In hunting with R&K hunting company for years I have heard about the killer ranches they had in Montana. I have put in for one particular ranch for 4 years for a rifle elk tag. I have been successful every year for archery but when I re-applied for rifle no luck. However 2011 was different. I received a call from good friend who also happens to an owner famous company Daniel Richins who said I just won the lottery and drew the rifle tag. I was stoked, I haven’t hunted elk for years as my focus has been the elusive mule deer.
Now I had something to look forward to. As most of know the wait is the worst part. 2011 was shaping up to be a good year. Being in construction the last few years have been brutal I am fortunate to have some work going and of course when you don’t want to be busy you are. Now the trick was to try and plan a good time to go on the much anticipated outing. I was starting to think my old baseball # 11 was going to bring me luck. With 2011 having the rare 11/11/11 and it came during my hunting season, I felt it was a sign. So naturally I planned to hunt 11/11/11 of course I had dreams of a 411 bull in my sights also LOL.
As the time for my hunt came my hunting crew comprised of myself, my son Tyler and Jeremy Steffensen a great friend and excellent guide, unfortunately one man short, my son in law Mike could not get off work. We met our guide Ben Kemp, picked up some groceries and we where off. We toured the ranch that evening then went to the lodge to get ready for the hunt. Waking up at 4:30am the next morning was like Christmas I couldn’t sleep at all! I was anxious to make this hunt a reality. As we waited for sun to come up we were already glassing a herd in an area that Ben with his knowledge of the ranch knew they would be. As it got light enough to see we decided one was worth taking a closer look at. We made a plan to come around the mountain up wind from them. When we crested the hill the first bull was 75 yards away. He sniffed us and backed away. Ben had us back track and re position hoping we would catch them moving to their beds in the trees. Sure enough here come 14 bulls through the trees the herd had picked up a few more bulls we hadn’t saw earlier, with multiple shooters now in the herd heading through the trees, trying to keep tabs of which one was the best was hard. Not wanting to make a mistake our opportunity was gone. Nothing like a good adrenaline rush first thing in the morning to get you awake. We spent the rest of the day hunting hard trying to get in on some more action with no avail. We saw what had to be over a hundred cows with some rag horn bulls feeding in some open meadows on the lower end of the ranch but nothing worth getting the gun out over. Ted had told me when spoke on the phone on my way up not to be too picky because the snow hadn’t pushed the bulls down yet and the big bulls had pulled off the cows and where typically alone in the timber recouping from the rut. He said most of what he saw the week before where about 320 caliber bulls and they were all broken up from rutting. Staying optimistic throughout the day was not an easy task for me & I was beginning to think he may have been right. Needless to say I am not very patient person and can discourage easily. The country was killer and there was tree rubs everywhere. We joked that Ben had spent all summer up there with a belt sander. There where that many rubs, you would think you were bound to find elk everywhere, like they typically do on this late season hunt.
As we where glassing another area. The Best of the West film host, Latt interviewed me for a show they were putting together for their fall lineup. Among other questions asked what distance I was comfortable shooting at. I told him I felt way comfortable at 500 to 600 yards, I had a long range scope and shot up to 1200 yards quiet often at a long range course Justin Richins with R&K has back in Utah.
I felt the gun could handle such a shot but would prefer to have something closer. I have plenty of experience off of the range in the field as well with R&K. I shot a 188 gross typical buck with guide Jess Richins two years prior @ 558, last year I took a Wyoming Deer at 625 yards, a antelope at 450 yards, a Utah Deer at 550yards and earlier this year had harvested a stud of velvet high country deer during the 2011 season at 450yards with my master guide & Daniel Richins.
As the Day went on we where following our guide and film crew to a new area to watch for the evening hunt and see if we could spot some Bulls feeding out. Tyler spotted some antelope which led to him to look over the area real quick when in the distance he found four bulls feeding out of the pines over a mile away. We got out the spotting scopes to have a better look, quickly we determined even at that distance one was a shooter. Ben didn’t know we stopped as he was ahead of us so Tyler took off to alert them we had found a bull worth pursuing and given the distance had to get a move on to get into position before we ran out of shooting light.
By the time Tyler and Ben had returned Jeremy had now upped the pressure by telling me this bull was a stud. I let Ben know I was all over this and now he just had to tell us how we could get in on it!! We drove what seemed like forever and finally came up a back of a knoll. Ben said I would have a great shot from there. As we hiked to the top of the mountain my heart was racing Ben kept telling me to stay calm and collect my breath so I wouldn’t be winded, by now Jeremy, being the mountain goat he is was already to the top of the hill with his spotting scope set up. I looked up to see if he’s found them and see him hold up 4 fingers I thought sweet I reached down turned my dial to 400 yards thinking this is a done deal. I get up there and say they are farther than four hundred yards. Jeremy said yeah I held up five fingers first then four I said great I missed that small detail. It only took seconds to realize this was my only opportunity. He was definitely a bull worth taking. We were on the only hill around and the elk where feeding out in flat prairie grass. Confident in our ability and knowledge as a team with Latt from the best of the west telling me this was do able and him reading the wind which for some odd reason had stopped. We got the gun all set with a bi pod and a shooting bag in the back. I followed the elk forever in the scope and felt so comfortable and confident in the situation. I begged them to let me take a shot as he was coming straight on. They insisted I wait until he turned, which seemed like forever. Latt being quite the motivational speaker kept reassuring me that I could do this and to be patient and stay calm. I had Tyler, Jeremy and Ben looking through a Spotting scope. The camera zoomed in and ready. Everyone kept calling out where he was in position to the other 3 just to make sure we all agreed. It sounded like NASA command center he’s the 3rd back now the second now the last, LOL. Finally he turns but one bull is too close so they say hold on. My whole body is numb from waiting. He finally distances himself and they say go when ready. I squeeze off and am just left. I chamber another and money perfect right above the front shoulder.
I can’t believe it 901 yards. Now the fun I get to hike that 901 yards off the hill which I can assure you took quite a bit longer than it did my bullet. The reality starts kicking in that I just with the right equipment and team just pulled off a killer shot on a trophy animal and a once in a lifetime experience. He is a 7×7 that scores 365 1/8 gross. A beautiful bull extremely thin from rutting but a trophy and a shot on camera to prove it now this was a hunt!!! I would not recommend a shot like this to everyone but practice, knowing your comfort level and investing in the right equipment it can pay off!!! 11/12/11 turned out just fine!!!