2020 CO archery Elk recap

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FlyGuy

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It really was such a surreal moment. All the obstacles. All the let downs. The doubts. The relief in locating him before the rain. The relief that the suspense was over. The realization that Trevor had just taken his 1st bull elk! and not a small elk! Way, way better than anything we ever dreamed of finding in this unit! This first picture is the one I submitted in the "best bull elk photo contest". Its not the best photo of my life, but I love how it captures the sense of overwhelming joy of being absolutely present in that moment, and the need to just sit down and take it all in.

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This guy should go 290" in IMO. I know there are way bigger elk in the world, but there aren't too many bigger in this unit. I am still on cloud 9 thinking about this hunt. I still can't believe it all came together.

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But no story is complete without the pack out...
 
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FlyGuy

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At some point we'd taken to calling this bull "Roy", after the ancient aspen carving we found on the ridge shortly before shooting him. Trevor decided on the spot that Roy was going above the mantel in the living room!

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The blood trail mystery was solved. Roy was Neck shot. Still have no idea how it happened. Maybe the bull turned into the cow call Trevor gave to stop him? Maybe his arrow touched one of those aspen limbs he was shooting through? Maybe he just flat pulled the shot in all his excitement? Never know. He had only about 4' of penetration (i forget the BH used, but its a small 4 blade fixed), but the arrow cut the arteries in the neck and lodged in the center of his spine. I can't believe the bull went anywhere at all, much less almost 500 yards. He should have dropped to the ground upon impact? The arrow was laying beside him where he died, and we later dug the last 4" of shaft and BH out of the neck during the butchering.

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It was now 6pm and as they say, "now the work begins". We are not the most experienced elk skinners, and like elk do - he died on a steep, steep slope. One that got super sketchy once the rocks were covered in blood. It was also a dirty spot with zero ground cover. I was shocked at how much dirt we got on the meat, even the meat I thought we kept really clean? That's an area I know I need to improve on, but I guess it comes with experience.

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4 hours! I'm not proud of it but that's what it took us. 4 hours later we finally had everything but organ meat off the carcass and in bags, and at 10:30 pm we had our 1st loads strapped in our packs are ready to head out. It had been a long day.

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Looking at the map, it appeared to be easy. All we had to do was drop down to the bottom of the cut we were in and follow it out until we hit a trail - The same trail we started on early that morning. once we get there, hang a left and it takes us down to the big ATV trail in the bottom-bottom. From there it's a short hike to my truck, where I have a mountain bike and a game cart waiting. So here's the plan. We both take a load out, but Trevor drops his at the 1st trail. I hike to the truck with mine, then come back on the bike. Meantime, Trevor keeps shuttling meat from the kill-site to the 1st trail. I'll meet back up with him there in about an hour or so, and between our packs and the game cart we'll see if we can one-trip this thing out to the truck. Its all down hill! WhoooWhoooo....

It was a stupid, stupid plan.

But, since we didn't know that yet, Trevor suggested that he take the head and cape out 1st. There was no way he could get it all loaded and strapped in alone, so while I was here lets get that load out to the 1st trail. Then, once he had that out of this bottom and down to the trail he could easily come back on his own for the rest. Made sense. So we set out.

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FlyGuy

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In our heads, we were very close to the ATV trail. "Mile and a half to the truck. 2, tops"; one of us said. I guess our brains were fuzzy by then. I was way low on calories and general fatigue was setting in. The walk down to the bottom got gnarly fast. We were getting cliffed out and having to turn back up hill, and there was a sea of deadfall down there that we didn't expect to run into. After some hair raising moments, we eventually work our way down to the bottom in the dark. Now we just follow this out until it hits the trail. Should be right up there... But the going is SLOW. Deadfall everywhere, and trying to snake those antlers through - over - Under was tough. An hour and a half later we still haven't reached that damn trail. Out of water we took a short break to freshen up our Nalgene’s. It is now COLD and getting dangerous to be still for more than an a minute or two at a time, but I took the time to work out a line distance on Gaia to see just how much further we had to go. Something I probably should have done before started... I work it out and think there must be some kind of a mistake here... 5 miles! We have and estimated FIVE MILES between the bull and the truck!

