Friday, December 01, 2017

First Archery Elk Hunt

Shelz bought me a bow from her son a couple of years ago, but for whatever the reason I had not taken up archery until this year.  After hearing stories about how much more fun and engaging elk hunting is during the rut, I decided to give it a go this year.

The first weekend Dave, Jason, Justin, and I hiked our gear in a mile up from Kiss Me rock and set up camp at the top of the old burn.  We even took an old cooler up to give us a permanent storage container on the mountain.

Dave and Jason hiked back out because their muzzle-loader cow tags weere not open season yet.  Justin and I hiked up and over to the creek and did some cow calling while overlooking the upper basin from two arrow meadow. 

We spotted a nice bull elk hanging around with a cow at the far ridge line just up from two arrow.  We watch the two elk make their way around until they finally disappeared in the oak brush.  As the light faded and we cow called a bit more and Justin spotted one cow elk making her way towards us but she was a long ways off.  We called and called, but she never came in.

It finally got to be close to the end of shooting light, so we made our way back to camp.  As we were approaching camp, we heard the cow elk call to us from exactly the spot we had just been!  Man, we should probably have stayed put.

The next morning we returned to the same spot, and watched a group of around ten cow elk come all the down the far ridge from the rocky nob all the way through two arrow meadow and disappear into the pinion trees.  We figured they were headed for water in the creek, so we decided to work our way down to where we thought they would be just on the other side from two arrow.  We made our way down, but never saw those cows again.  Justin and I set up in the meadow and called for a couple of hours but no response. 

Being that it was late August, around the 25th 2017, we only could hunt for the weekend.  I wanted to save my few vacation days I had left for later in the season when the rut was in full swing.  In hindsight we probably should have tried to make a play on the one bull we saw, but it is tough to do on an evening hunt.  All in all it was a ton of fun to hunt elk in August with a bow and see that vocalizations really do work!  Great first weekend!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Pack

Monday we all went up to the radio towers so we could pack out the two elk.  Johnny and Steve went in first because they still had licenses to fill.  They spotted a bull elk on the first ridge beyond the towers.  Johnny could not see the antlers but could see the bulls balls.

We loaded up the packs and Clark couldn't make it.  These animals are big!  It ended up taking me three days to fully get my bull elk out of there.  I would hike up in the morning, get a quarter on my pack, eat lunch, then slog down the mountain arriving at my ATV at dusk.

I went on a straight line from what we call Kiss Me Rock, up to the bald knob where just below I had harvested my bull elk.  This took me through the burn, then through thick oak brush, out in the open on a path I would never take when actually hunting.  Too easy to see a human for these elk.

Torreys - Kelso Ridge

My second trip to Torrey Peak and the Kelso ridge, Shelley joined me on the adventure. 
The scramble was easier than I remember, and yet it has some cool sections.

Here's a dramatic shot of Shelz high in the mountains of Colorado.
Not many people were on the Kelso Ridge this day.  Lots of people taking the standard route up to Grey's Peak.  Nice to get away from the crowds on a mountain close to Denver, Colorado.
Here's Shelz on the knife edge.  Quite fun for a flat lander from Florida!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Elk Hunt 2016

Elk Hunt 2016 was short and sweet!  We had planned to camp in the same spot on the radio tower road, but when Justin got there, there was already people there.  So he moved up the road a quarter mile and found another spot.  There were several other camps on the road.  Usually there is nobody!  What is happening to our area?  Did all the magazines say this is the hot spot?

Opening morning Justin and Travis went up the radio towers trail, while Dave and Steve went to the honey hole.  I went over to what we call lover's rock and up.  On the atv ride over, I took a wrong turn and went up to the fence line.  I can't believe after 20+ years of hunting that I can still make such a mistake.  It put me behind, but I decided to stick with my plan.

I got to lover's rock and hiked in in the dark.  I stalked and glassed my way up the ridge until about 8 am, when I spotted two deer: a doe and her yearling.  She was very nervous for some reason and eventually bounded up the hill in the thick oak brush.  I was just glassing around and then I spotted him!  There was a nice bull elk just 300 yards away in the oak brush.

