Beetle Kill – the Good, the Bad, the Ugly – RMEF Article
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“Red Tree Blues” is an article written by Christine Paige for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s magazine Bugle. It is a fantastic article and approaches the subject of beetle kill with a lot of tact. Hunters can be polarized by the issue and either love it (creates more deadfall to keep access difficult and opens up the canopy for ground vegetation to get more sunlight – this is my inkling) or hate it (kills the dark-timbered, north slopes dominated by conifers). The truth is that beetle kill is a very real thing, a very pervasive thing, and something that has been going on for a long time – just not in the scale we are currently witnessing. And yes, there are good sides to it and bad sides. Read it at this link.

I’m claiming permission through permission at The MeatEater Blog, hosted by Steven Rinella. While you are over there, check out some of his material. A great ambassador for hunting and outdoor recreation and a great writer as well. Honestly, one of the few TV personalities I can stomach anymore.

Enjoy.

Colorado Preference Points – Future Hunt Plans…
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To break the flow of the bear hunt content, I got dad started on accumulating some elk preference points in Colorado that will likely be directed towards a September muzzleloader tag in a few years. It’s worth pointing out that some hunts can happen on “accident” but most require years of planning, preparation, and effort.

I purchased what will be mule deer preference point #3. I don’t foresee a reason to bail on our OTC archery elk honey holes anytime soon, but I am in point gathering mode to cash in on an early season high country mule deer hunt in another 3 or 4 years. Maybe archery, maybe rifle in some of the alpine wilderness units.

A big velvet muley is definitely on my long-term wishlist!

Gaiters – Outdoor Research Crocodiles
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One of the only new items to make it onto my gear list was a pair of Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters. I spent a lot of time researching best models, dimensions, weights, and reviews. Because I wear some pricey boots (Salomon 4D GTX Cosmics) and extremely minimalist pants (Target C9’s), the gaiters will offer protection to both the costly investment of my boots and the vulnerable nature of my pants, shins, and skin. Also, it’s not a likelihood or even a probability that we’ll be logging miles in the snow during the upcoming MT bear hunt – it’s a guarantee. Keeping that moisture at bay will definitely be in my best interest.

Heavy morning dew in a high country meadow during September is also particularly aggravating, and soaked feet might also be avoided using the gaiters. Once the landscape is dried out, I imagine that I would lash them inside my backpack.

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Here’s a couple links to REI and Campmor. The reviews are overwhelmingly favorable and the picture is actually snagged off one of the posted reviews from a National Parks volunteer.

I’ll be taking a 9 ounce hit on the pack weight, but I think it will be justified. After all, most people are adding a set of Wiggy’s Waders to their spring bear hunting packs to aid in crossing streams and creeks. I’m going to opt for the “take boots off and roll pants up” approach. I did this throughout Ohio’s deer season this year and I’ve decided it takes all the potentially disastrous variables out of the equation – e.g., “that water was a bit deeper than I thought it was!”

Extreme Elk Magazine – Spring ’14 Issue
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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!

Sawyer MINI Water Filter and Upcoming Hunt Plans
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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.

1 Year Anniversary for 1st Bull Elk – 9 Days to Go
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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…

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New Mexico Success! – 19 Days to Go
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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!

“BigDan” Interview – 36 Days to Go
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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 Elk Hunters Declining
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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.

Gear Reviews – Colorado Elk Hunt 2012
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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!

While I’m on the subject of cookwear, the Ikea wood stove was one of the Top 5 most impressive items of the trip. Never had one moment of disappointment with our stove creation. Slide over to Pete’s blog to check out his in-depth post on the Ikea wood stove.

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.

Infolinks 2013