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!
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.
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 1½ 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!
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.
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.
Celebration 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.
Their website is www.thbison.com.