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Location: Western Colorado
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2014 Colorado Unit 61 Elk Hunt

 

 

This elk hunt has been in the process for 17 years as I accumulated preference points in the hopes of being able to draw a tag in one of the coveted units where monsters roamed the hills.  In the last couple of years I had been looking at the number of points to draw a muzzle loader tag for some of the premier units here in Colorado and finally came to the realization that I just didn’t have enough and didn’t want to wait another 5 plus years to draw one in the North West corner of the state, so I decided to put in for a muzzle loader tag in unit 61 with 17 points where last year it only took 14.  Now unit 61 has some good bulls but I would come to find out that the vast majority of them are in the 320-350 inch range with some but not many going larger.  So last February I put in my application with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife for a muzzle loader tag in unit 61 knowing that I was almost assured a tag for this year.  Now as a lot of you know the Colorado Parks and Wildlife has some problems on the unofficial posting of the draw results and while I was pretty sure that I would draw the actual realization was yet to come.  Once June was here and I saw the official results of the draw I knew that I had my tag.  So let the planning and scouting begin. 

I had never been to this unit before.  I had driven around it but never step foot in it.  A friend of mine had hunted it before during the archery season and when I told him that I had drawn the muzzle loader tag he just started to laugh.  He also had put in for another archery tag after accumulating enough points and that he also had drawn the tag that he had applied for.  Unit 61 look out because the fantastic dual were about to swoop down upon you and do our best. 

My first scouting trip was just after July 4th after some of the holiday traffic had gone away.  Doug had hunted the Red Creek Canyon area on his previous hunt and knew that there should be some good bulls in that area and may be overlooked by others that might have one of the coveted tags.  Since he was working in Moab, Utah we decided to meet at the corner of the Nucla and the Divide road.  I had never been there and had no idea of how long it would take for me to actually get there until after that first trip.  I ended up having to wait a couple of hours for him to get there but we were soon on our way south.  This first trip we spent 4 days in the Red Creek Canyon and Little Red Creek Canyon watching the bulls as their antlers grew a little bit more each day.  We then started to head north on the Divide Road spending a day each time we stopped looking the area over and seeing a few more bulls.  This went on for the whole scouting trip with me getting familiar with the area.  We then planned out a couple more trips of 5 days each and pretty much following the same routine as we were looking for a wall hanger for both of us to take home.  We traveled as far as the 47 Trail Road before going back to the south end to check it out again.  On our last trip we decided that the Red Creek Canyon area was where we wanted to be.  Now the wait unit the hunt started.

In the mean time I was trying to decide on which weapon to take down with me.  My T/C Triumph .50 caliber in line or my old trusty and true T/C Renegade in .54 caliber.  Each session at the target range made me wonder which one would be best.  On my final trip the Triumph shot a 3” group at 100 yards shooting 85 grains of Black Horn 209 powder and a 300 grain Thor solid copper hollow point bullet.  I loaded up my .54 with my tried and true load of 90 grains of Pyrodex and a 430 grain hand casted Maxi-Ball and took steady aim.  The first shot was just inside the outer edge of a 3” bulls eye.  The second shot was also in the black but 180 degrees off of the first.  Then the next two shots made almost a perfect square of the 4 shots, I had found my loads but not my hunting rifle.  So I did what any abnormal person would do and took both.  Now for the hunt. 

Unknown to me Doug had taken the whole week off before the muzzle loader hunt to see if he could stick a bull with an arrow before I arrived.  I got a call at 6pm on the 11th with him saying that he would meet me at the intersection of the Divide Road and 25 Mesa Road.  He had been hunting in the Red Canyons area and said that for some reason a lot of the elk had moved out with him only seeing a few during the week and that we should go with option two.  So much for planning and scouting.  We camped on the Cotton Wood Road just off of the Divide Road in unit 62 to throw off any one thinking that we knew what we were doing.  I now think that it confused us just as much as anyone else.  We took a hike Friday morning into Tabernash Canyon to see what we could see.  We hadn’t gone more than a few hundred yards when we jumped a bull and a cow.  We only say his antlers as he disappeared into the woods but he looked like a nice bull.  We then worked our way through some ledges and down onto a bench where we started to see bulls and l mean lots of bulls.  None were what you would call shooters but the majority of them were respectable.  Now we just had 11 hours to wait for daylight and to let the fun begin. 

