Jim Middleton Contributing Writer
October 24, 2013
On Sept. 21, I started my Kentucky archery elk hunt accompanied by Chris Caldwell and Anthony Tindell. After a rainy morning with little action, we decided to hunt that evening from tree stands near a trail that a herd of elk regularly travelled. About an hour before dark, a very responsive bull was bugling every time we called. I thought we should go after the bull, but luckily Chris convinced me to wait. If this was our targeted bull, it would have too many cows with it to allow us to get close (I had seen as high as 15 cows with it). Thirty minutes before dark the bull had made it to within 50 yards of us and was closing the distance. It had been unable to resist our calls and had travelled several hundred yards with a herd of cows in tow. As elk surrounded us, I waited for an opportunity to get a shot.
I was in shock. It was opening day of elk season and after five months of scouting and preparation, I had a giant bull elk that was now 25 yards from me. The only thing between the bull and I was a treetop. The bull bugled wanting a response from what it thought was the cows that had been calling to it, but at this point we remained silent and waited for it to make a move. The wind swirled allowing the cows to get our scent and they started acting nervous (although they were probably not as nervous as I was). The bull needed to go about 15 more feet for me to have an open shot, but I could only wait and watch through the maze of leaves, limbs and brush. I could see the massive antlers as the bull turned its head, but could not see its vitals clearly enough to take a shot. After what seemed like an eternity, the bull moved toward a small opening that was about a square foot in size. This would give me a slight shot opportunity, but I didn’t have any room for error. As the bull stepped forward, I drew my bow and focused on my sight pin. I released my arrow to the sound of a thud and the bull exploded out the ridge away from us.
We waited for the other elk to leave and climbed down to look for sign of the hit. To my disappointment, there was no blood and we could not find my arrow. Reluctantly the decision was made to back out until morning and give the bull time to lay down, in case I had made a marginal hit. The next morning at dawn, Anthony, Chris and I started into the woods to search for the bull. We had been looking for over an hour when Anthony began to yell. He had found the bull lying off the side of the ridge less than 100 yards from where I shot it. My arrow had penetrated both lungs, but had not exited the bull.
Finally, after months of anticipation, I was able to put my hands on this giant 7 X 9 elk. It was an enormous animal probably weighing between 900 and 1,000 pounds and its antlers were a beautiful dark chocolate color with white tips. Anthony asked me if the bull would make the Kentucky archery record book and I replied, “I don’t know, but he’s a record to me.” This hunt was an experience of a lifetime and will be forever carved into my heart and memory.