Elk Hunting 1998
Sunday morning it was cold and clear (5 to 7 Degrees F.). We went back to the area we found Saturday and went walking around. Each of us found a spot where we could overlook a clearing which had elk tracks running through it. We would check in by radio every hour on the hour. At about 8:30 it started snowing. Snow started stacking up on me. Sometimes I walked to get warm, sometimes I sat. After a while, I got cold and walked the mile back to the truck to warm up. The GPS device would give a bearing to the truck. It is a nice backup to navigating by landmarks. Kevin came back and met me by the truck and we warmed up some soup for an early lunch. Neither of us saw anything all morning, so we decided to drive around some more. It started really snowing in the Flagstaff area by noon, we did not see any other hunters. Usually there are road hunters driving down the road waiting to see an elk. They jump out of the truck and off the road and take the shot. I don't like to hunt like that. It was snowing hard enough that we could only see 50 yards or so, so the chances of seeing an elk were pretty small. We figured we could go home and then come back during the week. On the way home we got caught in a traffic tie up about 40 miles south of Flagstaff. 4 semi's had turned over and a bunch of cars piled into them. At least that is what we were told. There were about 3 miles of cars between us and the accident. The road was so slick that when Kevin got out to go talk to a trucker, he fell on his butt. We were near a turnaround and there were no cars coming the other way. Rumor was that I17 was closed in both directions. We got across the median and took Snebly Hill road to Sedona. I had been driving on bad snowy roads all day, so it did not bother me. Also, I had enough chains for all four wheels, a farm jack, tow chain, pick, shovel, and a come along. Everything went well till we started down into Sedona. There was a kid there who tried to take his all wheel drive Audi up the road. I guess he did not realize there is a difference between 4 wheel drive in an Audi and 4 wheel drive in an F250. He was stuck at a spot where the road goes around the corner and there is a wall on one side and a cliff on the other. It was so slippery that I fell over when I got out of the truck even though I was prepared for it to be slippery. There were 3 trucks trying to go up hill and three coming downhill with the kid sideways in the middle. The car would slide as soon as you touched the brakes and we did not want to drop the car off the cliff. We wanted to turn the car so it was pointing back downhill towards Sedona. I was near the front of the car and holding onto the drivers side support between the side window and the windshield and the front quarter-panel. When he touched the brakes after trying to go forward, the car started to slide. I was able to slide the front end sideways till the car was pointing the right way. Once we had him pointing the right way, the three uphill trucks backed up to a wide spot in the road. The Audi and the downhill trucks went through first. When I started to get the truck moving I was in low range and even without pushing in the clutch, if I touched the brake, I started to slide. I eventually got past the slippery place and we got rolling again. We got on the freeway near Camp Verde and made it back home. It was snowing all the way to Phoenix.
On Wednesday, Kevin wanted to go back out. The last day of the hunt was Thursday. I really did not want to go, but Kevin is my friend, so out I went. We left Phoenix at 3:00 am and got into the area we wanted to hunt about 6:30 am. We sat in the truck and shot the breeze till sun up. Just as it was starting to get light, Kevin saw some motion. It was a herd of about 30 Elk. I could not see them even though they were passing on my side of the truck. Kevin grabbed one round and stepped out of the truck with his rifle. As soon as the door opened and the dome light went on, the elk started running. They were about 130 yards out. Kevin put the round in the rifle, racked the bolt closed, and put on the safety. Proves that you do what you practice. He keep looking at the elk till one stopped for a second. Kevin pulled the trigger and nothing happened. Then he took the safety off and spotted the elk again. He fired at it and it took off. He went to try to track it. I got my gear and went to follow him. Now 30 Elk make a bunch of footprints and they don't all walk in a straight line. We did not find any blood. We trailed the elk for about a mile though we were not in eyesight of each other. They would split into groups and then come back together. I would see Kevin's tracks and follow a different group of tracks. We had 2 way radios on and eventually we gave up.
