We got her to the logging road and loaded up. It was still early in the day and since the whole herd had poured off the back of the ridge, we decided to attempt to locate them again. Two bull tags were burning holes in the Mountain Man and Bill’s frozen pockets. The Mountain Man knows this country like the back of his hand and it didn’t take long before we had the herd in our line of sight. Only now did we realize the full extent of this herd. A large hill loomed in front of us and it was covered by at least 150 head. They looked like ants covering a large anthill. Some were bedded and the others were feeding but as soon as we came into sight they had us pegged.
We froze and just sat there unmoving and trying to figure out what to do next. They were over 600 yards away and we all had our close range guns with us. We glassed the herd and saw lots of cows and spikes but there were a few shooter bulls in there as well. Bill decided he would sneak back behind us into some cover and then make the long stalk way back around the draw and come in above and behind the herd. We would sit still, watch and wait. At this point in the day it was getting windier and colder. We were on the point of a ridge where the wind was the strongest and we had already been out in the cold for 7 hours. We huddled together growing colder as the minutes ticked by. Over and hour passed before Bill made it to the ridge the elk were enjoying. The numb feeling that had started in my toes had slowly moved up my foot, then my heel and finally up my calf. I shivered constantly and was so excited to see Bill’s outline and orange show up on the horizon. I knew it was only a matter of minutes before he would have a shot at some elk. Having over 300 eyes watching you actually makes shooting a bull a lot more of a challenge when you are stalking up to them. Bill went painfully slow and was able to get within range without being seen but picking out a shooter bull in that huge herd was proving difficult. He could see the majority of the elk but there were lots of them over the ridge and in swells that he still couldn’t see. Eventually, the herd sensed danger and started moving. They headed right toward Bill and started filing past him, some within 10 yards. There were too many all around him. We headed up to the point here the elk would intersect the logging road and the Mountain Man went to an aspen patch that he knew from past experiences was in the path of the herd. Tristan and I headed up to where Bill was to see if he had gotten a shot. He had shot but it was a quick shot and he was headed to confirm he had missed as he expected. Tristan and I waited for him and as we stood on the hill amid a sea of elk tracks a shot from the aspen patch shattered the silence. We headed over to find the Mountain Man. He had a huge smile on his face and led us to a bull he had shot. They came through the aspens just like he said they would and a bull stopped long enough for the Mountain Man to put him down. Bill joined us shortly and confirmed his miss on the other elk. We all shared another round of congratulations and pictures.
Tristan and Bill began working on the bull while the Mountain Man and I took my cow back to the barn. We got it hung up and then I began skinning while he went back for the boys. I got my cow skinned and then skinned the bull when they got back and hung him up. The chains from the gambrel would freeze to my bloody hands and then freeze to the fresh meaty hide when I let them go. By the time we all headed up to the cabin we had put in 13 cold hours. The coffee from that morning had long since burned up in my gut and even though we had not eaten I didn’t feel hungry. I knew I was, even though I didn’t feel like it and that dinner went down well. I started to thaw and the reality of another epic day sunk into each of us. The recollections around the wood stove that night were the perfect end to the perfect day.