Wanderer - you owe me a new keyboard! Tons of great stories on here.
My first hunt was 5 years ago. My wife had just given birth to our second child in Colorado (we lived in Hawaii at the time) so we all went up to stay with her parents in Wyoming for a few weeks until we were comfortable flying her across the Pacific. My wife's dad invited me to go elk hunting with him and I jumped at the chance. I grew up in Ohio with great hunting all around, but my parents were divorced and I never had anyone to take me hunting. Anyway, with not a single bit of gear my own except my socks and long underwear, I headed out to hunt elk with my father-in-law's 30.06. He had not hunted with that rifle for many years but thought the scope was probably still pretty close to zeroed. Anyway, after several days of busting timber and really enjoying the hell out of hiking around the mountains - I had seen many impressive mule deer and had jumped several elk, one of which was a 5x5 that one of the sitters in our party got - it was my turn to get set up to sit while my father in law and two other guys pushed timber. He set me up in one of his favorite spots on a bare ridgeline and perfectly predicted where the elk would most likely run out of the timber and what route they would take across the ridge to the next timber patch... I'm telling you when this 5x5 came out it was like Gary was using a remote control to move him along exactly as he described it would if he bumped one out. This bull stops about 75 yards to my right, probably 30 ft in elevation under me. I put the cross hairs on him - crack! Oh crap - miss. He was nice enough to offer me 2 more shots at him before he trotted into the timber. I was heartbroken. While an absolute beginner in hunting, I have been in the military since 18 so I was just shocked that I completely missed an animal that size, at that range. Of course the ribbing was heavy that day on the ride back to camp. We break out a boresight kit and it was literally off the chart. We did a mechanical zero and my confidence returned - maybe I had not done everything right, but certainly it wasn't all me.
On the last day of my hunt I was pushing a strip of timber with my father in law towards 3 sitters. There was a beautiful and serene snow coming down and I felt like I was moving softly and more quietly than I ever had before. The snow flakes drifted lightly into my face as I crept into a nice head wind. Eventually I came to the long end of a 500 x 200 meter clearing, and stopped to glass into it and decide which side I wanted to go on it. Then, about 200 meters into the clearing on my left, a cow steps out from behind a pine tree, followed shortly after by another cow. I waited for a few seconds hoping that a bull would come following shortly behind, but got impatient by the time the lead cow was about half of the way across the 200 meter wide clearing. I placed the cross hairs on her and sent a round down range standing unsupported. She stumbled and turned back towards where she had come, starting to move back for the timber. I sent another one as she presented me the opposite broadside shot and she went about 3 more steps before crashing to the ground. It took the rest of my hunting party about 45minutes to find us, and I had quite a cathartic experience examining my first elk. I'll always wonder if there was a 6x6 bull behind her if I could have been a little more patient, but I was so happy to redeem myself in the eyes of my new hunting party. That trip has absolutely changed my life. I plan my yearly leaves around being able to make it to Wyoming for elk season (made it 3 of 4 years so far) and have started whitetail and bow hunting since moving to Kansas this year. I feel so much more self sufficient now and even butchered my own doe I killed earlier this year. Most importantly, I have set myself on a path to be able to pass on to my son a skill set and a mind set that i believe to be invaluable.