Finally...

bbrown

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So after putting in for a few years to build points here in my home state of Colorado I decided to cash out and drew a mid tier first rifle tag this year. So in late April I started do some camping trips to learn the country and see the lay of the land. By Memorial weekend I started backpacking into a few of the areas that looked promising and while I did not see a ton of elk on these earlier trips I did figure out where I wanted to focus or more importantly where not to.

Because of my schedule as a guide with archery antelope opening soon - the first weekend in August was the last trip I knew I could squeeze in. On that trip, I headed into the area I decided I would be for opening day. The hike getting in is not terrible but it has just enough elevation gain and dark timber to scare away most others. 2/3 of the way up I spotted a couple bulls still in velvet feeding below some clifs with one being a very nice typical 6x6 with a sticker off his 6th on the left and another one off his 4th on the right side - so a 7x7.
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Here he is - sorry this was shot thru my old Leupy compact spotter so its not the greatest.
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Home sweet home on top of the Divide...
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and this is where I planned to be opening morning...
 
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bbrown

bbrown

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So during the early morning hours of October 12, I loaded my truck with my backpacking gear, enough food to get me thru the short 5 day season and started on the 3 hour drive to my hunting area. The weather man was calling for snow starting around noon and continuing until mid day the next day - perfect.

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Loaded up and heading in.
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Here is all my gear loaded up in th MR Dragonslayer - 37lbs with all my gear, water, food, 65mm Swaro spotter and tripod (not including binos or rifle).

Well things dont always go as planned...
Shortly after sun up - I arrived at my spot, grabbed my gear, snapped a few pictures and I was off... After topping the divide, I was dropping off the backside into the basin pictured above when I saw something that made me feel like I had just been kicked in the junk by a mule. Three large wall tents complete with wood stoves and roof tarps were neatly pitched in the nice horseshoe shaped opening smack dab in the middle of "my" basin. After wrapping up a temper tantram that would make any toddler proud and their parents blush - I was back to square one.

I decided to push a mile further into the wilderness and hunt an area I had never actually seen but looked good on the map. The only problem was now my truck was alot further away (not to mention I had to drop alot of elevation to get to the new spot so I would be doing a bit of climbing to get back out) but I could hike back out empty (or atleast light) and move it to a closer trailhead - no big deal.

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Shortly after Noon, I found a new spot to call home for the next couple days and it was conviently right next to a rock outcropping that offered a great place to glass from. After getting camp set and dropping down to get water I had just enough time to start glassing before the snow started. As the snow moved thru I spotted a couple cows on the hillside 4 or 500 yards above camp - not a bad start.
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The snow really socked in for a couple hours so I retreated to my tent to read and dozed off. With a couple of hours of daylight left the snow stopped and the sun even broke out so back to the outcropping I went. It did not take me long to find those same cows above camp and there were joined by some new friends. All totalled - I counted at least 40 elk above camp with 12 - 13 being bulls (from spikes upto a small 6x6). One bull moved thru the trees just fast enough that I could not get a great look at him but He looked like he might have potential.
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bbrown

bbrown

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The rut was pretty much over and the big boys had left the herds to return to solitary which allowed the smaller bulls to rejoin the herd.

I am still figuring out how to shoot pictures thru a spotter so bare with me...
 

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bbrown

bbrown

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I went to bed that night with a dilemma - I had an itchy trigger finger (elk meat just tastes too good). I had never harvested a mature bull and I was hunting in a unit with great potential but every bull on that hillside had me stretching and pulling trying to make them bigger than they really were. I decided the bottom line was the first mature bull that gave me an opportunity that I did not question how big he was going to get shot.


I awoke shortly before sun up, heated up some water for oatmeal and hot tea - it was windy, snowed most of the night and was very cold. I made my way back out to the rock to see if the elk were where I had left them only to spot them further up in the basin I was camped in. They were at almost 12,600 ft in the wind and cold with out a care in the world.


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(The elk had moved up and to the right into that back bowl - they were to the left of the closest point to the left the night before.)

