One of the 2012 Colorado elk team submitted some photographs and a short write-up about our wilderness OTC archery hunt. Extreme Elk Magazine picked it up and ran a 3-page blurb on our hunt. I thought it turned out pretty cool. Those pictures really bring back some sweet memories!
As a break in the last half-dozen or so deer hunt updates from my 2013 season, I figured I’d make a quick post about a new piece of backcountry hunting gear I picked up with some Christmas money.
If you followed the gear reviews, physical preparation, and execution of my DIY Colorado elk hunt in 2012, then you’ll probably remember some of the disgusting water that was consumed via the Sawyer filtering system. On that trip, 2 of the guys were armed with Sawyer filters and the other 2 simply had filter-less bladders that we filled twice daily. It worked but we also wasted a solid 20-30 minutes daily just filtering water for each other. The alternative is to splice in a Sawyer filter directly into your bladder’s water line and drink as needed. Unscrew the lid on your bladder, fill with stream, pond, seep, or elk wallow water, screw the lid back on, and start walking again.
Previously, you had to purchase a water bottle kit and pilfer the filter from the rest of the equipment and it ran about $40. Now, there is a new Sawyer MINI that runs only $20. The flow rate is SLIGHTLY less and the need to back-flush becomes a SLIGHTLY more regular necessity, but this water filter is the real deal and has some neat features that allows you extreme versatility. Splice into a water bladder line, screw onto the top of a water bottle, attach a straw (included) and drink directly from a creek or pond, the list goes on.
I adapted mine into the Badlands water bladder that has served me well over a couple trips now and am so far extremely impressed. Same exact functionality of the filters that I was originally excited about, now at half the cost.
While I don’t have exact dates and commitments on the books yet, I’ll tease you with my long-term 2 year outlook on hunt plans. This September, I hope to spend 7-10 days chasing elk back in Colorado. Next spring, I’ve been planning a spring black bear hunt to a wilderness area in northwest Montana. For fall 2015, Kodiak Island, Alaska for Sitka black-tailed deer is high on the priority list. I’ll also have accumulated enough Wyoming antelope preference points to take a trip to one of the more premier hunt units in 2015 as well. I’ll continue my point accumulation for other species in other states, and there is always the near-certainty of an annual white-tailed deer hunt in the mix as well.
Again, just a teaser of what might be around the corner. The preparation, planning, and anticipation is honestly half the fun of planning annual “once-in-a-lifetime” trips. Hours spent pouring over maps, hunting forums, aerial images, gear lists – all part of the passion that drives me.
Alright, enough dreamy talk – back to deer hunt updates in the next post.
It’s been exactly one year to the day since Pete and I doubled on bull elk in the high country of Colorado. I’ve been daydreaming about the sound of bugles, the damp dank scent of big timber, and the burning of muscles after a big vertical push to chase elk. Unfortunately, all my daydreaming doesn’t change the fact that an elk hunt is not in the cards for this fall. Hopefully, hopefully, that will not be the case next year.
For the sake of old times, hit up a couple of these links and check out last year’s elk hunt if you haven’t before. I spent a couple hours going through my picture album from that hunt last night and watched a bunch of the video footage too. Ah, memories…
I apologize that I got sidetracked again with elk. Common thing these days with most archery seasons open out West. My buddy from Kansas was able to connect on his first bull after pulling a great early season tag in New Mexico. Far from the biggest one he saw, but this one is no slouch either. Congratulations pal!
I know this is a countdown to deer season, but when ‘BigDan’ speaks…you listen. Seriously, this guy has established himself as one of the most consistent DIY archery elk hunters over the past 3 or 4 decades. Bowsite just did an interview with him and it’s a great listen. Check it out.