There was no way I was going to be able to stalk any closer so I got out my shooting sticks and watched.  There were about five cow elk with the bull and a calf.  The bull eventually bedded down in the oak brush to where I could just see his antlers and his back.  I waited for what seemed like eternity, and finally decided to take the shot.

I was sure my first shot was a hit because he didn't move at all.  All of the other elk immediately took off, except for the calf.  The calf was looking directly at the bull as if to say, "What are we doing?  Shouldn't we run??"  I again waited for an eternity just watching to see if the bull would run.  Eventually I decided to take another shot.  I learned the hard way in previous seasons that elk are big tough animals and it often takes multiple hits from the 300 Win Mag to bring them down.  I think the second shot was a hit too, because this time he got up and started walking toward me.  I excitedly gave him a third and a fourth shot.  After the fifth shot, he was sitting down in the oak brush and raising his head as if trying to get a breath.  I was very excited and just watched him for quite some time.

Finally, his head disappeared in the brush and I made my plan to fight my way over to him.  A six point bull elk!  On opening morning!  It was the first time I had ever got my elk on opening morning. 

I did a gutless dress out as I waited for Justin and Travis to work their way over to help me.  Some other hunters told them that a big bear was ahead of them.  We decided to haul out the front quarters, backstraps, and antlers and leave the hinds over night since we did not have our packs with us.  The next morning, Steve and I hunted up to do the pack and we discovered that a bear had stolen one of the hind quarters.  I packed the other down as Steve continued to hunt.  He came out on a different road and so I ended up carrying the hind all the way out.  Lesson learned: take the best meat first.  Especially when you have two strong young men.

Awesome hunt for me!  The rest of the group did not see a single elk all season.  Johnny and Donny joined mid week and they hunted all over the mountain to no avail.  Donny had his silencer and muzzle break on his 300 which was very nice to shoot.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

El Diente to Wilson Peak Traverse

Brian and I took a late August trip down to the San Juan mountains to climb Mount Wilson, Wilson Peak, and El Diente.  As one of the four great traverses in Colorado, I was very much looking forward to the ridge run from El Diente to Wilson Peak.

Approaching Ridge Crest

El Diente ascent to ridge

First good scramble

El Diente Summit

El Diente to Wilson Traverse
These mountains are the furthest fourteeners from Denver, so it took me awhile to get down there.  Two other factors delayed my trip: a stop in Grand Junction to have dinner with my mom and a wrong turn which dumped me in Norwood.  I knew I should have taken that left turn in Placerville.  I have childhood memories of visiting my grandparents in Placerville, so it was nice to return to this area again.

I made it to the trailhead and found Brian's vehicle before midnight.  I hit the bag immediately in the back of the Frontier under the stars.  Brian and I got a good start the next morning on our way to El Diente.  The first part of the trail is a nice but never ending hike through the woods in the basin.  Eventually the waterfall comes into view and the ascent starts in earnest.

This part of the hike through rock rubble is definitely taxing.  Finally we hiked what looked to be past The Tooth which looms like a monarch above.  The hike starts to become a climb as we approached the ridge.  Brian and I took different lines and we used other climbers as our cairns.  With much scrambling ahead of us, I played a bit on the rocks but didn't get too screwy.

Once on the ridge line, the final push to the top of El Diente is quite an interesting scramble.  We made the top and took some great pictures.  There were a couple of military guys on top as well as a guy and gal hiking partners.

Brian wasn't feeling up to the traverse, so he decided to descend back to the valley and meet me at the top of Wilson Peak.  Maybe we broke the buddy rule, but my desire to tackle this traverse was too great.  Even though makes the ridge approach clear, I was reluctant to loose the prescribed amount of elevation and cut to the ridge too early.  This put me on the wrong side of the ridge and I had to scramble-slide down and loose the elevation anyway.  I was a bit nervous because there were no other climbers in sight, but eventually I found a few cairns which made me feel a bit better.  It is mostly the fear that you won't be able to rejoin the route that gets me.

I made my way to the ridge crest and spied other scramblers.  The views are spectacular and the route is epic.  The next section involved a lot of easy but very engaging scrambling.  It takes some time, but there is nothing I would rather be doing.  Then I came to the crux ramp.  This looks quite ominous and I had time to evaluate the approach as other climbers ahead of me were planning theirs.  One of the three in the group decided not to even tackle the pitch and bailed off the ridge.

