Floating high on the feeling of freedom in the mountains, the two boys ticked off their two manhood desires. "First we found a place to have a cigarette," he said, noting that he soon gave up the vice. "Then we got an elk.
"A spike we were tracking was backtracking itself and I shot it in the neck at 12 feet."
He'd only watched an elk be gutted to that point.
"I had my brother hold a leg up while I crawled inside the rib cage to pull out the esophagus."
Men back at the ranch didn't believe the boys' story when they got back, so his dad sent them out with two horses to drag out the elk.
It was the first of hundreds of big-game animals Kujala has cleaned and skinned as a hunter or assisting friends and family. He's also used those skills as a permitted volunteer for collecting roadkill to provide meat for charity kitchens.
Endurance epics survived by Kujala, his brother and nephews would be legendary if they weren't so private about them. Hard work is in their blood. One of Jim's first jobs off the ranch was breaking rock with a sledge hammer at Anaconda Company mines. Toughness is in his being.
Spike bulls eluded him during a week of hunting in Washington this season, so he departed almost immediately, as usual, for Western Montana where, on the third day of hunting alone he bagged a five-point bull with his trusty 7mm mag just before the end of official shooting hours.
The 78-year-old hunter gutted the elk in the dark, setting the tenderloins aside on the snow to cool.
"I always take special care of the tenderloins," he said.