Burning Boot Leather

By Lucas Zemlicka
Montana, DIY, Public Land

Lucas Zemlicka - Burning Boot LeatherNovember/December 2012 EBJ (Issue 74) - As I sat at camp and washed the dried elk blood from my hands, and changed out of my sweaty, blood-stained clothes, I couldn’t help but think of how great it would be to kill two bulls in one day.

The hunting had been extremely slow over the last five days, but that morning my buddy, Kiley, was able to kill a nice six-point and we had just got back to camp with the last load of meat. It was 2:00 in the afternoon and I was beat. The long days of hunting combined with short nights of sleep were taking their toll on me. After getting into some new clothes, I laid in the shade and closed my eyes as I tried to recover from the grueling pack out. My mind quickly drifted to thinking about the previous days of hunting. We had covered country like grey hounds while searching for a big bull. We were burning boot leather like we had never done before. We hiked into places we had never been before and we went back to places where we have had luck in years past, still nothing. The big bulls were nowhere to be found. What was different? Where were the big bulls? Frustration was at an all-time high. It seemed like the harder we hiked and the more hours we spent behind the glass the less luck we were having.

I was quickly awakened by the buzz of mosquitoes in my ear and the sound of water as Kiley took care of the elk meat. It was the middle of the day and hot, but I was determined to get back hunting. I knew the elk wouldn’t be up moving, but I also knew I wasn’t going to kill one sitting in camp. I gathered my gear and headed south from camp to an area I knew well. I had a long hike ahead of me with temperatures in the mid 80s, so I took it slow.

After a couple miles, I started to think about the pack out that morning and how tired my legs were. I wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on around me and when I crested the top of a hill I caught a glimpse of an elk. I instantly hit the ground and feared for the worst. I had exposed my entire outline and figured they had to have seen me. I cursed myself for letting my guard down and possibly blowing the opportunity. I slowly eased my head up to see if I could see the elk. Not only did I see the elk, but there were about 20 others along with a great looking herd bull! Unbelievably they hadn’t spotted me, but they were moving quickly toward some thick timber.

I scrambled to get my spotting scope setup to get a better look at the bull, but it was too late. He walked into the timber and I never got a good look at him. I was pretty certain he was over 350, but not 100%. I knew he was at least worth getting a closer look at, but the wind couldn’t have been blowing in a worse direction. I needed to circle 180 degrees to get the wind right and make a stalk on these elk. I knew the country they were headed into was thick with a lot of deep draws and it was going to be extremely difficult locating him again, especially with 40-plus eyes on the lookout. I felt the odds of laying eyes on the bull again were slim, but I was fairly certain he was the best bull I had seen yet.

Lucas Zemlicka - Burning Boot Leather

For a full account of Lucas's adventure, go to page 32 in the November/December 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.