That night it started snowing at 1 in the morning. I’m sure Clayton was busy dreaming of bugling elk and I was busy worrying about getting my vehicle back down the mountain the next day in the deep snow. I finally made the decision in the dark to drive the vehicle back down the trail to a spot that would be more manageable if the snow got deep. Just as I turned the car around, I spotted a giant 6pt. bull and 3 cows right in the middle of the old road making their way down the canyon in front of the snowstorm. Luckily Clayton was awake to see this it only heightened our excitement and anticipation for the coming morning.
I woke up early enough to get the car heated up and cook us some warm breakfast. I knew it was going to be a slower moving morning as cold and wet as it was. I was hoping the snow would stop, but it only got more intense. Unfortunately our bugles and cow calls that morning fell on deaf ears. We hiked around the face of the mountain for another couple of hours and finally had to hunker down under some large trees to escape the snow and wind. We finally got so cold I decided that we needed to head back to the vehicle to dry out and make another plan. After drying out for an hour or so and replenishing a few burned calories, I remembered an old logging road that I had hunted during muzzleloader season and decided to make that our path for the afternoon.
We bugled our way down the logging road with no response over a 3-mile section. Suddenly the road ended with a large downed tree. By now the sun was shining and the temperature had gone from 30 deg. Fahrenheit to 50. Since it was mid-day, we were both hungry and we decided to break out the mountain houses for lunch. But before I starting boiling our water, I told Clayton to let out a little cow call. No sooner had he finished his call when a lonely cow call came from directly below us, about 100 yards. I looked at Clayton and told him to quickly grab his bow. We rushed down the path another 20 yards and found a spot where he could stand just off the trail and be positioned 10 yards above the only opening in the thick brush below. I told him I would go up the hill behind him and position myself 30 yards or so above in a triangle format. I told him to be patient and I would call her in to that opening. I’m not sure why I felt so confident in my plan at that point. I’m sure it had something to do with all of the elk university education, past experiences and preparation, but I was sure it was going to play out just like that. I got into position where I could still see Clayton below me so I could watch his movements and know when the elk was coming. The last thing I told him was to make sure and draw back before the elk stepped out into the opening. I told him he would not be able to move once she stepped out because of her close proximity. I continued to cow call and could hear her breaking branches and twigs as she made her way towards us. Clayton looked back at me and pointed to his ear, indicating that she was very close. Just then, I saw him draw back his bow. He held that position for a good 45 seconds before releasing the arrow. I will never forget the sound I hard next. It’s that sound that every archery elk hunter is listening for when their arrow strikes perfectly and you know it was a kill shot. We both knew it was over, but we couldn’t yell out loud at that point for fear of pushing her down the mountain too far. We just faced each other, fists and arms pumping in the air knowing we had accomplished something that few Fathers and Sons get to experience together. A little patience, and two mountain house meals later we followed a short blood trail to find her final resting place at the edge of a beautiful overlook in one of the greatest States in America. This was a September to remember and an experience that will last us both a lifetime. We can’t wait for the next one!