By: Bears Butt


As has happened every morning for a full week, the alarm clock goes off directly as it is set to do.  The coffee is tasting good, as usual, and I for one am getting anxious for a good hot shower.  Today we have to go to town and restock on supplies and none of us are looking forward to that.  Maybe while we are in town we should look for a truck stop that offers showers…sounds good to me.

I am sitting there drinking my coffee and thinking about the hunt as it has played out so far and wishing I could go back to last Saturday and refine my aim.  But that isn’t going to happen.  My mind races to all the preparation for this hunt and what one of my mentors said to me:  It’s a tough hunt, both physically and mentally so prepare yourself for both of those things (Thanks Blanding Boy).

Physically I’m in pretty good shape.  I worked hard at that for over three months.  Mentally?  Well, I thought I had prepared well for that and my attitude has been pretty positive so far.  Even right now I feel pretty UP, but with a trip to town on the horizon, I’m not ready for that, but if we are going to stay any longer, we have to go in for some beer at least.  I have a 12 pack left and Weasel has a 30 pack.  I suppose we could make it a couple more days with 42 beers, but no food.  Beer is the all food drink, but some food would be good.  Besides Tracker needs some Whiskey too.  We have to go to town, there are no two ways about it.

I remember in one of my stories leading up to this trip that I could hardly wait to get up into the San Juan Mountains and look up at the stars…200 billion and six, or something like that, is what I said.  And right now would be a good time to go out and see if my camera can take a picture of the early morning night sky.


It’s pretty hard to see what with the dust specs and all, but you can see Orions belt and that means Taurus is in there somewhere too.  Taurus is the Bull (elk in my case) and looking around I think I could count 200 billion and six stars.  The sky is clear and bright and visibility is way past as far as you can see.  It’s going to be a beautiful day.  No wind at all.

So, what is the plan?  Well, I want to be up near where we saw the two bulls yesterday morning.  They might be out in the clearing and working their way toward where we saw them climbing the mountain.  If we can catch them near the road I might have a chance.  You never know.  Then Tracker reminded me that where we saw them yesterday was Not Hammer Camp, but rather Sleigh Camp.  It was one road down from Hammer Camp, closer to our camp.

I don’t know how he keeps all of this straight as I had it in my head that we had gone all the way to the end of the mesa and then up to the end of a side road and that it was Hammer camp, the place I found a miners hammer.  But he said no, we went up a side road that ended with a stump of a tree that looked like something Santa Claus would ride and had me sit on it and pretend to be whipping the crap out of Rudolph.  He is exactly right.

Well, there is where I want to be this morning at first light and that means we have to leave camp about a half hour before light.

That being said, we all put a bit of a hustle on to get ready.  We managed to leave right on time and bounced up the road in the dark of an early morning day.  The sky getting brighter every second.

As we approached the Sleigh road that branched off the main one, Weasel went past it.  I had him stop and back up and pull over to the side so others could get by if anyone came along.  We had not seen nor heard another vehicle for two days, but you never know.

We got out of the truck and carefully closed the doors without slamming them.  I put a shell in the chamber (as a good muzzleloader man would say, I put a suppository up the rear of the gun) and slung the rifle over my shoulder.  It was a beautiful morning unfolding before us and with the sun going to be at our backs any elk that might be up on the hill above would have the sun it its face.  Tracker was ready with his equipment and Weasel with his binoculars.  We already knew we had to go slow, quiet, and glass everywhere. We didn’t want to get busted like we did yesterday or the day before or whenever it was that that happened.  We hadn’t gone even 100 yards up the dirt road when Weasel excitedly whispered “DAD…ELK OVER HERE”!!!!  I looked to my right and quickly saw three elk on the hillside about 500 yards or so out.  My binoculars verified all three were bulls.  How big?  Who cares!  They are bulls and now is my chance to drop one!  But not at that range.  We have to get closer.

We quickly backtracked and then angled their way and got in the cover of a finger of cedar and pinion trees that would afford us plenty of cover to close the distance by at least half.  We moved quickly and quietly.  My heart was pounding like it has never pounded in all my life.  I could feel the rush of adrenaline pumping through my veins and my breath became weak.  I had to stop once inside the trees and stand upright and take a deep breath.  I looked at the other two and the grins on their faces told me they were feeling the same way I was.  We moved closer to the end of the finger of trees.  The opening the bulls were in extended from the end of this line of trees up to the edge of the mesa.  Back from the end of the cedar line we were sneaking through about 50 yards or maybe even more, I could see an elk standing high up on the ridge, maybe 300 yards distance.  I stopped and glassed it.  I could not see all of its antlers but I could see it was a nice big mature bull for sure.  I bent down and picked up some dirt to check the wind.  There was little to no breeze but what there was went from our right to our left.  This is a good direction for it to be going as the elk are feeding from our right to our left.

