Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hunt 2005 - Conclusion

Colorado's normal elk seasons no longer give you two weekends, so our hunt was over. My hunt for my wallet was also over, so I had to borrow money from Michelle's grandma Millie. She gave me a nice leather wallet with deer on it too.

Saturday, we had breakfast with Angie so Dalton could see his mom and then headed for Moab to celebrate my sister's birthday. Larry and family also showed up, as was our surpise plan. Veronica was puting in new linoleum in her kitchen so we helped. We had a good party for V that night and played some texas holdem. Kari D won.

Dalton and I left Moab late Sunday after mucking through dad's stuff. We loaded our gear and meat at Dave's and realized we did not have Dalton's .270. We decided to go back up to hunt camp on the slim chance we could find it. We drove all the way up there and the road was getting quite bad. Luckily we found Dalton's gun in the case in the mud. It's a miracle Dave didn't run over it pulling out the motorhome.

By the time we returned to Grand Junction, it was 10 pm and the news on the pass was not good. We decided to spend the night at Millie's and leave at 4am for Denver. The passes the next morning were snow packed and an accident at Eagle cost us an hour. Then there was an accident on 6th in Denver which put me at work at 11 am.

Hunting season over!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hunt 2005 - Day 7

On the morning of the last day we pulled out of camp on our way to the towers. Dave drove the motorhome, I pulled the atv trailer with Dave's truck, and Dalton drove my truck. We had to stop in Delta to get diesel for Dave's truck and when we were pulling out I lost those guys on the highway. We wasted an hour looking for each other and it made us late to our spot.

As we were riding up the road, we saw the game warden's pickup. When we got to the top we seen his atv. Since I had lost my wallet, I decided not to carry my rifle even though I was perfectly legal. You must have your license with you, and I figured it wasn't worth the hassle. I resigned myself to bird dogging for Dave. Dalton couldn't carry a gun either, because he already bagged his elk.

After watching the valley for a while, we decided to head on up. Dave and Dalton on would walk the ridge, and I would go through the middle. I wanted to make it all the way to burn, but after hiking until 11 am, I realized I didn't have time. I seen a hunter way up on Indian Point; some day I will have to get there. I believe he came from the top.

I met up with Dave and Dalton at the high tower and ate lunch. Itstarted to rain, so we decided to start hiking back. We had seen no elk, but had heard shots and guys on the radio chasing a bull. As we hiked down it was raining pretty good and we could see it was snowing higher on the mountain. Dalton was getting cold and didn't like the pace Dave was setting, so he got pissed and walked out ahead of us. Freezing rain is by far the worst conditions to hunt in. Even though I was very cold and wet, I was enjoying the unique experience of the outdoors. The smells and moody views in the rain make me feel close to nature.

Back at the ATVs we knew it was going to be a muddy mess getting down the road. I was soaked to the bone, cold as hell, and covered in mud by the time we got to the pickup. After arriving at Dave's house, we spent until midnight cutting up Dalton's elk. Dennis and Tammy came by to check out Dalton's bull.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Hunt 2005 - Day 6

With the success of Wednesday and the need to finish packing out the hind quarters, we decide to head back to upper texas for the third day. Dave was back in camp and went with us to upper texas. Steve decided to hunt the spoons since his back was still hurting and the road is so rough our way.

The plan was to hunt in the morning and pack the hinds with the packs in afternoon. I went to Tuesday's overlook to try to find my wallet while Dave and Dalton went higher. The other hunters who were in the valley the past two days were doing the same hunt again this day.

I saw no elk in valley and no evidence of my wallet. There were shots way low and over in w gulch. After a couple of hours I hiked to meet up with Dave and Dalton. We hiked to the high point to hunt and check for my wallet. Dave and Dalton spotted that same buck we saw Tuesday. Here is a picture of a very cool moss covered lava rock.

No sign of elk while hunting the high point, so Dave decided to drop off and hunt the valley beyond high hill. He had a feeling. His feeling turned out to be a nice 4 point buck and doe.

