Quite a few of my online hunting buddies have been gearing up for their very first elk hunt this year. I have been following intently in hopes of reading about their high and lows, success and wisdom attained from the mountain. My buddy Jerud Earnest was one of the few who ventured across the U.S. to Colorado for the opening week of archery elk season. For those of you planning out your first hunt, read carefully and listen to what Jerud has to say.
Friday and Saturday August 30-31, 2013
Left Ryan’s house in Mt. Vernon, IN at 2:10pm. Drove through the night with Ryan taking a 2.5 hour shift before getting tired. Stopped in Gunnison, CO so Ryan could buy his tag. Ate a sandwich in Telluride (40th Annual World Famous Film Festival going on) before heading to our camp ground for one last shower. Arrived at the trail head around 2pm. We set up a “base camp tent”, shot our bows, and hiked the trail about one mile to a glassing point. Came back to truck, ate Mountain houses and went to bed.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Woke up at 6:00 AM and ate breakfast. Double checked packs and discovered that Ryan had a pack stuffed full with Whitetail Deer Stand hunting clothes.
Me: What happened to the list that I gave you?
Ryan: This is the list. I didn’t know what some of the items where and I don’t want to get cold.
Me: What do you have for warm weather?
I unload his pack give him a pair of pants, shirt and he finds one GSX hot gear shirt. Everything else is cold gear. He puts one set of UA cold gear in his pack. 8:30 AM we take off on the trail and meander our way up to where I thought we could camp. Several stops and a final 'I can’t climb any higher' from Ryan and we find a nice flat spot to set camp at about 10100’. It’s 12:00 PM. We set camp up, filter 2.5 gallons of water, eat a snack, watch a mule deer doe come within 30 yards and then decide to walk a small area. End up setting up over a meadow until we lose light. We saw two guys way up on a ridge about an hour before dark. Head back to camp for dinner and bed. Ryan discovered he needed his UA cold gear with his 32 degree synthetic bag. I had questioned its rating when he showed it to me a couple weeks prior. Our plan for the morning was to climb up on the ridge where we saw the two guys and glass.
Monday, September 2, 2013
Wake up around 5:30 AM and eat breakfast. I finally get Ryan rolled out around 7:00 AM. He doesn’t feel like eating. We start our trek to the ridge. Finally make the ridge (not to the top, but a good overlooking of both drainages 11300’) and start glassing and taking in a comparison of Google Earth versus what I’m actually seeing. I hear Ryan rattling a pill bottle and says he has a headache.(He had sort of quit dipping a couple weeks prior, but he picked up a few cans at one of our stops. Thinks it’s just a strong buzz because of altitude.) About an hour later he says he thinks we need to drop down. The decent is slow and he is complaining about his legs and knees. We get to 10600' and decide to work our way around to a meadow for the evening. Along the way he dry heaves a couple of times. From the meadow Ryan spots something in the trees. I freeze, but can’t see it. It meanders off to our right and up. Ryan takes the lead and we don’t catch up. We go back and cut tracks to discover it was a mule deer. Ryan dry heaves some more. Long discussion about if he needs to leave and drop down to a lower elevation for a day. Ryan is convinced he is okay and wants to see how tomorrow goes and decide then. Ryan wants to head back to spike camp though. We get to camp at 5:30 PM and he crawls in his bag and falls asleep. I mill around and gather some firewood. I don’t want to leave him as he’s not looking good. I wake Ryan up before dark and ask if he wants me to fix him a MH. He says, 'Yeah I should probably eat something.' Ryan gets out of his bag, wipes off, puts UA on and crawls back in the bag. I don’t wake him or go ahead and fix him a MH. At dark, I pick up camp, get everything under cover and discover that he had only eaten one snickers bar all day.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013 (My wife and I’s 8th Anniversary)
Wake up before light and look over at Ryan in the fetal position completely buried in his bag. I decide to let him sleep and I start packing up camp after eating breakfast. I am concerned about his physical ability to get back to the TH because of what is now apparent altitude sickness and his lack of fuel. Ryan wakes up to me stuffing my bag and ask if we’re packing out. I answer 'Yes' which upsets him very much and he starts apologizing repeatedly. I give him a hug and tell him not to worry about it, we just need to focus on getting to the truck and a lower elevation. It’s a slow pace out and we come across another camp of two and a horse. They are taking a couple days off as everything is slow. The elk are scattered and not bugling. They talked to the “Ridge Runners” camp and they’re not seeing much from all the ground they’re covering running along the ridges. I take this as good news, one day out won’t hurt us.
