In Search of Adventure
The mountains are home to me. I love winter in the mountains, summer in the mountains, the Earthy smell of a mountain landscape, a crisp dry air morning and a beautiful Milky Way filled sky at night. At times, I feel like my soul was meant for the mountains.
The majority of my adult life has been spent scheming ways to spend more time in the mountains, specifically, the Rocky Mountains. Road biking trips up high mountain passes, off-roading on backcountry two-track, fly fishing adventures, camping and backpacking, and as many weeks skiing as possible. I sometimes wonder to myself, “how does a guy born and raised in deep South Texas end up with this affinity for such a different landscape?”. I don’t have the answer but damn I would take that place in a heartbeat.
For a South Texas guy I am fortunate enough to average around 15 days a year skiing in the Rockies. I have done well in that my family also enjoys skiing. From a very early age my three children were skiing. In fact, they may have learned to ski and ride a bicycle around the same time. Fast-forward ten years and I have a family of very good skiers and we spend quite a bit of family time together on the slopes.
Don’t mistake my affinity for the Rockies in any way as a discredit to my South Texas heritage and my status as a Native Texan. I was born a Texan and am happy to die a Texan. Texas is a fascinating place; it was, and still feels to me, as its own little Nation surrounded by the United States of America. Many of the things you always hear about Texas are mostly accurate. Texans hunt, Texans have guns, Texans are friendly, Texans on the whole have that “go-get-it” attitude and just about everyone in Texas knows someone in the oil or cattle business. I grew up in a hunting and fishing family, mainly Dove, Quail and Whitetail Deer. I enjoy taking and processing my own food. There is an immense satisfaction I feel unwrapping the package on meat I personally procured and processed. I feel in some regard Society has lost touch with the reality of how food gets into the nice, neat styrofoam and plastic wrap packages you purchase in the store. To me, the store meat is a bit grotesque. Sure I will eat it, but I promise, it does not look like the meat I carve from the bones of animals. I will take my wild animals any day, and I feel that given a visual inspection everyone else would as well.
How does all this relate to my love of the mountains? Well, I am telling you a little bit about my life, and how I began planning an adventure in the mountains hunting one of the most fascinating members of the Deer family and one of North America’s largest land animals.
There are three Elk sub-species in the United States. Without getting into the details, there are the Roosevelt Elk found primarily West of the Rocky Mountains, Rocky Mountain Elk found in the Rockies from as far south as the Texas-New Mexico border all the way up to the Canadian Rockies, and the Tule Elk found in Central California. I won’t get into the difference of these sub-species but I think it is interesting to see three variations all with their own characteristics and traits. At one time Elk were found mostly in the wide open plains. As settlement and development happened during the Western Expansion these distributions changed dramatically. For example, Rocky Mountain Elk began to creep into the forested, steep and mountainous landscapes they are mostly found today. It is estimated that before European settlement there were more than ten million Elk in just about every part of the United States. Today, it is estimated that there are less than one million.
One winter in Steamboat Colorado I saw my very first wild Elk; it was a very large Bull completely content with hanging out on a steep hillside on the outskirts of town. What was most interesting to me was the very strong musky odor that was very apparent. Since then, I have almost always smelled nearby Elk long before seeing them. (at least when out of the vehicle). I am always on the look out for animals and love to spot Elk, deer, sheep, antelope, whatever I can spot while driving. Habitually I point out the animals while driving, and almost always am the only one really interested in spotting them. My wife usually humors me with the excitement of my “find”.
I began reading hunting adventure and history books by Seven Rinella and watching on-your-own hunting adventures by Randy Newberg on YouTube. I was completely captivated with the adventure of going off into the wild to pursue Elk. A couple of friends had been on Elk hunts and all assured me it was not only an adventure but a life-altering experience. So, it was complete serendipity that a buddy and I walked into a bar one afternoon after a day of skiing to see a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation representative sitting up at the bar. We instantly struck up a conversation. Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico all bounced around as fantastic adventure and Elk spots. This gentlemen however strongly encouraged us to look locally at one of the largest resident Elk populations in North America right there in north western Colorado. With the name of an outfitter he highly recommended we were off.
