Northwest Colorado Elk Hunt
This is a daily journal of my 2009 4th season northwest Colorado elk hunt.
Out of town 1 hr late and ALONE AGAIN! Not too bad all things considering! Usually ~6hr drive to my favorite stomping grounds along the WY border and arrived at 2:45pm to a NEW spot I THOUGHT I would camp at Nope! Still too much snow and all melting making a muddy mess of things! So back DOWN to the normal digs and lower elevations in a rush to get things up before darkness falls!
Was looking for some trees to camp by, but didn't seem to find any around so guess this will do! Up and good to go by 4:30! Still a few minutes to look around!
(Please note 20'x12' "2 Season" tent for ONE person, this comes to play later on in the adventure!)
Scouted close to camp for about 30 minutes till darkness fell and saw nothing, so back to camp for a quick bite and to bed early as I have plans to hit the high country for scouting long before daybreak in the morn!
Dogs & some killer soup does the trick!
Short light rain for a couple of hours that night, helped the sleep considering all the field mice jumping all around the place!!!!
Up at 4:30 to a wet mess outside; make coffee and off to far off lands for a look see! Coming off of Hwy13 and onto cr38 I find ~100 muleys in full on rut! Couple nice bucks dueling it out and some smaller ones chasing the does around while the big boys are preoccupied They could care less I was driving right through them!
Driving to the higher ground I find ~2" if some fluffy white stuff above 8000'. Arrive at Bears Ears Trailhead 1144 by 5:50 and load-up and on the trail by 6:05.
Not two minutes into the hike I see the first sign! Though not the elk sign I am looking for; I DO by chance have a bear tag in my pocket as well (these are from later on the way down when the sun was shining).
HMMM? Only ~4" from heal to claw...would a cub this small be out all alone?
After about 2hours of following a single human track through the crusty snow I am nearing the saddle between Mt Oliphant & Mt Welba, unfortunately I have seen no elk sign only a small 'kitty' track at about 9800'! Must be bobcat, pretty small so likely not a lynx. Some squirrel, some bird and chipmunk, NO elk! Once I got past the 9K mark, the snow had deepened slightly to a good foot of old stuff with the dusting from the night before.
What is this? No more human tracks and sunlight peaking through for the first time! Oh joy!
All the elk sign I did find was old and almost all was headed downhill! Dang it, everyone has been telling me they are still high! ...and here I thought they meant in elevation
Made it to the saddle at 8:35 and 10,020' and decided to not go any further and turned around.
Mt Oliphant from the saddle area.
Back to the truck by 10am and decide to head east to Slater & Califas Parks to have a look. Take the long way around via Cr38 to check on another seldom used State Trust land and then take 82/80 all the way around through Slater, Califas, by Jimmy Dunn Gulch and down into Hayden by 1ish. Saw a few more deer along the way and one cow w/ a calf near the south end of California Park, that's it!
Went to the range and shot the rifle...WOW, glad I did! Went through almost a box of rounds and got it 'close', but had to save a few for the hunt!
Then thought I might wet a line at Elkhead Res while heading back northwest, but got there after 4pm so did not waste the $6 for justa short fish.
Back to camp by 5:30 and breakfast for dinner, Eggs, potatoes & homemade green chili for din din!
Midnight strikes for the 'first' time! Thought a stampede was coming through cause it sure wasn't those darn mice this time! What the heck?
Ah hah!...some stock decided to pay me a visit and finish of the old grain & hay left behind from previous visitors!
Wild? It is on a vast BLM range...though that one looks like a mule!
They stomped around all night after that and about brought the tent down a couple of times!
Good for tonight...stay tuned if you dare too!
Now for the next day of scouting ...two days to opener!
Might want to add that the morn of the 8th & this day the 9th the wind was very soft and early on out of the south east while later in the morn and early afternoons it was more from the northwest. Though simply gorgeous both days and also Sat afternoon when I showed up!
Since I saw absolutely nothing positive up high on Sunday morn, I thought I just better try the same ol` local this morn.
Awake at 4:30 and coffee & oatmeal for breakfast. I then head the 8 miles to the regular digs. Which on the dirt county road takes 22 minutes to reach the parking area which is on the far north end of the BLM property I would be glassing.
I get there a bit early and it is still only 5:45 so can't see a lick yet. Right around 6am I can almost see my favorite hay fields, along w/ the creek bottom directly below them, that run from the south to the north for the entire length of the fields, as well as the small hills that also run parallel to both for the length of the property.
