As a Kentucky boy who has only hunted the Eastern part of the United States, going out west and killing a huge bull elk has always been one of my dream hunts. As I’ve spent most of my time chasing whitetails in the foothills and mountains of Appalachia, maybe one day I’ll pull the trigger and head west to conquer that task. However, that’s enough about me. This article will tell the story of how Hunt Lift Eat Team Member Gabriel Martinez executed a great hunt and came off the mountain with a huge bull elk! I reached out to Gabe for an interview after he shared pictures of his hunt with the team, and I couldn’t be more excited to share his story. This story contains Gabe's upcoming and how he became the hunter he is today, along with his trials, tribulations, and lessons learned that led to this successful hunt. Trust me, it’s much more than climbing a mountain and shooting an elk. So, if you’ve ever had similar aspirations as my own of tackling a bull elk hunt and coming out successful, then y'all better buckle up. This article is the one for you.
Gabe Martinez grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming where he spent most of his young life learning the way of the land and how to hunt and thrive in the outdoors. When I spoke to him, he credited all of his past and future successes to his dad and his grandpa. As he sat and exclaimed how much his days hunting elk, mule deer, and antelope with them as a young child meant to him, and even many years later, I could tell how sincere his feelings were. His first memories of hunting actually began when he was in his early years of grade school, and surprisingly those memories were anger. He remembered going to school while his dad and grandpa would head out to the high country on week long hunts because “he was too young to tag along.” I think at some point growing up we’ve all been in a situation where a parent or grandparent told us the same, so I can only fathom his jealousy as a young boy imagining all the details of the hunt he was too young to go on.
Since I’m a high school baseball coach and to put it into my terms, I would say Gabe finally got the call up to the big leagues. Fast forward a couple years later, and even though he was still too young to shoot, he was finally able to go out into the outdoors
with his dad and his grandpa. That’s when his love and passion for the outdoors began to grow. As he continued to learn life lessons about patience and persistence from the generations before him, he instantly fell in love with hunting and everything outdoors. We laughed in our conversation as he told me he earned the nickname “Eagle Eye” from his dad
and grandpa because of his impeccable spotting ability. He’d spot them, and dad or grandpas would shoot. Now that’s a good set up! We recalled and shared some great memories we both had in common of the great times we’d spent with our family members in the woods and how they made us into what we are today. Now that’s what it’s all about.
Fast forward to present day and Gabe is now a 25 year old who works for the state of Wyoming and is a well-rounded representation of our Hunt Lift Eat Team. I received some messages around the first couple days of September that he was heading into the high country to chase some bull elk with his bow. As predominantly a whitetail hunter from Kentucky, I was instantly intrigued and wanted to follow Gabe’s hunt because of how far out of my comfort zone it was. However, after already having 9 bull kills under his belt and looking to punch the 10th tag in 2022, this was right up his alley. No more than 2 days later, I received a notification in our Hunt Lift Eat team member chat only to see a monster bull elk that completely dwarfed Gabe as he stood behind it smiling with a handful of antlers. “Wow! What a kill!” is all I could think of as I hoped that one day I would head out west and be the one smiling for the camera with friends, a bloody arrow, and an expired animal at my side. With such an impressive kill, I knew I needed to reach out to Gabe and give him an outlet to tell his story.
So, now let’s paint the picture. It’s day two of Elk Archery season in Wyoming on a
section of private land that Gabe’s family leases for hunting access. Gabe and one of his hunting buddies are up at a great glassing point where you can see for miles upon miles. As they scan the countryside they see timber, sage brush, some mule deer mixed in, and one of the prettiest skylines you could ever imagine that’s right out of a Wyoming hunting postcard. However, no Elk. At this point in the hunt, he remembered the wise words spoken to him from his dad and his grandpa, “be patient, persistent, and let the animals come to you. If you stay and glass long enough, you’ll have an opportunity.” So while considering his lessons learned as a young boy, Gabe and his buddy showed persistence and stayed put.
