After a number of years of living in Colorado and buying an elk license with no success in killing one and rarely even seeing them while hunting I decided it was time for a new plan. I had never even held a cow tag as up till that point I had not yet read or learned about the application process. I started reading more magazines and the big game guide put out by the DOW. Everything I read or heard people talking about seemed to say that if you could get a late season tag you were nearly guaranteed a cow elk just standing around in the snow waiting for you to get there.
I poured over the regulations and finally found the nearest late season I could hunt in a public land unit within fairly easy driving distance from home. We sent in our applications as this was back when you still had to write checks and then wait for word to arrive in the mail as to whether or not you were successful. I didn't know the odds but they must have been pretty good as before too long my dad and I found out that we were in fact successful. It was tough to wait till after the regular seasons were over for the late one to start but before long the time was here and we were on our way.
The first thing we found out is that things were not nearly as easy as we had been led to believe and we spent our first few days off just driving around and looking for the elk that were supposed to be waiting. We did have a few memorable experiences before we ever found any elk that helped to make the hunts exciting and unforgettable. I had some of my first off road learning experiences with my old 77 Blazer that I had bought for just such an occasion. In driving through a washout on an old road I charged in without getting a good look at things and found myself hung up on both bumpers on either side of the wash out. All four wheels were literally hanging in the air and we could only get 2 of them to touch the ground at one time by rocking the truck to one side. By using my high lift jack we were able to hoist the other side up and build up some rocks under the tires until when ready I romped on the gas and shot out of the hole I had gotten us into.
On the next trip out I got the chance to take a shot at my first coyote that was sitting up on a dirt bank out in the middle of a clearing. I fired one shot with my dads 7 mag at around 150 yards and watched my first coyote do a back flip into the snow. It took me nearly ten minutes to trudge out there, pick him up, throw him over my shoulder and head back to the truck. The surprise came when after I got back to the truck where my dad was waiting. I threw him onto the ground for some picture taking and to brag to my dad when the darn thing started growling. He had never made a sound or moved till he thumped on the ground but it sure gave me a scare as I had even had my hand in his mouth carrying him back. A quick shot with a .22 pistol put an end to things but I have always been much more careful ever since.
It was a week after that with some more snow on the ground that we finally got into some elk. I was using chains on all four tires by that time but the extra snow pushed elk into the area we were hunting quickly. We spotted some fresh tracks crossing the road so we loaded up and took off after them to see where they went. It was only about 30 minutes and a quarter mile later that we caught up with them. My shot was about 300 yards as the small herd headed up the opposite hillside. I carefully made sure there were no antlers in my scope and started firing at the last one in line. If I remember right I fired 2 shots and thought I had missed completely. But as always we headed over to make sure and take a look around and much to my surprise found my first elk piled up behind a tree.
As with all my other first animals I had somehow managed to find and shoot the smallest one in the bunch. It was only a calf but in late December it was still larger than any deer I had ever taken. After checking things out we found the old forest service road was only 100 yards away at the top of the hill. That made things a much easier job than we thought it would be. That's the only calf I have ever killed and while every elk is good I remember that one as being the best tasting of any I have gotten since then.
My dad took his first elk the next day just a short distance from where I got mine. For some reason he always made sure we got a picture of mine but almost never of his so that one is only in memory.
We hunted the same area the next few years but the snow never came as heavy and we eventually gave it up as we didn't even see any after that. We have gotten better over the years with what we learned and are able to keep it closer to home. Still not super successful but we do manage to get one every year or so.