The elk are over my left shoulder and only 1,448 yards away by the pond. Photo by Dave Beck
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OUTDOOR Tales and Trails

Tales and Trails

BY DAVE BECK ‘Not this year, Dave’

Remember when you were a kid and you couldn’t wait for Christmas to get here? The days would pass by painstakingly slow. When  it  was  finally  Christmas  day,  it  flew  by  so  fast  that  it  was  over  before  you  knew it. Well, that's exactly how my Colora do archery elk hunt went. For months I shot practice arrows, I walked for miles and miles,  and I worked out in preparation of hiking the Rockies. In what seemed like an instant, the  trip was over and I was left with a mountain  of laundry, compliments of my smelly hunt – ing clothes. That's how this year, and every  other  elk  hunt  has  gone  for  me,  but  in  be tween the prep work and the unpacking is the very best part: the hunt.  This year I went on a semi-solo hunt in that Uncle Frank was along but he did not elk hunt, he had a bear tag. Spoiler alert, he  didn’t bag a bear but he sure made the ride go a lot faster and not just because all of his downloaded podcasts played back at 1.5x the  normal speed. Youreallyhadtolistencloselytocatcheverything.

I was pretty much on my own and I had a couple of things going against me. It was a terrible moon in that it was bright and full up in the sky which allowed the elk to stay out all night. As a result, they were less active  during the day when I was hunting. The other thing working against me was that it was a little early for the rut and the bulls weren’t as receptive to my calls as I needed them to  be. Even after saying all of that, being in the  Rocky Mountains with conditions not being optimal, was  still about the coolest outdoor  thing I will do all year.

During the late afternoon I would literally bed down by a water source hoping that the elk would have that same thought: sleep  and water. I usually don't hunt so passively  but if the elk were going to move anywhere  it would be toward water. Walking around during the hot warm afternoons seemed like a waste of boot leather. Back in the day when I was younger, I could go for days but now  that  I'm  an  older,  I  do  know  that  I  need  to  spend my energy wisely.

At  about  6:30  p.m.  I  threw  out  a  couple  of subtle cow calls and a moment later followed up with a bugle call. Before my call could  bounce  ou  the  nearest  mountain  side  a real bull bugled that he was accepting the challenge. Finally, it was game on. I played  it cool for a half hour or so, waiting to see  if the bull’s curiosity would bring him in to  me. When  that  didn't  happen,  I  repeated  the earlier sequence and again, he answered  me. It actually sounded like he was a little closer  but  again,  now  that  I  am  older,  my  hearing isn’t what it used to be.

Fast forward an hour and 30 bugles later,  15 from each of us, and the bull was direct – ly above me on the mountain. My guess was  that  he  was  inside  of  200  yards.  The  good  news was that the wind was in my favor. The  bad news was that it was getting late and I had a three-mile hike to get back to camp. A casual  three-mile  hike  isn't  all  that  dicult  but a three-mile hike downhill through thick blowdowns and gnarly scrub oaks is a chore that is best done in the daylight. I left the bull on the side of the mountain and half way back to camp he bugled one last time. I’m not totally  fluent  in  bull  elk  bugle  but  to  me  it  sounded like: "Not today Dave."   In the interest of time, I will fast forward  and tell you that I had three other similar encounters  but  never  got  the  bull  to  totally  commit and come in close enough for an archery shot. On the last morning as I was lit- erally walking ou the mountain a bull bugled  at  me.  When  I  answered  him,  he  answered  back. Given his location and mine, it would  have been a brutal hike that would have taken  hours to get around him and into better position to stalk him. I decided that I had had my chances and it was time to head home but not before that bull threw one more insulting bugle my way: "Not this year Dave, not this  year."  During  the  first  three  days  I  saw  a  fair  number of elk but the trouble was that I saw them moving along far ou the mountainside  or way down low in a canyon while I looked down from above. I guess it was the moun – tain version of Murphy's Law. When I was  high, the elk were low and so forth but the  encounters,  even  far  ou  ones,  were  enough  to keep me excited and to get up early every  day for more.

Didn’t get enough Dave this week? Visit “Outdoor Trails and Tales with Dave Beck” on Facebook for photos and video of Dave’s adventures. You can share your own photos and video with him there as well, or by emailing him at [email protected] Also, check out OTT content on Instagram @ thepiercecountyjournal

September 20, 2022