Three years ago in October I was sitting on a Colorado canyon rim with a guide named Joe Gerans. Joe was a retired game warden, and an altogether great guy just about my age who had been in a terrible car wreck a few years earlier, and had a fine sense of mortality. We watched a young 5×5 bull elk come trotting up out of the canyon with his little band of cows, and stand there, huffing and puffing.

I had a solid sitting position, and I couldn’t miss, but neither could I pull the trigger. I simply didn’t want to kill the poor creature. Maybe if he had been a 7×7, or if I had worked my ass off it would have been different, but I looked at Joe and said, “Let him go. We’ll find another.” Joe understood.

As it turns out we didn’t find another, and Joe was dead only a few months later, the victim of a cancer which no one suspected he had. But at least that elk got a stay of execution, and got a chance to make little elk. I’ve killed a number of wapiti in the 36 years I’ve been hunting them, including a couple of very big ones, but that 5×5 is the one I think of most. Odd, isn’t it?