A Lifelong Dream Come True
This hunt actually started when I was around 8 years old (1978). I remember coming down this old two track (jeep) trail in my father's old 1968 Ford Bronco. I remember the sun just coming up and looking down into this canyon below the road. I noticed a huge group of elk and told dad there's the elk. He said, "How many?" I replied, "The whole bottom's moving!" He killed the Bronco and jumped out, leaning across the hood and using it as a rest as the elk started single filing up the other side. I remember watching elk after elk going through this clearing on the other side and dad letting bull after bull go by. There were honestly around 200 elk in this group and finally this giant 5x5 comes into the clearing. I hear the rifle go off and watched this huge bull stand up on his back legs and flip over backwards. As we got closer to the bull laying there on the ground, I could not believe how big he was and from that day on I wanted a chance at a bull like that!
Now we jump ahead to 2006, I had been chasing elk since I was 14 years old and in 2005 I did end up taking a bull that was busted up bad. If the antlers were all there, it would have scored around 315" but he wasn't that true giant. It was the year the Colorado Division of Wildlife allowed us to split up our points. So I put in for the first season draw and got my tag.
As always, my brother archery hunted as did several other of our hunting partners. Not seeing what he was looking for, my brother headed down into some of the low country we hunt. As he sat on one of the points we usually sit on, he could hear a bull bugle and then several others bugled around him. He called me on his cell phone as he was listening to the symphony of bulls going on around him to let me know he found some bulls and to let me hear it also. It was amazing listening to all the bulls bugling around him and I could not wait to see how his hunt played out.
My brother and his buddy Ryan headed back in the next Saturday and after they got about six miles down in they could hear several bulls just screaming. They got into them around 9:00 am and could not believe what they were seeing. There was this giant 5x7 with the biggest thirds he had ever seen on a bull. The bull was with about 20 cows and calves, five other 6x6's, and one small 5x5 raising cane and running in and trying to steal away his cows. It was an amazing sight to see to say the least, but they were in a huge clearing and no way to get close. So they set up the cow elk decoy about 50 yards from them and began calling. The big 5x7 was the only bull not bugling, but he was "glunking." When he saw the decoy, he came running. As he got closer every time he glunked they could feel the vibration in the ground. "It was amazing!" At one point they got him to within 19 yards, but with no shot. They stayed with the herd for nine hours and over three miles as they did their magic, but to no avail. They just didn't make it happen. As my brother and I walked out, I could not get that bull out of my head. "What a GIANT!"
My brother ended up killing a small 5x5 raghorn, but did not lay eyes on the huge bull the rest of season.
I could hardly wait until my season started. I could not get that giant bull out of my head. I headed up the day before season and had camp set up around 11:00 am. I took one of the newbies to a spot I wanted him to sit on opening morning and made it back to camp around 3:00 pm. I decided I would try to make it down to where my brother had last seen the bull before dark. I made it down to earshot of the area he was in and just after stopping to listen I heard one bugle. So I headed back out to get out before dark and upon my return my brother had made it into camp late. His daughter had a bull tag and my son had a bull tag also so we made a plan for the morning. Needless to say, I wanted my son and niece to kill their first elk so we did not head down to where I thought the giant was. As we sat in the dark opening morning we did not hear a single bugle and my boys and I did not see an elk as the sun came up and the clouds rolled in. Around 9:00 a.m. I asked the boys if they wanted to head further in and they shook their head yes. As we made it in about 4 miles, my youngest with the tag asked if he could take care of some business and I needed to also. So he headed one way and I headed the other while my oldest son held our guns. I was almost done with my business when I could hear the sound of several elk moving towards me. I stood up just in time to see three cows, a calf, and a great 320" 6x6 bull come strolling by. I ran toward the boys only to find my youngest still not done and my oldest watching the elk walk by at 20 yards (he did not have a tag). We tried to catch back up with them, but just could not keep up on foot. Then the clouds rolled in and it dumped the rest of the day. When we got back to the rig, we were wore out and soaked to the bone.