Colorado received 4 payments for archery either-sex elk licenses from our hunting party last year, but overall, elk hunter numbers are down by 38,000 during the last 5 years in Colorado. That is surprising as many states are becoming more difficult to hunt elk over-the-counter and Colorado maintains the best opportunities (quantity-wise) for people wanting to test their mettle against public land elk. I suppose it could be attributable to the tough economy and the shrinking pool of discriminary income which has lead more former hunters to stay at home. Regardless, it is a surprising statistic. To help stimulate elk hunter numbers, the Colorado Department of Wildlife went on a media blitz to recruit hunters and started a useful website feature called “Elk Hunting University”. Personally, I would recommend folks considering their own elk hunt to consult the many posts made by myself as I documented our DIY elk adventure last fall, but there are certainly many things I didn’t cover. Follow the link and see if the “Elk Hunting University” fuels your desires for a Colorado elk hunt in the future. Non-resident hunters make a big contribution to Colorado local economies and I certainly anticipate doing my part again in coming years.
Amazingly, the gear that we researched and subjected to the abuse of our Colorado elk hunt basically help up flawlessly. I’ll take 3 or 4 posts sprinkled throughout the next couple weeks to tell you what I liked and didn’t like about my own gear list.
As an overview, minus a couple extra insulating layers and maybe a lower temperature-rated sleeping bag, I confidently feel like my current gear repertoire would enable me to tackle any Lower 48 big game hunt west (or east for that matter) of the Mississippi River. I honestly was so satisfied with my gear preparation that you are going to hear an awful lot of praise and adoration and not much whining or complaining about the products I took afield in Colorado…so without further ado…
My Coleman headlamp was the lightest weight out of all 4 of our selections, wasn’t the brightest, but didn’t ever require a battery switch, and performed flawlessly throughout our time afield. A set of Li 2032 replacement batteries had virtually no weight penalty to carry along for reinforcements. The Energizer headlamp you’ve seen me rave about before was much heavier, but may have been worth the extra 2 or 3 ounces when climbing over deadfalls well into the night working our way back to camp a couple of times.
Duct tape found its home wrapped securely around one of my trekking poles. Amazingly, and I think a true testament to the quality of gear we used on the hunt, I never had to use it. Over the course of 2+ weeks and well over 100 miles that seems impossible, but it’s true.
1st aid kit – thankfully I never had to use my actual first aid kit but a few additional items I kept stowed away in the same Ziploc bag did come in handy. Super glue made instant work of a few minor scrapes and cuts I sustained through the trip. Chapstick in the high country is PRICELESS! I applied at least 6 times a day and it was one of the few items I kept in my pockets at the ready at all times while on the move. Also, sunscreen was a necessity. Just take a look back at some of my mug shots from the trip and you can see that I still didn’t apply often enough especially to my nose. Tylenol PM was a godsend! I will never take a hunting trip without them. Just make sure you wean yourself on them once you get back home, it was easy to see how a sleeping pill addiction could get started!
The Swedish Firesteel - just take a couple lighters! In the comfort of Alabama, it was nice thinking about starting a rustic fire with some flint steel but when you stumble in from a long day’s hunt on the mountain, it boils down to efficiency. A pinch of Vaseline-soaked cotton ball, handful of sticks in the Ikea wood stove, and a lighter = efficiency!
Last, but certainly not least, my Titanium spork worked perfectly. But yes (I can already hear Pete saying “I told you so”), a longer handled product would have been better for extracting those last spoonfuls of broth from the bottom of a quart Ziploc bag.
I must say that since picking up my iPhone for being able to use my Spot Connect device, I’ve found a couple useful apps – one being the Joby Gorillacam App. Among other things, it’ll let you set up your iPhone’s camera to take time lapse photography. This is a sequence of pictures taken on 120 second time lapse as we used the quick-quarter method to break down Clint’s 5×5 bull elk in Colorado.
At this point, I cut my phone off before we were completely finished with the second side to conserve valuable battery but you get the idea. With 3 guys wielding knives, you can burn through an elk in fast order. From first cut to all meat boned out and in game bags took about 75 minutes.
Well before daylight, we were up and packing camp into our bags in preparation for packing out my bull. Split 4 ways, we managed to get off the mountain at break-neck speed.
I think every elk hunter wants a picture of an antler/meat laden pack out.
Halfway down the mountain, we shed layers and it seemed like a perfect excuse to take another picture.
