Like every September Stephanie, the camera crew and I went to New Mexico for our annual elk hunt with Tri-State Outfitters. This hunt is always remarkable but what we didn’t know was this hunt would burn a memory into our minds for the rest of our lives and bless us with opportunity in the coming months.
Rain making noises on the roof of our RV woke me up around 3:30AM causing me to feel depressed. We only had just so many days in camp and this was already day 4. We didn’t need rain, we didn’t need mud, and we darn sure didn’t need the twenty-knot north winds that were with the rain. At 5:00AM we had a slight break in the rain and Bridger, our guide said that we should just travel along the caliche county to road and see what we saw. After traveling a couple of miles slowly to keep from sliding off of the road we stopped to bugle. We all heard a bull answer us in what sounded like a fairly long distance east of where we stood. From here, we would have to go on foot and try to get a little closer to see what this bull looked like. We walked about a half mile out on a ridge and called again. With this call came an answer and we were well within range to set up and try to bring the bull into Stephanie’s bow range. With the north wind blowing and us approaching from the west, so long as the bull didn’t circle too far south we were good. With the cow call the bull started closing the distance, bugling every thirty seconds or less. Before long I could hear the rocks cracking under his hooves and what I call clunking. From years of experience hunting elk I know that when I can hear that clunking in this high wind the bull is within fifty yards. We had two camera men hiding under juniper trees with me acting as a third camera man standing inside a tree. As I watched Stephanie she was turning and peaking through the branches of a huge cedar she was hiding behind. Just by watching her body language I knew that the bull was close and coming fast. I was nervous as this was the first time Stephanie had drawn her bow on an elk. Looking through my camera as I saw her begin to draw her bow I hit record. As I grabbed the focus ring on my lens the left antler of the bull walked into frame. He kept coming and through my camera this bull literally looked as if he was touching Stephanie. I was as wide as my lens could go and Stephanie was not completely in my frame. He was close, he was so close I watched rainwater clearly run down his nose and drop off of his chin. My mind began racing, shoot, shoot I kept thinking to myself. From my angle it looked like the bull was giving Steph a 4 yard broadside shot. My eyes glanced at her, then back to the bull. What was wrong, why wasn’t she shooting? For forty-five seconds or more the bull stood in the exact same place. Stephanie, just feet away from him at full draw and nothing was happening. Then, he turned slightly to his left and slowly walked away. We ended up seeing the bull one more time as he ran off of the mountain having winded us. For a brief second sadness and anger glanced off of our minds, but this quickly turned to happiness. What we had just witnessed was something few in this world ever see. We had watched Stephanie stand so close to and elk that she could literally count the whiskers on his nose. More importantly we had watched her not take a shot that could have possibly been ethical. There are so many hunters that wouldn’t have had the discipline to not take that shot. I freely admit that I most likely would have tried it and that would have been the wrong call. We were so excited to share this encounter with our viewers that we made a social media clip and placed on our Instagram and Facebook within an hour of the encounter. For the most part our followers loved it. The troubling part was that there was far too many people that belittled and talked very negatively about Stephanie for not taking the shot. The bottom line is that the elk didn’t walk far enough out and present an ethical shot. Being a true sportswoman, Stephanie wasn’t going to risk taking a bad shot regardless of how cool the encounter was. Many others and I commend her for her patience and resolve to doing what is right.
This brings to mind another subject that I feel I must discuss. Had that been me standing there pulling that bow back there wouldn’t have been 50% of the negative comments. I don’t know why but people by default seem to think that she didn’t shoot because she was a woman. Comments made ranged from “she was scared to she just ran out of guts.” The world in general seems to have a very negative opinion on the capabilities of women. By default women seem to be branded as the sex that cannot perform under any adrenaline fueled circumstance. This is possible the single most ludicrous position that any person can have. Stephanie didn’t take that shot because from her angle it wasn’t a clear shot; there was a branch in the way. Stephanie didn’t take the shot because she lacks something that would cause a lot of men to try it, testosterone. Stephanie wasn’t worried about her ego or the thoughts of others. At that tense moment all that she thought about was making absolutely certain that if the arrow was let go that it fly freely into the lungs and cause an immediate and ethical end to this gorgeous bull. I would argue that not taking the shot showed more fortitude then killing ten bulls bigger then the one in question. In the end we used that footage for the Bad Lands Film Festival and won second. The film that beat us involved a lady that was diagnosed with cancer and it moved Stephanie so much that she donated our second place winnings to the winner. That generosity alone shows what kind of person Stephanie is. Stephanie is a woman, and a hunter. I have professionally hunted for 35 years and there are few people on this earth I’d rather have by my side then my wife. Never ever let one’s sex give you a false idea of their capabilities. Stephanie is beautiful, feminine, and capable, but, she is also cunning and as lethal as any male on this earth.