What an incredible trip. My friend, Tim and I began our journey in northern Minnesota, right on the U.S./Canadian border. Once we reached South Dakota, we picked up Tim’s son, Ben and continued all the way to Colorado. There we picked up Shae’s son, Rick who flew into Denver to meet us. With two old duffers and two young bucks, we were all set.
Having two energetic, young men at camp made many of the camp chores much easier. But, more importantly, Tim and I wanted some of the joys that we have found in the great outdoors passed on to another generation. And so far, we think Ben and Rick are hooked.
We set up camp in the Grand Mesa National Forest. Nestled in the pine trees, at 9500 feet above sea level, our camp was made up of two tents. We have used this site for several years now. Many memories have been made here, with more added to the memory bank again this year.
On the third day of season, I harvested my elk. That morning, I hiked up to what I’ve dubbed the Porcupine Tree. I arrived at about 10:00 am. It was a nice day with sunshine and I sat at base of the tree. At 1:15pm, I spotted a cow elk. She was on top of a steep incline above me. I laid my pack down and used it as a rest for my .338 Winchester. I estimated the range to be 300 yards. She was standing broadside. After I shot, she stumbled into thick timber.
Rick heard the shot and came to join me. Together, we climbed the incline after her. It took us about 45 minutes to access the area. Once there, we found the blood trail, which disappeared after 15 yards. We continued to follow her and her calf’s tracks in the snow. They wound around through the dark timber and downhill. Once we lost the snow cover, we proceeded without tracks. We continued walking in the general direction she had been headed for 150 yards. I then spotted her and her calf in a ravine.
After some quick photos, I quartered her and hung the meat in a nearby tree. By the time we made our way back to the tent, darkness had set in. After a hearty breakfast the next day, we returned with pack frames and game bags. I also used a range finder and determined the distance had been 324 yards. After the quarters were boned out, the meat was packed. Then we carried it 3/4 of a mile back to the tent, where the meat bags were hung to continue cooling.
Since I had filled my tag, I got to relax for the rest of the season. The others continued to hunt for bull elk, but none presented themselves this year. However, we did get to watch a bull before season began and another was spotted a mile away from camp. In total, we saw at least 18 elk on our trip this year.
After a week and a half, our bodies were exhausted. Even those with younger bodies experienced the challenges of packing out meat, setting up and breaking down camp, gathering wood, hauling water, and hiking mountains. Yet, everyone was already making plans to return and do it all over again. There was much chatter about what a great trip this had been. And I doubt the perfectly cooked pizza in the dutch oven and the fresh elk tenderloins, cooked over hot coals will be forgotten any time soon!