This past week I had the pleasure of taking my dad on a four day archery elk hunting trip at a private ranch in Idaho along the Idaho-Wyoming boarder. The trip was both exciting, challenging, successful and exhausting. But most of all it was a once in a life time trip with my dad.
The trip did not start out clicking on all cylinders. I arrived at my dad’s home in Nyssa, Ore., right on the Snake River about 50 miles from Boise, Idaho.
My dad pulled his bow back and a cable on his compound bow broke. Yikes…. We called a place and it was repaired and back to us within 24 hours. After we got it back I pushed him out the door to practice, 20 yards, 30 yards and 40 yards. He could only pull the bow back two or three times and then he needed to rest for an hour or so. But, we were able to get his bow sighted in and ready for the trip.
Next came the trailer we were taking to haul our elk back should we be successful. We needed to change the electrical connection for lights on the trailer to match my vehicles receptor. I had already purchased the new connector. Cutting and reconnecting the wires was the easy part, well, sort of.
The first time, after completing the rewiring, the wires were one inch short of plugging into my vehicle. So, we did it again, added a bunch of wire and finally things plugged in. Then we had to go and buy new tail lights and bulbs for the trailer as nothing seemed to work, we ran tests so we were getting power to the lights.
What was a one hour project was finished about six hours later.
I had been following the weather near the hunting lodge which sits at 7,200 feet. The forecast was for potential snow, very cold and windy, not a good combination for my dad at 75 years old. He complained the entire time we were shopping for longjohns and heavier cloths.
It was 80 degrees the day we were shopping and he just knew I was crazy. But, he did buy much warmer cloths that he could layer and remove if the weather permitted. OK, if I was WRONG.
We left mid-morning on the nearly six-hour drive south first to Twin Falls, then Pocatello, north to Idaho Falls, Rexburg, Sugar City and finally Rocky Mountain Elk Ranch; beautiful morning, not a cloud in the sky… until Twin Falls.
It was starting to get cloudy and by Pocatello it was snowing lightly. By Rexburg we had a couple inches on the ground. We started up the mountain to the lodge (7,200 feet remember) and the snow continued to get heavier and heavier and it was snowing very hard. We got to within 100 yards of the lodge, pushing snow with our front bumper, and we slide off the now snow covered dirt road and we were STUCK. The staff came out and helped us get a few things out of the Jeep and up to the lodge. They tried and tried to get us back on the road, but there was just too much snow and too little traction. It was going to stay there over night.
The lodge is beautiful, www.rockeymountainelkranch.com, if you want to check it out online. We were introduced to our cook, Jaci and our guide Jerrin. After warming our toes and drying our boots at the fire Jaci prepared an excellent elk loin dinner with potatoes and gravy, then it was off to bed as morning was coming very quickly.
At 5:30 a.m. there was eight inches of snow on the ground, the tempature was 22 degrees with a 10-15 mph wind. I was layered and bundled up. Dad, well, lets just say he was very glad he had purchased the warmer undergarments and for once I was right. IT WAS #%^@ COLD.
We looked at each other with this puzzled look and finally I said, “not sure if I can shoot my bow with all these clothes on.” My father was thinking the same thing.
The game plan for the morning was to take four-wheelers up the mountain to a thicket and sit in a tree stand on a trail while the guide would search for elk and see if he could drive them by our tree stand. I am not sure if I can explain how cold it was riding the four-wheeler and then sitting motionless in a stand for three hours.
We did have a huge bull walk into our stand area, but my dad was so cold and stiff he could not even make an attempt at the elk. My plan was to let my dad get his shot before I took mine. We finally climbed out of the stand and made our way to the lodge to get warm and have some lunch.
After lunch Jerrin thought we could set my dad up on a trail at the bottom of a thick draw where the elk tend to bed down and we would walk the trail and see if we could push out a big bull to him. Worked perfectly, six big bull elk came out on the trail 20 yards from my dad’s blind. I watched as he pulled down and made his shot. A little too far back for a perfect shot, but a good shot just the same. Ah, success, high fives, hugs and thank yous. Now the work really begins.
We had to find a way to get this 900 pound animal out of the woods, on a trailer, prep it for the butcher. Jerrin did most of the work, but it was still very difficult work.
At 5:30 a.m. the next day was now my turn. The plan was to sit on the same tree stand, but it was much too cold for dad to do that again so he sat in the Jeep. Once I was in the tree stand I ran through a few practice shots, not actually releasing an arrow, but just checking to see what shooting lanes I had, could I pull my bow and release an arrow sitting or would I need to stand.
I got out my range finder and checked the distance of several trees so I would know my yardage. I was ready, now just sit and wait. OK, hope, pray, all that stuff.
About an hour later I watched 10 large bull elk pass below me with no opportunity for a shot. About 30 minutes later a large six by five bull elk was trying to decide if he was going pass though the thicket I was concealed in. Seemed like he pondered the idea, frozen in his tracks for several minutes, my heart pounding as I watched.
They are a very cautious animal, a few steps, stop and listen again and again. Finally, the elk was with in my range. I was trying to collect my emotions, relax, breath, concentrate and NOT make a sound. Evidently, I was able to do all this as my shot was perfect.
The huge beautiful animal did not travel 100 yards after the shot. Wow, success number two.
I found my guide, rode the four-wheeler to my dad, picked him up and we went back to where, as I mentioned before, the real work starts. It took us nearly three hours to get him out of the woods and on the trailer to head back to the lodge.
What an experience. My dad and I have been hunting together for more than 40 years. My first big game animal was an antelope when I was 12. My dad built the gun from scratch and I used that gun for the next eight years until we decided to put the guns away and start hunting via the bow and arrow. As technology has changed it allowed my dad to continue archery hunting. But, as he grew older the days are counting down as to how many more times he will be able to pull the poundage required for hunting.
If this was the last year of archery hunting together it was very special. A special memory that we will both cherish and recount time and time again.