Mountain Faith

By Andrew Johnson
Oregon, DIY, Public Land

Andrew Johnson - Mountain FaithMay/June 2013 EBJ (Issue 77) - This opening day was much different from any other year. Normally, with a deer and elk tag in my pocket, I would be high in the mountains with my bow in hand and the smell of elk ever-present.

So what was different this year? Well, nothing…except that I had traded my bow for a camera and the tag wasn’t mine, but a good friend’s. The tag also happened to read Bighorn sheep.

I was fortunate enough to find the "shooter” ram the day before the season, which gave us the upper hand in keeping all eyes on him. Day one presented a couple opportunities at the ram but we were unable to capitalize on it. With emotions running high at the thought of this blown opportunity we quickly found him again the next morning in the next canyon south. With a quick stalk and a great shot on day two she was able to put her tag on that record book ram! After that, gears changed rapidly, so with my release and bow in hand my archery season was officially on!

I had been watching a nice buck prior to the season and I decided I would devote the first week to finding this 4x4 in hopes of putting an arrow through him. Pursuing him and other decent bucks the first week, the closest I was able to get was 80 yards before he figured it was time to be keep his activity in the daylight hours to a minimum. At this point the elk were starting to enter into their first cycle and the bulls started to vocalize and find their place in the herd. I made the executive decision to fill my deer tag with a forkhorn to get some meat for the winter so I could focus on elk for the remainder of the season.

The elk were in all their usual places so locating them was pretty straightforward. Any other year I would have been happy with any bull, but since I had the entire season to hunt and had been seeing some great bulls I decided I was going to hold out for a bull bigger than my last 6x6, which by all means was doable, seeing that it only scored 240”.

My good buddy DJ and I set a small camp and made a plan for the next morning to split ways into different canyons and work our way to the top. We hiked our way from 2,700 to 5,900 feet as the elk were already starting to bed down in the first hour of light due to the extreme heat.

On my way to the top I watched a large 6x6 with a couple cows crest the ridge and disappear into a timber patch across the draw from me. I had planned to get above the timber and work down from the top, hoping to catch them in their beds. The sun was rising quickly and heating the air to a very uncomfortable temperature, so the shade of the trees was a welcome escape to both the elk and I.

A hundred yards into the timber without making so much as a peep because of the roto-tilled elk trails, I found myself looking through my binoculars at a spike bedded less than 50 yards down the path I was on. He seemed very content lying there chewing his cud with drool hanging from his mouth and his eyelids oh so close to be closed. I quietly slipped back out of sight to try and call the herd bull out of his bed. A few chirps on the call and he grunted from his bed as if he was tired of keeping track of his harem and just wanted a rest.

Andrew Johnson - Mountain Faith

For a full account of Andrew's adventure, go to page 16 in the May/June 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.