First of all, I really, really appreciate all the well wishes on the forums, emails, text messages and PM's. We really needed them.
Wes and I were up to the mountain in the dark so we could glass the hillside. There was nothing. We then started to walk drainages, ridges, meadows, mountain fingers and every nook and cranny. I actually found another dead elk and he was simply enormous! But after hours of glassing, walking and frustration we decided this was pointless. There was just too much country.
We needed to take this to the next level. So we contacted the Fish and Game and confirmed the legality of using aircraft for recovery. It was similar to other states, so long as it wasn't being used for the pursuit of an animal and we were strictly using it to recover a lost game animal it was Ok. My hunt was over this afternoon so there was no risk. So we hit the phones and found a chopper that was available and we chartered it for 5PM this evening. At $500/hr I had to swallow hard but this elk meant a lot to Wes and I, and if we found the elk it would be worth every penny.
We met the pilot in Fort Collins and lifted off for the hillside. I've been in a copter before but never for game recovery. It was an incredible tool, especially in the broken timber in this part of Colorado. We surveyed the entire property, every drainage and hillside.
We never found him anywhere on the property. Before our time was up, Wes suggested we check to the North. It was a long shot but to our amazement, we found my bull. He was still alive, standing up looking at the chopper. He had gone another mile from where we lost the last blood sign and was three miles from where I had shot him. We confirmed him first by his rack, since he has a small 7th point on his left beam and when we swung around to see him from his left side the wound was visible, but drastically improved from when we saw him yesterday.
The elk was on private property that Wes can't trespass on, and in truth it doesn't matter since we couldn't legally pursue him anyway after using the aircraft. An interesting dilemma would have happened had we found him alive on Wes's property. By law, I was done with this elk but the ethical thing to do would be to sneak up and kill him. I wouldn't break the law but it would have been tempting. The only thing Wes can do is to wait till after the season and ask for permission from the landowner to see if that elk died at that spot.
I had mixed emotions. I was happy we knew where he was so I could get closure that he wasn't laying in some cut that we may have missed. But I was disappointed since I was hoping to find him dead by using the chopper. This was not the way I wanted this hunt to end. But there's a reality to bowhunting that we all know, sometimes things go wrong - even when you are certain you did everything right. We are still dumbfounded over what happened.
The only likely scenario for what happened is a one-lung hit. Based on what I thought was the elk's body position, I put the pin 4" behind his crease and released and that is exactly where I hit him. Height was perfect. But it's likely the body position was not what either of us thought. Where I should have put the pin was 12" behind his crease due to the angle of his body. This is speculation but it would make sense. My arrow likely entered the frontal lobe of the near lung and completely missed the offside lung. So not only did I not get a double lung hit, but I also missed most of the near lung as well. My broadhead embedded in the off shoulder and snapped off. We had found my arrow while trailing - minus the first 3".
I have heard of animals surviving a one-lung hit but I honestly don't know if this bull will make it. He lost a lot of blood and he is certainly weakened. A magnificent animal lost is not something I, nor Wes take lightly. I truly hope he recovers but unless he dies in that black timber we'll never know.
This hunt has been a roller coaster of highs and lows with lots of emotion. But it was a fantastic hunt. I love hunting with Wes, we were totally in sync with how we wanted to conduct this hunt. And I've never hunted with someone who knows so much about the animals he hunts, their habits and their ground as he does. If I can talk Wes into hunting with me again we will give it a go. But in all honesty I think he's terrified of my elk curse now. Who could blame him.
Thanks for following along with us.