I get up to the alarm Weds morning at 3:45 am......damn....that hurts. I throw ice in coolers and coolers in the back seat of the truck. Kiss and bye to the wife.....time to go.
I'm amazed at the number of folks running and riding bikes at this hour mid-week....freaking boulder county. I am enjoying some tunes and cruising into north boulder about to head up into the hills and I think.....I need some gas....wallet. Wallet? WALLET??!! Holy fork me bat man..........I realize it is in the center console of the the old lady's grand cherokee where I left it last night taking my daughter and her friend to softball practice. I suck.
I flip the wheel around and spend another 25 mins driving back home. So it starts. I hate me.
I go park. The concerned private land owner next door who fails to understand FS rules had restacked their pile of sticks on the old road bed just off the existing FS road where I like to park. I drive up to closer to their property line and park in a nice shady spot. Not on their old road. They should be happy. I don't really care. I wonder if I will get more love notes......??
It is now shooting hours and I'm off and up the trail. I am in full trail clearing mode this trip. I'm sick of stumbling on loose rocks and pine cones. I hate me some pine cones. So I get extra aerobic exercise kicking chit off the trail so when I pack out I don't have to turn my ankle, etc. I get a couple hundred yards and its time to release some pressure. I find a nice rock to lean against and pull out the wet wipes. Sorry to anyone who found my present just off the trail........not really. LOL
I get over and enter a meadow covered in thick frost. The truck said lowest temp driving up was 37F but it obviously got a bit colder up in the drainage. The frost soon has my pants wet and cold.....feels good....I'm plenty warm now 1.5 miles into the trek.
I see some more rubs on the walk in as I'm hunting and moving slow. I plan to pop over and hunt the timber above a pond that usually has elk moving through between 7 and 8 am. I get about there and see a mulie buck. I range him at 62. He is facing me back in tight timber...no shot. Standoff. He finally moves on.......little did I know that after rarely seeing mulies this would be a trip where I run into a bunch of them. I was not thinking too much about filling my deer tag yet so I passed up on some good opportunities on deer........dumbass.......
She knows I'm down here but she doesn't know what I am. She has not moved on with the herd. Wonder why.........anywho.....I think about shooting her but don't like the idea of cashing in my deer tag on a doe just yet and having to pack meat back to the truck after just packing back in......so I move a little to get a better look hoping she will move on without becoming unglued. She does move on quietly and all is well. I think this might be a good spot for an ambush and plan to come back for a morning or evening when the wind is favorable.
I continue my creep back to camp and find all is well and as I left it. Each time I expect to find my stuff ransacked by a bear or a hole human. So far so good. I immediately set up my hammock (having exchanged the ripped out one with no muss, no fuss, at JAX outdoors.....good place). I can't wait to relax. I plan to sleep in it this trip.
Life is good when you take a hammock hunting. Light. Off the ground. SOOOOOOOO NICE!!!!!
I get down and pick out an ambush spot that works well with the wind and thermals that day. I am only 50 yards from the edge of the drainage meadow and maybe 150 yards up from the wallows. I have sat various places further down and heard bulls up in this area so I'm hoping to have a shot before its too dark but moving further up.
About 7 pm it is go time......elk should be moving...sun is behind the western ridge. I am standing in front of a pine trying to be still 30 mins later when I hear something blow hard above and to my left....about the same distance above the meadow but further up. It keeps blowing up in the woods....I can't see it. I think its a mule deer. I throw out some cow calls anyway.
Now....hindsight is 20/20. If I'd been smart I'd have bet that if it was an elk and it only saw movement (me.... I'm a big figity dumbass) but didn't know what it saw and now hears sweet cow calls it might creep in from below and wait for the cows to filter down and into his lap. I'm not smart so I stick to my spot expecting a bull to barge on down the hill and drop into my lap. IF I had been thinking I would have moved 40 yards down towards the meadow edge and the bull would have dropped into my lap within shooting hours. Since I'm not smart he did circle down below me about 50 yards away with a ton of rock and trees in between. I can hear him......no way to see him or get an angle on him without blowing him out. Time's up. I finally move for my pack and he busts out into the meadow from his ambush site for the cows below me. He still doesn't know what I am and starts grunting and barking and pacing around the meadow below. Still can't see him but its way gloomy now.....I do spend some time trying to pic him out with my binos but not happening.
