I started by researching for a guided elk hunt for my dad and lover the internet, when one day I received a catalogue in the mail from Shoshone Wilderness Adventures with 36 different elk hunts listed in it (along with many hunts for moose, deer, caribou, etc.). After reviewing the hunts with my dad, I called Jphn Andre and told him what kind of hunt we were looking for and asked him for his advice. Our dream hunt was a wilderness horseback hunt with the opportunity for a big bull. John's advice was to try to draw tags for his Wyoming wilderness hunt 'if we were in good physical shapy'. He said we would have a chance at a big bull, the outfitter was awesome and it would be a great hunt. So we put in for Wyoming tags and got lucky and drew them.
We then got the outfitter's name from John and I contacted them. They were called the Crandall Creek Outfitters and were ran by Mickey and Corey Fischer out of Cody, Wyoming. I had a great talk with Mickey and found out our hunt dates and all other necessary information. Then we received packets in the mail describing the hunts, along with lists of things to bring. At the top of the list was 'physically fit hunter' . We met Corey and our guide, Lonnie McAnulty, in Cody the afternoon before our hunt. They revealed that in their first week of hunting, 4 out of 5 hunters had bagged nice bulls, and the one who went home empty handed had missed a 6-point bull 5 times from 118 yards. They had a 367 and a 343 bull in the back of their truck which were ready to take to the taxidermist for their clients. Needless to say, my dad and I couldn't wait to start our hunt. Corey met us later that night at a lodge we were staying at nearby, which was where we would corral the horses and take off from the next morning. We were able to talk with Corey about our hunt and what to expect as we ate dinner together. I could hardly sleep that night, considering I was too busy thinking about all of the big elk.
The next day we woke early, had breakfast, and went a mile up the road to start getting ready to head in. The only other hunter that week, besides my dad and me, was Jim Rodin, a terrific guy from Casper, Wyoming, who happened to be after a bighorn sheep. Corey and Lonnie got the horses saddled up and got all the gear loaded on the pack horses as well. Jim, my dad, and I all helped as much as possible. We started into camp around 2 pm and made the 16 miles in about 4 hours. The horses were awesome, I can't say it enough. For the entire trip, the horses were amazing. They were sure-footed, gentle, and could go anywhere. My dad and I were very impressed. After getting into camp we got our gear into our tent and then we fmally got to meet Mickey and Bob (our cook). They had both stayed in camp. We had a great meal that night, Lonnie grilled steaks off the woodstove while Bob put the fmishing touches on spuds and vegetables. We went to bed that night and I couldn't believe after months and months of waiting it was almost time to start hunting.
After breakfast the next morning, my dad and I got on our horses and Lonnie led us toward the Yellowstone border to start our hunt. After about 90 minutes of riding, we were off our horses giving them a rest, when Lonnie spotted elk way back on a ridge above camp. Sixteen cows and a big bull. Quite honestly, even with my Nikon binoculars, I could see spots moving but could not make out the horns at all. Lonnie never even hesitated. 'Well, we're heading back after that bull,' he said. When we got back to camp, he told us to strip down to only the bare essentials as the horses would only take us so far, then we would have to put on a stalk.
We took off on the horses and after about 50 minutes of going up a steep ridge, he thought that we had taken the horses as far as we could risk it. We grabbed our gear and rifles, picketed the horses, and trekked up the ridge. As we worked our way up, Lonnie told us to stay right on his tail and when we headed up to crest the skyline of the ridge to look into the bowl, we low-crawled so we wouldn't skyline ourselves. Right as Lonnie took his binoculars to look around a tree to view the upper bowl. A cow elk was looking right at him about 500 yards away. We spent the next 15 minutes slowly working our way out in the prone position on the slope and started scopihg and glassing for the bull. For the next 25 minutes, cows would feed out and then slip out of sight over the upper ridge. We were seeing anywhere from 3-7 cows at a time, but no bull. Finally at about the 40 minute mark, Lonnie spotted the bull as he came over the ridge. 'There he is,' he whispered. The only problem was that he was in thick brush. Lonnie talked me through the distance.
'450 yards, but I don't want you taking a shot unless he's in the open and has stopped,'. From where the bull stood, there was about a 4-foot opening to the right, then more brush, and then it was open for 30-40 yards. The bull finally started moving and went through the first opening but never stopped. I had my crosshairs on him the whole way, but listened to Lonnie and never shot since he kept moving into the next brushy area. Lonnie whispered to be ready, and reassured me that he'll come out eventually. As luck would have it, the bull slipped out over the ridge and I was devastated. The cows had remained though, so we waited for 3 more hours. We watched the cows as they ate and rested until finally, we could only see one cow left and just her head at the top of the ridge. It was getting close to 4 o'clock, and we hadn't eaten since breakfast. We couldn't risk moving though, but all our necks were sore from looking up at a sharp angle from the prone position. Suddenly, 3 cows came over the upper ridge and moved across, quickly feeding as they went. They were soon followed by 3-4 more cows. The herd was on the move. Lonnie whispered to be ready, 'he'll be coming'. All sixteen cows now were out feeding, but still no bull, until suddenly, he appeared in the same bushy area he first showed up in.
Lonnie warned that the bull was coming across this time. I locked in on his body, trying not to look at his horns so I didn't get 'elk fever'. I was cold and shivering anyway. Finally, he moved across the first opening, but didn't stop until he was in the second brush patch. Lonnie repeated the fact that he was coming across this time, and warned me to be ready but wait until he stops. He finally took about 6-7 steps into the big opening and stopped. My crosshairs were right even with the top of his shoulders and slightly behind them the whole way. As soon as he stopped, I touched my Remington 700 300 ultra mag off. I saw the bull jump up and cows fly by in my scope. 1 jacked another shell and was still locked right on him and touched off another round. The bull whirled to the left and I could hear him crashing through brush. I had jacked in another Nosler partition 180 grain, and as he came through an opening, I fired another shot. He turned uphill and went 4 or 5 steps, until he fell by a windfall.
Lonnie and I watched for 2-3 minutes to make sure he was dead. We high-fived. Honestly, I could have never shot this elk without Lonnie. A lot of guides wouldn't have even changed plans after seeing those elk 2 miles away, especially when we were almost at the area where we were supposed to hunt. Not only that, but he had the patience to wait an extra 4 hours hoping he'd come. I know I couldn't have done it without him or my dad either. My dad has taken me hunting since I was a little kid, and just for him and me to be together for a trip like this was awesome. Crandall Creek Outfitters (Corey and Mickey) were great, the horses were first class, and Bob and the food were amazing. Well the elk's down and now the work truly begins, better get to it.