't prepare for was mild weather. It was unseasonably warm. Most days, the mercury climbed into the low 70s. The elk were moving into the timber deep in the canyons just after daybreak.

After three days of hard hunting, I realized how important it was to be in good shape. I also decided I didn't really need long underwear.

The fourth day, we decided to go to the bottom of a particular canyon where we'd seen a couple of good bulls before daylight. That meant starting our hike at 3 a.m. At that point, I knew I'd made a good choice in a guide. He was willing to do anything necessary to get me a shot.

After a hearty breakfast, we broke camp and headed to the canyon. Facing 40-mph winds, however, we were not feeling too optimistic. But who knew the winds would work in our favor?

After three hours of hiking some of the most difficult terrain I'd ever traversed, we arrived at the canyon. As dawn approached, we saw the smaller of two bulls, a very respectable 5x5, only 50 yards away. But it was still dark.

We knew that once it was legal shooting time, we wouldn't have much time to decide whether to take it.

When the hour was at hand, I decided to shoot it. But just then, the guide spotted the bigger 6x6 a quarter-mile distant, walking away from us.

Fortunately, that 40-mph wind was in our face, making it practically impossible for the elk to hear or wind us. And because it was heading away from us, there was little chance of it seeing us.

Following it was a no-brainer.

We ran for what seemed like an hour along a game trail that wasn't much wider than my foot. Eventually, we came across a cluster of trees that made a good rest and offered up a 150-yard shot.

I was pumped. All I could think at that point was that I could NOT miss. I BETTER NOT miss. Even so, I was surprised when I didn't miss.

It's amazing to me how my .30-06 made short work of dropping that 850-pound bull, which taped out at 301 inches.

--Marc Razza 

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