At 6:10 I can finally see the fields and to my glorious amazement there are roughly ~250 elk using the fields!!!!!! BINGO! And, just as the first batch of about 75ish are grouping closer together and trying to figure out what to do. Within a minute the first cow makes the call and jumps the fence and starts towards the creek bottom. Like norm, the next follows and the next and the next, etc, etc... (You all know the deal here) Once they reach the water they break and I am assuming they are watering as they take a good 10 minutes or so to cut through it. The creek drainage can be 20-30 deep in a few spots, but I am pretty sure they are just taking a break to water-up for the afternoon naps. At this same time the next group of about the same size are gathering around closer and closer to that fence line separating the fields from the creek and they start over just as the first group is now cutting across the sage bottom towards that first hill/ridge line. Now this little bottom is never more than 400-500 yds wide at its widest and never less than 300 yds between hill bottom and creek. The remaining group, which I immediately nickname the "late crew" is still spread-out and feeding in the fields, though keeping a close eye on the first two bunches. I was trying to count at one point, but there is slightly over 100 head remaining in this second shift crew. By now the first group is starting to disappear around the second ridge that jutts outs from the ridgeline, & maybe a mile away from where I am. The second crew is also taking the same length of time getting through the creek so again I am positive they are watering. ...the "late crew" is still chomping away and it is now 6:40 and I can see pretty good.
Now I know this layout pretty well from hunting here for the last  yrs, and where I am watching the first group go out of site I know the hill side to be pretty steep. Though this of course would be no real problem for the elk as you all know they at times think they are goats! I am thinking though that once they get to the hill they are going a bit further to the south as there are a couple of very good natural funnels to get them to that first plateau above. They soon head out of sight and the second batch is also making its way across the sage bottom in the exact same direction. Though the "late crew" still doesn't have a care in the world it would seem. Though I could not tell in the first group due to darkness, I can see that in the second batch there are at least a couple of larger bulls, but just can't quite make them out very well.
Now with the late crew though, which were also the northern most group and much closer to my location I can see that there are two really nice bulls and a couple of rag horns in the group as well!
Finally, right at about 7am they can see the sun finally start peaking of the mountains to the east and seem to be getting stir crazy. One of the large cows further out in the field starts running across the crew and they instantly start grouping up closer together. They are actually edging a bit north as they do so and looking at the mountains directly behind me which is WYOMING!!! NO, NOT THERE I am saying! though a couple of minutes later a cow starts off towards the fence and the creek just a bit further north than where the first two groups crossed. They too take their own sweet time getting through the creek, but afterwards are heading in the same general direction as all the others. I watch them for a few more minutes and as they disappear around the hills, I realize I just do not know exactly where they are climbing the ridge! So I start-up the truck and book it around to the road on the west side of the farm as It is a bit higher ground and I can see the ridgeline from there and should be able to see where they go up the hill. When I get there I just don't find them and I do not see them in the sage flats below so I figure I was too slow in my realization! ... NOPE! There are the last three on top of the ridge just heading out of sight onto the first plateau before the real mountains start! Now, where I saw them is right between the two natural routes I knew were there. HMMM?
At least I knew there were elk around and I was now stoked!
Excited & wanting to get in some fishing while I was out & about and not stopping at Elkhead Res the previous day I am aching to get a line wet. I remember finding a SWA area along the Little Snake, but for the life of me I could not remember its name, and OF COURSE the last page of my SWA brochure was tore out with the list by county which showed Routt County where I did remember it being. Well, I thought I could head to Craig and pick one up and just hit Elkhead on the way back and maybe the Snake on another day.
On to Craig and the search for a SWA brochure. First Wally World, nope out! Then Murdoch's, nope out! Craig Sports, K Mart both OUT! AHHH Heck with it I know what Elkhead's name is and where it is located!
9:30 by the time I get there and start throwing some hardware around hoping to get into a smalljaw or maybe a pike or two! Start with some topwater and a Zara Puppy Jr, no love after 15 minutes, so I give a football jig and a hula grub a try...NADA! Then a couple different X-Raps, a couple spinners, and lastly different color tube jigs and nothing! The only action I had in the  hrs I fished was a close pass by a hammer handle pike on the football jig, and the two crawdads I did land on the tube jigs!! DOHHH!
Another beautiful day though in northwest Colorado!
By this time the elk are still weighing heavily on my mind, & I get a wild hair and figure it is mid afternoon now so I decide to fly back north and hike into the sage flats to find a good ambush spot for opening morning in case the elk stay using the hay for the next couple of days. Get there at 1:35 and jump right outta the truck and start hiking in.  hr in I am to where I last saw them when they disappeared and almost to those two natural slopes running to the high ground. I think to myself, I bet they went that way! I get to the base of the hill directly below where I had seen the last three elk vanish and see a plethora of HIGHWAYS cutting through the prairie! Hmmm, where could I set up? In order to try and give y'all a better picture of the layout.... The middle hay field where the furthest north "late crew" was staged up. Taken from that spot below the ridge where I stopped.
