2011 Colorado elk hunt [Archive] - Glock Talk

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Hummer
11-13-2011, 16:45
I hunted in the White River National Forest near the Flat Tops Wilderness during the second rifle season. I had licenses for bull and cow elk, buck deer and black bear. The season started out warm and very dry which made it noisy to get around on the crackly aspen and oak leaves. According to some outfitter friends the packout during the first season was about 50% of normal (and the second season proved no better). The region depends on significant snows in the high country to spur migration and the first such event didn't happen until midway into the second season. Hunters were hoping for snow.

My first day was uneventful as I climbed the mountain and down through dark timber, retracing routes I hunt every year. I spooked an elk and a couple deer while still hunting but didn't actually see a game animal all day.

I had decided to break up my hunt (and the physical wear on my body) by renting a horse every other day or so. The next morning I rode down through aspen groves, up onto a big ridge of spruce-fir and down again into a valley where I could sit and glass several square miles of country. It was here that last year I spotted seven bulls in different groups, and was hoping to get lucky again.

Sure enough, I spotted a bull, then another, on a distant mountain. At 1.3 miles away I couldn't see antlers or count points but they were bulls by their size and color. One was feeding, the other just standing sentinel in Gambel oak that was taller than they were. On the steep rocky slope it would be tough to get close without their detecting me first.

I worked a plan to ride about 2.5 miles around the back of the round mountain where the bulls were, hitch my horse in a saddle below the top, then slowly move down to where I'd seen the elk. The going was rough where I had to lead the horse through a quarter mile of heavy oak brush. From the saddle on the mountain I couldn't see the elk but knew that stealth and patience would be key in moving down the hill.

It wasn't long before I stopped at a spot about 100-200 yards above where I'd seen the bulls. It was noon, and I sat in the hot sun glassing the area and snapping a few pictures. Here's a view back to where I'd glassed the bulls, on the right follow the finger of oaks up to where they meet the aspens.

http://i59.photobucket.com/albums/g292/COHummer/Guns/Hunting/Round-to-Burro.jpg

I figured the elk had bedded down and that I might have to wait 'til the end of the day before the animals would show themselves. Unfortunately, there's a streak of impatience in me that doesn't always serve me well. Thinking another spot 25 feet across the hill might give me a better vantage, I moved. A muffled grunt and a thump below me suggested I'd made a mistake. I decided to stick it out anyway, suffering the hot sun and miserly sipping the last of my water.

I never did see those bulls again. By 6 p.m. the light began to change and I spotted elk at about 600 yards, angling their way up the hill toward me. I only got glimpses through the tall oaks but could tell there was a bull among two or three cows. I couldn't count points (a legal bull must have 4 points to a side) but could tell it was branch antlered and not a spike.

Elk are big animals and can appear to leisurely saunter along yet cover a lot of ground very fast. Suddenly a cow moved across on a game trail right below. I wanted the bull. There was a narrow window through the oaks and I had to stand up to get a shot. That's when all hell broke loose and the elk began running, first a cow, and another, then the bull. Bang!

I thought I shot high so I re-chambered and waited for the bull. Cow elk scrambled up hill to my right about 30 feet, and a calf darn near ran into me. I didn't consider shooting one because I couldn't risk losing a wounded bull. The scene quieted and I eased my way down the slope.

The bull was down and took his last breath as I arrived, then he rolled down the slope to pile up against the oaks. The shot was a little high, shattering the scapula on the way in and slicing through down the heart on the way out. The shot from my Winchester 54 was at 42 yards, and the bull traveled 56 yards after getting hit. I used a .30-06, 200 gr. Nosler Partition handload. The 4x4 bull was my 24th elk in 28 years of hunting the area.

http://i59.photobucket.com/albums/g292/COHummer/Guns/Hunting/Hummers2011Elk.jpg

It was a real chore getting the animal field dressed in the dark by headlamp. Alone, there was no way for me to move the animal on that slope, he was just too heavy to budge. It was 9 p.m. by the time I got the job done and back to the horse for a dark and moonless ride four miles back to camp.



The next day I rode back to skin, cut up and bag the meat for packout by mules later in the day. Thankfully, the meat had cooled completely overnight. I'm lucky to have an outfitter set up near my base camp that packs my meat out every year. I had worked for this outfitter back in the 80's & 90's and they've always been good to me. The wranglers showed up just as I had the meat ready to go and four hours later it was hanging in a meat cooler down in town.

