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HeavyC's picture
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2009 4th Season Northwest Colorado Hunt

Was inspired by Chris Roe's season LONG story on Bowsite; so bear with me if you care too... Evil!

Nov 7th
Out of town 1hr late and ALONE AGAIN! Not too bad all things considering! Usually ~6hr drive to my fav stomping grounds along the Wyo border and arrived at 2:45pm to a NEW spot I THOUGHT I would camp at ??? Nope! Still too much snow and all melting making a muddy mess of things! So back DOWN to the normal digs and lower elevations in a rush to get things up before darkness falls!

Was looking for some trees to camp by, but didn't seem to find any around so guess this will do! Up and good to go by 4:30! Still a few minutes to look around!

Good for tonight...stay tuned if you dare too!
(Please note 20'x12' "2 Season" tent for ONE person eye roll this comes to play later on in the adventure!)

Scouted close to camp for about 30 minutes till darkness fell and saw nothing, so back to camp for a quick bite and to bed early as I have plans to hit the high country for scouting long before daybreak in the morn!

Dogs & some killer soup does the trick!

Short light rain for a couple of hours that night, helped the sleep considering all the field mice jumping all around the place!!!!

...I won't be NEAR as long as Chris, though...so on to day two

Nov 8th
Up at 4:30 to a wet mess outside; make coffee and off to far off lands for a look see! Coming off of Hwy13 and onto cr38 I find ~100 muleys in full on rut! Couple nice bucks dueling it out and some smaller ones chasing the does around while the big boys are preoccupied They could care less I was driving right through them!

Driving to the higher ground I find ~2" if some fluffy white stuff above 8000'. Arrive at Bears Ears Trailhead 1144 by 5:50 and load-up and on the trail by 6:05.

Not two minutes into the hike I see the first sign! Though not the elk sign I am looking for; I DO by chance have a bear tag in my pocket as well (these are from later on the way down when the sun was shining )

HMMM? Only ~4" from heal to claw...would a cub this small be out all alone?

After about 2hours of following a single human track through the crusty snow I am nearing the saddle between Mt Oliphant & Mt Welba, unfortunately I have seen no elk sign only a small 'kitty' track at about 9800'! Must be bobcat, pretty small so likely not a lynx. Some squirrel, some bird and chipmunk, NO elk! Once I got past the 9K mark, the snow had deepened sightly to a good foot of old stuff with the dusting from the night before.

What is this? No more human tracks and sunlight peaking through for the first time! Oh joy!

All the elk sign I did find was old and almost all was headed downhill! Dang it, everyone has been telling me they are still high! ...and here I thought they meant in elevation eye roll

Made it to the saddle at 8:35 and 10,020' and decided to not go any further and turned around.

Mt Oliphant from the saddle area

Back to the truck by 10am and decide to head east to Slater & Califas Parks to have a look. Take the long way around via Cr38 to check on another seldom used State Trust land and then take 82/80 all the way around trhough Slater, Califas, by Jummy Dunn Gulch and down into Hayden by 1ish. Saw a few more deer along the way and one cow w/ a calf near the south end of California Park, that's it!

Went to the range and shot the rifle...WOW, glad I did! Went through almost a box of rds and got it 'close', but had to save a few for the hunt!

Then thought I might wet a line at Elkhead Res while heading back northwest, but got there after 4pm so did not waste the $6 for justa short fish.

Back to camp by 5:30 and breakfast for dinner, Eggs, potatoes & homemade greenchile for din din!

Midnight strikes for the 'first' time! Thought a stampede was coming through cause it sure wasn't those darn mice this time! What the heck?

Ahhh...some stock decided to pay me a visit and finish of the old grain & hay left behind from previous visitors!

Wild? It is on a vast BLM range...though that one looks like a mule!

They stomped around all night after that and about brought the tent down a couple of times!