Using the packs, the hind quarters were much easier than without them. It was still quite a task to pack them out to the ATVs. This is wilderness area, and there are signs reminding hunters that they cannot use mechanized vehicles even to retrieve game. By the time we made it out we decided to forgo an evening hunt and instead packed up camp to hunt the towers on the final day. All the shots we heard were lower, so we were thinking that might be a good plan.

Dave Eller is a natural leader and someone I respect. Here is what I mean by natural leader:

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hunt 2005 - Day 5

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson

With the season half over, we had feelings of both hope and desperation. Steve was back in camp and we decided to hunt upper texas where we seen the big bull on Tuesday. This time we got up a bit later and didn't roll out of camp until 5 am. As we rode toward alk basin some other hunters caught up with us and a few tried to pass. I guess they wanted to be first ;-)

I thought for sure that the trail in would be a piece of cake since we came out so nicely the previous evening. The trails in this area are weird though, we never took the same one twice. Steve was getting antsy to split up, so he decided to hunt back in the bowl above alk basin. Dalton and I went too high and had to cross a boulder field to get to our destination. Dalton paused to take a shit, and with our late launch he did it right in prime shooting time. Sure enough, we heard shots.

We got to an overlook and watched the valley for awhile, but we want to hunt that big bull so we preceded on. Then we heard shots close to us in valley, and I could see hunter walking through the middle, just where Dalton had hiked the day before. He was making good time, so I knew he was on to something.

Then I hear a rustling in the oak brush and out pops a spike bull not 20 yards from me. The young elk never even knew I was there. I watched him for awhile as he browsed and moved on. The day was looking better all the time.

Soon after I then spot a big bull on highest hill! Dalton is too far from me for me to tell him, so I decide to just take my best shot and hope he catches on. The bull was a good 400 yards away, so I crouched and braced myself against a tree. Pow! Miss. Pow! Miss. Dalton catches on and fires a few shots too, but the distance might be too much. We need to practice long shots more.

We then meet up with the hunter who was crossing the middle. He claims he had wounded a bull and that we were hunting his elk. We decide to hike up and see if we can spot any blood. Just then we see a rag horn topping the hill. The other guy asks if he can take a shot, so I say "Yes" and tell Dalton to shoot right after him. The guy misses, but Dalton can't find the elk on the hill. I guess he needed his glasses.

The hunter asks us what our plan is. I tell him we are going high to see if we might have hit that bull earlier. He decides to hunt around the middle more, since his buddies had another bull down below.

There was no sign of blood on the high hill and we were just scanning the area when I spotted a 5 point bull on the upper hill side! I tell Dalton, "There he is!" and I let Dalton take a shot. He misses. I take a shot. Miss. Dalton again. Me again. The bull is at full trot trying to climb this hill to safety. Finally, Dalton takes his time, draws a good bead, and makes a clean shot. Got him!! The bull turns once and collapses. We watch him for bit to make sure he is not getting up. If you click on the second picture you can see a small brown spot on the hillside: Dalton's elk.

I am so happy for Dalton and we celebrate with high fives. His first elk! We make our way over to the steep hillside. No wonder this bull was not moving faster, this stuff is steep and rough. Turns out this five point has a broken antler at the thickest part of the upper two tines. Never seen anything like it.

Now the work begins. Dalton dresses for 2 hours as I coach. We had no bone saw, so we decide to drag the hind quarters over a boulder field to the park below to see how hard it would be. It was tough. He isn't the biggest bull ever, but elk are just huge. We then decide to pack out the front shoulders and get Steve to help us. We take off the backstraps and pack them into the little backpack. Then each of us grabs a shoulder and hoofs it back to the atvs. There was a lot of sweat in that last sentence and it took us awhile.

Back at the road we meet up with Steve and the hunter we saw up above. The guy is very nice and loans us a bone saw. The three of us hike back in, quarter up the hinds and I talk Dalton into keeping the full head in case he wants to do a European mount. The hind quarters are much heavier than the front and Steve falls and tweaks his back on the first steep section. Dalton takes over for Steve and we hump the hinds down to the aspens. Still a mile to go and we are out of daylight. So we decide to hide the quarters there and return for them in the morning. If you ever find a "D5" carved in an aspen tree, you will have found the spot.