Then just a bit further south of that where the first two groups came out of.
In those you can also see the creek drainage directly in front of the hay fields and also the sage flats that run to the ridgeline where I am now standing at the bottom of.
Now, the 'north' Highway" up the hill and as you should be able to see in the pic, quite well used!
Then, the second funnel about a qtr mile to the south, just to the right of the small juniper at the top of the hill center picture.
After looking around for a bit, I find a couple of bigger bunches of sagebrush where I could possibly set-up for an ambush and mark them on my GPS.
I head up the north route and once on top a quick look at the first batch of 'larger' hills just above, where I am sure they probably ended up.
I head back to the truck and it is now 3:20 and decide I can 'almost' remember the directions to that SWA, just not the name...HMMM? I remember it was something like, east out of Baggs for 17.5 miles then south on Colorado County road something or another for 3.5 miles. At least I think! Ahh, what the heck, what a nice day and off I go!
Head out of Baggs and signs keep saying road closed 21 miles ahead, then just about 17+ miles out of Baggs and just after running into Colorado I hit Cr129, looks promising. Along that way, all signs now say CR129 closed 4 miles ahead. As I am getting to about that point, whalla! "Grieve Ranch Public Hunting Access Easement"! Heck, nice new brick vault toilet too, and some nicely leveled ground for camping! On the same sign it states, fishing access to The Little Snake River at the end of CR129, so onward I go another 1/2 mile to the dead-end and a bridge that long since looks tore out!
River looked great, but again not a single bite in the hr I had to fish it before darkness again fell on northwest Colorado! Dang, skunkarooney again!
Back to camp & ham sandwiches and beer for dinner while listening to the Broncos on the radio! Now sorry I found that station! Turned that one off early and hit the hay!
Sorry to tease you, but here is to a close on yet another wonderful day, and to looking at another night of listening to those darn field mice all night long!
Hope y'all like bad movie endings....!
Onward we go...
MUCH more wind this am when up again at 4:30, coffee brewed and off again to check on 'MY' elk!!
Yep, confirmed  minutes to parking area again. Wind is also blowing pretty good like it normally does around these parts, but still coming from the SE at 5:44 when I pull into the parking spot. Storm must be moving in as it is much cloudier and MUCH darker out!
One thing that has been nagging me all night is whether or not they are actually going by those two brushy spots I marked on my GPS! Or, are they just crossing and then going north or south to one of those funnels or not? So as I sit here thinking about it and sipping my fresh ground beans I ponder this concern further! HMMM? I am thinking that once I see some leaving I better high tail it over to the west rd as fast as possible so I can confirm this or not as it might make my opening morning or not!
Definitely a dark night this morn! Can hardly make a thing out at all this day and it is already 6:10! Darn it! Needless to tell all a y'all, but by now my eyeballs are bruised from pressing against binos & a spotting scope for 3.5 days strait!!! Funny how I feel it this morn as I struggle to see anything at all.
OH CRUD!!!!!! There are around 150-200 head already cutting across the sage flats towards the hills!!! Shoot!!!! In reverse, and then into high gear speeding around to the west rd to try and verify my assumptions!
Whew! I make it to my other glassing spot and am able to confirm that they are in fact using the southern funnel!
There they all are in single file strolling up that ridge! Though I can now also tell they are coming across the creek and turning directly south towards that point and would make a fairly far shot attempt from either of the two spots I had marked! DOHHHH! Ah heck that's OK, I can just walk in there again this afternoon when they head high and check on a new ambush point! As I finally watch the remainder crest the ridgeline and disappear onto the plateau I can now start to see the fields below and cannot believe that there are still well over 200 head in the hay! Wow, that is sweet! Means that ~ 400 head were here last night at least and maybe every night for all I know. Maybe those had been leaving before I could see yesterday morn too! The others are in no hurry to leave and it is already 7:30!
I then book-it back around to the north parking spot to scope out the remaining herds to check on any shooter bulls.
