2016 Jurassic Bull
Jacie Essink Saturday October 1, 2016
I can still remember like it was Yesterday my Dad calling me... "Hey, why the hell did they take 185 dollars out of my account because of you?!?! I was like WHAT! I don't know? I didn't do anything, what are you talking about? He said, "It's for some license." Even though we were on the phone, I can still see that sly grin on his face! When I heard the word license. I knew exactly what he was talking about! I almost fainted. He said, "Sis!!!!" "You just drew your 2016 Black Hills Elk tag!!!!" We screamed, we laughed, we cried and carried on!!! I couldn't believe it! It was one of the most exciting moments of my life. The first thing I did was call Uncle Dan to tell him the news!!! My Dad has been putting in my tag for the last 15 years. Year after year we have waited for this very moment. I have hunted with my Dad as long as I can remember. We have memory after memory after memory of every single hunt we have ever been on together.
But this was different. THIS was our once in a lifetime hunt that we had been waiting for. There are no words for this moment that is about to happen. As I sit here writing this, there are also no words to describe the empty feeling I have inside of me, knowing that my Dad is not going to be here as I take my first step out of that truck and head to our spot. I have this overwhelming feeling of sadness. My heart is completely broken. I know this is not how my Dad would want me to feel but it doesn't make it go away. It doesn't make it any easier. What I thought was going to be the most exciting thing I have ever done is now a feeling I cannot describe. What I thought this would be is now one of the the most difficult, and saddest experiences of my life. It isn't about the Elk. It isn't about the hunt. It was about my Dad and I and the experience we were about to have together.
All I can do now is make my Dad proud and do this for him. I know that is what he would want. So that is what I will do. I know in my heart he will be right there with me. Just not in the same way I had imagined. I love you Dad! Now let's go get this Elk!!!
Dan Essink Sunday October 2, 2016
So, most of you who know Jacie and I know how bittersweet this elk hunt was going to be for us. We really didn't know how to feel, what to expect or if we could even do this hunt. But what most of you didn't know was how much planning Jeff and I put into this. Jeff and I knew where we were going to be and what we were going to do months ago. We had a bond, especially when it came to hunting, where we knew what each other was going to do even if the situation changed and we would change what we were doing to make that new situation successful. We didn't have to explain it we just knew it. We talked about the bond continuously. Little did I know how unbelievably strong that bond would prove to be. After Jeff passed I was very lost, I honestly wasn't sure if I could make this hunt happen.
So, when Friday came and Jacie and I headed to elk camp, I still didn't know what was going to happen. I knew this hunt had nothing to do with the size of the bull but couldn't understand how this hunt could bring the happy memory it would've months ago. We both tried to be excited for each other but we both had very heavy hearts. Saturday morning came and we left the pickup in the dark listening to bugling bulls and some excitement started coming back but still not the same. We had fun Saturday but everything was still off. As I lay in bed Saturday night, I couldn't decide what I wanted to do on Sunday morning. There was a lot of pressure on that ridge Saturday and my mind was saying the elk would move to another ridge. I pretty much stuck to Jeff and my game plan on Saturday and it was just a little off. What should I do? We got in the pickup once again on Sunday morning and I still was totally at a loss what I wanted to do so I asked Jacie what she wanted to do and gave her two choices. She looked at me and said" I don't know but I have to go to the bathroom." She went back in the camper and suddenly things started to become clear to me. She got back in and I told her we were going back to the same place but we were going to do things a little different and she smiled and said " sounds good Uncle Dan."
As we got out of the pickup I knew this day was different. I wanted to get to a certain place before the elk got there so we had to hurry. This is where this story starts getting unbelievable and I'm going to let Jacie tell the rest of this story. What started as a bittersweet hunt turned into the best, most unbelievably awesome and, without question, most memorable day of my life! He didn't have to explain, he knew I would know what to do... Thanks little brother, we did good!!!!!
Jacie Essink Sunday October 2, 2016
Well everybody!!! Here is the rest of the story!!! It's a long one, Enjoy!!!
On our way to where we were going to park the pickup we passed Genes truck. He is a friend of my Uncle Dan that he was guiding the same weekend. He was already in his spot. We continued down the road a ways to are spot and parked. As we stepped out of the truck we headed down into the woods. We were going to walk all the way along side the ridge to the other end and see what we could find. As we walked through the woods all of a sudden I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I froze! Staring right back at me 30 yards away was a mountain lion. I grabbed Uncle Dans arm and he looked in the complete opposite direction and said "I see it!" He looked back at me and I couldn't even move. He grabbed me and pulled my arm. "Lets go". And we started running. We stopped to catch our breath and I said "Uncle Dan what were you looking at?" He said "all those elk!" I said "Well I didn't even see the elk I was looking at a mountain lion!" He says "no [!%#&!]!" We both had the biggest grin! We had no idea we were looking at completely different things! My mom and I have always talked about if we were ever to get a sign from my Dad it would be a mountain lion and that's exactly what I saw. I knew at that moment something was about to happen that morning. I knew at that moment my Dad was right there with me pulling us in the right direction.
