We have a program here in Washington State that is called Master Hunter. This program you have to master a weapon/s, dedicate 20 hrs for the 5 year period to conservation and take a test. After you do all this you get chances to haze elk/deer and a few tags. Since I got in the program it has changed a bit. I wanted to do this for myself, get more involved with helping. Since I’m a Hunter Ed instructor I get my time in pretty easy.
Over the years I have but in for the Master Hunter tags. I have gotten a deer, moose and a couple of elk tags. These tags are for depredation and the requirements are 1) antlerless; 2) you have to be called by a WDFW employee to hunt and 3) there are a couple more that I won’t go into here. I have never got a call on all the other tags except this year. I finally got a call. With that excitement, the WDFW employee asked when I could hunt and how many days. We then made a plan to meet and she would take me out to meet the farmer and give me a map of what area I could hunt. The farmer was having a problem with a couple of local herds destroying his fence. Now after meeting the farmer and getting the lay of the land, the hunt was on. I walked around the fenced in area to find were the elk are coming into the different fields and find spots I could use as cover to sneak into the fields to get a shot. Remember, I could only hunt in the fields and the woods behind the area were off limits. I had to wait for the elk to come into the fields, hence finding an ambush spot.
Well day one has passed without a sighting of elk in the fields. Okay, the fields I could hunt. We found out that this was a morning and evening hunt. So, there wasn’t much to do during the day. There was a small town that had a general store and a couple of fast food joints…but again not much going on. There was a lot of boredom.
Day two, I head out by myself and drive down the road looking in the fields I could hunt. I get to the last one and elk are in the field. I parked my truck; grab my pack and rifle and head to the spot I know I can get a shot at this group of 8. I walk through the trees as quiet as possible. I know at the edge it will open up for a shot. Getting closer to the edge, looking through branches with my binos…trying to find them. I get to the edge and they are gone. Not sure If I scared them off or they moved out. I did a bit of scouting in hopes to find them back in there that night. Now off to town to get some food and water, I didn’t pack accordingly the night before. Now the 6 hour nap!!! My buddy came out to help that evening and we sat and watched empty fields till it was getting last light. I noticed an elk in a field I could hunt. So I watch and it turns out be a bull then another bull pops out (3pt and 4pt). With heart in throat now, I make a bee line to the edge of trees with grand hopes of the cows following into the field I could hunt. They stopped and enjoyed their time in that field till dark. Now I’m head back home wondering what tomorrow will bring.
After driving the last two days the 2 hours to the field and then back home, I decided to stay home in the morning and head out there about 1ish. I had a buddy that I was going to help teach how to reload some of his 308 WIN ammo. We got that all done and now time to pack. Oh wait, I left most of the stuff in the truck and I just had to put gun in, change into my hunting clothes, put boots on and head to the field. Should I stop to get something to eat? Should I wait to get gas on the way back home? NO! Straight to the fields is the answer. I make the same drive I did the morning before. I see elk almost in the same spot I did the night before. I park the truck the same way and grab the same stuff, and heart in throat again but in hopes of a different outcome. I head to the same spot I found and stay back in the trees to help hide me and my orange vest. My thoughts are that the elk will come two ways into the field, 1) just keep following their path and come lower in the field or 2) cut through the trees and be higher in the field. Either way I was set. They picked the higher path and put a cow at about 200 yards from me. Another one runs into the field and one is still hanging in the trees behind them. I figure that if I wait too long they might just pass through the field I will miss my opportunity. I settled the crosshairs on her take a deep breath and unleashed the 140gr TTSX bullet. They scattered and now I’m not sure which one she is. I know I hit her. So I wait for a bit, calm the heartbeat and fold up the shooting sticks.
In the field there is a bit of a hill that they ran behind, so I circle below so I can see back up there. Binos glue to the eyes and pointed in the direction they ran I see her on the ground. She expired and I walk up to poke her with my rifle. The beast is dead and I show a little reverence to her and say a little prayer. Thank you for this great creature and sharing it with me in life and death. Notch the tag about 3:45pm and start the process of getting her out. I was going to bone her out but I wasn’t allowed to leave anything in the field except the gut pile.
I won’t go into all the details I used to get her out, but a couple of things I had to do. I end up cutting on of the front should off and packing that, my pack and rifle back to truck. I unloaded my cart and headed back up to her. I then cut the hind end off and loaded it on to cart. This is where it got fun. I had to cross a creek and a fence. Push cart into creek, lift hind off the cart and under fence, then cart over fence and hind back onto cart. I had to cross through some trees that the cut the lower branches off, not a bad thing for the trees…but it sucked for me. They kept getting into the spokes of the cart. Then lift the hind into the back of the truck (and it wasn’t easy). Well I head back to get the back and rib cage with the same results all the way back to the truck. One last trip; the hide, the head and the other front quarter to truck and then I are done.
Everything in truck and it is 6:30 pm, I’m soaked in blood and hungry. I am on the road home but need to stop and get gas. How does a guy go into the gas station covered in blood, an elk in the back of the truck and get gas? You just do it. I called the butcher and he is ready for the elk when I get there. Call the girlfriend and she has food when I get home (thank you sweetheart).
Just another adventure I had. I learned a lot. I know that packing an elk out is nuts but doable when you are alone. This old guy will be better prepared. Best of all, the 7mm I built worked awesome and soon with have a new home with my son. Please remember to be responsible, ethical and teach them right.