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July 2024
Story by Talon Cook
State: Colorado
Species: Elk - Rocky Mtn

It was the third day of the Colorado archery elk hunt on public land. My hunting group consisted of my father, Jody Cook, and my two brothers, Garrett Cook and Mason Haddock. We decided to move our camp to a secondary spot we had scouted within the unit. The decision came after observing limited activity and facing heavy hunting pressure in our previous location.

Garrett and I were the first to depart, eager to get a head start on the day’s hunt. We briskly ascended the mountain, aiming to minimize transition time and dive straight into hunting. After a solid three-hour hike, we reached the new camp location at around 10 a.m. Without delay, we set up camp, and by 11 a.m., we were already out hunting. Choosing a strategic spot, we constructed a makeshift blind over an elk transition area we had observed before. However, our anticipation was met with stillness as a storm began to roll in. By 3 p.m., the tranquility was shattered by high winds and fast-falling pea- sized hail, blanketing the ground in white. With the weather worsening, we decided to call off the hunt and retreat to camp. Upon our return, we found Dad and Mason setting up a quick shelter to escape the winter weather. As the hail turned to snow, Garrett and I pitched in to help Mason and Dad set up their overnight shelters.

At 5:30 p.m., as the snow continued to drift down, we were all gathered around the campfire when suddenly, the mesmerizing sound of an elk bugle echoed through the air, originating roughly 500 feet below our campsite. Without hesitation, Garrett, Mason, and I sprang into action. I quickly laced up my boots, grabbed my bow, and began descending in the direction of the bugle, aiming to intercept and ambush the elk. Meanwhile, Garrett and Mason moved laterally along the contour line before descending themselves. From a higher vantage point, Garrett and Mason let out bugle calls of their own, causing the bull to respond as we pinpointed his location. Silently, I positioned myself while my brothers gestured in the direction the bull was approaching from. There he was, steadily ascending the mountain, lured by the call he mistook for another bull elk. With my arrow already nocked, I waited patiently for the perfect moment. As he took the necessary steps, I drew back, steadying my aim. With a deep breath, I released the arrow, and it flew true, striking the bull with a pass-through at 30 yards. I watched in disbelief as he ran a short distance up the mountain before turning back downhill.

The adrenaline coursing through me, I couldn’t believe what had just happened. With the snow falling around us, my brothers and I approached the spot where the bull had stood, finding my arrow coated in blood. Although eager to track him immediately, we decided to wait 30 minutes, allowing for the possibility that the resilient elk might still have some fight left in him. Then, with anticipation building, we followed the vivid trail of blood through the snow and tricky terrain. After 200 yards of tracking, we discovered the beautiful 5x4 bull elk, his last breath drawn. Overwhelmed with emotion, I realized that a lifelong dream had just come true. I was grateful to share this moment not only with my brothers but also with my dad.

As we stood there surrounded by the serene beauty of the mountains, I knew that this experience would forever be etched in our memories. As we prepared to celebrate our success, I couldn’t help but feel a profound sense of gratitude for the bond we shared and the adventures yet to come. This hunting excursion held a profound significance for me as two days prior we carried my grandfather’s ashes to scatter over his beloved glassing spot. I felt his presence with us, guiding our steps during this poignant moment. None of this would have been possible without the unwavering support of my hunting companions, the love of my beautiful fiance´e, and the strength I draw from my faith in Jesus Christ. As I reflect on this unforgettable experience, I cherish the hope of one day sharing similar adventures with my own child. For now, though, it’s time to shift into packing meat and a supporting role and assisting my companions in filling their tags. With determination in our hearts, let’s seize the opportunity and make every moment count. Let’s go get ‘em, boys!