Last Day Success…Don’t Give Up!


by Lance Stutzke

All you can think about is maybe it just isn’t your year

Do you ever have those hunting seasons where nothing seems to go your way? Full draw, one more step, wind swirls. Another image of giant antlers crashing through the branches as it runs away…burned into your memory forever. The frustration is starting to take over after several close calls. You are mentally and physically drained. All you can think about is maybe it just isn’t your year. Good thing you have some great tag soup recipes. I have been there many times and there have been many times I have given up when I should have pushed myself. It only takes one minute to go from your worst season ever to one of your best. I was able to make it happen on the last day of season a few years back…here’s how.

It was the last day of the 2011 season and I had been hunting by myself for the past 10 days. I was exhausted, but had plans to go big on the final day. I woke up that morning in a panic. I must have turned off my alarm without knowing and I slept in. I was planning to hunt some of the steepest country around and I had a two hour drive to get there. I debated in my mind if I should go somewhere easier or closer, but I knew my best chance was to go where the elk hadn’t been pressured as hard all season. “Go big or go home” I told myself.
I got there about an hour after daylight and started my 1,500’ climb straight uphill. As I started up the mountain, a bull and cows started sounding off the next ridge over. They were heading up to the bench where the two ridges met and I knew I had to make it there as fast as possible. My mind was telling me to push through, but my body was tapping out. The elk made it there at least a half hour before I could, so I just took my time and slowly crept up to the bench where I last heard them. I just crested the bench and let out two soft cow calls. A bull screamed less than 100 yards away just over the other side. That bull came running straight in and he was on me in an instant. I made a rookie mistake and had not set up for a shot before I called. He had me pinned so I tried to step around a tree and draw at the same time. Big bulls don’t get big by hanging around amateur hunters. He whirled and ran in an instant. Another image burned into the memory bank.

It was after 10 a.m. now and the woods were silent. I sat there for about a half an hour just “sad dogging”. I had pretty much given up and decided to just walk down the next ridge back to the truck. I was going to cow call a little along the way but wasn’t expecting much to happen at that time of day. I got to a nice rock bluff on the ridge and cow called down in the dark timber. Right away I hear a loud snap below. Then another, and another getting closer. I couldn’t believe something was actually coming. I set up on the ridge top and a minute later a 6×5 was cresting the ridge 20 yards in front of me. Shwack!! That sound an arrow makes when it hits the opposite shoulder and buries in the vitals. He ran right down below me and I heard him crash. It was almost noon when I shot him and 45 minutes later I was standing over a nice bull. It was brutal cleaning and hanging him by myself. He had died in some steep terrain but I didn’t care. I was beaming with last day glory.

There is no secret formula to last day or any day success. The key is boots on the ground and pushing yourself when times get hard. I know now it can be done. My hunting partner and I were able to pull it off again on the last day of the season last year. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and always remember that this stuff is fun. Good luck and good hunting.

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