7 replies [Last post]
Location: Denver
Joined: 10/16/2009
Posts: 70
Skill, Coincidence, or a Magic Thermos?

So a few months ago someone asked what good luck charms people take hunting.  At the time, I didn't realize that maybe I had one.  And besides I'm not superstitious.  Well, I wasn’t until the first season opener!  No this is not fiction.

First some explanation of why I don’t drink coffee.   I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, the youngest of three.  I chased whitetails with a passion.  My parents both chain smoked as they chain slurped coffee --instant coffee.  Any surprise that I adopted strong black tea as my morning jolt of choice?  Go figure.

I left Pennsylvania for Washington State after college.  I found whitetail in the northeast corner of the state, and upland birds in the southeast.  My pals and I purchased elk tags for the NE units we hunted but the elk were virtually non-existent.  It wasn't until I moved to Colorado nine years ago that an elk tag held any promise or hope for this hunter.  Still, it took a few years to get oriented.

It wasn't until 2009 that I really discovered and appreciated the scouting capabilities of Google Earth.  After several seasons of being over-run and outhunted by crowds on ATVs, I set out to find a place where the crowds don't go -- ideally one no more than an hour's hike from a road.  Somewhere I read the edges between public and private land were good because of what hunting pressure would cause.  These border areas are also generally in transitional zones where dark timber meets aspen groves, and where the aspen groves meet scrub oak and sage, and where these meet valley floors.

Prior to the 2009 season, I was re-thinking what needed to go into the day pack.  After thinning out a few items, I decided a small thermos would be good addition.  Strong, hot black tea heavily sweetened with sugar.  Hydration.  Energy.  Caffeine.  Warmth.  On impluse I ran down to REI and grabbed one: a 16-oz stainless in burnt orange with the REI logo on the front.  I also made sure I had a week’s worth of Tazo "Awake" black tea before I headed for camp.

For third season in 2009 I held an either sex tag.  Opening morning found me on a logging trail  in the Routt National Forest scanning a small clearcut.  I was happy to have been on the trail two hours before dawn, but still I was less than optimistic about actually finding any elk – years of disappointment … sorta the cubs fan of elk hunting.  At about 7:20 am I remembered the thermos of hot tea in my pack.  I set down my rifle,  took off my pack, pulled out the shiny new REI thermos, and poured myself a cup of sweet, strong thunder.  Then I hear them.

Two cows about 100 yards up on the edge of the clear cut above me, and on a track that will bring them within about 50 yards.  After years of seeing no elk in NE Washington and nothing but ATVs and an orange army where I hunted here in Colorado, and years of hunting whitetails in dense brush, I didn't spend more than a millisecond considering my options.  I dropped the tea, grabbed my browning a-bolt, and shot the first cow just behind her shoulder.   To add some irony to the story, a mature bull stepped out about 2 seconds after I shot.  I studied him through the crosshairs, and smiled.  My 2009 elk hunt lasted less than 30 minutes, and my first elk was on the ground.

Eleven months later.  First rifle season of 2010.  The image of the bull that stepped out after I shot is burned in to my mind.  I'm a little higher on the same mountain.  The weather is painfully mild.  No wind but I am moving very slowly on a damp, quiet logging trail across a bench right at 10,000 feet.  The forest has been thinned and the grass is still 50% green.  Tracks in the damp soil everywhere.  An unusally tan-colored rock 60 yards to the right.  Binoculars up.  A second tan rock 60 yards to the right.  One moves.   First tan rock lifts his head.   Spike.  Second rock lifts its head.  Another spike.   Drop to one knee and raise rifle to scan with scope.  Scanning the brush behind these fellas.  More tan rocks with heads down.  Breath.  Breath   s  l  o  w.

The twin spikes are slowly feeding in my direction, and I am pinned in the middle of the logging trail.  The first one steps from behind a tree at about 25 yards, looks right at me, and freezes as he admires my orange hat and vest.  A few moments pass and I realize that I can't hold my rifle up forever.  I smile, gently lower my rifle, and watch as Amos and Andy bust for the next county.

Okay, this is supposed to be the one situation where its okay to audition with your cow call so I give it a soft, gentle blow.  Ten seconds later one of the tan rocks back in the brush, the lead cow I assume, responds with a bark ... imagine a cow elk imitating a coon hound.  I'm seriously busted.  She barks twice more.  Hooves.  Branches breaking.  It was probably a small group but with no wind and no other noise, they sounded like a freight train.