I get comfortable and am finally starting to see the valley and fields pretty decent by now and can tell there are quite a few bulls mixed in. Cept I just cannot quite tell quality yet. Just before 8am the next batch start to gather-up and sure enough the first cow starts her decent into the creek bottom. AND, again confirming the watering factor for me. Heck, might as well fly back around to the west rd and see if they too are going the same route up the slope, so off I go! Yep, exact same path! From here I can also see that the "late crew" is pretty much the same size and likely are the same group! Again, they are in no hurry to stop their eating habits. WHAT THE HECK? It is after 8am already and they look like they may be content to stay all day!! This worries me beings I am so selfish about 'MY' elk and as yet I am pretty confident that I am the only one hunting them! Even though progressively more & more hunters are moving into the area, I am pretty sure that no one else has seen them yet as everyone I have seen or talked to have been scouting/glassing way high or simply road scouting to date. Now if they stay in the fields all day, and being the day before opener I am now sure someone will have to see them soon enough! And then the mountain might just get as crowded as it is during 2nd & 3rd seasons!
8:15 no movement! 8:30 no movement! Dang it, go hide already!!!! LOL!
8:45 passes, as does 9am! Then 9:15! COME ON ALREADY!
Finally at just after 9:30 they start grouping up and crossing the darn fence line into the creek! Now go get out of sight already! Just messing w/ me for sure! They are sure taking their own sweet time about getting outta the bottom, and when they finally do they are again looking into WY! NO!!!!! On a positive note, I can finally see two definite shooter bulls! One a very nice 6x6 and the other though much bigger in body, width & height is a 5x6. His 6 point side is very nice with his last forks very deep and long, but his other side has a good long 5th point close to 3 ft long! He is just huge though and from a 1000 yds away he is easily noticeable from all others in the crowd. A small handful (4) of rag horns finish out the late crew on the bull side of things. Again, I count just over 100 hd in this final group. They are just not going anywhere. At 9:54 they are finally moving towards the ridgeline, but this time heading in more of a northeast direction towards me. After crossing the flat in a much wider and a much more visible local, they finally turn slightly more eastward and are heading up the very first draw/saddle in the ridgeline! Maybe only 1/3 of a mile from my truck. As they break the flats and start up the hill they turn right (south) and hit the first north facing slope exactly where I bagged a decent fork horn muley in 2007. The wind is also starting to pick up a bit more and def over 25 mph constant and in the exact wrong direction that I would need in the morning as it is coming mostly from the east/southeast and would be blowing into their faces as they would be coming off the fields!
Now it is also after 10 and they are settling in right there! With as many hunters in the area as I am seeing now, my secret is surely not going to last for long! I am also out of luck on my plans to head in there and find a new ambush spot! Let alone, I now have this late crew that has the only bulls that I have confirmed, that keep staying on the north end and might not even go the same way at all!
However I am confident that I can find my way in the dark to the point on the ridge I need to, but also means I am going to have to find that ambush spot long before daybreak in dark tomorrow morn!
Off to camp to get my gear in check & clean my gun which I still haven't done since shooting Sunday afternoon.
After that time to pack-up!
In my Cabela's Alaskan frame pack which I have the bag/pack on, I load up...
-my game cleaning kit consisting of a VERY nice JA Henckels 5..5 inch flex boner knife, a 6" Forschner lamb skinner, meat hook, diamond sharpener stone, Gerber saw & rubber covered gloves.
-New 5'x7' plastic tarp
- larger heavy cotton game bags
-Otis gun cleaning kit
- extra Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA batteries for headlamp & GPS if needed
- liters of water in the bladder
- extra liter of water in bottom of pack
- ~50' of  strand 550# parachute cord
- SET of Kings Desert Shadow rain gear
- new bottle of Primos Silver XP
- Nature Valley Almond & Butter Toffee coated granola bars
- and last but most certainly most important a good amount of Charmin! };-)
I also lay out my clothes
-Knee high & PLUS sized nylons
-Knee high Danner wool sock
-size 11 Danner 8" Sharp-tail II boots
-UnderArmour Boxer Briefs
-Polertec Expedition weight long underwear as I will likely be sitting in the wind!
-generic cargo pants in Advantage Timber Camo, 75% off from Littleton Sportsman's store closing sale
-UnderArmour Coldgear 3.0 Extreme Weather top
-UnderArmour Loose fit t-shirt
-Wally World Polyester Sweater
-Redhead Mt Stalker 4 in 1 coat in which I load - GPS, Rangefinder, generic Blaze skull cap, camo gloves (Light pr),  rd of 250 grain Nosler Partition in (R) pocket &  rd in (L) pocket.
-In pants I load
- pair of wool mittens convertible to fingerless in one cargo packet, in the other cargo I load my tags along with
- ballpoint pens,
- zip ties & extra set of foam earplugs
-In the front (L) pocket I load tube of chapstick and  rd of ammo. In the front (R) I throw  rds of ammo that will be loaded in the gun & a set of foam ear plugs. In the (L) back pocket I throw a snot rag and in the back (R) pocket I throw even more Charmin!
