Thirteen - that's how years it took me to draw my tag. It's not really a "once-in-lifetime tag," but for a non-resident without a lot of money, it might as well be.
I grew up hunting the area with my grandpa, my father and the rest of my family. During those days, we were not hunting for the trophy-class animal I was hunting for now, but we still harvested many good ones. I started putting in for the special tag the year that Oregon Fish & Game changed the unit from a general hunt to draw only.
My confirmation of drawing came in June and I started preparing the next day. Eagerly, I started by talking to people I knew who had previously drawn the tag or won it in lottery drawings. I called and talked to field biologists and game wardens for the area. In my various conversions, I heard rumors of people seeing bulls that would stretch the tape over 380 inches. Still, the general consensus was I should not pass up a 330 to 340 class Pope & Young bull. Even so, knowing there was even a chance of shooting a 380-inch bull made it hard to think of shooting a 330 class animal. I had not spent the last 13 years patiently waiting for the hunt to shoot less than my ideal bull. I knew I couldn't shoot an exceptional bull if I ended up skinning just a "nice" one.
I spent every weekend over the next three months with my family scouting the area. Carrying my kids on my back and dragging my ever-supporting wife along, I covered most of the unit. Although I never saw a monster bull during all of my scouting, I was still confident the elk of my dreams was in there somewhere.
Opening day finally arrived. Warm temperatures and forest fires in the area made the hunting conditions less than ideal, but I was not going to miss hunting even a single day of the four-week season. The season started slow, but I began getting plenty of response to my calls. Over the first two weeks, I called in plenty of nice bulls, but passed them all up. I was still holding out. I had half of the season left.
With the season half over and my tag still not punched, my longtime friend, Cory, and brother-in-law, Ross, drove over to help. During that week, the bulls started getting very vocal. Locating them was getting much easier. We were covering a lot of ground and the days were flying by. Over the course of the week, we called in quite a few nice bulls and had some close encounters with potential tag-punchers.
Toward the end of the week, I started regretting passing up some of the bulls we had seen. I started thinking maybe I had simply set my expectations too high. I had only just over a week left to hunt and I was definitely getting nervous. It was the low point of my hunt.
On the last day that Cory was able to hunt, we called in a real monster, a bull that verified the rumors I heard months before. We were following a very active herd and we knew there were at least two decent bulls among them. The timber and brush there made it easy to get close, but impossible to see anything beyond 50 yards.
The bulls were getting extremely worked up; there was never a pause between bugles. We could hear them fighting, it sounded like a D8 CAT coming through the woods, but still we couldn't see anything. Then, the noise stopped and the monster bull appeared through the Jack Pines at 40 yards. He had heavy main beams that were long and wide with six points to a side. Despite his size, he was not the victor in his battle; he had taken a tine through his front shoulder. He was walking with a distinct limp and he was dead set on getting out of there. We were scrambling; trying everything to get him to stop or even pause.
Despite all of our efforts, we could not get him to stop long enough for me to get a shot off. Rather than push him hard with his wound, I decided to give him a day to rest. It was not an easy decision to leave. However, there was very little pressure from other hunters and with his wound I didn't think the bull would leave the area.
That night, Cory headed out to help an old friend with an antelope hunt and another one of my friends, Phil, came back over for his second tour on my hunt. My brother-in-law, Ross, had one more day to hunt before he had to head out.
The next morning I wasn't sure where to hunt. I wanted to give the monster bull a full day's rest. So I decided to hunt the wilderness area below my camp. Up until a couple of days ago, that area had been closed because of fires, so I hadn't hunted it yet at all. I had been hearing bulls from my camp at night in the distance and thought that day was as good a day as any to check it out. We set off from camp in the truck and parked a few miles away. The plan was to use the wind so we could hunt back toward camp.
A couple miles in the sign started to show up; then the bulls. The first bull was coming in screaming and tearing up the trees. At first glance he appeared to have extra-heavy antlers. He was looking like a possible shooter. We were set up in plenty of time, but again, it was extremely thick timber. He never offered a good look or a good shot and I had to pass once again.
As we ventured deeper into the wilderness we struck our second bull of the day. That bull sounded as though he was coming straight at us. In that place, the timber was much more open. The bull materialized at about 60 yards, heading down a slope and we are able to get a good look at him. He was a smaller six-by-six. I estimated him as a 280 bull; a nice bull, but not a shooter. He finally caught our wind and blew off.
As noon approached, we found ourselves halfway down a canyon and still a ridge or two away from a couple of bulls that were taunting us. We sat down and discussed our options. Phil said bluntly that there was no way Ross and I could pack him and an elk out of that canyon, so we headed back out.
When we reached the top, it was around 2 p.m. with intermittent rain showers blowing through. We were much closer to camp than the truck by then, so we decided to head straight toward camp, which was still about three miles away. We were moving quickly on a nice game trail. The trail eventually came to a large meadow. I cow called as we skirted it and two bulls sounded off. One was closer than the other. The closer one sounded weak and small, but he was only a few hundred yards away so we went to check him out.
We came to a thick patch of blowdowns, the bull was somewhere on the far side. Working our way through the fallen timber, I spotted him at about 120 yards. He was tearing up a fir tree. Every time I cow called he responded with a tired old lazy bugle. We watched for a few moments, as I counted the points...four, five, six, seven, eight! I looked back at my buddies and said, "There is no way I can pass up an eight-by-eight."
We got set up. Phil was to my right a few feet back and Ross was behind him. I gave the bull my best sleazy cow calls; he couldn't take it anymore. I guess he figured he had some cows to tend to. He came straight toward us, crossing blowdowns like they were pencils. He was a true monarch. At 35 yards, he turned and headed to my right to get around a large uprooted tree. I drew back and at my first opportunity to stop him in the open, I gave one last cow call. At that call, he gave a short pause in his stride which was all that I needed to make my shot.
After the shot, he just calmly walked off, disappearing behind a group of trees. I waited for about thirty minutes, which seemed to drag out for days, and then I slowly approach where we last saw him. Ross and Phil stayed back to watch. The bull had fallen only 40 yards from where we waited. I was elated. I turned to yell at my buddies, but they were already right behind me. The three of us stood in awe, and then began walking around the bull in amazement. Not only was he an eight-by-eight, but his antlers were heavy and he had an enormous body. I don't know if he was bigger than the bull from the day before, but he had more points.
We made the short pack to camp several times. By dark, the job was done. Later, we gross scored the bull at a whopping 384 Pope & Young. It was the bull of my dreams; my most prized trophy..."Lucky 13." To date, the bull is the second largest non-typical Rocky Mountain bull taken in Oregon with bow.
About the author:
Dan Morrow owns High Country Taxidermy in Meridian, Idaho.
Bow: Hoyt RazorTech.
Broadheads: Tight Point Shuttle T-Locks.