Well, with the closing of this years muzzleloader season, I feel compelled to to share a really cool experience I had and the beginning of a new hopefully lifelong friendship formed. The Friday before opening day I had pulled up to our traditional campsite in the hopes we'd get it again. We've been lucky enough to have the same spot by the trail we use for the past four or five years. This time even though I arrived early in the day I found our spot taken and thought a little bummed, I figured that's the breaks and we'll just make due across the road. After getting situated I took off up the mountain for evening before scout trip and later that day as I was coming down I met up with the gentlemen who had the camp spot by the trail. I greeted him whispering as he was heading up to his hunting spot and he smiling greeted me back in a whisper. We stopped and chatted for a few moments he was bowhunting and had been here since the Sep. 1st traveling from Tennessee. He asked me to stop by his campfire that evening and I agreed to do so.
Well, that evening I met him again, his name is David, and he introduced me to his wife, Jeanette, and we got to know each other. I found them to be very gracious, modest, decent, kind, people and would later find how helpful they were as well. David shared with me that he had been to Colorado on hunts at least seven or so times before. He had actually killed a bull elk and a very nice mule deer buck some twenty years before on a Colorado rifle hunt. He said after that his trips out West always ran into some kind of problems where a hunting partner would have to cut the trip short after personal problems or not be ready for the mountains they had come to hunt and want to go home early.
Dave wasn't that type of hunter, he said his passion was bowhunting and he'd taken many whitetails back home since he started hunting at sixteen. He loves the West and he told me his ultimate dream was to take a bull elk with a bow. Dave's in his fifties but even after a couple of major arm, shoulder, and I believe knee surgery, he can still tackle the mountains better then I've seen some natives. He is an excellent woodsmen and shot competetively for many years with a bow. He said on this trip he thought his best chances would be hopefully being able to nail a cow on a trail which he had a makeshift blind beside even though he had an either sex archery tag.
Well the following Sunday I shot my buck and shared the news with him that evening. Also, felt kind of foolish as me and my dad discovered in packing all of our gear we forgot our packframe and Dave was kind enough to let us use his to pack my deer out that following Monday. Well, that Monday evening my dad was going to go back up the trail to our usual area. Dave had shared with me since hiking up that trail since he arrived Sep. 1st (it was now the 13th) he was getting a little bored with it and was going to try somewhere new for his evening hunt. I thought that was a good idea and offered to guide him into an area about six miles below where we where hunting. Dave was game and we decided to hit around 4 that afternoon.
That evening finds us hitting five mile loop in this area I know, me with a bear tag still in my pocket and Dave with his elk tag. We quitely stalked up the trail with me really hoping we'd might bump into some elk for Dave to sling an arrow at. After getting pretty deep into the area I was surprised to hear a distant bugle which Dave heard as well. Being I always got my calls with me I threw one out but we didn't a response and kept heading up the trail into the direction it came from. Finally on a ridge closer I let out another locater and to my surprise I hear two different responses from about 1/2 mile away. We keep creeping down the trail and I let out a bugle every so often and get responses that are coming closer. At a clearing I tell Dave to set up and I hide about fifty yards behind him. I'm bugling and cow calling and can hear at least 3 closing the distance. One got very close within 50 yards or so but darkness fell on us and we snuck on outta there. Dave told me walking back down the trail that night that his trip was made worth it that evening even if he didn't get anything. He said he felt like he was in a Primos video and it was a thrill to have elk screaming that close.
That evening I told Dave me and my dad decided to move camp and we be hitting this lower area where the elk where since my dad had a bull tag. I told him he was more then welcome to move camp with us and since he was bowhunting we wouldn't see it as hindering us since you bowhuntners are silent and sneaky. I told him I'd call and we'd set him and my dad up in different shooting lanes. Dave, as thoughtful as he is, declined and insisted I take my dad in there by himself and let him have first crack at it. He told me that he'd come visit our camp in the evenings to see how'd we done and might move camp by the weekend.
