2006 Deer & Elk Hunt: feedin' the bears.... [Archive] - Glock Talk


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11-01-2006, 16:21
This year I hunted the second Colorado rifle season and carried two elk licenses for bull and cow, as well as a buck deer tag. I hunt an area near the Flat Tops Wilderness that ranges from 8700' to 10,200' elevation. The chance of seeing a good buck at this date in the higher elevations is slim, but I like to go prepared. Much of the country is "dark timber", mature Engleman spruce and white fir forest jammed with fallen trees where the elk like to hide out during the day. Interspersed with the spruce-fir are aspen groves and grassy meadows where the animals feed at night. Hunting along the edge can be productive.

Opening morning began with 8" of fresh powder snow at my camp trailer and a good 14" higher up the mountain. While snow is a big advantage for tracking, this much of it would make getting around difficult and limit the miles of country I could cover in a day. This photo is a scene not far from camp, a mostly frozen over pond in the timber where deer and elk occasionally find water.


I hunted the area hard finding and following tracks, most of which seemed to be made overnight. On the morning of the fourth day I made my way about a mile and a half up and over the mountain working my way along the edge of the aspens and into the dark timber to an area where I took a nice bull in 2003. Although the ground was covered in snow I meandered along an old game trail that went through some elky woods. The pungent scent of elk wafted my way as I peered through the trees with my binoculars to spot the head of a cow elk, then a calf coming up from behind. I had a narrow, foot-wide window through the trees. When the beast stepped forward I took the shot and she dropped, dead right there. Offhand, 74 yds, .30-06 220 grain Hornady round nose, high just behind the left shoulder, shattering the ribs, spine and lungs. I like those heavy round nose bullets for close shots on elk, they mushroom beautifully and retain their mass better than the 180 and 200 grain Nosler Partitions.


The close distance is pretty typical of most of my elk kills made by still hunting. This was my 20th elk kill, 19 in the past 22 consecutive years of hunting this area of the White River National Forest. I credit my regular use of good binoculars to peer through the forest to spot animals before they spot me. In this situation, had I not been using them it is likely I would have spooked the animals before getting a shot. As it turned out, there were five elk in that group, some closer to me than the two I saw. Now, the real work begins:


This was a young dry cow, probably 1 1/2 years old, and considerably smaller than the one I took last year. After field dressing I skinned and quartered the animal ready to pack out the next morning. I arranged the meat over some logs to cool and hopefully freeze it overnight. I covered the carcass with the hide and fir branches to discourage the birds, and pee'd several times around the site to make my mark for the coyotes and bears. Well, little good that did. Next morning I could see right away that a bear had gotten to it, taking chomps out of the hind legs and eating a good portion of the backstrap on one side, the best meat on the animal! (I had a bear tag but it expired in September.) This is the second time in the past few years a bear has gotten to my elk.

I must have bad bear karma, I've been battling bad bears all year. I run a couple bird banding stations and at one in Boulder County a big bear has been wreaking havoc on my feeders and traps, destroying about $300 worth of hummer feeders just for the cheap sugar calories. (I did get a chance to see that bear one night at about four feet away outside my cabin window. He was a huge bear, the biggest I've ever seen in Colorado!)

I had my old friend Dick bring some mules up and we packed the meat out before the bear came back to finish the job. For the rest of season, I'd be hunting antlers.


The next day it snowed like a son-of-a-gun, dumping another 12" of powder on top of what was already there. Last Friday morning with heavy fog and 12 degrees on the thermometer, I got an early start and climbed the mountain in the dark. By daylight I stopped on a favorite ridge in an aspen grove where I took a big cow last year.

I looked behind to spot a big doe moving toward me. She was alone. I had a brief but clear shooting opportunity at 70 yards and was cursing myself for buying a buck license instead of a doe tag. I am, firstly, a meat hunter, and wanted a little more for the freezer, especially after the bear gobbled part of the smallish elk. In spite of good pac boots and two layers of wool socks, my feet were icing up. I decided to take my boots off to insert a small heat pack. Just as one socked foot was waving in the air, I spotted a patch of deer down the hill about 250 yards away, and it had antlers! Aw, shoot, he was moving behind some trees! I scrambled to slip the boot back on without lacing and ran down the hill to get a view between the trees, then sat my butt down in the knee deep snow to take a good sitting position. With a view of only the rump and back, I waited. A step or two forward and I'd see my last opportunity before the animal disappeared behind some fir trees and down the slope. That step forward into a foot-wide window between some aspens was all I needed, and I squeezed the trigger. Sitting, 221 yards, .30-06 180 grain Nosler Partition, just forward of the right shoulder exiting through the left scapular; dead right there. I swept the loose snow out of my open boot and laced it up, then walked down the hill with my pack and rifle.....