The climb of the ramp was definitely Class 4 and probably lower Class 5, but I was never nervous due to the nice selection of holds and the solid rock.  I would like to put down more adjectives to describe this awesome section and will do so as more memories come to me.

The final pitch to the top of Wilson Peak turned out to be quite a challenge.  There is one rock that takes an awkward belly-rubbing pull to get over.  It was even tougher coming down.  There is some exposure here to make it even more interesting.  Coming down as a short guy leaves ones feet dangling, searching for any kind of a footing.  In the end I survived and was the last guy off the summit.

I heard Brian shouting from down in the valley and assumed he was headed back home.  I couldn't exactly make out the words, but was still amazed at how voices carry in the mountains.  I was trying to keep up with the others just to make sure I was on the right track.  Part of the way down the descent, I realized that their group was taking a different route than Brian.  I wanted to be sure and hook up with Brian eventually, so I had to make my way back up to the ridge.  This was a bit of an endeavor because I was already spent of energy and more ascent was not easy.

Once back at the ridge, I descended the correct valley.  This was a long and arduous crossing of scree and a sea of boulders.  This took a very very long long time.  I didn't catch up to Brian until past the waterfall and down to tree line.  Brian had waited for me there.  The long long hike out was beautiful but there wasn't much left in our gas tanks.  In the end the entire day was as epic as any other I can remember.  Scrambling one more of the great traverses was the highlight of the summer.  Very much recommended!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Elk Hunt 2013

Opening day of hunting season: one very anticipated day!  On Saturday Steve and I took the spur off wells gulch road.  Dave's knee was hurting so he had to sit opening day out.  Steve and I reached the end of the road while it was still quite dark, but we could see someone camped there by the light in there small tent.  Burr... that had to be a cold night.  With other hunters in the area we decided to stick to our plan.  I hiked straight up from the road, Steve hiked over to meadow.  The hike was easy in the dark even without a solid trail.  At around shooting light I saw 7-10 elk at about 600 yards away.  I then spotted a cow elk at 400 yards and debated taking a shot.  Instead I tried to work my way closer.  The pinions are thick in here and I heard them barking but could not see them.  Finally they spooked and I heard two shots down below.  Damn, I guess my strategy was wrong. Steve didn't get a shot due to the safety on his gun.  I hiked on up to Alkali Basin then across to the far ridge and down.  At the end of the day I saw the two hunters there on that far ridge.  I surmised that the elk went across and down toward the private land ranch.

On Sunday we decided to hunt the Mesa Pt Road and the next road over to lover's rock.  I took my ATV and went over to lovers rock and hiked up.  I was surprised nobody else was there.  Once above the burn if you stay too low you get into some thick oak brush as seen in the photo above.  I fought the oak brush for over an hour.  It sucks.  I then fought my way through the aspen groves.  In this area there are lots of small streams and downed trees.  I got a text from Dave saying there are elk below Indian Point.  I heard shots and he got his rag horn.  After much bushwhacking I actually spotted the elk bedded down right where he said they were.  Check out the photo to the right.  I worked my way up high and came upon boot tracks and saw a blood trail. The tracks were going the wrong way for me, so I followed the bootprints backwards to the tall pines.  Knowing I couldn't get much closer, I worked my way down to some boulders where I could shoot across a small valley.  I took off my orange and tried to hide behind the boulders.  As I scoped out the herd, I saw many cow elk, 3 spikes, and one bull who looked to be legal.  Finally he turned his head to prove it.  I set up my shot on the boulders using the snow for a solid base.  I took the shot and elk scattered everywhere!

I saw the bull standing on the hill side and tried to bring him down again.  Finally all elk were out of sight, so I walked over along the one elk "highway" through the black timber and boulders.  I spooked a calf who was separated from the herd.  When I got to the meadow where they had been bedded, my bull elk stood up and I dropped him with a final shot. A very nice 5x5 bull!

After hurriedly doing a gutless field dressing, I started down the mountain.  As I crested the ridge, I seen the elk herd again just below me in the meadow.  A couple of the spike bulls were sparring.  The lead cow was barking to get the group to gather and go down.  It was quite a beautiful scene.  There must have been 40 elk.  Check out the photo to the left.

