Last January, as me and my brother hashed out a plan for the approaching Colorado big game drawing, we had to take into account that we had different numbers of preference points. We wanted to hunt together but because I had four more preference points than him, we had some difficult decisions to make. He could not get into any of the premier units that I was capable of drawing and I did not want to waste my excess points to draw a tag that he could get. So I decided to keep saving my points and to find a good place for my brother to have a shot at a good bull during archery season. And I had a place in mind. It was an area that I had thought about putting in for that was very interesting. It had a reputation for producing big bulls but did not get a lot of hunting pressure. It did not take much to convince him to put in for the tag. And when I got a call from him on the day the Colorado Division of Wildlife posted the draw results, I was not surprised that he had drawn the tag… I had already checked.
When the tag came in the mail, my brother started worrying. He did not know anything about the area that I had convinced him to hunt. Until that point, he had relied on me for all his information on the unit. But once that tag showed up, and along with it the pressure of a tag that cost him his preference points, he started doing some research for himself. We were able to contact someone in the area that was selfless in helping us learn the ins and outs of the unit. Due to my internship over the summer, I had a very limited amount of time to spend on scouting trips. I was able to make it out for the first scouting trip but I was only able to devote half of the trip to scouting. I had a certain lady friend who was doing field work in the unit and I obviously needed to make my presence known.
As soon as we made it to the nearest town to the unit where my brother’s tag was good for, I got picked up by my friend. I caught up with her into the next day and then she drove me up into the hills and dropped me off in my family’s camp. They were not present however and I figured that they were out on a hike. They showed up in camp an hour later with smiles on their faces. They hadn’t seen elk but they had found some great spots with lots of elk sign. We were then joined by one of our buddies that lives in the unit. We hopped on the ATV’s and headed for an area that he said was known to hold elk. Not long after leaving camp, we got off the ATV’s, climbed a hill and stepped out of the trees overlooking a small, three-acre lake. We had only been standing there for a couple minutes when my brother whispered, “Elk… Over there, get down.” I instantly knew that there was something wrong with the situation. The animal instantly disappeared below a rise on the opposite side of the lake about 200 yards from us. We waited a minute or two and then it stepped out again. I could tell that it was short and squatty but the color looked about right for an elk during the summer. I brought up my binoculars and saw that it was a black bear in color phase. It was absolutely beautiful and had no idea that we were watching it. The wind was perfect and we were able to watch it meander down the lake shore, rummaging through rotten logs for insect larvae for about half an hour. It started getting dark and we backed out and headed back to camp. We never saw elk during that scouting trip but we saw a lot of sign and found a lot of good areas to focus on once the season opened.
I was disappointed that I was not able to get time off from my job to accompany my brother on his first hunt of the season. I held hope that I would be able to get a weekend off later in Colorado’s archery season to go with him. But he had a different plan in mind. He quite possibly killed the first bull elk taken in Colorado’s 2010 season.
The season opened on Saturday but my brother left Fort Collins on Thursday night. He drove down to Denver to stay at my parent’s house. It saved him seventy miles on Friday’s drive. He left early on Friday morning and showed up to the area that we had scouted around 3PM in the afternoon. He planned on bivy hunting that first weekend. He had packed his Kifaru Late Season pack with a light weight Kifaru Super-Tarp for shelter, a 20 degree sleeping bag, food for 5 days and all the other gear required to kill and field dress a bull elk. His plan was to hike till dark, till he found elk or until he got to a meadow that we had located during scouting season. The area that he was working was covered in conifers and aspens with meadows mixed in here and there. He had covered about a mile and a half and found an aspen that had been worked over by a big bull. The poor aspen had been stripped of its bark. The highest scrapes on the tree were a good foot and half above my brother’s head… and he is not stubby in any way. He wanted to find the bull that assaulted this poor tree. The sun was threatening to take its daily nap and he knew that he needed to find a place to make camp in the next hour or so.