I started back for the area where I like to sit. I was in a thick bunch of trees when I saw movement. There was an elk walking along the edge of the clearing. I got ready and looked for a path through the trees where I might get a shot. There was a corridor in the trees that the elk would walk across if it kept going the way it was going, so I got ready and waited. When the elk got to the opening, it stopped and looked at me. It was the perfect shot. I remember saying in my mind, "Squeeze like a Lemon." The gun went off on 'L'. The elk staggered a bit and took off. I walked to where it was to begin tracking it in the snow. I walked about a half dozen paces when I saw the elk laying down. From the way it plowed the snow, it must have just dropped while running. It had gone 18 yards (I later measured) from where it was shot. I was 42 yards away from the elk when I took the shot. By that time I had about a quart of adrenaline running through my veins. I was trying to remember everything I read or was told about what to do after you get a deer or elk or whatever. Too bad I did not have all the cleaning gear with me. After all these years of getting skunked, I had stopped carrying it. I had never used it and it was heavy and without it I could carry extra snacks which I could use. Oh well, now what? First I just sat down on a stump about 10 feet from the elk and waited for a few minutes. It didn't move, it didn't appear to be breathing. Ok, now I remember you are supposed to go and touch the eyeball with the tip of the gun. If it is alive, it will move. Nope, didn't move. You are also supposed to go and kick it in the butt. Sometimes the muscles are in some kind of tense mode and will fire when you start to clean them and kick your guts out. Ok, nothing happened. Ok, now I need to tag the elk. I read the instructions on the tag and put the tag on. I wonder where the bullet went in? I rolled the elk over to expose the right side and found the entrance hole. I also realized that the front right leg was broken. There was no exit hole on the left side. Must have hit something pretty solid for the 338 Winchester Magnum not to go all the way through. Oh, better turn on the radio. After a few seconds I hear Kevin, "Bob, are you out there?" "Kevin, did your hear anything?" "Yea, I heard a shot from your direction." "Hey Kevin, I am standing over a dead elk that I just shot." I guess the way I said it, it sounded like I was emphasizing that this was an elk I shot, not the one he shot. I said, "Wait a minute." I checked the left side of the elk for entrance holes and found none. "Kevin, I just double checked, there is an entrance hole on the right side and none on the left." Kevin said, "Ok, I'll check back with you in a half hour." Ok, now what do I do? I guess I am supposed to gut it right away. The truck is a long ways off. What do I have with me? My Stanley knife. I suppose I can get started with that. Doing the best to remember all the things I was ever told about cleaning game, I cleaned the elk with the Stanley knife. This included splitting the sternum and the pelvic bone. I saved half the heart and the liver from the guts. Turns out, my shot broke the right front leg on the elk and tore off the top of the heart. The elk probably lost consciousness in about 3 seconds. That's why it did not go very far. I figure God must have felt sorry for me an given me that elk. It was at close range and it stopped for me to shoot at it. Now what do I do? I have to get the elk back to the truck or get the truck to the elk. Well, how heavy is an elk? I grabbed the elk and dragged it by it's hind legs back to the clearing where I shot it.. 18 yards was a long haul. The elk is heavy. I better go back to the truck and get some rope to make a sling. The normal way back to the truck from here is an L shaped walk which is good for hunting but bad for dragging an elk. Lots of boulders to go over. Maybe I can find a direct route back to the truck. So I take off in the general direction of the truck and leave the elk. Oddly enough, I beat a pretty straight line back to the truck. I guess when you need to, you can. Swapped my rifle for the rope, my pistol for the big canteen. I took the sling off the rifle in hopes that I could use it in dragging the elk. I followed my tracks back to the elk watching for some easier walking areas. It was 700 yards from the truck to the elk. I tried several iterations of building a sling when I heard Kevin on the radio (I had forgotten to turn it off). He was coming over to my area, but did not know exactly where I was. He asked me if I could see a tall tree from where I was. "Kevin, I can see 500 tall trees from here!" Then I caught sight of some orange through the trees. "Kevin, I don't know about the tree, but I can see you." "Am I facing towards you?" "I don't know, I can only see a little bit of orange through the trees." Well, after about 5 minutes of fooling around, I finally got to where Kevin could see me. Kevin had been walking a big arc to the area I was in. When he got to the clearing I like to sit in, he fell through the ice into a mushy spot. Then he took a hard fall. Banged his hand on a rock under the snow. We were walking to the elk and Kevin told me he was feeling nausious. That could mean he was hurt more seriously. Fortunately I still had my boat cushion with me. I carry a red boat cushion around with me to sit on. It is a bother, but it beats sitting in the snow. I sat Kevin down on the cushion and gave him my hand warmer. This way he had two. He told me that the road was only about 100 yards northeast of where we were. This seemed a little strange, since I walk around this area quit a bit. Well, I found the road 600 yards out and it was a worse walk than going back to the truck. Kevin felt better and met me when I was walking back to the elk. Kevin started to help me drag the elk back, but I told him to go hunt and I would call him if I needed help. Kevin took off and I started dragging the elk with my sling version 3.0. I stopped to rest and drink water a lot. I went through most of the gallon of water. When I got back to the truck with the elk, I dug out Kevin's cell phone. I called Loretta to tell her I got the elk. Then I used the come along to hoist the elk up into a tree to cool off faster. Wow, the elk is by the truck. I started the propane stove to have some soup.
