2016 Colorado Archery Elk Hunting Season: Part 1

By Adam Parr –

It was opening day of the 2016 archery elk season in Colorado and although I just returned home, exhausted from a 23-day work trip, the mountains were calling and it was time to go. All of the last minute items I ordered finally arrived and I viewed my first elk hunt to be more of a “trial run” where I could field test all of my newly purchased hunting gear and work out the bugs before my week hunt in Southwest Colorado.

I have to admit my preseason scouting efforts were rather lackluster considering that I live in elk country but I only have myself to blame for being unprepared. With that being said, I decide to hunt an area that is just over an hour drive from my doorstep and in most cases of going in blind, plans change and I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.

“He said I had trespassed on his property and then proceeded to threaten me by telling me to leave his area or else he would lock the gate and it would cost $300 to open it back up.”

I picked a place to hunt based on a recommendation from a co-worker so I marked the spot on my map and drove to an area of public ground only later to be run off by a local outfitter. He said I had trespassed on his property and then proceeded to threaten me by telling me to leave “his area” or else he would lock the gate and it would cost $300 to open it back up. I wasn’t about to argue with the guy so I left frustrated knowing that I wasted an hour of daylight and the original plan was out the window.

Plans Change

Knowing that there would be zero cell phone service in the area I was hunting, I pre-downloaded the map on my OnXmaps Hunt App so I could still navigate the terrain without a reception. By now it was 4:30pm, it gets dark by 8pm, and I still have no clue where I’m going or how long it would take to get to a camping spot. For the next 20 minutes I find myself playing mind games in the parking lot contemplating, should I stay or should I go? After second guessing myself numerous times, I made the decision to go for it and picked a new spot on the map that looked somewhat promising.

Colorado High Country
A beautiful sunset on opening day of the 2016 archery elk hunting season in Colorado.

I begin the trek and the first hour isn’t bad but I’m racing the clock because I know I don’t want to setup camp in the dark. After an hour of hiking, I’m still less than halfway to where I want to be and the terrain is getting ever more treacherous with each and every step. I stop for a few minutes to contemplate my decision and my mind is making every excuse in the book as to why I should turn around; “You won’t even see an elk anyways. You’re tired and worn down and you should be resting up for your trip next week. You have no clue where you are going or what you are doing.” All of these are valid points but I ignored the voice inside my head and pushed further.

Just after 7pm I work my way out of a ravine and am now actively looking for a spot to camp but the terrain in my immediate area is not suitable to for a tent so I continue on. With the sun beginning to set upon the Colorado sky, I decide to make camp in a pocket of spruce trees just up the hill from where I’m currently at. Just as I begin to unpack my Sitka Bivy 45 Pack, a bugle erupts from the drainage below. Did I just hear what I thought I heard, or am I dreaming?

Backpack Elk Hunting
There is just something about a fire that helps calm your senses and makes you feel at ease.

Shortly before nightfall, the camp is set up so I start a fire to calm the senses as I envision screaming bulls in the distance. My mind wanders and as I’m about to retire the night to my tent, another bugle echoes through the timber and gives me the chills. As I lay my head down for the night, elk bugles continue to cut through the air until the early morning hours. Needless to say, a restful night’s sleep is not in the forecast.

On To The Hunt

The next morning I crawl out of bed at daybreak and I immediately start hunting from the tent because I know I’m in a good spot. Less than 10 yards from camp, I see a flash of brown off to my left and a 5×5 bull crests the hill above me at 75 yards. Am I dreaming? Yes, I think so, but I throw my pack down and knock an arrow just to be safe. I let out a few soft cow calls and it grabs his attention; my heart races as he stares in my direction. After a few heart-pounding moments, he continues on his way to the drainage where I heard the bugles the night before and based on the rather quick encounter, I believe he was spooked by another hunter further up the mountain.

“As I let down I hear a loud THWACK and the string unravels from my compound bow. In an instant, I went from bowhunter to birdwatcher and the hunt was over.”

After watching the majestic bull vanish into the dark timber, I regain my composure and moved closer to the ravine where the bugles are coming from. With the call in hand, I rip a bugle that echoes through the mountain and within seconds I received a screaming response right back at me! Am I still dreaming? Probably, but I find cover in a nearby spruce tree and knock another arrow. After 10 minutes of silence, I decide the best option is to loop around the ravine and make a move on this bull, which I believe to be less than 300 yards away at this point. But before putting my arrow back into my quiver, I take a practice draw and hold for a few seconds and as I let down I hear a loud “THWACK.” The string unravels from my compound bow! In an instant, I go from bowhunter to birdwatcher and needless to say, the hunt is over. 

Success Doesn’t Come Easy

As I stand in disbelief, the bull bugles once again as if he’s trying to taunt me knowing that I’m completely out of the game without a functioning weapon in hand. I shake my head, mumble a few choice curse words under my breath and make the 200-yard walk back to my tent and after packing up camp, I make the mile hike back to the truck. It was too good to be true.

Elk Hunting
This is what a tired bowhunter looks like after the cam on his bow breaks.

Although I had a major equipment malfunction that ruined the morning hunt, I chalked my first elk hunt up for a win. I was able to get into bugling bulls, I prepared myself mentally and physically for the week to come, scouted a new hunting area, and tested out the equipment I had not yet used. With that being said, I hiked off the mountain that morning with a sense of accomplishment and a deep burning desire to get back to elk country as soon as possible.

Make sure to read part 2 where I tell the full story of my week-long elk hunt filled with many trials and tribulations along the way. If you haven’t already done so, Subscribe To Transition Wild to have our blog articles sent directly to your inbox. Thanks for reading!

CLICK HERE TO READ PART 2

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