I started hunting Colorado about 5 years ago. Simply because i love to hunt elk and cant get enough of it at home in Oregon. I decided that one tag year was way too little. The first year we hunted there was a muzzle loader cow hunt and i walked up the hill out of camp, shot a cow first thing and was done. later years were not quite as easy. I got tired of seeing Bulls with a cow tag so i started archery hunting and building points. 2012 was an amazing year and i had multiple bulls coming in screaming to under 30 yards almost every day including one shot opporotunity that just didn't quite work, so when 2013 hit and I drew the Muzzleloader Bull tag.... I figured i had it made in the shade. Those of you who hunted Colorado 2nd or 3rd week of Sept last year may remember it was a little damp. Opening morning, me and my buddy drop in on opposite sides of a canyon. that way we can get a pretty good idea of where things are running. (The canyon we hunt is STEEP) So I drop in about a 1/2 mile from the road and it is DUMPING. I snuggle up under a bush and wait for it to ease. I've got rain gear etc, but it doesn't make any difference as there is a river running down my neck. I sit there for an hour or so until i cant take it anymore and decide to head back up to the road. Visibilty almost zero and not sure if my muzzleloader will fire. I get up the ridge a bit and find a big Fir tree that i can get under... ahhh! almost heaven. Since i can actually settle in out of the rain and i am already wet, i decide to wait it out for awhile more. I figure my hunting buddy has gone back to camp as he is an older gentleman and smarter than me. half hour or so later, rain eases and i work my back down in the canyon a bit until i can see across, and i am astounded to see the orange vest of my buddy one the other side! (come to find out, he saw a 5 point and some cows on the way in that got his blood pumping) I wave and drop down the steep hillside and start sidehilling. I see plenty of sign but nothing answers my calls and i dont see any animals (I do get a flash of brush moving at one point but don't get a good look). I continue to slowly sidehill, cow calling and looking through an area we usually see elk in. During this, the rain comes back with a vengeance. I have the hood on my rain gear up and am only seeing out through a small tunnel. Visibilty is not much as it is like looking through a waterfall. A couple of hours later, i get to the upper end of the canyon area we were hunting and i check in with my buddy on the radio. He says "you didn't see that bull you walked about 50 yards from"? #@&*&! NO! "looked like a 5 or 6 point and he never moved. Cows were right above you and the bull was just below. Didn't look like you bothered them at all and they eased off down the canyon later." Rain continues to dump and i am soaked. Rifle is soaked, Ken and I decide to head back to camp and dry out/regroup. Evening hunt ended up being a short easy one with nothing special happening. The next morning i head right back into the canyon but do not find anything and do not see any fresh track.
The next 4 days, i try some other good areas but do not find any real excitement. Nothing talking and everyday is WET (not just a bit of rain but just plain miserable pouring at times!)
Day 6, we are back in the same canyon but closer to the head of it. Before daylight I drop in and work my way sidehill towards a trail I know of. i catch a glimpse of brown in the very bottom as a Cow busts out an crosses the bottom. I realize she must have been bedded just below where i came through earlier. She crosses and heads up the other side diagonal towards where i believe my buddy is setting(he has cow tag), i wait for awhile and dont hear anything. I try him on the radio, no answer. About 10 minutes later, i try him again and he answers. No, he didn't see anything, he was late getting to his spot and had just gotten there! I continue to hunt my side of the ridge with no further excitement. That evening, i decide to hunt his side. There is a pocket that i figure the cow was headed towards and maybe there are other elk in there also. I work my down in there and catch just a flash as a 5 point jumps up at 50 yards. He gets behind a bunch of oak brush and no shot is open. Ignores cow call. He seemed very spooked. I dont think he smelled me or even got a good look but had obviously been jumped already. I circle and ease towards where i think he went. I hear him down the hill a bit and ease towards him. He blows out of there down the hill. I can hear the brush popping for some time.
