Redemption

By Jason Stafford
Wyoming, 2011, DIY, Public Land

Jason Stafford - RedemptionJuly/August 2012 EBJ (Issue 72) - All I could do was watch in horror as the big 6x6 bull I had spent the entire summer watching walked out of my life, or so I thought. It had been a slow opening morning with the full moon and extreme heat sending the bulls to their daytime beds right at first light. I had dropped into the steep canyon the big bull called home all summer long, hoping to catch him in one of the many hidden meadows feeding. As the pale pink rays of the beautiful Wyoming sunrise overcame the night’s darkness, I caught a glimpse of a nice bull on the edge of the dark timber, but he quickly fed into the timber and out of sight. That was the only bull I saw in the bottom of the canyon, so I decided to climb out and come back for an evening hunt.

Nearing the top of the canyon, I stopped to take one last look back into its belly. I was shocked to see a group of bulls feeding out of a timber pocket in the bottom. I instantly recognized the big bull leading the herd. His antlers were bone white, being fresh out of velvet. He had a little counterpart with white antlers and three bulls that still had velvet antlers following his lead. The herd was heading toward a timbered bench where they had gone to bed yesterday.

My legs burned from the rapid descent as I hit the bottom of the canyon. I glassed into the meadow hoping the bulls were still there. My breathing was just getting back to normal when I saw the big set of white antlers bobbing back and forth, as the bull fed less than 100 yards away. Immediately, it felt like my heart jumped into my throat as I quickly dropped into a dry creek bottom and made my way toward a handful of pine trees that would allow enough cover to get within bow range of the feeding bulls.

At 70 yards the big bull and his little white-horned protégé began to feed straight away. I feared that at any moment the three velvet clad bulls were going to emerge from the pines and pin me down. Just as expected, I saw the velvet tips of the first bull’s antlers as he fed into view at 30 yards. I backed up against a big pine for cover and watched the three bulls feed past me at less than 30 yards. Two of the bulls were nice six points that would most likely score around the 300- inch mark; great bulls, but not the big guy by any means. I watched helplessly as the herd disappeared into their bedding area.

To add insult to injury I had to climb back up the steep canyon wall for the second time in less than an hour. My hunting partner, Ron, and I made plans to be back on the spotting hill for this evening’s hunt. Ron had videoed the morning’s hunt, which I watched over and over again while trying to concentrate on work. The big bull looked huge in the video. Studying the footage, it became very apparent that I had underestimated his size.

Jason Stafford - Redemption

For a full account of Jason's adventure, go to page 46 in the July/August 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.