Stories From Previous One Shot Kill Winners
One-Shot Kill Award
That One Dark Spot – The Author’s Imagination Kept Telling Him A Dark Fallen Tree Was A Bear—Until Suddenly There Were Two Dark Spots.
By NAHC Life Member Eric Paye
It was the second night of my first-ever 7-day fly-in hunt for big spring black bears through Gangler’s Sub Arctic Outfitters in Manitoba. After re-filling the bait barrel, I settled into my ground blind.
While checking my surroundings with my rangefinder, I was startled by a dark spot that turned out to be a fallen tree that resembled a bear. That dark spot got me a few more times as I was scanning for that big bruin I’d been dreaming about. I reminded myself it was just a downed tree, but each time I glanced in that direction I assumed it was a bear.
Twenty-five minutes into the hunt, again looking into the direction of the downed tree, there were two dark spots, but one was much bigger—and it was actually a bear! The bear never had a chance to knock the barrel over—when it gave me the perfect shot, I released my arrow. At the shot, it reared back and snapped the protruding arrow off, before taking three big steps and looking back, unaware of what had just happened.
The bruin walked 5 more yards before looking back one more time—and it dropped. In disbelief I pumped my fists knowing I just scored on my first black bear, and a massive bear it was! The skull scored 2010⁄16 Boone and Crockett Club points and will be displayed proudly along with the mount for years to come. I enjoyed the rest of the week accompanying my hunting partner, who later filled her tag with a mature bear of her own.
As winner of the 2011 One-Shot Kill Award, Eric Paye receives a Thompson/Center Impact Muzzleloader in Hardwoods Camo
Cindy Smith’s Canadian Quest – Trophy Mountain Goat Hunt – Firearm – October 2009
By Cindy Smith of Raleigh, NC
Landing in Calgary, I was the last person to pass through Canadian Customs. I had not grown up in a family that hunted, nor did I pick up hunting from a significant other. I developed an interest in hunting out of sheer passion for the outdoors, adventure, and the challenge of the sport.
The drive up the Icefields Parkway was magnificent, drinking in every minute of the breath-stopping scenery. Every turn was a “Kodak moment,” more incredible than the one before. I had almost 5 days of Mother Nature’s artistic glory before embarking on my mountain goat hunt in central east British Columbia – an area bordered by Mt. Robson National Park, Jasper National Park and the Willmore Wilderness Area. From winding river bottoms of the mighty Fraser River to the Glaciers of Mt. Trudeau, elevations in this area range from 4,000 to 10,000 feet.
The first day of the hunt arrived. My guide, Colin and I traversed over old logging trails, deep ravines and rushing rivers. It wasn’t long before we spotted some goats that morning, but they were not what we were looking for. Late that afternoon as we hiked through thick forest, climbing our way through waist high thickets and over fallen logs we stopped along a river bank at the foot of tall mountainous peaks. Located high and across the mountain range were a couple white specs. Too far away to get a good look with binoculars, we relied on a spotting scope. Feeding on a small green patch nearly at the peak of the mountain were two trophy Billies. The older Billie was the one I wanted. Not far below the Billie was a clump of brush which potentially could stop the goat from going off the cliff once I made my shot.
The strategy was to return at dawn - making sure the goats were still in the area. We were a good days hike from the goats. There was no way to get to them from where we were. We would have to head back down the valley, cross the river, ascend the connecting mountain and maneuver the top of the mountain range dropping down on the Billies.
Morning came early. Fortunately the Billies were still there. Let’s go! The trophy mountain goat challenge was on!
Sticker bushes and thicket roots grappled around my boots as we made our way to the river. Tight roping our way, we crossed the rushing waters along a slippery fallen log for a good 30 feet. It wasn’t long before the only way to get up the mountain meant pulling yourself up by shrub roots and rock ledges – with just a few pauses to catch our breath.
Colin commented it was the fastest he had ever made it up the mountain with a client and one that never complained. I was convinced he was the mountain goat! The wind was picking up and the air definitely cooler. As we climbed higher it began to snow. Behind me, the fog was rolling in and my heart began to sink as we reached the glorious peak of the mountain. The tops of the trees were now far away and I was surrounded by majestic snow covered mountains. The conditions now made it impossible to find the goats, much less take a shot. Crawling under an evergreen for some cover from the snow and wind, we waited.
Hours later the fog began to thin momentarily. Moving quickly across the top of the mountain, we dropped down the face. “The goats are down below…about 50 yards” Colin whispered as we hunkered down. About that time a rock went sliding underfoot. I grimaced as I watched it bounce in the air off the rocky cliffs falling thousands of feet into infinity. Well, if the goats didn’t know we were there they do now! It was now or never to take the shot! I eased out onto the very edge of a rock out over the cliff, oblivious to the fact my guide was holding onto my jacket to keep me from falling to my death. I raised the rifle in an instant as the Billie looked up at me and squeezed. Jumping up, the Billie staggered and collapsed into the shrubby area bracing him from a 1,500 foot vertical drop.
