Time goes by way to fast. This post is long overdue and what feels like an eternity has really only been in reality, 5 weeks since my dad and I returned from the mountains. A trip of this kind to the backcountry was the first for my father since he started bowhunting in 1977. In my life Dad has always been there for me and knowing he has always wanted to take an elk with his recurve I was proud to think I might have a hand in helping make this happen for him. (For more check out the Man, the Myth, the Legend).
Once dad was in we spent the spring getting up to speed. We combed through gear, separated out the “whitetail” vs. “elk” equipment, and made the long list of to do’s. We also talked a lot about the critical importance of being ready physically. A trip like this takes a huge level of commitment and dad knew what he was in for. For over 5 years he has been with me on more elk hunt, marathon, 50 miler, and 100 mile stories than just about anyone besides Jor. He knew first-hand how tough this style of hunt would be. To get ready Dad was committed to riding his bike and walking with a loaded Badlands and I was committed to knocking out some ultra’s, including my first 100 miler.
Travel plans were pretty simple. To make the most of our time we would leave after work, drive the 22 hours straight, arrive, throw on the packs, and head in. Once in, we would plan and move according to what the elk were doing.
Arrival Colorado, September 11 - 6pm…
Parked the truck at over 11,000 feet, threw on the Badlands, and dove into the backcountry. We only had 2 hrs before dark so we pushed to get in as far as possible before stopping for the night. Up at day break we quickly re-packed and headed out. Our mission was to roll on some major ground (7+ miles) and put as much distance as possible between us and civilization. After a long day we arrived at our first real base camp, roughly 9 miles deep. That night we drifted asleep to bugling bulls and high expectations of the days ahead.
Looking back we were the closest on the first morning (day 3 overall). Working our way down a canyon we caught a bugle. It was behind and up on us so we turned, put the wind in our face, and started to close the distance. Unfortunately at 30 yards the 5X5 spotted us, turned, and gave no opportunity for a shot. It was a quick but close encounter that left both dad and I excited for what was yet to come.
A second opportunity came coming back out of the canyon that same night. Moving quietly I spotted the same bull at 40 yards. When I first saw him he was above us and working his way in the opposite direction towards a small cut. I quickly turned to dad and signaled. We needed to move fast as our opportunity was to make a run at getting to the cut before the bull. Thermals were falling and if we beat him there we just might have a chance. Moving to the cut we lost sight of bull only to never see him again. He was gone and so were our hopes of trying to get an arrow in him.
The next best opportunity and the one that had me dialing the satellite phone to our packer, was in the same canyon, 2 days later. After catching a bugle below we dropped in elevation closing the distance. At 33 yards I spotted a cow. She was standing broadside and looking behind her. As dad and I quickly set up the bull bugled again and it was clear he was below her. After his bugle she turned and ran only to be followed by 2 more cows traveling on the same path. Dad and I sat there, tension on the strings just waiting for the bull. We waited, but nothing. As a big, 800lb bull elk does, he just disappeared.
Over the course of the next 6 days we tried to chase down the bugles every day, but for whatever reason, just couldn't close the deal. This was the 2nd year in a row I have rolled out of Colorado with an un-punched tag. I feel defeated and I despise it. It really bothers me and to be honest, I believe it bothers me more than the average person. Let me explain...
Since 06’ elk hunting has shaped my life. Good or bad, depending upon who you are and how you look at it. I have suffered, fought, pushed, smiled, laughed, climbed, ran, puked, and cried in the name of it. I have gone from running 0 miles in 07’ to finishing a 100 mile ultra-marathon this past August because of it. I have tried to do everything I can to set myself up for success. One cannot plan, prepare, and go on a trip like this without getting 120% involved. It becomes you and what you do and when you fail it hurts.
They always say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so I’m committed to make next year different. I plan to work harder and prepare better.
All in all it was a great trip. Dad and I got to spend time together gutting it out in some rugged, beautiful country and I will cherish those memories forever. Dad, I know you’ll read this so I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you how proud I am of you. Throughout your life you have done and conquered the unconquerable. You are a fighter, a warrior, and an example of what life is all about. From start to finish you dug deep, you pushed yourself, and I feel like you showed yourself what I already knew.
Thanks for being committed pops, not many will realize the amount of effort it takes to do what you did. I couldn’t be prouder to be your son and I’m grateful for being able to share in those brutal, tough times together in the backcountry. To me that’s what it’s about….elk or not. The great Teddy Roosevelt once said… ”It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, sweat, and blood…and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”
Elk hunt 2011 started the day I re-packed my Ox to come out. I’m committed and I have 317 days to make it different…
See you on the trail.