- Associated Press - Saturday, November 19, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - As honeymoons go, Scott and Megan Thomas’ turned out pretty wild.

How could it not? Mile-high altitudes, Rocky Mountain landscapes, four-wheelers, high-powered rifles and trophy elk make for plenty of excitement.

“I can’t think of a better way to have a honeymoon,” said Scott. “We both got nice elk and we had a great time together.”

Not many couples decide to turn honeymoons into hunting trips. For the Thomases, the decision centered on the delay between the wedding ceremony and the honeymoon.

“We were married last September,” Scott explained. “Megan was in her last year of nursing school, so we put off the honeymoon until after she graduated.”

The two had dated for seven years, and had hunted together every year. When Scott’s aunt, who lived in Colorado, invited them to come out for an elk hunt, they started wondering if a hunting honeymoon might be possible.

“In March or April, we applied for our elk tags,” Megan recalled. “We said that if we both drew tags we would go. In June we found out that we had both drawn tags. That’s when we really started planning.”

The individual success rate for drawing tags for public-land elk hunts in Colorado is 17 percent. The odds of both Thomases drawing tags for the same year were slimmer. The odds of them both drawing bull tags were slimmer still.

“When we first started talking about it, I was excited,” Megan said. “I’d always liked to do that stuff. So even though my idea of an ideal honeymoon was to go to the beach, we planned the hunt.”

They arrived in Colorado on Oct. 15. They had 10 days to fill their tags.

“We were hunting on (Bureau of Land Management) lands near Rangely,” Scott said. “Our aunt’s brothers knew the area and they took us hunting.”

Scott hunted with one brother, Megan with the other.

“It was an hour-and-a-half ride on a four-wheeler to get to where we were supposed to go,” Megan said. “We saw some elk in a field, so we sat down and settled in. The wind was really bad. The elk ended up winding us and they took off in the opposite direction.

“Then we heard some elk behind us. We had to run to the top of the ridge to get a look at them. I was huffing and puffing because of the altitude, but I made it up there. At first we saw cows, but a short while later a bull came walking out, about 280 yards away. I put the rifle up on the shooting sticks and took a shot.”

The 7mm bullet struck the bull squarely behind its shoulders. It bolted into the woods.

When Megan and her guide found the animal, they discovered that it sported a nice 6-by-6 rack of antlers.

“We didn’t green-score it, but the guys guessed that it would score about 280 (on the Boone and Crockett Club scale),” she said.

Scott didn’t get a bull that day, so Megan had bragging rights. She let him know about it.

“It wouldn’t have been fun if I hadn’t given him a hard time,” she said with a laugh.

“She was pretty tickled and I was proud of her,” Scott said. “At that point, I really didn’t care if I got one or not.”

But he did, two days later.

“We were on our way to a spot (my guide) had picked out when we pulled off and glassed a nice-looking area. We spotted some elk about 2 miles away in a clearing,” he said. “We got the four-wheelers off the trailer and took off. We rode the four-wheelers as far as we could and went on foot after that.

“After we crossed a couple of canyons, we thought we might be getting close. Eventually, we found the herd and got set up about 300 yards away. The wind was blowing in that direction, and when the elk winded us they started getting skittish. Luckily a nice bull came toward us and gave me a broadside shot.”

The first shot from Scott’s .300 Winchester Magnum struck the elk, but the big animal hardly flinched.

“I shot again, and he started slowing,” Scott recalled. “I put another one in him and he dropped in his tracks.”

Like Megan’s bull, Scott’s sported a 6-by-6 rack, but that’s where the similarity ended. Scott’s was larger and heavier.

“It wasn’t until we got our hands on it that we realized just how big it was,” he said. “We green-scored it at 340. I told my (guide), ‘I’m going to wake up in the morning and think this is all a dream.’”

Getting the hunting out of the way early in the honeymoon allowed the Thomases to spend the rest of their time in Colorado doing other things, such as four-wheeling the famous red-rock trails in the state’s southwestern corner.

“It turned out to be perfect for us,” Megan said. “It’s one of the funnest trips I’ve been on.”

She didn’t get to sunbathe on the beach, but the honeymoon souvenirs she and Scott brought home - two sets of trophy elk antlers and a freezer full of meat - are mementos few other couples will have.

Megan didn’t get to sunbathe on the beach this time, but she will in January when she and Scott jump a jet and head for Hawaii. The rifles will stay at home in Sissonville.

“I got my honeymoon last month,” Scott said. “In January, she gets hers.”

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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