-I then lay my Browning Blaze baseball cap on top of the heap!
READY TO GO!!!
At high noon, the wind picks-up even more and still out of the southeast for the most part, but I keep catching it swirling and at times from the northwest, but regardless still whipping pretty well and over 35mph at times!!
BOY! Are there a lot of hunters around now! The main roads are highways now and all I see are binos & scopes!
I decide to head back north and check on 'MY' elk, and at 12:54 they are still there in plain sight for all to see! As I was getting there I past several trucks scoping-out the area, but I could tell that still no one were looking down low where the late crew was held up! Even those that past the road right by them never looked right in front of them to see the elk and just drove right on by! I also notice the wind is now blowing strait outta the west and that would be ideal come morning as the wind would be blowing directly into my face & my scent would be blowing right up over the ridge behind me and away from 'MY' elk coming out of the fields.
Running low on petroleum products I figure I do not want any spotters to see me watching them and decide to head into Baggs again to top off the truck so off I go. Anyway, got to flirt again w/ the cute girl showing all the cleavage at the Quickstop!
Back to camp a bit after 3pm and start cooking my traditional 'night before opener' meal of spaghetti & Italian sausage! Done by 4:15, but I just can't stand it and head north again to check on 'MY' elk one last time before darkness again falls on northwest CO!
Get to my usually glassing spot on the west road as to not attract attention to the "late crew" that actually has already started across the sage flats towards the fields! WHAT ARE THEY DOING! Don't move in early before nightfall! I am now sure that someone will be by in the next hour and bust them! As I am sitting there a couple trucks come by slow, but again looking high when glassing and apparently not even glancing into the bottom! Then a couple more, and a couple more!! Someone has got to see them soon! Well now the "late crew" has made it to the creek and are not coming over the rise into the hay fields! HMMM? VERY good though as a truck is parked directly below me and  guys are glassing HARD! Luckily though the "late crew" routine must be to water when entering the fields as well as when exiting the fields! 20 minutes pass and the truck finally zooms off w/o ever knowing the late crew was actually right under their noses! WHEW again!
Is it wrong to be so selfish? There are hundreds of elk after all and I do only have two tags in my pocket!
Just as it is getting too dark to see I catch the first of the cows to enter the hay followed closely by the pack! Minutes later, darkness finally arrives and to my wondrous amazement I am feeling VERY confident that I alone, in all the world, am the only hunter to know that 'MY' elk, are having their way each day in this valley laid out before me! TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL!!
Back to camp with the intention of hitting the hay as early as possible!
And yet another end to a day during my 2009 elk camp! Sorry no pics related to the hunt today. Not sure why, maybe I was just too wired on thoughts of elk dancing in this feeble brain of mine!
Though here is one for everyone to help out on, what kind of grouse is this bird? I usually see hundreds of them in this area each year, but this year just like the monster muleys I always see, they too seem to be few and far between this year! I still saw many a dozen around, but nowhere near the hundreds I usually do each year! I have been wanting to come up and hunt them, but just never have got around to doing so!
Good night, hope I sleep tight!
...hang in there...the ANTI climax is coming soon!
So, there are quite a few folks out there that are way quicker than I! I blew it by posting all my pictures to the public folders on my Photobucket account and some were smart enough to go there directly and figure out my 'weak' ending prematurely. Oh well, like I have been hinting at, it is really nothing special at all so I will get it over with so you all can laugh at my feeble story telling once and for all!
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away.....JK!
On to opening morning! Finally!
Now I will preface this a bit by adding that it has been too many years since I last got an elk, and I have been blanked all season long on my other big game endeavors so "Meat For The Beast" was first priority!
After my timing & planning in my head I figured I wanted to be in place near the south funnel as early as possible, but not too early as to freeze to death sitting there too long! I dressed heavy even knowing that I would be sweating up a storm getting there, but I would then have to sit in the wind waiting for 'MY' elk! I figured since the first groups were not getting out of the field till at least a few minutes after 6am each morning, that I needed to be in place by 5:30 to allow me time to dry-off and settle in before any movement heading my way got too close. Therefore backtracking from that time I estimated that I needed to be out of the truck, loaded up and on the trail no later than 4am. Not too bad at all!
So, wake at 3:00am and NO COFFEE this morning! It is a must on actual hunt days otherwise I will be peeing my pants constantly and after no shower for several days I already stunk quite enough! Though, I did have a few shots of OJ and some oatmeal to get me going. I was right on time making it out of camp, & around to the parking area and for some reason today it only took me 20min to get there! Not sure where I shaved off 2 whole minutes, probably just being an eager beaver! I am out of the truck, double check I have everything, pack on, gun out, license in pocket...ok I could forget everything else really except ammo...Ok, ammo check! Get outta here already!
