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by Gregg Richter a.k.a. Gregg Richter Last updated: 2011-11-16 00:09:50
Take your pick, either way, I felt utterly, strangely, unbelievably, alone. I felt tiny and unimportant…NO make that tiny and non-existent. That way, I would not be noticed, and therefore, I would not have to explain:
What In The Tarnation Was I Doing?
Or, to simplify it even further: What did I THINK I was doing? As these negative thoughts continually bounced back and forth through the brain matter between my ears, I heavingly sucked in air for the thousandth time, trying to sink deeper into the shallow six inches of snow, attempting to keep my eyes off the elk and concentrate on my high tech Sony HD Camcorder sitting atop a Swarovski Tripod at my left elbow and getting it pointed in the general direction of the five by five bull elk, that was seemingly staring into my very soul.
OK, really, this was not my first rodeo, no… no… not even close. I had successfully killed about 20 elk, including several nice bulls, with single shot handguns, as well as 2 nice bulls with revolvers.
But this time it was different. I had vowed to myself two conditions would have to be met for my next elk to be killed. First, it would be with a Custom Ruger in .475 Linebaugh. (The load I settled on was a 400 grain Hornady XTP bullet pushed by 25.5 grains of H-110.) And second, I would get it on film. And, as it turned out, I ended up being my own cameraman.
Whaatt?? Let me get this straight: I was hunting a low percentage season for elk, I was handicapping myself further by using a revolver (not scoped) but with a red dot sight, I was trying to film it, and I was running the camera myself? Its like my friend Bill Fowler later said: “You were trying NOT to get an elk.” No wonder I was being barraged by self doubts!
For a split second, my thoughts drifted back to my 2010 elk season, where I had not even seen an elk while hunting. And then to just yesterday, the season opener, when all my pre-season scouting had paid off and I had gotten onto some elk just before dusk. It was 2 bulls, right at the edge of a little meadow, but I couldn’t get off a shot with the revolver, as too many factors were not in place. First off the range was too far, so I thought of grabbing my .375 JDJ slung over my shoulder, and then I realized my big mistake. Why was I even carrying it! I had smiled at my weakness and realized that was too easy, and then my willpower took over, and I passed. Besides that, I reminded myself, I was going to get it on film, dummy!
And here I was, just about 14 hours later, in the same general area, and maybe even the same two bulls, having made a halfway decent stalk on them through the trees in the snow, and trying to get set up for the shot, that all my weakness had come back.
I was hunting in my home state of Colorado in unit 39, which is more or less the Mount Evans elk herd. This is a good hunt unit, and the general success rate on elk is about 27 percent. This includes both cows and calves as well as bulls; with all manners of take. Broken down even further, for the rifle season that I was hunting, the third season, the antlered elk success rate was a whopping 5 percent in 2010, in this case 57 hunters killed only 3 bull elk. And I would bet that none were with a handgun.
So you ask yourself, why did I choose to hunt this season when it had such a low success rate? Because it was the easiest one to draw, and I wanted to hunt elk! My freezer was empty! It had been two years since I had killed an elk, and that was a P&Y bull with my bow. http://www.handgunhunt.com/photopost/showphoto.php?photo=2216&ppuser=872
I know, I have been very blessed.
So there I am, looking at two branch antlered bulls, trying to remain hidden while studying them with my binoculars and screwing around with the Sony Camcorder, and then one bull gets real spooky and disappears into the dark timber. The other one, as I said, was staring me down. His body language was relaxed yet wary, but he suddenly put his head down to feed. I started to breathe a little easier; although my heart was still pounding through my ears; I was sure he could hear it. And oh yeah, my adrenaline was flowing, and I was shaking. Call it elk fever; 20 some handgun elk or not, if I didn’t still get excited at this moment then I shouldn’t be out here hunting! Oh, I’m sure the added pressure of filming it had nothing to do with it… ;)
I was struggling, to get the camera set up and on the bull while his head was down, but also my willpower was struggling against those little voices in my head: Just forget the *%%#@* camera; put up the shooting sticks, cock the .475, and drop him!
The tripod legs were jamming in the snow and I couldn’t seem to get the camera level, then it seemed ok and I let it go and it fell over but I caught it, then reset the legs and then finally after an eternity and sweating and wondering what I was doing, I found the bull in the screen; the camera stayed put, and I pushed record. Thankfully the bull was still feeding. I pulled my Custom .475 Linebaugh by Dixie Firearms from my shoulder holster, more or less quietly set the shooting sticks in the snow, drew up my knees and set the Ruger in the vee; resting my elbows on my knees. A position I had practiced over and over again. I estimated 90 yards. (It lasered 103 yards later.)
As the gun came up and I settled the J-Point red dot on the bull’s chest, something magical, mystical, surrealistic, unbelievable, happened. An incredible peace fell over me; my heart calmed down, I breathed normally again, I quit shaking, and the most amazing feeling of confidence overcame me. Not over-confidence, just pure plain confidence: I KNEW that bull was going down. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind. I had never experienced that exact feeling before, it was, well…incredible, perfect, unreal. At the trigger squeeze, that bull dropped like the ground fell out from underneath him.
Insurmountable odds? Maybe. But fate had smiled on me today, and I had beaten them.
Did I say I am blessed?
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