Saturday morning Doug went his way and I went mine.  I dropped down into the Tabernash and was jumping elk but didn’t see anything to take a shot at except for a small 5 point.  I hiked over to look down into a bench and listen to the bulls bugling at each other.  This went on until about 10 am when they all went quiet.  Doug and I had set up a spot for the both of us to meet for lunch so I headed over to it to meet up with him.  His report was about the same as mine with him unable to put the sneak on a bull without getting noticed and spooking the bull off before he hot within range for his arrow.  We now decided to try another spot just to see what we might be able to see.  We hopped into his truck and headed over to the 47 Trail Road near Windy Point.  We then went down 47 Trail, through a few gates, pass a cabin to the end of the road.  I decided to go back to the last fence and hike the fence line to see what I could see and Doug headed to the West……..the fool.   I hiked the fence line out jumping some blue grouse wishing that I had my shotgun or at least a sling shot but I didn’t so on I went.  I then came to a steep drop off into the Tabernash area that we were at that morning.  I then then went through the fence and towards the South.  I reached an area where I could watch a couple of livestock ponds in some small clearings.  I hadn’t been there for more than 5 minutes before I heard something down below me moving through the brush, then I saw them.  A cow elk was headed up the draw with a good looking bull right behind her.  I put the binoculars on him and saw that he was a 5x6 with a lot of mass with good length.  For some reason I just liked this bull so I quickly got ready to take a shot.  I had left my range finder at home but figured that the bull was a little over 120 yards away with a downward angle.  I quickly cocked the hammer and put the sights on the bulls shoulder.  Oh I guess that I should tell you that for that evenings hunt I had the old and true .54 with me.  I pulled the trigger only to hear a click, I quickly took a look and saw that the hammer had come down on the cap without setting it off.  At the click of metal on metal the bull stopped dead in his tracks and forgot about the cow and looked right up at me.  I quickly placed another cap onto the nipple, cocked the hammer and placed the sights back on his shoulder.  At the pull of the trigger then the loud boom and a cloud of smoke, he was still standing and I had shot over his back.  I grabbed my speed loader and tried to reload while sitting on the ground and while doing so spilled some of the powder, how much I still do not know.  I place the cap onto the nipple and placed the sights back onto his shoulder and pulled the trigger……………..click again, now I was getting mad but the bull was still just standing there.  I placed a new cap onto the nipple aimed and fired and heard a whoomp as the bullet struck home but the bull was still just standing there not moving a step.  I reloaded again only this time instead of using a cap from the speed loader or one in the pouch on my belt I pulled a new tin of caps out of my pack as quickly as I could.  I aimed and pulled the trigger, when the smoke had cleared the bull had turned 180 degrees but was still just standing there.  Ok, so what did I do?  I reloaded only this time I didn’t have a speed loader but had to dig my powder flask out of my pack and the measure out of the pouch on my hip.  Now you have to figure that I had two empty speed loaders sitting on the ground a tin of caps and a tube of greasy bullets sitting next to me on the ground along with my bullet starter.  The elk had been hit twice but was still just standing there looking at this crazy human throwing stuff all over the place and waving his arms in some wild manner.  Perhaps that is why he just stood there, he thought that I was just another crazy human.  I was now loaded up and trying to place the sights back onto his shoulder saying to myself this can’t be happening to me, I pulled the trigger again.  This time after the bullet hit him he decided that he didn’t want to stick around but I could see blood pouring out of at least two wounds, I reloaded again.  The bull only took 5 or 6 steps before he collapsed onto his side………..he was down.  I sat there in disbelief at what I had just gone through, what actually happened in those 30 or 50 seconds is hard to describe, you just had to be there.  I then just sat there watching the bull hoping that he wouldn’t stand back up since he was very close to a lot of oak brush and a very difficult shot.  He didn’t get up, he was down. 