Had to let that sink in for a moment... When we finally cleared that godforsaken tangle of blowdown we had changed the plan dramatically. No way we were going back through there in the dark. That was going to have to wait until daylight. New Plan! We hike out of here with what we have as fast as we can. And what we had weighed a lot. I had a hind quarter plus my day hunt gear so I estimated my load to be around 90 lbs. Trevor had an even bigger load though, I'm guessing he was toting 130. (Trevor was concerned about leaving the Taxi enough cape to work with so we took it all the way back to the start of the hindquarters...). It was a struggle.

I think we hit the ATV trail around 1am. The trail here was much wider, but we still had 3 miles to go, and this trail regained elevation. Trevor is now having to stop more and more frequently. I had thoughts of just stashing the head somewhere and coming back for it tomorrow, but there is nowhere to hide it. With the traffic coming through here each morning we are afraid someone will throw his hard earned rack on an ATV and ride off with it forever. So, we keep hiking in short bursts But now I'm getting worried about him making it out with that load. We talked and decided that I would go on up ahead. I could go faster with my lighter load, get the cart, and come back with it to relieve Trevor. I wasn't sure it was the right thing to do or not, but I knew he was not going to drop that load. So, off I went.

It is mostly just a blur of pain and exhaustion. At around 2am I was ready to cry. The pack was cutting into me everywhere and I still had so far to go. I reached the truck at 2:45am. The total distance was 5.2 miles. Everything is covered in Ice and as soon as I stop moving I am shaking from the cold. Got my pack off as fast as I could. Through on a dry top and puffy jacket. Got to hurry, Trevor's still out there. Unloaded the bike, put the cart together. Grabbed some food and water for Trevor, and eventually took off back down the trail. During the time since I had left him I was honestly growing very worried that I'd made a terrible decision. I was afraid that on his frequent breaks he would become hypothermic, or in his weary state maybe take a fall and drop into the creek. Lots of things get into your head when you have nothing else to think about. But, to his credit, he ended up making it almost the entire way on his own. When I reached him he only had a few 10th's of a mile left to go. Still, we loaded his pack onto the cart. I gave him my puffy and we cruised in the rest of the way. It was 3:30am when we arrived at the truck that night and I don't think I've ever been that tired in my life.

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We rolled out of that TH area while everyone else was just stirring and getting coffee made. I'll admit it though, I proudly slow rolled out of that parking area and even turned on the backlight to illuminate that beautiful rack in the bed of my truck for anyone who cared to look.

An hour drive back up to the top. Then further pick up Trevor's truck where we 1st dropped in the morning and back to camp. After getting some dinner in us we finally laid down to rest at 5:30am.

It had been a 13.2 mile day.
 
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FlyGuy

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Day 6:

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We didn't get much sleep. The direct sun had the temperature climbing inside that tipi and at 8am I had to get out of the bag. 2.5 hours of sleep. We were a wreck. We looked like we were 90 years old trying to get out of the tent and stand up. We took it slow that morning. got more food in us. and coffee. stared into space a lot. kept retelling, reliving, the event. about how there was no way we were going to do any calling this year. laughing and soaking it all in. we relished in our hard earned delirium. drank more coffee. drove up to a spot a little higher with a signal to make some calls and spread the good news. Then We looked up and it was somehow already getting close to noon and thought, Shit we better get moving! Another hour drive down to the bottom. Trevor started hiking in right away. I set up the bike and cart again to help with the haul. finally got going down the trail and immediately got stopped by some super chatty Game Wardens that tied me up for 30 minutes. Friendly, but they had a bunch of questions and wanted to know all the details. Then I was finally back on the move but the bike ended up being a complete disaster. The chain was covered in dirt from the roads we'd been driving all week and it was sticking in gears and pulling off when I'd try to shift. The game cart trailer, without much weight in it, kept flipping over on its side with all the large rocks; or the straps from my pack with get hung up in the wheels. I was about to throw all of it in the river. I thought I would easily pass Trevor long before reaching the elk, but with all the bike problems I never caught up to him. Another stupid thing I did was bring my bow. I was thinking that maybe a bear would be in the area and I could still punch that tag. Dumb. I immediately regretted hauling that bow back in with me and just having to haul it back out.

