Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ATA 2015 Show: Product Highlights (Day 2)

Day two at the Archery Trade Association (ATA) had us once again busy checking out new product, but we first took some time to shoot a few of the new bows for 2015. ATA has rows and rows of shooting lanes, with all the new bows available to test out. We fell into the little slice of archery heaven, shooting and comparing the various bows. The Hoyt Nitrum was at the top of our list as favorite bow, although I will admit that the shootability of the Elite bows had my attention. Troy enjoyed shooting the Prime Rival, but in the end held true to his Hoyt, which is a good thing because he already has his Nitrum on order! (I think I may be close to follow suit.)

As promised, here are a few more of our top picks for 2015 ...

1. Vapple Products

We walked by the Vapple booth and the apple scent waffling through the air immediately caught our attention. Troy stopped in his tracks and we looked over towards the source of the smell. The owner was in the middle of a conversation, but eyed us, and motioned for us to hang on while he wrapped things up. Somehow picked up on the fact that we were elk hunters, as he stated, "I've been waiting to talk to some elk hunters." I guess the well-used Badlands pack and elk ivory necklaces gave us away.

Vapple product can be used as both an attractant and a cover scent. While attractants / baiting material is not legal in Colorado, cover scents are okay to use. Troy and I will be testing out the cover scent during our next elk hunt. Considering the positive testimonials on their website, I'm also looking forward to trying it out on the whitetails in Kansas next Fall.

2. Spot Hogg

Fast Eddie Spot Hogg Sight - www.SpotHogg.com
I'm in serious need of a new sight this year, which is why I was intrigued by what Spot Hogg had to offer. Their new Fast Eddie is the latest addition to the Hogg Mobb adjustable sight series. This sight is designed specifically with the hunter in mind. It features silent click free adjustments, is lighter, and has a double pin scope / pin housing. Also included: micro-adjustable 2nd and 3rd axis, tools adjustment, and bulletproof pin technology. This sight very well could find a home on my Hoyt Carbon Spyder for 2015.

3. Prois - Galleann Series

Galleann rain jacket and pants
Prois has done it again - created a must have item for the series female hunter. Their new Galleann Rain Jacket and Pants are extremely light weight, waterproof / breathable, and the best part (in my opinion) is the fact that it packs down into its own pocket! My current rain gear takes up almost half of my back pack. I'll no longer have to be jealous of my husband's packable rain gear that he whips out whenever the storm unleashes it's furry on the mountain.

Some other great features of this rain gear include: Deep pockets, 20,0000mm/10,000mm WP, Storm hood with 2 directional adjustment, pants full length zipper for easy on and off, and built in "gators" for keeping pants secured to boots.

Color options:  Realtree APX, Realtree MAX1 and Olive

Prois Galleann Pants

4. Duel Game Calls

Duel Game Calls has redesigned their elk bugle to include 3 interchangeable elk reeds, making it more versatile for the elk hunter. The unique feature of duel game calls is the duel chamber technology, giving the call a 3D sound quality versus a 2D sound.

Troy has used Duel Game bugles for several years during our elk hunts, and we can testify that it truly works! We've called in numerous bulls for ourselves and others up on the mountain.

Weston Clark explains it best ...

 For our product highlights from Day 1, click here.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

ATA 2015 Show: Product Highlights

Troy and I have sore feet, new friends, and knowledge of exciting new outdoor products, compliments of attending the Archery Trade Association show the last couple of days. What an experience! Thank you, ATA, for exceeding our expectations.

After attending Shot Show last year, we had an idea of what to expect at an event like this ... aisles and aisles of outdoor industry leaders showing off new product for the year, along with upcoming companies looking to gain visibility, sales and make an impression in the industry. While Shot is an amazing experience, ATA has an unique lure in that Bowhunters / Archery enthusiasts are the target audience. Music to my ears!

We have several products / companies that we would like to highlight. Here are the first four new products for 2015 that captured our attention:

1. First Lite Merino Wool Base Layers - Women's Line

First Lite Syringa Short Bottom in Max-1
You read that correctly. First Lite is developing a women's line and has four fabulous merino wool base layers for 2015: Artemis Hoody, Larkspur full length bottom, Lupine crew, and Syringa short bottom.
Fusion color option
Color choices will include Fusion, Asat, Realtree Max-1, Realtree Xtra, Black, Sage or Golden.

Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL

The Artemis hoody and Lupine crew can easily be layered together, or worn individually as base layers. Each have thumb holes in the sleeve.

I'm excited to add these pieces to my hunting closet. Having a quality merino wool base layer, made to fit a women's body, is something I've been waiting for. I'll be ready to "Go Farther. Stay Longer."

Keep an eye out for this base layer series - available soon at EvoOutdoors.com.

2. RAM CAT Broadheads / Quivers

Ram Cat Quiver - Specifically designed for Ram Cat Broadheads

We've been shooting Ram Cat broadheads for several years now and can testify that they truly are king of the kill. The cutting power of these blades are amazing. With the chisel tip and back cut technology, I'm never nervous about whether or not my broadhead will get the job done.

A new feature that Ram Cat is introducing is the tips of the blades will be trimmed slightly, which will help in preventing them from getting bent. In addition, they will now more easily fit in an arrow quiver. Speaking of quivers ... Ram Cat has designed a quiver specifically shaped to their broadheads. Smart!

3. Badlands Silent Series Packs

Badlands - The Reaper
New for 2015, Badlands is introducing a silent series. I'm really excited about the light-weight, ultra silent Reaper pack. I've been looking for a tree stand pack and this will be perfect! They did a great job in paying attention to the fabric chosen for The Reaper. In addition, opening and closing the pack is no problem. The top has a magnetic closure and then for added security, there are silent j-hooks that can be used to fasten the top securely in place. No noisy zippers or even clips.

Keep an eye out for this pack at EvoOutdoors.com.

Bravo, Badlands! 

Badlands - The Reaper

4. QALO ~ 100% medical grade silicone wedding rings

Initially, you may be wondering why silicone wedding rings made our top outdoor archery products for 2015. However, let me convince you .... What is the first thing you do when packing for a hunting trip? I know for me, I make sure my wedding ring is tucked away in a safe location. I don't want to risk losing it up on the mountain, or have my diamond ring catch a ray of sun just at the wrong time, alerting a buck of a life-time that I'm at full draw. QALO has solved that problem for the serious sportsman, outdoors man, hunter.

In their words, "After getting married we realized what a nuisance wearing our traditional wedding band was. While we love our wives, and love being married, the reality was that our ring was getting in the way (literally) of our active lifestyle. The married men we talked with shared the same frustrations. ... we searched for a solution that would allow us to show our commitment of marriage, and wear a comfortable wedding band that could withstand our active lifestyle."

This is where QALO was born. A 100% medical grade silicone wedding ring. I can get on board with that and support a company wanting to help husbands and wives display their commitment to each other while enjoying an active lifestyle. I have my camouflage QALO ring, do you?

Quality * Athletics * Love * Outdoors

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Em's Elk Journals 2014: Day 17

Saturday, September 17, 2014
Yes, I am purposely skipping ahead in my journal. Please know that we hunted hard this last week, and got into elk most days, but I've been waiting to tell this story. Trust me, you won't even realize you've missed a day. Saturday was one for the books!

Today I asked God to bless us with a good day of spending time together in the woods and maybe get a chance at an elk. Our bodies were growing tired, muscles ached, and spirits in need of being lifted. Wow! He continues to amaze me. Troy keeps casually mentioning how it would be nice to shoot our elk early and be able to give back some vacation time. I smile each time those words escape his mouth, because secretly I know that God has other plans. It's the time we get to spend together in the woods I cherish most, and I have a hunch we have a couple more days together up here. The more time we spend hiking around, the more opportunity for experiencing great moments together.  Moments like this ...

Before the sun had a chance to awaken the sky, we found ourselves driving to the top of mountain. Luckily for us, we could enjoy a bumpy ride and didn't have to test the strength in our legs, yet. Coffee lazily bounced around, safely contained within the confines of our coffee containers, and I struggled to time a sip between each bounce. Upon reaching the top, we unloaded quickly and worked our way down to the first open meadow on the mountain. We crept slowly into the edge of the dark timber and began to cow call quietly. No bugles this morning. Another thirty minutes passed, and I received a look as Troy realized he left his gps in the truck. Back up the mountain we went! In an effort to not break a sweat, we moved slowly, snaking our way to the first big pine in the open meadow.

