No dead bulls in these next days worth of posts, but plenty of high country scenery, memories being made, screaming bulls, and close encounters…
By the time this posts, we’ll be a couple days deep into our Colorado adventure. Who knows – maybe we’ll already have fulfilled our goals and expectations.
My goals are perhaps a little different than his. My bull standards are similar – basically any bull that I’m judging to be past his full set of raghorn antlers. In other words, 240-250″ 5×5 = dead. That being said, I’ll also shoot a cow if she’s A) a slam dunk and B) relatively close to the truck. I know what we’re calling close to the truck is different than most other people’s opinion, but if I get an opportunity on a legal elk with nothing but downhill packing and 3-5 miles to the truck. Look out. I suppose my love of elk meat makes me a little bloodthirsty (as Pete would say).
Here’s the deal. We’ve got half manpower as compared to 2012, but we are tackling quite a bigger loop hike than before. We’re eager to reach some extremely remote and rugged hanging basins by accessing through some trail-less drainages and humping up and over some brutally steep mountain peak saddles. There are spots where shooting anything less than a really big OTC bull would be foolish. Might kill the elk, but it would also effectively kill 2-3 days of the hunt. When all we have is 9 days of hunting, dropping the string on an elk had better be well thought through and justified.
I have to be honest. I’m nearly chuckling to myself thinking about a potential moment of truth and whether I’ll have the self discipline to talk myself out of a hellish pack-out for a marginal bull. Eessshh, it’s going to be tough.
Lastly – from a physical and mental standpoint. I’m expecting a more difficult time this go-round. I didn’t have near the time and means (or self discipline) to get in the mountain shape that I was in back in 2012. I’m expecting to take a good butt-kicking from the mountain and a physical grind always culminates in a mental grind. Keeping my mind sharp and staying ever-prepared for that one opportunity that will likely present itself – that’s the toughest part. Time to test oneself – it’s off to the high country!
This is a book I picked up at the recommendation of my elk hunting buddy Pete who had read this book in advance of our 2012 Colorado elk hunting trip. Though at a few times it read like a bit of a Sasquatch-search science-fiction book, my overall impression was very positive. Documenting the efforts of just a few individuals and eventually a non-profit foundation called Round River Conservation Studies (an organization that has survived to this day) to corroborate “ghost” sightings of grizzly bears in Colorado’s southwestern San Juan Mountains.
Rick Bass’s style of writing lets the book more like a fiction novel at times with humor, personal anecdotes, and internal reflections continuously inserted into the text. I’ve got a couple more of his books in my to-read stack at home, and I’m looking forward to more of his writing.
My main takeaways are that sometimes the possibility of knowing that something as wild and dangerous and mysterious as a grizzly bear is present in a wilderness area is more powerful than concrete, hard evidence that a grizzly bear actually exists. The side of human nature that yearns for there to be something past the realm of firm grasp is what makes this so. As such, conserving these last remaining wild places is of the essence – whether keystone predators or endemic species are still present or just to maintain the hopeful chance of their return or re-detection. Also, if you read the book, you’ll be struck by the puny shoestring budget that many conservation organizations operate from – not sure why that resonated with me, but it did.
Several times throughout the book, Rick Bass portrays the almost instant transformation of a cluttered city mind being released and revitalized by the fresh air and open vistas of endless mountain ranges…no doubt that I find wilderness’ effect to the same on me. His own personal connection with this refreshing aspect of wild places comes through in his writing and I felt myself echoing much of what he wrote about himself in myself.
Just a great read. Again, I can’t praise Rick Bass’ writing style enough, and the fact that many of the place names mentioned in the book are places I’ve walked, seen, and personally experienced, makes it all the more engaging.
Funny the way many taxidermists’ schedules run. I tend to get my previous year’s critters back with only a month or two before the next season kicks off. It’s kind of one of the last bits of evidence that September’s openers are just around the corner, and handling those memories and mulling them over afresh is the last bit of fuel to kick pre-season excitement into full gear.
Picked up my 2013 Ohio buck from Bugz2Bonz based in Grove City, OH. He did great work (actually, his beetles did great work!) and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Filling the last gaps in my home office’s wall space, I placed the European-style mount using my sub-$2 self-fabricated skull hanger.
One last thing, I like to fold up the actual tag from each critter into a compact square and place it in the animal’s eye socket so that I can remember some of the finer details of the hunt. What county? What time? Exact date? Those sorts of things. One more keepsake that I personally find interesting to read back over every once in a while.