I caught up with Trevor at the kill site. He had a little less than half of what was left loaded and was headed back. I had both fronts and two big bags of loose meat left on the rock. I couldn't get it all in one load (I know now that it was 150lbs of meat & bone), but didn't want to come all the way back the next day. So, I put one bag of loose in the pack and topped it with one of the shoulders; cinched it down and strapped my bow on the back. Then I grabbed the 2nd bag of loose and shuttled it down the ridge, dropped the pack, and went back for the 2nd shoulder. I just threw that front over my shoulder (no pack) and hiked it on down past my pack with the 1st load of meat basically and as far as I could go before my shoulders gave out. Then I dropped a pin and went back up to the pack and carried it down past the shoulder till I couldn't hold that loose meat bag any longer... and so on and so on. It actually worked out pretty good. I'd go about .2 of a mile at a time. I only had to go uphill w/o a load, and slowly but surely I got the meat the half mile down off that ridge and to the 1st trail right at very last light.. and over the next few hours I got it all moved the 1.5 miles down the 1st trail to the second one, where the bike and cart were waiting. Whew. Now it would be easy! Wrong!

It was now 10pm and cold again. I filtered more water and then loaded and secured all the meat onto the cart. It was WAY more awkward than I expected. The first section of trail is uphill and has these really big rock "steps" and the cart just does NOT want to go up/over them. I can't ride this section, I'm just trying to push the bike but the cart it is fighting me for every stinking inch. My bow is in a rack across the handle bars so I can't just let the bike fall and walk back to lift up the cart, it's a production to remove the bow, set it down, then lay the bike down - but not let the cart drag the entire production back down to the bottom. I've done this multiple times now and I'm pissed. Its late, I am make zero progress, and I have SOOOO FAR left to go. But then, like an angel, Trevor appears out of nowhere on a borrowed 4-wheeler! Man was I ever so happy to see that guy! He was able to hitch a ride out earlier that evening with a guy that was riding by, and then later that same fine samaritan let him borrow his 4-wheeler to go back in and pick me up! I'd sure like to shake his hand one day! We got the meat, my pack and the cart loaded up on the 4-Wheeler's racks, but the my Mtn bike still had to be ridden out. It wasn't easy, but I was thankful! We reached the truck with that last load of meat at Midnight!

Total Miles = 12.6
 
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FlyGuy

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Day 7:

On the 7th day I rested. I happily slept in. I also decided that I was content with this trip, and I was ready to head home. Technically I still had a few days left to hunt, but I was happy. And pleasantly Exhausted. I was a little surprised at myself to be honest. Elk hunting is my "why" and drives me all year. But it didn't feel at all like I was giving up, or going home early. The odds of locating another bull in this unit were very, very close to zero. And if I did, It would take me 5 days to get it out on my own. On the other hand, I had half an elk in the back of my truck that would soon completely fill my freezer to capacity, and a great story to tell when I got home. It was time to go.

I know there will be dry years ahead, but for now it feels like we are starting to figure things out. As a team, for the 3 years we have hunted together we are now 3/3 on archery bulls; in 3 different states (ID, NM, CO). Not too shabby! And we are a lock for WY Gen in 2021, I'm already getting excited about next year!


If you made it this far, Thanks for reading. I hope you've enjoyed it.

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OutdoorAg

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So. Much. WORK

I applaud your go get em attitude and acceptance of the physical and emotional pain.

Not many others here might admit this, but I will: I've experienced a lot of that same pain, minus the pain of weight in the pack. I've never killed a public land bull, and not for lack of trying. After multiple years of failure, I've hung my hat on the public land rack, and at least for now, am deciding not to pick it back up for a while.

Your story shows just how HARD it is, and how much WORK (plus some luck) and SKILL is required to be successful on public land. Many of us can't commit to that. Has it always been this hard? I think probably not. Was I born 50 years too late? I think probably so.

All that said... I fully applaud and appreciate the effort you and your hunting buddies are putting forth to punch a tag. Incredible amount of dedication. Great story, thank you for sharing.
 

weeble19

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Man this story had me clinging to every turn. Very well written and I appreciate you taking the time to share this with us. Good luck in Wy in ‘21 and I can’t wait to read about that trip!


