Archery hunting is in full swing now with the opening of deer and elk last Saturday. Thousands of archery hunters, young and old, took to the field over the long Labor Day weekend. A couple of those hunters were 16 year old Zach Kinzler and his dad Travis from Bozeman.
They headed east to hunt in the Larb Hills in Phillips County. Their destination this year as it was last year was the hunting camp of Burke Ranch Outfitters. I had a chance to meet Zach and his dad last year as I was also hunting with Burke Ranch Outfitters.
Zach is just like most kids in Montana when it comes to hunting, he could hardly wait for opening day to arrive. Zach’s hunting story is one of both preparation and luck. The preparation consisted of shooting arrows at a target for days before opening day. The luck was created by Zach while he was in hunting camp last year.
After a couple of days of hunting with Kelly Burke and his dad Zach told me he was getting a little discouraged because they were seeing a lot of elk but when they planned their stalk something always went haywire, as it normally does for archery hunters, like the wine shifting at the last minute. On his last day while they were headed out for their evening hunt Kelly said, “There’s a rabbit!”
So Zach knocked an arrow with a blunt tip, pulled back and hit his release. He made a good shot at about 20 yards. Kelly gave him a high five and then he proceeded to clean it. Zach then asked Kelly if he could keep the rabbits foot for good luck. “Of course”, said Kelly.
So Kelly then cut off the rabbit’s foot and put it in a plastic bag and he placed it in Zach’s hunting pack. About an hour later they spotted some elk about two miles away. Since it was Zach’s last day of hunting they decided it was now or never so they began walking toward the elk. It was mid afternoon and the first part of September so they felt they had plenty of light to make a stalk. Part of the stalk consisted of belly crawling over 800 yards over the open prairie.
After the crawl they were shielded by a hill and sunset was near so they jogged and then ran into position. As they peaked around and over a rock on the top of the knob they could see that the elk were 45 yards away and Kelly instructed Zach to knock an arrow. Zach slowly scooted forward on his knees drew back and focused his sights on the bull who was 45 yards away. It was just like he had practiced hours before with the guys at camp, shooting from his knees at 45 yards. The arrow flew smoothly through the air with nothing in its path.
As it struck the bull elk, he turned and ran. Zach had just stuck the lead bull of 200 elk. It was a 6×6 350 plus bull. Zach’s first elk and his dad Travis was by his side. Fast forward to 2016 and last Sunday. Zach got his bull elk at 1:30 afternoon with a 20 yard shot, not quite the monster he stuck in 2015 but a bull elk nonetheless and just like last year his dad was by his side and Kelly Burke was the guide. Oh and one more thing was the same! The lucky rabbit foot was also in his hunting pack.
(written by the Captain aka Mark Ward)