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2009 4th Season Northwest Colorado Hunt

Good story and loved the pics...

elkkill06's picture
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2009 4th Season Northwest Colorado Hunt

Great story and super pics. Thanks for sharing. Yes

exbiologist's picture
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2009 4th Season Northwest Colorado Hunt

Thanks for sharing dude, so much better than saying you didn't see squat or just posing with your kill.

HeavyC's picture
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2009 4th Season Northwest Colorado Hunt

Now for the next day of scouting ...two days to opener!

Nov 9th
Might want to add that the morn of the 8th & this day the 9th the wind was very soft and early on out of the south east while later in the morn and early afternoons it was more from the northwest. Though simply gorgeous both days and also Sat afternoon when I showed up!

Since I saw absolutely nothing positive up high on Sunday morn, I thought I just better try the same ol` local this morn.

Awake at 4:30 and coffee & outmeal for breakfast. I then head the 8 miles to the regular digs. Which on the dirt county road takes 22 minutes to reach the parking area which is on the far north end of the BLM property I would be glassing.

I get there a bit early and it is still only 5:45 so can't see a lick yet. Right around 6am I can almost see my favorite hay fields, along w/ the creek bottom directly below them, that run from the south to the north for the entire length of the fields, as well as the small hills that also run parallel to both for the length of the property.

At 6:10 I can finally see the fields and to my glorious amazement there are roughly ~250 elk using the fields!!!!!! BINGO! And, just as the first batch of about 75ish are grouping closer together and trying to figure out what to do. Within a minute the first cow makes the call and jumps the fence and starts towards the creek bottom. Like norm, the next follows and the next and the next, etc, etc... (You all know the deal here) Once they reach the water they break and I am assuming they are watering as they take a good 10 minutes or so to cut through it. The creek drainage can be 20-30 deep in a few spots, but I am pretty sure they are just taking a break to water-up for the afternoon naps. At this same time the next group of about the same size are gathering around closer and closer to that fence line seperating the fields from the creek and they start over just as the first group is now cutting across the sage bottom towards that first hill/ridge line. Now this little bottom is never more than 400-500 yds wide at its widest and never less than 300 yds between hill bottom and creek. The remaining group, which I immediately nickname the "late crew" is still spread-out and feeding in the fields, though keeping a close eye on the first two bunches. I was trying to count at one point, but there is slightly over 100 head remaining in this second shift crew. By now the first group is starting to disappear around the second ridge that jutts outs from the ridgeline, & maybe a mile away from where I am. The second crew is also taking the same length of time getting through the creek so again I am positive they are watering. ...the "late crew" is still chomping away and it is now 6:40 and I can see pretty good.

Now I know this layout pretty well from hunting here for the last [5] yrs, and where I am watching the first group go out of site I know the hill side to be pretty steep. Though this of course would be no real problem for the elk as you all know they at times think they are goats! I am thinking though that once they get to the hill they are going a bit further to the south as there are a couple of very good natural funnels to get them to that first plateau above. They soon head out of sight and the second batch is also making its way across the sage bottom in the exact same direction. Though the "late crew" still doesn't have a care in the world it would seem. Though I could not tell in the first group due to darkness, I can see that in the second batch there are at least a couple of larger bulls, but just can't quite make them out very well.

Now with the late crew though, which were also the northern most group and much closer to my location I can see that there are two really nice bulls and a couple of raghorns in the group as well!

Finally, right at about 7am they can see the sun finally start peaking of the mountains to the east and seem to be getting stir crazy. One of the large cows further out in the field starts running across the crew and they instantly start grouping up closer together. They are actually edging a bit north as they do so and looking at the mountains directly behind me which is WYOMING!!! NO, NOT THERE I am saying! though a couple of minutes later a cow starts off towards the fence and the creek just a bit further north than where the first two groups crossed. They too take their own sweet time getting throught the creek, but afterwards are heading in the same general direction as all the others. I watch them for a few more minutes and as they disappear around the hills, I realize I just do not know exactly where they are climbing the ridge! So I start-up the truck and book it around to the road on the west side of the farm as It is a bit higher ground and I can see the ridgeline from there and should be able to see where they go up the hill. When I get there I just don't find them and I do not see them in the sage flats below so I figure I was too slow in my realization! ... NOPE! There are the last three on top of the ridge just heading out of sight onto the first plateau before the real mountains start! Now, where I saw them is right between the two natural routes I knew were there. HMMM?

