Photo by Blane Klemek
Joe Welna (front) and John Zack (rear, carrying antlers)
head back to camp.
We had a front row mountainside seat as we watched the entire hunt unfold when John Zack harvested his first elk.
Joe Welna and I were processing our mule deer in camp, cutting and wrapping our venison. At about 4:45, we were surprised when John returned from the nearby mountain, out of breath and looking at the slope behind Joe and me.
He pointed to it as I asked him why he was back so early. Turning to look, we saw more than 30 elk on the sage-covered ridgetop almost a mile away.
“I don’t think I can make it in time,” John said as he glanced down at his wristwatch.
“Yes you can!” I answered.
In the ensuing minutes we helped John by suggesting the best route for a stalk and then bid him good luck as he began his descent to the creek bottom and back up the other side in hopes of positioning himself for a shot at a bull.
John made it with only minutes to spare. The elk were everywhere, foraging, unaware, but only a couple of bulls were amongst the herd.
We watched him crawl toward a big Douglas fir tree. We watched him disappear. We waited for the sound of his rifle. And then we heard one shot… then a second… and one more, all evenly spaced in a period of about a minute.
Then through our binoculars, we saw John stand up, facing us, his arms held high above his head and spread out, giving us the sign for bull elk down.
By Blane Klemek
Routt National Forest