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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Sad and Woeful Tale High in the Rockies

It was a big Elk high on a ridge. 
The first week of archery season in Colorado and the big fella acted as if he owned the place. He did. He was surrounded by 7 cows and periodically bugled as the sun was setting. His antlers reached far back to his rear quarters. He was a big one. I could only watch from a well hidden vantage point 500 yards away.
"Ready for Elk in 2015."
Three close encounters at 30 yards, 10 yards
and 15 yards ended with the swirling wind foiling
each opportunity. Excitement is a big bull Elk raking the trees
at 15 yards. More excitement is making the shot with
traditional equipment but it was not meant to be this year.
The bull was on a neighboring ranch and was safe across a fenced boundary.  Then along came Rodney. (Name Changed by design)  Appeared to be a nice fella...had been bowhunting this property for several years and had never killed an Elk. Rodney and I had met briefly in camp and the introduction included a woeful tale about how he lost his handgun while hunting the year before. Apparently Rodney had to drop his drawers and take care of business. The task was completed and the toilet paper was buried and Rodney went on his way only to realize sometime later that he laid his Glock 9mm on the ground while in the woodsman full squat. In 30 seconds, I think I knew all I needed to know about Rodney. He lost his handgun that day. Despite searching, the loaded handgun was never found and remains at 9,000 feet in the Rockies. The episode highlights two critical lessons. #1 - Know where you are when you take a crap. #2 - Always be aware of your handgun location. It won't do you much good in the sagebrush. The bull Elk was still bugling and Rodney (with no handgun) was making an approach with bow in hand. My Swarovski binocs were focused on the unfolding drama. I expected the odds were well in the Elk's favor. The bull wasn't on the property we had permission to hunt.  At 150 yards, Rodney made a cow call that sounded like a chirping bird. The big bull arched his neck with a facial expression of "what the heck was that." Elk  have eyeballs and ears three times the size of a whitetail and suck in four times as much oxygen with every breath through a nose that is five times as large as a bloodhound.  After Rodney made his cow/turkey call and with the bull Elk focused intensely on the direction of the sound, Rodney thought it would be a great time to close the distance. He took one step and the bull immediately glanced at the cows and in unison, the entire group headed across the meadow and over the next ridge. It would be another year with no Elk hanging in camp for Rodney.  When hunting with a group that includes strangers that you meet for the first time, my overall experience has been very positive. This is especially true for bowhunters who always come across as thoughtful for the most part. The lost handgun story had my head spinning as Rodney took the time to educate me on thermals and how the wind shifts as the air mass warms. Thoughtful. Nice. I muttered to myself, “this guy just finished an Outdoor Life article.”  
Here is the final analysis.

The camp had a rule that prohibited ATV use beyond a certain point.  The rule maker was wise because he might have hunted the land for years or possibly knew about the adage that if you take an ATV in 1/2 mile, the Elk move away a mile. Run in before dark 1 mile and you might push the Elk two miles out. Rodney had a rip roaring ATV of course. Our small group was hunting hard and it took some time to sort out this next piece since we were hiking 2 miles before sunrise daily and other hunter’s movements were not visible. As the week progressed, we noticed that Elk activity diminished and the bugling was always on neighboring ranches. Eventually, we realized that the young “thermal expert” Rodney was driving his ATV 2 miles across the property into prime Elk habitat daily. Rodney would return for lunch, watch a TV on his satellite dish in the afternoon and head back for an evening hunt traversing the property 4 times each day.
If your drive an ATV into the middle of Elk habitat,
quality opportunities will decrease. 
 Even the most neophyte hunter should have been embarrassed by the disregard for others in camp. In this bowhunting situation, Rodney proved himself to be lazy and inconsiderate of others with his ATV use.  It explains why the big Bull moved off the property and really behaved with his guard up. The ATV behavior was selfish and disrespectful and the empty meat pole in camp was proof. During a week of hunting, our small group was walking at least 6 miles daily with many miles in the dark. When we returned to camp, we were exhausted. They say Elk hunting is a young man’s game.  By the end of the week when we figured out what was happening with the ATV use, it was too late to remedy the situation....... but next year in camp, we look forward to providing Rodney with a better orientation on Elk hunting that will begin by leaving the ATV behind. *

Be safe out there and good luck! 
Chuck at Kodabow

* a fictional Elk hunting story based on a 2015 Elk hunt