The Engagement Bull
Every year when planning for hunting season begins, I ask my boyfriend what hunts I should put in for that we can do together. I get excited at the opportunity to go hunt out of state with him, but I also enjoy the added bonus of quality one-on-one time together. My boyfriend Mac travels for work, so we usually don’t get to spend this kind of time together, especially during hunting season, when he is off on hunts around the western mountain states.
After about four years of unsuccessful draws, I got a text message alert that my credit card was charged by Colorado Fish and Game. I couldn’t have been more excited to call him and tell him he was going to be stuck with me for at least a week! We’d be spending that week chasing elk in the mountains of Colorado.
After I got the good news, we began training for some hikes and hopefully one extra heavy pack out. After lifting in the gym, running for cardio, long weighted pack hikes every weekend, and shooting as much as I could, I felt ready! I live basically at sea level, so I expected the elevation to get to me, but I knew I was going to do my best.
Putting In The Work
I met Mac out in Colorado, and we made our way to the unit. I was told to expect “frigid temperatures,” but that ended up not being the case. Although I was happy to not be extra cold the whole time, it made finding the elk hard. This was a unit we both had never been to, but Mac is an avid hunter with lots of experience in figuring out new areas. We scouted for a day and eventually found some elk. For the next few days, we had some opportunities on some bulls, but they were either too quick or too far away.
We spent the evening hunts riding around in the side-by-side, looking at new county to glass with no plan. I was starting to feel discouraged and that we were wasting our time. I was the inexperienced hunter on my first out-of-state hunt, so Mac, who has been hunting all his life, was starting to get frustrated when I told him we were wasting time and he needed to slow down so I could see. He told me we weren’t going to just see an elk and have enough time to set up get a good shot. He said our main goal was to find a place to glass.
I looked around and pointed out the driver’s side of the side-by-side and said, “Let’s get out and glass over there!” He didn’t say anything, he just kept on driving. I responded with, “Are you even listening to me?” I could only imagine the thoughts going through his head. He pulled the side by side over and said, “Get your stuff. We are hiking up.” I looked up the hill and regretted my spot choice, but I didn’t want to show it. I was trying to gather my things, but he just grabbed the spotting scope, and I took the gun.
I take two steps to his one, so he always beats me to the top. When I got to the top of that hill, I couldn’t find him, but then I heard him whistle. I was annoyed, tired, and just wanted to find an elk. I made my way over to him, and he was looking in a different direction than the area I told him I wanted to glass. I made sure to tell him this, and he snapped back, “Do you want to see the canyon you wanted to glass?” He marched over and started to climb down the side of this scraggly cliff.
I Want To Shoot!
I was yelling for him to get off there, and he pretended to not hear me. I gave up and sat down, waiting for him to come back when he was done being mad. I took a picture of the sky because the sunset was so pretty and I couldn’t help myself.
Then, I heard him whistle… I peeked my head over the edge and saw him mime an antler rack on his head. I forgot about my fear of the rocky cliff and climbed down with the rifle. He said, “There’s a big bull; we are definitely coming back here tomorrow.” I sighed and said, “Tomorrow?! How far is he? I want to shoot!”
Mac looked through his rangefinder and said, “It’s a long way.” He asked what I wanted to do. I responded that I want to shoot. I knew I could do it, but I only wanted to do it if he was OK with me taking the shot. I was confident and ready. He looked at me and told me to get the gun set up.
When I say this cliffside was a rocky mess, think of trying to get set up and comfortable on a pile of sharp rocks. It wasn’t easy, but I got my body and the gun positioned and put the elk in the crosshairs of my scope. I started to shake. Mac told me to put it right on him. I shot and missed. I racked another, thinking the elk had to be gone, but the elk was still looking around, confused.
Mac told me to hold off his body two feet. I heard this but shot and missed again. I did the same thing again, hitting the same spot. The elk was looking back in our direction, still confused with what was happening. Mac sternly instructed me to hold “two feet.” I shot, the bullet hit its mark, and the elk went tumbling down the side of the cliff.
I started crying again – I was so happy and shocked. Mac and I hugged and he made sure to tell me he was still mad at me. I told him I wanted to go down and see the bull. When I shot, it was around sunset so, by the time we got over to the elk, it was going to be dark. The elk was in one of the worst spots around, and it was going to entail a steep and treacherous hike. I was ready!
I sucked down some Mountain Ops for some energy, and we set off with our headlamps and hiking sticks. I was sliding around, navigating the shale rock and deadfall trees. I didn’t want to think about hiking up it, but some part of me was excited to do it with a heavy pack. We made our way to where we thought I shot the elk and knew we were close. Mac spotted the elk, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had harvested my first ever bull elk!
Good To Great
Mac started to take pictures of me, I took some pictures of him with it and, of course, I asked for a picture of us both. Mac got the tripod set up and came over to me. I was trying to figure out where to stand next to the elk when Mac said, “I have a question for you.” I looked to my right, and he had a ring box opened and was down on one knee!
What I already thought was the best day harvesting my first elk turned into the greatest day of my life. “You have to ask me,” I said. He said, “Will you marry me?” I responded with a “Hell yes!”
We took a few more pictures, and then the real work started. Mac cut up the elk and I helped where I could. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. We packed out half of the meat that night, then went back the next morning and got the rest out. All the long pack hikes I did for training paid off!
My first out-of-state hunting trip had so many highs and few lows, but I wouldn’t change a thing. We came out of the trip with full packs and full hearts! We are engaged!