2014 Elk Hunt - Ben's First Elk
Smoking a pork shoulder, packing up all the necessary hunting gear and food, sighting in rifles, scouting for elk sign amidst lovely fall weather and enjoying beautiful sunsets at the cabin contribute to my building excitement!!
Opening Day: Ben and I Find Elk!
We drove up to the School Section before dawn, heard a bull bugling around 9am, and decided to hike up the mountain while calling to see if we could attract him. We found fresh beds, scat, but couldn't entice him to com closer. Back to the cabin for lunch, then in the afternoon we headed back to the school section and positioned ourselves with a view of the tree line. Bulls were bugling and elk were crashing in the woods creating a major adrenaline rush. In the last 5 minutes of shooting light, we heard elk bugle 3 from three different locations, but did not come out in front of me. Ben was perfectly positioned at the edge of the timber. First a nervous cow entered the meadow, then a spike bull, finally an excellent 6x6 bull trotted onto the meadow, filling Ben's scope. Ben pulled the trigger, the bull ran 30 yd's and died 30 yes away, - one shot through the lungs. After taking a few pictures, it was now 7:30 pm and full dark. Ben and I proceeded to use the "gutless" skinning method. Both being novices with this technique, we finished 4 hrs later at 11:30 (vs 10 minutes in the YouTube Video). Now the work begins - 1/4 mile carry of quarters, head, loins and neck (roughly 275lbs of elk) to the truck. Thankfully the path was fairly level, so we finished by 12:30. We returned to the cabin at 1am, skinned the quarters to quickly cool them, ate dinner and by 2am were fast asleep.
Sunday morning we were up at 10am and after breakfast drove the meat through lightly falling snow to Reliable Big Game Processing in LaPorte for hanging, cutting and packaging.
Monday - Day 3
Sunday the snow started, dropping 3" by morning. We drove up to the school section before dawn, but there were no fresh tracks and no elk. The elk carcass was already 2/3 consumed. In the pm, Ben worked at cleaning the elk head (the elk was by now named William), while I hunted at Lyles turnoff (no tracks), then took Forest Road 182, and hiked a mile along the ridge. No wind, beautiful fall day, but only 2 tracks, no use of the beds we found last year.
Tuesday - Day 4
In the morning we hunted the ridge off 80C adjacent to Sand Creek. Lots of tracks traversing the ridge (to Richard's Spring?) and some going down left (west) side ravine onto Sand Creek south of Anselmos. After lunch Ben finished cleaning the elk skull (now named William). For the evening hunt we decided try again try the School Section (North). We heard bugling, saw tracks near carcass, but no elk deigned to come onto the meadow. To celebrate Ben's first elk, we broke out a Yeti Espresso Stout, a couple shots of scotch, and broiled cheese-covered bison sloppy joes.
Wednesday - Last Day of the Hunt
Wednesday, last day of the season. Again we went up to school section north with Ben now in the capacity of navigator, range finder and hunting consultant. We found no elk, or recent sign, but spotted a white pickup driving the lower meadow of the school section (which is illegal) looking for elk, which may have spooked them. Scouting possible scenarios for the elk herd's behavior, we found no tracks through the pass-through road to the lower meadow (so where are they feeding - in the upper meadow by moonlight, then going back up before dawn??). The elk carcass was now picked clean. This evening, Sally invited Dave and Janet Lockman for dinner, so the morning hunt would be our last of 2014.
Returning to the cabin, we were met by a very excited Sally, who had caught the biggest trout of her life in the neighbor's beaver pond. An 18" enormously big bellied rainbow would be going home for smoking.
My friend and neighbor David Lockman will be inducted into the Wyoming Outdoor Hall of Fame Oct 18th. A game biologist for the State of Wyoming, he pursued many causes critical to wildlife and young people in Wyo and the U.S. This is a wonderful testament to his life. Prior inductees include Teddy Roosevelt and others of equal stature....
Back to Fort Collins
After a breakfast of one of Sally's frozen Brook Trout, bacon and pancakes, we packed up and headed home. Ben treated us to a dinner at Los Tarascos (the Margaritas seemed extra strong!) Friday morning, before heading to the airport, we picked up Ben's elk from Barbara McConnell at Reliable, all nicely packaged and made into sausage. Ben took 45 pounds home, we will store the rest until we can bring it out.