I jumped at the opportunity to join my grandfather, Dad, Uncle Pat, great Uncle Rick and Cousin Mike on our family elk hunt last fall. I am a 17-year-old senior in high school and despite my mother’s resistance to let me miss the first seven days of school, I went … and it was so worth it.
We have a camp in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. My father and grandfather have immersed me in the outdoor world since I was very young. I enjoy outdoor activities, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, making maple syrup, and working on our family Christmas Tree Farm since I was 5 years old.
I spend many hours during the summer hiking alongside my Dad with a pack on get use to weight and shooting my muzzleloader to prepare myself should I get close enough to a bull elk.
From New York, we went from sea level to rough tent camping at 10,500 feet in Colorado. So, now I understand what “thin air” feels like. I like to challenge myself and am always up for an adventure. The mountain sky in Colorado is so blue and I felt like I was a little closer to heaven.
We aren’t deer blind or tree-stand hunters; we are boots-on-the-ground type of hunters. My Uncle Pat always says, “The elk are where the elk are,” so we know we have to hike many miles looking for elk or signs of elk.
By Day 5, I was discouraged and tired. Guided by my Dad, we finally saw an elk late that afternoon. The 5-by-5 stood out in the open, and as I moved to get set up to shoot, but he saw us moving and took off running. My heart sank as it was the first and only elk we had seen all week. Disappointed, we headed back to camp in the dark.
Early the next morning, we began yet another day of trekking up, over, and down the mountain. As we crested the top of the mountain, we stopped to watch the sunrise and wait for the thermals to change. Just then a bugle erupted from below, and Dad and I were off running towards the commotion.
As we dropped into a secluded meadow, bulls were bugling all around us. Dad let out a cow call and one small 5-by-5 appeared at the meadow’s edge. As I got set up, a second 5-by-5 walked out, too far away to shoot. We watched the bulls square off and start to push each other around.
Then a huge 6-by-6 walked right between them and headed right for us. Dad called again and this time the bull bugled and kept coming. With more than 200 yards from open meadow, we waited for him to come closer. With only one small pine tree between us, the bull walked right up next to it and screamed a bugle.
I was ready and when it stepped around the tree, Dad whispered, “Shoot! Shoot NOW!”
I focused on the front site as a summer’s worth of coaching kicked in, and I squeezed the trigger.
The bull turned in a flash and ran up the mountain. Shaking like never before, I tried to reload as Dad watched for the bull to emerge again. We waited a few minutes, which seemed like an hour, and then heard a faint crash. We walked to the small tree where the bull had been and I could smell his strong musk. No blood, no hair, so we walked slowly in the direction he ran.
We found lots of tracks, but no sign of a hit. Then Dad jumped a small stream and found a small spot of blood. The bull had run up the opposite side of the stream. As we followed him up the hill, we found more blood. After 300 or so yards, we climbed a steep rock face with rock scree everywhere. Through 7-foot-tall alders we found him lying there at the edge of the face we just climbed. He had succumbed in the most picturesque place in the mountain.
My cousin Mike, said, “He wandered up here to look over his domain one last time.”
We contacted the rest of our hunting party and after some time, we were all gathered around the elk. I was so thankful for the five adult males who helped me cut the elk up, bag it, carry it three miles back to camp, back over the top of the mountain, and eventually out to help me cut and wrap.
I was voted prom queen this past spring and as my grandma said, “Pretty in gold, but happy in camo.” That just about describes the type of female I am. I am not as affected by peer pressure regarding my hunting adventures as other females might be. I like it. I do it.
I have harvested a couple of deer in the past hunting with my Dad while learning how animals act during the hunting season. I have a growing respect for wild animals, their survival in the wilderness, and being able to bring home tasty organic free-range meat. Our family also enjoys wild game meat ¬– on the grill, fried, baked, in sausages, slim jims, stew or casseroles. It is more than just a sport for us.
As I carried my horns down the mountain, I thought about how lucky I was, what an experience I just had, and how blessed I am to have family that is not afraid to include the “girl” in what has been a predominately male adventure.
Lochlyn Brown, age 17 – Jordan, New York