A great hunt
Kelly Cook bags two trophy bull elk on first two rifle hunts of her life
By Bobby Abplanalp
Journal Sports Editor
It’s many kids’ dream to go hunting with their dad.
Father and son bagging a big bull elk or mule deer buck.
In this case, it’s father and daughter.
Or, maybe daughter and father.
Kelly Cook, 14, has accomplished what many rifle hunters can’t in their lifetime.
The Cortez Middle School eight-grader has hunted twice and fired a total of three shots with her Ruger .243.
With those three shots, Cook has killed 6-by-6 and 5-by-6 bull elk.
Considering the lesser powered .243 rifle Cook uses and bringing down the massive 6-by-6 elk from 390 yards away, shot placement is a must.
“I was so nervous. I did not think I was going to shoot it,” Cook said.
Remembering the picture of an elk on her phone that her dad drew, Cook aimed and fired.
“When I shot, I did not think I would hit. That was my first time shooting an animal,” she said.
Cook delivered near Lone Mesa State Park last fall with her father, Dr. Terry Cook, a local podiatrist.
“It was awesome,” Kelly said. “When my dad went over to get it, he started screaming and yelling (in excitement).”
This hunting season, father and daughter were back near Lone Mesa. Kelly Cook was only able to hunt one day in October. When a 5-by-6 bull elk walked onto the horizon with a herd of cow elk, the marksman had just one chance. Patiently waiting for her chance, and patiently waiting, her father’s nerves were on edge.
Kelly Cook’s patience paid off.
“You could hear a loud ‘Thud,’” said Terry Cook about the shot connecting with the elk. “She goes, ‘I think I got it, dad.’ I heard a death growl. I said, ‘You got another one.’”
One shot from 200-plus yards was all it took.
Perhaps it’s no surprise what a magnificent shot Kelly Cook is. Before her first hunt last year, she took the required hunter safety course and excelled in the shooting test with ease.
“She put three shots on (the target) bull right on top of each other. (It was her) first time shooting a rifle,” Terry Cook said.
The 6-by-6 took two shots to bring down in the wind. Kelly Cook still was on target from 390 yards against the weather elements.
“I love that gun,” she said with excitement.
Why has Kelly Cook quickly mastered elk hunting?
Elk hunting is an activity that people do for years and come away empty.
Is it love for her rifle? Love for the kill?
It’s actually something different.
“I never really knew what hunting was. My dad and brother would always talk about it,” she said. “They’d be like, ‘OK, we’re going hunting tomorrow.’ I’d be like, ‘I want to go!’”
Big game hunting is a father-son ritual that’s lasted centuries. It’s something Terry Cook and his son, Hayden, bond over.
Now Terry Cook and both his children bond together elk hunting.
Kelly Cook, who is a also a drum major and dancer, wanted to add hunting to her repertoire of activities.
At just 14, Kelly Cook has stories to tell for a lifetime. And, in the halls of CMS, friends refer to as one of America’s sharpshooting legends.
“I guess I’m the new Annie Oakley,” said a laughing Kelly Cook.
Maybe Kelly Cook won’t go that far, as to make a career of her precise shooting skill like the late Annie Oakley did. But in Terry and Jacque Cook’s household, their daughter is known as Kelly “Sure Shot.”
As long as she gets to go hunting with her dad and brother, more stories of Kelly “Sure Shot” Cook will be told.