As I stopped in the shade of the pine, Troy froze and said, "Elk! She's staring right at me." For some reason I really thought he was joking, responding with, "Are you playing with me? Are you serious?" Troy continued to stand motionless, so I knew he wasn't toying with me, as he stated, "serious as a heart attack."

We watched her walk around a pine and make her way below us. Troy ranged the spot and said, "she is going to come out in those aspen, forty yards away." Sure enough, she came to the spot, I drew and Troy cow called. She stood broadside with an aspen tree perfectly blocking her vitals. Ugh! I needed her to take one more step. I stood there motionless at full draw and waited, and waited. Finally she walked past the next section of trees. I let down, then drew again. Troy cow called and she stopped again with no clear shot. Seriously!?! Sooooo close! Finally she caught our wind, turned around and the timber swallowed her up, where we originally saw her.

Up to the truck we went to retrieve the gps. When we made it to the top, we decided to walk a ways and see if we could kick up any grouse, as we waited for the heat of the day to pass. Every once and a while we would cow call and bugle over the ledge, not really expecting a response. Of course, that is exactly what happened. A bugle from the side of the mountain we haven't hunted before. It's the steep side of the mountain, and not a lot of cover, giving the advantage to any bull in the area. This bull was definitely at the bottom of the mountain. I could see a small open meadow at the bottom with dark timber creeping up the other side, a perfect elk hide-away. I was sure he was bugling from his bed. We bugled back and forth a couple times, then let him return to his slumber.

After splitting a beef stroganoff mountain house meal, and taking a nap, it was time to make our way down the mountain into the timber to wait for the elk to start moving. Keep in mind, we were working our way down the side of the mountain that had open meadows ... not the steep side with the slumbering bull at the bottom. Troy convinced me there were plenty of other elk on the mountain; however, I couldn't get that afternoon bull out of my head. I agreed to journey down the other side into the dark timber. We found a cozy spot and leaned against our back packs, staring up at golden aspen leaves twinkling against a bright blue sky, a dazzling contrast of colors. It was as if God was smiling down, as we sat in the middle of the woods. My heart was full in that moment.

Then three consecutive shots were heard nearby. Black powder. It was a bit strange considering they were spread apart, equal distance. Not long afterwards there was a single shot closer to us. We looked at each other and I shrugged. Troy shook his head. It appeared that someone was "party hunting" or pushing the timber. It was disheartening. We loaded our gear and headed the other direction, through dead fall littering the mountainside. Finally, we reached a spot that had okay shooting lanes, so we decided to sit and listen for a while. As we got comfortable, Troy looked up on the slope above us to glass for movement, and I heard words escape from his lips that didn't make sense, "There's a MOOSE!" I laughed, "what?!?" Sure enough, a big leggy animal was making his way through the timber. Troy let out a moose grunt sound, which immediately got the Moose's attention. He grunted back and started coming toward us on a beeline!

I watched in disbelief for a few seconds as a bull moose headed started toward us, and then realized ... there is a 1500 lb animal coming RIGHT AT US, and we can't shoot him. He crossed over some dead fall at forty-five yards when the words finally spilled out of my mouth, "Troy! Are we okay? He is coming right at us! Do I need to get my gun out?" Troy then stands up, waves his arms and says, "Hey!" The moose stops, looks at us with a puzzled moose look, as he realizes ... hmmm... that's not a moose. He is now at thirty yards away. Again, I ask, "Should we be worried? Should I get my gun out?" Expecting to hear something like, "No, we'll be fine" but instead I get the answer, "Yah, that might be a good idea." Immediately, I drop my phone, as I had been videoing the whole thing, and dig for my pistol in my back pack. No warning shots were needed. He simply moseyed along in bullwinkle fashion, seemingly knowing that being within bow-range was no big deal. We didn't have moose tags.

I assumed that would be the high-light of our day. However, the fun was only getting started. It was still early, so we decided that since we didn't hear any bugles nearby, and we were still relatively close to where the black powder shots were fired off earlier, it might be good to climb back to the top of the mountain and see if the afternoon siesta bull would bugle back again. Sure enough as soon as we reached the spot, a response echoed back when Troy let out a locator bugle. The look on Troy's face was priceless. The agreement we made moments ago was that we would drop down and chase this bull only if he bugled back. I don't think he expected a response. I smiled. He shook his head. Down we went!

