Joe and I set out one afternoon with the horses to a nearby spot that we have been to years prior and have seen elk and does, but never any bucks within range. Actually, I think the biggest bull elk I’ve ever seen was very near this unlikely elk location. It’s a pretty quick ride in, about an hour of climbing up, to a great ridge-top spot with multiple vantage points. Just as we were approaching where we tie up, I saw a buck about 30 yards from me freeze in the trees, then bound away before I could even get off my horses. From the angle I saw it, it almost looked like a big whitetail, which was unlikely given the area. So we tied up and glassed from the hilltop. After watching several does come out over quite some time, we started on foot in the opposite direction toward where the buck had gone an hour earlier. We got into a nice clearing that was perfect deer habitat. Joe suddenly spotted a buck and some does on the opposite side now at a dead run away from us; they had heard us coming. He fired off two quick shots as the deer climbed up onto a ridge and disappeared. I headed after the deer as Joe turned around to walk back and get the horses and more ammo, about 10 minutes away. I climbed up to a ridge line and started walking along the top, scanning for deer. Looking through my binoculars, I saw a doe, and then to my surprise, the buck appeared behind it! I had a shot, but an awkward one, through tree branches, and quite some distance away. I took the shot and missed, sending the deer back down the way we had come, off the ridge and into the clearing. If they had run the other way they would have been long gone. So I set off at a run, parallel to them to them, jumping through sagebrush over rolling hills. I got to a spot where I could bend down and get steady on my knee. I prefer to shoot lying down, but it was not possible due to the lay of the land. The deer all stopped and looked at me. I had the buck broadside, took a deep breath, and took my shot. The other deer ran off up the hillside and since I didn’t see the buck with him, I thought I’d hit him, but wasn’t positive. Joe was watching the scene unfold from up on the hillside above the clearing. I walked down to where I thought I’d seen him last, and my shot had been good, through the heart.
We gutted and quartered the buck and it took all we had to get it up onto Strawberry right at dusk. We rode out and as the sky turned to night, we found ourselves riding underneath the most beautiful, huge, bright full moon back to the pickup.