Elk Season 2016.
Bugles are still a rare commodity this elk season. If they could be bought, we'd be first in line. The bulls remain ghosts in the pines, shadows slipping just out of reach, leaving only footprints, scarred trees and other clues indicating their existence. We are ready to play the vocalization game, but apparently they are not.
Tonight, with storm clouds rolling across the Colorado sky, hopes are high that it would be the trigger for a bull to give away his location. Troy, Todd and myself are loaded up in TED, our hunting jeep, aptly named for the animals we love to chase ... Turkey, Elk, Deer. Heads bobble as TED navigates over boulders on a road marked with a sign warning "travel at your own risk." Afternoon cotton candy clouds have quickly clustered together and now look more ominous than their previously carefree appearance.
TED reaches a curve in the road with one of the largest pines around prominently marking the entrance to the beginning of tonight's hunt. We make quick work in grabbing our bows, securing rain gear and loading packs. Saturated ground silences our movement down the mountain slope. First Lite Gators guard against rain-soaked vegitation threatening to soak through camoflauge pants. As we venture down in silence, rain softly falls around us. Thunder rolls and a lightening bolt streaks across the western sky.
The intensity of the flashes of lightening stops us in our tracks. As we hunker down, the next series of thunder and lightening makes quick work of trying to compete with the last round. Our eyes meet. Without saying a word, the three of us could read each other's thoughts. It's probably best to NOT find the largest tree to stay dry and wait out the storm this time -- our footsteps are reversed and we make our way right back to TED, just as the another lightening series gives way! None of us want to add to the statistic making Colorado one of the top lightening death states.
There's usually a junction during each hunt with a critical decision point; however, the importance of the choice rarely is revealed until future reflection. It's unrecognizable at the time. While sitting under the cover of TED, several discussions were held... Stay and wait out the storm? Call it a night? The allure of a campfire, food and a nightcap was strong. The sky taunted us as small rays of sun pierced through storm clouds in the distance. Will the storm clear in time for a quick hunt before sundown?
Finally, the rain lessened and the flashes of light slowly moved on to distant targets. It was go time and we were glad the decision to wait it out was made! Stealthily we worked our way down the now soaked mountain. The lingering storm clouds decided to wring out their remaining weight, as if reluctantly ending the storm's furry. The smells of the earth, pine and mountain vegetation tickled our senses as we once again found thick pine branches to hide underneath, while the last heavy downfall of rain washed down around us. Each of us now 10 feet apart under our own pine tree, cow calling periodically, listening and watching for signs of elk. As I looked up at Troy, he was holding his bow at the ready, looking to the left. I eyed Todd in the pine tree behind me. He too was motionless, looking up past Troy. He mouthed the words I already knew ... "elk!"
We all were now poised and ready for the bull silently headed our way.
Looking back up at Troy, I caught movement. A bull was now 10 yards above him on the other side of thick cover. There was a small opening and as the bull took a step, I watched Troy release an arrow. The sound was unmistakable. His arrow found its mark and the bull ran downhill right past Todd and I. Mentally marking his location, I glanced back at Troy who was now motioning to us that he had killed his bull. I mouthed the words, "I know! I saw it all!" As we made our way to each other, he quickly said, "Oh he is DEAD!" Again, I told him, "I know ... I saw him fall and heard his last breath! He is right over there!"
Part of the thrill of the hunt is experiencing it with someone. Sharing the excitement of a successful hunt, in a way puts an exclamation point on it all. The joy in the moment is greater when among friends, and a bonus... the work of hauling the elk off the mountain is lessened!
Here is a glimpse into the moment after the shot...
A big thanks to Mark and Darwin for their help in packing out Troy's elk. We love our elk hunting "neighbors" and appreciate this friendship made on the mountain. We look forward to next time we are in the same elk camp!
From the Draw
A website devoted to sharing bowhunting stories. From the draw in the mountains to the draw on paper, the moments live on.