The bull staggered 15 yards before looking back for the cow that called desperately to calm him. He wobbled, then fell in the middle of a beautiful, frosty Idaho mountain meadow. Before the steam rose more than a foot from the hole in the bull’s side, I saw my hunting partner, Dave Perry, scramble out of the timber behind me with a fist raised and a big smile on his face. This display overshadowed any regret I may have felt in taking the smallest bull we had seen in the past 36 hours. With time growing short and Dave needing to be back at work on Monday, my decision to execute the next shot opportunity had already been solidified.
For me, hunting solo was the way I preferred to hunt most of the time. My opinions and experiences have been derived strictly from my archery hunting. I spent several years hunting with Rockie Jacobsen, and while we sometimes hunted as partners, most often we would take different canyons and hunt ourselves back together at the end of the day. I usually camped with folks, but mostly hunted solo in the elk timber. I did not realize what I was missing by not teaming up on bulls.
I now always vote for a partnering situation for elk hunting. I feel there are two very pertinent points in arriving at my relatively new-found philosophy of hunting with a partner. One is camaraderie and safety, and the other is the logistics of getting an elk in little white bags after petting and picture taking.
I was hunting solo one fall and had seen some action, but it had been slower than usual. Corey came by camp one evening and told Ralph Albright and I that he had located a few bulls and invited us to go with him to hunt them. The next morning, the three of us gathered and took off. To shorten the story, Corey had already filled his tag and was calling for Ralph and I. I took the shooters position with Ralph behind and off to the side. As Corey called from 60 yards behind, the bull came past my set-up, unaware of my presence. I was at full draw when the bull entered my shooting lane, but something caused my shot to sail over his back. The bull whirled to run, unsure of what was happening, but Corey quickly called and stopped the bull. He circled around above my set-up and continued on course for Corey and Ralph. He came through another shooting lane, just a few yards from Corey and this time my shot was perfect. He went 100 yards and fell over. We had a great time of reliving the shots and the fact that Ralph was 1 second away from letting an arrow fly when I shot the second time. Realistically, this would have never happened had I been solo.
Another important factor to hunting with a partner is what takes place after you’ve been successful. While it is often refreshing to take a morning hunt alone, it is so much more rewarding to have a teammate there to share in the success when it comes. There are few things that form such strong bonds in friendship as sharing a successful elk hunt together. As it says in Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” It’s great to share the highs, as well as the lows of a hunt with a good friend. As an added bonus, an extra pack frame and a strong back are invaluable at the end of a successful hunt!