Archive for September, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Brian and I went out for a few hours this morning. Brian wanted to look for his arrows, and I figured I’d give it one last shot. It was cold this morning. The wind howled out of the north and never let up. It was about 20 degrees cooler than any morning we have hunted over the last two weeks. I wish we didn’t have to leave today. I heard a few bugles before daylight, but that was it. I never saw an animal, and the bugling stopped as soon as it was light enough to shoot. Brian only found one of his arrows.

This trip was incredible. I’ll never forget it. I already can’t wait to come back. Looking back at things, I wish I had continued going to Colorado after my world fell apart in 2006. Although it took a few years to get back at it, I’m very glad that I returned four years ago. There’s something about creeping through black timber, sneaking through cool aspen groves, and listening to bulls bugle in far-off valleys that make all of my senses acutely aware that I’m alive, and I am on top of the world. There’s no place I’d rather be. Hopefully, we all stay healthy enough to return next year. We will take it one day at a time until then.

I thoroughly love life, and I participate in all of the things that bring me the most joy and inner peace. There’s something about being immersed in nature that allows me to be myself. I may never know exactly what makes that part of me click, but in reality, I guess it really doesn’t matter.



Thursday, September 14, 2017

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Dad went out with me today, and we sat in the area where we got all of the trail-camera pictures. Although there was one that was bugling in the area, it never showed itself. We sat until around 10 o’clock. After getting up, we hunted our way back to camp, but we didn’t see anything.

Dave hunted near us this morning, but he didn’t see anything. It warmed up quickly after the sun got up in the sky. I thought we were going to get through a full day without rain, but shortly before dark, the skies let loose, and it poured. It might have been the worst storm we have been struck with since we got out here. Luckily, it has passed, and we are in the tent getting ready to head home tomorrow.

Brian hunted by himself today. He went on an exploring mission, and the mission didn’t disappoint. He found a lot of sign, wounded a cow elk that didn’t bleed at all, and found and outfitter’s tent with four clients in it.

Two of the guys killed elk on the opening day of the muzzleloader season, but they said they hadn’t seen many animals. They were highly disappointed. One killed a 6×6, and the other killed a cow, which a bear claimed as its own.

Brian looked for the cow for seven hours and never found a spot of blood. He ranged her at 49 yards and made a good shot. When she ran, the arrow was mid-body and behind the shoulder, maybe a hair toward the stomach.

When he gave up and headed back to camp, the afternoon storm hit with fury. It dumped a lot of rain in a short amount of time and became scary at times. As he made his way up the trail, he decided to let some of his aggravation out by blowing on his bugle tube.

Instantly, a bull started running up the hill toward him. He found an opening and took a shot, but the arrow didn’t find its mark. The bull ran down the hill but came back as soon as Brian hit the call again.

Brian settled in and took another shot. In the downpour, his rangefinder didn’t work at all. The arrow harmlessly missed the bull once again. Usually, the third time is the charm, but this time that was not the case. He launched a third arrow, and it took its place in the tall grass with the other two.

Before we head for home, Brian is going to look for his arrows, and I’m going to go sit for an hour or two. I packed all of my gear today, so I’ll be ready to hit the road as soon as I get back to camp in the morning.

It has been a great trip with a lot of memorable experiences. It’s not often that a trip goes like this one did. I feel very fortunate about all of the animals I saw this week. Unfortunately, I never drew my bow. It has been 11 years since I’ve killed an elk, but it’s not for a lack of trying. I’ve been in amongst them every year. Now, I have a much better understanding for how hard it is to put an elk on the ground. I never fully appreciated it when I was younger because it always seemed so easy, especially when I was successful every year.








Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

We got an early start today and reached our starting point before daylight. Shortly after organizing our gear at that spot, we heard a bugle but couldn’t tell where it came from.

After deciding to head toward a mountain to the south, we heard the bull bugle again. Unfortunately, we had chosen the wrong direction. Since I knew our chances of seeing something would still be good, we continued toward the mountain.

A few minutes later, a black bear scared us when it bounded away from us from the timber. It was an average size bear with a nice black coat. After the bear disappeared, we headed in the same direction.

