After the successful shot…The work begins!
Now I realize how far away I am and how fortunate to get not only a shot at this elk, but a clean kill. I reload my rifle (I am hunting alone, although several others are a few miles away and there are bear and mountain lions in the woods ), put the safety on and hike up to my reward. She is big…and really far from any trail or foreseeable route out of the forest. Oh well, might as well start field dressing anyway. I hang my orange coat on a high branch to signal where I am and soon Erik appears. He has heard me shoot and hiked over the ridge, locating my exact whereabouts by spotting my orange coat. When I get to the ridge, I have a weak cell, but enough to text Loren to join us too, preferably with the ATV.
I am very possessive about my animals and strongly prefer to do my own field dressing, saving the liver for myself and the heart for Loren. I do allow Erik to give me exposure and traction, pulling the chest cavity open making it easier to remove gastrointestinal tract and pulmonary and cardiovascular organs. I enjoy identifying where my bullet hit, usually in the heart or lungs when one shot kills immediately. This was a shot through both the heart and lungs.
When I was a medical student and surgery intern in the inner city of Baltimore, we cared for many victims of gunshot wounds. In the operating room, I always enjoyed seeing the tract the bullet made as it went through the body. If it was a “gut shot”, we had to “run” (look at) every centimeter of the 26 feet of human intestines. Most of these patients were young, physically healthy men who did quite well post operatively and recovered quickly. Similarly, I enjoy following entrance and exit wounds in animals, hopefully never a gut shot, as the animal does not die instantaneously when that is the case. I love anatomy, human and animal! I also love that this elk did not suffer, but dropped immediately. Thank you, Lord, for helping me hit my target.
I hear the ATVs. Both Loren and Ken, each on an all terrain vehicle, are below us. I hike out to show them where we are, but only one vehicle can climb the steep path, then only part of the way. Unhooking the chain saw and walking the rest of the way to where my carcass awaits, Loren says, “Why is it that every time Dawn shoots an elk, we have to get the chain saw out?” This is reminiscent of two years ago when four of us spent six hours pulling out two elk. In the dark. In a snowstorm. Most of that time was cutting a road through fallen timber to get the ATV to the elk. Today the job is easier; we have mild weather and, since it is daylight, we can see.
Just an hour or so later, my elk is safely into the garage and skinning can begin. I am happy! My daughters are very happy to get the text that I got an elk, knowing they and their family will enjoy part of the bounty, especially the sausage!