Icing on the Cake
By Adam Brescia
My heart started racing as I logged on to the NDOW website. This was my tenth year of putting in for a Nevada state elk tag, a tag I had been longing to draw. On May 25th as I scrolled down the list of unsuccessful draws, I noticed one that didn’t match the others – area 13 Elk, Successful! I called all my buddies in complete shock that area 13 was my next adventure and one I needed to start getting prepared for.
As I sat there jotting down everything I needed to accomplish in the next several months, I knew my top priority was getting a guide. Area 13 is known for being a tough unit to kill big bulls in, and I knew I would want some local help. With my work schedule, I would not be able to get out on any scouting trips before my hunt and really wanted to make the most of my trip that I had been waiting so long for. I had been following several outfitters on social media for the past few years and knew that Trevor Marques with Bull Ridge Guide Service was my best bet. Bull Ridge is known for being one of the premier outfitters in the state, and a few days after I drew my tag, I was able to lock down the dates for the late season hunt. I already felt a sense of accomplishment that I would get to go out with their crew and experience their type of hunting. Trevor cautioned me that area 13 was a tough unit and if we saw something in the 340-350" range we better think about punching that time card. I was just happy to be able to get a chance and hit the mountain with a Nevada elk tag in my pocket.
Time started to draw near, and my wife, Danielle, and I felt more than ready to tackle the drive from northern California to Ely, Nevada to begin this big adventure. Our hunt was eight days total from November 13th through the 21st, right before Thanksgiving. Thinking back now, I had a lot to be thankful for during that week. Little did I know that I would experience one of the most amazing events of my life.
On Tuesday morning, we woke up at 3:15 a.m. anxious to meet Trevor and his crew to find out where we would be headed on the first morning. It was pitch black as we drove down the county roads to seek out our first location and a crisp 12 degrees out as we hiked up to the top of a radio tower to glass over the valley below. The canyons were thick with pinyon pines, juniper, and mahogany, making it difficult to see the elk through the brush. I did not see anything that first night, but Carl, our guide, saw three bulls way off in the distance with only one being a mature bull. It was so thick where we were that first evening that I thought this was going to be a long seven days ahead of us.
For the next few days, we got set in our new routine – wake up at 3:15, head out to a new location, and hastily glass from the truck, trying to make the most of the first and last hour of light each day. As each day passed, bigger bulls began to reveal themselves. We passed on a 330" bull on day two and then on a nice 5x6 340" bull on day three. Trevor reminded me that we still had another five days and that he had seen bigger bulls in the unit. I can’t lie, it was pretty hard to pass on that bull, but we didn’t want it all to end just yet.
We knew from previous trail cam pics and the sheds collected from last year that there was a 360" bull tucked away in the mountains somewhere. Plus, we were having such a great time seeing new country, cruising around while listening to “The Joe Rogan Experience,” and poppin’ Sprees. I truly wanted to see everything the unit had to offer before I pulled the trigger. Our days were filled with plenty of elk, endless movie quotes, missed coyotes, junk food, and wild tales from our favorite hunting stories that had to be shared.
On our last day, I woke up eager to hit the mountains. I had truly enjoyed the full experience of what it’s like to hunt in Nevada and it was time to try and punch my tag. I could not have imagined a better end to our story as it would come together on the last day. That morning, we glassed four bulls, which we could have made a move on but ended up driving away for one more chance to try and locate the 360" monster, which continued to evade us.
As the morning wore on and nothing was in sight, we decided to come up with a plan that would land me a shot at a bull for the evening hunt. We barbequed hotdogs over an open campfire and discussed our final plan of attack. I was incredibly anxious because it had come down to the final hours and it was now or never. We put on our packs and hit the mountain where we had seen the four bulls roaming that morning. We hiked two miles up the side of a steep, shale-covered mountain and snuck into position where we would spend our last afternoon. After a few hours of glassing, there was no sign of the bulls we had seen that morning from the valley floor. My heart sank as I replayed all the nice bulls we had opted to pass on throughout the trip. I wasn’t about to give up hope and meticulously glassed the mountains around me.
At last! A patch of sun-bleached hide glowed brightly as it quickly passed through a gap in the junipers. “There’s a bull!” I exclaimed in a quiet but excited whisper. It was the three bulls we had been looking for, and leading the group was a nice, wide 6x6. We quickly gathered our gear and closed the distance to around 420 yards where we would set up for the shot. My heart was racing from excitement as I dialed in my Spartan Rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. I took a few deep breaths and centered my crosshair on the bull’s vitals. The sharp crack of the rifle broke the evening silence as my 143 grain bullet was sent downrange and smacked the bull with a perfect heart shot. He began to trot off, and Trevor said, “Again.” I gave the bull one more right on his shoulder. He was down!
As I approached the bull with adrenaline running through my veins, I could not have been more thankful. After a few choice pictures were snapped, we began quartering out the elk as night was drawing near and the meat needed to be deboned in order for the three of us to pack it all out in one trip. With heavy packs, we started our descent down the steep shale mountainside with just the moon and our headlamps guiding us out. Trevor went into beast mode and tore off down the mountain ahead of us with his music blasting. It was just the kind of motivation we needed to crush this tough pack out. This was a new experience for my wife and me as we had never packed out that large of an animal before. With the awkward weight on our backs and our shoulders aching from the dead weight, we knew we just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Finally, after what seemed to be the longest hour of our lives, we reached the vehicle. Dumping my pack in the back of the truck felt like I had won the lottery. A lifelong dream had come true for me in that moment, and I could not have been more thankful.
Although we passed on a slightly bigger bull or two, there was no way I would have traded the last five days of the hunt for a few more inches of tine length. The country we saw, the people we met, and sharing the experience with my wife by my side is really what will resonate as the best memories of the trip for me. A nice bull was just icing on the cake.