Snow was in the forecast and I hoped to fill another license. With a foot of snow in camp at 8600', the deer were moving down but from the tracks, elk numbers remained slim for the several days I continued hunting. I did hear of more animals coming off the Flat Tops and staging in the timber a few miles from camp but I didn't see another elk. I encountered several groups of does but not a buck among them.

http://i59.photobucket.com/albums/g292/COHummer/Guns/Hunting/morning-in-the-aspens.jpg

In 2010, a large black bear ate part of my elk before I got it packed out so I was on the hunt for this guy as payback. I've had several elk chewed on by bears over the years. They apparently den during part of the day and then seek out downed game and gut piles. I had a good idea where the den was and worked my way into the dark timber looking. I found fresh tracks an hour or two old and followed for some time. I worked a predator call from time to time but saw no predators other than ermine and a pine marten. I expect the bear will be waiting for me next year.

http://i59.photobucket.com/albums/g292/COHummer/Guns/Hunting/Bad-Bear.jpg

In the end it was a great hunt with lots of wildlife and great scenery in the high country I love. And, it doesn't hurt to have a freezer full of elk steaks. I'll be back next year.

Hummer


http://i59.photobucket.com/albums/g292/COHummer/Guns/Hunting/Flat-Tops-view.jpg

CanyonMan
11-13-2011, 17:50
Hummer,

Good story, and good hunt.
I surely do love the Elk ! ;)


Good eating to ya !







CM

hagan34
11-16-2011, 23:02
Well at least some one got an elk this year. Was a very strange year for sure, rut was late, weather was off. Wish I had had a cow tag was with 60 yrds or so of a spike, 3 cows and 2 calfs. Only saw one legal bull the whole week and he stuck around about long enough for me to unsling my rifle..... Buh bye!! Hope to have better luck next year and good luck on your bear. Seen a couple around grizzly creek.

gjk5
11-17-2011, 09:51
Great write up Hummer!

I went up to the Chalk Mtn, Electric Mtn area for the 1st weekend of 2nd season and got skunked on both doe and bull licenses, then went up the following weekend and decided to cut my losses and took a nice doe up by Molina. 20 minutes after sunup and 250yds, 180gr Partition through both shoulders.

I have a cow license for private land and once again got lucky and my boss invited me to his place so 1st weekend of Dec should come home with a cow.

Hummer
11-18-2011, 19:21
Hummer,

Good story, and good hunt.
I surely do love the Elk ! ;)

Thanks CanyonMan, how can anyone not admire elk? In my opinion, the North American Wapiti is the most magnificent and challenging game animal that man can pursue anywhere. We are very fortunate that common men and women in America have the opportunity to hunt them. Every hunter should make an effort to hunt elk at least once in their lifetime. Put it on your bucket list, guys, you won't regret it.

Michael, hello! Yes, it was a strange year, warmer with no early season snows to get the elk moving. There's a whole lot of luck involved in hunting. Just give us the good fortune to return next year.

Gjk5, thanks. My long winded hunting accounts are for me as much as to share with others. Since I camp and hunt solo, I write a daily journal that includes my planned routes for the day (in case I don't return and someone needs to find me). At the end of the day I write about what I saw and did. This becomes the basis for the annual hunt stories that I've posted here and on other hunt forums for many years. They'll help me remember once I can't remember much anymore. :embarassed:

Good work on the deer, and best of luck on your December elk hunt! Glad you can keep hunting even with family responsibilities. Great boss too, you're lucky to be able to hunt undisturbed private land. So, I suppose your boss is hoping you'll help pack out his elk, eh?

CanyonMan
11-18-2011, 20:54
Thanks CanyonMan, how can anyone not admire elk? In my opinion, the North American Wapiti is the most magnificent and challenging game animal that man can pursue anywhere. We are very fortunate that common men and women in America have the opportunity to hunt them. Every hunter should make an effort to hunt elk at least once in their lifetime. Put it on your bucket list, guys, you won't regret it.

Michael, hello! Yes, it was a strange year, warmer with no early season snows to get the elk moving. There's a whole lot of luck involved in hunting. Just give us the good fortune to return next year.

