So as embarrassing as it is to admit, it was the day before the rifle opener and we were just sighting the cannons in. We had shot them a couple months previous for backcountry rifle, but wanted to be darn sure and do some fine tuning. We shoot larger calibers rifles than the average hunter, but DANG the big guns are fun to shoot!! We shoot 338 ultra-mags on a normal occasion and when we go into timber holes we switch over to the ultimate cannon…the 375 ultra-mag. When sighting these beasts in, on dads second shot, behind the target I watched a small pine tree blow over. It actually looked and sounded like a clip from the action movie Rambo. Nothing like almost six thousand foot pounds of energy whacking you in the shoulder, baby!! One time I shot a black bear nearing four hundred pounds and it flipped him onto his back and he didn’t even twitch. Both are great elk guns and with the right ammunition you can confidently shoot through an eight inch lodge pole pine tree and still tip over an elk.
After we were touching bullets and two inches high at 100 yards it was time to make a mad dash to the good ridge to set up the spotting scope. After about fifteen minutes of glassing we had company…on our secret ridge!?!? Nonetheless, this dude was in jogging shorts with nothing but a pack loaded with a spotting scope and tripod. He came and said hello and then started jogging up the trail for a better view of the area through his glass. Keep in mind, dad and I had just got done talking about all the hardcore stuff we do…shot down hard. Man guys are getting tough these days…I give them credit though! The darker and tougher the hunt…the more alive I feel. With this being said, I can’t remember an opening day where I heard a shot or saw another hunter so after our unwanted gathering we decided to change the game plan completely.
Opening morning, the alarm clock went off at 3:45 a.m. and it was time to get after it…chugging 11 mugs of coffee of course. We made it to our new destination with a healthy hour and forty five minutes to get back into the un-hunted. With no scouting whatsoever we had no idea what to expect but after getting a few strong solid whiffs of elk in our headlamps we felt good. As the light slowly crept across the land the ridge we were heading up was as dark and nasty as it gets. The mountain we were climbing is actually labeled “Ass Kicker Mountain” with a ninja in a headband for a symbol on my GPS. In our portfolio of elk haunts we hunt some nasty stuff but this is the biggest, gnarliest, steepest, never ending beast of them all.
After a long walk up the mountain that magical sight that no words can explain was right there in front of us. As I scanned the animals it was the typical…cow, cow, cow, cow…and then there was the most ghost white elk I had ever seen. Seeing a flick of horn and knowing it was mature bull I was tempted to pull the trigger, but I wasn’t sure if he was a 230” or a 330” bull.
For the longest two minutes of my life I used the same will power I have used almost forty times on bulls…I let him live waiting to see his age. This elk was not going to budge from behind the trees…its funny how their head is always hidden. Then as the wind switched…as fast as the beasts appeared on the ridge they were gone. But not before I got a look at the massive set of horns the bull I could have shot a hundred times was carrying. It’s at this point that a guy wants to smash his rifle over a tree…but instead I actually laughed out loud. I have been hunting a big bull for five years, and if I was just hunting any bull, I would have just shot a giant. Talk about getting bit in the butt!!
The rest of the day was spent meandering through some of Montana’s most wild country. It was a bluebird day and it felt amazing to crash out on a grizzly inhabited hillside and take a snooze. Dad and I joked later about how loud we were both snoring and that’s what kept the bears away. There was actually some tall grass that kept brushing my face from the wind and I would awake swatting at it thinking it was my setter pup Dixie sniffing my face. I would then come to the realization I was not under the warm embraces of my pup…I was miles from know where but only inches from heaven. Although we found no more elk on opening day, we did manage to find ourselves way to far from the vehicle come nightfall.
So, cheers to “Jiggin’ the Dream” in Montana’s 2013 elk season and the best of luck and wishes from my father and I.
(Written by Trevor Johnson of Kit’s Tackle; Photo: fairgroundphoto.com)