Expectations – 2014 DIY Colorado Archery Elk Hunt
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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.

Here’s a post that Pete put up on his blog regarding his goals for this year’s hunt.

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!

“Elk” Call Inventory – Part II
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Look back a few days to part one of this post where I outlined my personal choices for elk diaphragm calls…

Choosing some turkey diaphragm calls has nothing to do with weight – thankfully the weight of the calls you employ for a given animal isn’t proportional to your target species’ weight. Choosing my bugle tube does come down to weight (and price to a lesser extent). I suppose that if I was hunting a premium unit where harvesting only a mature 5 or 6 year old bull is the goal, I might be a little more inclined to pick up a call capable of doing the deepest-toned growls and such. That ain’t the case. Over-the-counter elk hunting in a wilderness area with a 4-point antler restriction. Being interpreted – if it’s got 4 points, it’s fair game. The only thing determining its fate will be packing distance back to truck. There are certain areas in this year’s loop where shooting a barely legal bull would NOT be a wise decision.

Alright, to the bugle tube.

Fancy? Negative. Effective? Sounds good. Lightweight? Extraordinarily. Compact? Can’t beat it. Built for our style of hunting? Absolutely.

Bought $10 worth of washing machine hosing (enough to build 5 or 6 of these bugle tubes). Cut to length – about 13″. Heated a nail with a match to push 2 smooth holes through the tubing. Threaded paracord and tied knots inside to secure the strap. 5 minutes start to finish. Bugle tube for literally $2. Too bad it’s a heavyweight at 1.5 ounces. Being sarcastic here…I searched for the lightest bugle tubes available and this is the “winner”. Suppose I should pack 2 extras and still have .7 ounces to spare.

Again, this isn’t necessarily the best way to do things, but it’s the way I’ve chosen to do things. Maybe post-Colorado elk hunting trip I’ll post an article on releasers and how animals respond to cues. It’s painfully simple, truly shocking, and pragmatically refreshing. Yes indeed, that blog post is added to the “to write” list. Little preview on releasers – as long as there’s a grain of truth to the cue, the animal is likely to bite, hook and line and sinker.

Not Applicable – Really?!?!
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Maybe some day my blog will be famous enough that people will start taking pot shots at my writing material…

Not applicable, really! What difference does it make whether or not weight carried is hung around your neck, worn on your feet, carried in your hand, or worn around your waist? I purposely cropped the picture down to protect the guilty, but time and time again, I see annoying details like this come out in weight shaving and set up your pack articles.

Honestly, there is a certain suite of equipment that is essential and you can only pack so light. But the item list labeled NA includes things like boots, bow, and binos. 3 items that guys consistently abuse themselves carrying. Many boots are 30 ounces apiece. Bow quivers and stabilizers are HEAVY! Binoculars range from super lightweight monoculars to heavyweight optics.

I suppose this isn’t so much a critique, as a warning. Don’t get so caught up in your backpack setup that you forget to put the same amount of careful thought into what you’ll be carrying on your person.

Bugle tube is another one. Certain manufacturer’s bugles can weigh 8, 10, 12 ounces. Not saying my will play the equivalent sweet music as a name-brander, but my 1.5 ounce washing machine tube will get the job done.

“Elk” Call Inventory
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It’s not a surprise that my elk “call” inventory is a little unconventional. I’ve got a Hoochie Mama but have never carried it…too heavy. I’ve got the Primos high-domed diaphragm calls, but I can’t always make the perfect cow talk. I don’t use a high-volume open reed, but I don’t really need to. Pete has one and with partnered archery elk hunting, it becomes more a mid-range locator than a final 80 yards finisher. My elk bugle is just a 13″ section of tubing from the local hardware store. And my go-to elk calls – bottom row of diaphragm calls pictured below are actually turkey calls! HS Strut’s ‘Lil Strut’, ‘Double D’, and ‘Raspy Old Hen’.

Here’s some excerpts from HS Strut’s website.

Lil’ Strut – the Li’l Strut will produce consistent turkey vocalizations day after day. This is a hybrid cutter which delivers the realistic rasp you need without sacrificing the aggressive yelps and cuts. My paraphrased version – this incredible elk call can go from soft “mewing” cow talk to a high-pitched spike elk bugle just by manipulating the placement of your tongue on the call’s durable reed.

Double D – This line of calls produce all the authentic tones of a turkey, from the yelps of an old boss hen to raspy, seductive cackles. These calls utilize H.S. Strut’s new Infinity Latex for reeds that require less air pressure to run, giving hunters more realistic sounds. Both the tape and latex are moisture resistant for longer life. Top quality latex and tape along with H.S. Strut’s high manufacturing standards for consistent thickness and reed stretch ensure you get the best diaphragm calls ever produced. The Double D utilizes 2 thin reeds. My paraphrased version – Why hunters use heavier, bulkier, more cookie-cutter sounding calls like the Hoochie Mama and others is more than we’ll ever know. Get a call that is lightweight enough to be mistaken for a Wheat Thin, yet versatile enough to make mid-volume cow elk noises, transform a length of washing machine hose into a dominant bull’s bugle, yet always remain on your pallet to stop that DIY bull for the perfect shot at a moment’s notice. As an added bonus, it’s durable enough to survive 17 straight days of alternating slobber and damp pants pockets.

It’s what works for me. Hopefully, we can once again show that it works for the elk too!

OTC Either-Sex Archery Elk License – Signed, sealed, delivered…
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Just received my ticket to the high country.

Western hunting tags are definitely not cheap, but after a hunt, I’ve never once thought that a tag or license wasn’t a complete bargain. I can’t imagine that my perception will be any different this time.

Colorado Archery Elk 2014 – Gear List
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I suppose this is becoming one of the obligatory pre-hunt blog posts, but a lot has changed with this one. Maybe I should say, a lot has disappeared off this one. Pete and I are planning a massive loop that will take us deep into some remote wilderness basins. To make that possible, we need 2 things. 1) Time – 6-8 days probably. 2) Mobility – and by this I mean minimal gear lists and ultra-lightweight backpacks. We’ll be camping off our backs again which means no base camp and no spike camps, only carrying our entire wardrobe, shelter system, food, and weapons with us all day every day. A lot of guys will report pack weights, but fail to include what they’ll actually be wearing, the necessary allotment of water/food, or forget they’ll be carrying a 6 pound bow.

This is my bottom line – 38.9 pounds. That’s me naked plus everything. 7 days food, water, bow, boots, belt, camera, socks, and Bic lighter. Quite similar to past hunts, but leaving most of the backup clothes and sock/underwear changes at the truck. Also, no technological frills this time. No SPOT, no video camera, no tripod, no binos, just us and the mountains and the elk. Here’s the full rundown.

The only change I’m really considering is unscrewing the stabilizer off my Hoyt and putting a pair of Vortex binoculars around my neck. The country out there is wide open and we’re currently debating the potential usefulness of good optics for an archery hunt…decisions, decisions.

If you thought the gear reviews were good back in 2012, get ready for this round of comments. It’ll be real easy to get frustrated with gear items when no alternate options are readily available for recall and replacement. We’re feeling confident though with our setups. They’re proven, they’re lightweight, they’re rugged, and they’re efficient. Best of all – the whole package suits our preferred style of hunting! Aggressive, mobile, and (hopefully) lethal!

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.


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.

Link 1
Link 2

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!

Infolinks 2013