First off, let me say that, unfortunately, no elk were harmed during this adventure.
My Dad, brother in law (first time hunter) and myself signed up to hunt with Jim bryce outfitters
out of Delta, Colorado. Jim and Frankie were great people to meet upon walking in at their home
the morning we were heading up and Frankie makes a great cup of coffee for a chilled hunter.
My Dad and BIL came in from CA a couple of days early in order to acclimate....ok, it was eagerness on their part really.
Jim asked if we would be willing to go in a day early due to the snow falling and allowing him to bring in two smaller
groups versus one bigger one.
My Dad called me, I'm in Bayfield, CO, and asked if I could be there the next morning and go in early. I agreed and made a 5am drive over Red Mountain pass the next day. It was an un-eventful 4 hr drive due to snow, but I got there in time.
I made a quick stop for some extra long johns and a sweatshirt and we headed over to Jim's place. (See coffee remark above)
We met a couple of the guides and made small talk as Jim loaded horses and food up for the trip in.
It was working out to be a good time in my opinion, already I could see that of the 4 hunters going up early, we were going
to be friends and have some fun.
We made a 2 hr ride into camp on horseback in the falling snow with some fantastic scenery to help us out. The couple of guides going
up with us and Jim were friendly and talkative, ready to share info and stories and looking forward to hot coffee in camp.
The horses were calm and well broke and all the gear in great shape for our ride. It was uneventful other than Jim's warning that the
snow made for dangerous conditions and we would need to keep just our toes in the stirups in case a horse slipped and fell.
Of course its good advice, but it does make you a tad on edge....LOL
Needless to say all went safe with our ride in.
We arrived in camp and met a couple of other guides and our camp cook....with fresh coffee ready for us.
The tents were in great shape and insulated with heaters in them. We had electric lights set up and running off
a generator. The food cooking in the cook tent made you hungry just walking by.
Each tent sleeps 6 hunters with cots and pads provided. We all picked out our bunks for the week and settled in.
At that point, the dinner call came and we all ran to eat. The food tasted even better than it smelled.
We all sat and talked for a while. Wishing for big bulls, telling tall tales, letting the guides give us advice and
tell us of their seasons successes and failures. It was memories in the making without any of us knowing it.
We had the pleasure to have a newly retired Special Forces veteran with us in our tent, disability from action.
He kept us entertained with his stories and jokes, laughing many times at his own expense and his disabilities from
an IED and a grenade. Kevin is one hell of a soldier and one hell of a nice guy. Loud and obnoxious and he fit in perfect with
the rest of us in the tent.
The next morning, with a full day in camp to relax, my brother in law (Matt) and Kevin took a small hike just outside of camp.
They had the pleasure to pick up on two bulls, one probably pushing 340 and another one in the 300 range. It was a small excitable moment
but it made the day of those two. Matt is a new hunter while this was Kevin's first trip to Colorado and elk hunting.
I enjoyed hearing them tell about the elk while I kept warm in the cook tent with the coffee pot in reach, talking with my dad
and reliving old hunts from when I was a kid with him teaching me.
I don't get to hunt with my dad often, so it was more of a pleasure for me just being with him in camp than anything else.
That afternoon the rest of our hunters and guides arrived. It was a full camp with 12 hunters, 7 guides, and the cook.
Food was on, coffee was hot and stories were being told.... lots of laughter.
The hunt began well and everything went against us. A full moon, no more snow, lots of mud and even warmer days. The elk just stopped.
They were hiding well. We hunted dark timber, draws and canyons, every where elk should be with nothing to show for all the miles the
horses put us into as well as the wear and tear on our boots and muscles.
Still, there was laughter and talk each evening. More stories, invites to new states for local hunts courtesy of the locals in camp.
Guides told us funny stories of past clients, those that scored and those that didn't. Mad clients, happy ones, sad ones and ones that
just made mistakes.
We had our share as well...Dave hooked a branch with his HUGE day pack and made snow angels when he was removed from his horse, he actually did this twice.
Matt became a horse lover and would be running back to camp in the evenings with the guides laughing at him acting like a kid on the walmart quarter horse....I think we are going to buy him one... LOL.
The guide Big Luke being rachet strapped to his bunk at night by his fellow guides. His talking in his sleep was just as funny.
The guide Little Luke being made fun of all week because he dug the sh**ter hole and you stared at your knees when using it....even funnier when the guys were 6'+ and Luke is only about 5'2" with boots on.
Making fun of one of us or all of us from some past experience or some new one....
Dancing horses in the morning, the one eyed horse that was bomb proof and would go anywhere without a flinch, the dog that protected us all from bears at night.
The good food, the good laughter, the memories made, and the friendships created.
While we did not kill our trophy elk, we did kill some time on the mountain and created our own little tales to tell when we got home.
Some we will share with our familes and others we will share with other hunters, since only they will understand the sunrises we see, the sunsets we dred at the end of shooting light, the bears we think we smell when walking through the quakies, being cold, being hot, being sweaty and smelling like a horse at the end of the day, and the big elk we dream of at night on our cots.