September 14: Bill Gadient

The story of this elk hunt started three seasons ago when we first contacted Ted Jenkins of Jenkins Hunting Camp in Wyoming. After a few phone calls the stage was set for us to give elk hunting another shot, the plan was for me to hunt the first year and Dave the following and we would alternate from that point on. Little did I know that it would take us three seasons and countless close calls before we would sample the sweet taste of success. Going in to this hunt Dave and I had many chats about blown opportunities of the previous two seasons where a branch, or a swirling wind, or poor camera angle prematurely ended a hunt. Our prayers were for one good opportunity at a good bull. So it was with some apprehension that we pulled into camp on the night of September 11th wondering what might happen to send us home empty handed again. All that being said Ted and Larry had put us on bulls everyday in the past, so they were holding up their end of the bargain, the pressure was on us to carry our share of the load.

On day one we headed across the valley on horseback to some large meadows that looked like a poster picture for the ideal elk habitat, problem was we didn't hear a single bull all day. Funny how only eight hours into a five day hunt and you can find yourself ready to write it of as another western trip down the tubes. it was the first day in three seasons with Jenkins Hunting Camp that we didn't have a single encounter.

On day two we awoke to a breakfast that was five star all the way, such is every meal in camp, if there is a way to make high country wall tent elk hunting five star, Jenkins figured it out. After breakfast we headed down the valley for much steeper and taxing workout than the previous day. We no sooner entered the dark timber and it came alive with several bulls sounding off in what I would call the greatest sound in nature. Few sounds can stir more emotions than a bugling bull it really is the pinnacle of wildlife sounds. A short ways up the mountain we had a 280 class bull race in only to get me at full draw while he stood behind a branch at 15 yards. Another heartbreaker that was short lived because a short 20 minutes later we had a 320 class bull get the better of a small pine tree and get the better of me when he stopped behind a tree at 22 yards with his chest guarded by another branch. It was at this point I reminded Ted that when we deer hunt we cut shooting lanes and suggested he spend the next summer trimming the forest for us. Now after a short lunch we were on our feet and hunting again. About a half hour in to the afternoon we once again found ourselves in a battle of wits with a bull that would go about 250, and once again he managed to place himself behind a limb while a stood there at full draw within 20 yards. Our prayers were for one opportunity and in a five hour period I had three different bulls inside of 25 yards, full drawn on all and couldn't get it done. when that was all said and done we managed to call in two elk calves to within 18 inches of us, standing motionless while they sniffed around and tried to figure out just exactly what we were. By now I had determined that this was probably the greatest day in elk hunting without an elk actually being harvested.

The only way to top what had happened on day two was to notch my Wyoming elk tag and that brings us to day three, September 14th, the day I shed that 1000 pound gorilla from my back, the day that reconciled all the let downs from the previous two seasons, the day that may very well be my greatest day in the elk woods, because it is the day I killed my fist bull. We headed back in to same intimidating slope from the day before but from the bottom side and the bull were calling all on their own at sunrise so we were able to locate them quickly. But things turned for the worse when they shut up after we reached them on a high shelf half way up the mountain side. We all wondered if we maybe made the wrong choice when right above us a bull gave us a short squeal, it wasn't the most convincing bugle but it was one non the less. Knowing he was close we found the closest cluster of trees and made our stand. I noticed a few cows being pushed around ahead of us and was certain a bull was right there with them. Ted and Larry made a few calls from behind and we waited for a response. A moment later I saw him standing in a lane peering in our direction looking for the cows that had got him so fired up. The bull almost burned holes through me as he starred at us, at the same time I stood motionless waiting for the right moment to up the ante and to ratchet this up to the next level. At about that same moment Larry offered him a soft cow call and it was all we needed to call his bluff, the love sick bull came in half running dripping with mud to 10 yards and stopped broadside while I drew and readied my bow. By then it was to late, the arrow was on its way, making its trip in the blink of an eye, disappearing behind the bulls shoulder, erasing all those gut wrenching let downs that almost seemed the norm for Dave and I, deflating him and at the same time lifting me to the greatest feeling a hunter can have, the feeling of success.

This journey was three years going on 30, one I will always rank as one of my finest. the bull wasn't the biggest, in fact he was the smallest of the four we called in over that day and a half, but he was mine and that was plenty good for me. Along the way I made some great friends in Ted Larry and all the great people at Jenkins Hunting Camp and look forward to being there again next fall when Dave gets his chance to experience what I got to and to hear the greatest sound in nature.