The phrase that is the headline above was coined by my brother Steve Smith, when in 2002 on our first afternoon of a seven-day caribou hunt in Schefferville, Quebec, he shot two bulls with two bullets, in two minutes. Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, “You’re going to hear … the rest of the story.”
After being gone for nearly two years, my son Noah returned from a tour of duty in Iraq in June 2010. While he was stationed there we’d been emailing about going on a hunt when he came home. When I asked him what type of hunt he wanted to go on, without hesitation he stated, “I want to hunt in the mountains on horseback.”
Well, an elk hunt out west was in order! We did some checking online but really wanted to meet an outfitter face to face before booking, so we decided to attend the “Huntin’ Time Expo” in Grand Rapids, Mich., in January 2011. When we walked in the door I stated that our goal was to have a hunt booked before we left that night. We spoke with about 20 elk outfitters, and after several hours of comparing notes we decided on Backcountry Outfitters out of Pagoasa Springs, Colo. Several things impressed us about owners David and Nancy Guilliams. They had outfitted there for nearly 45 years, owned all their own horses and mules, and were past donors to SCI. We booked the hunt and started the long wait till November 2011.
We started talking about the hunt—as we all do—and a friend of ours named Brian Braun from Ann Arbor expressed an interest in joining us. One call confirmed an opening and we had another passenger in the truck to make the trip!
The day finally came and we started our 1,650-mile trip to southwest Colorado on Nov. 1, my 59th birthday! We rode about 8 miles on horseback to a very nice tent camp on Friday, Nov. 4, to be ready for the opener on Saturday. Saturday morning brought about 18 inches of heavy snow so we spent most of the day huddled around the wood stove in the cook tent, occasionally checking the snowfall. At about 3 p.m. it let up enough for us to get out and have a look around, and we saw several cow elk, but no bulls. The next morning we rode out of camp with our guide, Monty, about 3 miles up a mountain trail when he spotted elk on the far side of a huge valley. We dismounted, pulled our guns from their scabbards and loaded up, Noah with his new 7 mm Mag. and me with my sweet Weatherby Mark V in .300 Wby. Mag. (the rifle I won at a Michigan SCI banquet in 1992). Within 30 seconds of dismounting I heard Noah shoot and shout that he had a bull down! I was watching elk go up the side of the opposite mountain when I spotted a nice bull entering a clearing. I pulled up and fired and he turned downhill. Monty shouted that he was sure I had connected. Two minutes and it was all over!
Then the work began. Noah and Monty spent two hours looking for the elk with my help directing from the spot where we took the shots. Anyone who has hunted in the vastness of the mountains can relate to the difficulty of locating downed game 300 to 400 yards away across a huge valley in the trees and brush. Well, they eventually found both elk—Noah’s a very nice 6X6 and mine a decent 5X5. It took us seven hours to slide them the 400 yards down to the bottom of the valley and across the creek so we could get at them with the pack mules. When we had them in the bottom lying next to each other, I asked Monty if he ever had two elk ready to pack out lying next to each other as these two were. “Never had two elk next to each other and never had a father/son team shoot two elk while I watched them both from 3 feet behind them.”
After a two-hour ride back to camp in the dark, the lights from the Coleman lanterns never looked so good. The next morning we went back out with four pack mules and quartered and packed out both elk.
Nine years earlier we would have never guessed that we would be able to repeat the phrase “two bulls, two bullets, two minutes” again.