I watched the elk as long as I could, then tried to make my way down the mountain without disturbing them too much.  It was getting very late and I needed to get to the trail before it was too dark.  Busting tail, I made it to Dalton's Rock before dark then walked out on the trail in the dark.  Johnny, Dave, and Clark came back to get me at the radio towers.  I ended up leaving my ATV and pickup over at lovers rock for two days.

Here's a nasty picture of my bull.  Nobody was with me to take a nicer picture.  What an awesome day of hunting!  It started out brutal with the oak brush and downed quakies, but ended with the best elk hunt I can imagine!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Deer Hunt 2013 - Opening weekend

As my fourth option, I drew a buck tag for gmu 18, 28, 37, and 371.  I've never hunted in this area, so we did a little scouting in the two weeks leading up to the second season.

First we took the county road 21 off of highway 125 north of Hot Sulphur Springs.  This road is a bit rough, and there seemed to be a lot of people around.  Not sure how this area around Elk Mountain is to hunt, because we never hunted it during the season, but I'm guessing the deer hunting is best around the radio towers.

The next weekend we scouted the area around Meadow Creek Reservoir.  We met a game warden on Road 8, and he said he had seen 200 head of deer that day.  This got me excited so decided to hunt here there opening day the next weekend.

Opening day I decided to hunt behind Meadow Creek Reservoir.  It had snowed the day before, so it was perfect conditions.  In fact I almost got my Nissan Frontier stuck just off the road because the snow was so deep.  I found a good trail, but it was cold and with the snow Shelz didn't want to continue.  She didn't have tall enough boots.  I found many sets of deer track and what turned out to be moose track.  Finally saw three moose!  Very cool.

That afternoon I hunted Strawberry Road.  It seemed that the deer would be lower than all the snow and Shelz could go with me.  We took the right spur and found a mountain bike trail at the top of the road.  We hiked this road but didn't see any deer.  On the way out, a warden had a check point set up.  He said only three deer had come out of this area today, and only one out of Corona Pass Road.

On Sunday we went back up Strawberry Road and took the left and longer road.  We found a great spot and we hiked out across great looking deer country.  Again on a mountain bike trail and again no deer.  So we decided to hunt Corona Pass in the afternoon.  It started snowing but we hunted a spot where a fellow hunter said he saw a buck.  Instead we saw three moose!  A mother and two young bulls.  The one bull was a year older than the other and we watched them sparring and playing a bit.  The area looks like good deer and elk country, but the only deer we saw was a buck that some boys from Kansas had harvested at the start of the road.

All in all, the beetle kill is causing an affect on the deer population I believe.  This is also very high country, so maybe not the best in general for deer.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Grand Traverse

I have had the Grand Traverse on my wish list for a couple of years now.  The Grand Traverse is on the skyline above Vail as you are heading East.  It is part of the Gore Range.  We left Denver early and arrived in Vail at about 6 am.  We stashed our mountain bikes at the Deluge Lake trail head and parked at the Bighorn trail head about a mile and a half away.  This trail head is a bit tricky to find.
The first section of trail is quite steep.  You can imagine the fall colors would be spectacular on this hike, but we were here on August 18, 2013.  It is still a very pretty hike.  After about a mile and a half the steep slope relents and you have easier walking in the valley.  There are many species of mushrooms here if you look for them.

Once you reach the cabin, take the trail to the left of it rather than to the right.  We went right and made it into the upper valley fine, but it just added a bit to the hike.

The trail peters out and you have to do a little bushwhacking to get to the steep slopes of North Traverse Peak.  We were eager to get on with the scrambling so we probably started up the slope too early.  I wonder if going all the way to the saddle would have been better.  The bushwhacking/scrambling starts here and is a good challenge.  It is very untame and wild in the Gore Range.
Here you can see the kind of true bushwhacking you get yourself into!  My climbing partner Shelz was getting a bit put out with it.
Once you climb past the cliff bands the vegetation thins out but the steepness of the slope remains.  The grassy slope is hard on the calves and quads.  The views of Vail start to appear and you can see all the way to Holy Cross.
Then the scree starts.  You get boulders of all shapes and sizes.  None of them are very stable (as you would expect).  For people who have spent there lives boulder hopping, it can be fun to gauge the terrain and find the best way to surf your way up.  For people who have less experience, it is not fun at all and can be frustrating and scary.  The scree becomes interminable. 
This is a very long climb and a bit much for us on this day, so we turned around with the summit of North Grand Traverse peak in our sites.  To touch the top was tempting, but the goal has always been to scramble the traverse, so we will be back. 