I headed over to him and he looked huge.  His antlers were way above the sagebrush where he had fallen and as I looked at his body I thought that he was a huge elk, just as big a another one that I had shot that gave me 360 pounds of boned out meat, now the work was about to start.  I tried to move him, I guess that I thought that I was now Superman but he soon showed me who was going to win this battle.  He wasn’t in a position where I couldn’t roll him into a clear spot and I couldn’t budge him, not even a little…….the joke was on me.  I got my rope out and between the rope a couple of pieces of sagebrush and a long stick I soon was able to redneck winch him into a position where the real work would start.  Because of his size I decided to try the boneless method to take care of him.  I split the hide from his antlers down the his rear end and then from his back down along the last rib to his belly and proceeded to start to skin out the back quarter.  I got the rear quarter off of him and hung in in a tall piece of oak brush and went back to start on the fronts.  By now it was about 7pm and I looked up and noticed some crazy archer headed in my direction, it was Doug.  He told me of some crazy man that had started a small was down this draw and he figure that he had to be me so he came down it to see what in the world I was doing.  Between the two of us we made quick work of the rest of the skinning and cutting off the quarters and then hanging the meat up into the brush.   I then caped out the head by headlamp, by the time that I was finished it as 9pm when we started to hike out to the truck a mile away, well it felt like a mile but it was only about three quarters of a mile…..uphill.  By the time we got back to camp we were too tired to even eat anything and just collapsed into our sleeping bags, it was going to be a long day come Sunday. 

We were back to the kill site by 8am Sunday morning with a pack board apiece.  Doug left his bow in the truck figuring that we were going to have enough trouble without packing it around.  It was then that I took a real good look at the bull.  He was old, real old.  His lower front teeth were worn down to his gums and the rear molars looked like they didn’t have too many meals left in them.  His ivories were the smallest ones that I have ever seen for a bull that size so I named him right then and there, Methuselah was his name for hear on out.  It took the two of us until 2:30 that afternoon to get the meat out of there and to the truck.  We had brought both of our truck just for the reason that Doug wanted to hunt that evening while I was taking care of the meat, antlers, and cape.  As we walked back down the hill he told me that he was going to kill one that made mine look like a fawn…….ya right. 

I got back to camp and dug out the Dutch oven that we had buried that morning with a nice roast in along with potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic.  You know what I mean, the works.  I was almost too tired to eat but I ate more than my share of it.  I then threw some ropes over a large tree limb and hoisted the meat up into the air, grabbed a pop and built up the fire to just relax.  About 9pm I was starting to get worried about Doug but then he was a big boy and had been out at night before by himself.  After I had been asleep for a couple of hours I heard his truck pull into the camp, it was midnight.  I got up to go see what he had going on, I then notice that he was covered in blood.  He had arrowed a 6x6 bull about another three quarters of a mile away from where mine was.  I would feel it now it was going to be a very long Monday and perhaps Monday and Tuesday.  As he pulled out one of his beers and finished of what was left of a 5 pound beef roast he told me the details of how he found a beaver pond with a wallow a few yards below it.  He sat up a quick ground blind at 30 yards and waited.  At about 7:00 that night a 6x6 bull had walked in screaming his head off, he said that he didn’t even have time to think before the arrow was on its way and into the bulls’ chest.  The bull dropped and died within sight of his ground blind so he sat there for a while just watching the bull as it died.  He then told me something that made me so mad at him that I was about to club him with a rock.  Just as he was getting ready to go to work on the bull here came three hunters or two hunters and a guide.  The four of them made quick work on that elk and he made arrangements for the outfitter to come back in Monday morning and pack out his elk for him.  I didn’t know what to do, cry because I was so tired and soar from packing mine out, being happy for him that he had an elk and didn’t have to work to get it out, or to just club him over the head when he went to sleep and just leave him in a burning tent.  We both went to sleep before our heads even hit our pillows.  We got up a 5am Monday morning and got all of our gear packed into our trucks.  Had a quick breakfast of briskets and gravy and loaded up my elk into my truck.  At 7am I headed home since I think that I would still have liked to of hit him over the head with a rock or club just because he was going to spend a couple hundred dollars and not get all the fun of having to pack an elk out for a mile or so. 

