Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Season

This blog was interrupted in order to bring me elk hunting.

No elk were harmed this year, though we had a good hunt up in western Colorado. The last few years, the hunt starts with my folks getting in from Texas, then my father and I taking our trucks up into the Colorado mountains. You cross some, then start back up into the high country. Though it doesn't look high yet, there it is on the left:

Then up a canyon:

Further up:

and into the area we hunt, a bit over 8000 feet in elevation:

Within a half mile, you can go from pinyon/juniper to aspen and ponderosa, with the occasional spruce hiding out in wet and shady draws. We were joined by a friend from Denver and his brother in law out of North Carolina, up for his first elk hunt.

A bear had apparently spend most of the late summer on the hillside above our camp, as it was littered with his scat, which was full of acorn hulls. There is a turkey roost up there, too. This was my year for seeing deer, as I came across quite a few nearly every day, including a couple of four-point bucks, one of which was pretty good. Elk were harder for me to come by, though I had one possible shot through oak brush that I declined. The elk didn't offer any further opportunity. Another of our party had a shot, so we won't complain.

I had a good time one morning tracking three elk down a ridge line, just a few minutes behind them. That sort of hunting, watching the trail in rapidly melting snow, reading the tracks to see whether it looks like the elk were spooked or are beginning to slow down or look for a bed, trying to move fairly quickly, yet stay quiet, watching the wind and all the while scanning ahead and to the sides for any hint of buff, tan, or chocolate elk hide, is very intense and very fun. As it turned out, I pushed those elk into my father, who was working the opposite direction down the ridge, but the cover was heavy and they spooked before he got a good look. Few of my tracking attempts succeed, but the interesting exercise and the occasional success is enough to keep me at it.

We managed to catch weather, everything from wind to a bit of snow on the second day of the season:

In this second photo you'll notice the toughest Volvo in Colorado, or at least one of the few to ever find itself on an elk mountain, all-wheel drive or not. Kudos to Chris for keeping the "S" in "SUV":

It was a good year for grouse, the third we have seen.. We found blue grouse up on top, hanging out in bush ponderosa and even down in the p-j. Some of us carry .22 pistols to liven up the walk back to camp with the possibility of picking up a couple of birds. Sometimes, if the elk hunting is looking a little slow, a fellow might find himself cruising areas more prime for grouse than for elk. Shooting only for the head renders the hunt challenging and sporting, while preserving the delicious meat. As John Gierach writes: "A blue grouse is often saved for serious game feasts followed by fine port or a seduction."

My dad ran into most of the birds and took best advantage, being the best pistol shot among us by far:

Despite that weather early on and a good shot of cold, we left in blue bird weather. Those are the La Sal mountains of Utah over there-

We drop back down into the lower country and then headed home. This was it, the most intense hunting requiring the most exertion, at least most years, and the big trip. Now I've got a dog that was left home who needs to spend a lot of time with me working on learning the ins and outs of duck hunting.

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