As I take the first step through the gate I stop to check my watch and 4:00:25! WOW! So far, so good! Made my way through the creek and up the ridge and start noticing that the wind is coming directly from the east and blowing pretty decent at only 4am!! Dang it! That is the worst wind for my plans! I am thinking that now I will have to find a spot past the crest of the funnel they should be going up, since they will be coming from the northwest of that crest and an east wind will blow my stench right at them. If I was anywhere else but south of that spot I am busted for sure. My plan was to find a spot that allowed as much of the end of the trail to be viewed as possible. Of course w/o giving myself away. Since I had not been able to go in the day before to scout it out first hand I am crossing my fingers and hoping to find something well suited for this set-up. Regardless, the hillside is steep enough that I know I will not be able to see them at the base of the hill for at least several hundred yards before they make it close to the crest or I would have to be out on the slope of the hill in plain view.
I trudge my way in the darkness for 1hr & 20min and find myself just north of the crest of that funnel. So dark & cloudy I am having a hard time making out all the terrain. As I move closer I see that there are actually several gullies that rise to that crest that you just can't tell from 1000's of yards away! I move close and find what I think would be great had the wind not been coming from the east this fine morn!!! DOHHH! I push on past the crest and find that indeed the place looks like it had been used by enough elk it would compare to I25 at 6:30 Monday morn!
I find some nice shrubs approx 40yds past the crest just to the south east of it, but would not be able to see them at all until they in fact crested the hill. Then, if only a couple trickled over they may be moving past me before I found something I wanted to shoot. HMMM? As I ponder this boggle, someone special must of put in a good word to ol` Mother Nature, because at that second the wind switched and started blowing in from the west which is the best possible case! YES! I moved back to the north some and started looking at that spot I had just ID. Settled in and tried glassing, but still too dark. Then of course as I started trying to get a decent rifle setting though I just could not get comfortable and when I did I could not get a good view of the trail! Ok, next bush...nope. Next gully...nope! Hmmmm, let's try over by the trail...ok, this is better but I am only 35yds from the trail crest....whew that is close. I also lose a bit more view of the bottom of the sage flat!!! AAARGGGHHHH!!! I stick with it and settle in!
First, off with the coat & sweater...BRRRR!!!! Holy ......! Come on sweat, dry quick!!!! As I stand there shivering I can finally see some glare in the horizon to the east signaling the coming of the dawn. Already 5:55! Still can't see a lick on the fields! The wind whipping through my ear lobes is frustrating too as I strain to hear the pitter patter of elk feet dancing up the hillside. I am wondering now if any are sneaking outta the hay early and will surprise me, so I load up the ammo as it is only 20+ min till shooting light anyway. (I am saying 6:20 just to be safe being so far west of I25, though not sure if that is quite right or not) COYOTES! Dang! A pack too! ...and sounds like just below me where I am hoping the elk come from! GET THE HECK OUTTA HERE! ...good, sounds like they are moving south.
Tic...tic...tic...tic...tic....! I swore each second is going off in my head!! By now I am so froze I could care less if I am dry yet and throw back on my sweater & coat!!! OH YEAH! Hood tight, flat on my belly out of the wind face in the dirt! Of course with one ear out to hear any footsteps sneaking up on me! I sit for a second and then absolutely drench EVERYTHING in half a bottle of the Silver XP, just in case...oh great, now I am wet again...but on the outside though!
6:10...I can almost make out shapes in the hay...sure doesn't look like any elk!! What the heck! HMMM?
6:15...better, but where are the elk? Oh man, they are ALL way up north hangin with the 'late crew'! Not near as many as yesterday either, but still look to be a good ~250 head!!! That is sweet though! So far, so good!
6:20, mad cow races across herd and must be signaling that it is time to head to the hills. By 6:24 a good portion of the herd is grouped closer together and getting anxious. Sure enough though, the 'late crew' is about the same size and not buying in again. Definite separation between the herds.
OK, here goes the first cow over the fence!!! EEEEEE! Yeah, heart starts beating much faster! Breathe dork, breathe! Next one. Another, another, and so on and so forth! Pretty steady procession across the fence and into the first part of the creek drainage. Here we go! They are indeed headed my way ...I think!!! BUT SURE ARE TAKING THEIR OWN SWEET TIME ABOUT IT!!! Yep, I can tell from here they are watering as they hit the water! Though as soon as they are done drinking they jump right across. Slowly but surely they are heading southeast in my general direction! This is awesome!!! Uh oh! I just remembered I really hadn't found a good rest to shoot from! Ok, let's try this....nope! Maybe straddling this sagebrush...nope. Ok, if I stay down in the little washout I might be ok. That is better but I lose some of the trail.
