I had spent the last three years as a new Colorado resident without a big game animal harvested even though I had an extensive and successful Eastern hunting background. It was time to put my pride aside and delve deeply into western hunting do’s and don’ts to find out what it required in order to increase my odds of bringing home meat for the freezer. I really had to find out what I was doing wrong and correct it as I also took on the responsibility of bringing a “newby” into the fine sport of big game hunting. I couldn’t allow them to fail. The pressure was on.
Side note – my stand up freezer in my garage stood unplugged and with the door open for the past three years – gathering dust on top and inside. I had almost 200 pounds of venison in it late March 2007 – that I had to give away to my brothers and my other hunting partner because I had no way of getting it to Colorado financially efficient. I survived the last three years with my Dad mailing me bagged up venison jerky that I would get as a Christmas present. Definitely not conducive for making a happy hunter!
So I really did my homework this past year. I put in a great amount of time reviewing the preference points needed for the different units for each big game animal. I found a GMU that offered what I felt was my best odds of harvesting while at the same time allowing a new hunter to succeed. I found an owner of private property that was also located within the same unit that would allow us to hunt whenever we wanted. We scouted the areas in advance over several days and found signs of and sites of the actual big game we were expecting to harvest. The homework was done. Now it was time for all of it to be put to getting that elusive elk.
It was the morning of Thursday, October 13th the day my hunting partner and I were to leave to secure our camping and hunting spot within the unit’s national forest. I get a call. My hunting partner is overwhelmed with the immediately due Master’s degree requirements they are currently pursuing at the same time as what I felt was the “hunt of a lifetime event” and must delay their participation in our hunt until Sunday at 12:30pm. ARGH!!!!! So I added some meals to my packing and understood I was hunting solo until Sunday afternoon.
I arrived at the intended camp site late Thursday afternoon. I had just enough time to get the 4 seasons tent set up and wood gathered for a campfire before the sun set. I spent all day Friday re-scouting the two primary areas we had previously scouted. I scouted as if I was actually hunting the area… but there was a problem. I saw no recent sign of elk – like I did see back in June and July. I heard no sounds of elk. I saw no elk. ARGH!!!
The season started at approximately 6:45am that Saturday morning. It took me 4 hours to hunt the 1.5 miles up the eastern side of the mountain. I saw nothing. I heard nothing. Once at the highest point the winds shifted and I decided I was not going to succeed there. I made my way back to camp to start my hunt on the Western side of the other mountain. I spend the next 4 hours hunting that western side – nothing heard and nothing seen. The first day of Elk season was a solo bust.
I woke early for Sunday’s hunt as I had a new outlook for the day. I traveled about 2 miles north of the campsite to an alternate hunt location… but the morning was a bust as well. I saw elk tracks but they were at least 8 days old based on when the snow had fallen in the area. I decided it was time to try the private property we had secured in the same unit. It was located at the foothills of the mountain range and everything I had seen pointed towards that the elk had moved lower earlier – even though there was not a great deal of snow up high.
I arrived at the owner’s home at about 12 noon. I also called my hunting partner and advised them to meet at the private property versus the national forest. They were going to be another 3+ hours late. ARGH!!!! I spoke with the owner for about an hour and then made my trek (1pm) about 1 mile into the property to where we had seen signs of elk only the month prior during deer season. The Cottonwood trees dumped a lot of leaves on the ground. It was like walking on corn flakes… but I made my way to the area – it took me about 90 minutes to walk the 1 mile (2:30pm).
I arrived just at the top of the area and continued my mule cow call using my Hoochie Mamma call. Immediately I heard a bugle in the far distance towards the corner of the property. I completed another set of cow calls only to hear two bugles – one still in the far corner of the property (and that bugle sounded like a monster) and another bugle directly in front of me no more than 40 yards into the hardwoods. I dropped down to lying on the ground as I had no means to use any cover other than a 5 inch diameter cottonwood in front of me. I called again. I could see several cows and one satellite bull in the brush. I also had the bugle of what I still thought was a monster bull echoing in the corner. I did one more set of cow calls. Immediately after completing the calls I watched in awe as a nice 4X4 satellite bull broke through the bush area and in a full trot made his way to within 15 yards of me and stopped dead. My heart pounded – hard and fast. He started walking right towards me. There was no side shot – only his broad chest facing directly towards me and getting closer. I placed the crosshairs onto his chest and squeezed off a shot from my Winchester 30-06 Springfield. The bull reared back and then ran about 15 yards where then his backend gave way followed by the front of the bull falling. ADRENALINE RUSH!!! All that happened in about a 2 minute timeframe.
Shaking with that adrenaline I sent a text to my wife, my Dad, my brothers, and my hunting partner that my bull was down! My partner showed up about 90 minutes later – just enough time to help me pack out that bull. I had achieved what had once evaded me for the prior three years! I helped my hunting partner harvest their own bull elk the following day… but that is another story.