Time spent on the mountain with Dad
The thrill of the hunt: Danielle Hillebert and father, Dan, pose with a havelina duing a recent hunt.
Dad included me in his life — scouting, hunting, carrying the animal out of the woods, cooking and eating it.
He started me out with a BB gun at four. The gun seemed like a 270. Then he moved me up to a pellet gun, which was really run.
Later, he let me shoot a .22. Now I’m all the way up to a 45-caliber CVA muzzleloader.
When he first taught me the ethics of hunting, it wasn’t an option to kill and animal just for fun. Looking at the animals after they’d been shot never bugged me. I guess you can say that I’m not a "girlie girl".
One time, I asked if I could shoot a bird when I was four. He said, "you shoot it, you eat it." Your can’t tell me that didn’t stick in my mind.
I can remember hunting elk with my dad up north a while back. To hear those huge beasts bulging was awesome. Seeing my dad hunting and stalking them was so inspiring to me. He hunted the elk with a bow and arrows, so of course, I had to try it. Ever since then, archery has been my favorite.
It was a Sunday afternoon and my dad, Curtis and I took off on the quads to hunt. I had just received new boots the week before and didn’t have a chance to break them in.
After the first morning I had blisters, one on each heel. I was in so much pain that I had to wear my favorite slippers to hunt in. They weren’t very good on the rocky mountainside, but hey, I’m not going to let a little thing like blisters stop me from getting my cow.
After we got back from the morning hunt, my feet still hurt, so I figured I’d do some homework.
The next afternoon we got all decked out in our Mossy Oak camos. I loaded my Magnum CVA 45-Caliber muzzleloader. We were using 195-grain power belt arrow-tip bullets with 150 grains of powder. Dad said that should be some good medicine for these elk.
So, we set off for our favorite mountain. We decided on it because we heard the elk bugling on that very mountain the night before. We figured if there were bulls bugling, there must be cows.
We had only made it up the mountain about a quarter of the way when we heard the faint sound of elk. Short on daylight and not sure if we’d make it before sundown, we decided to go for it. Halfway up we ran into the screaming bulls. Then we heard the cows mewing.
I was so excited, my adrenaline started pumping.
The elk were only 150 to 200 yards across the draw, but were impossible to see because of the thick mixture of pine and cedar trees. We moved up the mountain, hoping to find a clearing. Then we saw the body of an elk across the canyon, but I couldn’t tell if it was a bull or cow. Dad set up my shooting sticks and through my scope I could see huge antlers.
By this time I as getting a bit frustrated because we could not see between the trees.
The elk were still on the other side of the draw, and were moving toward the top. We decided to keep paralleling them, stopping to glass through any opening. We kept moving up until the canyon came to a "V" shape. We heard cows up ahead, so we started up the hill.
Then, we saw the cows within shooting range. We got down on the ground and put up the sticks. I fired a shot. There was so much smoke from the gun that I couldn’t tell if I had hit a cow or not. We sad the elk move up to the right and disappear.
Those cows were so confused they didn’t know where the loud pop came from, and they couldn’t see us because of the Mossy Oak camouflage.
Darkness began to set in, so we ran up and looked frantically for the cow or any sight of blood. At the time, we didn’t know our friend Curtis went to the other side of the mountain for a look.
It soon became dark and flashlights became a must. From the darkness came an extremely scary noise. Immediately, I thought it was a bear. Dad didn’t want to scare me, so he told me it was probably a javelina. Whatever you say, dad.
Then it clicked. Where was Curtis? We hadn’t seen him since we started the search. Dad called his name, but he didn’t answer. We were worried, but Curtis showed up behind us.
It was now pitch black, and the moon was absent from the sky. Dad shined the light in the direction of the sound, and there we saw to glowing eyes.
"Give me the gun and you stay right here," dad said.
Then he walked up to the eyes with the light under the barrel of the rifle.
"Wahoo. It’s your elk," dad said.
The elk was mortally wounded, so the sound must have been the cow taking its last few breaths. The shot was straight at its lungs.
It was the most exciting time of my life.
We made a campfire for the light and warmth. We field dressed and skinned the elk. Then we set the meat on the rocks and left her on the mountain until the morning so the meat would cool out.
We went back the next morning to pack my elk. Curtis, dad and I spent half the day carrying it off the mountain a quarter at a time with pack frames.