Rookie Colorado Elk Hunting Story

Discussion in 'Big Game Hunting' started by SheddingLightTravis, Oct 31, 2016.

  1. SheddingLightTravis

    SheddingLightTravis Weekend Warrior

    Jan 29, 2016
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    Southeast Ohio
    2016 Colorado Elk Hunt Story
    Location: Southwest Colorado Unit 78
    2nd Rifle Season

    I don't remember it super well but I can remember the pictures. I was 5 or so and my dad had just came back home to Ohio from hunting elk in Colorado. He didn't get an elk but he saw some and he told my younger brother and I about his adventures. One of the guys he went with, Bob, got a good bull that year. My dad said that day and many other days that he'd love to take me and my brother out there someday to experience Colorado and hunting elk.

    Fast forward 23 years. Life happens. Money comes and goes and so does time. I was 28 and still had not gone out west to hunt elk. I don't fault my dad for that. It's just the way life want to do certain things but life moves by fast and you don't always get to. But two years ago I told my dad that we oughta do it. And so the plans began.

    We settled on southwest Colorado since some of our cousins from Louisiana had hunted there in the past and had some success. We saved up some preference points but elected to go 2nd season since it was an OTC tag. No outfitter. No drop camp. Just a cabin outside of town close to several trail heads. My brother, dad, and good buddy would meet the cousins from Louisiana out there come October 18th of 2016.

    My brother was the first to drop out. He had his second child this year and only having a couple weeks of vacation from the coal mine where he works wasn't going to work for him. My good buddy decided not to go about a month and a half before the trip. He had quit his job and was working for himself and couldn't afford 10 days of unpaid vacation.

    So that left my dad and I. Last year we found out that my dad has cancer. It's a version of lymphoma that we had thought was non aggressive. So the doctors started chemo and treated it as such for the first 3 months of treatment (June-August). Come September they realized that they had misdiagnosed the cancer and a more aggressive treatment would be needed. In early October my dad had to make the call not to go.

    I debated on what I was going to do. Two years of planning. I just had my 2nd child back in August. 25 years of wanting to cross this off my bucket list. Leaving my wife for 10 days. I went back and forth in my mind. My wife informed me that I didn't have a choice and I was going. My dad also informed me that I didn't have a choice and that I was going...and he would pay for me to fly so I wouldn't have to drive it by myself. So...I went.

    I met my cousins two days before season and began the scouting process. Also met Bob, the guy who took my dad out all those years ago. He hadn't been out in 10 years but a week and half before season he decided to go. I talked with several locals and guys who had some success in 1st rifle season. All signs pointed to us going up to the high country and making a base camp there. We put up our tents and hoped we were in a good spot. We saw elk down low on private property but figured a bull who had survived up until now would not be dumb enough to jump that fence and meander on to public ground. So up we went.

    Days 1 and 2 had a lot of hiking. My cousin and I went high and left Bob who preferred to hunt by himself. My cousin and I found some awesome bedding areas but they were so high and surrounded by brush that we weren't sure how we'd ever get a shot there. When we returned on Day 1 Bob was gone. He was 68 years old and had done too much helping us set up the base camp. It also didn't help that he got zero sleep the first night. He definitely wasn't a fan of the warmer temps we were experiencing and the mountainous terrain was a lot steeper than where he had hunted in years past. I was sad that he left but I understood.

    After two days of few shots heard and no elk sightings we climbed down. Day 3 I went across the road and found awesome meadows way up high on the mountain but not very much sign. I was also starting to learn that by 2nd rifle season, no bull elk in his right mind was going to enter a meadow before dark. Too many of his buddies were killed that way in the first seasons.

    Day 4 was he only day I saw elk. It was pouring down the rain and I elected to hunt alone. I slowly climbed up the backside of the mountain that we first hunted on days 1 & 2. I just took it a bench and a hill at a time and went slow. As I made it up to the crest of a bench I saw movement in front of me and I knew immediately it was elk. I pulled up on a big elk but it was in thick brush and moving fast away from me. As the 3 of 4 of them skirted away I couldn't determine if any had horns. I attempted to catch up with them but never saw them again.

    The next 3 days I went with my cousins trying to cash in on areas where they had success in years past. No such luck. Too many hunters, too much pressure, and no daytime elk movement due to the temps.

    So I came home empty handed. Yet...satisfied. I had done what I always wanted to do. I hunted elk in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. I saw Gods creation like I'd never seen it before. There's nothing like kicking your butt and forcing yourself to climb as high as you can and then turning around to see the trees and mountains around you. It truly takes your breath more ways than one!

    I plan to go back in 2-3 years Lord willing. And this time I hope to have a bow in my hand. If I ever hunt rifle again I will make sure to try and either draw 1st season or not hunt until there's snow.

    It was an awesome trip that I will never forget despite not filling my tag. I called my dad as much as I could to fill him in. He was pumped for me. He's doing well with his chemo and we hope that these treatments will send the cancer into remission. But we all are doing fine. My dad is a Christian and one of the happiest guys I know. He has no fear of death because there's nothing death can do to him except send him to Jesus...and that's a good thing. He's using this trial to share his faith with others and I couldn't be more proud of him. I'm sad that he couldn't experience it all with me. But tonight as he holds my two girls and we visit I plan on showing him the videos and pictures and reselling the tale. And I'm sure he'll be smiling ear to ear.

    Thanks for reading and God bless.

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  2. trial153

    trial153 Grizzled Veteran

    Dec 28, 2011
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    great read, thanks for sharing
  3. Oldcarp

    Oldcarp Die Hard Bowhunter

    Jan 29, 2012
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    Thank you for telling your story. I hope all goes well with your Dad.

    I will tell you this, once you start bow hunting elk you cant stop. Once its in your blood there is no getting rid of it. Of course I am blessed to live where there is elk
  4. wl704

    wl704 Legendary Woodsman

    Jun 25, 2012
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    greater-Charlotte NC
    Good read. I know I feel like I learned a lot and will be better prepared if I get the opportunity to hunt the west again. It is addicting.
  5. Hungry Horse

    Hungry Horse Weekend Warrior

    Jun 20, 2009
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    s/w Pa
    Travis: Unit 78 is some great elk country. I am happy you had a chance to live out your Dad's dream to go to Colo. Too bad your dad could not join you this time, hopefully next time. I pray his Chemo treatments put ugly Cancer into remission and he is healthy enough again to join you and your brother.

    You did well for your 1st time out to Colo. It usually takes 2 to 3 years hunting an area to score on elk, unless very lucky or have a knowledge guide. Thank you for sharing your adventure and may the good Lord heal your Dad. Next time with Dad will be a great time I predict.

    I am unable to see the attachments when I click on them. Sincerely, Hungry Horse Richard
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2016

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