Thursday, September 24, 2020

  I decided to return to 3-knobs today to end my 2020 elk season. It seems all too familiar to return there since it’s where I started my elk hunting adventures almost 30 years ago. A lot has changed in that time period but a lot has stayed the same, too.

  As I headed down the path into the box canyon, I could clearly see a sliver of the moon at the far end of the drainage to my right. The starlit sky welcomed me into the darkness, and the far side of the canyon beckoned me to step foot onto it. The demons screamed my name and reckoned they could make my lungs cave in before I reached the top. 

  I dug into the depths of my soul and started climbing as soon as I hit the bottom of the canyon, for the path up the other side starts immediately at the bottom. My calves screamed in pain, and my lungs begged for mercy, but I slowly scaled the face of the cliff. When I could see light through the trees, I knew I had all but tackled the challenge once again.

  Upon reaching the top, I anticipated a bugle – or two – to erupt in the aspen drainage in front of me. After waiting 15 minutes and hearing nothing, I began my journey up the horse path with Jacob. Brian decided to head in the opposite direction, planning on meeting us later in the morning. 

  When I arrived to the place where I wanted to camp out for the morning, I felt good about everything, including my chances of getting a crack at an elk. 

  Around 9:00, chaos erupted on the hill in front of me. I could hear elk mewing as they crashed timber. Then, I hear the sound of a bugling bull as he chased a cow through the broken meadows below me. Running to cut the herd off, I stopped when I came to an open area and readied myself for an opportunity. The cows continued talking back and forth, and the bull let off a few more bugles that couldn’t be heard from any distance. I listened to him chase a cow through the area below me, but I never got a look at him. 

  The excitement lasted for about a half hour before it calmed down and the woods became quiet again. As the bubble began to burst inside me, I glanced down the hill and saw an elk’s legs moving through the timber. Within seconds, a cow elk appeared in front of me. She stood broadside at 40 yards and offered me a great shot. I’m not sure why, but I never drew the bow, and the opportunity didn’t phase me. Instead, I patiently watched her and enjoyed being an unseen part of her journey. 

  After she disappeared, I spotted another cow on the ridge above me. This one was a larger cow, and she was feeding. I ranged her at 55 yards but decided to let her enjoy her meal. When she wandered down the mountain, I knew my elk hunt was probably over, and I was correct. 

  The rest of the day passed quickly. We took the time to play a few games in the woods, including throwing pine cones at unsuspecting squirrels and chipmunks. We also found a few sticks to use as bats and hit the rocks that we threw at each other. These little things are what make the unsuccessful trips so much fun. I’m glad I have good friends to enjoy both the good and bad times with. 

  Heading down the mountain about an hour before it got dark, I was satisfied with my trip. We had gotten close to a lot of elk and heard quite a few bugles. We just didn’t get lucky enough to see one of the bulls. Hopefully, I have more elk hunts in my future to make up for the lost opportunities I’ve had over the last few years. I guess only time will tell. 

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