Gjk5, thanks. My long winded hunting accounts are for me as much as to share with others. Since I camp and hunt solo, I write a daily journal that includes my planned routes for the day (in case I don't return and someone needs to find me). At the end of the day I write about what I saw and did. This becomes the basis for the annual hunt stories that I've posted here and on other hunt forums for many years. They'll help me remember once I can't remember much anymore. :embarassed:

Good work on the deer, and best of luck on your December elk hunt! Glad you can keep hunting even with family responsibilities. Great boss too, you're lucky to be able to hunt undisturbed private land. So, I suppose your boss is hoping you'll help pack out his elk, eh?



Hummer,


Yes sir, and I especially love 'still hnting' with my recurves. 60# Martin Hunter and 25 year old arrows I've taken extra good care of, (of course many many have been "used up' ha) and fletched with feathers and the bow with a bow quiver. Quite, stealth, and really absorbing, and being absorbed, by everything around me. Might sound mysterious or even nuts to some, but I've lived in the woods all my life, and you can see, hear, and even feel and smell things the other guy never will, if you really take your time, and focus, and just blend in with all around you. This seems more filled with adventure with elk (to me) for some reason. But deer and turkey and even small game with a stick bow, (or gun) and 'still hunting', are the cream of the crop 'for me.'

Man just like the ranch here. Never get tired of the sun rise/sets. or the flight of a red hawk searching for a mel, or just sitting and listening. I sometimes don't get much done doing this, (ha) but it all fades away for at least those few miutes. Know what I mean ?

Give me a deep woods cabin, and some time, and hunting alone (which I prefer) and I can just about not come back. I have guided or hunted all over the country (western part mostly) Sangre De Christo's to the Gunnison, to the San Juans around Durango to Silverton. Although I dearly love my plains and rolling sage hills of Oklahoma (home), to the deep canyons and plateu mountains on the ranch here in W. Tex, I truly miss my 'other home' in the Rockies. A very magical place to/for me.

Well, I got no point here, just sharing some thoughts, and I got a feeling their the same with you as well on some of this that would apply to your hunting and feeling for the game and the land. Can't explain it to a blind man, but a man with vision can 'see it.' It's far more than just going huntin! Or going out to shoot something 'with me.' But it would fill up a ton of space to try and explain it all here...


Good hunting Hummer, and enjoy it while you can, 'and while we got it' !



Buenos Noche'






CM

gjk5
11-27-2011, 19:42
Thanks CanyonMan, how can anyone not admire elk? In my opinion, the North American Wapiti is the most magnificent and challenging game animal that man can pursue anywhere. We are very fortunate that common men and women in America have the opportunity to hunt them. Every hunter should make an effort to hunt elk at least once in their lifetime. Put it on your bucket list, guys, you won't regret it.

Michael, hello! Yes, it was a strange year, warmer with no early season snows to get the elk moving. There's a whole lot of luck involved in hunting. Just give us the good fortune to return next year.

Gjk5, thanks. My long winded hunting accounts are for me as much as to share with others. Since I camp and hunt solo, I write a daily journal that includes my planned routes for the day (in case I don't return and someone needs to find me). At the end of the day I write about what I saw and did. This becomes the basis for the annual hunt stories that I've posted here and on other hunt forums for many years. They'll help me remember once I can't remember much anymore. :embarassed:

Good work on the deer, and best of luck on your December elk hunt! Glad you can keep hunting even with family responsibilities. Great boss too, you're lucky to be able to hunt undisturbed private land. So, I suppose your boss is hoping you'll help pack out his elk, eh?

Thanks Hummer, I have never hunted alone but it does sound interesting and far less distraction I imagine.

I butchered the deer myself for the first time and plan on doing the same with my cow. My boss runs an outfitting service out of the ranch too, it is a race to get to an animal and gut it and do the work yourself, to prove you deserve to be there. He is a hard working, hard hunting son of a gun so I don't see him letting ANYONE carry his water for him. Hell, I could probably sit back on my laurels and let HIM gut it, haul it back to the barn and hang it, but I have the feeling that is a sure way to not get invited back! He is a few years younger than me though.........:supergrin:

BierGut
11-28-2011, 08:38
Thanks for sharing Hummer. Nice write up.

:yourock:

K.Kiser
11-28-2011, 17:34
To hunt Elk up in that country would be wonderful, but I would be plenty satisfied to just be able to see that scenery and walk around... Just all around goodness...