I creep out.......making tons of noise with all the damn pine cones as I am sticking high in the timber trying to avoid busting more elk. I hear him following me down the drainage in the meadow as he is still barking demanding the cows come out to him. Sorry Charlie.
It sucked ass getting out of there but I get'r done and back to camp. I am not hungry. I'm ready for bed. I decide to try the hammock so I grab my sleeping bag and plop into the hammock. I notice quickly that the hammock is not windproof and my backside is cool. I position a light fleece throw I bring with me for extra insulation behind me with helps.
I throw out a location bugle for the hell of it and actually get a response further up the ridge. Cool. Tomorrows a new day. Maybe I'll get lucky. So far I'm my own worst enemy. I need some huge helpings of luck to overcome that challenge.
I get my clothes and gear on and head out. This spot is probably within 600 yards or so of my camp....probably further really but not far at all. I creep down slowly. I have my morning chew in and expecting some abdominal contractions. I am not disappointed. I find a good leaning rock and my wet wipes and go to work. Hope elk don't mind human butt stank......either way it has to happen. I am in place before 7 am. Looking good. I have shooting lanes in 3 directions. All within 40 yards. Hopefully something comes along . I'm good with a mule deer or elk.
I sit 3 hours. Nada. Nothing. Really disappointing as I had high hopes for this spot to produce an opportunity on something. And I really prefer to kill an animal in the morning and have all day to process and pack vs. last light of day and facing the tracking and processing and packing in the dark. And I forgot to pick up AAA batteries that run my headlamps and one was near dead.........remember the title.......unforced errors plague me. Sigh.
So I head back to camp and know I need to get water today before I cook dinner. I am back at 11 am take a short hammock break. But I'm not sleepy and I want to get water pumped and packed so I have time to cool off before the evening hunt.
I grab my bow and water stuff and head out. I see fresh mulie tracks heading down the path and think......hmmmmm.....I busted a buck here a couple days ago....wonder if I need to make this a deer hunt on the way to water. I let the thought go as I traverse down the steep trail regretting that I have to come back up it with 4 liters of water weight.
I hit the first bench that is a transition zone from one drainage to the other and has a large meadow mixed with ponderosa and aspen. It is south facing so it is dry and hot......not ideal mid day for game. And with my release in my pocket I see a mule deer buck trotting off to my left 50 yards ahead. I see where he is heading and he is not freaked out, just a calm trot, so I nock up an arrow and ease over that way hoping he might stick around. Nothing doing....he is gone. I keep my arrow on and head down to the creek to pump.
On the way back to camp lugging my hard won water I don't see anything. Its Hammock Time! I hang out and enjoy the breeze and coolness. Thinking ahead I decide to try the edge of a high meadow I've not yet hunted that evening. It is near a transition point from steep as hell dark timber that faces north. It is a mix of aspen and pine of various types. The wind is good pushing SE so I can snug up in there leaving room for an elk to come down from his bed past me. That is the plan at least.
I choke down some Alpine Aire Pad Thai. Not horrible. Not great. The soy sauce packets I gathered from our Chinese dinners and lugged along help. Its nearly 900 cals so that is its redeeming feature....plus it came with a packet of peanuts I added to one of my trailmix ziplocks.
I get up into position and scout around to get a lay of the land, wind pattern that evening and find an ambush spot with good shooting lanes. Time drags on and gets to 7 pm. I have squirrels and birds but no elk. At 7:30 the thermals kick and I can move in closer to the meadow edge where I hope a bull will step out. Instead I hear him below me thrashing a tree.....seems like 200 yards or so back down the meadow on my side. I puff out some windicator smoke and the wind is right to left with the thermal......good stuff for my approach and set up. I move quickly using trees in the meadow for (hopefully) cover to close the distance. I step out in front of a spruce and the gloom is quickly settling despite having a good 10 mins of shooting hours left. I see a grove of aspen below me and hope the bull hasn't seen my approach. I don't hear him. I throw out some cow calls. I think hunting solo is nice until you need a calling partner 50 yards behind you.
