As I step out into the crisp morning, the sound of bull elk bugling in every direction is both overwhelming and breathtaking. As the sun begins to rise, I am thankful God created such a beautiful world for us to enjoy. My family and I are avid hunters, and an elk hunt of this caliber has been a dream of mine for many years.
For this hunt, we are in the mountains in northeast Utah at the peak of elk season. The expectation is high, yet the experience of being here is the reward.
Taking The Shot
We arrive at camp and within an hour we are on the mountain elk hunting. We are blessed with an incredible guide, Hyrum. We set up to see if we can locate and spot some elk; within 30 minutes we are calling and stalking our first group.
The elks’ bugles are getting closer, so we get into position to take a shot if they are mature enough. Two mature bulls come straight to our calls and get to within 37 yards. This is it. Time to draw back my bow and harvest an animal.
I let my arrow fly and it goes right over his back. I feel adrenaline and disappointment at the same time. The hundreds of hours spent training before a hunt can never fully prepare you for the actual moment. You can never duplicate the amount of adrenaline you will feel when it is time to preform—but that is why we love it so much. And our time here has just begun.
We have many close encounters over the next four days and see hundreds of elk. We hike between seven and eight miles each day, up and down the mountains, and get approximately five hours of sleep each night.
One Last Chance
It is now our fifth day of hunting and our time is coming to a close. Exhaustion and fatigue are starting to set in both physically and emotionally. I decide to pull out the rifle so I can take a longer shot if required. I do not want to leave empty handed—elk meat is a rarity in Oklahoma, where we call home.
We make a stalk on a herd of elk and get within 10 yards. We essentially get caught in a group of Aspen trees in their travel pattern. For 30 minutes, we are frozen as they walk around us. What a beautiful thing to see. There are no mature bulls in this group, so we just take in the moment and appreciate God’s creation.
The herd moves on, but we can hear another bull bugling just over the ridge in front of us. As we get closer, we get a glimpse of him and Hyrum immediately informs us he is the bull we have been looking for. I get into position and wait patiently for the shot to appear.
As I steady my weapon, I take a deep breath and Hyrum tells me the distance: “220 yards, take your time.” It is amazing to experience a reality that has been a figment of my imagination for so long.
As the bull goes down, the celebration begins.
An Unforgettable Experience
What an emotional week. My goal of harvesting a mature bull came to fruition on September 18, 2020, at 8:02 a.m. This is a moment I will hide in my heart forever. To experience this with my husband, Dr. John Phillips, and my son, Preston, is a gift I will cherish for a lifetime.
I am thankful I missed the elk on our first day. Many memories were made over the next five days, and I would have missed out on them. What a blessing that I missed!
The bond built on hunting trips is like nothing you can get anywhere else. Our family’s passion for hunting is now greater than ever and we look forward to the next hunt, where we can spend more time with each other.
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