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Bison Hunting with a Bow

By David Rice

When the one ton giant bull rounded the sagebrush-covered hill in front of us, our hearts pounded as he headed straight for us on a dead run!

This exciting January day actually began a month earlier, when I won a trophy bison hunt from Thousand Hills Bison Ranch and Mt. Blanca Gamebird & Trout Lodge of Blanca, Colorado. Thousand Hills Bison sponsors sporting clay tournaments throughout the country in which they give a trophy hunt away. Although I did not win any of the shooting prizes, I did get drawn for the grand prize!

Bison Hunting

As morning dawned, the temperature hovered at a balmy -14 degrees. Our kind host, John Ray of Thousand Hills Bison, served hot, homemade cinnamon rolls during our pre-hunt briefing. The hunt takes place in the Brown Hills of the San Luis Valley of Colorado. Located at 7,894 feet above sea level, the hunting area covers over 62,000 acres of prime, native bison habitat. The valley floor is dotted with sage, rabbit brush and blue gramma grass while the rolling hills consist of large lava rocks. Bison Hunting

Setting out in a four-wheel drive pickup truck, we stopped periodically to glass the valleys and hillsides for our quarry. We spotted a band of wild horses with majestic Mt. Blanca in the distance. It was a sight I'll never forget. As we proceeded deeper into the hunting area, a small herd of pronghorn antelope made a guest appearance. What a great way to begin this hunt of a lifetime!

Our intense glassing finally paid off. "There he is!" John declared. The lone bull was about 1 miles to the north. We planned our stalk. The hunting party included my wife, Terri, as the videotographer, Bill Langdon, a long time friend from Lamar, CO and myself. I was carrying my Mathews bow and Easton ACC arrows tipped with 100 grain Thunderheads. Although I had been practicing at 62 pounds, today I was set up for 72 pounds. Bill was carrying a backup rifle at the request of John. Safety and caution are paramount should a nasty, wounded, bull elect to charge.

As we headed north toward the area where the big bull had been spotted, it was decided to use the hill on our right as cover. This would allow us to be out of sight and able to move quickly to reduce the distance between us. Reaching the halfway point, we were amazed at how much ground the bull had covered while grazing along a wild horse trail. Now we were forced to regroup as he had completely changed his travel route, putting more and more distance between us.

We headed across an open, grassy flat. Moving as quickly as possible, we began narrowing the distance. Only 200 yards from the safety of the hill, the bull suddenly appeared around the corner of the hillside--catching our party out on the open flat. As he rounded the hill, we realized that something had startled him as he was running directly for us! Separated from the security of the herd, a strange object or sounds will often times spook a lone bull. Instinctively, we all dropped to the ground, not knowing our next move. Just as we thought he was going to run right over the top of us, he suddenly veered off to our right. Whew! What a close call!

Bison Hunting

I used by Bushnell 400 Range Finder to locate him at 134 yards, but he sure looked a lot closer than that to me. These Lords of the Prairie are mammoth beasts.

The bull was now heading back the direction we had just come from. So, we headed back as well. I am truly amazed at just how agile an animal of this size can be and how quickly he can cover rough terrain.

We finally arrived at the base of the elongated hill he had disappeared behind. Again we regrouped. Now we felt that we were finally in a good place for an ambush. Moving slowly around the hill, I was alerted to the fact that he was standing only 80 yards away, looking in our direction! Dropping to the ground, we slowly began a cautious retreat. A sense of urgency overcame me. We had to hurry. Going as fast as we dared, our trio started up the backside of the rocky ridge. When I peaked over the top of the ridge, I was surprised to see his rapid approach. Quickly, I nocked an arrow and prepared for the shot.

Bison Hunting

As he walked into the open. I pulled my Q2 bow back to full draw with the sight pin settling in low behind his brown shoulder. Having studied their anatomy, I knew the heart to be a difficult shot as it was low in the chest cavity and semi-protected by the shoulder. A lung shot was certainly my best opportunity for a clean kill. As his right leg went forward, the release went off and the arrow silently flew to its mark! Mortally wounded, he lunged forward and staggered. He only traveled a few yards, stopped, and turned back to see what had happened. I nocked another arrow and aimed for the same location, but now on the opposite side. I know how tough these brutes are to bring down and I was taking no chances after the merry chase he had already taken us on. This second arrow scored and went clear through the chest cavity! Massive bleeding occurred instantaneously from his nostrils and he went down. He traveled only 15 yards from where he was first hit to where he expired.

Bison HuntingCelebration and congratulations were in order! I had bagged by first bison. The largest game animal in North America. You can never really appreciate the enormous size of these magnificent animals until you get up close to them. He was a mature bull with exceptional horns that would easily qualify him for the Safari Club Record Book. The cold mountain temperatures had caused him to grow a thick winter cape, making for an exceptionally fine robe. His enormous skull would soon hang in my trophy room and as we took photos and enjoyed lunch, I could not help to look up and admire the beautiful, snow-capped mountains that surrounded us. What a glorious sight!

As we skinned the bull, I thought of the many meals we would enjoy from this animal. Bison meat contains less fat, calories and cholesterol than beef, pork or skinless chicken. The flavorful meat is not gamy at all and actually tastes better than beef. With each delicious bite, I will savor the wonderful memories of this truly exciting adventure.

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