September/October 2011 EBJ (Issue 67) - I had dreamed of hunting elk in the Rocky Mountains ever since I was a young boy. Several years ago, my son, Rob, and I decided to make this dream come true and began looking for an outfitter that was honest about our chances of success, and maybe most importantly, that fit our budget. After exhaustive research and reference checks, we chose an outfitter in western Wyoming that offered horseback hunts in the Bridger-Teton and Targhee National Forests, exactly what we were looking for.
We made our first trip to this camp in early September 2007. Full of anticipation and not fully knowing what to expect, we could not have been happier with the experience. As we traveled by horseback up the mountain each morning, hours before daylight, I would envision scenes from Jeremiah Johnson as they passed through the forbidden burial grounds.
I was able to arrow a bull on that trip, and we both had a fantastic time. We immediately made plans to return as soon as we drew another tag, which was two very long years. Needless to say, we both now had elk fever.
Two years later, we returned to the same camp to again chase Wyoming elk with stick and string. This time, knowing a little more of what to expect, we had both ramped up our preparation through rigorous physical conditioning and shooting routines.
The first day was one that will never be forgotten. We left camp at 4 a.m. and rode for several hours to get to where we wanted to be by first light, eight miles from the trailhead. Unlike my first hunt, this time I was not thinking of any movie character or the beauty of the mountains; I was focused on the hunt.
We tied the horses, hiked the ridge, and immediately spotted a big bull with some cows to our right, and a nice satellite bull to our left up on a slide. Rob and Rustin, our outfitter, went after the herd bull while Ike, a guide, and I went after the satellite bull. Rob snuck in close and had a good setup, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out.
Meanwhile, Ike and I continued to work the satellite bull on the opposite side of the timber patch. The bull would respond to Ike’s cow calls, but would not come down the mountain. As soon as the herd bull left the area, the satellite bull became more confident and started to come in. I was set up in front of a big pine, and knew that I would need to draw as soon as the bull disappeared into a small depression. However, just as the bull’s head disappeared, a spike bull showed up and stared right at me, not 50 yards away. I knew if I drew, the spike would blow, taking the bigger bull with him. So, I stood still as the bull came up out of the depression and walked right up to within ten yards of me. I drew as he passed by, but he saw the movement and trotted away.
For a full account of Tom's adventure, go to page 32 in the September/October 2011 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.