Bryan Conklin could scarcely believe that the 6-point bull elk had just stepped out of the brush and into the crosshairs of his rifle scope.
Bright October sun glinted from the antlers, thick as a grown man’s wrist.
A few wisps of that morning’s fog still hung in the air.
It was, Bryan says with a hint of awe, the sort of scene that should be accompanied by inspirational music, a scene that would thrill the painter or the photographer as much as the hunter.
But in that moment on Oct. 27, Bryan, a Baker City native, had neither the time nor the inclination to savor the setting.
He exhaled, and his finger squeezed the trigger of his 1954 Remington 30.06.
The bullet flew true.
The trophy bull, which Bryan figured he would have to track, simply dropped where it stood.
“He went right down on his nose,” Bryan said.
And just like that Bryan, 32, who has killed many deer and a few cow elk over two decades of hunting, had bagged his first bull.
But that wasn’t the only reason he was ecstatic.
In fact it was only half the reason.
Because the first person to give Bryan a congratulatory hug was his dad, Darrell Conklin, 67.
And Darrell, less than a minute before and maybe 40 yards away, had shot his own 6-point bull. He’s killed several bulls in the past, but this was his first 6-point.
The sheer odds against such a confluence of events made for perhaps the most memorable day in the field for the father and son, who reminisced about the experience on Halloween evening while sitting in the living room of Bryan’s home.
“We’ve hunted a lot together, and we both usually fill our tags,” Bryan said. “But we’ve never filled them on the same day, that close together.”
“It’ll never happen again in a hundred years,” Darrell said.
He said he was excited to watch his son kill his first bull.
“It was pretty cool,” Darrell said. “It’s amazing to see two bulls like that together.”
But although the Conklins will always relish their big day in the Keating Unit — not surprisingly, they declined to give any geographic specifics — they’re hardly immune to the boasting that’s common in hunting camps.
A question about the sizes of the two bulls prompts a bout of verbal jousting across the living room as Bryan’s wife, Shannon, smiles in a way that suggests this sort of banter is commonplace when the two Conklin men get together.
The exchange has the exquisite timing you might associate with longtime comedic duos.
Bryan: “Mine was a lot bigger-bodied.”
Darrell: “Not a lot — come on.”
Bryan: “Mine had wider antlers, and a larger head.”
Darrell finally settles the matter, in a decidedly dad-like fashion.
“They’re both nice bulls,” he said. “Bryan’s is bigger. It’s a beautiful bull."
The Conklins’ milestone hunt had a mundane beginning.
Although they were excited from the start, since it was the first time both had drawn a bull tag for the same hunt.
Bryan had to work the first two days of the five-day season, Oct. 25 and 26. He starts to describe the events of Oct. 27 when Darrell interjects, asserting parental prerogative.
“I’m telling,” he said.
Father and son hunted along a ridge, one on either side.
About halfway down the ridge, Darrell glimpsed a bit of antler through a patch of brush.
Darrell said the bull stopped and looked right at him.
Read more about the hunt in the Nov. 3, 2017 issue of the Baker City Herald.