I decided I need to get closer to see if that bull I only got a glimpse of was worth it or if anything else had moved in with them over night. I had closed to around 400 yards when I looked up to the ridgeline and noticed someone standing there perfectly skylined glassing the same elk. Before I knew it there was 5 guys standing shoulder to shoulder all stareing at the elk - 2 in orange and 3 in camo.
Really?!?!? Get off the skyline!!!

I knew it was only a matter of time until one of the elk spotted them and busted out so I abondoned the stalk and moved up to where I thought they would leave. Sure enough - one cows spotted them, about turned inside out and took the whole herd out of the basin about 200 yards above me - no shot.
 
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bbrown

bbrown

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By this point, I already had gained enough elevation that I was almost back on top so I decided to work my way further from the Outfitter and see what I could find. The wind had picked up and so had the snow - I have no idea how hard the wind was blowing but it was fast enough that the snow hurt my eyes and it was actually pushing me around.

I was above timberline and moving from rock out cropping to out cropping mainly to get out of the wind and to glass as far as I could see - which was not very far. I eventually caught back up with the herd from this morning and it looked like they had joined up with another 20 or so elk. I finally ran out of rocks so I bailed and headed down a bit so I could close the gap and get out of the wind. I managed to sneek into about 300 yards, take cover under a pine tree and set up the spotter. The elk fed to within 140 to 200 yards but there was still not a "shooter" in the bunch so I backed out with out spooking the whole herd thinking that if it got later inthe hunt I could come back and make a play on one of these smaller bulls.

*I really wish I would have taken more pictures from under that tree - it was cold enough that the thought never really crossed my mind.
 
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bbrown

bbrown

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So I started this on my lunch at work and planned on finishing it up once I got home. Now that i am home I can open and read the thread but I can't type anything onto it - any ideas??? I am typing this from my phone...
If not I will wrap this up in the morning - sorry for the added suspense.
 

Rockey

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Fantastic thread and story bbrown. Have you ever considered writing sitcoms or anything of the nature? You seem to have put commercials/suspense into this thread like nothing I have ever seen before.
Good Luck and can't wait to read the rest, or is that on next week's episode? jk
 
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bbrown

bbrown

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Sorry for the delay - not sure why I can’t type from home.
Anyways, here is another picture from that nice bull I found while scouting that shows the lil kick off his right side - unfortunately I never found him again.
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bbrown

bbrown

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Back to the story...
By the time I backed out from the second group of elk it was mid morning and the wind had picked up - ALOT! I was also 1200 - 1400ft in elevation above my camp and it did not look like the weather was going to break by noon like the weatherman thought (I know, I know - big surprise). So after a small but heated debate with myself, I decided today would be the best day to bail back over and grab my truck and spend the afternoon driving around to see how much pressure there was and where everyone was hunting. That way I could just sleep in my truck with the extra sleeping bag I threw in "just in case" (yet another lesson in the long list that I learned the hard way...) and wake up early and hunt my way back up towards my camp.

The combination of wind and snow on top was something I had never seen - it honestly looked like something you would see on a National Geographic show. It was blowing so hard that you could not see 20' and if you got caught off balance it would nearly knock you over. My beard was actually froze which feels really weird.
I ended up wearing every bit of clothing I had brought. I really was not cold and I never imagined needing all that clothing but I was sure glad I packed it. (7 layers on top - FL Llano, Kuiu 185 1/4 Zip, Sitka Traverse 1/4 zip, Sitka Kelvin Lite vest, Sitka 90% jacket, Sitka Cloudburst rain jacket and a orange fleece vest. 2 layers on the bottom - UA cold gear base with Sitka Mountain paints)

I made it back to the truck shortly after noon and I was beat - that was usually a pretty easy walk out considering it is almost all downhill but the wind just takes it out of you. After shedding my layers and even putting my slippers on I made my way to the top of the pass to see if I was the only idiot out in this crap - I was.

On the way back down, I decided to take a spur road that actually loops right back to the main road but shortly after passing a camp it got steep and narrow with a sheet of ice under the snow - a recipe for disaster as I was hunting by myself. Now mind you, I did not earn the nick name "Stuck" for no reason so I was actually proud of myself when I decided to turn around and head back the way I came.

