Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Integrity Shines Through, Young Hunters Rescue Elk Calf from Wallowy Fate

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”
-C.S. Lewis

Novelist and poet C.S. Lewis hit the nail right on the head. And so did bowhunting buddies Jeff McConnell and Brant Hoover, both in their mid-20s from Boise. Their true tale is a shining example of their upbringing, integrity and ethical behavior.

First, let’s lay a little groundwork. Jeff, age 25 and son of a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation member, and Brant, age 24, both hunted with their fathers as long as they could remember. In fact, they’d never hunted with partners other than their dads. That changed when Jeff’s father recently had knee surgery, leaving the son to fend on his own, that is, until he ran into Brant in an archery shop three months before the 2013 bow season. Instantly, they hit it off, shared their elk hunting obsessions, stayed in touch and planned to hook up in the fall. 

When the temperatures started to drop and the bowhunt season arrived, McConnell and Hoover met in the backcountry of west-central Idaho near McCall. Conditions were ideal. It looked like rain yet the skies remained dry despite their gray, overcast appearance. The two hunters passed through meadow after high country meadow, scouting mud holes and scanning the horizon. At the sixth meadow, they jumped a bull and a few cows that quickly headed for safety into the forest, yet for some reason one cow remained.

“What we didn’t notice was a calf in the wallow,” Jeff said. “It was wallowing around and we could hear it like it was using the wallow, but after a while we heard a cow mewing in the woods. It was like a lost cow mew as if she was searching for her baby or something so we stood up and saw this calf was stuck.”

Brant Hoover
Sure enough, a mucky sludge-like wallow, always a magnet of sorts for a bull in the rut, claimed a much smaller victim. The young calf remained stranded as the cow looked on from a short distance away continuing to mew. 

“We approached the calf slowly. I had never heard that shrill screaming sound it was making and she was scaring us as much as we were scaring her. The closer we got, the louder it got,” said McConnell. “When we got really close, the mom came charging into the meadow and was barking at us from 45 to 50 yards away. We both ran away from the calf because we were like ‘Oh crap something may happen here!’ because they can be mean when you’re close to their babies.”

Brant and Jeff took off in separate directions before slowly and cautiously returning to the wallow. They took a step in the muck toward the calf and instantly sunk in almost to their waists quickly realizing they were jeopardizing their own safety. 

“We thought we may get ourselves in trouble,” Jeff said. 

They formulated and acted on a plan to gather sticks and branches that would supply more stable footing. Jeff recorded video (see below) on his phone as Brant grabbed the calf’s hind legs and started to pull. After a while it became obvious this would be a two person job so McConnell put down his phone to help out.

Jeff McConnell
“We both grabbed a hind leg,” Jeff said. “I started to pet her and she calmed down as we pulled her out as far as we could. We just got on the other side of the mud hole and tripped and she kicked the crap out of us. From there, she had the option to go between us to her mother or jump back in the mud and she jumped back in the mud. We were disappointed. It started to rain and we needed to get out of the woods. The mud stunk and we were covered in it. It was sticky and nasty.”

During the struggle, Jeff took a swift kick to the chest but the calf instead connected with a couple of elk calls hanging around his neck. His chest was sore but not bruised. With the calf now further back in the wallow, the young hunters devised a new plan. This time they gathered a couple of big logs, dropping them where they could get better access to the calf and avoid sinking in the mud. Each of them again grabbed the calf by a hind leg and pulled her out a good 10 feet beyond the mud hole, dropped her and then ran back to guard the wallow to block any return.

“She stood up kind of slow. You could tell she was tired. She walked a little bit, looked back at us, and kind of trotted away. Then we both looked at each other like ‘That was the coolest thing that will probably ever happen to us in the middle of the woods!’ We both said we wouldn’t leave until we got her out of there. Hiking out of the woods, we couldn’t stop talking about it. It felt pretty good to know we did the right thing by rescuing that animal. It was pretty cool. We couldn’t sleep. We talked about it all night,” Jeff added.