About 15 minutes later, a bugle erupted from the valley below us. I quickly told Brian to bugle back to the bull. I knew it wasn’t too far away. When he bugled, the woods erupted with elk crashing through the timber in every direction. They weren’t with the bull that was bugling, which gave us some confidence. Hoping to catch up to the bull, we called to him again, and he answered again, but that was the last we heard from him.

We spent the day looking at some new ground and sat in a big meadow for the evening, which turned out to be uneventful. The daily storm rolled in around 2 p.m. and lasted until about 5 p.m. We can’t seem to escape the storms this year. We have had a storm every day except one.

Since dad is no longer hunting, he pulled a trail camera today. He got some pretty cool pictures on it. It’s nice to have something on trail camera other than deer. It’s a refreshing sight.

Tomorrow is the last day of the hunt. Although I didn’t connect on anything, or even draw my bow, this trip was one of my best yet. It was enjoyable for a number of reasons, which I’ll get into when I wrap it all up when I return home.

Brian and I are going out in the morning to give it one last shot before packing up to head home. I’m just going to soak in the experience and enjoy what the day has to offer.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

It was chilly when we woke up this morning, but there still hasn’t been a frost. Brian and I headed out behind camp and made a day of it. We didn’t hear a peep the entire day. It was very slow as far as bulls bugling or moving, at least in the area we hunted.

Around 5:00 p.m., we finally saw some animals when a cow and a calf came up the hill toward us. They seemed especially spooky, and a few minutes later, we came to understand their demeanor when we heard people talking and horses neighing on the hill above us. A short time later, the people began shooting muzzleloaders. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. At least we ruled that spot out for the next few days. It appears that the people have driven most of the animals out of there for the time being. Hopefully, we can find the place where some of them relocated. Dad and Dave went to a place where Dad was hunting before he killed his bull, and Dad said he believed all of the elk they saw had come down from above. They exchanged bugles with a nice bull before it decided it was no longer interested in playing the game.

Brian and I ended the day by seeing two cows race past us. They were on edge, just like the cow and calf. I’m hoping for a good day tomorrow. Until then…………

Monday, September 11, 2017

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Brian and I didn’t have a real plan when we left camp this morning. As we marched through the darkness, we both decided to stop on the edge of a meadow and wait for daylight. After standing there for about 20 minutes, a cow and calf made their way out of the timber and headed into the meadow to feed. They seemed on edge and it didn’t take long for them to return to the timber.

After wandering around for a while, Brian and I decided to head back to camp. We hadn’t heard anything bugle and not many animals appeared to be on the move. When we got back to camp, Dad and Dave had some company. A man named Wilber, who is a local, and a guy named Dave from Minnesota, who was hunting with him, were visiting. As Wilber talked about his many experiences in the surrounding mountains, I sat down and talked with Dave. He was a genuine guy, and I enjoyed his company. He came to Colorado with his wife and 18-year-old daughter. His wife will be staying at camp while he hunts with his daughter.

Sometimes the people we meet while hunting make our trip. These two guys were really nice. My dad was fascinated with Wilber, and the visit made my dad realize that he still has a lot of time left to wander around in the mountains of the West. I’m thankful for their visit for a variety of reasons. I guess it’s one of those things that happen every now and then that are unexplainable, and I will not search for the answer. I do know that both of these men will be friends for life, even if we never speak again. They share our values and our passion and that is enough for me.

Tonight, Brian and I went for quite a hike and got caught in pouring rain. We found a rub of a lifetime and some good sign. I’d love to see the bull that made the sign.

We didn’t hit our route very well, and we ended up coming out in an area well away from where we wanted to be. When the rain started coming down in buckets, we had to keep walking. By the time we got back to the truck, we were both spent and soaked to the bone. My heel is shot tonight. It has been getting worse by the day, but tonight it is shot. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to walk very far tomorrow.

Here are a few pictures of the storm we encountered on our journey this evening.



Sunday, September 10, 2017

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

We got an early start today to look for the bull Dad shot at last night. We decided to hunt on the way to the spot where Dad last found blood. It didn’t take long for the action to start. Halfway to the spot, a few bulls started bugling, so we set up and tried to ambush them on their way to the calls.