**Sorry again for the lack of pictures here - Although I could probably take a picture of a sheet of paper and it would probably look about right.
 
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bbrown

bbrown

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I drove around for a couple hours checking a few spots that I had as back up and unfortunately most of them had camps set up. It was not like there was a ton of pressure but what pressure there was - was evenly distributed. By around 4, the weather had finally started to break so I headed back up top to let the Swaro do some work.

On the way back up the pass I caught up with another truck, so not wanting to just follow someone up the road I grabbed the same spur road that was on earlier from the bottom this time. It had warmed up enough and going uphill is always easier than down so what’s the risk - right? The road was narrow, steep and had a hell of a drop to one side so again I was happy with my earlier decision. Almost to the top, I noticed a bit of an opening to the right and had one of those "I should really stop and glass that" thought which I promptly ignored. Well you guessed it - ELK!!! One was still bedded and the other was standing staring holes thru me.
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-The bull was standing at the edge of the trees but beyond the little pine in the center. After the shot the elk came out of the trees above the power lines below the highest point.

I tried to keep the truck moving up hill while trying to glass them so I would not spook them and I all I could see is one was a mature 6x6 and I really never got a good look at the other. I motored to the top (which is exactly where I turned around earlier), grabbed my rifle and pack and started working my way back thru the trees. I spotted the one bull - he was heavy with decent mass and length up front but his thirds were a bit short and his 6th on one side was weak. By now I was set up next to a pine tree 196 yards from the bull but I could not find the other bull. The bull started working thru the trees up the hill side away from me and it was one of those now or never moments. I knew he was mature and he stopped in a opening at 209 yards - slightly quartering away. Boom!!!!!
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-Another picture of pretty much what I was seeing thru the scope - again he was just above the smaller pine in the center.

I lost the bull in the recoil and never heard the tell tale "thwack". At the same time, the other bull that I could not see was feeding in some trees below and came tearing up hill. Before I knew it both bulls were gone and I was left sitting there confused - 209 yards was a chip shot, something I had practiced all summer and I felt good at the shot - what happened???

I sat there for a half hour trying to cut holes thru the trees with my binos but there was no sign of him. All of a sudden elk started working their way out of the trees at the very top way above me. One good bull with a couple smaller bulls and some cows - now I was dejected. I was convinced the bigger bull was the one I was shooting at and somehow I had missed.
 
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bbrown

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Still confused I knew I had to drop to the bottom and climb back up and check for blood - it just did not add up.
I got to where the bull was standing - no blood. I could see where he jumped and ran at the shot - no blood. This is where it gets interesting, he had moved maybe 8-10 yards, turned started up hill and fell. With the fresh snow it was easy to see where he fell, even see where he stood back up and took a couple steps - still no blood. Then the tracks stop (remember fresh snow made the tracking easy) - last time I checked elk don't fly so know I am really scratching my head.
I fan out and head up hill but still no tracks so turn aroun head for the last sign to start again and I see this:
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-Miinus the rifle of course...

He was hit hard, a near perfect broad side shot slightly back but since he was slightly up hill and quartering away the bullet exited just behind the off shoulder. He did not make it 15 yards. He must have fell, tried to get back up and tipped over backwards sliding down hill. I was stoked!!!
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bbrown

bbrown

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By this point it is just after 6pm and the real work begins. To complicate matters, at some point during my previous guided hunts I had used my 550 cord and the trash bag I always keep in my pack to set meat on but never replaced it. As many of you know - it is no easy task to break down an elk by yourself especially when you dont have these. But by 7:15 I had him quartered, backstraps and loins off, bagged and head cut but I had nothing to hang him with so back to the truck I went to grab a couple straps I always keep in my truck. By 8 I had him hanging and drug the carcass down hill away from the meat.
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-Here he is the next morning loaded up and about to begin the trek back to the truck.

I decided that as steep as the draw was between the road and my elk the treaking poles in my tent were almost manditory. So I woke up early and drove around to pack my camp out. Turns out - camp was alot further away than I thought and almost 2100ft elevation gain so it took me until almost noon to get to camp and back to the truck.
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-Heading up the trail to get camp.

Here are a few pics from camp:
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-I know - terrible view right...
 
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