I am scanning the woods edge hard for the bull.....listening as hard as I can.....then I see him about 40 yards below me in a gap in the aspens......it is very hard to see but he is a good bull. Facing me. I reach for the range finder and by the time I get it up he is gone. Was he really there or was my eyes playing tricks. Cow call.....nothing. He is gone and time is up. I look to my right and see a 5 pt shed. I grab it on my way out.
Now I am faced with a tough mile long hike back to camp with prime elk habitat in between. I need to stay high and in the timber in hopes of limiting opps to spook elk in the dark or get winded. The easy road is right there but the risk of blowing out elk and ruining the area is too great.
I've made this hike many times in the daylight. But the dark is really tough, as you know. I miss my trail and end up in rocks. It sux. It sux moldy balls. I am making lots of noise thrashing about. I don't know it but at one point my path is blocked by fallen pine limbs....not small and full of tangley limbs. I wrestle them out of the way losing my rangefinder in its case.....didn't realize it until the next morning and only guessed (correctly) that it was at this worst point in the hike back.
I break through, see I'm in a saddle not far from camp and trudge on in. I am hot and sweaty and not happy with myself getting off course then persisting through rough crap rather than checking my gps and backing out to correct course. Dumbass.
I get my silnylon tarp out of the pack (carry it for a clean spot for meat if I ever get to kill something) and wrap it around me in my sleeping bag before falling into the hammock. No more wind cooling my backside. Time for sleep. Tomorrow I go back to the pond and my spot up in the timber so see if something moves through on its way to the deep dark nasty hole below.
I am down several hundred yards from camp where the meadow ends and there is some young pines before I reach the ambush spot.....and it hits me......time to drop trousers and seek relief. There is a nice rock to lean on so I grab out the wet wipes and let'r blow. Damn.......I am almost embarassed at that nasty bit of work. I cover it up with wet wipes and move on. I clean po po is so nice in the woods.......
I get to the trail down to the old road. Sneaking along in super slo mo....nocked on and straining to see something in the surrounding woods or heard an elk. Nothing. I hit the road and continue. It is 15 mins into shooting light now. I notice I'm not having to transition around deadfalls.......wtf........ohhhhh....some a hole with a 4 wheeler had come through Thursday while I was snoozing and used a chainsaw to open up the road for his illegal closed road riding comfort. I'm pissed. I plan to reblock the road when my hunt is over. This is BS. I do like the open road though...........conflicted feelings here.
I set up and wait for nothing to show up. I'm not disappointed. I almost changed locations when I saw the abject disturbance of this hot zone that occurred the day before. I mean this a hole was raising cane with his motorized go cart and saw right in the middle of elk central above the deep dark drainage where they live and some times come out from. What a wreck of the area. I suspect is it out of state pumpkin heads prepping for the smokepole opener this saturday.
I get madder and madder as I sit and see and hear nothing in a spot I always have action. About 9 am I've had enough and against my better judgment drop my pack and take my bow down to one of the deadfalls they cut. I drop the bow and start dragging and piling up the cut logs to reblock the road. Send a message, I will. I add to the stack. I'm dragging stuff from everywhere and making 3 times the blockage they cleared. I hope they love the surprise I leave them. I block the routes they can use, and have used, to drive up into the forest and around the blockage. I drag down trees in two more spots further up the road so they can see that once they clear this mess it will just continue. It won't work to stop them but I will at least make them think about it and work for it.
I hear a bugle. WTF.......I'm making a racket so maybe the bull on the ridge above me thinks its an epic elk fight and is chiming in. I grab my bow, drenched in sweat now from my efforts, and set up in front of a pine in the shade and cow call. I wait........nothing. I figure he was bedding down as he bugled and give up. I'm exhausted and have a long hike up the elk trail on my way back.