I packed the head the rest of the way and we took it all back to camp to hang. This turned out to be the best hunting day ever.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hunt 2005 - Day 4

On Tuesday it was just me and my son. Dalton and I decided to hunt above Texas since the only shots we heard on Monday were from this area.

The alarm roused us at 4 AM and we jumped on the four wheelers for the hour long trip over the roughest and rockiest trail I know. Two years ago this trail bruised my wrist and it took until this summer to fully heal. We arrived at the end of the road just before light and we were the first in.

There are many trails through here, but the oak brush is also very thick and nasty. Once you cross two or three ridges you come to a nice spot which overlooks a large valley. Dalton and I found a spot and just watched for about 3 hours. There was one other hunter not far from us, and some walking the valley below. With the guys in the valley pushing, it seemed we were prime to spot any animals.

Alas the only game we saw was a nice buck with some does. I had forgotten to put in for a buck tag back in April and was kicking myself now. In fact, we were in the exact spot that Dalton shot his first buck two years ago. We even found his spent .270 cartridges.

Late morning we decided it was time to move on. We decided I would go high and Dalton would go through the middle. Dalton lost his glasses the day before, so I was to be the eagle eyes. The walk up high is literally a walk in the park. There is a nice bench extending for over a mile and I spooked another nice buck up there. As I watched the valley, I felt guilty about my easy hike as Dalton battled the oak brush and pinions below.

When Dalton had worked his way up to where I was, we spotted that same buck again. We decided to split again and meet high on the far ridge of Texas to look down into the gulch and the towers.

At the top the views of the back side aren't that great. There is alot of black timber and quakies up there and the views are obstructed. The picture to the left was taken here and it is my favorite. Kinda captures the essence, doesn't it?

We decided to work our way down the ridge to find a better view and have lunch. The views from the lower knob are much better and allow you to see both sides of the ridge pretty well. Don't go any lower, though the pinions get thick and the ridge flattens to obscure again.

Holy shit!! We had finished lunch and were just getting ready to head back having seen no elk, when crash! We heard something monstrous in the quakies just below us. I knew it was an elk so I took off running to find a better view. This may have been a mistake, but I get "buck" fever sometimes. Then there he was. A huge bull came over the ridge and shot down into the pinions. Dalton and I both had time only to release our safties, but no chance to get a shot.

We set out tracking him, but it became hard since there was no snow and the ground was very dry. There were numerous elk tracks in this area anyway, so it was very hard to know which he had just stomped. Bull elk are amazingly powerful creatures. We found a pinion tree he had run right through. He snapped a 5-inch tree trunk like a toothpick.

We hunted this bull for the rest of the day, but never did spot him again. Damn. Hours and hours of hunting for a split second opportunity. It sucks. Since this happened to me on opening morning as well, I was really getting discouraged. How do you hunt such situations? I also wonder how we didn't see that bull after spending an hour looking and glassing. I have got to become a better hunter.

On the other hand, at least we spotted elk again. We had burgers and soup over the campfire and decided to go hunt that bull again Wednesday.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Hunt 2005 - Day 3

After no sign of elk on day two, we were still convinced that the elk were low in the pinions. We decided to hunt low, but closer to camp on Monday. Dave and Steve had to go back to town Monday night so it would be a morning hunt.

The plan was for Dave and Steve to drop off the top, Dalton would walk the middle road and I would go throught the pinions even lower across the bottom.

I arrived at my spot well before light and watched the old burn area (pre 1993) for quite awhile. There were 5 other hunters watching same meadow that morning and no elk.

The rest of the morning's hike was through very thick pinions, with little opportunity to see more than 10 yards. There was also no elk sign in these woods. I eventually made it all the way to 112. I did hear shots in a. basin late in the morning. The plan was to meet back at the corrals by noon, and even though I was trying to work lower on the way back I ended up much higher.

I met up with the gang for lunch. Nobody saw evidence of elk in this area. Later that afternoon Dalton and I went down to the desert to sight in his gun. We had sighted in at Cherry Creek Shooting Range before the season, but Dalton didn't feel we had it perfect.

