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The Hunt

October 29, 2012

(This past month has been a blur: getting ready for hunting, taking a trip to visit my grandson, going camping/hunting with the family, and finally returning  and trying to find the “routine” in our schedule. )

On opening day, as we hiked through the forest in the darkness, the  wet snow fell steadily. Soon it would be light and we were hoping for some action. Carl, who is 7 years old sat with me while Paul took Grace about 70 yards away. It was cold and we were wet. I was excited and ready, but Carl was not.  He begged me to take him back to camp; or at least back to the car at the trailhead so he could warm up. I told him that we would go back after we filled our tags; I told him to be tough; I told him that this was part of hunting……. but when Paul came back and suggested that we start a fire, Carl perked up, quit complaining, and started to  gather wood. Amazing change!

The first day ended early without seeing elk or even a track. The animals were sitting tight through the storm. Each of our five  groups that day made a fire and each returned to the tent before sundown. There was much storytelling and quoting of Jeremiah Johnson as we filled our bellies, visited with a few friends who showed up at camp, and made our lunches for the next day.

The next day dawned crystal clear as we were walking once again through the forest. There was silence except for our footsteps on the icy snow. The elk tracks we saw brought renewed excitement. When we heard shots fired, we waited for the text messages that would tell us the good news – or at least that was our assumption 🙂 .  Finally, we heard that Jake had shot a 5X4 satellite bull.

Jake fills his tag and puts some meat in the freezer.

Since we were only a few miles away, we decided to hunt our way over toward his group. On the way, Grace had an opportunity at a bull. She wasn’t quite as ready as her guide had expected. While that was frustrating for him (Paul), it put a new fire in her and for the remainder of the hunt she would be ready.

Grace with her guide and dad.

We saw some lion tracks and as we passed “The Morgue” and I thought of all the places that the family had named: Turtle Rock, The High Camp, EZ Quil, The Old Camp, The Spring ……. I guess in a strange way, it makes the mountain ours.

We never located Jake and the girls at the kill sight, so we started back toward camp. This time we traveled by trail instead of the overland route we took in the morning. The sun was melting the snow and the air was scented with the slightly acrid smell of wet aspen leaves . As we walked  and waited, we listened for the sound of elk crashing through the timber. I heard him and when I did see him, it was apparent that he was late. I got the safety off, but didn’t even have time to count the points and see if it was a legal bull before he was gone.

My final day of hunting started much the same way. Our walk to the beaver ponds was a bit longer, but more promising as we saw more tracks. I set up my spot by a large fallen tree. I listened to the scratching sound of the last tenacious leaves being driven from their summer home to the winter abode. I watched a pair of downy woodpeckers  hammer, flit, and “cheet” through the aspen grove. I waited patiently for the sun to rise above the trees and spill its warm rays on my  flourescent orange jacket.  And while I waited, I tried to identify the green herbs that seemed to have missed the notice that winter was on its way.

Good job, Nick!

Later, we hiked  to the site of Nick’s kill from the day before. I had a bear tag and we wanted to check the gut pile. There was no sign of activity, so we posted ourselves on the edge of a meadow and waited.

The little breezes were now stronger and  more frequent. They start with a faint hum and soon the trees are swaying and it sounds like you are standing at a base of a mighty waterfall. And just as suddenly it is gone and all is still again.

The breezes turned to gusts as we walked and hunted. We saw a spike bull (not legal in Colorado)  as we crested a hill.  The larger part of the herd had passed ahead of him. Paul cow called and we got an answer. While we tried to decide how far ahead they were, what direction we should approach from, (since the gusts had turned into strong winds) and if the herd would cross out of the forest boundaries before we caught up to them, we heard the sound of cracking wood and we watched another tree fall – the second one that day. We decided that we would heed the National Weather Service’s high-wind warning and continued on our way toward the tent.

The tent was filled with laughter and stories again that night – in between the shrieking gusts of wind. This is what I want to remember forever: the smiles, the teasing, the jokes. The only interruptions were the other would-be minstrels trying to insert their perspective of the story. This is elk camp.  This is my family.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 29, 2012 1:19 pm

    Oh gosh, those photos horrified me. Aside from that, glad you had a great busy month!

  2. November 28, 2012 4:33 pm

    How wonderful. Your son must be thrilled with this hunt.

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