Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Elk Double Down - Part I

The story of the 2013 Elk Double Down ...
Rudy (Huntography) and Troy
I'm not sure how or when the area was first coined this name, but we all know the area immediately whenever someone in our hunting camp suggests we drop down into the DMZ, aka the Dead Man's Zone. To some, it is an acronym that has military references, and for fire fighters it has a whole other meaning, but for us hunters ...

It's the place where the hunter finds himself looking down into a mountainous canyon, wondering if he can call the elk up instead of venturing down. Sometimes the call of the elk on the ridge beyond is too great a temptation, and the hunter journeys down. This is exactly where we found ourselves last September. Our "Dead Man's Zone" is a valley or hole in the mountain where we've found elk before, but crawling out of the area with an elk on your back will have you quickly wishing for a tow rope. Still echoing across the canyon from seasons past are the sounds of hunters with elk-laden packs ... thoughts of "one more step" and "elk steak, elk steak" seem to be burned into the hill-side with each footstep, as the hunter carries his quarry up and out of the canyon below. Like a fossil of previous hunts, these steps serve as both a warning and encouragement to the next hunter who finds himself peering down from the ridge. They beckon the hunter to move forward, yet warn of incredible fatigue. A choice has to be made.

Last September, we chose to venture down.

The evening before chasing after elk in the canyon below, we had located a bull. So we knew there was a good chance of having an encounter the next day. Here's what happened ...

All throughout the day, unforgiving rain continued to pour out of the heavens. We had become used to the conversation about the cold, wet, and mud. On a whim after a late lunch, as the sun forced it's way through the overcast sky, we decided to not waste the evening. We were restless and ready to hunt. Bows were grabbed, and hastily put together packs were thrown in the back of the truck. We named our stir-crazy attempt at chasing elk that night... a FUNT. Translation? Fun Hunt.

Making our way to the top of the canyon, we decided to follow a path down a couple hundred yards. It was a section that we hadn't become familiar with (yet), and often wondered if it would provide an easier way in and out of the "Dead Man's Zone." Since my boots were drying out in preparation for the next day's hunt, I had tennis shoes on. Remember, this evening hunt was to be a low-stressed FUNT; therefore, I carried a light pack, a few snacks in my sweatshirt, and a bottle of water. Of course, as if on queue the elk knew that we weren't taking them seriously. At the sound of the first locator bugle, we received an answer below. And we were off! Down we went a couple hundred yards and set up in anticipation of the bull making his way up the "hill."

Laid across the mountainside, fingers of aspen groves took on the appearance of a hand print impressed upon the slope, as if a giant leaned against the mountain and peeked across the ridge, leaving his mark.  Meadows dispersed themselves in between aspen finger impressions. Settled in the edge of an aspen grove, we strained to locate the approaching elk, hoping he would make his way up our aspen finger cut against the ridge or make the fatal mistake of crossing the clearing in front of us.  Bugling back and forth, he closed the distance. However, it wasn't meant to be this evening. The bull made his way up an adjacent aspen finger, giving us a brief glimpse of his existence and then slipping back into the shadows.

Our FUNT ended that evening, as we said goodnight to the bull and climbed back up the trail in now soaked tennis shoes. Even though an arrow wasn't released, this brief encounter wasn't for naught. We not only discovered a new path in and out of the area, but we went to bed with the knowledge of where the elk were located ... at least one bull.

A plan was formulating in our heads that night.  Tomorrow, we would venture down.
Troy and Emily - Scanning for elk below

Click HERE for Part II of the Elk Double Down story!


  1. Good descriptions. Wondered many of the same things sometimes too. Need, the rest of the story though

    1. Thanks, Neal! The rest of the story is coming. I promise! Hopefully Part 2 will be posted tonight ... updates on twitter as soon as it is live.

  2. Great read and I can't wait for Part Deux!

    1. Thanks, Al! Part Deux coming soon!! I got stuck last night at a part of the story. I'm wishing I would have written this sooner, because now my tired brain is trying to remember the timeline. I think I'm good and it's all coming back to me now. This is a great reason for writing the story down! I'm getting myself a hunting journal for next season for this very reason. While I clearly remember the actual day when both elk went down, some of the story leading up to got a little fuzzy. The true test of how well I remember the details will come when the ElkTour DVD comes out later this year.

  3. How is the effort to shoot more going? Your post got me thinking.... so I backed off my bow poundage and have been shooting in the garage during morning workouts (530 is too dark to shoot outside). I have been shooting 4-5 days per week for three weeks now. The first week, arrow spacing ranged from .75-1.5 in (15 yds). this morning had a couple that were 1/8" or less at about 15 yd. Blew out to 1.5 again after a rough round of KB cleans and presses. Thanks for the nudge in a good direction, now to read about the elk hunt.

    1. Thanks for asking, Brian! I was actually just thinking last night that I need to write a follow-up post on that. So far I've missed 3 days (I think). Honestly, there have been nights where I'm just about ready to crawl into bed and remember that I haven't shot my bow yet. So, I'll make my way down to the basement and fire off a few arrows. Overall, I've found that the consistency of trying to shoot everyday is a good thing! I've seen improvement. YAY! I'll write something up soon on my progress. I'm so glad to hear that my commitment to shoot each day has had a positive impact and encouraged you to shoot more as well. Again, thanks for keeping me accountable. We're in this together now!