Editor’s Note: Wendy Lacoss-Drake from Libby, Montana, has been hunting big game in Montana for 9 years. Not born into a hunting family, she didn’t think she had the heart to kill an animal. However, when she met her husband Eric Drake, her life was forever changed in several ways. Eric was a competition archer and a bowhunter. He introduced Wendy to competition archery. Then she more or less stumbled her way into becoming a big-game hunter taking elk, whitetails and turkeys.
I’d been hunting elk for 4 years with my bow. I had decided that I wanted to take an elk with my bow. Taking an elk with a gun never crossed my mind. I didn’t mind seeing elk that I could have taken with a gun. But for me, the challenge was to take an elk the way I wanted to take him – with my bow.
We were hunting in the Missouri Breaks. We had put some tree stands up the day we got to camp. Then when we went out hunting, we decided to put-up a few more stands. We’d found an open field that had numbers of elk trails running through it. After we put the stand up, I went back to it that afternoon at about 5:00 pm. Darkness doesn’t fall out here until about 8:30 or 9:00 pm. I knew I’d have 3-4 hours to hunt before dark.
About 30 minutes after I got into my stand, I heard something moving behind me. I was a little concerned, because whatever I heard was coming down the same trail I’d used to walk to my stand. I told myself, “That’s probably just a bunny rabbit.” Next I thought, “It may be a mountain lion, because there are plenty of them in this area.” Then I’d think, “No, it’s probably just a bunny rabbit, but why would a bunny rabbit be hopping down my same trail? Mountain lions have much-keener sense of smell that bunny rabbits do.” I kind of got concerned, but I had nocked an arrow. I had decided, if this was a mountain lion that was looking for a nice young lady for dinner, I’d be able to get him before he got me. But then I would think, “It doesn’t sound like a mountain lion. It’s a real soft sound.” Although the area I had come through to get to my stand was fairly brushy, in the back of my mind, I was still thinking about the mountain lion.
I moved around in my stand to see what was about to walk under my tree stand. I looked down and saw what I thought was a foot but actually was the hoof of an elk. That elk was right underneath my stand. After I had identified the elk, the next order of business was to try to get control of my emotions. In 4 years of elk hunting with my bow, this elk was the first that had ever been close enough for me to take a shot. I tried to control my breathing, because I knew I was about to hyperventilate. Finally, the cow elk walked about 20 yards in front of me, quartering away from me. I drew my PSE (www.pse-archery.com) bow with a G5 Striker broadhead https://www.g5outdoors.com/g5-outdoors-striker-broadhead-death-row/ and released the arrow. I aimed a little bit far back behind the shoulder, because the elk was quartering away from me, and I knew that was where I needed to place my arrow to get a double-lung shot.
When the elk took the arrow, it kicked up a little bit, and I could see the fletchings on my arrow still sticking out on the side of the elk where I’d hit it. The elk went about 40 yards, kneeled down and then laid down. Everyone else with us was hunting in the same area. I didn’t want to come out of my stand and possibly spook another elk that another hunter might be able to take. We didn’t have cell service where we were hunting. So, I couldn’t tell anyone that I had shot my elk, and that it was down.
I was so excited. I had a tough time staying in the stand until dark. I knew that Eric was only about 200-yards away from me, and once again I didn’t want to run the risk of having another elk wind me and ruin Eric’s hunt. Right at dark, I cow-called three times – the signal we used to let each other know that someone in our party had shot an animal. So, when Eric and our other friends came to my stand, I asked them, “Did you hear me cow-call?” Eric answered “Yes, we did, but we didn’t think anything about it.” I smiled and announced, “I got an elk with my bow!” Eric had to touch my elk to make sure that I’d really shot this elk. He was really excited, gave me a high-five and a big hug and said, “Good job.”
We went back to camp, met up with some friends and learned one of them also had taken an elk. One of our friends was a butcher, who volunteered to go with us to field dress the elk and cut it up to enable is to carry the elk out in one load. To return to camp after that, we had to hike about 1/2-mile, and I carried one of the front shoulders. After we got my elk back to camp, we went with our friends to field dress and butcher the second elk, and we all helped carry that elk back to camp. We didn’t get through carrying elk to camp until about 3:00 am the following day, but I was still so excited about taking my first elk with a bow.
Learn more about other women in the outdoors in John E. Phillips’ book, “Outdoor Women’s Hall of Fame” available in Kindle and print at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0771VP16V/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i52. You can read John E. Phillips’ latest book on hunting elk, “Elk – Keys to 25 Hunters’ Success” and learn more at https://www.amazon.com/Elk-Keys-25-Hunters-Success-ebook/dp/B07F3CNTX2 for Kindle, print and audible versions. You can see John’s other elk books at http://johninthewild.com/books#elk. You can download a free app to enable you to read this book on your computer or your tablet. You also can download a free book, “Miz Denise’s Outdoor Cooking – More than 35 Recipes for Elk and Mule Deer,” at https://www.emailmeform.com/builder/form/rtJ6fD5m97CYhMXd.