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Voyageur's Best Sports of 2005

Jack and Karina Olson with Elk

From father, to son, to daughter
An elk hunt becomes a passage...
by Cynthia Brekke  |  November 22, 2005

For many, hunting is a tradition passed down through generations of families. It’s not about instilling a blood thirsty, ‘killer instinct’, but more of a bonding time; getting out into the woods, honing skills, learning about the animal and its habitat, taking the time to think and reflect. In a family rich in hunting tradition, this time is gold.

When Rory Olson passed away suddenly of an aneurism a couple years ago, he was in the process of passing hunting traditions to his daughters, Karina and Randeena. While he may no longer be here physically, the traditions are alive and well, living on in his daughters.

On October 19, 2005, 12-year-old Karina Olson piled into a vehicle with her grandfather, Jack Olson, and her uncle, Eric Mickelson, and began a 20-hour trek over the road to Colorado for an elk hunt. It would become an experience that none of them would ever forget. Their destination was land owned by Carl Harold, who lives modestly in a small ranch house surrounded by 36,000 acres of pristine Colorado countryside that Karina described as looking unreal, like in the movies. Jack had met Carl in 1969 and the acquaintance stuck. Jack and Rory began hunting there in 1984.

“He (Carl) and his boy are so nice and they don’t charge us anything. We always try to spend time with them. They won’t take money so we take white oak out because he can’t get it, and the son, Chip, is building a new home so he’s coming here and I’m going to give him some red oak I have sawed up.” Jack said.

They arrived on Thursday afternoon and, after a visit with the land owner, began the task of setting up camp. The next morning they finished setting up the kitchen tent and did some scouting. “We had a site there for years and stuff we’d left behind,” Eric commented. “It’s kind of neat when you go back and your stuff is still there.”

“Rory has always sat in a spot they call the cabbage patch,” Jack explained. “It’s by Lawson Creek and it’s like a big, huge bowl with sage brush and green timber down below and the creek running through.” Rory shot an elk every year from his niche overlooking the cabbage patch and Eric bagged one from there too... and that’s where Karina would sit the first day, for 13 hours, “After sitting 20-hours in the car...” she groaned. In the morning hours she was freezing, and sun burned by afternoon. The day she put the bead on her prey, Eric sat with her for the first shift. Jack, who had taken a nap in the balmy 60º degree weather, joined in around 3:30 p.m. and sat in a spot a little way down from his granddaughter.

At about 6:20 p.m., Karina spotted an elk.

“She said, ‘Under that pine tree over there’,” Jack said. “Sure enough, you could see the horns, just huge. Eric had just left his stand at about 6:15. She had her range finder and it was way over 600 yards so I said, ‘I’m going to just shoot and see if I can turn him.’ So I shot once and he ran a little bit and turned sideways so I shot again and I must have come pretty close because he came running down and Eric thought I’d hit him, but he went back into the green timber.” Within a half an hour it would be dark, so the two of them stood up and stretched. They checked the range finder again and Jack lifted his rifle to peer through his scope. In the meantime, Eric was circling the bowl and saw a couple of elk coming out of the river bottom on the opposite side. Jack and Karina were still messing around with the range finder when Jack happened to look off to his left.

“I whispered, ‘Look, Karina, watch your left, watch your left.’ Right there was a cow coming and I didn’t see the bull. She (Karina) was on a steep ridge so you can’t just run around everywhere and I had these tripods I bought that you put under your gun and I said, ‘Let me know if it’s got horns,’ and I handed her the tripod.”

In the heat of the moment, Karina’s actions became a blur to her. She didn’t even really remember squeezing the trigger on the .30-06 she held in her hands.

“Grandpa handed me the tripod and I guess I flung it,” Karina began, “and then I was ripping my gloves off and I shot. He didn’t even know if it was a bull or not, yet.”

“He (Jack) told me, he said ‘now, make sure it’s got... BOOM!’,” Eric laughed. “He said, ‘I guess it’s got horns!’”

Jack concurred, going through the motions as Karina had that evening. “Pretty soon she throws this [the tripod] and she’s got her gloves on and she’s pulling her gloves off with her teeth, one glove goes this way and the other one goes this way, drops on her knees and I’m like, ‘What the...’. I’m pulling my gun up and, BOOM! She blasted at that thing; then she just gets up. I said, ‘Whoa, honey, you missed it!’ She said, ‘I shot right where you told me to, Grandpa.’ And that’s the way that deal went.”

Karina had heard it fall but when Jack lifted his rifle to look through the scope, he saw the cow and bull turn and go back into cover. It was getting dark and, when Eric returned to the twosome, they checked the range finder again and went down the 168-yards to where the animal was but in the dark, with no flashlights, the decision was made to wait until morning to track it.

Jack was first up the next morning, ready to go look for the elk. “It was 5:30 a.m. and I’m ready to go get this elk and they’re laying in bed and I’m thinking, ‘they sure ain’t excited about getting up’.” Turns out, Jack had forgotten to set his clock back. Eric informed Jack: “It’s 4:30. It’s not going to be light for a long time.”

Day break came and, as it turned out, they had walked within a few yards of the animal the night before. It was laying only about 50 or 60 yards from where it was hit. The 168-yard, freehand shot was perfect, right in the brisket and through the lungs. It couldn’t have been a much cleaner kill. Rory would have been proud.

“My dad’s first elk was a five-by-five, too,” Karina said. “We shot at the same spot.”

“Within a hundred yards,” Jack smiled. “I mean actually where the animal was shot, even.”

It was a bittersweet experience, with both laughter and tears. The impressive, 10-point antlers are being mounted and Karina says, if given a chance, she’ll do it again. She also mentioned that, when she arrived at the spot where her father had sat, a Pepsi can was sitting there. Even if the hunt hadn’t produced an elk, the three of them would have come home with something. These memories are gold.

This article first appeared in the November 22, 2005 issue of the Voyageur Press.