The Omen

By Nathan Wagner
Montana, DIY, Public Land

Nathan Wagner - The OmenJune/July 2013 EHJ (Issue 137) - As I settled the crosshairs on the bull’s chest, there was no doubt that this was the biggest bull I had ever seen while hunting. I knew if I blew this chance I would regret it for the rest of my life.

Sometimes, I will have a powerful feeling that I just can’t ignore, and after applying unsuccessful ly for one of Montana’s most coveted tags for many years, I had the feeling that it was going to be my year. When the permits came out in the summer, it almost felt like I already knew the results without looking. I had drawn the tag of a lifetime.

Due to my work schedule, I didn’t have as much of an opportunity to scout my district as much as I would have liked. I put in as many weekends as I could in August and found lots of elk and lots of bulls, but with a permit like this I knew I couldn’t settle for anything less than a true monster.

My obligations at work meant that I was basically limited to hunting weekends for the first part of September, and taking a long weekend during the prime part of the rut. I had two close calls with a huge 6x7, including one where he I stalked him in his bed and had him at 45 yards but there was a branch in the way of my arrow flight. When I backed out to reposition, he heard my arrow tick against a twig and busted out of there like his tail was on fire. Bow season ended with great memories of hunting with my brother Cullen and my friends Brook, Paul, and Travis, but no bull.

One of the advantages of being able to hunt the unit with a bow and a rifle was that I had a fairly good idea where to find some good bulls for the opener of rifle season. The day before rifle opener found us watching a herd of about 75 elk through a spotting scope. There were numerous large 6-point bulls, but one bull stood out. His body was much larger than the other bulls and he was pushing them all around the park. We estimated him to be at least 350 and decided to go after him in the morning.

Travis and I made a plan to hike in for about an hour to be in position at daylight to shoot into the park where the herd had been at dark. We heard bugling all around us in the dark on the way in, but the park where the herd had been the night before was empty. My brother Cullen, who was recovering from a back injury, was watching with a spotting scope and later told us that the herd we had been watching had moved north a few drainages and that the big bull had spent the morning bulldozing the satellite bulls all around the park.

The next Saturday found me hunting in the same area where I had the close calls with the monster 6x7 in archery season. We knew where he liked to bed down for the day so we tried to stalk in on him and shoot him out of his bed. But, as is so often the case, the wind wouldn’t cooperate, and the herd busted us while we were moving in and thundered out of the area before we got into range for a shot.

Nathan Wagner - The Omen

For a full account of Nathan's adventure, go to page 42 in the June/July 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.