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By Cody Schuchard // @bugleridgeoutdoors

THWAP! My heart was pounding as I could smell the gunpowder in the air. My .270 Fusion 165 grain bullet had found its mark. My mind was racing. “Was he down?” I thought to myself. “Did I make a good shot?”


It was opening day of the general elk season in Montana. My Dad, Uncle, and I had left the truck at 3:30 a.m. in order to hike ourselves the three miles to get to the ridge where my dad had seen the elk the night before. It was an unusually warm and calm morning.

With our headlamps strapped onto our hats but not turned on, we found our way through the timber. Luckily, it was a pretty full moon, which guided us along our route. Excitement filled the air with anticipation for the daylight that was soon to come.

Two hours later, we found ourselves on the backside of the ridge that we wanted to pop out on. Due to the warm weather, we took a second to cool off and shed some layers. The wind was starting to pick up from the north, as it typically did when we were upwind of where we expected our prey to be grazing.

After reloading our gear on our packs, we slowly made our way to the top of the ridge. We had picked a clump of trees and brush where we wanted to be when shooting light was upon us. Once in position, we uttered a prayer to ourselves, hoping to punch a tag today.

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As the sun rays came filtering through the trees, we couldn’t help but enjoy the beauty of the Montana sunrise. Each old pine tree seemed to have a story of its own. Hopefully, we could add another to the mix.

We glassed the opening below us. There was nothing. Our hearts sank as we wondered where this herd had vanished to.

“Bull! Get down!”

After fifteen minutes of glassing and confusion, my dad whispered with excitement, “Bull! Get down!”

A young bull elk came running out of the timber, 130 yards away and headed straight toward us.

“Take him if you can, Cody!” my uncle whispered to me.

“Eeeyuh.” My cow call stopped the bull in his tracks, his eyes eagerly searching for a cow.

I ran through my routine. Steady rest, check. Breathe, check. Crosshairs, check. THWAP! The sound of a solid hit rang through the trees as the bull ran to the timber and out of sight. My dad and my uncle decided to head down the ridge in hopes of finding another bull as I went to recover the bull I had just shot.

After fifteen minutes of searching and not finding any blood, my mind was racing. I tried to remember everything I did, from getting a good rest to squeezing the trigger. I glassed a small bowl that was in the middle of the nearby ridge.

“Finally,” I said to myself as I looked at the elk antler sticking up out of the tall grass. “He’s bigger than I thought!” I could see a nice royal tine and whale tail sticking up.

I realized that those tines did not have an elk attached to them.

As I walked closer, I realized that those tines did not have an elk attached to them. Part of me was excited to find this shed, and part of me was filled with worry about the elk I had just shot at.


Photo: Cody Schuchard
Photo: Cody Schuchard

I picked up the elk antler, and to my amazement, it was dark chocolate brown. “It’s the end of October,” I thought to myself. “It should be bleached white by now.”

It was the biggest shed antler that I had found as of that time. His brow tine was a little weak compared to his second tine, but his third was nice, as well as his royal and fifth point. He had really nice mass, considering the area we were hunting.

Upon looking more closely at the six-point antler, I noticed that the base of the horn had been ripped from the skull. This bull was a fighter! He must have been fighting so hard that he broke the base from the skull. “What a cool find!” I thought to myself.


Photo: Cody Schuchard
Photo: Cody Schuchard

I looked up from the antler towards the timber. There, 70 yards away, laid the four-by-five bull elk that I had settled my sights on. He was piled up at the edge of the timber. Relieved, I strapped my cool find onto my pack and headed up to the bull to begin processing.

Then, from down the ridge, I heard the report of my uncle’s rifle, “Bang….Thwap!” This was going to be a two-elk pack-out morning.


Photo: Cody Schuchard
Photo: Cody Schuchard

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