Yep, they are following the same path as I have watched for two days!!!! Breathe you fat man, breathe!!! Eyes pressed tight against the Burris Binos I still cannot make out any racks, just bodies! Well maybe if I sneak up on that rise in front of me for just a minute to take a peak. I can sneak back before they make it up the hill! Off I go, but with rifle just in case! As I creep around the side of this little hill I can see them, just cannot make out any antlers. What I do see is that ~25 hd have fallen back a bit. Though all are heading directly to the trail I am guarding closely. By now the first of the elk are getting within 500 yds and starting to move out of sight below me in the sage flats. I had better get in position. As I move back around the small hill to grab my rifle, I realize that if I sat right on top of that point and just to the north edge of this little hill I am out of sight and can still see the last 40 yds or so of the trail and the crest. Hey, this just might do. Now the waiting game is on. ...and for what seemed an eternity I sat there behind my rifle watching the trail in from of me.
Tic...tic...tic...tic...tic...! OOOOH! There she is!!!! The first cow is creeping ever so slowly up the trail and is pausing at each step testing the wind and looking around! 7:10! Oh crud, I am way too close, I start crying! She is only 50 yds away and getting closer with each step. Though I am in plain sight she pays me no mind despite the blazing orange vest and hat! There she goes, moving to the top and creeping even slower of the crest! By now several others are in single file right on her tail ALL testing the wind constantly and looking all around! I am SO going to get busted! Off with the safety just in case I do! Trying to lay flat as possible and not breathe, I watch as one by one they mosey on by....5 cow, 10 cow, 20 cow more! Spike! 10 cow, spike. 20 cow , spike, 10 cow, spike....OOHH what's that? Rag horn! Hmmm? 4x? ? Ahhh....boney, let him go idiot! More cows, followed by more cows, well over 100 head have moved within 35 yds of me and not one 'bull'! But they are still coming...5 cow, 10 cow, 20 cow more! (ok, a couple more spikes mixed in and some of those cows were calves, but who is counting?!)
Huh? ... procession seems to have ended. Wonder if that group lagging behind caught up or not? Then, as if to twist my arm a bit, a large cow kind of stepped off to the left a bit in from of the little pointed crest and is at only ~30 yds.....HMMM?!?!?!?!
Up comes rifle, in my sights......one last glance to see if anything else is coming up the trail...nope....ok, the last 5 head are in my view and moving away. She looks yummy.......BAMMMMMM! Off sounds the .340mag and so close I hear no thump, but she jumps high in the air and reels around back to the right where she came from and slightly stumbles! I reload and set-up on the last calf going quickly over the hill, but stop myself! WHEW! OK, breathe again!!! Thump, thump, thump the heart is sure going!!!! Check watch, 7:24! Exactly 1hr since I first started seeing them gather together and cross the fence!
I jump up and run to the crest of the small hill I am on and glass the valley below. The group lagging behind is still down there walking in circles trying to figure out what the heck to do. I can also see the 'late crew' way off to the north and worried as well. They looked to be headed to where they bedded all day the day before, RIGHT BY THE TRUCK! maybe 1.25 miles back to the north. The small group left behind is looking at them as if for guidance and start moving a bit that way. I am thinking that maybe I can get back to the plateau and run down there and cut one of those groups off as they try and crest the hill so off I go! Chug, chug, chug.(I cannot really 'run' anymore LOL!)
As I near that northern funnel point I slow to catch my breath and start keeping a close eye on the crest of the hill. This is barely 1/3 of mile from where I was and maybe a qtr of the way back to where I last saw the 'late crew' but should be directly above where I last saw the lagging group. I creep ever so slowly to the edge and see no elk. Ok, maybe they did run back and join the 'late crew'. Off I go again.......huffin and a puffin all the way! Amazing I did not fall and break my skull! As I near the crest where they had bedded the day before I am worried, if ANY of them were coming my way they surely would have been up the hill by now! As I get to the crest I sneak down a bit behind a small juniper and can see the small lagging group, but where the heck are the 'late crew'? The lagging group are looking back to the hay fields and sure enough the 'late crew' had ran back into the fields and moved all the way to the northern most end of the private props and on the edge of the state line. The lagging group has a small rag horn in it!!! They are moving slightly my way and right below me. I laser it and get 320yds to the4x5 bull. Hmmm? Couple hundred feet downhill too and into a stiff crosswind. NAH! First day of the season and I already have to have a cow down!!!! Relax!
