My first year with a Colorado resident tag in my pocket was for Elk in 2000. Being new in the area was daunting but I had made some good friends and was lucky enough to be invited into hunting camp with them. This hunt would be different than any other I had been on. Base camp was 6 miles in on horseback or in my case on the back of a mule. I am a big guy and apparently my new buddies figured I would hurt their horses so I got the lucky mule out of the herd. I have ridden horses off and on all my life but had never been on a mule. That was a great experience to say the least. I will just say that the mule didn't care much for my stature. We took base camp in a week ahead of time to lighten the load on the other mules. The country that we went into was some of the wildest country I had ever been into at the base of the Ragged Mountains. I wish I hadn't forgotten my camera. The plan was to split up on opening morning into two groups. I was with the group of three that would stay at base camp for 3 days while three others went higher with a spike camp in search of the mighty Wapiti.
Opening day found me sitting with an older gentleman that couldn't hear a cricket on his shoulder let alone hear any Elk coming through the woods. We had sat down in a small thicket of young Quacking Aspen that couldn't have been more than three feet tall. We were still trying to catch our breath from the hike that put us about 1000' above base camp and about 1/2 mile away as the sun rose. When we had enough light to view the hillside we were watching I started to glass the area. I spotted some cows and a few small spikes that were getting a late breakfast but nothing legal to go after. As I was glassing I heard some branches break behind me and the distinct sound of hooves on rock. I was glued to the area waiting to see what was coming my way. Our hunting partner had decided that he wasn't much into spotting Elk and had the great idea to go hunting on horseback. More power to him was my opinion and I figured anything that was behind us was now gone. We didn't have any success in finding a legal bull but we were almost able to fill a deer tag that the older gentleman happened to have. He fell asleep in the thicket about 50 yards from me, I could just make out the top of his head as I helplessly watched a respectable 4 point and two does walk in between us only about 20' from his siesta spot. I really wanted my camera for that Kodak moment.
I didn't have any succes in filling my tag that first year but we didn't go home empty handed. My partners that went out with gear for a spike camp showed up late opening morning. One of them had fallen off of a small ledge and screwed his knee up pretty good while trying to recover his Elk. He wanted to get down to a hospital to check it out and the others were going to recover the Elk for him. I went with two of them since my truck at the trailhead was the only vehicle that didn't have a horse trailer hooked to it and that trip out pretty much ended my hunt. When we returned the next day I discovered that the rest of the group was at the trailhead and had packed up camp and had decided to move to another area to hunt after they took the Elk to be processed. I took my gear and opted to return home and take my chances hunting solo.