Jeremiah Johnson is one of my favorite movies from my childhood. There is a line in the movie that my brother, sister and I would play, rewind and repeat over and over. It is a simple line, but for some reason we thought it was the funniest thing. Jeremiah meets up with his old mountain man friend and while chewing on some type of game meat (rabbit I think) cooked over the campfire, the question is asked, "What brings you up so high?" The old man promptly responds with "Griz!" It must have been the way it was said, but we were in stitches. So over and over we would watch it.
If you've followed my blog then you are probably aware of my somewhat irrational fear of bears. So, I am definitely not motivated to wander into the high country to chase after bears. Thankfully we don't have "Griz" here in Colorado (and if you know otherwise, please don't burst my bubble). But one thing I do know... the mountains are filled with the echo of bugles as the daylight dims each late September evening. And every time I hear their call I am overcome with awe. The sound chills you to the core. THAT is what brings me up so high each year.
Last week during one of our evening hunts, I had the privilege of getting really close to one of these mountain bulls. We hiked several miles into what we call the "lower beaver ponds." As we approached the area we hoped the bulls were hiding out, Alan let out a locater bugle. A bull answered back immediately. Like flies we quickly dispersed and sent two shooters down below. My husband backed up into the thick alders to call while Alan and I were left on the trail. I thought there might be time to make my way through the 30 yards of thick alders in order to have a clear shooting range into the meadow; however, I opted to stay put after hearing the bull narrowing the distance fast. So, I made my way back up the trail we had just come down on with the hope of getting in front of the bull before being pinned down. I got pinned down.
For 30 minutes I sat crouched down on the path with the screaming bull 15 yards on the opposite side of the pine tree and brush. I kept thinking he was making his way through the thick brush and was surely going to give me a top pin shot either directly below or above me. So I sat on the trail, pivoting back and forth guessing which side he would come out. Finally it dawned on me... he isn't coming. Duh. He is simply causing a bunch of ruckus by raking the branches in order to prove how "BAD" he is. So, I strained to get a glimpse of my friend. I had a perfect view of antlers. That is all I could see. It was magnificent. In and out of view they would go. A moment of loud branch breaking display of toughness followed by silence. Huge ivory tipped antler beams pivoting back and forth while the bull strained to listen to the sweet cow calls below. Then a hair raising bugle followed by a chuckle. Proceeded by a burp. (Yes, I'm pretty sure that's what I heard.) Then the whole sequence would repeat. What seemed like an eternity wrapped in an instant caused me to wonder what just happened when this ghost of the Rockies quietly slipped 100 yards away and let out a bugle once again from the top of the ridge.
We walked back to camp via the light of our headlamps that night - tags safely unpunched in our pockets. And just for fun cow calls were let out along the way. We sounded like a elk circus going down the path, but my bull didn't seem to care. He followed us in the darkness for about a mile, keeping his distance and all the while letting out love sick bugles. Or was it a warning? I'm not sure. Either way, I was glad for his companionship and reminder of what brought me up so high that evening.