A Western Elk Hunting Blunder
By Levi Kary | PUBLISHED November 23th, 2022
First of Id like to preface this article by warning the reader I have failed every year of English aside from my senior year, so be warned, but we don't read hunting stories for excellent grammar. We don't pick up a bow for the first time because it's easy to do. At least with me, I picked up a bow for the first time to keep my dad hunting. He was tired of being cold in the mountains chasing elk, and I couldn't stand the thought of dad hanging it up. Not to mention I could take the wife camping instead of getting in trouble for being gone day after day. So, I picked up my first bow on Facebook for a whopping $150 fully set up.
I didn't take archery too seriously for the first two years, only shooting a dozen arrows that were severely under spined just before taking it to chase elk. It wasn't until after I missed an opportunity at a trophy class bull and then a spike bull in the fall hunting season of 2021 that I started to rethink my disposition towards hunting. That was the turning point in my archery journey.
I was so fired up and motivated that I went down to the local bow shop in Cody, Wyoming, the following spring, picked up a much newer bow, built my own arrows, and started shooting dozens of arrows daily. It became my new religion. It wasn't only about elk. Now I wanted to chase it all with my newfound passion. I lucked out and drew a speed goat tag on top of an archery elk tag and was drooling at the thought of August rolling around to chase goats spot and stalk style.
When August fifteenth finally rolled around, I found myself sick with anticipation, and I couldn't wait for the weekend to hunt, so I called into work and headed for the sagebrush. As what comes with spot and stalk Pronghorn hunting, there were many blown stalks and a few fewer arrows in my quiver after those first few days of hunting.
It came time for my friend Ryan and his 13-year-old daughter Haylie to join me, and priorities changed. No longer was it for me to get my first bow kill but to get Haylie her first-ever animal tagged. We set out that morning looking for stalkable bucks using a decoy to help get her a bit closer and maybe keep the buck a bit more patient as she got ready with her crossbow. After the third failed stalk of the morning, we approached another buck. This time I held back, watching as Haylie and her dad rolled around the backside of a hill, getting to buck to 75 yards and only having a frontal shot available, Haylie elected to watch the buck spin around and Jog down the hill and in my direction. The buck closed the distance to 60 yards from me as I looked back up the hill and asked this 13-year-old for her blessing to take my opportunity. As soon as she gave me the go-ahead, I ranged the buck, and he stopped broadside at 50 yards.
I quickly found my 50-yard pin, settled, and let my arrow fly. I saw the arrow skipping behind the buck as he looked at me curiously walking away. I knocked another arrow and followed him ranging him again at 50 yards as he stopped, I settled again and let the arrow fly this time I knew I hit the buck as he took off running and stopped hanging his head now at 110 yards away from where I stood. Not being one that enjoys tracking wounded game, I knocked another arrow and pursued the injured Speed goat. After my fourth arrow hit him, he dropped dead. I was elated with joy as I laid my hands on this buck I had worked so hard all year to get.
All those hours spent walking back and forth in the pasture, sending arrows down range, finally paid off. I was so proud of that buck, but it was only a step in my vendetta for Elk season.
September's presence finally showed, and I found myself calling in sick repeatedly to work and taking a vacation day here and there. Chasing elk with my dad and buddy Ryan or running solo, it didn't matter to me; I was going to make it happen this year. After a few close encounters with a spike or two that happened to always be within yardage but obstructed by a bush of pine trees, it came down to the second to last weekend of my elk season.
My dad and I sat munching a late lunch, pondering our next move and feeling like it was all for nothing. We were checked out. Our minds were on other things when we heard that sound we all love, a bugle. Unusually pessimistic, I looked at my dad and said I bet it's just a hunter. Then not 3 minutes later, we heard another. ""That was not a hunter. That was a bull!"" Dad and I said together.
I grabbed my bow and bugle tube and walked into the tree line sending off a challenge call. The bull quickly responded. I knew it was thick, and I needed to move fast. So, I asked Dad to stay back while I went after the bull. Going back and forth between cow calls and bugles, I closed the distance on the bull. Finally, it came to the point where I knew he was close. I looked through the thick timber to see a skyline and the bull standing between the trees, screaming! He was 75 yards away. I knew he expected to see other elk and would likely not close any more distance.
My only hope was to make it sound like the elk he expected were walking away. I started pitching my calls behind me, slowly making them quieter. The bull fired up, bugling more, and started coming down the hill as I hid behind a small sapling pine. I told myself to slow down and make it happen. I calmly knocked my arrow. The bull came clunking down, closer and closer. He let out a monstrous bugle as I poked out, ranging him 30-yards broadside looking away.
I clipped on my release, staying silent. He bugled again. I drew back with my second pin steady behind his shoulder. I had never felt so confident in a shot in my entire life, rifle or otherwise. I remember breathing deeply and telling myself to squeeze. The shot broke. A weird thwang seemed to resonate, and the arrow never flew. My string had just broken right as I let the arrow fly. I dropped to my knees, wondering what had just happened?
Just as confused as me, the bull wandered back to the top of the hill. He began bugling again, and we walked away from each other. Defeated and my season over, my dad and I started talking about "Next Season."