By Andy M, WI
When I saw a voicemail from an unknown Montana phone number, I figured it was one of the messages I receive from telemarketers and quickly delete. This voicemail was different. I listened to Korie from RMEF telling me that my name was drawn as the winner of the progressive raffle elk and mule deer hunt. (I still have the voicemail saved to this day).
I won a Browning rifle in the raffle the night of the Northern Highlands Chapter banquet in St. Germain, Wisconsin, which won me entry into a raffle for a five-day guided hunt. Also entered for that ultimate prize were all the other winners from RMEF’s 500+ chapters across the country. It never crossed my mind that I would win. I called Korie to confirm and then called my dad to tell him he was joining me on this trip!
Coming from 780 feet above sea level in Wisconsin, I knew I had to get in the best physical shape I could to prepare myself for pursuing elk and mule deer at elevations pushing 9,000 feet. My wife and I walked during the day, and I hit the treadmill for miles at night.
RMEF and Upper Canyon Outfitters in southwest Montana handled lodging arrangements. They made sure I received the gear I won for the hunt and that it fit properly.
When my dad and I arrived in camp, we were greeted by UCO staff and shown to our cabin. This would be our home for the next six nights. Everything at UCO was topnotch—lodging, food, guides, transportation and shooting range.
Not many 35-year-olds have the opportunity or means to go on a paid elk hunt. I also knew based on the question Donna, UCO’s owner, and my guide, Hunter, each asked, “Are you in shape or just skinny?” that not many people physically prepare for their elk hunts like I did. Hunter and Donna were very excited because they had been waiting all year for a client young and strong enough to walk deep into the country.
I have never been more physically and mentally exhausted as I was at the end of the first day’s hunt as I laid in bed thinking about the next four days.
During mid-morning of day three, I was following Hunter during a snowstorm, when he dropped to the ground. He turned around and said, “Shoot that mule deer buck!” I quickly killed a great mule deer buck.
Late morning of day five, my final day of the hunt, we spotted some cows bedded a mile and two miles away. I told Hunter we needed to get elk meat for my family and we were running out of time. He reluctantly agreed to go on a cow hunt.
When we crested the first hill, Hunter spotted not a cow, but a bull in the timber below us. After watching and repositioning on four bulls for over an hour as they fed and fought each other, I was able to kill my bull! What a roller coaster of emotions a hunt can be and how quickly things can change.
My dad was able to kill a mule deer as well. One bull was within feet of clearing the timber in front of him but failed to step out or he might have filled his elk tag as well.
Many thanks to RMEF, UCO and Browning for a great hunt and memories that will last a lifetime. God is good!