Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hunting the West


It's definitely been a while - what, 2.5 years? So much has changed. In August of 2012 I did my second running at the Dark Skies 200K solo. I got about 87 miles in, and realized that I just wasn't having fun. So I called Kris, told her where to pick me up, and bailed. I still rode the bike on and off. Kris and I ride the tandem on occasion also, but more of my time is now being spent running.

Last fall, in September, I spent a week in Colorado hunting Mule Deer at around 12,000 feet and above. It was an awesome hunt. I went with my cousin Casey and his best friend from high school, Brad Valentine who also happens to have become one of my best friends also. We have been doing hunts of one sort or another every two years since 2006, and we always have a blast planning, driving out and hunting together.

In 2006 we went out and utilized a drop camp style of hunting. They took us back in to a walled tent on horseback and dropped us off for a week. 

It was awesome. We didn't end up with any success, but enjoyed the trip, and did see game. I remember seeing Elk on a distant ridgeline and thinking wow, cool, way too far away, but definitely cool! We now know that it was truly not likely too far away, and we probably should have gone after them, but live and learn. We weren't really prepared for that kind of climbing, and with archery equipment it would have been quite a task to successfully complete. 

We did enjoy the trip, and looking through pictures brings you back to the memories immediately. After doing this for years, and hunting in Wyoming for antelope, I have decided and talked to Kris about doing a trip to Colorado every year in the future.  

The last day of our 2006 trip, it snowed, and we ended up waiting a whole day for the guys to come in and pick us up. 

This was our first experience with an outfitter, and we were to find out on our next trip that there is no hurry for them to come get you. They tell you it'll be Saturday, so you get ready at 7AM and sit all day and waste your time waiting.  It's a horrible way to end your trip, and in 2008 we tried a different outfitter with similar results, 1 small mule deer buck shot for camp meat, and a raghorn bull missed high, and a full day wait for the outfitter to come get us at dusk, with a ride out in the dark, in a thunderstorm with lightning being our only light while riding along a bluff edge over a gorge. It was scary, but also one of the coolest experiences I have ever witnessed. 

In 2010 we ended up hunting by trespass fee on an 800 acre piece in Colorado. Each year we learn more and more. This was probably our best hunting area, and our best opportunities. We just still have alot to learn about the HOW of Elk hunting. The hunt was done at 9800 feet which is decent elevation, and it was fairly flat. We found huge wallows off the back of the property on Federal Land, but just couldn't put everything together to get ourselves an Elk. All in all, at this point, we had spent probably $15,000 between the 3 of us just for our hunts, not including tags, fuel, food and supplies.

2012 demanded we actually have a successful trip, so we hooked up with a landowner near Casper Wyoming and pulled the 5th wheel out there to hunt Pronghorn.  We all tagged out the first day with our bows, even though the landowner told us not to shoot the first one we saw, which none of us did. We all shot Pope and Young class bucks, with Casey's being the only one to make the books. That was also a fun trip, and got our heads back into what a successful hunt feels like. 

Coming off a high, we decided to head back to Colorado for 2014. We used a service called Antler Quest, which was basically a guy who goes out and scouts for you. We got ahold of Jeff Coldwell a year in advance and he worked with our requests to try to find a place that we would enjoy and have a good chance of success. He told us that we would not be going for Elk and Mule Deer. "Pick a species and concentrate on that". It was good advice. We also had some preference points, so decided we would give it a shot with our muzzleloaders. In March Jeff told us what unit to apply for, and we all drew. Then in August, about 3-4 weeks before our trip, Jeff headed to our spot to scout. He sent us our hunt packet which included a map of the area with the hotspots and our recommended camping spot circled, and 38 photo's he had taken while out there with notes on them pointing out where to look while glassing. 

The hike in was about 3 miles long, and climbed from 9800 feet where we parked to approximately 11,500 feet where we set up camp. It took 3 hours, and was damned hard carrying 70 lb packs, but was beautiful. Here's Brad and Casey ahead of me on the walk in, just before the Big Bend, and almost 2 miles into the trip. It took us over 3 hours to cover the 3 miles.

We set up camp, and glassed some, saw some Elk, and a couple of mule deer, even a small buck. The first night was the coolest, probably around 20 degrees, but comfortable enough. We were up and scouting early and Casey spotted a nice buck that he wanted to go after. So off he went. Brad and I split up and tried to keep an eye on the buck and spot for him. I climbed up one side of the bowl, and got some nice shots through my spotting scope of the buck, but it wasn't meant to be.

Caseys buck. 

Later in the week I spotted a group of 5 bucks, and spent the next few days trying to put together a stalk strategy. I got within 150 yards, and screwed up the shot. Brad got a decent buck on the third day, and was the only one of us who went home with a buck.

That brings us up to present day for the most part. Big plans are in the works for 2015. Including a High Country Early Rifle Hunt with Kim Womer, and a Bucket List race for me. In the same 2 week period.  Stay tuned! 

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