Home Field Advantage

By Brian Barney

Brian Barney
Montana, 2008, DIY, Public Land

I had coyoted the herd for a couple hours up above treeline, and now we were dropping off into some bedding timber. A stiff wind in my face, I felt I had this bull. Being 40 pounds lighter from dropping my pack, I was now in stealth mode creeping in close. My rangefinder read 35 yards as he raked his rack on a sapling right in front of me; I just needed him to turn. He let out a bone-chilling bugle as he turned and trotted broadside. Already at full draw, I mouthed a cow call, then another much louder. As he chased one of his cows around the side of the hill, he paid no attention to my calls. I was forced to let down.

I continued sneaking on full alert to where the bull had disappeared, and through my binos, I began to pick out multiple bedded cows. A short time after, the bull appeared and was fired up. He was bugling nonstop and chasing cows around just inside my effective range. My heart was racing as he headed toward one of my shooting lanes. I came to full draw for a second time, but unfortunately, the bull stopped quartering toward me. I held at full draw for what seemed like an eternity, but the bull offered no shot as he went back to chasing his cows. I had a couple of more close calls, but never could get an arrow in the bull and the herd finally wandered off. What a start for the opening weekend of the 2008 Montana elk season! I had been treated to three hours of adrenalin-filled, action-packed stalking, teasing in and out of bow range deep in my home wilderness.

I never miss a September in my home wilderness. I log hundreds of running miles training in the foothills of these same wilderness peaks and commit countless hours watching and observing these high country bulls. While there are better places to hunt trophy elk, this general season public land hunt defines me. I wait all year for the chance to challenge myself. These elk are hunted extremely hard, and trophy caliber bulls are the exception, not the rule. Although it’s remote, tough country, I have tasted sweet success while hunting alone in this pristine wilderness.

Home Field Advantage

For a full account of Brian's adventure, go to page 14 in the July/August 2009 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.