He was a very nice 3 x 4 buck, not including brow tines. I field dressed the animal and dragged it three-quarters of a mile down the mountain to camp. The last two hundred yards across a sedge filled wetland was the worst. Working uphill, I heaved four feet at a time back to the camp trailer where I skinned and cut up the animal to freeze overnight. (Thankful I'm still alive at 55!) This was my 27th mule deer.

I hunted one more day in hope of finding a bull, without success. But I did see near the site of my deer kill, a feisty pine marten bounding through the snow with a fist-sized chunk of bloodied deer fat (from the remains I left behind). What a sight, wish I'd been quick enough to get a picture of that! With one day of the season left, I decided it was time to head home. While I would like to have had an opportunity at a bull, it wasn't very practical to keep hunting. With the cow and buck and some elk and antelope left from last year, we just don't need the extra meat and don't have freezer space to store it. Besides, Mrs. Hummer could help me butcher on Sunday :>).

Tough as it was in the cold and snow, I had a fantastic hunt with lots of wildlife and beautiful scenes in the high country of Colorado. Two perfect shots on fine animals that never knew I was there, what more could one ask for? I'll be back next year.

Good hunting,


11-01-2006, 16:50
good, nope make that a great story and photos to go with it. I type this while running my AC on high and my midday highs where in the 89degs range ;)

BTW; I'm wearing shorts and t-shirt and dripping a sweat.

11-01-2006, 18:43
Great hunting story.

It is always nice when you have such good photos to back it up with.

I'd love to hunt in the snow sometime.

Thanks for sharing you hunt with us.

11-01-2006, 21:03
I spent a lot of time in Canada and those picture of snow make me miss it. It's so crouded in the woods down here no one moves after sun up. If you walk around in the woods (even your own woods) you are risking getting shot by some trigger happy fool.

Anyway thanks for the story

11-02-2006, 19:44
I'm wondering about your bullet selection.
You used the 220 RN Hornady on the elk. What would you say about using such a bullet on a 100lbs white tail? Do you think I would get good expansion or would it just blow right through? My idea would be to get an inexpensive bullet at fairly low velocity to do as little meat damage as possible. How far would you be confident in shooting your 220gn load?

11-03-2006, 11:25
I've taken a number of mulies with the 220 grain round nose, mostly because I was already loaded for elk at the time. They do blow right through but normally expand enough to create a massive exit wound. An exit wound is good because it usually provides a blood trail but a deer hit with one of these bullets doesn't travel far. I would term it, "more than adequate".

Excess meat damage would be the result of inappropriate bullet placement. A heavy bullet is less likely than a lighter bullet to deflect off of bone and damage meat. I'm not too keen on the ballistic tip bullets because they too often deflect, fragment and cause excess damage. Since I don't cook the ribs from deer/elk/antelope (too fatty & gamey), a good lung shot through the ribs behind the shoulder damages very little edible meat. Same with a shot through the upper scapular.

During the '50's and '60's hunters moved away from the heavy round nose bullets to lighter spitzer bullets because with higher velocity they drop less and perform better at longer distances. I regularly practice at 200 yds and since I am cognizant of bullet drop at various ranges, I might use the 220 round nose at up 250 yards, given a good rest. When hunting pronghorn where shots might go beyond 400 yards, I'd stick with a 165 or 180 Partition.

For elk I carry 180 and 200 grain Partitions as well as the 220 round nose. Just for fun, I'll choose the bullet based on habitat and expected shooting distances.

Whether one handloads or buys off the shelf, it's ok to practice with the cheaper stuff but by all means, use a premium bullet for hunting. Good marksmanship and good bullets go a long way to bringing home the game. Just my opinion,


11-08-2006, 11:43

Thanks for sharing your wonderfull hunting story. I was not able to shoot an Elk or see one for that matter this year. Yours story helps. I have one more chance at a deer though.


11-10-2006, 10:13
Great story. I miss hunting snow... grew up in Maine, and despite the fact you shiver all day, it really is the most beautiful surroundings one could wish for.

Thanks for sharing.