by Chris Haught · October 3, 2016
The following is an excerpt from a thank you letter written to a landowner by hunter Jim Taylor, after he successfully harvested his first elk. He shared this with Hunter Ed; it’s an excellent example of how hunters can best treat landowners to continue the sport.
“I am writing to thank you for letting my brother Flint and I hunt on your ranch last fall. I have been hunting since I was a boy, but only hunting elk for the past fifteen years. Until my hunt on your ranch, I had only had one clear shot at an elk, which I missed. The one day of hunting elk on your ranch was a better day than the past fifteen years put together.
My brother and I were hunting on foot, and there were two hunters hunting horseback. The two horseback hunters start shooting right about noon (the elk came out just when you told us they would). We were along one side of a big draw, and headed up through the timber to work our way in position to sit and look. I went up one side, and my brother went up the other. I found a spot to sit and watch in the edge of the timber, and had a good view of the hillside. I waited and waited, but didn’t see or hear any animals. The wind was blowing hard, gusting 20 to 30 miles an hour.
Just as I was ready to move on (and to give up elk hunting for good) I heard a large animal right below me. It was no more than ten or fifteen feet away, snorting and farting and moving around. I was on top of a cutbank and couldn’t see directly below me, although I could see all the approaches to the cutbank. Eventually the noises stopped, but nothing came out. After waiting several minutes, I tossed a branch over the edge of the cutbank, but nothing came out. I threw a bigger branch over the cutbank, but still nothing came out. I finally walked down to see why the animal wouldn’t come out, and found that there was nothing there. No elk, no deer, no tracks, no animal sign of any kind. I walked back up to where I had been sitting and bent over to pick up my hat. Just as I did fifteen head of elk walked out on the top of hillside across the draw, about 250 yards away.
When I saw the lead cow, I knew she was coming home with me. I only had time for an offhand shot, and was most fortunate to shoot her eye out. I have convinced my brother that it was skill on my part and not luck, and I hope you will not disabuse him of this notion.
I don’t believe you ever had the opportunity to meet my father, Park Taylor, but he was an old time Montana cowboy who loved elk hunting above all things. He died thirteen years ago. My brother Flint and I have hunted together each fall since then. I often sense my father’s presence when Flint and I are hunting, and I am convinced it was my father who was making those noises in the cutbank below me to keep me in position for my shot at my first elk.
After I sprinted up the hillside to my elk, the riders came down to see how we had done. Their horses were too spooky to drag the elk. I had no idea how large and heavy elk were, but was most happy to become acquainted with the problems of dragging them out.
I do not know if we will ever have the opportunity to hunt your ranch again as I am sure you are besieged with requests from hunters. If we ever do have that opportunity I would be most grateful. If we do not, I will always be thankful for one of the best days I have ever had.”
Jim has been a hunter education instructor in Montana for 15 years. Though he didn’t return to that ranch to hunt again, the experience has stayed with him as one of his most incredible hunts.
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