By Bill Marcum
I had the pleasure last week of taking my dad on a four-day archery elk hunting trip to a private ranch in Idaho, near the Idaho-Wyoming border. The trip was exciting, challenging, successful and exhausting. But most of all it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip with my dad.
The trip did not start out clicking on all cylinders. I arrived at my dad’s home in Nyssa, Ore., (right on the Snake River about 50 miles from Boise, Idaho) My dad pulled his bow back and a cable broke. Yikes. We quickly had it repaired.
I had been following the weather near the hunting lodge, which sits at 7,200 feet: potential snow, very cold and windy. Not a good combination for my 75-year-old father. He complained the entire time we were shopping for insulated underwear and heavier cloths. It was 80 degrees and he just knew I was crazy.
We left mid-morning on the nearly six-hour trip to Rocky Mountain Elk Ranch. Beautiful morning, not a cloud in the sky…but by the time we hit Pocatello, Idaho, it was snowing lightly. By Rexburg there were a couple of inches on the ground. The snow continued to get heavier and by the time we were 100 yards from the lodge, we were pushing snow with our front bumper. Until we slid off the dirt road and were stuck. The Jeep stayed there overnight.
By 5:30 the following morning, there were 8 inches of snow on the ground, the tempature sat at 22 degrees and winds blew at 10 to 15 mph wind. Both dad and I layered and bundled up. We each had a puzzeled look and finally I said, “I’m not sure if I can shoot my bow with all these cloths on.” My father was thinking the same thing.
The game plan for the morning was to take four-wheelers up the mountain to a thicket and sit in a tree stand while our guide Jerrin searched for elk. I am not sure if I can explain how cold it was sitting motionless in a stand for three hours. We had a huge bull walk into our stand area, but my dad was so cold and stiff he could not even make an attempt at the elk. My plan was to let my dad get his shot before I took mine.
After lunch our guide thought we could set my dad up on a trail at the bottom of a thick draw where the elk tend to bed down. It worked perfectly, as six big bull elk came out on the trail 20 yards from my dad’s blind. I watched as he pulled down and made his shot. Ah, success, high fives, hugs and thank yous. Then the work really began. We had to find a way to get this 900-pound animal out of the woods, onto a trailer and prep it for the butcher. Jerrin did most of the work, but it was still difficult.
The next day, it was my turn. After about an hour, I watched 10 large bull elk pass below me with no opportunity to get off a shot.
About 30 minutes later, a large 6×5 bull elk was trying to decide if he was going pass though the thicket where I was concealed.
Seemed like he pondered the idea, frozen in his tracks for several minutes while my heart pounded. Finally, the elk was within range. I was trying to collect my emotions, relax, breath, concentrate and not make a sound. Evidently, I was able to do all this as my shot was perfect.
Wow, success number two. I found my guide, then rode the four-wheeler to my dad. It took us nearly three hours to get my elk out of the woods and on the trailer to head back to the lodge.
What an experience. My dad and I have been hunting together for more than 40 years. My first big game animal was an antelope when I was 12.
My dad built the gun from scratch and I used it for the next eight years until we decided to put the guns away and start hunting with the bow and arrow.
As technology changed it has allowed my dad to continue archery hunting. But as he grows older, I wonder how many more times he will be able to pull the poundage required for hunting. If this was the last year of archery hunting together it was special. A special memory that we both will cherish and recall time and time again.