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The Revival of Handloading

Faced with ever-higher prices for factory-loaded ammunition, hunters are discovering what their forebears learned long ago.

A flatlander living at 800 feet will look like a fish out of water while walking hard at 10,000 feet, and I was doing my best dying carp imitation. But the elk were on the move and we needed to close the gap. So I sucked it up, literally, and tried to keep pace with the guide. It helped that each time the bull bugled my adrenaline surged and my boots grew a bit lighter.
We moved in close on this bull, so close that when it bugled I swear I could feel the ground shake. But in the thick timber I just could not see it. Even my scarred and mistreated eardrums could hear its footsteps, and I knew it was close, and the frustration kept building. When you are this close it’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong, and I could feel the odds stacking against me.

Finally, I picked up its breath blowing white in the cold air. With a place to focus, more parts soon appeared. I realized it was staring right at me, but all I could see was from its nose to its ears. Then it bugled again and started moving to my right. I caught glimpses of its antlers as it passed through tiny holes in the brush, but never enough to confirm whether it was a shooter. The general impression I was getting was that it was not. So, we let it walk. By the time we got back to the horses and sat down for a late lunch, my hands had finally stopped shaking.

That was the third bull I had passed up since daybreak and it was not yet mid-afternoon. After multitudes of empty elk hunts this volume of bulls seemed a bit surreal, and, as if it could read that thought, another bull bugled before I finished my sandwich. Within seconds we were laying boot prints again, lunch a memory, its remnants scattered in the leaves.
We were hunting in a deep, steep, narrow canyon and the sound would roll up to us each time the bull proclaimed to the world that it was feeling good. As we closed the gap, a second bull joined in harmony. The two elk were on our side of the canyon, someplace above us on the steep hillside and down the canyon.

As we moved further along the canyon, the trees opened up a bit to scattered aspen and low willows and visibility improved. We were moving cautiously now, trying to be quiet and keeping our silhouettes low. When the bull bugled again, I caught movement far up the hill. Slowly creeping forward, I found a downed tree to use as a rest. The first elk had moved out of sight and I only caught a glimpse of its tan rump as it disappeared along the trail, but the second elk looked good. I put the crosshairs on the center of its shoulder (the rangefinder later confirmed my estimate of 250 yards), eased pressure on the trigger and lost sight of the bull with the recoil. I worked the bolt fast, but there was nothing there to shoot. Still, it all felt good, and when it feels good it usually is....

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