The descent down through the scree and then the cliff bands was just as challenging as the ascent.  At times we were almost cliffed out and had to use some unorthodox climbing moves to get past the thick ground cover and water trickling rocks.

The long hike to the truck got us back after 7 pm and in the darkness.  If you aren't a fast hiker/climber you should start this adventure as early as possible.  We'll be back.  We'll see you up there in the summer of 2013!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Elk Hunt 2012 Part 2 of 2

On Thursday we decided to finally hunt the towers.  Two in our party went over to the next ridge west from the tower ridge.  Two went to the bowl, and I went to the top.  We got in early and I was up to Dalton's rock before 7 am.  As I scoped the mountain side from the next rock on the ridge, I spotted a bull elk high above and to the right of the mudslide.  I devised a plan.  I would make my way through the oak brush at the lower end of the slide, then sneak up the soft mud to avoid detection.

Dalton's rock
My plan was working out perfectly as I detangled my way to the bottom of the mud slide.  The side ridge of the slide made a perfect visual barrier and the soft dirt was very quiet.  I poked my head above the ridge about half way up, but couldn't see the elk.  I proceeded on to the next chosen vantage point, but again no elk.  I was beginning to think the bull elk I had seen from far below was in reality just a boulder or something.

In my sights
As I made my way on up, peaking over the ridge, I finally came to the full view.  Two spike elk!  They were bedded down in a small opening just 30 yards away.  They had no idea I was there.  Man, did I wish one of them would grow some bigger antlers!  I scoped each of them with my rifle, and watched them with my binoculars for over a half hour.  They were very on edge, perking their ears and nose to every little change in the breeze.

Two spikes
Finally, I decided to move on.  Although quiet, when I did stand up, they immediately detected my presence and spooked.  They crashed through the thick oak brush and seemed to have some difficulty making their way through.  It was good to see it isn't always humans that find this stuff annoying.

I made my way to the top of the mudslide and to the spot I had shot at the bull a few years back.  The only way through the thick brush and back to the ridge, was up over the top of Indian Point.  I finally bagged this sucker after many years of hunting around it.  Nice view.

Indian Point
On Friday, my last day of the hunt, we finally got snow.  I decided to hunt the middle section of the Blue Grouse Trail.  I started up through the meadows about a half mile past the Point Camp Trail hoping to make my way up to the dark timber pockets below the rim.  As I rounded a large bend in the path, I spotted two cow elk.  As I readied myself for the first shots of the season, I spotted a nice bull.  Probably a five point, so I knelt down and tried to steady my aim.  I let the lead fly, but missed!  Another shot and another miss just low!  Damn.  Now the elk aren't hanging around any longer and they take off up hill.

Where the elk were
I tracked these elk all the way to the top of the mountain through some steep side hills and a lot of thick timber.  Even though it was snowing on and off all day, at times it was hard to find tracks.  At one point I had to back track and get my forgotten fanny pack.  They led me through the timber and finally into the upper rolling meadows of aspen groves.  Finally at midday the tracks became too hard to follow.  I never seen the elk again.

Where the red fern grows
I promised myself I would practice shooting my rifle at longer distances: 200-300 yards, at least once per month for the next year.  I can't miss another shot like that again.  They are too few and the hard hiking it takes makes it silly not to be able to finish.  I want you dear reader to keep me honest in this pledge.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Elk Hunt 2012 Part 1 of 2

Saturday opening morning we hunted over to the end of the road on upper alkali basin.  Clark came with me, a first time hunter.  On the atv ride up we road double up the very cobby road from dry basin where we were camped.  There were many hunters over in this area, and we spent the morning trying to make our way to a place of our own.  Clark got to experience crawling through the oak brush and tip toeing across boulder fields.  In the end we walked right up on two hunters watching a meadow.  We walked on until we came to the long park where Dalton shot his bull elk. 