Let me paint the picture for you ...  This side of the mountain is steep, covered with obnoxiously tall ferns and random pine trees. Another thing lending to the bulls advantage, is the time of day and the fact that the slope of this mountain faces mainly west. The sun was shining brightly on us. We were basically, in the open, the sun illuminating every movement, and the ferns were loud. In order to chase this bull, it meant convincing him that a cow elk was making it's way down the mountain. Upon reaching the first pine tree, Troy let out a bugle. The bull bugled back, rather obnoxiously. Out came the Montana Cow Elk Decoy Butt and we crouched behind it, lifting it above the neck high ferns. I snuggled as closely as I could against Troy's back, as he held the decoy in front of him. Down we went, cow calling as we snaked through the ferns.

Upon reaching the next pine tree, it was time to try and see if we could pin-point this bull. I guessed he was in the edge of the dark timber at the creek bottom below. No sight of him yet. We worked in unison, moving through the now neck-high ferns, hopscotching to each pine tree below, hoping it would provide some cover. I knew we were exposed. The sun was shining brightly down and it was impossible to be quiet as we made our way down. As we neared the bottom, another bugle rang out. I looked at Troy and said, "I think he's right across the open meadow in the pines." Troy scanned the meadow below and quickly responded with, "He's right there in the bottom!" The bull was wallowing, raking the mud with his antlers. Troy made a dash towards the next pine tree, and I rushed to make sure I followed close behind, grabbing his First Lite shirt, which was now damp with perspiration from our quick descent down the mountain. I couldn't believe we were so close with all the ruckus we were making, and with hardly any cover! Every once and a while we could see the bull look up in our direction, and I now wondered if he was thinking,

"Why is that crazy cow sliding down the mountain, 
through the ferns BACKWARDS on her butt!"

I guess he didn't care. We were now 100 yards from the bull. I spotted his cows across the meadow along the tree line. The bull continued to rake trees on the other side of the wallow, as we worked our way around the last big pine. We were now completely exposed and just out of bow range. We did our best to convince him to close the distance, but the allure of his real-life cows was too strong. He was now walking away from us headed towards the timber edge, with an entire aspen tree now hanging from his antlers. It was a sight that I'll always remember.

I tried to sneak down through the open drainage, across the wallow, but as I made my way out in the open, I think they winded me and ended up running up the mountain we had traveled down moments ago. They made it to the top within a matter of minutes. It is going to take us probably 30+ minutes to climb back up.

Troy was waiting for me by the last pine tree, marking the starting point for the climb back up. Upon reaching the tree, I put my hand in my pocket and I realized I lost my range finder during the excitement. Immediately, I read the look on his face.

He wasn't happy ... how in the world would we be able to find my range finder in all of those ferns!! I am usually the optimistic, glass half-full person out of the two of us, and I remember myself responding simply, "We'll find them!" Troy shook his head. I truly wasn't worried. You see, when you walk through thick ferns like that, it leaves a clear path of where you've been. All we had to do was follow our tracks back up the mountain. Sure enough! my range finder lay next to one of the pine trees we stopped at. I picked them up and smiled. Troy looked at me, gave me a cowboy grin and apologized for doubting. I think he also said something like ... you are so lucky! Now if some of that luck would help me with arrowing an elk!

I fell asleep tonight with a smile on my face. God answered my prayer. I had not one, but several amazing experiences with my husband on the mountain today. We chased after a rutting bull elk, and a bull moose also stopped by to say hello. I am blessed. What a day!

