By Steve Wall
Growing up my dad and I would always talk about making a trip “out West” to hunt elk. My dad would share stories about previous hunts he had been on and with each story my excitement and desire to hunt the Western states was growing! Although it wasn’t an actual hunting story, my dads mule riding experience on one of his trips is by far my favorite and has me almost crying every time I think about it!
The group was starting to come down off the mountain for the evening. The mule my dad was riding was stubborn to say the least. On the way down the mountain something must have happened and the mule took off on a dead run down the mountain. My dad, weapon in one hand and holding on for dear life with the other, his hand ending up behind him bouncing down the mountain on this mule. The terrain would level out for a bit and he could regain his position, but would bounce forward again as the mule headed down the next decline. Finally reaching the bottom and able to get the mule to come to a stop, he was able to get off and proceeded to give that mule a swift kick in the hind end!
Stories like this one and the desire to create our own stories led my dad and I to start planning a trip to hunt out West for elk. We finally started getting serious about our planning in January of 2010 and decided on hunting the fall of 2011. I begin searching the internet and doing research on different areas and outfitters. We decided to concentrate on a self-guided hunt to help keep the cost down. I contacted various outfitters and after discussing with my dad we settled on Hill’s Guide Service out of Collbran, Colorado.
Hill’s Guide Service is an outfitter that has been in business for many years, that experience is one of the leading factors that led us to choose to hunt with them. Before booking, we were provided with references we could call. I talked to a couple of the references and they were very honest about the land and the outfitter. After booking, we were provided with a list of gear that may be helpful on our hunt. Since we booked almost a year and a half early, the outfitter kept us updated on the hunts that fall. As the time neared for our hunt, the outfitter provided us with helpful directions, a motel recommendation since we were arriving a day early and various other tips.
Our hunt was set up for the first week of the 2011 Colorado archery elk season in Unit 421. We arrived in Colorado the Thursday before they season opened and decided to make a stop at the Cabela’s store in Grand Junction to pick up our license and any last minute supplies. The outfitter had a trout stream running right past his personal home and offered to let us do a little fishing so we both picked up a 1 day fishing license as well. We made our way to the motel to get checked in and meet up with our outfitter in the small town of Collbran. After getting checked into the motel, our outfitter met up with us and took us back to his home to do a little trout fishing with our fly rods! We ended up catching two trout that we would later cook on the grill at camp!
Our outfitter met us at the motel Friday morning and we headed out to camp. The outfitters camp is located on 200 acres of private land that connects to the Grand Mesa National Forest. There is one larger base camp cabin and three other cabins of various sizes located throughout the property. Being able to have the comfort of a cabin, yet be able to walk out the door and start hunting was amazing! We would be staying in one of the three other cabins. We got all of our gear unpacked and shot our bows to make sure everything was all set for the next morning! Now as I mentioned before, this was set up as an unguided hunt. However the outfitter said that he would go out with us the first morning to give us a little better knowledge of the area we would be hunting. This was completely unexpected since we signed up and paid for an unguided hunt! Just another example of the great service that was provided!
Read Part 2 as the hunt begins!!!