At least I knew there were elk around and I was now stoked!

Exited & wanting to get in some fishing while I was out & about and not stopping at Elkhead Res the previous day I am aching to get a line wet. I remember finding a SWA area along the Little Snake, but for the life of me I could not remember its name, and OF COURSE the last page of my SWA brochure was tore out with the list by county which showed Routt Cty where I did remember it being. Well, I thought I could head to Craig and pick one up and just hit Elkhead on the way back and maybe the Snake on another day.

On to Craig and the search for a SWA brochure. First Wally World, nope out! Then Murdoch's, nope out! Craig Sports, K Mart both OUT! AHHH Heck with it I know what Elkhead's name is and where it is located!

9:30 by the time I get there and start throwing some hardware around hoping to get into a smalljaw or maybe a pike or two! Start with some topwater and a Zara Puppy Jr, no love after 15 minutes, so I give a football jig and a hula grub a try...NADA! Then a couple different X-Raps, a couple spinners, and lastly different color tube jigs and nothing! The only action I had in the [3] hrs I fished was a close pass by a hammer handle pike on the football jig, and the two crawdads I did land on the tube jigs!! DOHHH!

Another beautiful day though in northwest Colorado!

By this time the elk are still weighing heavily on my mind, & I get a wild hair and figure it is mid afternoon now so I decide to fly back north and hike into the sage flats to find a good ambush spot for opening morning in case the elk stay using the hay for the next couple of days. Get there at 1:35 and jump right outta the truck and start hiking in. [1] hr in I am to where I last saw them when they disappeared and almost to those two natural slopes running to the high ground. I think to myself, I bet they went that way! I get to the base of the hill directly below where I had seen the last three elk vanish and see a plethora of HIGHWAYS cutting through the prairie! Hmmm, where could I set up?

In order to try and give y'all a better picture of the layout....

The middle hay field where the furthest north "late crew" was staged up. Taken from that spot below the ridge where I stopped.

Then just a bit further south of that where the first two groups came out of.

In those you can also see the creek drainage directly in front of the hay fields and also the sage flats that run to the ridgeline where I am now standing at the bottom of.

Now, the 'north' Highway" up the hill and as you should be able to see in the pic, quite well used!

Then, the second funnel about a qtr mile to the south, just to the right of the small juniper at the top of the hill center picture.

After looking around for a bit, I find a couple of bigger bunches of sagebrush where I could possibly set-up for an ambush and mark them on my GPS.

I head up the north route and once on top a quick look at the first batch of 'larger' hills just above, where I am sure they prolly ended up.

I head back to the truck and it is now 3:20 and decide I can 'almost' remember the directions to that SWA, just not the name...HMMM? I remember it was something like, east out of Baggs for 17.5 miles then south on Colorado County road something or another for 3.5 miles. At least I think! Ahh, what the heck, what a nice day and off I go!

Head out of Baggs and signs keep saying road closed 21 miles ahead, then just about 17+ miles out of Baggs and just after running into Colorado I hit Cr129, looks promising. Along that way, all signs now say CR129 closed 4 miles ahead. As I am getting to about that point, wala! "Grieve Ranch Public Hunting Access Easement"! Heck, nice new brick vault toilet too, and some nicely leveled ground for camping! On the same sign it states, fishing access to The Little Snake River at the end of CR129, so onward I go another 1/2 mile to the deadend and a bridge that long since looks tore out!

River looked great, but again not a single bite in the hr I had to fish it before darkness again fell on northwest Colorado! Dang, skunkarooney again!