I have the gps track from last night's lost in the woods trek through the rocks and plan to backtrack to find my gps.
I continue on and finally get to the rocks. Its steep. If the gps case fell here it could go a LONG ways down. I am looking hard down hill but see nothing. Finally I am at the spot I expect it to be......and it is. I grab the gps and back the hell out and re route to get back to camp. Mission accomplished! One error corrected. Life is good. Now its Hammock Time!!!!
I send back that I will be home by noon on Saturday. I have an evening hunt and morning hunt to go plus pack out my camp.......not looking forward to the heavy pack out. I plan to ambush the bull headed to the wallow by setting up above his saddle coming into the drainage from where he bugled at me when I was stacking logs. There are tons of fresh tracks through there and the wind is favorable for the setup.
I get set up and all is good until 7 pm. Rumble to the south and west. I hear the wind coming. Here is the storm right at witching hour to fork up the evening hunt. I hang in until 10 mins to shooting hours running out and its not getting better. At least there is a little rain but not enough to really make a difference for long. I head back to camp dejected. I decide with rain I will sleep in the tent. I had prepacked stuff so I would have less to do in the morning to pack out. Saturday is first day of pumpkin head season so i have a orange pack cover and an orange vest so the dumbforks don't shoot me...hopefully.
I get up and pack up the tent and gear. Barely can fit the pack onto my frame pack. Its heavy. Damn....maybe its good I didn't kill an elk. I am a weak pu$$y of a man. LOL
I go back to the same spot hoping an elk comes back up through the saddle that morning. I listen for smokepoles firing......nothing. No elk. No shots. Time the head for the truck. It is not fun. I get out and the truck is there with no love notes or issues.
I text my wife I'm on my way. She is happy. Life is good. I'll be back.
I have one for the rangefinder, and one for the GPS. and since I never take off my bino harness, it's always there and ready
I had attached my case to the strap on my AGC bino rig.....but the strap was not installed correctly (by me) so no tension to keep it from slipping through the clip......and it did....which is why it fell off.
I usually attach it to the chest strap for my pack and that works well until I unbuckle to drop the pack.....and it slides off the strap. Which is why I tried a new attachment point.
I will check out the FHF pouch......... Good Luck the 16th!!!!
If you get one down within 2-3 hours drive from Boulder let me know and I'm game to come help pack for a steak or 3............. :)
So I have a few week days I can play that card.....tues and thurs out due to daughter softball practice. I have next weekend 15, 16, 17 of which only the 16th will be a full day hunt. Hopefully the pumpkin heads are gone and the elk are not scattered to another county. I cached my hammock, water pump, some water bottles, and food in my campsite.
Then its the 22, 23, and 24th to close out archery season. Man......wait so long....gone so fast. Heat the water for tag soup.......... LOL sob
Yes Lark but I tell it how it is.
Get out there and get an elk!
So.....I share plenty of details of the WHOLE trip. I loved Lark's story. Got in, made contact, called in the bull and killed his ass. Hell Yeah!
I'm more holistic in my experience because for me it IS all about the entire experience......even dropping a deuce now and then. A hunt, for me, is not just about the actual act of hunting but the entire play of things.....those supporting roles you have to play on a pack in camping hunt that are required before and after you do the actual hunting. I like to think its eye opening to see how much time and effort in "distractions" is required to get to the actual few hours each day the elk are active enough to really hunt.
To each their own....this is my path. I appreciate those who are enjoying it and I equally appreciate the suggestions as well.
I hoped to get out Weds for my bday but family matters take priority. I'll head back in Friday after the company staff appreciation festivities at Boulder Rez and stay through Sunday. This will be a stripped down camp and it is forecast to be damper and cooler......and the timing should bring on some changes towards more rut activity. I'm excited and focused. I will do what I can to write up my report in that vein.......but you know me.......LOL No more poop stories....unless its a really epic one.
