As I rolled out of Brainerd at 4 in the morning, I glanced at the odometer on the old Chevy and just hoped that after 270,000 miles she had a few more thousand in her.
The 16-hour drive didn’t seem too bad, because I had the hunt of a lifetime only a day away. The weather was a little warmer than I wanted but that would soon change as I drove to the top of the mountain. Soon it was snowing and blowing. Now it felt like elk hunting.
After a few hours of looking for animal signs, I had my plan for the opening morning. Walking out at 4 a.m., the wind was blowing pretty good but you could still hear the bugling down in a valley. Now it was getting exciting. About a half-hour before shooting time, I arrived at my spot overlooking a ravine and got bundled up.
It didn’t take long for things to get crazy. First a few cows came into sight. I took out my rangefinder and got a quick yardage. Soon after a spike followed and it seemed within seconds there was a herd of 40 or so. Setting my sights on a big 6-by-6, I watched it for a moment but surrounded by cows I had no safe shot.
Then I noticed another bull on the left walking away from the cows. Through my scope I saw it had a nice rack. It was the one I wanted. Immediately after pulling the trigger and seeing the bullet hit, elk fever hit, and it hit hard. Shaking and without any feeling in my hands, I walked down to see my trophy. Finally, my dream of taking a bull elk on a public-land,self-guided, solo hunt came true.
I have to admit I got a little choked up as soon as reality set in. After a quick text to my wife that simply said “I did it,” the work began. Five miles from the truck, I knew I had a lot to do, but I needed to pace myself as well. It took a few hours to skin and cut it all up and get the meat in game bags. This would be the easiest part of my day.
After a trip in to get my pack and game cart, I was on my way to pack out my animal. It took two trips and I got done the next day a little after noon. As soon as I was done, I checked my GPS and I had put on just over 30 miles, and it felt like it. But it was worth it.
You see for me, I’ve never wanted to hunt moose, caribou or anything else. Ever since I watched my first elk hunting show, that was it, it’s always been elk. And then there is the whole doing it solo thing. I had some good friends give me the confidence to do it. Even when I was getting a little nervous, they reminded me I could do it.
But pretty much everyone else said I was crazy, and that might be a little true also. But through the whole adventure, there were a few sayings I kept telling myself: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and “You gotta want it.” And of course towards the end, a little random singing to myself, but I think that’s to be expected.
So if you have a bucket list, no matter what is on it, you can do it. You just gotta want it.
JAMIE DIETMAN, What’s Up Outdoors, may be reached at 218-820-7757.