Then, they continued to glass the same landscape they’d glassed many times before until they finally saw what they were looking for. First, a lone bull feeding out in a meadow, and then they spotted a very large antler from what appeared to be a bedded down bull. If you’ve ever put on a spot and stalk hunt, they normally go like this. Spot the animal, develop a game plan, put the wind in your favor, stalk until you’re close enough, and then try to execute and hope that none of the million different factors that could go wrong come into play. This spot and stalk hunt was no exception. His hunting buddy stayed put and continued to be a spotter from above as Gabe started to make his move while inching closer and closer to the bedded bull while trying to keep the wind in his favor and not allow the bull or other animals along the way to blow the whole set up. Once he got to 50 yards out he could see the monster bull elk’s antlers still bedded down and facing away from him with a left to right wind. The situation at hand was perfect.
At that moment, he knew that he’d have to close the distance a little more in order to execute a hunt that up until that moment was completely flawless, but could he close it out? At 50 yards out, Gabe made the decision to leave his quiver behind and ditch his boots to make a more stealthy stalk and close the distance needed for a lethal shot. At 45 yards he noticed that the large bull was not alone and he was actually with a bachelor group of 4-5 other bulls, but he was the biggest by far. So the task was to not only get a lethal shot on the biggest bull, but to not spook or get winded by the other bulls in the process. Now, that patience and persistence that Gabe learned from his dad and grandpa kicked in again as he had to calm himself while watching some smaller bulls mess around sparring and waiting for his bull to stand up out of his bed. If you’ve ever been in this situation, 1 minute seems like an eternity, but as it normally always does in life and the outdoors, patience and hard work pays off.
Finally, sitting 42 yards away, the bull stood up. Gabe thought to himself, “Now, it’s go-time. Take a deep breath and relax. Steady your pin and make a good shot.” The bull put its head down, Gabe drew back his Matthews VXR 31.5, took his time for a clean shot, and sent his Slick Trick broadhead flying. Time was moving in slow motion as he watched his arrow flying through the beautifully colored Wyoming sky and connected with the bull elk making a loud smack which made for a great shot right above the shoulder. Fired up and full of adrenaline, Gabe tried to calm himself as they began the recovery process. Luckily, he didn’t have much time to calm down before getting fired up all over again because the bull was recovered within 100 yards of the shot sight. I can only imagine the excitement running through Gabe’s veins as he looked up from the blood trail and saw “nothing but antlers” and his largest bull of the other 9 he had killed. You talk about a dream come true and everything coming together perfectly for a flawless spot and stalk archery kill on a once in a lifetime bull elk.
Just as many hunters do, Gabe credits all of his success to the closeness and the strong bonds he built with his family at a young age in the outdoors. Many times throughout our conversation he showed extreme gratitude for the lessons and moments he shared with his dad and his grandpa who passed away too soon in 2009. Even though his grandpa is no longer with him, Gabe carries on his memory by cherishing every moment he has chasing wild game on the same ground his grandad did before him. With a smile and reminiscing, he recalled being a young kid and waking up at hunting camp to his grandpa making coffee on the wood stove along with all the other little moments he loved back in those days. Those vivid memories, life experiences, legacy, traditions, and special moments will be passed down to Gabe’s son that he will soon be welcoming. Those same principles were those that were passed on from his grandpa, to his dad, to Gabe, his new son, and for many generations to come.
When I spoke with Gabe, we happily reflected on our past experiences and even though we come from completely different hunting backgrounds, we share the same beliefs and love for the outdoors. To me, that shows the true brotherhood and camaraderie of the Hunt Lift Eat team and how even though most of our conversations come through zoom meetings, we are like-minded and love the thrill and experiences we get out of the hunt. To step back and look at the big picture, Gabe killed a once and a lifetime bull, yes. However, what he also did was take the life lessons passed on through family generations and used those lessons to provide enough meat to feed his family for a year. That’s what it’s always about. So, if you’re someone like me and you’re itching to get out west and chase some Elk, remember what made this hunt successful. You must show patience, persistence, and a general appreciation for the task at hand. If you can do those things along with sharing life changing memories with those you care about, you’ll still experience a great hunt even if you go home empty handed.
Thanks for reading!
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