Once we hit the Trail, I go ahead and continue to the truck, no longer stopping for Ryan to catch up. I decided to tear down the “base camp” tent as it’s not really mountain worthy and useless to us. We hop in the truck at 10:00 AM. Driving away from the trail head it’s a sharp uphill left, then right. Just as we straighten up after the right-hander we hear a “POP” and I have almost no steering (traveling 10 mph)(2007 Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins with 125,000 seemed like a premature failure). I drift the truck to the inside of the road and we jump out to look. The passenger side tie rod joint has completely popped. Almost immediately a crew cab ford stops and offers to give me a ride to town. Ryan wants to stay at the truck. I will stop here and just say God always knows what’s best and makes better plans than we do! We were traveling slow and it was the only wide spot in that entire road. He had help lined up right after the breakdown.
Anyway, we drive to Rico and call a tow service. They laugh and tell me that’s 70 miles no way. Call a service out of Telluride (Shane). Shane says he’s booked, but will work me in if I can get to Telluride. The couple in the Ford is heading to Telluride to ride the Gondola. I jump back in with them. They let me out along the highway and we argue about me trying to pay them for the ride. I lost. I call my wife and explain what’s going on. She calls me back and a guy at work has a contact in the area that I could hunt with. She says put Ryan in a hotel and get up with this guy. I explain that Ryan is devastated and I can’t go out hunting without him. Besides, I still have to get my truck off the mountain and repaired.
Shane picks me up. Short version is we have a couple of adventures before we start after my truck. Shane’s truck is a 4x4 oversized bed roll back built for mountain recovery. (God’s plan). Shane also drives the roads like he’s in a Formula 1 car. Shane gives me the number to the only repair garage in Telluride (Telluride Tire) and I call them to give them a heads up of my situation and when we’ll be there.
We get to the truck and get it loaded on the rollback and to the garage without much issue. We pay Shane $450 and wish him well. Call Mountain Limo for a ride into town. We get a room for $120 (tax included) and take a shower. Walk up to Brown Dog Pizza and order the 2013 Gold Medal Detroit style pizza in Large 8 square. The waiter assures us we’ll be taking some home. He is not aware that with all the excitement today, I have only had oatmeal for breakfast. Ryan chokes down three pieces of pizza only because he knows he needs food. I consume five pieces and two dark beers and ask the waiter for our “take home” portion. I think he’s still trying to figure out how a 175lb guy destroyed the pizza. We go for a Gondola Ride over the mountain which gets Ryan sick again. Highest point was 10300'.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Shower and get dressed. Wait until the last possible minute to check out at 10:00 AM and walk up to eat breakfast at Baked in Telluride. Ryan looks a little better, but not much. We make some phone calls home and then talk about our options. I recount him struggling coming down from the ridge with only a day pack and question his ability to help pack out an animal. Ryan takes this as questioning his manhood. I said “I know you’re capable of killing yourself trying. I’m talking about do you think you are actually able?” He says, “No this is way more physical than I thought.” I have no interest in packing camp back up the mountain for 2.5 days and Ryan either getting sick, or I’m left packing an animal out by myself and possible Ryan, too. We also don’t have the truck yet. We walk around town a little bit to test Ryan out. He’s still far from 100%. About this time my phone chimes and Mark Huelsing from Sole Adventure busts me for not being out hunting. I give him the short version of the adventure.
12:30 PM - Telluride Tire calls and the truck is done. We call Mountain Limo for a ride to the shop. Much to my surprise, Telluride Tire did not take advantage of me and the repair was extremely reasonable. Also, the best aligned vehicle I have ever driven.
We decide to cut our losses and call this the most expensive learning lesson ever and head home. My truck easily goes 600 miles between fuelings so we roll straight through and back to Ryan’s house in 20 hours. He didn’t start feeling better until we hit Kansas at 4000’.
Story and photos © Jerud Earnest