If there’s one thing John Eckman wants his 12-year-old stepdaughter Addison Coscarelli to understand about hunting, it’s the importance of ethics.
“We’re animal lovers, we don’t want to see anything suffer,” Eckman, who lives in Greybull, told Cowboy State Daily.
Ethics, patience and diligent marksmanship practice paid off recently when Addison bagged her first big game animal – a large bull elk.
She made a perfect 200-yard shot through the elk’s lungs, Eckman said.
“It only walked about 30 feet” before falling down dead, Addison added.
A Rare Opportunity
Eckman is vice president of the Wyoming Trapper’s Association. A guided elk hunt on private land was donated to the association by Four Horse Outfitters of Gillette. Eckman knew it was a great chance to introduce Addison to hunting.
“I generally don’t go on guided hunts,” he said. “But I saw it as a great opportunity for her.”
The hunt was set on land owned by the Pickerel Land and Cattle Co./Birch Rodeo Co.
Addison weighs only 70 pounds, so Eckman figured the best rifle for her was one chambered for the .243 Winchester cartridge.
That’s generally considered to be on the small side of hunting cartridges; however, “We needed something with low recoil that wasn’t going to knock her around,” Eckman said.
So, pinpoint accuracy and excellent shot placement would be vitally important.
“We spent a lot of time looking at pictures of different animals online – deer, antelope and elk,” he said. “We spent time looking at exactly where the vital spots are on those animals for a good, humane shot.
“We practiced shooting all summer. She is actually very accurate out to 400 yards with this gun.”
Time To Hunt
It was a 3-mile hike into where the elk were. Addison and Eckman decided to use “spot-and-stalk” hunting tactics. That’s when hunters look for animals from a distance – usually through binoculars or a spotting scope – and then plan the best way to sneak in closer.
They zeroed in on an older bull that was impressively large, but not full-blown trophy class.
“This was a bull that had grown to a heavy-antlered five-by-five, but wasn’t going to get any bigger,” Eckman said.
Since the ranch likes to manage for huge trophy bulls, it was an ideal animal to cull from the herd, he said
At one point, the bull was standing at about 200 yards, facing them head-on. Eckman told Addison not to shoot. At that angle, there was too much risk that the shot would only wound the bull, and it would run off to suffer a slow death.
“By the time he turned broadside, he jumped the fence onto another property we didn’t have permission to hunt on,” he said.
So, they settled down near a water hole, hoping the bull would return later for a drink.
He did, this time offering a clear broadside shot.
Looking Forward To More
When asked if she’s ready for more hunting, Addison had a simple answer.
The hunt “was pretty cool,” she said. “It was really fun too. It got my blood pumping really good.”
She still has a cow elk tag to fill, as well as tags for deer and antelope.
Perhaps the most vital lesson Addison learned on her elk hunt is the longstanding tradition of hunters honoring the animal’s life and offering thanks for success in the field.
“Me and Addie, when this bull hit the ground, what’s the first thing we did?” Eckman said.
“We prayed,” she said.
“That’s right,” he replied. “We put our hands on the bull and offered a prayer of thanks.”