Gunshots echoed across the mountainside this morning, which makes sense; it is opening day for grouse.
The plan was to hunt directly behind camp. I had heard a bull lightly bugle the morning before. I had a hunch they were coming up the drainage right next to our camp, so we decided to explore the territory just beyond it. Wouldn't that be awesome to shoot a bull just below camp?? As soon as we wandered a hundred yards behind camp, it opened up into an old "road." We followed it down for a bit until the thick timber diverted us to a steep ledge. Taking the lead from those who know the area well, we continued down a game trail along the edge until it opened up, giving us a view of a valley below and clear shooting lanes.
We sat down, leaned into a tree just off the trail, and listened. An amazing thing happens when you listen to the silence of the forest. Initially everything seems quiet; however, as you begin to take it in, your senses awaken and the "silence" opens up ... water flows over rocks in the stream below, the flurry of wings slice through the air above as a bird glides overhead, claws scurry up a tree, and a pine cone drops to the floor with a thud. Out of the silence a chorus erupts and the melody of the forest flows together effortlessly. I could easily fall asleep, but then I remember we are here to hunt and the morning is still young.
After a while we ventured a bit further and sat down to do some calling. Nothing answered. The flow of the stream below peaked our curiosity. Holding onto branches along the slope, we made our way down. After crossing the stream, we settled in under a huge pine that stood proudly in an open meadow. Breakfast seemed like a good idea ... Mmm... peanut M&Ms and coffee!
It was now late morning and we had a decision to make - continue exploring this territory behind camp, or climb back up, load the four wheeler up and head to an area we were familiar with. We landed on the latter option since we hadn't seen / heard anything and it looked like if we moved further down the mountain, it would get more treacherous.
Upon arriving back at camp, we took a leisurely ride on the four wheeler to check out the other camps in the area. We were curious how many hunters were down the road from us. So far, it appeared the odds were in our favor. Most of the campers were truly that - campers. We reached the trail that Troy, Rudy and I headed down last year and shot 2 bulls in the bottom. Glassing the area brought back good memories and I was anxious to get back down there again. However, we made a decision that we would let it sit for awhile and wait to go down in the "hole" until the elk started bugling. There is no sense going down there unless we knew the elk were there!
Tonight we hunted the beaver ponds (middle section). We were hoping to run into the elk we had seen the day before. This time, we continued down the trail to the crossroads. Evidenced by all the moisture this summer, the growth along the trail concealed the path, now making it a secret to only those who have previously traveled its course. When we reached the marshy area where we've seen previous wallows, we lost the trail momentarily. Upon reaching the crossroads, we sat down and waited. Nothing materialized, so we decided to head back to the open area we saw elk yesterday. In order to get there in time, we had to make tracks! Unfortunately we went to fast, and as we made our way around a downed tree, Troy looked back at me. "Shooter bull," he quickly announced. A 5x5 was 40 yards in the timber and we weren't ready. We tried to skirt in front of him and quickly set up the decoy, but he was on to us and never made another appearance.
One more set up was attempted before we called it quits tonight. I was reluctant to head back. We were getting closer! I'm ready to draw back on a shooter bull. It's just a matter of time.
Upon reaching camp, Troy decided to cruise down the road and see if the other hunters nearby were back in camp. We chatted with the CO boys briefly and talked whitetail hunting, then went down to the next camp to check in with the PA boys. They about talked our ears off! We hit it off with these guys and the stories flowed easily. However, at around 9:30 I had to nudge Troy. It takes a few days before you get used to eating dinner well past dark, and I had burned enough calories today to eat two plates full. Pointing to my now growling stomach, and giving my best puppy dog eyes, I announced, "I'm HUNGRY! Let's go get dinner started before my stomach eats my backbone."
We slept in today. I know, I know ... you may be thinking right now, but it's only Day 2 of our elk hunt! But since it was just Troy and I calling the shots this year, it was easy to make a mutual decision. The conclusion that we would take it easy and not pressure ourselves to "go go go" the entire time was easily reached, although initially it was hard to convince myself that it really was okay to ease into the hunting. It was an effort to hold myself back, and realize I could allow myself to simply enjoy our time on the mountain. Plus the elk really aren't talking yet, and that whiskey sipped around the campfire last night, combined with the rain and thunderstorm now rolling through the early morning hours, made for a perfect morning of catching an extra hour or two of sleep.
Campfire coffee was prepared as I took in our mountain view. This lead to a little exploring behind the camper, and by "exploring" I mean poop chair sitting. (If you are unfamiliar with the infamous poop chair, use the search feature on this site. You're in for a treat.) Anyway, as I was busy with stationary exploration, I heard a small bugle. There was a bull right behind our camp! I promptly came back to the camper to tell Troy, who was still sleeping. I jumped into my camo and decided to do some actual exploring behind our camp ... maybe I would be able to shoot an elk right next to our campsite. How cool would that be?! That elk decided not to stay around. I never saw or heard him again, but I did discover that the woods behind camp looked "elky." I made a mental note. That might have to be checked out a bit more later this week.