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KOK

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Aug 30, 2019
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Day 7:

On the 7th day I rested. I happily slept in. I also decided that I was content with this trip, and I was ready to head home. Technically I still had a few days left to hunt, but I was happy. And Exhausted. I was a little surprised at myself to be honest. Elk hunting is my "why" and drives me all year. But it didn't feel at all like I was giving up, or going home early. The odds of locating another bull in this unit were very, very close to zero. And if I did, It would take me 5 days to get it out on my own. On the other hand, I had half an elk in the back of my truck that would soon completely fill my freezer to capacity, and a great story to tell when I got home. It was time to go.

I know there will be dry years ahead, but for now it feels like we are starting to figure things out. As a team, for the 3 years we have hunted together we are now 3/3 on archery bulls; in 3 different states (ID, NM, CO). Not too shabby! And we are a lock for WY Gen in 2021, I'm already getting excited about next year!


If you made it this far, Thanks for reading. I hope you've enjoyed it.

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Is that a moose elk hybrid in 18?
 

wseidel

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Northern Minnesota
Epic adventure and a true testament to how hard - and fulfilling - elk hunting can be. Your great writing kept us engaged and "in the moment" right alongside you and Trevor. While reading, I couldn't help but think back on some of the adventures with my hunting companions...such good memories. Though elk hunting is hard work, it is a true gift to be able to go and experience the majesty of the mountains. Congratulations and thanks for sharing.
 
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FlyGuy

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The Woodlands, TX
So. Much. WORK

I applaud your go get em attitude and acceptance of the physical and emotional pain.

Not many others here might admit this, but I will: I've experienced a lot of that same pain, minus the pain of weight in the pack. I've never killed a public land bull, and not for lack of trying. After multiple years of failure, I've hung my hat on the public land rack, and at least for now, am deciding not to pick it back up for a while.

Your story shows just how HARD it is, and how much WORK (plus some luck) and SKILL is required to be successful on public land. Many of us can't commit to that. Has it always been this hard? I think probably not. Was I born 50 years too late? I think probably so.

All that said... I fully applaud and appreciate the effort you and your hunting buddies are putting forth to punch a tag. Incredible amount of dedication. Great story, thank you for sharing.


Thank you! It is so much work. And you are right it takes some luck too. That bull probably would have just let us walk on by if we’d have bugled from that same spot just a day earlier. But we caught him in a real bad mood and that ultimately sealed his fate.

I can’t say I blame you! I was having some long talks with myself about reconsidering my definition of Fun during that pack out. Maybe take up mule deer hunting or anything that weighs less than an elk.





You can’t cheat the mountain
 
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FlyGuy

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Is that a moose elk hybrid in 18?

Haha! No, just a small Shiras moose. Well, he’s about as big as they grow them in that unit of Idaho, so a good representative bull for the area but still. Drew that tag in 2018, we had OTC elk tags for the same unit but filling that OIL moose tag was the goal. One day I need to write up that story as well while I can still remember it. It had all the same twists and turns and bleak outlooks and surprise endings as this story about Roy.





You can’t cheat the mountain
 
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WoodrowCall

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Mar 24, 2020
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Great bull for your bud! Glad y’all found him.

Thank you for sharing. Was a great read and reminder to why we continue to persevere through the challenges that arise.
 
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FlyGuy

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Epic adventure and a true testament to how hard - and fulfilling - elk hunting can be. Your great writing kept us engaged and "in the moment" right alongside you and Trevor. While reading, I couldn't help but think back on some of the adventures with my hunting companions...such good memories. Though elk hunting is hard work, it is a true gift to be able to go and experience the majesty of the mountains. Congratulations and thanks for sharing.

Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I really mean that. I feel a bit “out gunned” on this site most of the time as so many have vastly more knowledge and experience than I, so I was hesitant to write the story as I know there are so many others here with stories that are more worth telling. So, thank you for the kind words!

This is something I’ve always wanted to do after my big hunts, but I’ve never take the time to do it. I honestly probably wouldn’t have this time either - except I came down with a bug a few days ago and I haven’t had enough energy to leave the couch. (Got a covid test, waiting on results). Anyway, since I didn’t feel good enough to do anything else it worked out to finally put this all down. Maybe I’ll do it again. I’ve got a few more tags in my pocket for this Fall...




You can’t cheat the mountain
 

9Line

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Oct 1, 2018
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Missouri
I’m not sure about everyone else reading this, but this is exactly why I love elk hunting!!! Great job, greatly story, very well told! Congratulations to you all.


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