I sit there behind the binos and just watch. The late crew IS crossing into Wyoming and the lagging group is watching them and start moving back west towards the creek. I watch them disappear into the creek drainage and then watch as the 'late crew' make their way into the first hills of Wyoming and vanish into the junipers. I never did see where the lagging group went, they just disappeared!
Made my way back to the spot of the shot, and took a break and a drink before even looking!
As I move to where I hit her I got to do this for "Turbo"! (Lots of blood, but sorry no antlers!)
Do not think I am going to have a hard time tracking this one!
UH OH! She moved to the ledge! OF COURSE! She went back right and stumbled over the cliff! Not sure why I took no pic, but she fell off the cliff and rested halfway down the hill & about 100' down three steep drop-offs!
First & second bounce!
Talk about a big fat cow! She was stuffed and looked bloated from eating hay all night long!
The shot had entered her left side right behind the leg and took out a rib, double lunger and heart job and shattered the right leg with the mushroomed rd resting just inside the hide on the right shoulder! A perfect shot! LOL! Better be from 30yds away!!!!
NOW, for the real work to begin!
Got the first load back to the truck by 11:50. Stripped down the long undies and anything else I did not need for the second trip, including the rifle and back I went. She was 2.1 miles back-in by my GPS, but only 500' in elevation gain. Though her sitting on the side of that gully made it much harder than it could have been. On that first/right side I only lost some shoulder & rib meat from the shot. Though when I flipped her over and skinned the left side I found she was busted up pretty good! Three ribs were busted from the fall and her belly blew up inside and was leaking out. Only managed to save a few scraps from the entire shoulder, no rib meat and lost half of the backstrap on that left side due to being soaked in that gut juice for a couple of hours. The hiney was finey!
Back to the truck with the second & final load by 4:10 and exhausted! This fat boy just needs to get in shape!
Man what a day! Sure is nice when EVERYTHING comes together as planned! I couldn't have scripted it any better! Wow, was I a happy man.
So, since my story was blown already, I will not tease anyone any further and cut it short and to the point! LOL!!! LOL!!!
Storm has moved in the night before & I could not see squat until after 7am that next day. Not sure if they came back to the hay or not, but if they did they left before I could see a thing. Also glassed the little bit of CO props on the edge of WY where the late crew had gone and saw nothing. Watched the mountains above all day and nada. I am sure they will be back, just might take a day or two.
That evening it started raining pretty good, with the forecast to be 3-8 inches after nightfall. Tired as heck I hit the hay at 6:41 that night and set the clock again for 3am to go ahead and climb back up and see if they come back. If not, my plans was I would head to the higher hills and see what was up. About 9ish I could tell it had turned to snow and the wind had died a bit and I finely fell into a deep sleep!
Nov FRIDAY the 13th!
So, of course I am blaming it on this day, but must have been the stroke of midnight as all hell came crashing down!!! KABOOM! CRASH! BANG! SNAP! SNAP!
What on earth?!!!?!? The snow was so hot & HEAVY that in those three hours and only about 8" of snow, it had demolished my tent and collapsed it completely! It was so heavy that it was all I could do to just roll over and push myself up to get the tent off of me! I tried on my back, but I could not budge it! I rolled on my belly and got to my knees and began to knock the snow to the sides little by little. Checked my watch and it as 00:01 on Friday the thirteenth! For the next 10 minutes or so it was all I could do to get my slip-ons on, my coat on and crawl to the door and get out. Once outside I got in the truck for my headlamp and began digging. Twenty minutes later I could pry the poles up and found two snapped in half so I used two brooms, two rakes and a shovel to prop the inside up while I picked up the pieces of my lantern glass and did my best to get the tent to hold! Got the heater going and started coffee while jumping back in my bag to get warm. For the next hour it was a constant chore to keep the snow off the roof, and since the tent was trashed and the forecast was for two more days of snow I wussed out and made the call to head for flat land! At 4:15 I had finally got everything loaded, the trailer hooked up and was pulling out.
Took 3.5 hours to get to Rawlins... and another 6.5 to hit Greeley!
Some where around Elk Mountain
I was so amazed when I would hit 40mph that I had to take pic!
I am very pleased I have my "Meat For The Beast", but having never gotten a bull before I must say I am a bit disappointed too. But heck, we live in Colorful Colorado and there is always next year!
Thanks to all of you who have sent me updates, advice & well wishes over the last few weeks, it is much appreciated! I wish I could share some with all of you, but maybe, just maybe, I have!