Back to camp & ham sandwiches and beer for dinner while listening to the Broncos on the radio! Now sorry I found that station! Turned that one off early and hit the hay!

Sorry to tease you, but here is to a close on yet another wonderful day, and to looking at another night of listening to those darn field mice all night long!

cowgal's picture
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2009 4th Season Northwest Colorado Hunt

Hey HeavyC - thanks for sharing your story and photos! Thumbs up

Its a bummer the Broncos lost!

Let us know how your story ends.

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2009 4th Season Northwest Colorado Hunt

Once again great story and thanks for the pics....

HeavyC's picture
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2009 4th Season Northwest Colorado Hunt

Hope y'all like bad movie endings....! eye roll

Onward we go...

Nov 10th

MUCH more wind this am when up again at 4:30, coffee brewed and off again to check on 'MY' elk!!

Yep, confirmed [22] minutes to parking area again. Wind is also blowing pretty good like it normally does around these parts, but still coming from the SE at 5:44 when I pull into the parking spot. Storm must be moving in as it is much cloudier and MUCH darker out!

One thing that has been nagging me all night is whether or not they are actually going by those two brushy spots I marked on my GPS! Or, are they just crossing and then going north or south to one of those funnels or not? So as I sit here thinking about it and sipping my fresh ground beans I ponder this concern further! HMMM? I am thinking that once I see some leaving I better high tail it over to the west rd as fast as possible so I can confirm this or not as it might make my opening morning or not!

Definately a dark night this morn! Can hardly make a thing out at all this day and it is already 6:10! Darn it! Needless to tell all a y'all, but by now my eyeballs are bruised from pressing against binos & a spotting scope for 3.5 days strait!!! Funny how I feel it this morn as I struggle to see anything at all.

OH CRUD!!!!!! There are around 150-200 head already cutting across the sage flats towards the hills!!! Shoot!!!! In reverse, and then into high gear speeding around to the west rd to try and verify my assumptions!

Whew! I make it to my other glassing spot and am able to confirm that they are in fact using the southern funnel!

There they all are in single file strolling up that ridge! Though I can now also tell they are coming across the creek and turning directly south towards that point and would make a fairly far shot attempt from either of the two spots I had marked! DOHHHH! Ah heck that's OK, I can just walk in there again this afternoon when they head high and check on a new ambush point! As I finally watch the remainder crest the ridgeline and disappear onto the plateau I can now start to see the fields below and cannot believe that there are still well over 200 head in the hay! Wow, that is sweet! Means that ~ 400 head were here last night at least and maybe every night for all I know. Maybe those had been leaving before I could see yesterday morn too! The others are in no hurry to leave and it is already 7:30!

I then book-it back around to the north parking spot to scope out the remaining herds to check on any shooter bulls.

I get comfortable and am finally starting to see the valley and fields pretty decent by now and can tell there are quite a few bulls mixed in. Cept I just cannot quite tell quality yet. Just before 8am the next batch start to gather-up and sure enough the first cow starts her decent into the creek bottom. AND, again confirming the watering factor for me. Heck, might as well fly back around to the west rd and see if they too are going the same route up the slope, so off I go! Yep, exact same path! From here I can also see that the "late crew" is pretty much the same size and likely are the same group! Again, they are in no hurry to stop their eating habits. WHAT THE HECK? It is after 8am already and they look like they may be content to stay all day!! This worries me beings I am so selfish about 'MY' elk and as yet I am pretty confident that I am the only one hunting them! Even though progressively more & more hunters are moving into the area, I am pretty sure that no one else has seen them yet as everyone I have seen or talked to have been scouting/glassing way high or simply road scouting to date. Now if they stay in the fields all day, and being the day before opener I am now sure someone will have to seen them soon enough! And then the mountain might just get as crowded as it is during 2nd & 3rd seasons! :(

8:15 no movement! 8:30 no movement! Dang it, go hide already!!!! LOL!

8:45 passes, as does 9am! Then 9:15! COME ON ALREADY!

