I lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado for about 21 years–3 1/2 years serving with the Army at North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) from 1970 to 1973 and from 1980 to 1998 as an Aerospace Systems Engineer with several government contractors after retiring from the Army in 1980. During those years living in Colorado I had the opportunity to do a lot of hunting and fishing throughout the state, mostly on pubic land. I successfully hunted various species of big game to include big horn sheep, Rocky Mountain goat, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, elk and wild turkey. Mounts of several of those animals now grace my living room walls in New Braunfels, Texas. Although I had a 6 x 4 shoulder mount of an old bull elk, which I killed in 1985 I was never able to kill a nice 6 x 6 royal bull, which bothered me a lot.
After restring from active employment in 1998, my wife, Jean, and I moved to Garden Ridge, near San Antonio, Texas. We had been living away from the San Antonio area 39 years and we had decided to live out our retirement years near our families and life-long friends. Where ever my army career and government contractor jobs had taken me, I always had the opportunity to hunt big game animals. The only exception was my one year in Vietnam where I was the “hunted” rather than the hunter. Over those years I selectively had various species of animals mounted which resulted in a diverse collection of animals. In order to display those mounts, we built a large rec room in our Garden Ridge home where our 9 grandchildren could play and entertain themselves whenever they visited. The walls held my 17 should mounts and one full body wild turkey tom allowing me to relive the hunts where I harvested them in several states as well as in Germany. I was very satisfied with my collection, except for the bull elk. I swore that I would someday add a royal bull to my collection.
In 1999 I joined my father, Adolph, on a low fenced white tail deer lease in Zapata County in deep South Texas. My Dad and four Marbach brothers started hunting on that ranch in 1955 and he remained there for about 40 years. It was a joy for me to be able to hunt on the lease with him for several years before he quit hunting at the age of 92.. Over the years while I lived in Colorado my Dad joined me on several hunts and harvested several mule deer and pronghorn antelopes. He also went on a guided hunt for a bull elk in extreme western Colorado where he bagged a huge 8 x 7 bull elk. My daughter and son-in-law, Denise and Bob Staudt, now own my dad’s big elk and his mount graces their home in La Vernia, Texas. Seeing his trophy bull elk, strengthened my desire to add a royal bull to my collection.
My move to Texas did not cut my ties with Colorado hunting. In 2000, I made the long 800 mile trip to my friend’s ranch by myself. I met my long time hunting buddy, Emerson (Charlie) Bowman for the third elk season which started the first Saturday of November. On opening day, we had a light snow which was good for seeing signs that the elk were there. In years where the snow storms come late, the major herds are still in the high country above timberline. No signs of elk on Saturday. On Sunday it snowed most of the day and we saw a few big elk tracks in the snow which were probably made by some lone bull or bulls who were not members of a large herd. They probably lived on our ranch or on the neighboring ranches because they could feed on the south facing slopes where the sun melted the snow. They had plenty of water in the two streams which flow through the ranch. This is a good sign because very often these lone bulls get up during the day and feed. However neither Charlie nor I saw them; only the tracks.
That evening after the hunt on the walk back to camp, I slipped on some snow covered boulders and hurt my hip. I limped back to camp and had a miserable night trying to sleep with the intense pain. I was afraid that I might have broken my hip. To get it checked out by a doctor, I left Charlie at the ranch to hunt by himself while I drove my truck the 140 miles one way to Colorado Springs. When I got to Charlie’s home, his wife called their family doctor who was in his office. I got to talk to the doctor who asked me to perform several movements with my legs and back. He determined that I had no broken bones; only a badly bruised hip. He gave me a prescription for pain medicine and told me to go back to the ranch and continue my hunt. By 3 PM I was back in my blind on the ranch. I saw a few fresh signs, but no elk. No sign yet that a large herd had moved through our ranch.
On Tuesday morning I decided to hunt along a boundary fence overlooking a trail which came through the fence and continued though the dark timber on our side of the fence. Individual and small groups of elk like to use that trail as they come from their night time feeding areas downhill from our ranch because they can remain in dark timber without being seen in the open meadows as they move to their daytime bedding area on the ranch uphill from our ranch.
(Several years earlier, my brother, Elton, had brought his friend Elroy Penshorn as his guest on a hunt. Elroy owns the Penshorn Meat Market in Marion, Texas Elroy was hunting this trail one morning when a lone bull came through the fence from the neighboring ranch and he shot the large bull at very close range. Elroy butchered the bull on the spot and left the entire skeleton in the woods. Parts of that skeleton are still laying in the area after 25 years.)
