I didn’t realise it at the time, but watching the fly fishing film ‘A river runs through it’ set the seed for me to hunt an Elk on public land in Montana.
It was on a visit to Rock Creek in 2008 (during the Salmon Fly Hatch!) the owner of the accommodation invited me out shooting prairie dogs, his enthusiasm for hunting elk on public land stirred up my own passion for hunting in Montana, it was at that moment I realised it was a dream I wanted to fulfil one day.
After lots of planning, emails, pm’s etc I made the long journey from the UK to Montana in 2012 with my big game Elk/Deer combo.
I was joined by a fellow hunter from the UK, whilst I had got myself in pretty good shape for a 52 year old, sadly my partner struggled in the harsh conditions that the mountains of the Madisons threw at us, high elevation,-23c and heavy snow forced him to retire, the only Elk I saw was when I ventured high and on my own, and then only cows, I did find lots of Wolf and Bear tracks!
But we did find some Mule deer in 2012.
As soon as I returned to the UK I told my wife I would return bi-annually until I got an Elk or dropped down dead doing it, that decision did not go down too well with her but I am very fortunate to have a great understanding wife.
My rifle arrived a day late from the flight over, I then headed down to my Elk hunt to rendezvous with my hunting partners, one from Montana and the other 2 from Texas on their first Elk hunt, I felt very guilty as it was the day before rifle opener and I was supposed to be scouting with them, but the jaded faces of the Texans told me the resident Montanan had walked their butts off!
So in the pitch black on opening morning off we ventured (into the unknown for me), a nice bull had been seen the previous day and other Elk in the vicinity. The 2 Texans decided to head off on their own, I joined the ‘local’ and off we set, after a couple of miles he dropped to his knees, he whispered ‘Elk in the timber’, now I know I am lacking in experience in Elk hunting but I was damned if I could see it, he slowly raised his bino’s again and although the wind direction was fine the Elk had melted away (in the timber the 6x6 bull was shot the day after) silently never to be seen by us again.
So onwards and upwards we walked, in the background we listened to volleys of rifle shots coming from the direction of the outfitters location a few miles over.
At 1.00 pm we decided to rest and eat some food, glassing the drainages all the time, I said to my buddy ‘I need to take a leak’ I was in full flow when something caught my eye on top of the drainage, 3 Elk heading our way, a cow, spike and a drop tined bull, I’m still not sure in my excitement if I put my ***** away as I turned quickly and grabbed my rifle!
Chambered a round and ranged them as they got to the bottom of the drainage at 400 yards, then they went into thick timber, but I thought they must come up through where we were waiting, got the bipod up and waited, sure enough up came the spike, he did a couple of turns and brought the other 2 with him, they walked slowly but had their butts facing me (the Texans might have liked that shot!) but the gods were smiling, they turned broadside, I heard a whisper in my ear ‘231 yards, it’s legal’ I didn’t need telling twice as I had already told myself I was going to shoot the first legal bull I saw, it was a solid hit, it ran 50 yards and fell over stone dead, the bullet took out half its heart and part of the lung, only you guys can appreciate the elation I felt at getting my first Elk and the generosity of my hunting partner letting me shoot it when he could so easily have done it himself, thanks buddy.
Boy it was hard work packing it out, I felt as I shot it I should carry the most, not the best decision I have ever made, once I sat down it took 3 guys to get me back on my feet!
The hunt didn’t finish there, I joined up with another Montanan I met in 2012, we found a great little area of BMA land out East, and whilst not a record breaker it worked for me.