The Little Gal had the opportunity to hunt a cow elk on private land this year.
In mid December things worked out so we were able to take her to a ranch south of town to look for elk. The morning began with lots of snow so we decided to wait and head out in the afternoon. We headed out a couple of hours before dark. The snow had stopped but it poured down rain. We donned our rain coats and hoods and unloaded from the truck. We began our hike across a long pasture to head up into the hills of the property. We followed the land owner to the far side of the property. Hank was behind the land owner and the Little Gal behind him. We walked single file through the snow.
Suddenly we felt a rumbling on the ground. We turned and coming from the south were the land owners horses charging in at us. I wasn’t certain if the horses at this ranch were friendly or not, but the land owner began hucking snowballs at them to run them off. Even if the horses were friendly, they may have been too much racket to have around when you are elk hunting. They retreated and we continued our journey.
We hiked into a valley and glassed across to a small meadow. We saw two cow elk over there. Mom ranged them. They were nearly 700 yards away. We had to try to hike in and get a little closer shot for the Little Gal. When we told her the plan, she rolled her eyes. Yes, “More hiking”. Mom told her we would have to be quick in order to get around the hill and cut them off in case they were headed across further and up onto a neighboring ranch. The Little Gal said okay and began to follow her guides again.
We made it quickly up to the top of the valley but still had to go around the hill to get a view into the little meadow. The rain continued to fall and the snow crunched beneath our feet. Breathing began to get a little more strained, and the Little Gal stopped to catch her breath. Mom leaned over and whispered to her. “You can do it. She’s just on the other side of the hill.” The Little Gal frowned and said “I can’t hike that fast.” Mom leaned in again and smiled whispering/singing ”Whistle while you work. Dah daht, dah daht, dah daht!” The Little Gal got a grin on her face and began moving her feet in the direction we needed to go. She had a little more pump in her step and moved with determination.
Finally we arrived around the hill and peered into the meadow. There were elk tracks everywhere in the snow, but no elk to be seen. We eased out a little further to try to get a better view. Nothing. The elk had already moved around the next bend. The Little Gal frowned. Their tracks headed off toward the neighboring ranch so we headed back to the truck. Mom and the Little Gal giggled and walked in the rain, singing and chatting about hunting, how fun it can be and how smart “those ladies” (the elk) were that day.
A couple of weeks later the Little Gal got another chance to head out and look for elk. This time we headed to a ranch east of town. The weather was clear this day, but that meant it was COLD. As we drove to the ranch we saw temperatures as low as -33 degrees. The Little Gal didn’t seem to mind, but Mom and Dad wanted to make sure she was safe and warm. She had several layers of gear on including her Prois Extreme gear. She had hand warmers in her pocket and double wool socks. The Little Gal was sure to be warm.
We came around the bend and happened on the elk right away. Dad was guiding the Little Gal today and he was excited for her. He got her shooting sticks and gun set and made sure she had a clear shot. The elk spotted us and started to head over the hill. Dad cow called to them stopping them for a moment. The Little Gal tried her hardest to stay steady but took a little too long. The elk went over a knoll. The Little Gal got flustered and wanted to cry but Dad said “Come on!”
We moved to another location and caught another good view of the elk. Dad and the Little Gal bickered amongst each other and got set up again. She was pretty razzled and had a hard time getting her gun set. She looked through the scope and tried to steady herself. Dad told her where to aim. She was aiming straight up the hill at a cow that stood broad side. The Little Gal breathed hard and pulled the trigger. The snow blew from beneath where the elk stood. The Little Gal shot clean below the cow. It spun and ran up over the ridge and out of sight. Tears began to fly as the Little Gal wailed about her bad shot. Dad told her to calm down. It was too cold out to be crying and we had work to do now. We had to hike up there to make sure she didn’t wound an animal.
Even though we knew it was a miss we had to teach the Little Gal to go follow-up her shot. We had to look to see if we could spot blood. We hiked in the cold up to where the elk had stood. The snow was still pristine and white. We continued to follow the elk’s path up over the top and ensuring the shot was a miss. This day was not a bad day. It was a day of lessons about harvesting an animal. How to aim, how to relax as well as not dinging an animal and letting it run off to suffer. Once we showed her nothing had been hit we called it a day headed home to prepare for tomorrow.
The following day we had our friend Cheyann with us to help encourage the Little Gal. Cheyann is 17 and has gotten several big game animals of her own. She is a good mentor to the Little Gal. Hank and I loaded the two of them up and headed to town. The temperatures along the way read as low as -29. A little warmer that day?!
We arrived at the land owners ranch and saw elk behind his house. We knew it is not good manners to shoot in this spot so we explained that to the Little Gal, unloaded and hiked around the hill. We went a long way and saw nothing. It was very cold so we turned around and headed back. Just before the last hill, Mom spotted them. There were six cow elk up on the hill.
Today Mom was the guide so she threw out the shooting sticks and slammed the gun onto the rest. The Little Gal tried to get flustered but Mom pulled her close whispering and pointing to where the elk were. The Little Gal got them in her sites. Cheyann came quickly and whispered the range. 220 yards. They had spotted us and began to move so things would need to be fast. Dad cow called and stopped them, but the elk were bunched up with no clear shot. Mom told the Little Gal to wait as the elk began to traverse the hill again. The lead elk walked ahead and Mom whispered to the Little Gal. “Is she in your sights?” She nodded yes. Mom said “Take a deep breath, let it out and pull the trigger.”
The Little Gal breathed deep, began to let the air out and – BAM! She had a clean hit on the elk. The Little Gal did as she had practiced and quickly pulled the bolt back on her gun. She jacked another shell into the chamber and was ready to take another shot. The elk didn’t fall. It stood there and another of the elk jumped behind her. The Little Gal anxiously asked “Where is she?! Where is she?!” Mom said wait as Cheyann looked to see which elk it was. Cheyann was saying not to shoot yet. There was another elk behind her. “Don’t shoot yet. Don’t shoot. You got her but wait.”
We calmed the Little Gal as we waited for what seemed like a very long time and then the second cow ran out of the way. We told her she was clear and the Little Gal let another shot fly. WHOP! Another clean hit. The cow stumbled and fell. We knew this lead cow was a tough animal so we quickly got ourselves going, heading up the hill toward her. The Little Gal didn’t peep or squawk about having to hike this time. She motored right up the hill. We knew that elk was tough and determined and may try to keep going even though it had been hit with two good shots. Sure enough. The tough old elk raised her head. We got the Little Gal set up again and told her to make it a good shot and before the words could come out she had shot. BAM! A clean shot, right in the back of the head. The elk went limp. The Little Gal looked over with a grin. She knew that was the last shot she needed. It wasn’t going to run. She had gotten it. She was a good little provider!