This year started out with a bang! On January 19, 2016 I was promoted to Driver Engineer for the fire department I have worked for 12 years. With my wife on the road, work duties at Shot Show 2016, I was blessed to have my father-in-law pin my driver badge on for me. It's a tradition where the individual being promoted has a family member pins the new badge that they are promoting to on their chest. I was honored to have Jon to the pinning for me since Emily wasn't able to be there.
With the promotion behind me, my thoughts started to set in on the hunting season ahead. Emily and I had drawn our elk and deer tags for the unit we have been hunting for the past 12 years. With that said, there were a couple of times we didn’t draw and had to go "over the counter" in another unit. So we were excited to get back into the area we know and love to be in, because we have become good friends with most of the folks that we have met up on the mountain over the years.
This year was no different. Jeff, a friend I had met and helped get an elk, was coming back to Colorado from Illinois for his elk hunt. Along with Jeff, two other gentleman we know, Mark and Darwin, will be there also. They would be in camp for thirty days and Jeff would come the last two weeks with another guy that’s new to camp. We texted most of the summer once we had drawn our tags.
With opening day only a couple weeks away, I had been trying to get the camper packed up and all my gear and Emily’s gear situated. Suddenly, one morning at work I woke up and my right elbow started to hurt. In fact, it hurt so bad that I was unable to pick up a cup of coffee with my right hand! I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was unsure if with pain I felt in my right elbow if I could even draw back my new 70lb Hoyt Carbon Defiant 34. Immediately I called another guy on the department that had the exact problem but he couldn’t even hold on to a pen to write his name. This guy is a pro shooter and also owns the archery pro shop in town. After speaking to him, he told me more then likely I had a case of bursitis in my elbow. He also stated that he just finished electrotherapy on his and it’s back to 100% but it took over six months of therapy. I was in disbelief that this was happening. It was like I was on the ground because someone just kicked me in the stomach and took all the wind out of me.
What was going on with me? I had never experienced this before. I had never really had any joint problems, even in the 10 + years of riding bulls. Finally I decided to keep it under my hat and to tuff it out. After finishing my last day of duty before leaving for elk camp, my elbow was still giving me grief and I had not shot my bow since the Extreme Archery Challenge at Snowbird Utah. I set out to elk camp on the Wednesday before opening day. I arrived to camp and there was no one other camp in the area. (The very reason I leave so early, so I get the camping spot we like.)
I set up camp that day and took two ibuprofen before climing into bed and calling it a night. The next morning I woke up and it felt like someone had drilled a 3” deck screw right into my elbow. It was pain like I had never felt before. I got up, put ice on my elbow, took two more ibuprofen and made a cup of coffee. After stretching my elbow out and working it a little bit, it started to loosen up and felt better.
Grabbing my pack and optics, I headed for a hillside known for having elk on it. Arriving at my destination late in the afternoon there was absolutely NO SIGN of elk in the area. This is completely crazy!
I have never seen it like this before. I have seen the elk population declining in the area for the past 5 – 7 years but not to see a elk at all is hard to swallow. I know this area like the mountains around the town I grew up in, in Wyoming . Never have I been up here in this area and not so much as seen a cow before opening day. Going back to camp in the dark I was feeling a little out of sorts. What was the deal this year with me? First it’s the elbow and now no sign of elk in the area I have come to know so well.
Arriving back at camp, Mark and Darwin were setting up their camp. Greeting them with the news of my elbow and not seeing any elk they still were very positive about the up coming season. These guys are great! I have a tendency to be a glass is half empty and they on the other hand are the total opposite. They are very upbeat and always have a glass half full attitude. Emily arrived that night prior to opening day, the next morning we headed down to get a closer look at the area I had glassed two nights prior and it was as it seemed. Nothing! No fresh sign anywhere… What was going on? Emily and I spent the full day walking and glassing for elk and found ZERO. That night we got back to camp to find Mark and Darwin grinning from ear to ear. We jumped out of our jeep and asked, "did you guys get one?" Darwin’s reply was “ONE.!?” (as he laughed)
We followed them around the tree at the back of their camp and hanging in the tree were not one, but two elk racks! One 4x4 and one 5x5 hanging there. They had both tagged out within the first 20 minutes of opening day. I stood there in awe of these guys. I was so happy for them, especially since they had filled their tags that cost them so much money to put in for every year. It's always nice to see friends fill their freezer and go home with good healthy meat to feed their families. While talking to them, they told us the locations of where they had harvested their bulls and we knew the exact areas. We had never seen any elk in that area, but had seen some good mule deer in there. Elk are a crazy animal to chase because you never can tell where they will be and how they will be acting at that point in time.
That was only the first day. The season was about to heat up for us! Part II of this story is up next.
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.