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MONTANA 7X7 HEADS FOR MARYLAND
"I looked to my right just in time to see the brown blur which materialized into an elk..."
Craig H. - Maryland

When Craig H. from Maryland headed for Montana in fall 2008, he was on a mission to experience his first western archery elk hunt. Don't let the fact that this was Craig's first elk hunt give you any preconceived notions about his capabilities. When he arrived he was in excellent physical condition, had his equipment tuned with expert precision, and was ready to hunt.

The hunting up to this point had been very challenging for both hunters and guides. The elk were not nearly as vocal as they should have been for mid-September. The areas we had been scouting and observing elk in during the weeks prior to the season were just not producing the type of results we expect to see. It makes for long days when they won't talk. We found ourselves evolving into different tactics, which were finally beginning to pay off. We had called in several bulls in the weeks prior to Craig's hunt, however, nearly all except one voice-crackling spike had come in completely silent.

I advised Craig of the situation and told him that though the bugling had been slow, I was very optimistic. The first day of the hunt we headed into one of our go-to spots for big bulls looking to socialize during the rut. We heard nothing.

Now I need to explain something for those of you who do not know me. Calling in elk during the rut is much more than a passion of mine. I believe it is one of the few natural tallents I have been blessed with. I know hunting is hunting. Having said that, when it comes to elk I DO NOT LIKE TO LOSE! After all, for the three fall months, this is my home.

Sept. 16th began like the many days before. We hiked for nearly an hour in the dark to be at the ridge top by daylight. I eagerly called into each draw we came to, with no response. Finally, we heard what I believed to be an elk. It was not the glorious echo of a bugle from down canyon, nor the quizzical mew of a cow, it was the simple snapping of a branch on the adjacent ridge. I purred a low esteres whine hoping for verification, but none came. I told Craig the only thing I could be certain about was that there was an animal on that ridge and it was bigger than a deer. Maybe it was an elk, or maybe a bear, but it was worth investigating.

We made our way down the mountain to get below the "noise" and avoid giving away our wind. We sat up and began to call blindly. Craig waited about 60 yards in front of me in anticipation. As I continued to call, we began to hear more branches breaking. I looked to my right just in time to see the brown blur, which materialized into an elk as it ran through an opening 80 yards away. I stopped calling and gave the bull time to snoop around. After a moment, I gave two soft calls and the bull crossed the draw and headed down a game trail located a mere 21 yards from Craig. With the stealth of a seasoned elk hunter, Craig drew his bow while the bull's head was behind a fir tree. The bull passed him broadside while scanning uphill, looking away. Craig released his arrow, which passed through both lungs of this silent intruder as he whirled and began to flee. I sounded a series of cow calls which stopped the bull at 50 yards. He took no more steps. I heard the tell tail crash as Craig watched his bull fall to the ground.

When we reached the bull, Craig's efforts were rewarded with a magnificent 7x7 which scored 317 inches. Congratulations to Craig on his first elk hunt. I suspect it will not be his last.