I was sitting waiting for the water to get hot and I heard Kevin call. I looked up and he was walking towards the truck and he said "So, you going to help me drag my elk in or what?" I just looked at him real close, I did not hear any shooting and Kevin likes to kid around, but I could not see how this could be funny. I looked at his face and said "Your serious." After Kevin had left me, he walked in a large arc looking for elk tracks. He actually was a little confused about where he was. I think this was Kevin's day to get lost. He managed to get lost 2 or 3 times that day. He was walking along when he thought he saw an elk sitting down, so he started to creep up on it. Then he pulled out his binoculars. Both Kevin and I have snuck up on our share of rocks and stumps. "Yep, that is really an elk", Getting closer ..... "Wait a minute, that elk has its head on the ground, they don't sleep like that." "Holy cow, someone shot an elk and left it out here." "It can't be the elk I shot since I am far from the truck." With that Kevin looked up and saw the tailgate of the truck. He claims I was dancing around my elk and making strange noises, but I don't remember that part. Kevin made a very wide stomping path back to the truck so we could follow the footprints back. We cleaned his elk. I helped since I was now the expert. My Stanley knife was still sharp. Kevin backtracked the elk to see how we had missed it. The elk had run with the group for about 70 yards and then made a right turn. It went another 50 feet and dropped over dead. We did not notice the one set of footprints which turned off from the pack. Also, the elk was somewhat hidden. I dragged my elk within 25 yards of the Kevin's elk and did not see it. Of course, by that time I was concentrating on the truck and was pretty tired. We had shot the two elk within 20 minutes of each other and by 1:00 in the afternoon had them hanging up. We gave the matter some thought and decided to skin the elks. It helps the meat to cool faster and they charge $45 at the butcher shop to skin them. Kevin had a fancy skinning knife, but my Stanley knife worked just as good, maybe better. We drove back to Phoenix and left the meat at McCagno's butcher shop. They are known for doing a good job with game. The meat should be ready between Christmas and New years. I had Loretta cook the heart in a sour cream gravy that Mom had the recipe for. It is the same one we used to use for deer heart. Loretta was apprehensive at first, but decided it smelled really good. It was good. We even got the kids to eat it.
The meat came back and was really good. Normally game meet is, well, not beef. This was really good. It had the flavor of beef, was very tender, and much leaner than beef. Good stuff. We also had some Salami and some Slim Jims made from the meat. That was real good. I did not want to waste anything, so we had to figure out what to do with the hide. It costs about $200 to tan the hide and then exactly what do you have? A hairy rug? I salted both hides to preserve them till we could decide what to do. I talked to some of the hunters at work and found out one of the ladies at work, who is a Navaho Indian, has family which still lives on the reservation. They make use of the skins in ceremonies and for other things. I talked to her and gave her the hides to take to her family. This way nothing was wasted. This year we did not get drawn to hunt. Better luck next millenium.