Luke’s first elk hunt |

Luke’s first elk hunt

Jeff McKinneyMcKinney McKinney with his first elk.

This was my son Luke’s first elk hunt, as he just turned 12, the minimum age in Colorado for big game hunting. It was still dark when we arrived to our spot to start hiking up the mountain. It had snowed 8- to 10-inches during the night, so climbing was a challenge. After climbing 1/2-mile we decided to stop and wait for daybreak so we could glass for elk on the high distant ridges. It was a cold morning, but with the fresh snow, a great morning to be elk hunting.

Once it got light enough, we pulled up our binoculars and started glassing. We covered the area pretty well, but didn’t see any elk. We were both getting chilled so we decided to climb higher up the mountain. On the way up I saw a fresh set of elk tracks heading to the south. Stopping we glassed for a while, trying to spot some movement or anything.

Now the sun was coming up and the elk were more than likely going to bed down pretty soon, so I mentioned the tracks to Luke and asked if he would be game to try to catch up with the tracks. I figured this would be a good teaching time on how to track even if we never did catch up to this elk. He was willing, so we started off. I mentioned to him that when tracking, always keep your eyes ahead and use your binoculars. Look for ears, fur, parts of the animal. It is tough to keep the wind in your face as you are forced to stay on the tracks. Thankfully the wind was perfect and blowing right in our faces. We followed the tracks for 500 to 700 yards, being careful to cover the area thoroughly before moving on. Since it was a solo track, post rut, I had in the back of my mind this was a lone bull, probably a spike or a small three to four point rag horn. We both had cow/antlerless tags, so even if we did see this elk, we might just have to enjoy the experience and chalk it up to practice. We came to an opening and could see quite a ways, so we stopped and glassed a long time trying to spot the elk.

I spoted something and it appeared to be a elk lying in the bottom of a draw next to some brush. We looked at it for a while and determine that it was definitely an elk. It must have been sound asleep as it wasn’t moving. We had to watch her for almost an hour to finally determine the spike looking antlers above her head were branches from a bush and not antlers.

Luke made a great shot and was able to harvest his first elk in its bed. Rangefinder said 209 yards. We made the hike down the mountain and up the other side and there she was – dead. We hugged each other and thanked God for His wonderful provision.

While I was taking a photo of him with his elk, we heard branches breaking and something heavy moving toward us. I slowly put my rifle on my shooting sticks and waited. Then all of a sudden another solo cow elk ran right by us. I cow called and she stopped. Thankfully there was a small opening through the brush and I could see her chest. She was quartering away and I was able to get her. What are the chances of having another cow elk almost run us over while we were taking photos of Luke and his elk? Wow! The grace of God, no doubt.

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