Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2nd Day of Elk Hunting

So this morning again I woke up way too early, but this time was different when I went to get out of bed....yep, you guessed it, every muscle in my body ached. Oh my goodness, it took me 15 minutes of stretching to get loosened up. I got the fires blazing and was chomping at the bit to get the day rolling!

We headed out before the sun this morning and were greeted to 6 inches of fresh snow on the ground. Jared and I headed up the mountain. We walked together for about a mile and then split up to make a huge couple mile loop. The plan was to meet back up together in about 1.5 hrs or so over by some ponds. If you look close you can see Jared heading out:

I didnt have nearly as much ground to cover as Jared, so I moved very slowly and sat up at the first real good elky looking spot. Wouldn't you know that 10 minutes later I turned to the right and there was a cow elk staring me down only about 100 yards away!!! We stared at each for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was about 6-8 seconds. I didnt move a muscle, but she took off back into the thicket real quick.

Here is the kicker, back in the thicket there obviously were plenty more elk who didnt see me, but who new it was time to get moving as well. Man are they ever loud crashing through the brush! Anyhow 3 of them took a path up a hill that was in my plain sight and decided to stop halfway up and look around. I raised my gun and put my crosshairs right onto the biggest cow and believe it or not, my heart actually wasnt beating like I thought it would be. I had a good 10 second window to take that shot, but for some reason I knew I wasnt quite ready yet to harvest an elk.

Those 2 cows and a spike buck eventually ran up the hill and out of sight and I just sat there in pure amazement and complete awe. Having that opportunity to harvest an animal and not taking it was actually an experience I will never forget. It was like I was a now a mature elk hunter even though I still basically don't know a thing about elk. I sat for another 10 minutes and just thanked God for that experience. I just can't even describe with words how great that was.

With the very fresh snow, I was so excited to meet back up again with Jared to start tracking where the elk came from, how many there were, and obviously were they went! I slowly made it to our meeting point and actually tracked Jared down a few minutes early, because by then my excitement was escalating.

So as we went back and started tracking the elk, we found out that there were waaay more than just a handful of elk in that zone. There were tracks coming and going all over the place back in there and we found a major bedding zone with well over 40 visible elk beds in the fresh snow!! We thought we were really onto something and we started following tracks to track down our elk!

Here is what the elk beds looked like. They were everywhere and many of them had piles of poop turds nearby. Apparently they do their business while resting:

Well, what we found out real quick was that we are pretty much the worst trackers on the planet. We would be following an elk highway only to basically lose the trails into the thickets. Those elk knew they were being followed cause they would just disappear off the trails and jump into the thicket up or down hills all the time. We tried going into the thick stuff once, but after getting stuck numerous times and falling down a time or two, we realized that every track we followed lead to a dead end! They just disappear......

Here is a pic overlooking the elk valley with the big mountains in the far background:

Kind of disappointed at our tracking and walking abilities we headed back for lunch. I actually forgot what we ate for lunch, but do know for sure it was delicious! We didnt have a bad meal the whole week!

When we got back to camp we found Edwin and the guys hanging Edwins elk. He was out hunting with Josh and harvested a big cow! Josh took this phenomenal photo:

For those who don't know Edwin, he is a 17 year old trapped in a 53 year old body! He is borderline crazy, and always the life of the party. This elk skin was just a few minutes removed from the elk and still nice and warm:

Here is a pic of our guides Adam, Dustin, Josh, along with Dave, Edwin, and Rand.

While we were eating lunch, and having fun taking pictures of Edwin, the guides went out glassing key areas for elk. Josh, Adam, and Dustin found a small herd just bedding down, so we knew exactly which direction we would head after lunch. Thats kind of nice to occasionally skip the whole wandering around aimlessly for a few hours process. It was time to put on the stalk!

The snow was lightly falling and we quietly sneaked in about 1/4 mile to get into position on these elk. It was so cool to get in and set up, the setting was picture perfect! The elk were bedded down in a small clump of scrub oaks about 290 yards across a small crick valley. We were at the top of a ridge hiding in our own clump of scrub oaks.

We waited about 20 minutes and finally some of the elk started stirring. The started walking in a single file line out of the brush and into the open valley. Jared put his scope onto the second cow in line and just as they got to the fence they stopped. Here was a decision....take the cow at 255 yards or see if they will keep on coming right on in. That opportunity only lasted about 10 seconds and we all decided to watch them and see if they would keep coming. This would be just so perfect to get a good clear shot!

Well wouldnt you know that instead of coming on down to the crick valley they decided to turn around and head back into the brush.....ugghhh. It wasnt 5 minutes later and they sniffed us out and all 9 of them hightailed up the mountain into the abyss.... Josh was kind of surprised it took them that long to sniff us out.

We took a gamble and this time it didn't pay off, but again just knowing we could of potentially harvested an elk was a great sense of accomplishment. Both Jared and I were not interested in just flinging bullets. Even if we didn't get another opportunity the rest of the week, we did not regret passing on elk today!

That whole stalk took about 3 hours. We still had about an hour of light left, so Adam and I headed out on a polaris to a new zone. We drove a few miles away and started up a hill. About 30 minutes of hiking and we come up to an opening and sure enough there were some elk. By this time I am thinking man there are elk everywhere. I never dreamed there were so many elk in Colorado.

Anyhow we were about 60 yards away and a little too close for comfort. We never had a chance to get the gun up cleanly. They busted us and headed out. We just simply were too close before we realized how close they were to us. Light was fading fast and we just decided to head back down to the Polaris and head back to camp.

I was so tired I could hardly stay awake for dinner. My legs were feeling alot like jello and I was already getting stiff as we settled in for the evening. I am pretty sure I fell asleep on the couch and I vaguely remember listening to everyone plot various tricks to play on me as I slept. If my hand actually did get placed in a bowl of hot water thank goodness I didnt end up wetting the bed that night.....

With scenery like this, I couldnt wait for the night to get over and get back out into God's country!

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