“Great shot, Cindy!” Colin exclaimed. Everything happened so fast. I was still in shock. We climbed on down to the goat. Wow, what an awesome Billie! He was huge! A good 350 lbs., nicely haired up, and not a scratch on him! His horns were 9.5 inches with a 5.5 inch base. Colin tied the Billie to a shrub to make sure the goat didn’t slide off the mountain as we skinned him. Climbing down would be much more dangerous, as the weather conditions continued to worsen. We needed to make it down the mountain before dark. Redistributing stuff in our packs to make room for the goat we began our descent down the cliffs. My guide cringed every time he heard me hit the rocks as my boots and footing slid out from under me. There was no time to stop though.
By now it was dark and we were back at the river. It was there, at the steep river embankment, I managed to get one of my legs caught in roots – twisting it behind and above my head as the rest of my body continued downhill. Not able to cross the suspended log, I opted to make my way amongst the slick rocks in the swift current. By now we had both “hit the wall.” My last 200 yards were spent crawling on all fours in silent pain.
Back at camp, Colin turned to me with a big grin, “I wish more women hunted.” “Well, I am going to take that as a compliment!”, I replied. With that, my guide responded, “Oh, absolutely Cindy…in fact you’ve definitely raised the bar!”
Roger Sanford's 20 Year Wait – Rocky Mountain Elk – Bow – September 2009
By Roger Sanford of Everett, WA
The still of the night was broken by the bugle. Opening morning of the Washington state archery elk season started in 10 hours. It was hard to sleep that night as the constant bugling and rushes of adrenalin awakened my senses. This is not how the story started however.
It had been a long 8 years waiting to draw the coveted bull tag and 20 years of hunting. I had filled my freezer with cows and calves over the years waiting for this special season. It was a simple text from my friend telling me he had not drawn. I asked him to check for me and the lack of a text and the ring of the phone told me I had drawn the tag.
The summer of 2009 was full of hope, physical training and scouting. I had hunted this area for 20 years and knew it well. The bull tag changed my thinking and I wanted to prove this was the best spot in the unit. I placed 2 trail cameras up to see if any trophy bull elk were in the area. Over the summer I had over 1,000 pictures of elk with some very nice bulls that I would be proud to harvest. The trail cameras proved to me I was hunting in the best area of this unit.
My best friend Jon and I showed up 2 days prior to season to verify where the elk were. In one day of scouting we saw 6 different 6 point plus bulls including a whopper 7 point that we figured would score in the upper 300’s or low 400’s. His magnificent rack reached back to the middle of his hind quarters. This really started the adrenalin flowing and made my confidence rise.
We had decided to bivy into the area in order to save time and strength. It was 3 miles to our bivy shelter and over 1,200 vertical feet we had to climb. Doing this every day would limit our sleeping time and zap our strength. Our bivy was comprised of 2 tarps, sleeping bags and water and food for 2-3 days.
The bugle and the early morning light were the signs my season had begun. The bull was not far away and we were anxious to see him. We quickly dressed and headed away from camp. The morning was cold with frost on the ground and the breeze in our face, Perfect for hunting the majestic elk.
We were only ¼ mile from our camp and the bugle was getting louder. We decide to set up and try calling him to our position. Jon set up 100 yards behind me and went through a cow calling sequence. The bull went wild and answered every call, but would not come in. He then tried to bugle at the elk to see if that would coax him closer to our position. I could see the bull’s harem at the edge of the timber and they were holding their position. Our first set up had failed and we still didn’t know what the bull looked like.
We decided to cut the distance. We circled down wind and around to a position we thought would be close enough to make him respond to calling. On our last 100 yards we ran into several head of cattle. They are almost as wild as the elk we were pursuing and crashed through the woods in front of us. I thought our hunt for this bull was over given all the commotion the cattle made. Even with our optimism fading we decided to set up once again.
I again set up 100 yards in front of Jon. I set up with brush behind me to break up my outline and clear shooting lanes to my left and right. The set up was good and it gave me 40 yard shots or less from any direction. My range finder was valuable and told me exact range to several trees in the surrounding area.
Jon cow called and the bull erupted. He was much closer than we thought and it sounded like he was coming our way. I think he must have thought the cattle were cow elk and started toward the sounds. Some “bad luck” might have improved our chances. Jon cow called again and I knew he was coming. Less than 2 minutes and 2 cow calls into our current set up and the bull was right there. I saw his antlers above the brush I had ranged at 40 yards. I drew my bow while his eyes were behind the brush. Is this happening after all these years? He kept coming into the clearing in front of me as I was praying he would stop without a peep from my diaphragm call. Miraculously he stopped, perfectly broadside, and stared in Jon’s direction. I aimed my arrow at the sweet spot. My full metal jacket arrow was on its way. The arrow penetrated into the crease behind his front shoulder, up to the fletching. He whirled and ran. I cow called to settle him down and lost sight of him in seconds.
We did a few high fives and headed back to camp to ready ourselves for the work ahead and to give the bull time to expire. When we returned Jon looked for the blood trail and I went to the last place he was headed. Less than 30 yards from where I shot him I saw him laying 40 yards ahead of me in the trees. I yelled “BIG BULL DOWN”. Jon’s response was “ALREADY?”
The hunt was over in 1 hour and my 20 year wait was over. I had a bull that would gross score 335”. It would take us 3 days to get all the meat, cape and camp out of the mountains. We figured we covered over 30 miles and 12,000 vertical feet during our trip. What an adventure!