Em's Elk Journals 2014: Day 9

Sunday - September 14, 2014
This morning we let ourselves sleep in. We wore ourselves yesterday chasing after the elk herds yesterday. With two full weeks of hunting ahead of us, one morning of recuperation doesn't hurt anything. We woke up late, had egg and cheese bagels, sat in the sun, repacked our back packs ... water and food were depleted from the day before.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife guys stopped by our camp and checked our tags and bows. It was nice to see them on the mountain, and we told them we appreciated them being in the area (we haven't seen them many of the years hunting here). We chatted with them for about an hour discussing ...
  • Muzzle loader season
  • Bear season - rifle hunting during archery season (our hunt yesterday was recalled)
  • Poachers
  • Lighted nocks
  • Local hunters
  • Acquaintances
Since we were well rested, we loaded up the four wheeler early and head out around 1:00 P.M. As we reached the lower beaver track trail head, and began to unload our bows and packs, the DOW boys came around the corner on their four wheelers ... so we had to chat a little more.

We slowly began our hike. The spot we were headed to was a couple miles in. The temperature was warmer than optimal for elk hunting; therefore, we took our time, making sure not to work up a sweat. As we rounded the first section of timber, and made our way across an open track, I noticed birds circling above and thought maybe there was a carcass in the area. Sure enough, I looked up and saw two bears take off through the woods, a mere 50 yards above us. We crossed a wallow and made our way up to check out what had the bears attention. It was a young calf - really young. The front quarters were gone and the back quarters still partially in tact. Either someone shot the calf and took only a portion of the meat (hoping that's not the case), or someone shot it's mom and left the young calf to defend itself against the bears. Either option didn't fair well for the calf.

Again, bears are not our priority, so we continued down the trail, another mile to go until arriving at a wallow. Troy settled in on one side of a drainage, and I crossed over to set up directly across a trail, hoping to get a 20 yard shot. As the sun sank further down on the horizon, the temperatures finally began to decrease slightly and we were hopeful that a bull would make an appearance soon. Then I heard a twig snap. I quickly motioned to Troy that I heard something and scanned the thick brush, trying to see through it as best I could. There he was! Coming down the trail, but it was the WRONG trail! He was headed straight for me, headed down the trail I was sitting on. You might be asking at this point, "What's the problem with that?" Let me tell you ... This "trail" is not a trail as in a hiking trail, but a game trail surrounded by thick brush. The kind where you have to push through it, moving branches out of the way so it doesn't smack anyone following you in the face. So .... as he got closer and closer, then stopped at 7 yards away, I found myself drawing my bow back when he looked the other way. It would have to be timed perfectly and I'd have to find an opening through the branches. At this point he was still above me and I actually had a broadside shot, if it wasn't for all of the stinking branches. However, if he decided that he wanted to continue down the trail, he would take a 90 degree turn and walk over top of me. After a minute that felt like an eternity, he finally decided something wasn't right, did a 180 turn and disappeared into the brush. I now know what it feels like to be eyeball to eyeball with a bull elk.

I looked over at Troy, and he shrugged his shoulders, making a gesture indicating he didn't know what happened. I think from his vantage point, what played out moments ago must have looked a little strange.

Since we didn't spook the bull off, we assumed he was still in the area. Troy let out a bugle, and the bull responded back. Then two other bulls from below chimed in, and we could tell they were getting closer. We were about to be surrounded by three, maybe four bulls! Troy began cow calling and the bulls proceeded to "scream" back and forth at each other. It seemed like a stand off of sorts. We waited, ready to take aim at whichever one decided to commit. The young bull up above came in again, but nothing materialized. What an experience! It is moments like this that leave a grin permanently planted on your face all evening.

As we were walking out, one of the screamer bulls had made his way to the meadow to the east of our path. Troy spotted him in the tree line at roughly sixty yards out. I couldn't see him unfortunately, so Troy backed up hoping to suck him down the path towards me. Either he spotted Troy or winded us because I heard him take off.

The bulls continued bugling to us as we made our way out that night. We were sad to leave the party, but daylight had given into the approaching darkness. It was time to leave. Oh, yah ... and the bears were feeding on the calf again. There was just enough light to make out a black blob on the hillside, forty yards above us. We could literally hear them ripping into the carcass. Troy got out his Hawke binoculars and confirmed what we already knew. BIG bear happily feasting away, reminding me that my stomach is also empty ... time to get back to camp, fill our bellies and crawl into our sleeping bags. Another adventure is waiting for us tomorrow.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Em's Elk Journals 2014: Day 8

Saturday, September 13th
We woke up early this morning - early enough to get ahead of the boom stick hunters. It's opening day for black powder and there are camps speckled with an orange glow everywhere. The plan is to drop in deep, find the nastiest part of the mountain where the elk will hide as soon as the first shots begin to echo across the mountain.

