Make memories this Father’s Day, year!
Each year, as Father’s Day approaches, my mind conjures up time spent with my two–now-grown–sons. Though we have many memories together, those most special to me are the ones spent hunting together. Likewise, most of my special memories as a child stem from hunts with my stepfather. From an early age, I accompanied him on several hunts, and when I was old enough, I finally was able to hunt too. From that time until my latter teenage years, we hunted together every chance we had. The foundation of our relationship was built on hunting. When I became a father, I hoped that my children would be able to share similar experiences with me. Luckily, that was the case. Now that my sons are on their own, we still hunt together and cherish every opportunity to do so. On those hunts, we always reminisce about our past hunting memories. Two memories that come to the forefront, I will share below.
First Big Game Hunt
Both of my boys drew antler-less elk tags in the White Mountains of Arizona the same year; at the time, they were 10 and 12 years of age. On opening morning, both boys, their uncle, grandfather, and I glassed from a high vantage point overlooking a wide swath of pinyon-juniper country. The rut was in full swing, and we were surrounded by the sound of bugles echoing all around us. It didn’t take long for us to spot a herd of elk. The small group of elk–one bull and a few cows–were far off. Thinking they were too far away for a successful stalk, the boy’s uncle was surprised when I told my oldest, Seth, to get ready to go. He and I quickly readied our gear and headed off the hill toward the elk, while the others stayed back to spectate.
Once off the hill, we lost our advantage of elevation to keep tabs on the herd. When we had closed the distance by about half, the bull bugled, giving away their location. We estimated their route and headed in a direction to intercept them. The bull continued to bugle, enabling us to take advantage of the wind and get into an ambush location in front of the herd. Finally, we were within 100 yards of the small group of elk, although they were not visible yet. Next to a small juniper tree, we took a stand. The first elk to come into view was a cow, followed closely by the bull, which was an exceptional bull. The bull was directly behind the cow, so I whispered to Seth, “Wait for the bull to move out of the way.” He did just that. As soon as the bull cleared the cow, he shot, taking his first big game animal, and my first harvest with a child. To date, this is one of my proudest moments as a father, and a memory etched into my brain forever.
First Bull Elk
A few years later, my youngest son drew his first bull elk tag. Though we were excited, we also knew that this late-season tag would be a difficult hunt. Opening day was the day after Thanksgiving. My youngest, Colton, his friend, and I arrived in the darkness at a spot where we had scouted a few bulls. As a faint light appeared on the horizon, a dense fog rolled in; visibility was minimal at best. Unfortunately, the fog held for more than three days, which were the days Colton had to hunt without missing school. We gave it our best shot and did have an opportunity late one afternoon. However, Colton chose to pass on a spike bull because the only shot he had was one where the bull was sky-lined, his backdrop unknown. Monday came, and Colton returned to school, unsuccessful so far.
After analyzing at the weather report the following week; it appeared that the last day would be promising in terms of weather. I asked Colton if he wanted to miss school and give it one more shot. Of course, his answer was an immediate “YES!” The next morning, we were high on a hill glassing for elk. Quickly, we discovered a herd with a few spike bulls, and off we went. While moving in on the smaller bulls, I happened to see a lone elk on a distant hill. One look through my binos, and I knew this was a solid branched-antler bull. We changed course, heading toward the bigger bull. Stealthily, we got as close as the terrain would allow and then prepared for a shot. We were just into range for Colton’s .270. Colton fired several shots, hitting the bull on two occasions. However, the bull was wounded and moved away. As fast as we could, we climbed the opposite hill and headed through the flat where the bull disappeared. When we came upon a small drainage, Colton, who was on my left, saw the bull on my right. The bull was bedded, quickly came to its feet, and took off on a dead run. Somehow, my youngest kept his cool. With safety first in his mind, he safely moved to my right, took aim at the speeding bull, and fired, dropping the bull in his tracks. It was a feat that I knew I could not have accomplished. Colton had taken his first bull elk, and I again had another proud father moment and memory.
Don’t Forget Dad!
This year, get your Dad a gift that will spark memories made in the field. Here are a few gift ideas for the special hunter in your life.