That said, regardless of what anyone on this site thinks of TBM, the guy is a killing machine. Unfortunately, too many thin skinned self proclaimed badasses on here couldn't take his humor along with his success.
Don't fret when being compared to TBM, the only difference thus far is that he posted dead animals once in awhile :)
I like the story with all the details. Setting up camp, getting water, learning how to hammock camp, crapping, etc are all part of the experience. Since we're living vicariously through you, adding the details helps to do that. Otherwise it would just be "I went out, didn't kill an elk, then I went home..."
As so many people that elk hunt say it is all mental is because of that reason. Everyone is an optimist going in, keeping that optimism flowing through a hunt where things don't go as planned is the tough part. Always remember, it literally takes 15 seconds to turn into the best season EVER!
So true.... thats why every year there seems to be some variant of "the highs and lows". The key to that 15 seconds is to stay positive to see it through, with a negative mindset its so easy to skip that last drainage and miss your 15 seconds.
No crap I am in the elk......Other than a couple dead morning hunts after the elk were run out by atv's and chainsaws......I have had more close encounters without busting/being winded than in prior year. If the season ended for me today I would be totally satisfied with only myself to blame for muffing a dunk shot on a 45 yard broadside bull........due to leaving my rangefinder when I dashed into a shooting location.
I've only had one direct encounter with another hunter. I've heard a few. I've seen evidence of a couple others. For the most part I've felt like I had the immediate areas I am hunting to myself the vast majority of the time.
I am 100% positive I will have between 6 and 12 more hunts (mornings and evenings not days) and that I will get very very close again....hopefully close enough to drop string accurately.
I can see what Nick is getting at. I'm kind of nearer that end of the scale myself, when hunting I'm there to hunt, not bask in the glory of the mountains or other such stuff. The "experience".... that is there and has always been there since I can remember, it happens while you're hunting, you don't have to "make" it happen. Not on vacation, not taking breaks, I'm not worried about the food, certainly not running into town for dinner. If I'm getting in a nap it isn't back at camp, it's under a tree from a good glassing spot usually. I'm gone from family then, barring an emergency they aren't in the picture. They will be there when I get back. I'm there for one purpose..... the hunt.
Guess what I'm trying to say is the hunting IS the "whole experience"...... all the rest is just what you do to hunt. You don't let the outside stuff screw up your hunt. Focus. The goal is to kill an elk. That's the fun part, when your heart is beating outside of your chest and your legs are a little shaky. Not test driving hammocks.... =D
I know you have more time left. Hope you can put a good chunk of it in at one time at some point. A week or two. I have a theory that coming straight out from civilization it can sometimes take a day or three just to get into serious hunting mode, become a predator. If you're only popping in for a day or two at a time that is a handicap IMO. Get into the game mentally. It will happen. It's a mental challenge to focus everything on the hunt, discouragement beats you down but you have to be mentally sharp and prepared because it can happen at any second.... a window of opportunity that comes and goes. How it turns out is all up to how prepared you are AT THAT SECOND to make it happen.
Just heard a story of a guy, never killed an elk yet. He was set up at a bush on a wallow, storm blows in and he decides to slip under a nearby tree 10 feet away for cover till it blows over. Without his gear and.... his bow tucked under the bush. Bull comes into the wallow.... in his lap. Pinned down he can just watch the bull fling some mud around and leave.
wow..... what an "experience" to see.... and he still hasn't killed an elk......
I do enjoy your stories and appreciate them. You'll get it done. Just keep positive and..... focus.....
We're all following don'cha'know..... =D
I will never eat two Cliff bars in one day again. I swear that those things never digested, combined, swelled to the size of a NFL football and tried coming out sideways. I literally had tears on my cheeks while trying to avoid getting bitten by ants crawling along the log I was leaning up against.
My wife laughs hysterically every time it gets mentioned... :(
To all the haters - bug off! If you dont want to read this man's story - dont! Go back to your latest issue of People and Vogue - why rain on this man's parade.