• Jay Gonzales

Air Jordan: 5B Late Rifle Bull Elk

Updated: Jan 8

Opening day I couldn’t believe it, it was finally here our 5B late rifle elk hunt. The day we as hunters anxiously await all year long once we’ve drawn a tag. With the curveball of snow on the forecast for the opener we were in for a cold morning. After driving in the dark for about an hour we were anxious with anticipation of what the daylight would bring. I was beyond nervous with excitement, wanting to help my cousin and brother-in-law fill their first elk tags and failure wasn’t an option! The three of us had tags but my goal was to help them fill theirs first. As we reached our usual parking location we were shocked by the amount of hunters and vehicles parked around the area. It was insane, but having located a few bulls the days prior here, we had to stick with our plan A.

We donned our packs and took off, arriving at our glassing spot after a half mile hike-in by headlamp without seeing a single other soul, to my surprise. We prepared for the sunrise. Once the sky turned dark blue as the sun began to illuminate the horizon I immediately located five bulls 800 yards out. We waited for more light to be able to clearly identify the caliber of bulls I was watching feeding on a ridge. Within seconds the clouds turned on us, fog rolled in and the first snow flurry began to fall and whiteout conditions were in full effect. After 15 minutes, the brief storm cleared so I quickly started glassing to relocate the bulls. I was disappointed to catch them busting over the ridge, spooked. After lots of confusion and investigation we noticed another crew of hunters set up 200 yards from us and had built a bonfire to stay warm. The elk weren’t foolish enough to stick around. Ten minutes later shots were echoing all over the canyon, like a war zone in the forest.

We decided to back out and head to plan B after being unable to locate any more elk. With fresh snow on the ground we felt our chances of finding more were good. After getting to our second spot I picked up a herd of elk and was ecstatic to see seven bulls. The rangefinder read 650 yards. As I glassed the herd I didn’t see any bulls I wanted to use my tag for. However, both my brother-in-law and cousin were up to bat!

I dialed in my rifle, set up the bipod, and gave the reins to my bro-in-law. The first bull stepped out and as soon as he cleared my brother-in-law fired. The first shot went clean into his shoulder; the bull took off and that’s when adrenaline took over. Three more fast follow up shots and the bull was dead with two holes in him. The herd ran over the hill and out of view. My cousin, fueled by adrenaline, decided to give chase to the remaining bulls and it wasn’t long before we were back on them at full sprint. We quickly slowed and kept watch on the bulls. They finally relaxed and bedded in the trees. At only 80 yards bull number two presented a shot. My cousin raised his 7mm up and smoked him! The bull dropped where he stood. Bull number two was down and both first-timers had harvested their elk after years of waiting to draw tags. My goal was achieved and now it was my turn to hunt!

My 2020 late season bull elk hunt is one I’ll never forget! After passing on many bulls that were broken and busted from the rut and harsh drought, I finally found the bull I was happy with. To say I was on cloud nine is a complete understatement. Words can’t adequately describe what this bull means to me. Especially on a tough year like 2020, and an even tougher hunt. I knew I had my work cut out for me from the beginning if I wanted to locate and kill a decent late season bull.

Day four started like usual, except I was finally playing the ace in my sleeve. Today I wore my lucky Jordan brand hunting boots. After getting to my glassing spot, it wasn’t long before I glassed up several bulls far off in the distance. Then, lo and behold, out steps a monarch late season bull at just over 1,000 yards. I text the crew to inform them of the shooter bull I had spotted and described the situation at hand. I immediately got the confidence I needed from the instant response. “Dust em”. I quickly put my phone down and picked up the Nikon Monarch 3000 range finder. I stabilized to verify an accurate angle compensated distance of 1,005 yards and then checked my charts. The firing solution called for 18.5 MOA of vertical adjustment on my 6.5-300 Weatherby Mag. I dialed the turret to the appropriate dope and settled into my shooting position.

With my cousin watching as spotter, I settled my crosshairs on his lungs. I slowly exhaled holding steady and squeezed off the shot. Thunder echoed across the canyon as my first shot sailed just below him, or so we thought. The bull immediately picked up his head and looked around trying to process what was happening. Thunder echoed once again as he scrambled off into a thicket. Before he could get to the safety of the dense cover the brutal thunder storm being hailed on him once again struck. His short trip through the brush was one he would never remember.

3 shots and the bull never came back out. Did he give us the slip? Did the shots connect? The trees obscured any view we could have had. I was confident in the capability of my set up and shooting skills. With the help of my spotter we were fairly certain the game was over. I routinely practice at very long range, with confirmed hits out to1200 yards. Our optimism was high that we would be walking in on a dead elk. Down one canyon and up another, we arrived where the bull first stood. With one quick glance, we found him dead right in front of our eyes. Less than 15 yards from where he stood when I took the first shot. The bullet had double lunged him, through and through. This bull was dead on his feet before he knew what had hit him. I feel very blessed to have filled a tag I waited so many years for and am very thankful to everyone that helped with the success of this hunt.

Contributor: Jay Gonzales

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