Bison 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 hosts, John and
Michele 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 videographer, 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.
|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.
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 sound
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 my 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
setteling 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.
I want to thank the fine people at Thousand Hills Bison Ranch and Mt. Blanca Gamebird &
Trout Lodge for a dream come true. If anyone shares my dream of harvesting an
American bison trophy bull, I heartily encourage them to contact Thousand Hills Bison Ranch at
719-672-3070. Adios Amigo!
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Thousand Hills Bison Ranch
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