Unfortunately, neither of the bulls came all the way in. Although they made it to within 60 yards, they didn’t present us with a good chance to get a shot at them. The excitement lasted for about a half hour.

When we got close to the spot where dad hit the bull, we stopped to take a break. As Brian and I discussed a few things, he softly whispered, “There’s a guy up above us on the ridge.”

Caught off guard, I replied, “Really.”

“Oh, it’s your dad,” Brian blurted out.

Turning around, I couldn’t believe that my dad was with us. I was excited but concerned. I knew he had been going overboard with everything, and I thought he should have stayed in the tent for the morning.

We all made our way to the spot where he found the last blood the night before. As we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do, a bull let loose right out in front of us.

Dad and I rushed out in front of Brian and took cover in some brush. When Brian answered the bull with a bugle of his own, the bull responded with a raspy bugle as if to let us know that he was the king of the mountain.

A few minutes later, everything went quiet, and we never heard another peep out of the bull. It’s amazing how an animal that size can magically disappear without making a sound.

Although we were disheartened that the bull didn’t give us an opportunity, we were more than ready to see what we could do with the minimum amount of blood dad had found the night before.

In the first 200 yards, there were only about five drops of blood that Dad found. When Brian and I looked at it, we were fairly certain that our efforts in the chase would be fruitless. I’m not sure what I expected, but the few drops of blood didn’t bring my hopes up for finding the bull.

About a half hour into our search, I finally found some more blood in a small meadow about a hundred yards from the last blood. Although it gave us a tiny bit of hope, we couldn’t locate any more blood. We searched high and low for any sign of where the bull might have gone, but nobody had any luck.

In a last-ditch effort, my dad went considerably lower than Brian and I. Surprisingly, he found a place where there was a lot of blood on some rocks. Suddenly, it became easy to follow, and within seconds, we found the arrow, and the broadhead was no longer on it.

We quickly gained confidence that we might be headed in a different direction, especially as all of the blood began to appear on the forest floor. The elation didn’t last long, as we quickly lost the blood again.

I went toward a small flat about a hundred yards up the hill. Although I didn’t expect much, I hoped that the elk headed toward a place where it would be able to navigate a little bit easier. Amazingly, my guess was accurate. I found a tiny speck of blood on an aspen leaf but nothing more. We knew the bull was on the runway and figured he probably followed it across the flat. When we got to the end of the flat, we had to guess again since there wasn’t any blood. So dad and I followed the main runway down the hill, and Brian beat his way through the small aspen trees above us.

After about a half hour, Dad and I exhausted all of our options and decided to give it one last shot and go back to the flat to see what we could find. Before doing so, we decided to eat lunch. Just as I finished my lunch and zipped up my backpack, I heard Brian on the radio. He said he found blood. I told him to make a few cow calls so I could tell where he was. I could barely hear him, and he was well above us.

When we got to him, we could see where the bull had bedded down, but it didn’t appear that it bled very much in its bed. Although this concerned us, we figured if it laid down, it couldn’t be too far away if it was actually hit very hard. Once they lay down, the chest cavity usually fills with blood, and they don’t move very well afterward.

When dad started up the hill, I saw him begin sneaking forward and motioning me to get to him as quickly as possible. As I crested the small hill, I could see the bull’s head tilted back, and the legs were pointed toward the sky. After he had gotten out of his bed, he must not have had the ability to go very far, and that was the end of the story.

I’m still not sure how we found the bull. I’ve been involved in some incredible tracking jobs, but I think this one might have been the all-time best. We basically had no blood for the better part of a half of a mile. When we did find blood, it was only a drop or two, and we lost it every time we found it. The only thing that kept us from losing hope was the constant cawing of the ravens. In the past, we had seen the ravens stay in areas where something had died or was dying. With that in mind, we were fairly certain that the elk was down. With that in our heads, we exhausted all options to find the fallen monarch. When it was all said and done, the ravens had been cawing from the sky directly above where we found the bull. It’s amazing how fast the birds can locate a free meal.