Wow.  This little encounter certainly made the day.   I wander around on that bench for maybe an hour even though every animal within a mile heard that cow barking.  I turn around and start creeping back towards the trailhead and my truck.  At about 10:30 a.m. at a slash pile at the edge of the bench, I stop for a bit of tea -- the first of the morning. 

I set down my rifle, pull off my pack, pull out my REI 16-oz thermos in burnt orange, and pour myself a cup of heavily sweetened Tazo Awake.  And then I see them out of the corner of my eye at about 150 yards.  Two bulls -- both 6x6s on a track that will bring them to within about 80 yards.  This time, my gun is laying down against a log about six or seven yards away.  Still, I drop the tea and thermos, and manage to get to my gun.  I hit the first bull square in the shoulder and he goes down fifty yards later behind the slash pile with a very loud crash.













So in the past two years, my elk hunting has been limited to about four and half hours total.  And this REI thermos has only been used twice.  In fact, I think only two cups of tea have been poured from it. I'm not superstitious but then I never killed an elk before getting this REI thermos.

I'm almost afraid to see what happens when I stop for that first cup of tea next year.

elkkill06's picture
Grand Slam Challenge Winner!
Location: Fruita Colorado
Joined: 02/02/2009
Posts: 2069
Cool story

Very nice ! Congrats on a great hunt and thanks for the cool story and pic. Yes

gatorfan's picture
Grand Slam Challenge Winner!
Location: Chula Vista, CA
Joined: 10/01/2010
Posts: 465
Cool story!

I'll tell you one thing, there's no way you'd ever catch me on a trip without that thermos!  Heck, I might go to REI and try to find one for myself!  HA HA  I'm not sure I could switch from strong black coffee to tea though!

Very cool story!  Sounds like it didn't take you very ong to figure out how to work the new area!

Thanks for sharing!

Joined: 07/29/2010
Posts: 7
Nice write up of the hunt,

Nice write up of the hunt, and a nice bull. I am the guy who helped you out with the jumper cables. We hunted hard but ended up empty handed.

Location: Denver
Joined: 10/16/2009
Posts: 70
Small world!!!

Moose5 wrote:

Nice write up of the hunt, and a nice bull. I am the guy who helped you out with the jumper cables. We hunted hard but ended up empty handed.


Thanks again for the battery jump!  Sorry to hear you were unable to fill a tag. 





Joined: 07/29/2010
Posts: 7
Yeah one of our guys missed a

Yeah one of our guys missed a cow, down off that trail where your camper was parked. I never got a chance to take a shot, pulled up on a nice bull but couldnt get a shot.  A group of other guys hunting that area I know, and have hunted with before went 6 for 6, with 3 bulls and 3 cows. I guess thats why its called hunting and not shooting.

Ca_Vermonster's picture
Grand Slam Challenge Winner!Moderator
Location: San Diego, CA
Joined: 07/27/2007
Posts: 5813
Great bull!  it's funny how

Great bull!  it's funny how sometimes it's the littlest thing we attribute to our success.  I am very superstitious, so if I can place any success on something, i try to stick with it.  Be it a magic thermos, a certain item of clothing I'm wearing, etc.  Heck, I was even on a sting one time of seeing deer after going to the bathroom.... :lol:  I draw the line at lucky underwear though.....

Heck of a bull!  Congrats!!!!

hawkeye270's picture
Grand Slam Challenge Winner!
Location: Fort Collins, CO
Joined: 06/15/2008
Posts: 1862
That is a great story and a

That is a great story and a great bull. congratulations on taking him. I am not superstitious either... but I think you should just give me that thermos :lol:  That is really neat. You just need to not abuse the thermos trick. If you pull that thermos out on purpose in order to try and make a 400 inch bull appear, you are going to be disapointed. Hopefully the next time you remember randomly that you have tea in your bag, a big whopper will step out though. Thanks for sharing the story and the pictures. And hopefully one of these seasons to come you will be able to get a little more hunting in too. Don't get me wrong... it is nice filling your tag on opening morning but that just means that the fun is over and the work is begining. Good luck next year. And I'm serious about that thermos offer ha ha.

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