I picked up the brass where it glinted in the snow, and we sidestepped down the slope, the silence palpable and the country taking on a surreal quality with the pines standing at attention. We stood where the elk had fallen, and I licked snow off my lips. The dark sweet scent of the bulls hung in the air. No blood. Fifty yards along the tracks--still no blood. Another 20 yards, nothing. Then, a big swerving furrow in the snow, and a few yards later another. I glanced down the hill. The elk was on its left side, bubbles of blood foaming and breaking on the hair over its right shoulder where air from its collapsed lungs was still escaping. Elk, even elk hit hard, die hard. This one's shoulder was smashed to pulp, and later we'd find no trace of a heart. It had died midstride and fetched up against a pine trunk. Four points on one side and three on the other, with a scar where the left brow tine had broken off short. A young bull, what Montanans would call a raghorn, but the antler beams were thick, and it had the heavy boxy body characteristic of elk from steep ranges.