The pack out was brutal. We decided to do everything in one trip to avoid going back tomorrow. We worked together to debone all of the meat and skin the head. Brian dove in and did most of the work. It didn’t take too long for us to load our packs and head down the mountain. Without frame packs, we all had a lot of dead weight to deal with. It took us a few hours to get back to the main trail, but, fortunately, it was all downhill to get there. When we reached the trail, dad had about all he could handle. Although I was nervous, I figured he would be okay if he sat down and relaxed for a few minutes. Brian and I would be able to take our loads out and return to get that load.

It was a long day for us, but it went by quickly. Dave saw a really good bull today, but it was out of range for him to get a shot. We’ll be back at it tomorrow. Hopefully, the good luck stays with us.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Today was the opening day of muzzleloading season. We didn’t see any hunters today. The day started off really well when Brian and I saw a few cows and a really big 6×6. We were about 100 yards from them, and they didn’t have a clue that we were there. Unfortunately, we were never able to close the gap and get a shot. Once again, we would have been able to capitalize if we were hunting with a muzzleloader. I’m hoping our luck continues and that we see some more bulls. Although we still have about a week left, I’m not sure I’m going to get an opportunity to loose an arrow from the string. Everything can change in a few seconds, so I’ll keep plugging along and see what happens.

This evening, Brian, Dave and I went to check a camera that we put up the first day we got here. We got some really cool pictures on it. It’s too bad that we didn’t hunt the wallow more than once. It’s tough to hunt there because the wind is never conducive to setting up in the right place. We might figure it out, but it doesn’t appear that it will be this year.

When we were hunting this evening, Dave saw a big mule deer doe, I saw a mule deer and her fawn, and Brian saw a nice bull. When we were hunting, Dad chimed in on the radio. He hit a 5×5 on top of the mountain. Unfortunately, there isn’t any blood. He thinks he killed it, but without any blood, it’s going to be tough to find it. Brian and I are going to give it our best in the morning. Hopefully, we can locate it. Dad fell off his electric bike on the way out after hunting. He’s in rough shape. He can’t get around to well and is hobbled up. He’s very sore but won’t admit it.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

We got an early start today. About a half hour into our walk, a big bull sounded off in the darkness. We hemmed and hawed for a few minutes before deciding to go after him.

When we started after him, he hung around for a bit, but the amount of time it took us to climb the hill to close the gap gave him enough time to retreat up the mountain. Although he was sounding off regularly, he didn’t have enough interest in us to hang around and give us an opportunity.

As we made our way up the mountain, we came into a few areas that looked good for bedding. Upon stopping and discussing one of them, a big bull jumped up and ran away.

A few hours later, we stopped in some thick timber to take a break. As we were relaxing, a few sticks broke on the ridge above us. Instantly, I saw some elk legs that quickly turned into full bodies. About seven elk could be seen before one of them stopped. Sensing something wasn’t quite right, they retreated in the direction they came from.

After the excitement, we climbed higher and decided to call for a few minutes. Two bulls answered our first call. Although one was above us and one was below us, they both started coming to the call.

We quickly found a place to hide and got ready for the action. After the bull above us hung up, I decided to go after it as Brian called. I closed the distance to within 45 yards and could see the bull thrashing a tree. When he got done with the tree, he simply walked away. Too much brush prevented me from getting a shot. We were both pretty disappointed to be that close to yet another 6×6 and not get a shot.

As we continued toward a saddle that we had marked on the map, we got excited when we got closer to it because of all of the sign we were seeing. I was amazed to see a guy sitting under a tree when we crested the hill. We spoke to him long enough to learn that he was a local guy and that his brother was on the other side of the ridge.

A few hours after talking to the guy, we got caught in another thunder and lightning storm. We’ve had nasty storms every day. We took cover under a few small spruce trees for about two hours.

When we finally crawled out from under the trees, we had a few hours left before darkness. We slowly still-hunted across the ridge and began going back down. As we were descending, we let out a bugle and quickly got a response. Instantly, we knew that it was another hunter, so we headed in the opposite direction.

A few minutes after the encounter, I spotted a spike bull and two cows in the meadow above us. We chose to leave them alone and continue down the mountain. About 20 minutes later, we dropped down off from a small shelf and cut around the front of it. We had basically called it a day, and we weren’t staying alert. That’s when a really nice 5×5 surprised us when we saw each other at the same time. He was no more than 20 yards from us before he took a few bounds and disappeared. It was a great way to cap off an excellent day.