Well, to make a very long story shorter I'll shorten up the next two days. I took my dad in there and for the next mornings and evenings, I had bulls coming in but we weren't able to get them out in the open for a shot. My uncle finally arrived Wed. evening and after telling him of our experience he said it'd be no problem he'd get a bull in for my dad or him (he's killed at least ten elk with a bow and is very experienced calling them in). I had to leave that night to be home for a job interview on Thursday. I wished them well that night as they were frying up backstrap from my deer and headed home. Friday morning I get back to camp about 9 in the morning and eagerly strap on my gear and haul up the trail and after doing about 2 1/12 miles I meet them coming down and can tell by the smiles on their faces and the blood on their hands and jeans they got it done. My uncle had called one in and my dad took his third public land muzzleloader bull at seventy five yards. After making them tell me the whole story I turn back around with them to get the packframes to pack his bull out. When we get to camp lo and behold who is pulling with trailer in tow, but Dave. I was glad to see him and we shared the good news with him. Again, being the kind of guy Dave is he volunteers to get his pack frame and help us out so the four of us after a quick meal head back up the mountain with packframes. We get up there and thought my dad was ready to throw a hind quarter on his back (he's tough but at sixty seven those 75 pound hineys are tough to) Dave offered to carry one. He said he needed to prove it to himself and if he couldn't pack one out he had no business hunting up here. So with me and Dave hauling a hind quarter a piece and my dad and Uncle who's back has been hurting him take out all other boned out meet we head back down. Dave got a taste of packing out an elk (little did he know how soon he'd be doing it again) and we made it back to camp.
That evening we sat around the fire making plans for the next day. My dad and uncle were going to hit a different area to try and fill his deer tag since we weren't seeing any where the elk were. I told Dave let's get up at 4:30 get back into that general area and were going to get you your elk. He said he was game and said to me "you know Shaun, I'll be happy if I can arrow a cow". I told him whatever we can get you Dave, but I really think we've got a better chance of getting you a bull and assured him our chances were good. We solidified our plan and agreed to set our alarms for 4:30 and meet then.
Next very early morning comes and wouldn't you know it, my alarm doesn't go off. Thankfully Dave was up and ready to go and though he said he didn't want to cause he thought maybe I changed my mind he knocked on the camper door. I awoke threw my clothes and gear on wolfed down a boiled egg and we lit out urgently as I caused us to be about twenty minutes behind schedule. I was moving up the trail stopping for air when needed and pushing Dave pretty hard. I had told him before that I had been in the Navy when younger and at one rest stop as he came up to me huffing and puffing he said "Shaun, you sure you weren't in the Marines to". I guess he thought I marched up that trail pretty good.
We made it up into the area I planned to call and I had Dave set up in an area where he had pretty good shooting lanes in the aspen and pines. I set up about camoed out (I left my muzzleloader behind this morning not wanting to hunt bear just to call in a bull) and procedeed to let a bugle fly. Immediately there is a response about 500 or so hundred yards up the mountain. I then just let out some amorous sounding cow chirps and wait until I hear another bugle and again I let out a response and cow chirped. I only bugled one more time after a few minutes and could hear that bull getting closer. I then cow chirped urgently and could hear the bull breaking and creaking timber and grunting. He was CLOSE and I'm saying to myself "C'mon now Dave he's coming in he's going to give you a shot make it count.
As I'm there crouching on the dirt letting out a cow chirp hear and there I hear another bull sneaking in from behind me about fifty yards or closer. This was intense for me and I'm again just hoping Dave gets a shot. Right then to my right about forty yards from me I see a bull and he suddenly spins and bolts like a bat out of hell. I'm thinking "Did he smell me? The winds in my favor, did he see me????)!!! I keep crouched and chow chirp again wondering what went wrong and suddenly hear the biggest WOO HOO!!!!!! I think I've ever heard! It's Dave and from the sheer sound of joy and happiness in his voice I know it's good. I finally get up run over to him and he's smiling a smile two miles wide hands in the air and I glance towards the direction he's looking and fifty yards up the trail I see a bull flailing on the ground and finally his legs go up and then down. Me and Dave high five, hug, holler, and proceed the fifty yards up the rise and he's done it, he's accomplished a life long goal as a bow and elk hunter he's done it, we've done it and we couldn't be happier! We are on a natural high you can't believe and get down to picture taking and then quartering and meat care. That afternoon the same four of us, me, my dad, uncle, and Dave, come back and pack him out. We tease Dave he liked packing that hindquarter out so much of my dad's he came and got him one to pack. Dave in appreciation gives me his Garmin Rino 120 GPS. I've always wanted one and couldn't afford one at this time but told Dave no, I couldn't take it. He told me people pay thousands of dollars for an experience like that and said he wouldn't take no for an answer and so I know own that and will use and care for it well.
After we exchanged email and other contact info and I told Dave he's welcome in our camp anytime and we'll stay in touch to plan hunts in the future. Me, Dave, my dad, and uncle, like most of us here on this site do it right with fair chase paid in sweat, aching feet and backs, but oh so willing to pay it again and again. Please enjoy the following pics.