I left Clark on a high perch to watch as I walked down through the park to the far ridge.  I decided to hug the lip of the park so I could see down into the basin.  As I got 3/4 of the way, I spooked something in the bushes ahead of me.  It didn't sound like a deer, and it definitely wasn't an elk.  I made my way to a small hill to see, and surprise! a mountain lion!  Very cool to see her sleeking into the foliage away from me.  As I walked a bit further, I heard more rustling.  I got a bit spooked thinking I was the hunted this time.  It turned out to be deer this time, not mountain lion.

I hunted up around to the right of the high point on the far side of the park.  There isn't much visibility up here and is quite noisy with all the brush.  Sticking to the open face of the point works just as well.  As you get to the far side you can see down into the ajoining basin and onto some secluded parks.  I didn't spot anything and made my way back to Clark by early afternoon.

We hunted from the end of the lower road that evening.  We spooked a deer right as we came to the lookout point, but spotted no elk in the far basin.

mossy creek
The other boys in my hunting party said there were way too many hunters along the dough spoon road, so I decided to go to the end of the blue grouse trail.  I parked at the base of the mountain, just before bull and brown and hiked up the road to start.  I found a service atv road to the right, not open to the public, but legal to hike.  A perfect option to hunt quietly.  It was a very nice hunt, but alas no elk.  I met three hunters coming down from the top, so I know you can get there from the granbys.  I hiked out through a nice park back toward the ridge in order to make a big loop.  I seen a very nice 4x4 buck and we did a little dance.

arrow in tree
On Monday it was just Clark and me.  Dave and Steve had to work, and Chip was not feeling well.  I tried to set Clark on the point camp trail, but screwed up and sent him up the road to that camp.  I road my atv to the first open park almost to the top of the bull and brown.  I hiked out staying at the same elevation.  After about an hour of hiking through aspens and pines, I spooked a nice bull elk.  He ran straight away from me knocking his antlers on the aspens.  I couldn't get a shot.  Shortly after, I heard another hunting shoot four times.  I didn't know how to proceed with my hunt.  After half an hour I heard two more shots, then another half hour one last shot.  In the end I hunted by following a circle where I believe this other hunt went on.  It wasn't a winning strategy.  Later that day I did come upon fresh blood.  I followed it through the thick evergreens and eventually spooked a couple of elk.  With no snow, it was very hard to follow the blood and it seemed to disappear.

spot the hunter?
On Tuesday I got Clark on the proper point camp trail, and I again hunted the same place.  And again after about an hour of hiking, I spotted three cows.  I could just see their heads.  I came to a well traveled game trail and followed it.  It lead to the upper meadow where the b&b atv trail meets the greenwood trail.  In reality this hunt area isn't that far from atv trails.  I decided to try to enter the pines, but soon found myself in a boulder field.  I was meticulously making my way down the boulder field when I mistakenly stepped on a twig.  I heard an elk in the timber take off.  Damn!  Hunting elk is an exercise in staying alert.  One small mistake can ruin hours spent on a hunt.  But I did find a new way to hunt the dark timber on the Grand Mesa.  I tried to go as far out as possible and came to some huge meadows with many quakies.  Eventually I came to the place cattle make there way down the mountain.

Wednesday brought Steve, Justin and Dave back to camp.  We decided to give b&b one more try since I had seen elk both previous days. We all parked in the same meadow, but Steve and I went up the road to the large park on top.  Steve entered where I had come out on Tuesday, I went farther and it took awhile to find a way in without getting into the thick timber.   The area always looks different based on the exact small rolling meadow you are in.  I met up with Dave late morning and nobody had seen elk.  When we got back to the atvs, we found Steve napping.  Dave used his elk call, but Steve didn't budge.  Dave let out a huge bugle and Steve jumped up!  A good laugh was had by all.
see the porcupine?

Late in the day Steve and Justin went back down to pick up Clark who was hunting the low end of this area.  Dave went up the service road and I hiked down blue grouse trail.  I was about an hour in, when I spotted many deer.  The hunting got really good.  Finally I spooked some cow elk.  There was a bull with them!  A spike... damn.  At the same time, I seen a porcupine.  He waddled away up a small trail.

Stay tuned for part two!