Some of you may remember that, last spring, we found out that our daughter, Sydney, was drawn for one of the best elk hunts in the nation. She drew a coveted early rifle hunt in Unit 1. Recent data have now concluded that Unit 1 in Arizona has the most trophy bulls of any other state or unit in the western U.S. Going into this hunt, we started talking antler size and all that, but it ended up causing too much stress and anxiety. At the end of the day, I told her she should not worry about trying to find a 400" bull and go for a bull that simply makes her heart happy, no matter the antler size. We hunted hard for four days and at 6:13 am this past Monday morning, Oct 2nd, she harvested her first bull elk, which was also her first elk. Monday was a long day, and we got home late. Of course, I was still on hunting time, so the following is the story I posted on my Facebook and Coueswhitetail when I got out of bed. ----------------------- It's 3:30 am and I can't sleep. I can't sleep, in part, because I'm still on elk hunting time and this is wake-up time and I can't sleep because my mind keeps replaying the awesomeness of the last 24 hours. I'm still at a loss for words in the pride I have for our amazing daughter. The rumors are true. Yesterday morning at 6:13 am, she filled her elk tag. After three long days, including 20 miles of hiking in some very rugged terratin at 9,000-feet elevation, with a 20-lb pack, carrying a rifle, and a missed bull on opening morning, we only hiked a mile from the truck on Day 4 to fill her first elk tag and harvest her first bull! We got on the herd shortly after shooting light, but got busted because of bad winds. We knew the area and, therefore, knew the likely end route, so we moved "at elk speed" to cut them off. As we were getting to our planned rally point, we popped out of the trees to see a good bull standing about 150 yards away and perfectly broadside. We got set up quickly and he dropped at the first shot! There was much to celebrate and how I held in the tears is beyond me. Then I explained to Syd that the real work begins. We had no phone reception where we were, which meant we couldn't get ahold of our friends who offered to drive the hour to us to help out. It was just the two of us. Syd did an amazing job of helping me field dress her elk, never complaining about the mess or hard work. She even took a quick minute to help me tighten a make-shift bandage when I managed to slice off a chunk of my thumb (stupid Havalon; still love it though). After the mile hike back to the truck with the first load of meat, Syd helped me navigate a tricky spot on the two-track road we were parked on, and then used my GPS to figure out the two-track went right up to her elk! He was likely the satellite bull we saw, but neither of us really care about his score. We'll find out for our own edification, but it doesn't really matter; she earned every inch of those antlers and every pound of meat. The cape is beautiful and will look great hanging on the wall. The meat is at the processor and the head is at the taxidermist. Syd experienced every high and low a hunter (especially an elk hunter) can experience on this hunt, and she never gave up. We were in elk every day, and set up for multiple opportunities. I saw a young woman who believed in herself, who was determined, and willing to go the extra mile to achieve her goal. We both learned valuable lessons and to trust each other's instincts and training even more. I know now to let her make the judgement of whether or not she can make a tricky shot. She's not the 10-year old novice; she's the 13-year old who is currently the only person I've taught to shoot better than I can. We are both excited for our next big hunt together, even though we don't know when or where that will be; however, I can tell you that there are major plans for next year's elk and deer seasons! In the short-term, I will be heading to the doctor this morning to get my thumb professionally looked at and cleaned. I'm thankful for all of my first-aid training over the years, but I'm not messing around on this one. I ended up with four total cuts on both hands and a big chunk missing from my left thumb. Seeing Sydney's face and watching her reactions was worth it all. --------------------------- Thumb update: doc said it wasn't infected and that I'd taken good care of myself. Even though it was a day old, it looked 2-3 days old. Conclusion: I'm part Capt. America or part Wolverine with my ability to heal. I will also be purchasing some cut-resistant gloves to throw in my pack because getting rid of my Havalon is not an option. A whole elk processed with one knife without ever having to sharpen a blade is amazing! We should also be getting a call from the taxidermist today to get the official score. Its not that we really care about the score because he's a great bull, but we are curious, especially if it helps me improve field judging. Trophy pics: A few months before the hunt, we had a Boyd's custom stock put on Syd's rifle. I went ahead and paid the extra for the elk engraving. She says this 7mm-08 is now her dedicated elk rifle!