With headlamps guiding our foot steps, we journeyed down the mountain slope into a corner pocket of the mountain. An area that holds beaver dams, and steep drainages. It didn't take long before we heard the first bugle and we worried that we weren't deep enough in and others might hear the bugle, breaking the morning air. I was tempted to tell the bull, "shhh... we hear you, but do you know how close you are in giving away your location to the multitude above us? And they have guns!"

We dropped down a couple hundred more yards, quickly set up our decoys, then let out a few soft cow calls. He answered immediately. After a short call sequence we set realized he was gathering his cows and moving further down. We followed. Another set up attempt was made and with the wind not in our favor, we had to bid farewell to the herd, but we knew where they were headed. We paralleled them down the slope and waited.

At one point as we were making our way down through some timber, a twisted up limb lay broken and hanging across a beaten down path. An angry bull took out his frustration on a tree branch and it now lay twisted and raked to shreds. It was clear that bulls were in the area!

We could hear distant bugles below us - not far enough to deter us from chasing them, but far enough that we knew it was going to be a long day hunt (and even longer hike out that evening)! Glassing the mountain terrain below us, we spotted a bull emerge from the quakies. He was big! I could clearly see several inches of ivory tips ... 6 points for sure on one side and it looked like a messed up right side. I wouldn't hesitate drawing my bow and releasing an arrow if the opportunity presented itself. We watched him for a bit to see where he went, and felt confident that he made his way into a patch of dark timber directly below us, for an afternoon siesta.

As we were getting ready to sit down for a cup of coffee, we realized that in our excitement to begin the hunt this morning, complete inventory of our pack supplies had not been performed ... no COFFEE. We discussed trying to make tea from pine needles.  H e l l o  caffeine headache all afternoon.

We quickly forgot about the throbbing in our heads due to the lack of caffeine because a bull below us started bugling from his bed around 11:30 and proceeded to bugle all afternoon. It was most likely the big 6 I had spotted earlier. After the first 30 minutes, we decided that it would be worth it to make a move instead of waiting him out until evening. Each time we got closer, he would get more and more upset. A throaty bugle would emerge from the pines below us. We made it as close as we dared without him spotting us from his bedroom. Each cow call sequence was returned with a bugle. At one point we watched one of his cows walk just across the ravine, make her way down, get a drink of water, then mosey on back to the "bedroom." Once again it was perfect timing as we were in need of some comic relief.  Before seeing Mrs. Bugle, Troy and I actually thought there might be other hunters working their way to the same bull we had been chasing all morning. In an effort to suppress our irritation, we moved in to "cut off" the new intruders and make sure they knew we were the ones calling back and forth to the bedded bull. Then we saw her and the strange cow call she was making. Simultaneously we looked at each other and asked, "was that really the cow?" Turns out she was the intruder ... a real live cow elk that now had us pinned down. The sounds she was making sounded like someone was calling through a bugle tube. We quickly realized she was not alone, as we watched several other cows mill around across the edge of the drainage we were now perched on.

Feeling confident that we were the only ones down in this hole, with an entire elk herd, we sat and waited. It was now 2:00 P.M. and everything turned quiet as the elk bedded down a few hundred yards from our location. The bull most likely decided it was time to get a little shut eye and we were content to wait a couple hours, knowing that it wouldn't be long before he decided to get up and play. We were in perfect ambush position. Wind was in our favor. It was only a matter of time. Snuggled in under a pine tree, we found ourselves nodding off as the afternoon sunshine warmed our faces.

Suddenly the peacefulness of the afternoon was broken. A sound, similar to thunder but more like a tidal wave of broken branches, erupted from the nearby trees. I nudged Troy, "Did you hear that?!" Before he had a chance to answer, the misplaced crash of thunder quickly gave way to the sight of the trees seemingly coming to life. As we looked across the ditch, a plethora of legs and bodies were moving quickly up the mountain. Something was pushing the entire herd of elk. Not yet sure what was happening, we cow called, hoping that they would run our way (and not run us over). They ended up skirting the ravine and making their way up the mountain. Then the reality of what happened became apparent ... florescent orange appeared and my heart sank. A guy with a rifle tag for bear was riding his horse RIGHT THROUGH the bedded elk.