He continued on the same course that he was on and within 200 yards, he had crossed paths with a few different wallows and scrapes that were too numerous to count. He then heard a limb break and he glanced up to see the bull that had been torturing the trees in the area. He was only 100 yards away and was destroying every tree and shrub in his vicinity. The problem was that the season didn’t open till a half hour before sunrise the next day. All my brother could do was admire the bull through his binoculars until dark. The bull had moved a grand total of 15 yards from where my brother had first spotted him. My brother backed out and retreated to a meadow that he had passed about three quarters of a mile back down the drainage. When he got back to the meadow, he started hearing other bulls thrashing trees on the surrounding slopes. He did not set up his tarp… out of fear of the noise spooking the bulls. He did not cook himself a dehydrated meal… out of fear of the bulls scenting his meal. He quietly crawled into his sleeping bag, ate two apples for dinner, and called it a night. But did he sleep… yeah right! The bulls did not stop scraping trees all night. He had to listen to them all night. Sleep was something that my brother did not find that night. At one point, a doe walked within ten yards of him. She stopped and looked at him and then continued feeding past him. He was so worried about spooking the elk out of the area, that he did not even get out of his sleeping back in order to drain his bladder.
That night must have felt like an eternity to him. He says that he probably got an hour or two of sleep but I wonder if he was even able to manage that. One thing was for sure, the morning couldn’t come soon enough. My brother was up and ready when the clock hit an hour before sunrise. He had a half hour to get back to the area where his bull had been before shooting light. To my brother’s amazement, the bull had not moved more than a hundred yards during the course of the night. He was still raking his antlers on the trees. My brother used the remaining moonlight to sneak up on the bull so that he would be within range once legal shooting light illuminated the forest. My brother crawled up a small hill and popped out within 40 yards of the bull. He glanced down at his watch and saw that he still had two minutes till shooting light. The bull got on the opposite side of a conifer and my brother seized the opportunity to crawl a couple yards closer. He ranged the tree the bull was scraping at 33 yards and got ready for the monster to step out. He knocked an arrow and tried to settle his nerves. He says that he was calmer than he has ever been while facing an opportunity to kill a big game animal. I find that hard to believe. I know that if I was kneeling 33 yards from an angry 300 class bull, my heart would sound like a bass drum being beaten by a heavy metal drummer.
The bull then stepped out and put his head down to rake the ground. My brother drew back, settled his 30 yard pin on the bull’s vitals and let an arrow fly. He heard the loud crack of the arrow finding its mark and immediately saw blood pouring from the bull. The bull stood his ground for a couple seconds not knowing what had happened. He then started to stumble and then took off. He sprinted for about 200 yards before crashing into his final resting place amongst the spruce. My brother had just arrowed his first animal with a bow on his first solo bivy hunt seconds after the season had opened. He must have killed the first bull of Colorado’s 2010 season.
He waited half an hour and then followed the blood trail to his bull. The bull was dumping blood out of both sides but my brother didn’t end up finding his arrow until his third trip during the pack out. My brother quartered and caped the bull… not a trivial task to do on your own. He packed the first load out to the trail and was then able to call our buddy that had helped us on the scouting trip. He showed up with an extra guy to help extract the rest of the meat from the woods. It took them two more trips to get everything packed out. My brother then went to our buddy’s house, took a quick shower and was heading back to Denver by 6:30PM in the evening.
I was fishing a local lake when I got a text from my brother. It was a picture of a gigantic bull with his smiling mug centered between its antlers. I called him and told him that he needed to get on the freeway and hurry back to Denver. I gathered the troops and when his truck pulled into the driveway, complete with antlers sticking out of the bed, the party began. It was huge. I scored it that night at in the mid 340’s. I could not believe it. On his first solo bivy hunt, my brother had taken his first animal with a bow, his first 6x6 bull elk, and his first record book animal. He asked me that night if he should have it measured. “Why the hell not!”, was my only reply. He has since decided to have the bull officially scored so that he can register it in the Pope and Young record book. I am very proud of him. He hunts very hard and has soaked up every bit of information that I have ever sent his way about hunting. He deserves it!