Have I ever told you guys how much I enjoy hunting? 

  I have included a photo of his ivories which are in the center and of a pair of ivories that came from a bull about the same size as he was.  You can tell how much smaller the center ones are from all the wear that he put on them one way or another.  Elk After I turned him aroundHappy HunterIvories

 

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Location: Midwest
Joined: 03/21/2009
Posts: 41
Congratulations

Congratulations on a great looking bull !!!  You described the back breaking efforts it takes to get the meat out well, and there are few better aches and pains - than those brought on by success.

Thanks for sharing the story and photos.

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Joined: 06/01/2011
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Congrats, Critter

That's a great bull.  Loved the detail of the story too.  

My buddy and I did the same thing a few years ago and hired an outfitter to haul out his elk.  It kills me to pay others to do things for me that I can do myself, but it made quick and easy work out of a mile pack out.  In the end, probably the best $80 I've spent in the last few years.  In the same vein, I just purchased a new hunting pack for my son so he can pack out more meat.  I'm hoping the pack pays for itself this year (we've got 3 elk tags to fill).

You might want to consider renaming the the old "trusty" renegade.  I've never had a misfire (only been muzzleoading for 5 years or so) while hunting with my muzzleloader.  I'm sure it will happen eventually, and when it does I hope it turns out as well as your misfires.

Thanks for sharing the story and pics.  Enjoyed reading it.

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I have never had a missfire

I have never had a missfire of a cap like I did this year in over 40 years of using a muzzle loader.  I have had caps go off and for it to take a while before the powder went off due to moisture but never had bad caps until this trip.  They all came from the same tin so I calked it up to age and perhaps some moisture but the whole rest of the tin of about 50 got thrown into the fire for some make shift fireworks before we went to bed Saturday night. 

If I remember right you have or someone in your group has a cow tag.  If you do we only saw about  10 cows during the trip and no large herds of them.  Unless they were not coming out of the trees I have no idea of where they were hiding.  But the oak brush is thick enough that you can hide a lot of elk in and you would never see them until they move out into the open.

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Fireworks...of course that's

Fireworks...of course that's probably what would be rolling off my tongue rather than some extra cracklin' at the campfire.  Either way I hope I can make the best out of both fireworks shows when the gun goes "click".

We ended up getting some bear tags instead of muzzle cow tags.  From the feedback I've gotten from hunting buddies in the woods now sounds like the cows are hard to find thus far.  Good news is the bear we found scouting a couple weeks ago is still in the same area so my son may get a crack at a bear this weekend when we head out.  Its not a big bear but will do just fine for a first bear.  

Thanks again for the story and pics!

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Location: Loveland , Colorado
Joined: 03/22/2010
Posts: 498
Bull

Congrats on a fine Bull and amazing story of the trials and tribulations of Muzzleloading. Very successful trip with a good friend. Memories for ever!!! Thanks for sharing it with us!!

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Joined: 01/10/2009
Posts: 53
Great Bull

Great story, the harder the work is the more special the hunt. He is a dandy, congrats on a great hunt. Seems they get here so quick and before we know it all we have is the memory. Now you can look forward to the next hunt!

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Location: Pueblo Colorado
Joined: 12/18/2006
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Awesome hunt

Great hunt, great accounting of it as well. I'll bet the surges of adrenaline for those few minutes till he was down for good wiped you out. Great looking old Bull as well. Big time congrats!!!

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Location: El Paso, Texas
Joined: 02/22/2009
Posts: 631
Congrats!!!

Congrats on a great hunt and a fine animal. Loved the story as well. I thought I was the only one that had weird things happen to during a muzzleloader hunt.

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Awesome story and bull

Awesome story and bull Jim!!!  A big congrats!!!!  Also, don't be a hater towards your buddy..... Wink

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What a great story and a

What a great story and a great bull!!  Congrats!!  And thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed reading about your adventure and glad it worked out so well for you!