By Steve Wall
This is Part 2 of an Elk Hunting adventure from 2011. If you haven’t already, read Part 1!!
Similar to many other hunts back in Wisconsin, the night before opening day of the 2011 archery elk season in Colorado was pretty much a sleepless one! As I mentioned before, the outfitter said that he would take us out on the first morning to show us some of the area we were hunting. He met us up at our cabin just before daybreak and we started down the trail. We were about 300 yards down the trail and my dad stops us. “I forgot my release!” The outfitter and I waited as my dad hurried back up the trail to the cabin to get his release. He returned a short while later with his release; he later revealed to me (he didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of the outfitter) that he ended up finding the release in his pocket, not in the cabin!!
The outfitter pointed out that there were three or four really good trails that run horizontally along the mountain. We followed the outfitter as he led us up the valley along the bottom trail. He would point out areas for us to watch for and set up later in the week. We came to a really large tree and we sat down to see if anything would come from the creek. The over-the-counter tag for the unit we were hunting was either sex. As we sat in this first spot, the outfitter suggested that we be willing to take a cow if the opportunity presented itself. As we were sitting there, a cow and a calf came up out of the creek bottom towards us. The elk came up on the side that my dad was facing but they saw us before he was able to get a shot. Our first setup and we already spotted our first elk, what a great way to start our hunt!
After the close encounter on our first setup, we continued up the mountain to the next set of trails. We set up in a few more places as we worked back across the mountain. We setup along a trail and started to discuss a game-plan for the rest of the day. As we were sitting there, we heard movement coming above us. Then, almost out of nowhere, a herd of elk came through about 20 yards above us! There were lots of cows and calves and a few smaller bulls. I watched as my dad drew back his bow and set his sight on a cow standing 20 yards away. He released the arrow and the herd took off along the side of the mountain. We sat there waiting for a few minutes to let things settle down. I think I was shaking just as much as my dad after he got the shot! I was able to draw on the herd but was not able to release an arrow! With the outfitter still with us, we searched the area the cow was standing when my dad shot. We were unable to find any blood at the point of impact, so we spread out along the area to search for blood. We spent quite a while looking and could not come up with any blood. We just couldn’t figure out what would have happened. We returned to camp to eat some lunch and make a plan for the afternoon.
We had a few other close encounters during the week but just couldn’t get quite close enough. I had a nice bull at about 60 yards in the woods and just couldn’t get an opening for a shot. I also had a big cow at about 40 yards just before dark one evening but couldn’t get a shot on that one either. Along with the elk, we encountered various other animals during our hunt. We saw a few mule deer and also had a rare sighting of a bull and cow moose! According to the outfitter, moose were just starting to be reintroduced to the area. I was able to call the moose into about 30 yards just using my mouth as a call! We also had a few encounters with some black bears during our hunt. One encounter in particular was a little to close for comfort! About mid-week the outfitter was going to show us another area that we could hunt. We started down a trail and came upon a black bear feeding on a dead elk carcass. We stood on the trail watching this amazing sight. We were probably only 40 yards from this bear. The outfitter drew his sidearm just incase the bear spotted us and didn’t like us being there. Well, that is just what happened!! The outfitter tried yelling at the bear to scare it off and instead of running away the bear came off of the elk carcass and bluff charged us! The outfitter fired a couple of warning shots towards the bear and the bear ran about 30 yards and looked back at us. We headed back up the trail the way we came and got out of there as quick as we could! What a scary yet exciting experience, something I will always remember.
It is experiences like this that truly make the hunt! Whether an animal is harvested or not, hunting is all about the experiences and the memories created! To be able to have these experiences with my dad is something that I will cherish forever! These are stories I will be able to share with my children and hopefully someday create new memories with them! I look forward to teaching my children the honor and tradition associated with hunting! As well as the respect we must show for the land we hunt on and the animals we harvest!