I wanted to use my new backpack for the first time and camp high above Texas, but Dalton and I couldn't get it all together before dark, so we decided to just head up there early in the morning. We cooked burgers and ravioli on the campfire and just relaxed. Maybe elk are out there, maybe not...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Hunt 2005 - Day 2

We all hooked up at camp Saturday night to discuss the day. Dave saw 20 hunters on atvs at the spoons and no elk. Steve took the wrong trail and got in late, but he too saw no elk. Since I was the only one who saw elk, and we needed to get Matt and Justin back to town, we decided to all hunt the towers Sunday.

The plan was for Matt and I to walk the far ridge, but we got on the wrong road. We ended up hiking the bottom of the valley. Since the original plan was ruined, we decided to head for the lower baldy just below where I had seen the rag horn the day before. Once at the baldy Matt took a little nap and we snapped the photos shown here.

Now that we had made it this far, we decided to make a loop of it and hike to far ridge hump above the saddle where we were supposed to be all along. Since the controlled burn, the hike over to this valley is much easier now that all that oak brush is gone. On the far ridge we saw no sign of elk. We had lunch, then hiked down far ridge to the fence. Matt twisted his ankle and I thought we were screwed with over two miles to the atv. Matt was a trooper and we hiked across the valley to the chained off area. No sign of any elk this low, but I did find an arrow head!

After the long long hike, Matt and I decided to ride the atv over and find the road we were supposed to be on. Turns out it was much closer to the county line. I let Matt drive and we had some fun climbing the dirt hills down in the desert. We followed the power line over some cool hills back to the pickup.

Day Two: no elk spotted, no shots.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Hunt 2005 - Opening Day

Last year the only time Dalton seen an elk of any kind was at a spot we call the towers. So this year he was gung-ho to hunt there on opening morning. Dave had his son Justin with him so he decided to hunt the 'spoons and Steve had Dave's nephew with him (Jason) so they went to the end of the road. We call this area Texas because for a lot of years a group of Texans would camp here. Remember Texas as it will come up again later.

Dalton and I hiked the stairway to heaven up to our special spot. We arrived before shooting light which was perfect. Some other hunters had passed us on the road, but we got ready and started hiking the trail before them.

After 90 minutes of sitting we hadn't seen any movement or heard any shots. I could see other hunters walking the ridges above us, so if there were elk someone would be shooting. Then I saw an elk that must have been 600 yards away. With such a long shot and low light, I couldn't tell if it was a bull or a cow.

By now the morning is old and we decide to go on a little hunt. The weather was quite cold and my shivvering was to a point that I would have trouble shooting anyway. Dalton decided to walk the ridge as I went through the middle of the valley. Hopefully I would push something out and he could get a shot.

After about an hours worth of walking, I jumped a nice little rag horn bull! I had no chance to get him in my scope because of all the damn pinion trees. The pinions are so thick here and the terrain so rugged that hunting is difficult. Maybe thats why not many people hunt this area, but there are always elk. I tried to get to a clearing where I could see him, but never seen hide or hair again. Hours of waiting followed by a split second chance.

I hunted for him for about an hour, but to no avail. I decided to meet up with Dalton by Dalton's rock and discuss our next move. Dalton and I agreed to spend the afternoon chasing this little bull and see what happened.

I went low in the valley and Dalton picked the middle. We picked out a hill top to meet at in two hours. I worked my way slowly over to the hill, but no sign of Dalton. No sign of the bull either for that matter. Finally I radioed D and he said he lost his glasses. I humped it up to where he was to help him look.

Finding a pair of glasses in the woods is, as you might guess, an impossible task. Going off a description of where he left them, I got very lucky and found the damn things. By now that bull could be in the next county, so we decided to head back to our spot for the evening hunt.

As the evening hunt wore on, no sign of elk. We were getting ready to leave and what happens? Dalton loses his glasses again! This time I found them on the trail, but one lense was missing. We hunted until well into the dark, but never found it. I guess he hunts the rest of the season without them.

We huffed back to the ATV and down the road to pick up Matt. Matt was going to hunt with us on Sunday only, since he had school all week.

Day One: 2 elk seen, no shots.