I couldn't help but feel a bit frustrated and irritated that we had 1) hiked in on foot, 2) worked our way into a perfect position for ambushing a huge bull, and 3) now someone rode their horse right through the entire elk herd. We packed up our bags and moved up the mountain where we could get a good vantage point, hoping to see where the elk were pushed to. After a mountain house meal filled our bellies, and not spotting any elk, we were about to let defeat wash over us.

Then, a bugle was heard -- right in the same area the elk were pushed out of an hour ago!! 

Our bull was back in his bedding area, calling his cows back to him. The hunt wasn't over after all! We quickly made our way back to the last spot we were calling from. It was now or never. Since he wasn't budging, we decided to get aggressive. As we inched closer, we learned why he wasn't crossing the ditch that separated us. It was more like a ravine. It was deep and steep. Finding some cover right on the edge, we quickly ranged distances. I'd have a 40 yard shot if we could lure him close to the ledge. However, he still wasn't showing himself. Troy looked at me, "Your call. Do you want to try and cross over to get closer?" I looked down and doubted if we could safely cross, then looked back at Troy. He saw the look on my face, and replied, "We'll be fine, just take it slow and we can cross over there." So we ventured down. It turns out that it looked worse than it was. Navigating down wasn't that hard, but climbing the other side, I quickly learned that it is better to get momentum and not stop. I told myself, "Think like a mountain goat."

We found a good spot to set up and saw a cow a hundred yards off, making her way down the trail. Unfortunately, the bull decided he didn't want to "play" and continued to move further down the mountain. Troy called him a "coward" out of frustration, and we decided it was time to start heading back up. It was going to be a long climb out of here! Plus there were still some bulls above us. If we started now, we could hunt our way back.

It didn't take long and as we followed a game trail up, I heard a bark and cow calls. We froze. After not seeing anything for several minutes, we decided to move up for a better vantage point. Slowly and cautiously we crept up the trail, then stopped and cow called again. Something was moving above us. I got excited when I thought it was the big lead cow, but after a closer look, realized it was a big spike (young bull). Since we can't shoot spike bulls in Colorado, we sat and watched him for a while, thinking maybe he'd lure in something else. I thought I heard more movement, but never saw anything. The problem now ... we didn't want to spook him off, giving us away, but also wanted to keep moving up the mountain, to hopefully get closer to a bull above us. Spikes are curious, and sometimes not very bright. He wouldn't leave us alone! Finally we had to start walking down the trail. He literally followed us for awhile before finally running up along he ridge to the right of us.

As we made our way through a patch of trees, we were about to walk into an opening. "Stop! Don't move. Cow looking right at us," Troy whispered authoritatively. She was 150 yards out and grazing along a pine tree. Unfortunately, we were stuck in the open. With a few aspen trees behind us to break our silhouette, we stood still and watched. Troy cow called with his mouth reed. She moved closer, then momentarily disappeared below us. I first saw a yearling cow dance right into the opening in front of us. She stopped at 30 yards and looked back. The cow I saw earlier came running up to her and stopped. I had decided I would shoot a cow if the perfect shot opportunity presented itself. However, I couldn't bring myself to shoot this cow. That calf was right by her side, and knew she was probably still wet. So I watched as they proceeded to walk right toward us. 20 yards. 15 yards. I heard movement behind her. We were now in close proximity to a herd of elk. The cows looked back over their shoulders and we watched what they were looking at ... several other cows with a bull following behind them. Unfortunately, the cow and calf spooked a little as we were standing right on the pathway they wanted to walk along, which contributed to redirecting the herd to cross right above us, out of bow range. The spike, that wouldn't leave us alone previously, then came trotting up the clearing, stopped and stared at us. Why couldn't YOU have been the bull, Mr. Friendly Spike? Oh well ... another close encounter with elk in the books. That is a good day in my opinion.

I'll get my elk someday. It simply wasn't today.

Btw - Here's your elk hunting tip of the day: Never. I repeat never go to the bathroom next to itch weed. Not only were my legs on fire from all the hiking today, my bottom was also burning due to not recognizing the obnoxious stuff.