The Sixth Sense

By Jim Zumbo

Do you believe in a sixth sense? I mean, a perception so bizarre and powerful that it defies explanation? I’ve had a few such experiences but one still haunts me today, though it happened 30 years ago. …

The bull elk was a beauty. Six points on each massive antler with an enormous body that could have weighed 900 pounds or more. He appeared as an apparition from the thick spruce-fir forest in British Columbia’s vast south-central region, standing in a small opening that allowed me a shot. 

But there was a problem. He was out there. I mean, way the fuck out there. Rangefinders hadn’t yet made the hunting scene and a steep draw between us made it tough to estimate the distance. Was he 400 yards out? 500? More? I had no idea. 

My guide, Karl, stood next to me on the timbered slope as I pondered the dilemma. It was my decision to make. It was the fourth day of the hunt. It was prime time with the rut on, but no one in our group had seen or heard an elk. Now I was looking at one. A damned good one. 

I settled my .30-06 on a solid branch and held just below the top of his back. I saw the bullet thud into the ground under his chest. God damn! He was a long way off. I chambered another round and held higher. Another miss. 

Frantically trying to calculate the ballistics of that cartridge and realizing I was totally clueless, I held much higher over his back. This time I thought I saw him lurch a bit at the shot, and I heard him crashing through the timber, followed by a much larger crash.

“I think I hit him,” I said.

“I don’t know,” Karl responded. “I couldn’t see him very well. There were some branches in front of me.”

We hurried down the mountain, making our way to where he stood. I prayed for a big spot of blood, a big blood trail, and a big dead bull. There was nothing at the spot, not a speck of blood or wisp of cut hair. The only evidence that he stood there were deep hoof prints in the ground where he lunged into the timber.

We searched hard. There were no tracks to follow on the hard ground that was covered with forest litter. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled, my eyes close to the ground, looking for anything that betrayed a hit. I never gave up hope. It wasn’t unusual to hit an animal and have no evidence.

Finally, after a half hour, Karl gave up. “You missed,” he said.

I was ready to believe him but I told him I needed more time to search. For another full hour I looked, making ever-widening circles, zigging and zagging, even walking several hundred yards in several directions, hoping to stumble into a dead elk. Karl sat on a log. 

It didn’t happen.

“I guess you’re right,” I said to Karl. “I must’ve missed.”

I was pissed at myself. Taking that long shot was stupid, a rookie move, and unfair to the bull. There was no excuse. Suppose I’d hit him and he lived long enough to be taken down by wolves or grizzlies? 

I was despondent as I followed Karl up the mountain to where our horses were tied. 

Suddenly I was struck by a tremendous … something. I don’t know how to describe it.  I saw a powerful image in my head—one of the bull lunging and I even heard the loud crash. It was so real I started to tremble.

“Karl!” I shouted. “The bull is dead!”


“The bull is dead! I know it. I’m going back!”

“Ya, I’ll wait for you here.”

I took off down the mountain like a madman, busting through blowdowns and heavy undergrowth. Something was guiding me! A force was directing me onward, so help me! 

Suddenly I stopped. I looked down at the upturned branches of a thick Engelmann spruce that was growing from a large hole in the ground. And there he was. The top tine of the bull poked out of the branches. Nothing else was visible. The bull had fallen in the hole and the branches swung back over him.

I was overwhelmed, lost in questions and emotions. I had been at that very spot a half-dozen times while searching for the elk and never saw the tine. 

I sat down, shaking. What in God’s name just happened? I didn’t know. 

I still don’t know. 

You May Also Like