Mt. Emily Elk Hunt – 2016

June 29, 2017

Have you ever felt truly blessed?

That’s how I feel as I sit and write this story.

Deep in my heart I have felt compelled to hunt since the age of 6 or 7, even though my family did not hunt. That urge to hunt pulls at me all year long, and I think about and plan my hunts most of the year. I have drawn a few good tags, but it was never a surprise when I did because I had enough preference points to have a 100% chance of drawing those tags…My elk hunt this year was different.

I found out in June that I had drawn 2 great tags that I had expected, but 1 that was a complete shock! Please read that story here. (Blog link to new site coming soon)

I have never had a year like this where I was blessed enough to hunt for 3 different animals, please see the story of my Antelope hunt here if you are interested.

I was completely blown away that I would get to hunt this great Oregon elk unit again, and that some of my friends agreed to go help me again, even some of them that still have not drawn this tag even though they had 2x the amount of points I had!

Please see the story I wrote of my first hunt in Mt. Emily in 2010 here. (Blog link to new site coming soon)

The 2016 hunt began with another examination of where to hunt in the unit. The unit is very large, and has lots of elk. I knew that we would have no problem finding bulls, but wondered where I should focus my efforts to find a truly great bull. I picked the brains of some very accomplished hunters, and received some good advice about where to focus my efforts. My goal was to try to get a 350+ class bull if possible, although I knew that goal was going to be very difficult to obtain.

On this hunt I was going to be joined by Burton and Robert Thompson, Dave Seida, and Wade. These guys are so much fun to hang out with, we laughed and joked non stop. They also get very serious when it comes to hunting, and I owe them all lots of time and effort hiking, glassing for big bulls, and packing meat out!

On the Friday before opening morning we were all in different spots glassing for big bulls, with many other hunters. I met several really good people that were all trying to make the most of their tags as well, and we all talked and shared information, and the excitement was reaching a fever pitch.

We saw a few good bulls, and some beautiful landscapes.

Eventually Burton spotted a long beamed 7×6 that we all agreed was very nice.  We field judged it in the 345 range, and tried to put a plan together to kill this bull on opening day.  Here is a picture of the bull Burton spotted.

On opening morning of the hunt we got to the trail head several hours before the sun came up. We found several trucks already there, and for a second we questioned whether we should find an area with less hunting pressure. We talked about the pros and cons of looking for another bull, and also the chance that this well hidden bull would not be found by other hunters on opening day.

We all decided that sticking with the plan was the best idea because there were many miles of area to hunt out this particular trail, and so we started hiking in. At some point in the dark we encountered another group of hunters that moved out ahead of us and down the ridge where we had wanted to end up, giving us the best chance to get a shot at the 7×6. Burton and I talked it over and we felt like the other group of hunters had dropped too low, possibly not allowing them to see the bull depending on where it showed up this morning.

As we watched the headlamps disappear down the trail, we put on some extra clothes to wait the 2 hours until daylight. The temperature was actually very mild, in the 40s, but the wind was blowing around 30 mph which was enough to chill me pretty good by sun up. At some point I saw a shooting star which made me smile, and I wondered what the day would bring.

As the sun began to rise, we began to glass the hillside where we hoped the bull would be, but saw no elk. We heard 2 shots down below us and my heart sunk a little bit, with the possibility of the 7×6 getting shot already. We continued to glass and saw nothing on the hillside where we wanted to find the 7×6, but we did see several bulls and herds of elk on other ridges around us.

At some point, Dave said, “Here they come!” and we all saw 3 bulls coming around a corner and into the opening that we were watching. We looked the bulls over and realized that the back bull was the 7×6.

We all realized we were too far away to take a shot, and so we quickly collected our gear, got our packs on, and started “Skiing” down the hill to cut the distance down. I call it skiing, basically we are hurrying down a steep hill by shuffling our feet quickly, basically giving up all control and coming close to losing our balance which could roll us all the way to the bottom! It is a scary, but fast way to get down a hill quickly.

As we moved down the hill I continually looked for the other hunters that were ahead of us. I would never shoot a bull that they were making a play on, but we did not see any other hunters, and I remembered the earlier shots could have been them knocking down a different bull and filling their tag.

Burton stopped us on the only sorta flat spot where we could get a shot from. I wanted to get closer, but the ground got so steep that a shot would not be possible. The sorta flat spot was 655 yards from the spot we thought the bull would appear, and we started to get set up. I had taken a pressure reading earlier, and realized the wind had calmed down to about 10 mph.

Burton and I have practiced shooing long distance for several years just so that we could be effective in situations like these. I know that there is a healthy debate about long range shooting and it’s place in hunting, and I will leave that topic alone for now. I do know that Burton and I practice enough to be very effective, and feel like we are able to make ethical shots at these distances.

The wind was gusting from 8-15 mph, and Burton and I figured out my wind hold after I had clicked in for the distance. The bulls had no idea we were there, and so we took our time. Dave was filming this whole time, and I hope you get to check out the video at the start of this blog.

