Vanessa’s Late Season Big Bull

Vanessa Villa Elk Hunt

George & Vanessa dialing it up for a long range shot.

Her answered Prayer! by Vanessa Villa

I often wondered what it would be like to actually have a bull elk tag???

I really knew nothing about hunting when I met my now fiancé George Garcia Jr.; other than guys wore cool camo & carried firearms.  In Georgies’ case, hunting was all he lived to do.  After going with him on several different hunts, I told him, “I want in on it and in on it all”!  Since then I’ve been on numerous hunts chasing anything we can, but I still had a burning desire to hunt elk.  It was the size of the animal, rack & everything involved with this adrenaline filled hunt.

While at work I got this text last year, “Draw results are in baby, and you got drawn”!  I began to sweat in disbelief.  I couldn’t take it, so I left work early to go home and share in the family excitement.  Over the next few months we laid the ground work for the possible once in a lifetime opportunity.  I practiced religiously shooting at various ranges out to 850 yards.  Georgie told me that circumstances could be extreme with a late bull tag; inclement weather, hunting pressure, rough terrain, limited opportunities and busted bulls, were all obstacles we had to overcome.   I spent hours watching elk hunting DVDs, including the Extreme Bulls series, which is produced by Georgies’ good friend Steve Chappell.  The more I learned, the more the excitement grew for my first elk hunt!

Vanessa getting it done!

Vanessa Villa with her Arizona Coues Deer!

Two weeks prior to my elk hunt I had an Arizona Coues Hunt.  I knew it was going to be great practice and fun as well.  Opening morning of my Coues Hunt had arrived and before we knew it time was winding down.  We passed on several nice bucks hoping for a chance at a great buck.  As the end drew closer I took a nice 3×3 at 327 yards.  The experience was awesome!  Thanks for hanging with us Kyle Roan Jr. and Robert Clark, you guys made this hunt a blast!

The long awaited day was finally here!  We enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with our family, but had a dreaded long drive that night as my hunt started the next morning.  We arrived at camp at 3:30 a.m. with turkey stuffed bellies.  We decided to close our eyes for a moment, only to find we had slept thru the chimes of the alarm clock.  After gathering ourselves, I shot my rifle one last time to make sure it was still dialed in.  The 300 Weatherby was right where we left it.  My confidence was high and I was excited to get out.

We headed out for the evening hunt and found ourselves glassing in freezing temps and hurricane force winds.  We moved along looking into small thick basins, hoping to catch something out of the wind.  We were able to locate three small bulls, but nothing we wanted to go on.

The next morning was miserably windy, as we hiked out to a new glassing point.   Immediately we found a 340 class bull feeding at 630 yards.  Georgie insisted we get closer because of the 25 m.p.h. winds.  We made our move in hopes of shaving 250 yards off the distance but still having elevation for a shot.  As we were coming off the mountain Georgie looked out and said, “there’s another elk”.  He set up the tripod and sent chills up my spine with this exact quote, “this is the bull you want”!  I knew he had to be special to be walking away from a great bull that was only a few hundred yards away and still feeding.

We now were faced a problem…We had a giant bull at 678 yards and no way of getting closer. “I can do it”, I said.  Georgie looked at me, paused and said, “ok”.  I laid down and got setup as solid as I could.  Georgie asked one last time, “are you sure?”  After I glared back at him he knew I was serious. HAHA!  He quickly set up the camera and got his man gadgets out.  As he calculated the wind, he was explaining the situation to me.  He told me we had 22 mph wind blowing from 10 o’clock.  It was 678 yards.  I’d have to hold 58 inches. 8 MOA and 5 feet to the left …bla.bla.bla!  I was in the zone with adrenaline pumping through my body.  The bull was broadside facing right and Georgie said, “aim at his ass”.  The bull then turned and I didn’t have a shot.  After a few impatient minutes the bull turned and fed to the left.  Georgie said, “remember 5 feet to the left”.  I clicked the safety off and readied my shot.  Ready?… BOOM!!!  I listened for the thump, but all I hear was, “You MISSED!  Elevation was perfect but you hit 3 feet behind his butt.”.  The trained veteran knew the deal and quickly moved off into the brush, not offering a second shot.  I was confused as I looked up with the camera in my face Georgie asked, “where were you aiming?”  All of a sudden it clicked, all I remembered was, “aim at his ass”.  I didn’t even think about the bull had turned around! Ooops!  Now I know the feeling of missing an animal I really wanted and it kept haunting me afterwards.  Thankfully the accident was a complete miss.

