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.
We were hunting near Lima, Montana. We had stayed at a friend’s house the night before our hunt. We went out early the next morning and set-up our wall tent. Then we started scouting, and we heard some bulls bugling. We’d been successful hunting this area before, but we couldn’t believe how lucky we were to find these bulls on the first day of the hunt. When we got close enough to see them without their seeing us, they were on a steep draw close to an avalanche chute. But then, they went into some dark timber. We decided they probably would bed in the dark timber. So, we returned to camp and just hung-out until it was time to start hunting in the afternoon when the elk should be coming out of their beds.
We reached the place where we’d seen the elk about 5:30 pm – remember the sun stays up later in the West. We sat down for a few minutes. Then Eric asked, “Are you ready?” I said, “Yes, I am.” He called once, and an elk bugled right back to him. Eric told me, “Go down the mountain just a little bit, and I’ll try to call the bull to you.” But I went down the mountain farther than Eric thought I’d gone. Eric kept calling. I spotted a 5×5 bull at 70 yards. When he got to 46 yards, I drew my bow and prepared to take the shot, but the bull stayed behind some brush for what seemed like an eternity. I had to let my bow down. Finally, the bull took three steps and quartered away from me just a little. But I didn’t really know he was quartering away. I thought he was presenting a broadside shot. I saw the arrow hit the bull. I didn’t say a word, but inside I was screaming, “I think I made a bad shot.” The arrow had entered the bull and moved forward. I thought I had shot too far back on the bull to make a really-good shot. I thought I had gut-shot the bull. When the bull took the arrow, he whipped around, broke a tree off and took off running. I never heard the bull fall, and I was really getting upset that I’d made a bad shot.
Because Eric hadn’t seen or heard me make the shot, he kept bugling. Then I heard a bull down below me bugling, and I assumed that the bull below me was the bull I’d shot. So, I got really upset and started crying. One of the reasons that I was a reluctant hunter in the beginning was because I was really concerned that I might make a bad shot and not put an animal down quickly and humanely.
I stayed where I had taken the shot for 15 minutes, and Eric continued bugling. Later, he told me that he had heard the tree break when I shot the bull, and he whipped around. But of course, he couldn’t hear me shoot. So, he kept calling, hoping to call the bull back to me. Finally, I started walking up to where Eric was, and he was coming down to meet me, and I was just bawling. I told Eric through my tears, “I’m afraid I gut-shot the bull.” Eric was very calming. He said, “It’s going to be okay. Take me to where you took the shot. Then take me to where the bull was standing, and we’ll figure this out.”
I dropped my pack, but just as the pack hit the ground, I heard a coughing noise. Then I heard it again. So, Eric started walking quietly and slowly down the mountain to from where the sound was coming. He reached an opening, and he saw my elk not 60-yards away. He got really excited then, and he went over to touch it to make sure it was down. As Eric looked at the elk, he saw that I had made a double-lung shot. Eric came back, got me and showed me the elk. I quit crying and gave Eric a big high-five and a big hug. All the tears and the bad emotions were gone, because I knew I’d made a good hit.
When we got to the bull, we took some pictures. The part of the mountain where the bull lay was really steep, and there were a lot of loose rocks from an avalanche. We tied the bull’s head to two trees with some rope to keep him from sliding down the mountain when we tried to field dress and quarter him. I field dressed my elk. We tied some of the meat up in trees, and we carried some of the meat – I carried a front quarter, and Eric carried a hindquarter – back to camp that night. On this hunt we had a Polaris (www.polaris.com) Ranger ATV with us. We only had to carry the meat about 1/2-mile before we reached the ATV. Once we got the meat back to camp, dark had fallen. We made dinner and went to sleep. Since the weather that night was about 30 degrees, we weren’t worried about our meat spoiling. We returned the next morning and got the head and the rest of the meat.
I was really excited about having the opportunity to take a bull with my bow, and to learn that I had made a good hit – not a bad hit. To be honest, I think I was more excited that I had made a good double-lung shot than I was about having taken the bull elk.
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.