As we continued to move slowly forward I kept thinking about all the things that go into a well placed shot using a scope.  The scope has to be level and not canted to one side or another.  The rifle has to be placed into the shoulder in such a way as to give the shooter a full field of view through the scope, no amount of “black” ring around the outside edges of the scope.  With my short arms, I know I have to really pull the rifle in and lean slightly forward in order to have a full field of view with this rifle and scope set up.  I’m thinking about breath control and squeezing my whole hand rather than just my trigger finger while holding the cross hairs on the exact spot I want the bullet to hit.

My heart is pounding uncontrollably and we are nearing the end of the finger of trees.  I see movement in front of and  slightly to our right through the tree branches and I know this is the end of the line for us.  I have to get set up and set up fast and now!  Right here and no closer to the open hillside.

I sit down and quarter myself so my rifle will be almost at a ninety degree angle to my body and pointing toward the opening between two cedar trees that are about 30 yards in front of us and are about 20 yards apart.  I hold the rifle up and go through all the same thought process’ about level scope, pull the rifle in, breath control etc. etc. etc. and then I realize my heart is pumping so hard the scope is jumping almost a full inch with each pump.  I look around and see a single cedar stick laying on the ground.  I whisper to Weasel to hand it to me, which he does.  I poke the small end into the ground hard without making any noise and then rest the gun barrel on top of the stick and the clinched fist of my left hand.  I consciously wrap my index finger up and over the barrel to make sure it’s going to stay in place.  Looking through the scope my heart is still causing the view through the scope to jump, but only a fraction of what it was without the stick.  It will have to do.

I look up from the scope and take another deep breath.  It’s almost show time and I want to be ready, but I sure could use a nap right now to get the nerves calmed down some.  Another deep breath and then I see movement through the cedar tree on the right.  From that cedar tree to the next one going left I have about a 70 yard opening in which to shoot.  If the bull is not running I might have a chance.  If it’s running I’ll have a “hope I can do it” shot.  My heart is pounding harder than ever now, and the bull is about to come into full view.

I settle down on the rifle stock and pull it in for a full field of view.  I’m holding my breath as the big animal comes into full view…feeding along without a care in the world.  I count the points…1,2,3,4,5…A nice 5X5 and it’s mine if I want it.  Without putting my finger on the trigger, I put the cross hairs on its shoulder and followed it through the entire 70 yard lane and watch it disappear behind the cedar on the left side of my lane.

I’m thinking to myself, “Wynn, What did you just do?!  You let a giant bull elk walk right in front of you and now it’s down wind!  What if it smells you and busts and takes the rest of the herd with it?!!!  You dummy”!!!

Just then I caught another animal’s movement behind the right side cedar.  I settle into the scope once more and the bull steps out feeding just like the first one.  Another 5X5, maybe slightly larger than the first.  My cross hairs are on the shoulder as it continues its trek across the opening between the cedars and then it’s gone just like the first one!  My thoughts return to the wind and the very real possibility of those two elk smelling us…two bulls crossed within shooting distance and I didn’t shoot.

Then more movement behind the cedar and out steps a smallish 4X4 bull.  It too takes the same path as its brothers before and I in turn follow with the scope and practice some control of shooting without actually shooting.  I’m getting pretty good at this.  But what about the breeze…now there are three of them down wind!

I came up off the scope and took a deep breath.  I looked towards Weasel who is now looking through his binoculars with them turned up on their side, his head cocked accordingly.  He is trying to view the animal between cedar trees as it fed calmly along.  I can see the animal coming and I can see part of its antlers.  I whisper to him, “Is this my bull”?  He does not respond.  I whisper a bit louder, “Is this my bull”?  No response again.  And then I can see the bull is about to come into view.  I’m back on the scope with all the thoughts as before, I want to hear Weasel tell me this is the “big one”, but he doesn’t and even though the bull has just about to come into full view I whisper once again… “Brandon!  Is this my bull”?  I have the scope on his shoulder when I hear Weasel whisper back, “I don’t know if it’s the biggest, but it is a nice bull and if you want to take it you better”!

