2008 Elk Hunt
Friday – September 12, 2008
I left town around 1:30 pm and met Jeff’s friend Nate (AKA SuperNacho) at Ted’s Place at the mouth of the Poudre Canyon. Nate hadn’t been up to our spot before and it’s tough to get back in there if you haven’t been, so I volunteered to caravan up with him. It was spitting snow on the drive up and the mountain passes had several inches on the ground, it was looking like it might be a tough trip!
Got to the trailhead and Big Ron’s truck was there but he wasn’t around, which meant he was running a load of gear up the trail on the four-wheeler. Hung out for a little bit while another afternoon shower blew threw, it was definitely looking like I might be in for a long week.
Got up to camp after dark and setup up my tent in the rain. Had a few beers with the fellas and went to bed.
Saturday – Sept 13 (Full moon, 65-70 degrees clear skies)
Woke up at 5:00 am. Drew and I were the only ones to make it out of camp early and we were planning on staying out for five days with our bivy gear. By the way, after adding “a few odds and ends” my pack, water, bow all weighed in at 55 lbs. As we were walking out of camp we noticed three muzzleloader hunters were heading in the same direction as we were. They ended up getting in front of us which was fine, that way we could see which way they were headed and hunt some place else. But as soon as we got to the big meadow outside of the old horse camp, we heard elk crashing thru the trees. Since we’ve encountered elk here many times we had a pretty good idea which way they were headed and took off running, hoping to keep ahead of them. We heard the muzzleloaders bugling to the elk and had to laugh because we knew they didn’t have a chance. We only know this because we’ve been outsmarted at this very spot too many times. It turns out we lucked out and made the right call. When we approached “the knob” after jogging about 1.5 miles, it was awesome. We had about six bulls all bugling within 200 yards. I sat back to call for Drew and happened to get a bull on video while I was sitting (I know my video skills are pretty rough, to say the least. If you get seasick easily you’ll probably get queasy watching). You can hear the bull do the popping/nervous grunt at the end of our face off. He came to within 45 yards and all the while I was waiting for Drew to shoot. Unfortunately he was chasing one of the other five bulls, which he never caught up with. It’s too bad my video camera doesn’t do so good capturing audio, because those bulls were close and it was amazing.
After catching the bull on video they seemed to quiet down a bit and we sat down to relax with a hot cup of coffee and some granola. Afterward, we heard a few more bugles, which gave us an idea which direction they were headed and kept following.
Checking out the map
Drew with a Full Pack
Around mid-day we stopped for lunch. Actually I stopped. Drew was going to continue another 400-500 yards up the hill and I was going to call again hoping a bull would respond and he’d be close enough to sneak in. I’m not sure what exactly happened but I didn’t see Drew for another couple hours. Apparently during that time he saw 35-45 elk and almost had a couple shots but it never panned out. The last part of the afternoon we climbed out of the bowl we hunted all morning and proceeded to see another 16 elk on the adjacent hillside. Of the 16, there was a fairly nice bull with the bunch. He’s the other elk on the video. I shot the footage for about ¼ mile so it’s fairly shaky but we ended up getting to within about 30 yards of that bull before I ended up getting busted. It was pretty disappointing since he would have been a great bull and it had been an awesome stalk up to that point.
We set up bivy camp on the hillside that night about 4-5 miles from where we started out that morning. Drew wanted to give one last bugle before calling it a night. And wouldn’t you know it, he called a bull to within 30 yards of our sleeping bags. The elk sang us to sleep that night, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.
Since the elk had been bugling all night and had woken us up multiple times we had a pretty good idea where to head in the morning. As we were trying to get ready we had a bull bugling within about 200 yards of camp, so we got dressed as quickly and quietly as possible. We ended up getting into a heard of maybe 10 cows, a herd bull and several satellite bulls. It had gotten down to about 25 degrees that night and unfortunately my video camera was too cold to turn on so I didn’t get any footage. We ended up chasing the herd down the side of the mountain before they lost us. Drew got a glimpse of the herd bull and said he was big (300 inches?).
