Well, the second rifle season didn't start off as expected. We planned for months and months leading up to this season and thought we had just about every base covered. I had a lot of help from members on here like GooseHunter Jr and spent hours doing all the research I could. Our initial game plan was to hunt some BLM land north of Craig for the opener but then get the bright idea to give Routt a try. As we headed up the mountain we encountered what was left of some earlier snow but had high hopes for decent weather.
We were only planning on staying two nights in the high country so we didn't have an elaborate camp set up as most people did who were spending a full week. It pretty much consisted of two tents a tarp and a canopy for cooking under.
Needless to say the weather didn't cooperate! The first night we were completely esposed to the wind, snow and freezing rain. The tarp and canopy took the brunt of it and ended up on the ground. We all stayed warm inside the tents though and they held up through the nite. The next morning we hunted as planned. We walked about 3/4 of a mile back an un maintained road heading below bear's ears peak and started splitting up. My brother headed up the mountain towards the peak and cut two elk tracks. After following them accross the ridge he ended up losing them. The same happened to me after I dropped down the mountain. According to my GPS I put in about 5 miles that morning but didn't see much of anything. As we all got back to camp early that afternoon we started hearing reports of more wind and heavy snow expected on Monday. Needless to say it didn't take us long to decide that our best course of action would be to pack out now while it was half decent and beat the rush. After packing up all of the gear it was back into town to the apartment we already had rented. Let me tell you, this was probably the best decision we made that week after hearing some of the reports off of the mountain.
We went from hunting this:
Well, the first day hunting the lowlands was pretty uneventful and was basically a figure things out again type of hunt. I had all of the guys with us set up in their valleys while my brother and I hiked the mountain looking for sign trying to figure our where they may be. After a half day of walking I didn't see any elk sign but did manage to run into a ton of these.
After meeting up with my brother near dark he informed me that he had a herd spotted on private land grazing in our direction with two legal bulls in tow. We dropped off the mountain and back to the truck immediately so we didn't spook any of them in hopes that the following morning they would have grazed onto the public land we were hunting. That night i put together our plan for the next morning. I had three of our guys sitting high in the hollows at first light while my brother and I would head back to where we saw the elk the evening before and see if they were still in the area. As we walked up the face of the mountain I pointed to the next hollow over to show my brother where I was sitting the day before.
He could see it clearly since we decided to leave in the daylight should we jump any elk on our way in. It wasn't 3 seconds later when he yelled over to me that he saw something moving on the far hillside. As I glassed the hill I could see a herd of elk dropping into the ravine next to us and out of sight. I quickly sent my brother to the peak and told my uncle to stay put while I headed up between them. My plan was to block off this ridge and no matter where they crossed one of us would get a shot. Of course the elk had different plans. They headed straight down and tried to get around the mountain below us. In an instant they where by us and I knew it was now or never. I handed my uncle my rifle so I could move faster through the serviceberry and dropped my pack. I ran accross the plateau we were on and down over the far side through the serviceberry hoping I would come out in front of the elk. Sure enough, luck was on my side and when I emerged from the serviceberry the herd was standing in front of me. In an instant they turned 180 degrees and headed back the way they came which would take them in front of the 4 other guys I was with. It wasn't long until the first shots rang out and my brother called me on the radio to tell me he had a 5x5 down. A few minutes later a few more shots ring out and my buddy calls to tell me he has a 5x5 down too! I had to laugh at my brother who was on his first elk hunt though when he asked me if he was allowed to walk up to his elk. Looking back it's amazing how fast it happened and I'm still not sure why i didn't take my rifle as I ran. I guess I was more worried about getting my brother and the rest of the guys an elk than I was myself. I'll tell you one thing though, I was definitely happier to see the look on his face after he got his bull than I would of been had I shot it myself. There's not a single thing I would have changed with how this hunt played out.
After I got up to him and took a few pics of the bull it was time for the work to begin. It didn't take too long to get it quartered and skinned and luckily we weren't too far from the truck either.
I do have to say thanks to three great California guys who happened by while we were quartering. Out of the blue they offered to take a front and hind quarter out for us and leave them by the truck. It was definitely a generous act of good sportsmanship that will never be forgotten. I hope they got the case of beer we left in the back of their truck on the last day while they were still out hunting. The message on the back window signed by the "-PA Crew" hopefully gave it away.
All in all it was an outstanding trip where I met as many good people as I did make great memories with friends and family. I can't wait to do it again.