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Wyoming Bulls by AzSlim

For once I was happy to get a phone call at suppertime. That summer I had asked my Uncle Tim to get permission for me to hunt the private land behind the family ranch, and he was calling me with the okay. Great, I hadn't been hunting elk in Wyoming for almost 25 years, ever since I joined the Marine Corps. Next I called my companero, Brian Lervold, and asked if he wanted to go. "Hey Compa, you want to try for a bull tag in Wyoming? My Uncle called and we have permission to hunt on Stambaugh (pronounced Stambo)." "How much and when do we put in?" was the reply. First try was 2002, no luck. Next up 2003, the drawing was in February and by March we knew we had ANY ELK tags in Units 25 & 27. Not bad since there were only 250 tags issued, and we got ours on the second try. To top it off, we had permission for the prime ground, along with a personal guide, since my Uncle worked for the landowner taking care of the property. Now - is October ever going to get here?

Finally it was time, after an 1100-mile drive we arrived at my Uncle's on the last Sunday of September, two days before the season opened. On Monday, Tim took Brian and I up to look over the hunting grounds. There is plenty of beautiful country in the mountains around the South Pass area where we were, but I had bragged to Brian about Stambaugh for years. The little creek, the crystal clear spring, the hunting shack from a previous owner, the outhouse you could shoot an elk, deer or antelope from. Sagebrush, grass, trees and blue sky as far as you could see. I always figured this was where God liked to vacation when he needed a break. Since the new owner had bought it, no cows had been there, so the grass was belly-high to a tall horse. We were sitting on a low ridge overlooking the valley we planned to hunt, eating sandwiches and drinking sodas, when we heard the bugles. It took about two minutes to glass up 50 to 60 head of elk, probably 20 of them bulls, about a mile away. They were on the slopes overlooking the valley, feeding and bedding in the trees. Happy with what we saw we loaded up and headed home. Later that night my cousin Todd commented on two unique herd bulls that lived up there. One was a monster everyone guessed would score 380 or so, the other was a freak. "You'll recognize him", he said. "That one horn bends down and around his head and doesn't fork right. There's a whole bunch of little bulls in his herd with the same type rack. If you get a chance, take him out, he sure is screwing up the gene pool." I assured him we'd do our best. Tuesday rolled around and we got our gear ready, popped off a few rounds to make sure the rifles & scopes hadn't been banged up, put our knives, saws, radios, rangefinders and spare bullets in our daypacks. Next we plotted our strategy; how we'd stalk, who'd shoot first, who'd be back up, all the stuff that goes out the window once you get in the field. Then came the hard part, sleeping. At 9:00 p.m. we hit the rack, then woke up every hour until finally… "oh boy, it's 4:30 a.m"; and we're like little kids on Christmas day. Only this is better than Christmas, it's opening morning and we have bull tags. The drive in seemed to take forever, all 45 to 50 minutes of it. Finally we were back where we had eaten sandwiches two days before. We got out of the truck and looked across the valley; there had to be well over 500 head of elk moving out there. We turned on the radio's, mine and Brian's had ear pieces and voice activation microphones, my Uncle Tim one also, so he could listen in. We grabbed our rifles and duck-walked 150 yards down into the valley, stepped across the creek then headed to a rock outcropping and set up. We could hear the cows calling to the calves, them chirping back and lots of bugles in between. The only problem was they were 800 yards or better away from us, and there was a lot of open country in between. Suddenly I heard a bugle behind us. I turned and looked and here came another herd boiling over the hill, heading down towards the creek. As I sat there and glassed them I saw a big black bull. He was a quarter to a third larger than the rest. "Oh boy, I pick you." I whispered in my headset "Compa, look behind us. I'm heading over after that herd." What I didn't know is I had whispered too low to activate the microphone and he had no idea I was splitting off. Away I run as fast as I could, keeping trees between the herd and me. I snuck up on a little knoll and looked for my bull. All I saw were the tail-end animals moving up the slope to my left. I backed out and ran up to the next knoll, another 200+ yard run/walk/stagger sprint - "boy am I getting old", puff, puff, pant. I crawled up into some rocks on this knoll and the herd spread before me. I had a couple of smaller bulls within 300 yards, but I wanted that big boy, and he was about 500 yards off, still moving up the hill. Once more I backed out and turned for another sprint up the hill, well, a pretty fast walk anyway. I covered maybe 100 yards then looked up to see a cow staring directly at me, maybe 150 yards away. "Oh crap!" I just fell down on my belly into the sagebrush and cussed some more. I crawled over to a big sagebrush and peeked through the leaves. She was still looking my way but I could tell she hadn't made up her mind that I was the bogeyman. I crawled 50 yards over to my right and got into the middle of a copse of trees, some pines, oaks and quakies. It was thick and the ground was covered with fallen trees and branches that slowed me down, but at least I had good cover. I now moved to the head of the little hollow and set up behind a 4-foot