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April 2022
Story by Kris Moos
State: Nevada
Species: Elk - Rocky Mtn

For over two decades, I have committed to hunting the most majestic mammal in North America. Elk are massive yet graceful, fleet footed, perceptive, valiant, and strong and live in the most beautiful parts of our country. I hold a huge respect for these regal animals. I keep going back year after year to reconnect with Mother Nature and to feel that deep appreciation of the sense of place I get in the mountain air. I consider myself very fortunate to live in Southwest Montana where I continue to live out a generations-old tradition of hunting with my family.

Even though "God’s Country" and some of the best elk hunting are right in my backyard, I still think about those once-in-a- lifetime bulls, and like a lot of other elk hunters, I put in for limited tags every year. For 16 years, I’ve been a member of Huntin’ Fool and used the resources they provide and the expertise of their Hunt Advisors to identify the best elk hunting units in each state. This is how I pinpointed Nevada as a top priority for trophy elk.

The hunting world is a tightknit community that I’ve dedicated a lot of time to be a part of, and because of that, I’ve benefited from the knowledge of many industry experts. Jake Rosevear, owner of Pine Peak Outfitters in Nevada, is one of those experts. I started strategizing a Nevada hunt with Jake eight years ago that I hoped I would be lucky enough to draw. We kept in close contact over the years, and he was very well aware of my goal of finding a true giant. He was unwavering with the advice he offered regarding the units to focus on and consistent reports of what he was seeing.

In 2020, those aforementioned hopes came true! I was notified by Nevada that I drew a tag. After my initial shock subsided and all my phone calls to share the news were completed, I immediately began strategizing with Jake. The value of this opportunity was not lost on me, and I knew I had to exhaust every resource available to learn about this region and the elk that inhabit it. Each day grew more and more frustrating as I was planning my hunt as Nevada was experiencing intensifying drought conditions going into hunting season and Jake’s elk reports were grim. Nevada’s dry conditions were impacting antler growth and integrity. While there were plenty of big bulls, most that would fit my goal were broken.

I was faced with a heart wrenching-decision – either proceed with the hunt and adjust my expectations or return my tag to the state of Nevada with no guarantee I’d draw it again. Not only did 2020 offer up unprecedented dry conditions in the western U.S., but there was also a pandemic affecting our daily lives and decisions. The universe was pushing me in a direction that was moving away from chasing my dream, and I eventually made the torturous decision to turn the tag in prior to the start of the season. I second guessed and cursed myself all hunting season wondering if I would ever get that opportunity again.

Fast forward to 2021, and what I thought was the impossible was in fact possible! I was dumb lucky to draw a Nevada tag again. Unfortunately, the moisture in Nevada wasn’t much of an improvement over the previous year. Disappointing, but I wasn’t turning my tag in for a second year.

After months of anticipation, I loaded up the truck and drove the 12 hours to Ely, Nevada. Jake had been scouting since June and was very familiar with the caliber of bulls in my unit, but he had not yet pinpointed a bull that he knew checked all the boxes. Our plan was to glass, be patient, and hope that some new bulls would wander into the area. The first morning of the hunt, we set up on top of a ridge overlooking mountains in every direction. We spent the day glassing and appreciating the amazing views. We spotted a few bulls but passed on hunting all of them. Later in the afternoon, we saw the final bull we would see that day. It was immediately apparent that he was the bull I was after. It was a bull that Jake had found while scouting that summer, and we were amazed at how far he had traveled from his summer grounds. My heart started racing as I watched him through the spotting scope. I counted seven points on one side and six on the other, and his length was clearly visible from our point miles away. This was by far the largest bull I’d seen in the wild. He was headed back to where he was living, where all the massive, mature bulls seem to prefer, the deep forest that’s thick and nasty. As he ambled back into the heavy forest, we made a game plan.

Fortunately, there was a road in the general area of the forest that this bull was living in, if you could call it that. The rough road slowed our pace, but we eventually got within a few miles that we could travel by foot. We cut a game trail that we speculated he was using to get to water, but that didn’t make the forest any easier to trudge through. It was a challenging hike and difficult to see 50 yards in any direction. We realized that we were at a massive disadvantage with how thick it was, so we switched gears and hiked to the highest ridge we could and set up the spotting scopes. As we analyzed every tree in an attempt to locate him, anxiety and fear started to creep in as the hunting day was forcibly coming to an end. Then, out of absolutely nowhere, the bull appeared in a clearing about 1,200 yards away. We tried to calm our rushing minds and speeding heart rates in order to determine the best plan of action. Even though I’d spent countless hours shooting and practicing long-range shots, a 1,200- yard shot was not ideal. The foliage was thick, and there were a lot of external factors that determined the fate of a shot that far out. We decided to go down a few ridges and hope we could get lucky enough to see him before he saw us. Just as we started down, a massive raincloud moved in, making our ability to track exactly what ridge he was on almost impossible.

At this point, I could feel it from everyone in the hunting party. The game of cat and mouse in these juniper-covered mountains was not going our way. We kept at it as the wind blew steady in our faces, making the odds a little better. For several hours, we alternated walking no more than 10 yards with intense glassing, but with little success. Just as I began reconciling with having to start over the next day, we heard the sharp crack of a breaking branch on the other ridge. We immediately froze in our tracks, and out of nowhere, the bull was looking right at us across the canyon no more than 265 yards away.

In the biggest moment of truth in my hunting career, my six-year- old son started repeatedly calling my phone. Anxious to get the daily hunting report, I could visualize him asking, "Did you finally get something, Dad?" His excitement and the little taste of home that this offered helped to calm my nerves as I was toe-to-toe with a bull of many lifetimes. I eased slowly into my riflescope, trying not to spook him. The squeeze of the 7mm trigger rang true, and in less than a heartbeat, he was down. The excitement in that moment was indescribable. The memories of the many miles pounding the ground, the misses, and the times going home with no luck all flashed through my mind. My favorite memory of this moment was calling my son back within seconds of putting my bull down. He asked 100 questions, but the best was, "When will you be home, Daddy?"

Thanks to everyone who hunted beside me and supported me. Specifically, I’d like to thank Jake and my cousin, Josh. Elk hunting is a team sport. I hope every hunter gets this type of opportunity at some point in their life.