Our visit with Justin, the outfitter, went as well as we could have hoped. He was an enthusiastic guy who like me, bow-hunted, was a fly fisherman and seemed to love to get out and go after animals. After visiting with him, we made the decision to sign up. One year later we would spend a week with him going after Elk on some land he managed. It was predominantly private ranch land that enclosed BLM land to total almost 13,000 acres of prime Elk habitat.
With more than a year to daydream about the hunting adventure, it left plenty of time (and excuse enough) to purchase new gear. Anyone who knows me well would probably not dispute that I love gear and gadgets. I invested in a new 300WSM by Montana Rifle Company and new Vortex scope along with good rain gear and Lowa Mountaineering Boots. In South Texas you really don’t need mountaineering clothing so I also invested in some technical mountain clothing from Kuiu to ensure I would be comfortable and dry while hunting. Over the course of the year I meticulously tested my equipment. I took my boots on several backpacking trips, climbed mountains, shot 50–60 rounds through the 300WSM, and used my mapping skills to map out every small detail about the area I was to hunt. I memorized springs, valleys and altitudes, investigated vegetation and tried to predict what the weather might be. I spent countless hours thinking about the trip in general and creating if/then scenarios I might face. I wanted to leave nothing to chance and intended to mitigate every little error I might face to increase my opportunity at killing an Elk.
The end of October quickly approached and my three hunting buddies and I made our way from San Antonio to Steamboat Springs. After arriving, we purchased our over-the-counter Elk tags and were ready to go. Before heading out to camp I felt it best to visit the range one more time to make sure my 300WSM was zeroed in. Much to my surprise, my bullet was exactly 6 inches left but perfect on elevation. I moved 14 clicks to the right on windage and got the bullet impacting where I thought it should at 200 yards. I certainly was a bit perplexed about how the gun was shooting so far left when the week before I was zeroed in while shooting in Texas. To this day I am not sure if I banged the scope in transport or if something about the altitude, temperature or pressure changed my zero. Lesson learned, always check your rifle.
The outfitter’s camp was far nicer than I am used to and was situated in a pretty valley not but 15 yards from a wonderful Trout stream. The first day I was in that river I caught about seven Trout, a mix of Brown and Cutthroats. Camp was perfect and my hunting buddies were great company. James had prepared homemade carne asada back in Texas and brought it to camp for our first meal. After a great meal we had a camp fire blazing and told stories the rest of the night.
That first morning was a 5:45AM wake-up to get coffee going and something warm in the belly. The temperatures dipped into the low 30’s but a canvas outfitter tent with a wood burning stove is awesome! I had my coffee just like I take it at home, a bit of cream, stevia and MCT oil to boost up the energy. Here I was, headed out for the adventure I had been dreaming about for almost 18 months.
Justin and John were our guides for the week. Justin was the primary guide and outfitter and had hired John to help him with the season. John reminded me a lot of Sam Elliott. He is a tall and slender guy and you can tell he has a whole world of experience under him. In his own words John admitted he was born about 200 years too late and I believe it. Everything about John made me think of what a Mountain Man might have been. He was kind, patient and somewhat soft spoken but I could see a fire in Big John that left no doubt in my mind that when things got tough, John was ready to whoop some ass.
Justin was a nice contrast to John. Justin had a sense of urgency to him. He was far more aggressive in style and I thought I would get along well with him. He was very much in the spirit of making things happen. Getting into position on an Elk, always moving and stalking the animal covering vast amounts of land if necessary and always grabbing gears. This is what I wanted to do.
The four of us broke into two groups. We intended to switch out hunting partners and guides but for the majority of the week we stayed with the same guides. Regan and I went with Justin and Johnnie and James went with John.