Here is the hill where the bull was…

The bull was facing to the left and my first shot ended up being at 601 yards.  Burton and I both saw the bullet hit the bull right behind the shoulder in the lungs, and the bull ran uphill about 5 yards and stopped facing to the left again but a large tree was covering his vitals.  For what seemed like several minutes the bull stood there with his head down, and he looked sick.

The bull eventually took one step forward exposing his vitals, and Burton gave me a wind correction of 3 MOA as the wind had just picked up.  I slowly pressed the trigger, and watched the second bullet hit the bull in the same spot.  The bull continued to show how tough elk are, and did nothing for another minute, but eventually he tipped over and did not move.

Burton, Dave and I watched the bull for several minutes to make sure the bull was not going to get up, or even roll down the steep hill to a place we could not see.

We heard voices up the hill 100 yards above us, and we saw the other group of hunters watching us.  Burton went up to talk to them as Dave and I packed up and prepared to hike down the hill, cross a river, and then up the other side to the bull.

Burton came back and he had found out that the other hunters were after the same 7×6 bull, but they had dropped too low and could not see it.  They were as surprised as we were that another hunting party had been close by, hunting the same bull.

We decided that Burton and Dave would hike across to the bull, and I would hike back out to the trail head and get my truck and move it around to try to find a ridge that would give us the shortest pack out with the bull, without us needing to cross the river again.

On my way out to the truck I ended up hiking out with the other group of hunters, and they were understandably disappointed.  I apologized to them and explained that I felt bad shooting a bull that they were hoping to get.  They were very gracious and brought up that we were all hunting public land, and that everyone was trying to be courteous.  They also asked me where my #2 bull was, and I gave them the info on where my #2 and #3 bulls were.  We exchanged numbers, and the next day I was able to give them the score of the 7×6, and also see a great picture of a 7×7 the hunter was able to kill the next day.  It was great to see and feel the positive interactions between hunters on this trip.

I talked to Robert and Wade who scouted the best place to get above the bull.  I joined them after getting the meat packs and game bags, and we dropped off the hill from the trucks to join Burton and Dave at the bull.  As we dropped down and down and down, I realized that the hike out with heavy packs was going to be a long one!

As I got down to the bull and finally got my hands on the bull I remembered the shooting star I had seen, and smiled at how things had worked out.

We than spent the next hour or so gutting, skinning, and boning out the meat.  My last Mt. Emily bull did not have meat that was very tender or tasty, but the meat on this bull seemed sweet and tender, and I am excited that it will be delicious.  I also decided to do a European mount, so we did not need to cape the bull.

After we got the bull cut up, we loaded up the packs, and started sending guys up the hill, knowing that the steep hill and brush could make this a several hour hike out.  We also decided that we did not want to come back in tomorrow, so we divided up all of the meat and got the whole bull out in one trip, which made our packs even heavier than usual.

I have to say a HUGE thank you to Burton, Dave, Robert, and Wade for putting my elk meat on their backs and doing a several hour leg workout!

We also screwed on the last big bull I packed having my antlers facing down, on ground they hit the ground and spun me off the mountain several times.  This time Burton and I propped the antlers with a stick, keeping me safely on the mountain on the way up.

We went up and up, and I was very glad that I had been doing cross fit and bur-pee workouts to get my legs in shape!

We hiked and hiked as it got darker and darker.  The sunset was actually very beautiful, and I felt very lucky to spend that difficult hike with good friends, carrying out a great bull.

We made the final walk to the truck, and after the drive back to camp I was so stiff I could barely walk.  I have never felt that sore and stiff from any other pack out. The next few days the soreness peaked and than finally began to fade.  It was a very strange feeling to be done hunting after just a few days, and we all headed home on Tuesday.

The 4 hour drive home for me was filled with honks and passing cars and trucks giving me big thumbs up.  It felt really good to know that there were good people out there that like to support each other in this hunting tradition.  I proudly dropped off the elk meat at a butcher, and took my antlers to a taxidermist to get my European mount done.

I sit here now writing this, and cannot believe it is over.  I know how lucky I am to have friends that are willing to spend major time and effort to help me make memories and have a really exciting hunt that ends up with a great bull on the wall, and a freezer full of grass-fed organic goodness.  I would like to say a big “thank you” to Burton, Dave, Robert, and Wade for their friendship and them spending their precious time and effort helping me.  I would also like to say thank you to their families for holding down the fort at work and at home so that they could join me.

I still don’t know why I feel so compelled in my heart to go out into the woods and try to bring home big animals and healthy protein, but I know that this feeling is incredible, and I cannot wait to do it again as soon as possible.

I hope you all get to experience the same feelings of excitement and satisfaction on your hunts, and I wish you the best of luck on your hunts in 2017.  Please don’t forget to enter our competitions before your hunts begin, and get them entered by December 31st to be eligible to win some great prizes! Thank you.

Leo Harris

 

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