The next morning we headed up country hoping to get into bigger groups of elk for the kids, but did not have any luck. That afternoon my wife, daughter and oldest son had to head back to town for school and we made it down to the low country a little late. I knew my youngest at the time could not make it down to where I thought the giant was before dark so I asked if he minded if I took off and he stayed up with my buddy Blake and my niece and he said it would be cool. So I took off leaving everything that would slow me down including my pack and gear in it.
It took me about 2 hours to get down there, but I was there at just the right time and got set up. I sat there maybe 15 minutes without seeing a single critter for as far as the eye could see and I started getting worried. Then I heard a faint bugle off in the distance, so I grabbed my rifle and my coat and headed in that direction. As I came over a rise in the terrain, I noticed a bull shining in the sun about 800 yards away. As I put the scope on him I noticed he was a very unique 5x5 with his left antler growing straight out to the side of his head and the sad thing is it kind of caught my attention. I got down and started quickly trying to get closer out in the middle of nothing with nothing to use to hide me. I made it across the first clearing to a small clump of pinions and junipers, but it only covered me for about 70 yards, and then I had to make it across another big clearing to the last group of trees. God must of been with me that afternoon because I actually made it to the last group of pinions and junipers and it put me about 400 ( guessing at the time) yards from the elk. I dropped the bipods and started scanning the clearing. There were five more small 5x5's out there with the freak 5x5. I watched them for some time as they walked up to each other and tried to claim dominance over each other bulging out their eyes and playing tough. It was fun to watch, but I was still a little worried.
As I watched the young bulls, I noticed in the left corner of my scope some cows and calves coming out and another bull. It was a little bigger 5x5, but not the giant. Then I caught a glimpse of another polished antler and as he walked out it took my breath away. He was walking straight at me and his giant thirds were the first things I noticed as his head rocked back and forth...I knew it was him. Then all of a sudden I could not breathe and my rifle just started shaking in my hands. I had never in my life had this happen to me and I could not settle down. I got up four times and walked away from my rifle, but every time I got back onto my rifle and looked at him in my scope it would just happen again. After the fourth time, I got settled down and got back on him. Now the bull was out in the middle of the clearing, all the little bulls took off, and he was all alone. I second guessed myself, my rangefinder was in my pack, and put the crosshairs just over his back and squeezed the trigger. I MISSED !!!!!! I stayed calm and racked in another round. I put the crosshair 3/4 of the way up and behind the shoulder and squeezed it off again. This time finding its mark and hearing that wonderful "thud," the sound the bullet makes when connecting with an animal. As I got him back in the scope, I could see the blood running down his side and I put another one in him. He headed for the cows and calves and got into the group. I could see him as he started back-stepping. As soon as the bull got clear, I hit him again and all the elk took off except for him. He was still standing so I put three more in him before he fell over. I could not believe it was all happening; it seemed like a dream in slow motion, but in reality it all happened in seconds.
As I walked over to where the bull tipped over, the first thing I noticed was the giant polished tips of his antlers and then how truly magnificent he really was. I just stood there in awe as I looked at him. I had not put my hands on him yet as a flood of emotions from the last 22 years of elk hunting came over me. I just could not believe it! I picked up those giant antlers with tears in my eyes and let out a yell that could be heard for miles. I finally had the bull of my dreams.
I made it back to the Bronco around 9:00 pm which was a chore considering my flashlight was also in my pack and it was one of those nights where there was no light of any kind. My brother was the first to get back to the rig and he heard all the shooting and knew something good had happened, but I wanted my youngest son to hear it first. After all he is the one who said, "Go ahead dad!" When I told them they could not wait to get back down there and check him out. We all got back down to him around 11:00 pm and had him back to camp around 2:30 am where my dad was up waiting, both worried and excited because typically when we get in real late we killed something.
A huge shout out to my dad who is still my number one hunting buddy, the guy who never left me at home and had us hunting with him since we could walk! Thanks dad! Also to my brother for finding this giant and giving me the incentive in 2004 after killing his biggest bull and getting me fired back up. Never give up on your dreams!