Day 7, i drop in near where i jumped the bull the night before. I try a locate bugle and for the first time I get some answers. at least three, all are further up canyon and one sounds like it is on my side. I stay high on my side and start working my way up canyon. I get up the canyon aways and try calling again. I get two answers from the other side but nothing from my side. The two that i hear are near the general area where the cow came from the day before and even though i haven't called anymore, they stay vocal for awhile. I hang out on an overlook glassing and listening for awhile making my plan. (not sure how i am going to get to where the bulls are as the canyon is nasty and in some places cant be crossed because of cliffs) At this point, i probably haven't called (bugle or cow call) for 20 minutes or so. Its warmed up a bit, so i pull my pack off and start stuffing my sweatshirt in. I am leaned over with my head down when a bull screams at under 40 yards. I jump like a snakebit cat. Heart is pumping so hard i am sure it sounds like drum. I cant see him at all as there is a huge Oak thicket between us. Downhill, he will wind me as wind is blowing towards the uphill. Uphill, is really nasty and will take sometime to move. I cow call, thinking all i need to do is get him to move sideways just a little bit and i will see him. ....Nothing. i wait...nothing.. I work my way uphill around the huge thicket... nothing. He's gone! I never figure out where he went. Once i give up on that bull, I ease down towards the bottom. The bulls aren't talking anymore and i try to find a way across the bottom towards them. It's pouring again. i get to the creek bottom and try and find a way across. I end up doing a boulder scramble/cliff crawl and jump across the crack between two boulders to get across. Heart is pounding. Other side is almost shear. Work my way uphill when i can and sidehill down canyon. Scrambling and sliding everyother step. Go down hard a couple of times and end up back at the bottom. Work my way sidehill holding onto limbs to keep from sliding (did i mention it was raining and muddy). A side creek comes in to the main canyon and it is NASTY. Choked full of Brush that you cant push thorugh, sides are steep with about a 10 foot drop. I get across by balancing on a downed tree while holding onto limbs of uphill brush. i am in a hellhole and cant see a way out. I am thinking to myself, I just want to get out at this point, i couldnt even get an elk out of here. Thats when i see brush moving uphill from me maybe 40 yards. I am looking up at about a 60 degree angle and all i can see is a the brush move a little. I have my Muzzleloader ready.... . I cant move uphill or side hill effectively. Dont want to risk the slip and it would need at least one hand to hold on to brush... I try Cow calling. All i get is a slurping noise (did i mention it was raining) I have a spare in my pocket just in case , gurgle gurgle, !$$%! Rain! I move a couple of steps uphill trying to see, OH CRAP! Bull! HUGE BULL! He whirls as i throw my muzzleloader up and then all i see is flash or two of brown through the brush. No ethical shot. I realize i just missed my chance at what i am guessing is a 300 or 320 class bull. Heart and andrenaline pounding and you also have the letdown of realizing that its over and you didnt get a shot. Stand there for a few moments panting. The few steps that i moved uphill has put me on a bit of a ledge so i use it to move sideways. I see a patch of yellow brown above. 50 yards. Hmm, thats about the same color as an elk. I look with Binoculars... no, i think thats a rock. Some of the rimrock here has that color. I look some more, sure looks like an elk color. I move a few steps left and look with binocs again. It hasn't moved, must be a rock. Another step left. I can see darker patch with the binocs. Thats the cheek of an elk and i can see a bit of antler, what i thought was a rock is his ribcage. can't be a big bull or i could see more antler. I cant see his eyegards to see if he is legal. I keep easing around and looking, must have taken a minute or more, he finally gets nervous and eases off. I never get a good look at his head. I thought he was legal but am for sure not going to take the chance. Crap! thats two chances blown. I work my along the ridge following tracks and finally meet up with where my buddy was sitting. As the crow flies i have only gone about a mile and a half but its take most of the day and i am exhausted and drained. Once i have filled my buddy in, we look up at the sky and realize that its fixing to go from raining to OMG who turned on the firehose. We hustle up the hill and get most of the way out before it hits.
LAST DAY. We run the fourwheelers around the road and drop in on the opposite side above where i jumped the huge bull. Still dark I park my four wheeler walk over to the tree line, lean my Muzzleloader against a tree and start taking a leak. HOLY HELL! Elk jump out practically from under my feet and crash through the brush. my excitement eases as i realize it was a cow and calf but it still gave me heart attack. My buddy decides to circle and head down ridge. He may see them again and if not he will set up around the trail i followed yesterday. I give him a head start and drop down the hill towards where i saw the big bull. i slowly work my way down canyon, cow calling and listening. I get down quite a ways and look across. On the other side is a 4X5 bull and 3 or 4 cows. I remember what its like to get across the bottom and cringe. I call my buddy on the radio and have him work towards me so we can make a plan. I cow call as i am watching the bull. He ignores for awhile and then moves his cows diagonal up canyon towards the bottom and gradually goes out of sight. While i am waiting for my friend, i cow call. A lot! I am tired and frustrated and i really think they should come to me. Holy cow! I just had an elk bugle at me from the head of the canyon. He calls agai closer. I dont know if it the same bull but i dont care. Ive got one coming. My friend shows up and i explain whats going on. Bull is still coming and i am cow calling now and then. Me and my friend set up on the trail i followed yesterday with me about 30 yards farther forward. Bull is still calling and getting closer. I hear brush cracking below the trail. and then the Bull screams a challenge about 70 yards out. Uphill from the trail. i still hear brush cracking below the trail. and then nothing... I dont know what to do. I cow call, nothing, I bugle nothing, i am afraid if move down the trail with the bull above me, i will never see him (steep hillside again). after waiting for awhile, i move down the trail...nothing, i circle, nothing. I circle downhil to try and get ahead of the other elk i heard (i am assuming the ones downhill were the cows) nothing. I dont know where he went and didnt find anything else. and that was about it for 2013. We loaded up and headed home in the morning. Full of ups, downs and excitement, but no elk. But thats sort of the nature of elk hunting.