The Thrill of the Hunt- Shannon Rasmussen’s First Elk Hunt!

Story by: Shannon Rasmussen

Let me start by saying I didn’t grow up being a hunter. When I met my husband Shane 17 years ago, he introduced me to the world of hunting. It took me a few years to understand why he was so passionate about the sport, until I became a hunter myself.

I started out hunting deer for several years, and I absolutely loved it, but I had always dreamed of being able to harvest an elk. There is no animal in my opinion more majestic than a bull elk. I had become very intrigued with this incredible animal when I started tagging along on  Shane’s archery hunting adventures. He had always tried to describe to me what the sound of an elk bugle echoing in the woods was like, but until the first time I heard it myself, I had no idea how that sound would affect me. Whenever he would call in a bull using his bugle or cow calls it was always the most spine tingling, heart pounding event. When you hear an animal of that magnitude crashing through the trees and bugling as it’s coming towards you, and you find yourself with just enough time to duck behind a tree before it’s standing in front of you at 30 yards, panting and looking for the “cow” it heard, quite honestly there is no place I would rather be than in that moment. There have also been occasions as well where we would find ourselves amongst very chatty groups of cow elk. That is also something that I wish every person could get the experience of hearing at least once in their lifetime.

One of my first memorable elk hunting experiences was a few years back. Shane and I decided that we would load up all of our gear and hike several miles up an old logging road that led to the top of the mountain, pushing our mountain bikes the entire way. This proved to be a very exhausting idea, but we persevered and after a few hours of sweating and aching muscles we made it. As we topped out, the view was stunning. We left the mountain bikes and continued around the side of the ridge on a  game trail. As we came to a wooded area the first thing we noticed was the smell in the air. Elk have a very distinct odor and we knew right away that we were in the right place. As we continued into the trees there were fresh elk beds everywhere in the tall grass. I swear if you looked closely enough, you could see the outline of where their bodies had been, as if they had just been laying there  moments before. Excited over this great elk hunting spot that we had worked so hard to reach, we decided that we would find a good vantage point to sit, wait, and watch for the inevitable return of this herd. It was still very early afternoon, and after hours of hiking, we decided that a quick cat nap was in order. So, we covered up with as much of our warm gear as possible and nodded off. After what seemed like only a few minutes Shane woke me up. My eyes popped open, just sure that the elk had returned and this was going to be my big moment, I was going to finally have the opportunity to harvest one of these majestic animals! Unfortunately, that was not the case. As it turned out the sky had darkened and rain clouds were rolling in. Not wanting to get stuck on the mountain in a very cold rain storm we made the heartbreaking decision to head back down off the mountain. By the time we made it back to where we had parked our bikes it had already started to sprinkle, and by the time we made it half way down the mountain it was a full on down pour. It rained so hard at points that we had to stop several times to take shelter under trees and thick bushes. Eventually we made it back to our truck,  disappointed over  how the day had played out, headed back to camp. Although this hunt did not end with an elk being taken, it is still one of my favorite elk hunting memories.

The following year we packed up our camp trailer and headed north to one of my absolute favorite hunting spots in Idaho. I was filled with nervous excitement as we made a plan for our opening morning hunt. We decided we would hunt a ridge that we knew of that had great views of the opposite ridges and clear cuts. Opening morning we woke before dawn, grabbed our gear, and jumped on our atv. After a 20 minute drive we parked and  hiked the rest of the way to the ridge. We found a spot to sit and watch. As the sun started to come up we noticed movement on a ridge straight across from us. We threw up our binoculars and saw a herd of elk feeding across the hillside. There were two bulls that were fighting. One of the bulls knocked the other bull over and he rolled down the hill several yards. It was very impressive to witness such a thing. We were a bit disappointed because we had considered hunting that spot as well that morning, but had chosen where we were instead. There were so many elk in that herd that they were even crossing the road on the other hillside right in front of pick-ups that were coming up the mountain for opening day of the season. Not giving up, Shane decided to try blowing some cow calls. As soon as he did a second herd of elk appeared, trotting down the hill directly in front and across from us, heading our direction. I pulled out my bi-pods and got set up for a shot. Watching the cows filing towards us I still didn’t see a bull. Suddenly Shane whispered “Right there, there’s a bull”. Still not seeing it I said “Where?”. It turned out that I was looking at cows that were on the hillside across from us, he was looking at cows and a bull that had filed out right below us on our side of the hill. Once I realized where he meant, I found the bull in my scope, steadied the cross-hairs, and squeezed the trigger. The bull dropped and rolled down the hill! I immediately started crying tears of joy! I had finally done it, I had killed a bull elk! I was ecstatic! I felt like somebody needed to pinch me and wake me from a dream, after all of the action we had seen that morning, between the two herds of elk running everywhere, to having actually harvested a bull.

After waiting for a bit we hiked down the hill and found my bull laying against a log. I never get used to the size of an elk when you walk up on one. They are such big animals! Although he wasn’t a wall-hanger bull, I couldn’t have been more excited and proud that morning.

I am so grateful that I have a husband who not only shared his passion for this sport with me, but has been a patient teacher allowing me the time to become a knowledgeable huntress!!! I wish that other women who don’t hunt would take a chance, even if it’s just once, and tag along with their husbands on a hunt. They might just find the adventure of a lifetime!!!