BOISE -- For a pair of young hunters getting that giant bull elk during hunting season was a story they wanted to tell.
However, for Jeff McConnell and Brant Hoover this past archery season they ended up with something better.
The two Idaho born and raised men have been hunting all their lives.
“I got into archery when I was about five, and that has kind of been my passion ever since,” said McConnell.
Hoover works at Dead on Archery, a business in Meridian; he is also an avid hunter.
Last September as they set out for an area near McCall, they were tested.
“It was kind of an overcast day, and we hadn't been hearing elk in that area whatsoever,” explained Hoover.
They came upon a meadow and saw a herd of elk run off.
“We sat down in the tall grass, and we were sitting there and we kept hearing this slapping around sound,” said McConnell.
On the horizon, they saw a calf elk stuck in the mud, and howling out of freight as the two hunters approached.
“(We) got right up to it, and that sound was just crazy,” said McConnell.
What could have seemed like a hard choice for some was an easy one for the two men. They were in the right place at the right time, and decided they had to help give the baby a second chance at life.
“She was actually slapping her head and neck into the mud. I think to use it as leverage to get out,” said McConnell.
The female calf was in distress, and nearby her mother was panicking at the situation. Hoover was worried she was going to charge them.
“She probably got 40 to 50 yards from us, and then went back into the trees,” he said. “It was crazy because, she was, you could hear her pacing back and forth,” added McConnell.
The guys knew if they were going to help, it was now or never. They somehow found leverage in the mud and used all their strength to pull her out.
“We both fell on the ground and really the only place the calf had to go was either right between us or right back in the mud and it jumped right back in the mud,” laughed McConnell.
Both McConnell and Hoover realized it was going to be harder than they thought. So their next plan was to gather as many branches and stick as they could to stand on them in the mud, giving them better balance.
McConnell remembers how sticky and thick the mud was. He hopped in, and was up to his thigh in mud.
“You are pulling out and it's pulling your boot off at the same time,” he said.
The darkness was beginning to fall on the meadow where they were helping the elk out of the wallow, but gathered enough strength to try to pull her out by the hind legs once more.
“She stood up kind of slow like, I can walk again and looked back at us and kind of trotted off and then got to the trees and just kind of took off like crazy,” said McConnell.
The hunters looked back that day fondly, they know that anyone else could have walked away and left it up to nature.
“Anybody that is in the woods, there are two types of people the ones that will do it and the ones that won’t,” said Hoover. “You never know until you're there.”
For them, leaving the baby was just not an option.
“We are raised by our dads and back then that’s the right thing to do,” said McConnell.
Hoover and McConnell didn’t get their elk this season, but walked away with something so much better, a feel good story worth listening to.
They were on a high on adrenaline, and are still talking about it.