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Thru a father's eyes…. Colorado Elk Hunt

Isaac Henning, a sophomore at Gainesville High School, is shown with a bull elk he killed while hunting in Colorado with his dad, Jerry.

By Jerry Henning
I watched my 15 year-old son Isaac slipping thru a strip of Colorado aspen timber, trying to get a shot with his bow and arrow at a bull elk chasing seven cows around a nearly dry water hole. At about 70 yards away, I began to think maybe he could get close enough to make a shot at a good bull, but on our first evening hunting a lot of things can go wrong, especially with a bow. I had a lot of confidence in Isaac’s ability to shoot straight, if only he could get close enough.
I was 10 steps behind him, watching as the elk looked up at something coming across a big meadow.
I hoped it was the bull we had heard earlier, instead, we saw a 400 pound bear running straight at Isaac.
All I could do was stand there with my teeth in my mouth until the bear got about five steps away from my son. Then I decided that was close enough. I jumped up and yelled to scare the bear away-which also scared away every other bear and elk within a half-mile. I knew Isaac’s mamma wouldn’t have liked it if I had let her baby boy get eaten by a bear.
When I ask Isaac, “What did you think about that?” He said, “That was great. He looked like  a big teddy bear.”
Most people don’t have a clue about the effort and determination it takes to go elk hunting in the high country.  We hunt on public land with no guides, bring our own horses, set up our tents, cut fire wood and ride about 12 miles every day looking for elk. You have to have your heart in it to succeed. I was proud of my son as he faced every challenge and disappointment with a smile and said, “This is great!”
As a dad, I was more concerned with his character than his comfort. He was getting an education of the heart.
Five evenings later, after several other close chances at bulls, Isaac still had not let an arrow loose. The night before, he had been sneaking up on another bull. I was going to get a picture of him about to shoot. but in dark timber, the flash went off-and so did the elk. Oops!!
We decided to set up at an elk wallow, a place where a bull rolls in the mud. We sat down between two big logs and heard an elk bugle 400 yards away. After about two hours, we could hear limbs snapping and a growling, mad  scream of a bull really close. A cow was about 12 yards away, so we were lying on our backs behind the logs when a 6×6 bull  stepped out.
Isaac slowly sat up and pulled his bow with one smooth motion and whispered, “How far?”     “Thirty yards” I whispered back.
The cow saw him and ran, but before the bull turned his head to see what was going on, the arrow was on its way. Isaac had made a perfect shot. As the bull crashed away, we were both smiling from ear to ear.  We sat still for about 20 minutes before tracking the blood trail, smiling with excitement the whole way. We found the big bull 70 yards from where he was shot. We were as happy as a coon in the corn with the dogs tied up. Our hearts had never felt so glad.
Each day when it was time to go hunt, I would say “We’d better get going,” and Isaac would go get his horse and saddle up, simply following me.
Isaac knew he was having an adventure of a lifetime. He trusted me to bring him back home safely and never worried while we rode through the wilderness. We both got an education of the heart on that hunting trip.
I am glad I have a heavenly Father who loves and watches over us. If we will follow him with all our heart, he will lead us safely home. Consider what great things he has done for you…..John 3:16