Finally at just after 9:30 they start grouping up and crossing the darn fence line into the creek! Now go get out of sight already! Just messing w/ me for sure! They are sure taking their own sweet time about getting outta the bottom, and when they finally do they are again looking into Wy! NO!!!!! On a positive note, I can finally see two definate shooter bulls! One a very nice 6x6 and the other though much bigger in body, width & height is a 5x6. His 6 point side is very nice with his last forks very deep and long, but his other side has a good long 5th point close to 3 ft long! He is just huge though and from a 1000 yds away he is easily noticable from all others in the crowd. A small handful (4) of raghorns finish out the late crew on the bull side of things. Again, I count just over 100 hd in this final group. They are just not going anywhere. At 9:54 they are finally moving towards the ridgeline, but this time heading in more of a northeast direction towards me. After crossing the flat in a much wider and a much more visible local, they finally turn slightly more eastward and are heading up the very first draw/saddle in the ridgeline! Maybe only 1/3 of a mile from my truck. As they break the flats and start up the hill they turn right (south) and hit the first north facing slope exactly where I bagged a decent fork horn muley in 2007. The wind is also starting to pick up a bit more and def over 25 mph constant and in the exact wrong direction that I would need in the morning as it is coming mostly from the east/southest and would be blowing into their faces as they would be coming off the fields!

Now it is also after 10 and they are settling in right there! With as many hunters in the area as I am seeing now, my secret is suredly not going to last for long! I am also out of luck on my plans to head in there and find a new ambush spot! Let alone, I now have this late crew that has the only bulls that
I have confirmed, that keep staying on the north end and might not even go the same way at all!

However I am confident that I can find my way in the dark to the point on the ridge I need to, but also means I am going to have to find that ambush spot long before daybreak in dark tomorrow morn!

Off to camp to get my gear in check & clean my gun which I still haven't done since shooting Sunday afternoon.

After that time to pack-up!

In my Cabela's Alaskan frame pack which I have the bag/pack on, I load up...

-my game cleaning kit consisting of a VERY nice JA Henckels 5..5 inch flex boner knife, a 6" Forschner lamb skinner, meat hook, diamond sharpener stone, Gerber saw & rubber covered cloves.
-New 5'x7' plastic tarp
-[2] larger heavy cotton game bags
-Otis gun cleaning kit
-[5] extra Energizor Ultimate Lithium AA batteries for headlamp & GPS if needed
-[2] liters of water in the bladder
-[1] extra liter of water in bottom of pack
- ~50' of [7] strand 550# parachute cord
-[1] SET of Kings Desert Shadow rain gear
-[1] new bottle of Primos Silver XP
-Camera
-[2] Nature Valley Almond & Butter Toffee coated granola bars
- and last but most certainly most important a good amount of Charmin! };-)

I also lay out my clothes
-Knee high & PLUS sized nylons
-Knee high Danner wool sock
-size 11 Danner 8" Sharptail II boots
-UnderArmour Boxer Briefs
-Polertec Expedition weight long underwear as I will likely be sitting in the wind!
-generic cargo pants in Advantage Timber Camo, 75% off from Littleton Sportsman's store closing sale :(
-UnderArmour Coldgear 3.0 Extreme Weather leggings
-UnderArmour Loose fit t-shirt
-Wally World Polyester Sweater
-Redhead Mt Stalker 4 in 1 coat in which I load - GPS, Rangefinder, generic Blaze skull cap, camo gloves (Light pr), [1] rd of 250 grain Nosler Partition in (R) pocket & [1] rd in (L) pocket.
-In pants I load - [1] pair of wool mittens convertible to fingerless in one cargo packet, in the other cargo I load my tags along with [2] ballpoint pens, [4] zip ties & extra set of foam earplugs. In the front (L) pocket I load tube of chapstick and [1] rd of ammo. In the front (R) I throw [3] rds of ammo that will be loaded in the gun & a set of foam ear plugs. In the (L) back pocket I throw a snot rag and in the back (R) pocket I throw even more Charmin!
-I then lay my Browning Blaze baseball cap on top of the heap!

