MERIDIAN — Editor's Note: This is the conclusion of a column that Otha Barham has written.
Last week on this page I reviewed the first part of a hunt in northwestern Colorado for a trophy bull elk. As a consequence of my living and working in Colorado for some seven years, I got to know a number of ranchers while dealing with outbreaks of grasshoppers (the range insects called locusts in the Bible). One family lived in the storied valley known as Brown's Hole. This area was tabbed Unit 2 in Colorado's game management plan and was one of the two or three finest areas in the state for trophy bull elk. The catch was it was an area that licenses were issued based on a drawing wherein an applicant accumulated a point for each year that he or she was not drawn. Points yielded priority. I got my tag after applying12 years. My brother got his chance after 13 years.
But getting a bull was almost a sure thing and getting a chance at a 330 inch or larger bull was possible if one hunted long and hard during the 11 day season. The bull and his herd that I chose to follow to their bedding area on this third morning of the hunt had a deafening scream and growl blended together with his high, whistling bugle. His calls were like a magnet calling me after him, for they dominated the other bulls' bugles in the area. I had not seen them through the pinion pines and juniper brush that covered the rocky ground because the bull's calls seemed much closer that they were, causing me to steal along carefully only to spot bare openings that he had called from several minutes earlier.
I had grown so weary physically and faced so much frustration at seemingly chasing a ghost, that I left my backpack on a gravel road they had crossed, vowing that I would chase only a short ways further before giving up.
I pushed ahead on slightly downhill ground for one last run at the herd. After covering what later measured with my GPS unit another seven tenths of a mile, I rounded a juniper expecting the bull to be 50 yards distance by the thunderous roar of his bugle. There he was, 160 yards away! What a voice he had!
He was posed with his cows as if for a painting on one of three ledges carved into solid red rock by a stream, now dry but showing evidence of a history of floods. From the ledge, he looked down on six cows that I could see as I dropped into a sitting position for the shot. They hadn’t seen me.
Using precise range measurement with a Bushnell range finder, I had checked my rifle’s accuracy at 200 yards the afternoon before. I knew if I did my part, the rifle would do the rest. The bull took a few steps and I instinctively gave a quick, loud sound from my throat that made him stop. One 160 grain Nosler partition handload from my .280 found its mark. The bull ran up atop another level of the rimrock where he was hidden behind brush. A couple of minutes passed and suddenly the herd panicked and dashed away toward the nearest big mountain.
This puzzled me because none of the animals had seen me. I wrongly thought the bull must have run and caused his harem to join in the flight. So I chased after them and sighted some of the cows absent the bull. Later I found that the bull lay dead where he entered the brush. The herd bolted when the herd master crashed to the ground. The Nosler had done its job and I had the Brown’s Park bull. His matched 6 X 6 antlers had ivory tips, sweeping brow tines and long sixth points. He was the bull that I had dreamed about for more than 50 years.