After all the excitement that morning we headed back to our bivy camp for coffee and breakfast. Granola, powered milk and protein power for me, Drew had dehydrated Mountain House eggs, ham, and green pepper. His was starting to look better than my granola mix; I’ll have to add some variety for breakfast next year. We also dropped down to a natural spring to refill our water supplies.
We finally got a hold of Big Ron on the radio around 10:00 that morning and talked him into heading out to bivy with us. He ended up showing up later that afternoon.
Big Ron heading our way from over 1/2 mile
Drew and Big Ron
That night we returned to where we lost the herd earlier that morning but didn’t have any luck. They finally started bugling after dark and we thought one was going to walk right up to us. It was pretty cool to sit there in the moonlight listening to the bulls bugle.
Full Moon on the Mountain
Monday – Sept 15
Woke up at 6 am and packed up our bivy’s. We gave a few locate bugles off the top of the mountain trying to determine which direction to travel. We heard a couple bugles from the “triple-nipple” to the north and a single bugle down the mountain to the west. Since heading west kept us closer to base camp that’s where we headed. Of course when we got to the bottom of the mountain he quit bugling. We sat down around 9:30 for breakfast and to figure out a new plan. As were screwing around boiling water for coffee and jabbering away I saw a couple cows walking thru the trees about 45 yards away. I told Drew to cow call, grabbed my bow and headed towards them. Unfortunately, I think they were wise to our mid-mountain breakfast buffet and ran out of there.
About that time we heard the bull that brought us down the mountain that morning bugle again, but he was getting further and further away. Big Ron and I decided to stay put and keep calling while Drew took off after him. The plan was working great until we called in another hunter. We never did see the guy but his calling was horrendous and we knew it wasn’t an elk, I think Beau (my 2 yr. old) is probably better than this guy was.
We sat in that area for a little while and eventually decided to head north. We walked a couple miles and then hung out for a couple hours in an “elky” looking area before the evening bulging would hopefully start back up. Nobody saw anything, we figured we’d cook an early dinner, since we would likely hunt until right before dark. As we were cooking dinner elk started to bugle, and one seemed to keep getting closer. We quickly finished up and headed towards the nearest bugle, which wasn’t far off. It turns out the bull was bugling from a great wallow and was raking the tress with his antlers. All three of us were watching from about 50 yards when the elk called in yet a bigger elk, which chased him out of the wallow. Big Ron had been bugling which kept both the elk fired up and Drew took off chasing them again. We talked to him on the radio after about ½ hour and he said he had shot a bull. We went to help him track the bull and luckily found he didn’t go far. We all worked in the dark by headlamp skinning, boning and hanging the elk meat to cool.
Big Ron, Drew & Matt
Tuesday – Sept 16
Drew in his Bivy
We knew it was going to be a long day. It was five miles to the nearest four-wheeler trail. Those five miles included a thousand foot vertical decent through some nasty blow-down, followed by several miles of halfway flat wilderness trail and finally a couple tough miles with another thousand-foot climb back to the top. The worst part was we knew it was going to take two trips! The first trip Drew and I packed half our bivy gear, and a sack of boned out elk meat, total of 75-80 lbs. Big Ron packed out all his bivy gear and the antlers.
Big Ron Packing Out
After the five-mile first trip, Big Ron heading down another trail back to base camp to get the four wheeler and Drew and I dropped back down for another load of meat and the rest of our gear. We ended up crawling out of the bowl at about 8:30 that night by headlamp, sweating and dragging having walked 15 miles that day. It was brutal! Seeing that Big Ron had dropped off a four-wheeler and a cooler of beer and cold burritos was quite possibly the best thing we’d ever seen.
Wednesday – Sept 17
Slept in. Woke up and screwed around camp drinking coffee and eating breakfast burritos. Packed up and heading down the trail by 11:00am. Other than some awfully sore legs we had an unbelievable trip.
On a side note, we talked to a lot of guys on the trails. Nobody had seen any elk or heard any bugles, while we had had the best trip of our lives. Goes to show that a little boot leather is an amazing thing.