READY TO GO!!!

At high noon, the wind picks-up even more and still out of the southeast for the most part, but I keep catching it swirling and at times from the northwest, but regardless still whipping pretty well and over 35mph at times!!

BOY! Are there a lot of hunters around now! The main roads are highways now and all I see are binos & scopes!

I decide to head back north and check on 'MY' elk, and at 12:54 they are still there in plain sight for all to see! As I was getting there I past several trucks scoping-out the area, but I could tell that still no one were looking down low where the late crew was held up! Even those that past the road right by them never looked right in front of them to see the elk and just drove right on by! I also notice the wind is now blowing strait outta the west and that would be ideal come morning as the wind would be blowing directly into my face & my scent would be blowing right up over the ridge behind me and away from 'MY' elk coming out of the fields.

Running low on petroleum products I figure I do not want any spotters to see me watching them and decide to head into Baggs again to top off the truck so off I go. Anyway, gotta flirt again w/ the cute girl showing all the cleavage at the Quickstop!

Back to camp a bit after 3pm and start cooking my traditional 'night before opener' meal of spaghetti & Italian sausage! Done by 4:15, but I just can't stand it and head north again to check on 'MY' elk one last time before darkness again falls on northwest CO!

Get to my usually glassing spot on the west road as to not attract attention to the "late crew" that actually has already started across the sage flats towards the fields! WHAT ARE THEY DOING! Don't move in early before nightfall! I am now sure that someone will be by in the next hour and bust them! As I am sitting there a couple trucks come by slow, but again looking high when glassing and apparently not even glancing into the bottom! Then a couple more, and a couple more!! Someone has got to see them soon! Well now the "late crew" has made it to the creek and are not coming over the rise into the hay fields! HMMM? VERY good though as a truck is parked directly below me and [4] guys are glassing HARD! Luckily though the "late crew" routine must be to water when entering the fields as well as when exiting the fields! 20 minutes pass and the truck finally zooms off w/o ever knowing the late crew was actually right under their noses! WHEW again!

Is it wrong to be so selfish? There are hundreds of elk afterall and I do only have two tags in my pocket!

Just as it is getting too dark to see I catch the first of the cows to enter the hay followed closely by the pack! Minutes later, darkness finally arrives and to my wonderous amazement I am feeling VERY confident that I alone, in all the world, am the only hunter to know that 'MY' elk, are having their way each day in this valley laid out before me! TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL!!

Back to camp with the intention of hitting the hay as early as possible!

And yet another end to a day during my 2009 elk camp! Sorry no pics related to the hunt today. Not sure why, maybe I was just too wired on thoughts of elk dancing in this feable brain of mine!

Though here is one for everyone to help out on, what kinda grouse is this bird? I usually see hundreds of them in this area each year, but this year just like the monster mulies I always see, they too seem to be few and far between this year! I still saw many a dozen around, but no where near the hundreds I usually do each year! I have been wanting to come up and hunt them, but just never have got around to doing so!

Good night, hope I sleep tight!

hang in there...the ANTI climax is coming soon!

Critter's picture
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2009 4th Season Northwest Colorado Hunt

Well, at least it sounds like you are having fun. That little bird is a Sage Hen where I was hunting antelope in Utah this year there were hundreds of them with some of them looking as big as turkeys, at least when you find them in the open with the spotting scope.

HeavyC's picture
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2009 4th Season Northwest Colorado Hunt

They are big! Twice the size of Dusky/Blue Grouse.

HeavyC's picture
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Location: Greeley, CO
Joined: 07/19/2008
Posts: 635
2009 4th Season Northwest Colorado Hunt

Greater Sage grouse and are NOT open to hunting in CO GMU 4!!!

Dang it! Brick Wall,) Brick Wall,)

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