By now it was late morning, and we decided to make a run for town since we forgot a few items for the week (always seems to happen). On our list ... mouth reeds, ice, and matches. While in town, we also couldn't resist the allure of chicken fried steak on the local cafe menu. This is usually reserved for AFTER an elk is shot, but since we seemed to be doing things a bit backwards this year, we gave in and filled our bellies. We were hungry!
When we got back to camp early that afternoon it was time to get scent free, charge cameras, load up the four wheeler and head out. We decided to hunt the beaver dam road tonight - the spot where I had a chance at a bull elk several years ago, shot right over his back, and killed a tree. As soon as we unloaded our gear from the four wheeler, I immediately knew something wasn't right. I felt ill. My pack was dropped as I made a mad dash for the woods. Ugh. What did I eat??? Either the water in my bladder was bad or the chicken fried steak was playing some kind of evil revenge on my body. After making three dashes for concealment in the woods while hiking just 100 yards in, I was beginning to wonder if I had brought enough toilet paper for our evening hunt. It's at this point I think I began eyeing leaves with a curiosity I've never had before. Enough said.
Since I wasn't feeling so hot, we decided to not go very far. We set up our Montana elk butt decoy and found a spot along a well-traveled path. There were lots of elk tracks, so we knew they were walking the path. It was just a matter of when. We sat there all evening, cow calling every once and awhile. Around 6:30, we began to wonder if we would get skunked. Troy stood up to stretch his legs, and so did I.
Then things changed in a moment.
I quickly and quietly told Troy, "Don't Move!"
An elk was walking down the path and looking right in our direction. Troy was in the process of putting his binocular harness on, therefore couldn't reach down and turn the video camera on which was sitting beside him. He was caught with arms in mid air trying to get his gear on. It was a bit comical as we stood there motionless, Troy in an awkward pose, with an elk walking straight towards us! As we stood there motionless, eyeballing each other, the spike elk was getting closer and closer. 20 yards. 10 yards. 3 yards!! At this point, I realized I might have to make a decision, which meant either ducking into the pine tree or possibly having a very up-close elk encounter. The elk made the decision for me. He stopped about a yard away and barked! WHOAH! That will rattle your bones. Upon realizing the pine tree was more alive than he would like it to be, the young bull retreated to around 30 yards. We kept our cool, picked up our bows and hoped that he would come back in and bring some friends.
It didn't take long before an additional two spike elk came down the path, along with a cow elk. They circled around and this time the cow let out a bark. They knew something wasn't right, but couldn't figure it out. We had the cow decoy set up perfectly, about 60 yards down the path. They kept trying to make their way over to the "cow" feeding along the path. However, our wind kept busting us. I almost shot the cow at one point. She came within 30 yards, but I never had a clear shot. Then she backed up to 40 yards and stood there for what seemed like an eternity. I finally convinced myself that I would be happy with a cow and if I could see her vitals when I stood up, I would release an arrow. I drew my bow from a sitting position and slowly stood up. An aspen tree perfectly blocked my view of her lungs. She barked at me and ran off, taking the young bulls with her.
We sat for a few moments in silence after the woods swallowed up the elk, who just moments ago stood directly in front of us. The adrenaline ran thick throughout my veins. My body shook uncontrollably, as my mind tried to control the rush. I once again remember why I love elk hunting. It is moments like this where sweet September whispers in my ear and encourages me to continue chasing after the sounds of bugling elk.
Elk Season 2014. A lot happened up on the mountain during the month of September. This year, our hunting camp consisted of just myself and Troy. We had a wonderful time together, learning how to hunt as a husband and wife team while chasing elk around the Colorado mountains. There were many memories made, that consisted of beautiful moments I wish could linger on, and other times where I wish I could go back and rewrite the story. Those tough hunts always seem to result in lessons learned ... even if they are hard to stomach at times.
I kept a diary almost every day while up on the mountain, and I'm once again opening up my elk hunting journals so that you can re-live these moments with me ... the good, bad and ugly. I'll clean up some of my entries a bit, simply because I was almost asleep by the time I sat down to write down the events of the day, and you wouldn't want to read through that mess. However, for the most part, I'll share with you each day's activities, the ups and downs of elk hunting, all the emotions I was feeling, and also lessons learned. I even have some fun videos to share!
So let's get it started! Here is my first entry ...
DAY ONE - OPENING DAY
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.