On the first morning Regan and I set out for a steep drainage with Justin. We quickly knew what the week was going to be like when we climbed what felt like a 40 degree incline for about 30 minutes slowly moving from valley pasture to dense aspen to thick evergreen. Elk sign was everywhere. Justin left me in the dense Aspens and gave me prioritized areas Elk might be moving in from. Regan and Justin pressed on up the drainage to cover another drainage that overlooked a water source. My first morning was pretty exciting. I felt at any minute something would come out. However, this was far different hunting than I was used to. The Aspens were so thick a clear shooting lane was far narrower than I ever imagined. There really wasn’t a good single spot for me to cover all the areas Justin said Elk might appear so I had prepared little “hides” in my immediate area I could quickly move to get a shot. After a couple hours of sitting, and if my memory serves me, around 9:45AM a thunderous herd of Cow Elk made an appearance. When I say thunderous I really mean it. It sounded like a stampede of horses moving in my direction. All the books and videos I watched always talked about the lead Cow and how smart she is so I stayed as motionless as possible waiting for what I hoped would be a big Bull Elk following up the rear or peripheral of the herd. Nothing materialized and just as quickly as they appeared they disappeared in the dense aspens below me. Not a bad way to start the week and day. That morning nobody shot an Elk. Johnnie and James saw Elk off in the distance but did not see anything otherwise.
Back in camp I ate the pre-packaged lunch bags I had made back in San Antonio. Each bag had a couple sticks of Tilamook cheese, Fritos, almonds, Snickers and half a bagel and a packable cup of peanut butter.
Around 2PM Regan and I hopped in the truck with Justin and headed off to the far end of the hunting grounds to cover a different area. We parked and used the Polaris to drive around and partly up a steep ridge. Regan set up covering a draining and the area which you will hear about later which became known to all as the “Party Rock”. I walked up the mountain with Justin to cover a drainage paying particular interest to a high saddle Justin said Elk like to cross from dense dark timber. After an hour or so of not seeing anything we decided to walk a bit further up to a saddle overlooking two drainages, one leading to the Party Rock. In the distance, maybe a mile away we saw several Elk on a far ridge line. A bit closer we saw a jet-black bear with two older cubs carelessly wandering the hill-side. This is what I hoped the trip would be, a bit of an adventure mixed up with a hunt. It was quite special to watch those bears. The only Elk we saw was when we walked out at dark, a large Bull that made his way down from the Party Rock Regan had been watching.
Night number two back in camp was a real feast. It is hard to believe but Regan made fried chicken and rice. He had enough equipment and food to open a small hunting cafe and the food tasted so damn good that I think he would have had quite the business had anyone been around to dine in. After a delicious meal it was time to stoke the fire in the stove, hit the cot and get ready for the second day of hunting.
We were up and at again at 5:45AM. Same routine with coffee and breakfast before heading off with the guides. Regan and I went out once again with Justin and covered the same drainage we covered on the first day. This time Regan stayed low and I covered the high ground overlooking a water source about 300 yards away. After an hour or so we saw nothing and Justin decided to cover some ground which sounded great to me. We walked straight up the side of a mountain. There were no trails other than the occasional Elk trail you might come across. After climbing straight up we reached a ridge line that absolutely blew me away. It was completely spectacular and we could see not only both sides of the mountain but the Flattops off in the distance and Sleeping Giant, a Steamboat landmark, off to the North. The landscape was spectacular and I could not help but wonder about all the animals that made this their home and how lucky there were to be here. We saw no Elk other than hundreds of yards away on distant hillsides and made our way back down to Regan to head back to camp.
Lunch in camp was more of the same, my pre-packaged goodie bag of almonds, Fritos, cheese, snickers and peanut butter and a bagel half. After lunch I decided to test out the local waters a bit more with my purple parachute Adams fly. In about thirty minutes I had two nice browns and a cutthroat in the net. Not bad at all.