About an hour before daylight, I heard a faint bugle downhill from my position in the direction of the large meadows where the elk like to feed at night. I used my bugle to respond to him. He immediately responded to my bugle. I waited a few minutes and bugled again. He responded immediately. I could tell by the sound of his bugle that he was closer to me than the previous bugles and that he was heading in my direction. I again waited a few minutes and gave him another bugle. He responded again and by the sound I knew that he was continuing to get closer Since the bull knew where I was located, I did not want to overdo the bugling so I waited for him to make the next move. After a few minutes I was surprised by a very loud bugle, this time on the ridge about 100 yards from my position and on my side of the fence. I now knew that he was not coming on the trail I was watching. He was using the trail on the next ridge over from me. I carefully started moving down the fence line toward his position. The cows and calves were calling back and forth. Apparently they could not cross the fence where they were located. I moved down the fence line, the cows must have seen my movement and spooked. I quickly made a cow call on my “Cow Talk” mouth call. This calmed the cows and calves and they did not run very far. I proceeded down the fence line looking for an opening in the dark timber to my left to see if I could spot the bull. All of a sudden, I saw him about 100 yards away in front of a large ponderosa pine tree. He was looking directly at me. Since I don’t like to make quick off-hand shots, I spotted a thin aspen tree about three feet to my right; a perfect rest that I could use. I slowly took one step to my right. The bull did not move. I took one more slow step to the right and I was ready to bring up my gun when the bull spun around and jumped behind the tree and looked at me through the pine tree branches. I could see his head and antlers and his neck down to his chest. I put the cross hair on his chest and squeezed the trigger and the loud shot rang out and I could hear the flop as the 180 grain Nossler Partition bullet from my Remington 700 BDL 30.06 did its job. I could hear the remainder of the herd crash through the timber on the other side of the fence from me heading downhill away from me.
My buddy Charlie was in his ground blind, which we know as “Charlie’s Nest”, about 300 yards uphill from where the bull was located when I shot. He had heard all the bugling which the bull and I had been doing. He also heard my cow call when I calmed down the herd. He knew that the herd was moving in his direction because the trail crossing the fence led directly to the meadow he was observing. The moment I shot, a large brown colored black bear came out of the woods where the bull was standing when I shot and ran full speed up the meadow in front of Charlie and on up the hill into the dark timber at the top of the meadow. What is strange about this scenario is that the bull was in front of the herd and crossed the fence first rather than bring up the rear of the procession which is generally the case. I believe that he did this because He knew where I was at and thought I was another bull and did not want me to steal any cows from his harem. Other than this situation, I have never seen a herd bull leading a procession . The big bull has always been at the rear of the procession. Smaller bulls will be toward the front and middle of the procession, but seldom is the herd bull first, which my royal bull was.
Everything was quiet after I shot. I walked to the spot where the bull had been standing and I saw lots of blood in the snow. I tracked him down the hill back toward the fence and found him laying a few feet on the opposite side of the fence.
This photo shows the dead bull as I first found him. I probably shot him in the heart because he ran about 100 yards before he jumped the fence and died as he landed on the opposite side of the fence.
Charlie then joined me and we decided on how we would load the bull. We went back to the cabin to get our butchering equipment and an old toboggan and headed back to pick up the bull with my pickup. I was able to get within about 100 feet of the bull with my truck.
After the required picture taking, we butchered the bull on the spot he died, being careful to preserve the cape since I knew I would have him shoulder mounted. Using the toboggan, we hauled the meat to my truck. The toboggan made it easy to haul him uphill in the snow. By 11:00 we had the meat, cape and head loaded in my F150 pickup.
Me with my trophy
Another view of me and my trophy
This photo shows the antlers in the bed of my pickup as we prepared to take the meat and the head to the butcher shop.
By noon we had the meat, cape and head at the butcher shop about 25 miles away. The butcher promised to process and quick freeze the elk and have it ready by Friday. Friday morning we loaded our equipment and went to the butcher shop. We divided up the meat, I took 1/3, and Charlie took 1/3 each for himself and for the owners of the ranch. I then headed for Texas and Charlie went to Colorado Springs.
About four months later, I had my mounted Royal 6 x 6 Bull Elk hanging in the place of honor in my rec room to enjoy for the rest of my life. My quest for the Royal Bull had finally been fulfilled.
Bringing back a nice Elk trophy is the icing on the cake. The mounted trophy which now hangs in my living room in New Braunfels, Texas allows me to reminisce and relive that memorable experience of my successful hunt for my 6 x 6 Royal Bull Elk in Colorado.
This photo shows me admiring my Royal 6 x 6 Bull in my living room in New Braunfels, Texas in 2021.