The evening could’ve ended much, much differently with two “thwacks” from two bows. The hunters could’ve rather easily, and legally, filled their tags—one on a distressed calf stuck in a wallow and the other on a lingering mother cow. Instead, that would not and did not happen.

“Both of us were raised by our dads, raised in the wild and are hunters educated by our fathers who came from a time when there was more respect for animals back then,” Jeff said. “Nowadays so much stuff gets put on Facebook that it gets blown up by social media. It’s definitely something that needs to be illustrated that the younger generation, at least some of us, were raised with the dignity and integrity of the older generation of hunters.”


McConnell called the experience “a pretty big life-changing moment.” Consider the weight of that statement especially when you take into account it came from a young man of integrity nearing yet another life-changing moment—his marriage, that took place a mere three weeks later.

35 comments:

  1. awesome right there true outdoorsman

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  2. awesome right there true outdoorsman

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  3. That's the way things are suppose to be done. .. Easy to go guys!

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  4. That is amazing!!! Great show of integrity guys!

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  5. That was amazing!! Great show of integrity and character guys...your father's should be so proud!!

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  6. True Gentlemen in every since of the word.

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  7. Nice job guys! True sportsman!! A lot of hard work, for no tangible pay off. that is what true character is all about!

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  8. great job taking the high road guys. much respect for the both of you.

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  9. Awsome story. My husband was so fortunate to be raised by a Dad that was active with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

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  10. I wouldnt have shot either animal anyway because of all the adrenaline. It make sthe meat foul and inedible.

    Killing an animal that is in distress like this is not only unethical, and against the principle of 'fair chase," it will get you an inferior kill and product.

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  11. Meat's meat when you are hungry or starving, but sometimes going hungry is right thing to do. As you get older, killing or filling a tag tends to not be so important all the time. Congrats, guys for doing the "right things", IMHO . . . poppagriz

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  12. great job men. shows what true gentlemen they are.

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  13. Good job there men... if they can rescue oil tragic animals then all the better for mired stuck creatures as well...

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  14. Here's the thing...if they'd killed them both it would have been a short boring story. Now you both have a story and the personal pride for doing the right thing that will last a lifetime. Thanks for showing that hunters have respect and do do the right thing when it comes to animals in the wild.

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  15. Great story, and two exceptional young men!

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  16. Brant and Jeff - Very proud of you!!! What an amazing experience for two awesome hunters! You did the right thing for sure. Wayne and Sandy Hoover

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  17. Awesome, awesome, awesome! Way to go guys...thank you for doing the right thing!

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  18. Well done! No animal should suffer, thanks for sharing!

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  19. really cool yall! nice move! now the big question is: Are you gonna keep hunting them? God loves you either way.. but the choice is all yours

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  20. Well done, both Mom and Dad should be proud of you both. True sportsmanship.

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  21. A true example of ethics and morals. Good job guys!

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  22. Good on ya guys, your "Dads" should be proud as peacocks!

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  23. So proud of you both! I too grew up hunting. I personally would not have been able to kill the poor little calf or Cow in that given situation! Wonderful, inspiring story of two noble men that did the right thing! Your dad's raised you right! ;)

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  24. Great job guys, it was fun too wasn't it, you talked about it all night. You'll remember this experience for the rest of your lives, you'll remember it when you're in your 60's like it was yesterday. It'll probably be one of your fondest memories of hunting, take my word for it. Your parents should be proud of both of you. Again, good job.

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  25. You are wonderful human beings! That calf crying like that just broke my heart. To hear that she was saved just brightened my whole day. I salute you!

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  26. Would be proud to call these fine Young Men My Sons

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  27. Karma for next years hunt and well being in the woods. Well done Brant & Jeff

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  28. Both of these young men demonstrated sportsmanship and integrity. Most of all, they showed compassion for a distressed animal. Their fathers should be bursting with pride. They taught them well. Walk tall and best of luck on your next hunt.

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