With that, I took a short quick breath and concentrated on the cross hair placement and pulled the trigger!  BOOOOMMM!  And through the scope I saw it drop like a ton of bricks and didn’t kick a leg or try and get up or nothing.  It just fell and stayed down.

Weasel yelled “He’s down!  He’s Down!  Great job dad”!!!!

My body collapsed and I fell backwards onto my back with the rifle laying across my chest.  My head was reeling from the adrenaline rush and I had to lay there a second to catch my breath.  I took a very deep breath and thought to myself….It’s over…Thank God it’s over…What a RUSH!  And as I sat back up I could see more elk running through the opening farther out and could see they too were bulls.  Eight total in my count.  I was slow to stand and Tracker made me sit back down and re-enact the shot and falling backwards.  I think he does that sort of thing to make sure the hunter has all his faculties and at that moment I’m not sure I had all of mine.  Standing back up the second time, I looked out across the open sage and grass flat and could see the bull had not moved so much as an eye brow since I pulled the trigger.  Wherever that bullet hit was the perfect place to kill a big bull elk instantly and I’m certain it had nothing to do with how I was aiming.  I’ve never shot a bull elk before and where I was aiming was just plain and simply the biggest part of its chest.  My heart was pounding so hard at that time the bullet could have gone almost anywhere.  I’m just very happy it put him down for the count and he didn’t run off and down in some God forsaken deep hell hole where we would have had to try and get on him for a follow up shot and then have to pack him out.  THANK YOU GOD!

And so, with the big bull on the ground we started our slow walk up toward him.  I had chambered another round in the Ruger Number One that I was carrying, put the rifle on safe and was moving toward what was the biggest animal I have ever shot in all my 64 years of life.  As I got closer, it got bigger and bigger and bigger.  Ground shrinkage is something that just didn’t happen with this animal and when I put my foot against its rump and pushed and there was no push back, I knew then and there he was mine and that I could relax and say, “Cross that one off your bucket list Bears Butt!  He’s yours”!

My life long dream of shooting such a magnificent animal was over.  Sure, it’s not the biggest and baddest animal on the planet, nor was it the biggest in this bachelor group, but it is the one I shot and it’s the biggest and baddest one I will ever shoot.  I’m so very happy my grin goes from one side of my face to the other and then it wraps around a couple of times.  Everything that went into the preparation, planning, travel, extra work and effort paid off in spades.

A hearty THANK YOU TO WINEMAKER!  When I decided to accept the offer to take this tag, she said she would take on extra hours at work to help pay for it and she did thanks in part to her boss and the Smith and Edwards Company.

And a hearty THANK YOU TO TRACKER AND WEASEL for sticking it out with me and not giving up!  To go as long as we did and then plan on extending until the sun goes down on the last day is a very big commitment.

Not to forget the wives and loved ones of those few who actually got to go on this hunt.  The ones that stayed home to keep the home fires burning and tending to their jobs and families.  The support I had on this dream hunt has been phenomenal and I want you all to know I have not forgotten and will never forget the sacrifices that were made.  THANK YOU!

I wish EVERYONE; Winemaker,  Wapiti, Softball, Edjukateer, Night Fisher, Dennis and Uncle Bob could have been here at this finale!  I hope this story helps to bring you into it and to know just what it was to have been there.

I have enjoyed many a goose and duck hunt, where proper decoy placement and calling had them coming in with their wings cupped and their feet down.  I’ve shot several amazing deer.  But there will NEVER be a hunt with the drama that this one ended with.  Thanks again!



BullDownFor the record folks, I was wearing my blaze orange hat and vest during this hunt.

BullDown4And for the PETA folks, Only one animal was harmed in the taking of this fine bull elk.

Bears Butt

November 20, 2013

Written on November 22nd, 2013 , DREAM HUNTS

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    Wapiti commented

    Very nice job on the hunting story and how it all played out. Nice pictures of the area and the people who were present. Thanks for the invite to participate with all who went. I hope to do it again some day soon.

    November 22, 2013 at 10:03 am
      Bears Butt commented

      Thanks and Thank You for going along. It’s too bad I didn’t connect on Saturday night. You guys would have gotten the full joy of processing a huge animal!

      November 22, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Stories, Ramblings & Random Stuff From an Old Mountain Man is proudly powered by WordPress and the Theme Adventure by Eric Schwarz
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Just some of my old stories, new stories, and in general what is going on in my life.