Big-game hunting is filled with many ups and downs, highs and lows, victory and defeat but yet, it’s what I yearn for and dream about on a daily basis. The roller coaster of emotions we experience as hunters is all part of the journey. Part 3 of my 2016 season entailed all of this and then some. Enjoy and stay tuned for Part 4!
By Adam Parr
On the morning of day three, Thad and I find ourselves driving back down the mountain into town instead of heading deeper into elk country due to my swollen, throbbing ankle from my mishap the previous day. My only course of action that would allow me to hike the hills the remainder of the week was to get a sturdy ankle brace and a heavy dose of meds to keep the pain at bay.
If I had to describe my hunting partner, Thad, in three words or less I would have to go with “experienced, burly woodsman,” a Teddy Roosevelt of sorts. He’s a humble guy, has one of the best beards I’ve ever seen on a man, and is one of the most skilled guys when it comes to navigating terrain and hunting in general. He is also one of the most selfless guys you will ever meet and he is happy to help anyone in need. If I ever acquire half of the woodsman skills and compassion he has, I’ll die a happy man! With that being said, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I look forward to many more hunting trips in the future.
We arrive back in town at my buddy Sam’s place and he welcomes us with a hot shower and ankle brace. After refueling our minds and bodies, Sam joins us and we head back up the mountain by 2pm and arrive at the cabin with enough time to set out for an evening hunt. Thad decides to head out to an area South of the cabin while Sam and I pick a meadow that is roughly a 45-minute drive away.
Although Sam is not an avid hunter such as myself, he does enjoy many aspects of the pursuit and he was happy to go with me for the Wednesday evening hunt. Sam is one of my best friends and I can’t thank him enough for everything he does for me. He was also a great pack mule and guide! When we arrive at the parking area, another truck pulls up behind us and a young couple jumps out. They are friendly and I ask them where they intended to hunt this evening so that we don’t interfere with each others evening plans. They said they were heading to the section we planned to go to but with us not knowing the area and my ability to walk severely undermined, we headed in the opposite direction towards an alternative high country meadow a little over a quarter-mile from the parking area.
Sam and I make our way up the meadow and I tell him were not going to see a damn thing but at least I’m out there and still in the game, even if the chips are down. I try to convince him we need to climb way up into the aspens in the distance but he won’t let me so we settle into a ridge overlooking the grassy meadow. I give Sam all of the credit to picking this spot because if I would have had it my way, I would have attempted to hike three ridges over the mountain! Now we sit and wait.
“As the thermals begin to shift downhill, I peer through the spruce trees towards the corner of the field and movement catches my eye. ELK!”
As the thermals begin to shift downhill, I peer through the spruce trees towards the corner of the field and movement catches my eye. ELK! I can’t believe my eyes that there are two rocky mountain elk feeding down the draw into the meadow about 200 yards way; my heart begins to race. With a quick glimpse of the binoculars, I determine one is a spike bull and the other is a cow and my only chance of a shot opportunity is to sneak in closer for a spot and stalk scenario. I have an either sex tag in my pocket and as a first-year elk hunter, I would be more than happy to fill my tag on a nice cow. I urge Sam to come with me but he insists I go alone so I leave my pack and other belongings behind and slowly move into position.
I cover the initial 100 yards rather quickly. From my prior Western Whitetail Spot & Stalk experience, I know when, where, and how to move in for a shot. As I pop up out of a small creek drainage, I am now 150 yards away and pull up the binoculars for a closer look. What I thought was a spike, is now a 5×5 and what I thought was a cow, is now a 4×4. I have TWO legal bulls feeding calmly within view and my heart rate increases through the roof! I lower the binoculars and plan the remaining route of my stalk to drop into a small drainage and pop up on the edge of the field with hopes that they work my way before dark.
“After five minutes of slow and steady movement, I slip to within 100 yards just in time to see antlers clashing together in an early September sparring match. This is what Colorado elk hunting dreams are made of.”
After five minutes of slow and steady movement, I slip to within 100 yards just in time to see antlers clashing together in an early September sparring match. This is what Colorado elk hunting dreams are made of. With the end of legal shooting light approaching, I grab my cow call, drop back into the small drainage and let out a few soft mews to see if I can pull them in my direction. After a few minutes of chaos going on inside my head, I figure they did not hear the calls so I start creeping up out of the drainage and by surprise, they are close!
In one smooth motion, I range the bigger bull at 42 yards, settle the pin and let the arrow fly. Slow motion ensues as the lighted knock finds its mark, mid-body, tucked behind the shoulder on the 5×5 bull. He kicks and runs approximately 30 yards before spinning in circles three times. At this moment I thought he was down for the count right there but he runs full tilt to the back corner of the meadow and slows to a walk as he disappears into the dark timber. The shot placement was great but it appeared the arrow only buried about 10-12 inches deep.
Meanwhile, Sam was watching the whole stalk go down from our original position a few hundred yards away. I hurried back up to Sam in excitement and he too thought the shot looked great and at this point, I am in pure disbelief that I just put an arrow in my first Colorado elk. We call Thad and let him know I shot a bull and head back to camp to gear up our packs and supplies for tracking and recovery.
We arrive back at the meadow around 9pm, a full two hours after the initial shot and immediately pick up the blood trail in the corner of the meadow where he vanished into the trees. The blood trail is good and there are bubbles in much of the splatter which confirms a lung hit.
As the search continues I keep telling myself, “only a few more yards, only a few more yards” and he will be lying dead. The three of us continue the search and 30 minutes later, the blood trail continues up the mountain. Fears of doubt start to enter my head and the track job becomes ever more difficult as the blood starts to slowly recede. Just after midnight and three hours of tracking, we find his first bed with my arrow laying 15 yards away and it confirms only about 10 inches of penetration. Not knowing if we had bumped the bull or if he had walked off on his own, we make the decision to head back down the mountain and pick up the trail in the morning. My heart sinks and a sleepless night ensues.
The next morning we pick up the trail at 8am and push further up the mountain. The blood actually gets a bit better for a few hundred yards but then begins to fade shortly after. Upon cresting the ravine, we follow the blood trail over the ridge line and at this point, we are on our hands and knees locating blood. Many times throughout the morning I want to give up but Thad and Sam keep pushing, not letting the lack of blood keep us down. After four hours of searching, Thad locates another bed with a decent amount of blood but it is coagulated to the consistency of soft rubber; my heart hits the floor once again. We scour the hillside for another 45 minutes, desperately trying to find another drop of blood but it proves unsuccessful. We grid search the area for another 30 minutes without any luck so I call off the track and we walk back down the mountain with our spirits low and legs tired.
Later that day Thad and I head out to a different area for a quick evening hunt but we did not see a single elk. Tomorrow is another day.
Next up is Part 4 and the final chapter of my 2016 elk hunting season. Stay tuned!