After a long mid day we found the big bull again just before dark.  It was too late to make another effort for him.  The next morning we were joined by my future father-in-law.   Immediately we had another bull found below us.  He was a different bull but as I looked at the 6×7 through my Vortex Razor HD spotting scope I knew that I’d be thrilled to take him.  Once again we were on the move.  After a 20 minute mad dash we were across the canyon from him.  My adrenaline was pumping and all I could think about was I was missing my baby boy back home!  Once again, I laid over the pack, set up the bipod and dialed in 500 yards on the scope.  I was taking my time making certain in my head to be calm and steady.  I started my breathing and as I was ready to pull the trigger the bull started walking and did not stop until he hit the brush.  UGH!  All I could see was his massive antlers shining in the sun above the brush, but no clear shot.  He eventually moved off and we had another depressing walk back and all I could think about was blowing it and missing my baby.

Vanessa's big bull feeding just prior to the shot.

Vanessa’s big bull feeding just prior to the shot.


Vanessa Villa lays the hammer down on a great late rifle bull elk!

I only had one more day left to hunt because of work, so I knew it was do or die time.  We hunted hard all day, but had no shot opportunities.  I headed back to work and all I could think about was my bull elk tag and the hunt was still going and I was at WORK!  I couldn’t take it any longer, I punched out of work for the last day of my hunt.  Georgie was excited that I made the decision and called up his dad to invite him.  We left our house at 1 am and headed to meet up with George Sr..  We quickly loaded up and were on the road by 2:30.  There was a storm front suppose to move in and we were uncertain with how much we were going to be able to hunt.  We pulled in right on time and hiked out to our spot, as it was getting light.  We could see the snow moving in and that’s all we saw.  Georgie decided to bail on our trusted spot and move to lower country for fear of getting fogged in on the mountain.  We made our move to a lower point and started our search.  We knew that we only had the morning after seeing the horizon.  We desperately were walking and short glassing, hoping to get lucky.   All of a sudden George Sr. whispered, “hey”.  We knew exactly what that meant!  We hurried over to him and he rushed us up to an open clearing where we could see three bulls across the canyon feeding out of the wind.  All three were nice bulls, but on just stood out.  I quickly laid down while Sr. and Jr. were setting up tripods, cameras and binoculars.  The range was 345 years, a chip shot I thought, until the shakes hit me!  With all that I’ve been through on this hunt, I simply got excited that I actually had one last chance to fulfill my dream.  Georgie calmed me and I was ready… “ I’m on him.”  He clears the trees and then turns… “Ready?”  Boom…WHACK!!!  “You hit him low, shoot him again!”  The bulls started making their way out and I was worried that I blew it again!  I started shaking and trembling.  Where is he?  Just then he stepped out and I put another 185 grain Berger into him.  The bull laid down and I remember what Georgie said before the hunt started, “ Shoot him ‘til he’s dead”.  I quickly chambered another round and sent one right where it needed to be.  The guys had to take the gun away from me at that point!  A kiss and a high five from my babe and a big hug  and high five from dad, sealed the deal!  I let my breath out and the weight was off my chest.  The bull expired quickly and we made certain he was finished before we walked across the canyon.

Vanessa Villa & George Garcia with her well earned late season rifle bull elk.

Vanessa Villa & George Garcia with her well earned late season rifle bull elk.

Unbelievable!  The size of these magnificent creatures that God Gave us, was all I could think about as we approached my down bull.  Thank you Lord for this blessing!  Thank you my love for introducing me to this wonderful sport and supporting me the way you do!  Thank you Berger Bullets making some awesome bullets.  Last, but not least, thank you Dad-in-Law for putting up with us and for your incredible help!   Elk are AWESOME!

Vanessa & her father-in-law George Garcia Sr. with her tank late season bull.

Vanessa & her father-in-law George Garcia Sr. with her tank late season bull.