I treaded very slowly through twelve inches of new-fallen snow hidden by an embankment that opened up into a wide hillside meadow; in the mountains between Big Sky and Ennis Montana, on a wintery Sunday morning, in November of 2012. I peeked around the corner to spot this magnificent bull elk! I asked my husband, Jon, who was slightly behind me how big he thought the elk was and he whispered somewhere north of 320” B&C. I had passed up a number of really nice elk during the past three years on our ranch, much to Jon’s dismay. So this was it, game on!
He was big, wide and grazing completely oblivious to us as Jon set up my shooting sticks and I got into position to take the shot. He was facing up hill which presented a bit of a problem so I had to wait what seemed like an eternity for him to turn broadside. I asked Jon what the distance was and he said it was 160-yards, so I felt good to go anytime the opportunity presented itself. I steadied myself looked through my Trijcon scope, but if the truth be known my heart was pounding. This was the biggest animal outside of a hippo I had ever shot. It is one thing to shoot something in Africa thousands of miles from home and another thing to shoot something practically in your living room. I had my new custom Rifles Inc. 375 H&H, with a fabulous muzzle brake that made the recoil not much greater than my .308 Kimber. I was using 270 gr. Barnes TSX bullets.
The elk finally turned broadside and I took the shot, hitting him perfectly in the lungs, but he started charging up the hill, I was stunned, shoot my husband called, shoot again. I took the second shot and hit him again, he started to fall backwards down the steep hill then sliding down another 75-yards. It was not a pretty sight hitting logs and trees as he went. I was hoping he wasn’t going to break off any points or antlers. I made one last anchor shot after he came to a stop. I have been blessed with one shot kills for most of my short hunting career so I was not prepared for such a big animal that had so much adrenalin surging through his body. Jon was giving me a hi-5 and congratulations, you did it! Yes, I had killed my first elk, and to be sure he is a great trophy scoring 335-inches but I had a tinge of regret too; they are such majestic animals.
A smile broke across my face but not for long as Jon said, “Do you know what distance you shot at?” “One hundred sixty yards,” you said. Well actually if I had told you the real distance you would not have taken the shot, it was 246-yards. I was shocked because I have a rule that I won’t shoot an animal past 200 yards. I still feel strongly about this rule as I am not an experienced hunter yet, but it did give me new confidence about my ability to take longer distance shots.
I started hunting by accident when Jon and I were in New Zealand, where he was hunting red stag with his bow. The outfitter asked me if I wanted to shoot some feral pigs or goats which were ruining his crops. I had earned a marksman ship badge when I was 12 at a camp in Colorado, otherwise I’d never picked up a firearm. I shot a feral goat which popped his head above a small hill and that began by career at age sixty. Jon is a big bow hunter and never pressured me to hunt. I can say big game hunting has been all my doing and have enjoyed every hunt whether it was in New Zealand, Africa or recently in Turkey where the Bezoar Ibex eluded me at 250-plus-yard shots.
|Siri With Her Brown Bear|
It is hard to believe that I lived in Monte Carlo for 20-plus years and my favorite pastimes were ballet, opera and symphony. You might ask how we met, Jon living in Ennis, Montana and I in Monaco. Like so many today through the internet. We both tried E-Harmony in 2006 and have been happily married since August of 2010. Hunting would not be as much fun without Jon who has been my supporter, guide and critic. I would say to those women who are thinking about learning how to hunt or use a firearm is to make sure you buy a rifle, pistol or shotgun that is right for you and that you love. I started out with a .270 WSM and that is not a rifle for a beginner. Then I enrolled myself in Gunsite Academy, in Paulden, Arizona and it was the best decision I ever made. I have shot a number of great trophies thanks to a lot of practice and skills I learned there.
Siri Campbell-Fossel, is a journalist, the author of two books, and has written numerous travel related articles. She currently lives between Ennis, MT and Key Largo, FLA.
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