pine. I couldn't go any farther; there were several cows and satellite bulls spread out on the slope above me and 300+ yards of open terrain. There was a great big juniper halfway up the slope between me and the top of the ridge. As I sat there I saw my bull, the big crooked horned one my cousin had talked about, chasing little bulls off and tending his cows. "Boy is he big and black." "How far?" I wondered. I had left my daypack, and range finders, in the truck. I figured it was over 350 yards. Oh well, time to see if all that target practice has paid off, I had used up a couple pounds of powder making ammo that summer. Now I started talking to my bull. "Come on out Big Boy, come on. No, &^%%*&, don't go back there." Suddenly I hear my Uncle's truck fire up - no mistaking that Dodge diesel. Every elk head on the slope turned and looked, a couple began to move nervously away. I pushed the button to key the mike, "Stop! Stop! Please stop," I begged. I wasn't sure who heard me, but the truck stopped and that was all I wanted. Now back to sweet-talking my bull. "Get out of the way you stupid #$%^, move you little b#$%*&^. No god#$%%*, don't go there. Come on, get in the open. I got a little something for your #$$. Come on, a little more, just a little more." After a few minutes of such tender words my bull finally came out from behind the big juniper, he chased a cow back then turned broadside to me. "Okay buddy, hold that pose a little longer." I aimed at the top of the back and squeezed. BOOM! "Got you, you big #$%^&*!" I said. I was sure I put my bullet where I wanted. I stood up and watched the herd run off to the northeast. "Where's my bull?' I looked through the scope and saw cow, cow, little bull. Ah, there he is, just walking real slowly. Yeah, I got him. With the rest running and him just walking I know he is dead on his feet, he just doesn't know it. Then he tipped over. 'YEAH! YEE HAW!" I keyed the microphone, "Bring the truck fellers, I'm done." I had forgot about the voice operation on my radio & headset, since it hadn't seemed to work once we got out of the truck. Little did I know my Uncle had been sitting in the truck listening to every word I said. "Sure was a lot of French coming over this radio" he commented. I was standing over my bull when he backed the truck up. "Nice bull, let's get him loaded and go get Brian one." It took a few minutes to field dress him, then we hooked the come-along around his neck and tried to load him. With Brian and I lifting, and Tim cranking the come-along we came to one conclusion - this was one big bull and we weren't getting anywhere. "Back off guys or I'm gonna blow an o-ring" I said. "Let's put this chain around his neck and drag him down the hill to that low spot. If you put the back tires in the gully it will lower the bed and should make this easier." Tim moved the truck, dragging my elk behind. Once again we set up the come-along and this time loaded my bull slicker than owl poop. Now time for Brian. Since I had been on the northwest end of the valley the first herd we saw that morning hadn't been stirred up. We drove to the top of the ridge, turned left and headed for some trees on the edge. Tim parked about 50 yards from the trees, 80 yards from the edge. When we got out we could hear the hooves coming up the hill, it sounded like a herd of cattle. Tim and I started to sprint to the trees, I looked back at Brian, "hurry up Compa, get over here!" "I don't want to get winded" he replied. "You're gonna get busted if you don't." Not being a country boy he didn't recognize the hoof-beats for what they were. He had no sooner got into the trees than herd broke out over the top. There are elk everywhere. My Uncle looked back at me with his eyes shining "He's got so many to chose from he doesn't know which one to shoot." Where Tim was he had about six bulls in front of him, but Brian couldn't see them from where he was set up. Then, as I watched over Brian's shoulder, I knew it was time. First the upper forks came into view, then a point, then another one, until finally a whole bull is in view. A nicely balanced 5x5 standing broadside about 60 yards away. BOOM! Down he went. The herd jumped a little but didn't scatter. As we stood up the bull struggled to his feet. "Shoot him again!" yelled Tim. "Hit him in the neck. Don't let him get over the edge." BOOM! He's down for good now. As we stood there admiring Brian's bull the herd continued to flow up and over the slope. Pretty soon we were surrounded by elk, hundreds of them milling around. Of course, me blowing my cow call kind of had them unsure of what was going on. My Uncle got to shoot some elk too. He ran down to the truck and got his camera and snapped a few pictures of all those elk around the truck. What a day! Two bulls and we're done by 8:30 a.m. After 7 months of anticipation I had a little over 20 minutes of hunting. Brian had an additional hour, since he had to wait while we cleaned and loaded mine. We went back a couple of days later, there wasn't an elk to be found, we were certainly glad we had been there for opening morning. I was able to gather up my brass and range where I shot from. It was around 380 yards and I had taken out the heart. Brian and I both shoot Browning BAR's with BOSS in .300 winmag, topped with Leupold scopes, mine a VX-II, his a VARI-X III. He shot 180 grain Winchester factory ammo and I used hand-loads with Nosler 180 gr. Ballistic Tips. My binoculars are Brunton Eterna 12 x 42's, Brian's are Leupold Windriver 10 x 42's. What a hunt and what a memory! Hope I don't have to wait another 25 years before my next Wyoming bull.

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