Back in my late teens, we went hunting out near Rye #4 in the center of the ‘outback’ area of Canada Creek Ranch. As per usual, it was my father, his friend Bob, my brother and myself. I originally hunted out behind the rye field but was aware that my father was hunting south of the road just east of the parking area. So when not much was going on, I headed east of the field doing a slow stalk hoping to come out near the road about the same time he did.
I ran across a few cow elk on the way but not much else. Eventually I was just about north of where I thought I would need to be so I started to turn south toward the two track. As I was walking along, I wasn’t noticing anything particular. There was a slight rise before the road became visible and a few trees just the other side of the road. I threw my bow over my shoulder and started to crown the hill when one of the trees started to move!
It turned out not to be a tree but a rather large bull elk we had been seeing all summer. This guy was a monster! We had some big bulls up in this part of Michigan, but this one was the exception and had a rack that was at least twice the length of the largest bulls we’d seen. To say he had a tree on his head was an understatement! I continued to watch him as he walked just south of the road heading in the same direction I would soon be going as I stood waiting to see if my father would come out of the woods to the south.
To give you an idea as to just how big this guy’s horns are, first realize that this was a large bodied bull to begin with. Yet, as I stood watching him, he lifted his neck, not really pulling his head back over his body at all. Instead he just tipped his head a little and scratched his hind quarters with his horns. Most bull’s horns would be lucky if they made it half way down the length of their bodies and most bulls didn’t have a body as big as him. His horns extended another 2 feet behind his rump while he scratched.
After waiting a good 20 minutes, the bull and his harem of cows worked their way down to a small clearing in the middle of a turn in the road. The cows moved around about him and he just stood there. I figured I had waited enough time and didn’t know if dad was waiting around later than usual or perhaps was on a stalk somewhere himself so I decided to head back to the truck.
As I approached the turn in the road, instead of following it around the bull to the right, I decided to cut straight through. The bull was still standing firm, but most elk are very leery of humans and I fully expected him to get out of the way well before I got to him.
I was still thinking this as I closed within 50 yards. I still thought this at about 45 yards and kept the same walking pace. I still thought this at about 40 yards but started now to slow down. By the time I got down to about 35 yards, I stopped because the bull tightened up the muscles in his haunches and lifted his head to stare straight at me. I began to get the feeling he had no intention of moving.
I thought it wise at this point to pull my bow – slowly – off my shoulder and threw a broadhead arrow on as I slowly backed up until I was far enough back that I could keep a good distance between him and me as I went around the road to his right. He stood and watched me walk all the way around but still didn’t move.
Just about the time I got up to the pickup and put my bow away, I noticed my dad coming out of the woods south of the road back where I had started. The bull still stood in the middle of the half circle curve and sure enough, my dad decided to cut the corner too. It was like watching myself on rewind.
50 yards, still walking. 40 yards, still walking. Dad was apparently more confident than me. He didn’t slow his pace until he hit about 30 yards and didn’t come to a full stop until at about 25 yards. Then bow off the shoulder, arrow on the string, tip toe backwards and go around.
He kept watching the bull his whole way around following the road to the bull’s right. When he finally turned around he found me sitting on the tailgate laughing my ass off.
“What the hell are you laughing at?” dad asked.
“Oh, not much. But if you came out about 10 minutes earlier you would know!” I said in response.