Friday, September 28, 2012

Colorado Elk Hunt: Arrival in Camp

A lifetime of daydreaming, two years of careful preparation, and a limited budget were just part of the equation. Attempting a DIY bow hunt for elk in Colorado has been on a wish list in my family for years. To be honest, it always seemed like more of a pipe dream for us. As I was growing up in NY, I could not fathom the endless possibilities that were available to us as hunters. I was blinded by fear, lack of knowledge and funds. Little did I know that moving to California, meeting new friends and just asking questions would lead to the hunt of a lifetime.

In 2011, I was supposed to head to Colorado to bow hunt for elk. Some unforeseen issues arose and I was unable to make the trip. While most would be disappointed, my focus was on my family and it truly did not bother me. I am a firm believer that if it is meant to be it will happen when it should. Instead of the common 'Woe is me' attitude, I started planning a 2012 elk hunt with Piranha Custom Bowstrings owner Eddy Erautt. Eddy and I have been friends for a couple years and he is a wealth of information. Plus, as a Colorado resident, he knows the area well and would be available to assist me on my hunt. For that I am very grateful. His first advice to me was to train for the mountains any way I could and to practice at the archery range as often as I could.

If you have followed my blogs for the past 9 months, you know that bow hunting elk was on my 2012 Goals & Objectives list. In order to do that, I took my training pretty seriously. I hit the StairClimber at the gym, ran 3-4 miles every other day, and loaded my Badlands 2200 backpack with 100# of sand and hiked the hills around Southern California. The only issue with that was that I was hiking at sea level or only slightly above it. My hunt was to take place at 10,000 feet or higher. See the issue here? Building up my leg strength and charging up my lungs was a priority. I stuck with it for a very long time until two weeks before my departure date I was hit with a nasty cough that just wouldn't go away. I tried hitting the gym a few times only to find that I needed to rest. So, instead of pushing myself too hard, I rested. I was not about to miss out on hunting elk this year due to a cough!

I had also been practicing weekly with my friends Brett and Brandon. We were religiously shooting from 60 yards out each time and moving in to 30 yards. From time to time we did move in to 20 and 10 yards, but for the most part we wanted to hone our skills at longer ranges. I had no idea what ranges I might have to shoot at in Colorado and I knew the steep angles could come into play. Practice was key for me keeping proper form, muscle memory and my confidence high.

Leaving for Colorado:
After renting my SUV and getting a free upgrade to a larger vehicle, I made my way home and loaded up my gear. It took surprisingly less time to load up as I had done a good job of sticking to my gear list and planning everything out. The Boy Scout in me likes to be prepared for all situations. You'll find out later on that this would be a hidden blessing.

 

My gear right before it was carefully placed in the SUV.

Instead of stopping for food, I had decided to make pack a lunch and who better to help me than my future-archer, Riley. My daughter was more than happy to help me make some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my trip. Riley not only wanted to help, but she makes a mean sandwich, too! Best sandwich I've ever had on a hunting trip. (I was sure to inform her of that, too.) A few last minute preparations and I was ready to get a few hours of shut-eye before heading out. Falling asleep turned out to be easier than I thought.

Needing the snooze button was not an issue as I was ready to hit the road with the first buzz of the alarm. After hugging and kissing my wife goodbye, I hit the road at 3:00 AM in order to make the 12-hour trip to Colorado. I left early because I wanted
to be at camp before darkness fell. The further from the city I traveled, the more beautiful the scenery became. The deeper I made it into the open country a peacefulness was slowly coming over me. I was ready.

The sunrise was absolutely beautiful.
Boredom in the SUV lead to this gratuitous 'self' shot.
The terrain through Arizona was magnificent, colorful and a nice change.
The smog cloud was left far behind and my lungs filled with fresh, clean air. It was heavenly to breathe such clean air once again. Knowing I would be a bit tired and foregoing my normal coffee routine, I drank a few cans of an energy drink for a little caffeine boost along the way. I quickly learned that two cans is my limit as a headache started to develop as I drank my third can. That ended that! Fearing dehydration and altitude sickness at the higher elevations, I was sure to drink plenty of water after that. The drive was a long one, but it only took me 10.5-hours to make it to Cortez, CO instead of the predicted 12-13 hour trip. A brief stop at the local Wal-Mart and I had my Colorado OTC Either-Sex Archery elk tag and license in hand. It was finally going to happen!

Arrival in Elk Camp:

Eddy and I met up a short time later and I followed him to camp. This wasn't your ordinary, everyday camp that I had expected. On the contrary, Eddy had set up a canvas wall tent complete with wood stove and had plenty of food waiting. I had planned on living on Mountain House for five days, but he would have none of that. 

Elk Camp 2012.

My rental car had been washed prior to my trip and I thought it was hilarious that when I got out to check out the area it was bathed in dirt. That's the way an SUV SHOULD look! 


Eddy's brother Gabe was also bow hunting elk and was in camp with us. I learned through Eddy that the day prior to my arrival, Gabe had encounters with four different bears while hunting solo. That gave me a bit of a chill and I was glad I brought my bear spray, although I hoped I wouldn't have to use it.

As Eddy and I relaxed by the fire and talked hunting, a mule deer fawn wandered around camp. We couldn't see the doe, but searched anyway. During our search, two bow hunters emerged from the forest and we asked them about their hunt. They mentioned they hadn't seen anything, had only heard one bugle and were on day four of a seven day archery hunt. They were worn out and seemed very discouraged. We wished them well and they ventured off to meet up with their ride off the mountain.

At dark, Gabe arrived back in camp after a day of hunting with no news of a kill. Eddy cooked us up a nice dinner of beer brats and chili-con-carne while we discussed plans for my first day of bow hunting elk. We would need the extra calories not only for the next day hunt, but also to keep warm throughout the night as the temperatures rapidly dropped into the 30's. With the dry air, cold temperatures and my air mattress going flat throughout the night I was quite restless. I am sure it also had to do with the fact that in less than eight hours I would be setting foot on a mountain in search of elk. The mountains that the elk called home. Little did we know how quickly things would transpire on Day One of my Colorado elk hunt.

12 comments:

  1. Brilliantly written!

    And, I am officially ordering one peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Just let me know the day and time that I can enjoy it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You bet, John. PB&J are always a great item on the menu!

      Delete
  2. Awesome AL, Looking forward to the Mini Series of the Hunt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Tony. Great way to put it. It truly is a mini-series. Lots of highs and lows and eager anticipation.

      Delete
  3. Great read and I want a PB&J while I'm waiting for the next installment!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You guys are all making me hungry fro PB&J again!

      Delete
  4. I want to read it all dang it! Can't wait Al!

    ReplyDelete
  5. You did a great job on Part I, Al! I'm hooked...can't wait to read the rest!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what I like to hear, Mark. Actually, I am just telling it like it happened. It was the most amazing hunt I have been a part of and just gets better.

      Delete
  6. Am I suposed to be this excited about a story I know the ending to?!! This is GREAT! So looking forward to the rest. Keep em coming Al!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You bet, brother! Stay excited and chomping at the bit. You won't be disappointed!

      Delete