In a little over 3 hours, we got back to the truck and the only rest we took was to drag my butt back off the ground after my mind and feet got mixed up which led to my crushing my shoulder on a big tree trunk. Good thing though, I was just starting to get my forward momentum in action… Nasty fall.
From there, it’s a blur. Drove to the local airport, almost missed my flight, connector to Denver, connector to Philadelphia, final flight to Raleigh, hour drive with mom and dad who dropped me off where Kara and Raelyn were staying, then trying to sleep in a normal bed…that part wasn’t hard!
But what was going on back in the Colorado mountains…
Check out Pete’s blog posts here for the finale finish of our hunt. Day 15 Day 16
Here’s a picture of Chad’s bull – our 4th and final tag filled on backcountry public land archery CO bulls!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along, looking at the stunning pictures, and watching/listening the video clips that we brought home from our elk hunt. But we brought home alot more than that – a truckload of elk meat, 5 elk racks, bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, sore joints, tired bodies, memories etched in our brains forever, a tremendous sense of accomplishment, a renewed appreciation of truly wild places, and friendships affirmed through a 7-8 month process of physical and mental preparation and final execution.
After a good night’s sleep, we woke with one mission in mind. Crest out into a high altitude basin and find a bull for Chad.
We hiked up about a mile or so from camp and ran into my bull’s cows from the night before.
They didn’t seem to mind us being around and we looped beneath them to head for the mountain pass that would hopefully allow us entry into a remote flat-topped basin.
As we closed in on the pass, we all started to get real excited because we had talked at length how awesome this basin had the potential to be.
Visually, “elk heaven” didn’t disappoint.
We hiked about 500 yards into the upper meadow calling along the edge of the dark timber but couldn’t drum up any interest. We did find a graveyard of elk from prior years. Seems this might be a resident’s first rifle season honeyhole as there were capped bull skulls right and left.
There was plenty of sign, but after 3 or 4 hours of probing around the basin we hadn’t seen or heard a single elk. The decision was made to kick back, relax, and wait for late afternoon to loop back to camp another direction hopefully stirring something up along the way.
As we started losing elevation to work our way back around the mountain, up the basin where we had killed the 2 bulls the night before, and back to camp, it didn’t take long to run into this lone cow feeding way below us in a narrow meadow.
A mile later, we bumped into a small herd of cow elk which turned out to be the best possible thing for us.
Within minutes, there were at least 3 different bulls bugling and we quickly held a strategy session. I would follow Chad with the video camera while Clint and Pete would shadow us and call to hopefully bring an elk into archery range. It almost worked as we pressured the herd and brought the herd bull to within 45 or 50 yards. The only problem was that he was just around the corner of a small knoll and the wind got shifty at the exact wrong moment and blew our cover. The entire herd spooked but as we looked around we were amazed at the quality and quantity of sign we were surrounded by – wallows, droppings, beds, overgrazed open patches, rubs…
Before we could even get down on our luck, the bulls started bugling again. This time it sounded like they were headed back towards camp and it didn’t take long for us to figure out that the 3 initial bulls had created an old fashioned showdown when they pushed their harem into another group of bulls and cows in the next basin. Pandemonium ensued!
Bugles, bulls raking antlers, rocks clattering down the hillsides, cows whizzing by within 5 yards, bulls fighting, chuckling, growling, mewing… It was an elk hunter’s dream. 5 or 6 bulls trying to iron out the dominance issues that arise when you throw 2 previously separate herds together.
We waded into the fray for at least an hour. I dare say there wasn’t a 30 second stretch in that time period that at least one bull wasn’t bugling and it was a constant roller-coaster ride of Chad clipping on his release and putting tension on the string only to have the herd move one direction or the other. Re-position to keep the wind in our favor. Repeat.
Enjoy the next video.
Finally, towards dusk, we had separated one bull off from the herd and he was working towards a little meadow tucked into the mountainside. Unfortunately, he beat us to the meadow by about 90 seconds and the video tells the rest of the story.
It was a long and tiring hike back to camp and everybody went to bed thinking about the pack-out that we faced in the morning. Oh joy!