We continued on to get to the place we wanted to be. We heard a bugle and took off running. Here I was 50 yards behind Uncle Dan I thought I was going to die. I can't believe how fast he can run. We saw the elk moving toward the dark timber but no bull. We continued on toward the Rim rock. Uncle Dan pointed up on top of the Rock and explained to me that when my Mom had her elk tag my Dad had built a blind to sit in on the opening day of her season. As we were looking up that is when we heard the "Jurassic Bull!" Uncle Dan looked at me and said "that's the one we're going after." We headed further down and dropped into the nastiest, gnarliest, stuff you can imagine. Well Uncle Dan can't hear a bugle to save his life unless it is right on top of him. So here I am, grabbing his arm left and right pointing in every which direction. I could hear them EVERYWHERE! We were following narrow elk trails through the dark timber and Uncle Dan pointed Down and said "here's your mountain lion!" Right there in the dirt was a perfect track. The mountain lion was still on the elks trail and we were on them both.
We continued on listening to bugle, after, bugle, after bugle. All of a sudden there is a cow standing right in front of us but no other elk we could see because it was too thick. We went down the direction the elk were moving which took us to the very bottom. We hit an old road that was kind of open for as thick as the woods were. Things got very quiet and Uncle Dan asked me what time it was. It was exactly 8:00. He said we need to stay right here because this is where things are going to happen. We found a place to get settled in to see what was going to happen next and all hell broke loose. We were completely surrounded by elk. I bet they weren't 75-150 yards completely surrounding us. I know everyone has watched Jurassic Park and knows what that T-Rex sounds like. Well I [!%#&!] you not that Elk let out a roar that about knocked me off that stump!!! My eyes couldn't have opened any wider and I looked at Uncle Dan and said "OH MY GOD!!!" We took off down the opening to get the wind in our favor. We didn't care about any other elk but him. As we reached the bottom the wind changed and it was PERFECT! He had no idea we were there. I got set up and Uncle Dan said "He's going to come out either right here to the left or in this opening to the right. My head probably went left and right 200 times waiting for him to step out. He screamed and it literally vibrated the wind as it came out of the trees. He was that close and that loud. He was 50 yards away and we still couldn't see him. He was on his way up the hill heading away from us and that's when Uncle Dan said "I know where he's going. Let's go!!!" And here we went again on another hot pursuit. Before this whole thing happened, Uncle Dan told me if the moment was right and I felt it just do it. I didn't know what he meant by that but I said ok.
So here we go running up the hill away from the bull to get in front of him. We could see elk moving in front of us but we didn't care. They weren't the ones. We get near the top and Uncle Dan sees a bull standing on the top of this ridge and he took off running straight for him. He wasn't the one either. We come over the top of the ridge and there were two bulls standing 80 yards away. A small one and a bigger one. The bigger one walked out, stood broad side, staring at me 80 yards away. I raised my gun, had him in my cross hairs and said "what do you think!" Uncle Dan said he's a big 6"5 and Lowered his binoculars. The next thing I knew Uncle Dan grabbed my shoulders and threw me to the left and jerked me back to the right. At that moment I knew he saw something I didn't. And at that moment I knew this was going to happen. My gun never left my shoulder. As it swung to the right there in my cross hairs was the most beautiful bull elk looking directly at me and I knew! THIS was the moment Uncle Dan was telling me. This was that moment he told me if I felt then go with it. And I pulled the trigger.... BOOM!!! Down he went. Both of our knees buckled and down we went. We cried, and cried, and cried. I have never felt so many emotions in my life.
Minutes later Uncle Dan grabbed me, looked at me and said "let's go look at him." Most hunting stories this would be the end of the story. But not this one. We took about five steps toward him and the "Jurassic Bull" jumped up and took off running. We took off in a mad dash chasing him. At this point I'm starting to get frantic thinking he's going to get away. Uncle Dan stops me and looks at me and says "Jace, your Dads just getting him closer to the road for us." I looked at him and smiled and said ok. And he went another 80 yards, walked out of the timber and fell over dead right next to the road.
This whole experience was three continuous hours of the most unbelievable moments we have ever experienced. Some of you may understand what this was like and those of you who don't there are no other words to explain how incredible this actually was. The bond that my Uncle Dan, my Dad, and I shared at that moment will never, ever be broken.