Editor's Note: For this #ThrowbackThursday, we're heading back to February 2005, when the then-13-year-old Cory Charlton send us this story about taking his first elk. If you're out there, Cory, we'd love to hear from you!
When my sister and I found out we had been drawn for bull elk during Arizona’s November’s hunt, we were thrilled. But there was a lot of preparing to do. Being from Arizona, we had almost no cold-weather gear. Besides that, I had to practice shooting my gun a lot. I had been dove hunting twice and went ram hunting in Texas—thanks to my father, who is on the board of directors in the Arizona chapter of Safari Club International. However, I had never hunted deer and now I was after an elk.
When November finally arrived, my father, sister, grandpa and two of my dad’s friends headed to the White Mountains. We had a fantastic cabin and got there a day ahead of most people (we left on a Thursday instead of Friday), so we had the entire area pretty much to ourselves. Lucky for us there were a lot of elk.
We saw elk just 10 or 20 minutes after leaving the cabin. We also stumbled across a field of antelope, but other than that, it was all elk. We tried tracking a herd of dozens of bulls, but they were too far away.
At one point I had a chance to shoot a spike, but it ran off. Besides, I knew I might never go elk hunting again —since it’s so hard to get drawn for a permit—so I was a little hesitant shooting a spike on the first day of a four-day hunt. By the end of the day, with only about 20 minutes left to hunt, we started the drive back. My sister and father were in the truck in front and my grandpa and I were following in another truck.
We decided to turn around and drive in the direction we had just come from until it got dark. I was thinking at the time, “Why would there be an elk there now when there wasn’t one there five minutes ago?”
I was wrong. In a meadow about five minutes away from where we had turned around, there was a great five-by-five—almost a six-by-six—bull. We climbed out of the truck and I had my .270 rifle ready almost instantly. The elk was about 100 yards away and started to walk away, but my dad’s friend Green made a call that made the elk stop and turn to look at us.
I said, “I got it,” then I shot. I saw it run off and thought, “Oh no, what if I just wounded or grazed it?” My dad and sister went off to look for another elk for her for the last 15 minutes or so while my grandpa and I looked for my elk. We found it about 40 yards away, dead. Later, I found out that my shot had gone through both lungs. I was ecstatic. The first day and I had already tagged mine!
It was a great experience and I feel so lucky to have an elk under my wing when I’m only 13.