September/October 2012 EBJ (Issue 73) - You gave all protecting freedom and I humbly thank you….Devin, this one’s for you.
THWACK, SMASH, CLANK is all I heard as the bull lifted his head and stood motionless for a moment. I asked Gary, "Did I miss?”
This hunt began in March of this year when I logged onto the Game and Fish website and read the words "Drawn.” I had been telling my friend, Ronnie Michael, since we put in for elk, I was going to draw a tag this year with only seven points. I was AMAZED my positive thinking had finally paid dividends! Even more amazing was I drew a tag for one of the premier trophy units in the state. Ronnie, who is a reputable guide, told me he was going to commit the entire hunt to helping me track down a giant. Being my first elk tag, he wanted to ensure that I had the hunt of my life chasing monster bulls. That being said, I still had a lot of work to do scouting and preparing for September.
A week later, after another follow up appointment for an old knee injury, I was informed the treatments were not working and surgery was our last chance at repairing the torn Patellar Tendon on my left knee. I had to make a decision; hold off until after the hunt or proceed with surgery. Since I couldn’t run more than once every two weeks, the decision was easy, proceed with the surgery. I would have to work my butt off to be ready for the hunt, but it was my only option as conditioning was going to be so critical during my two weeks chasing rutting bulls in the high country. April 18th was the scheduled surgery date.
Would I be ready in time? How limited would I be? My recovery didn’t go as quickly as I had expected and kept me out of work until after the hunt ended. I was stuck in a brace with zero movement for over six weeks so my quad quickly deteriorated and I could barely flex it let alone carry my own weight. Good news was that I had a lot of time to dedicate to physical therapy and my recovery. I wasn’t able to begin running until three weeks before the hunt started and it was more like a slow limping gate, but I knew that my "will to win” and "internal fortitude” would push me though whatever challenges lie ahead. Adversity seems to only drive me harder to accomplish my goals. A quote from Cameron Hanes that I was inspired by, "Visualize success and you will succeed,” kept me pushing on when training got painful. I needed my head in the game if I was going to harvest a trophy with my bow.
After several scouting trips, Ronnie and I had located some truly magnificent bulls well over the 400-inch mark, but we knew that locating these bulls once they moved out of their bachelor herds wouldn’t be easy. Unfortunately, we were not able to locate any of these bulls again during the hunt. In fact, we later learned that another lucky hunter closed the deal on one of these bulls in a different unit that scored 402 inches. After many miles on foot and truck, we had a good lay of things and had located the cows that these bulls would be after. We had our starting point and strategy for opening day.
As opening day approached, my daily shooting regimen transformed into almost every offhanded shooting position that I could think of. I wanted to make sure that no matter what opportunity was presented; I would be prepared and have the confidence to capitalize on it. Three days before my departure I dialed in my broadheads and was ready for whatever adventures this hunt would throw at me.
I arrived at the unit with some rainy weather prior to the hunt to do some scouting and to relocate some big bulls found earlier in spring. I was afraid to get the camper stuck in the glue-like clay that permeated the roads within my unit so I set up camp in the National Forest about an hour from my original camp. After checking my cameras and seeing some good bulls, I was positive that opening day would host some hot rutting activity… boy, was I wrong!
For a full account of Aaron's adventure, go to page 22 in the September/October 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.