We are probably done hunting the area for the year. We saw two much human interference in there today to make it worth our efforts. We also found a place where someone came in with a horse and pitched a tent in the middle of some good elk country. Tomorrow is opening day of muzzleloading season, so things could drastically change in a hurry. The hunting has been really good so far, but it has been difficult, too. We have stacked some miles on our legs, and I don’t see that ending in the next week.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Dad, Dave and I took this morning off to let our bodies rest. Brian decided to try his luck, and his luck wasn’t too good. About 8:30 a.m., he sat down and let out a bugle. A bull immediately responded and started coming in. When it stopped broadside at 10 yards, Brian shot at it, and the arrow struck the bull in the back. It hit the no-zone between the backbone and the vitals. Although he tracked the bull for a while, it didn’t appear to be hit too terribly hard.

We traveled around on a few forest roads today and had the pleasure of meeting some terrific guys who were cutting wood. They shared a few stories with us and even gave us a little history on their Ford pickup that they were using to haul the wood. The truck had 351,000 miles on it and still ran like a top.



And no matter where you go, you’re bound to see that one vehicle that just makes you laugh.

When we returned from our drive, we heard a bull bugle after dinner. We all gathered our equipment and chased it around for a bit, but we didn’t have any success catching up to it before it got dark.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings. We’ve been seeing elk regularly. Hopefully, we can connect on one and celebrate the fruits of our labors.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Today was one for the ages. Brian and I put on a lot of miles today. Our day started off with some bugling action right out of the gate. We decided not to chase the bull because of where he was at, but the bull quickly made us realize that he was going to come to us.

When another bull out in front of us began bugling, the one we decided not to chase began to cover a lot of ground quickly. Before we knew it, he was within 100 yards of us and coming to fight the other bugling bull. We were caught between the two of them and joined the music with our own set of calls. Both of them closed to within 50 yards but wouldn’t show themselves. We tried our best to lure them in, but we never succeeded. In the process, Brian had a spike bull come right to him. Since spikes aren’t legal in this unit, he gave the young bull a free pass. A little out of range, he saw a nice 5×5 go down toward the other bulls.

After that action was over we headed to the top of the mountain to get some rest. While up there, Brian did some snoring and I waited for afternoon to get back in to the action.

In the mid-afternoon, we could hear a storm rolling in, and before we knew it, a few cracks of lighting directly above us scared us to death. We quickly dashed for cover and found it under a few small spruce trees but not before leaving our bows under a tree about 40 yards where we hid. We left them there to avoid being struck by lighting since it was crackling all around us.

As soon as we found cover, the heavens let loose, and hail rained from the sky. After the hail let up, the ground was completely covered. When I began crawling out from under the cover of the spruce trees, I heard a stick snap. Looking to my left, I saw a line of elk filtering through the timber. Watching them closely, I waited for the bull to stroll by to add insult to injury. Fortunately, I didn’t see a bull before the lead cow stopped and sniffed our bows. After getting a whiff of them, the elk became alert and dashed away.

A few seconds after they disappeared, a few bulls began singing in the rain. We quickly got onto them and followed their tracks, which led us to a huge meadow above tree line. When I peeked over the top of the knob, I spotted about 60 elk in the meadow in front of me. A herd bull was pushing seven satellite bulls into the timber on the far side of the meadow to keep them away from his cows, but he left a few rag bulls in the mix with his cows, including two spikes, a 4 point and a 5×5.

We got the herd bull to come to within 125 yards of our hiding place, but he never got closer. Finally, we packed up and headed down the mountain to make it back to familiar ground before it got dark.

On our way down the mountain a bull cut loose right next to us. We dashed for cover and let out a bugle. The bull came charging in, but we couldn’t get a shot to save our lives. Brian was at full draw when the bull was 35 yards away. I never got to full draw, but I got a good look at the 6×6 at 40 yards.

I haven’t experienced many days of elk hunting like this in the past, and I’m not sure if I ever will again. It was simply awesome. It’s all about the experience and the people you share it with.

Here are a few pictures of the big herd bull in the meadow after the storm. It was hard to get good photos since we were trying to stay hidden.