It all began when I started hunting whitetail deer. I would see these big deer on camera, and think to myself, “I want to hunt a monster one day.” I’m not sure about all hunters but I can speak for myself; you get to a point after hunting for several years you want something more than the year before.
I was in the mountains at Cades Cove and saw an elk for the first time. He was majestic and huge, and I knew from that moment I wanted to hunt elk.
The next real encounter with an elk in the wild was when I was hunting in Kentucky. I saw cow elk and young bulls; it was so awesome. It just stirred my desire even more, an elk was #1 on my dream hunt list.
I began applying for an elk tag in Kentucky every year in hopes of getting drawn. It has not happened yet but I can guarantee you I will continue to put in for it. The first bugle I ever heard was at a deer farm in Tennessee, it was rut and this bull would bugle and the cows would call, and he would bugle even more. Although it was in a fence, that sound would make your hair on the back of your neck stand up.
I kept telling everyone my dream hunt was elk, I just knew one day I would get my chance.
I reached out to a long-time supporter of one of the women’s organizations I’m affiliated with. I told Jeremy, I needed to get ready for the mountains and with the help of his program, I began slowly preparing. I am a firm believer in faith and getting what your heart’s desire is but it’s not going to be handed to you. Little by little I began working toward my dream, still nowhere even close to my goals, but we walk by faith and not by sight.
A couple of weeks passed slowly, but I started with Fit to Hunt; I had my goals set for next year.
On this one day, I was supposed to be paying for my tooth implant – two weeks prior to my appointment. Something just kept telling me to reschedule and not pay for it just yet. So I called the dentist and rescheduled my appointment, had some errands to run, and as I was sitting in the parking lot of the bank, I saw this Facebook post about a cheap elk tag with an outfitter and friend I have hunted with before. Are you kidding?
Here was an opportunity to hunt elk and I needed details.
So I immediately reached out. Sure enough, the landowner had a tag and it was still available. This was on a Thursday at 4:30. She told me the price and I could not believe it. It was exactly the amount of my tooth implant. Was this really why I had the feeling of not paying for it? I text my daughter to tell her this hunt has literally fallen into my lap and I may be gone in five days but I think I need to jump on this. She said, “Momma, it’s been your dream to hunt elk.” So I texted my boss and told them what had happened and if was there any way I could take my vacation. I knew it was literally the last minute but this had been my dream. They said go do it!
It was happening so fast that I really didn’t have time to process it.
I had 30 minutes before the ban closed, so I confirmed with the outfitter I was coming and would be there Friday night. I ran into the bank, made out-of-state preparations, ran home, packed my camo, and was on my way to Kentucky. I had to borrow blaze orange and a rifle because my gun was not ready. I have not shot it since last season.
I don’t think I have ever shown up to hunt totally not prepared. I am the one who has everything you could need. It was so surreal. All I could say the entire time was how thankful I was for this opportunity and how unexpected and fast everything happened. Saturday morning came early, and here I was with a borrowed gun and borrowed orange heading to my dream hunt.
The plan was to drop me off, I could watch this crossing while the outfitter took the other hunter. We headed out to the spot where I would be dropped off. I was so grateful and excited for this moment. I looked at Tina and said I feel like I better go ahead and chamber a bullet. We turned the curve. I said “Cow, cow, cow. Bull bedded!” I grabbed my binos. This bull was in no way the bull I envisioned myself shooting. I saw his left side was crazy looking and he had some mass and I asked, “Is he old enough? Do I shoot him?” I wasn’t looking at antlers or even had time to count points. I wanted to know if he was old enough, but one of the cows turned to walk away and stood up.
He turned broadside. I took the shot. He was hit and down he went. I instantly became emotional. I have hunted many animals as most of you know. Kudu was my favorite big game hunt, but I’ve never cried after killing an animal.
I just fulfilled my dream hunt.
He is not the 300-400+ bull I always envisioned myself hunting. But y’all I did it. 2023 has been a hard year, full of losses, heartbreak, change, and do-overs. This was the first season I was not going to get to hunt. This was the first season I had no planned trips.
That Thursday when I was supposed to pay for a tooth implant, I chose to chase my dream instead and I will never have another hunt come together like this hunt did.
I am writing this story with every emotion of that day still fresh. I just got the call that my elk meat is ready for me to come pick up. Now the joke at elk camp is instead of a tooth implant I have ivory!
Never stop working and believing in your dreams. God knows the desires of your heart and he knew what was about to unfold in my life and that I may not get another chance at a hunt like this again. I know he will provide the money for me to get an implant when that time is right.
Keep hoping, keep dreaming and never give up.
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