Our second afternoon started just like the first, in fact, we headed off to the exact same location to go after Elk. Justin was perplexed as to why we had not seen Elk where he anticipated we would. Justin sat Regan on a ridge overlooking what he hoped would be a corridor for Elk. After dropping Regan off Justin asked me if I was ready to go get my Elk. My reply was simple and what you might guess, “let’s go get a Bull”. We walked up the exact same ridge however, on this afternoon we did not stop to observe the saddle we had on the previous day, rather, we kept climbing all the way up towards the higher saddle we had watched the bears the afternoon before. We took a quick rest and I snapped a photo (see below). I noticed my iPhone had coverage high on the ridge so I text messaged a photo of my view to my wife.
Moments after sending this photo and grabbing a sip of water we continued moving up the ridge line. Not five minutes after our break we bumped a Bull and Cow Elk bedded down on the ridge. I saw the Bull and the noise of his antlers raking through the branches was unbelievable. Justin took off running and I followed. When I say run, I truly mean hauling ass running. When we got to a good position I set up the shooting sticks and waiting for the Bull to come into view below us. The Cow was dead center in my cross-hairs but the Bull was nowhere to be found. How can a 700 pound animal vanish like Houdini right before my eyes. He was gone and the Cow ventured over the ridge.
Justin continued the upward journey and we moved about 50 yards over the saddle of the high ridge. On the other side was a very steep valley and the spot we stood was about as close to vertical scree as I can imagine. Justin immediately dropped and motioned for me to do the same. I had a rifle in my left hand, shooting sticks from the Bull still in my right and a back pack on. I remember getting down and barely having enough position to avoid sliding down the scree rock. With my backpack on I could not fully lie back and my predicament made me feel like a turtle. Justin gestured to me that not only did he smell Elk but he thought they were about eight yards in front of us. Sure enough, after his gesturing a Cow Elk popped her head up from behind some buck brush directly in front of me. There may have been about 5–8 Elk and in a matter of seconds they were down the mountain to the Aspens about 300 yards in front of us. Justin grabbed me and told me to set up for a shot. We unknowingly bumped those Elk into a larger herd of about 30–40 Elk. I quickly identified the two largest Bulls and set up my shooting sticks for a long downhill shot.
Everything happened so fast. I was still breathing hard from sprinting what may have been just moments before when we bumped the first Bull. The side of the scree hill did not make for a comfortable shot. I steadied as much as I could and aimed high on the Elk. My rifle was sighted in at 200 yards so I guessed I would have about seven inches of drop at 300 yards so I put the cross-hairs across his shoulder line. Boom! I fired the first shot of my 300WSM and knew almost instantly I missed. I think I shot over the Elk. Just like that the herd split and about twenty Elk took off to the South and the rest pushed down into the dense Aspen. I thought I saw the Bull I was aiming for curl back around a sit on all fours about fifteen yards behind where he was standing. Was it a hit?
I briefed Justin on my shot and told him I did not think I hit the Elk and that if I did it was a miracle shot. We made our way down and around the drainage to the area I shot and saw nothing, it was a clean miss. We continued moving around the perimeter of the Aspens the Elk had retreated into. We stayed for about ten minutes and Justin began to Cow call. About 400 yards away we could see the twenty Elk that headed South grazing on the far hillside opposite us. There were two very nice Bulls in that herd.
After letting things settle down a bit Justin made the aggressive call to go after them. We moved back up the northern hillside and started making our way around. In a matter of minutes Justin had eyes on a Cow Elk. He motioned for me to set up and get ready for what would almost undoubtedly be the appearance of one of the Bulls. Sure enough, he stepped out behind the buck brush. The Bull Elk in my sites was a five by five younger Bull. I thought about the bad shot I had just made and calmed myself down. I took two very purposeful and deep breathes and on the second exhale gently nudged the trigger on the 300WSM. My shot was off and I immediately knew I hit the Elk broadside on what was likely a double lung shot. I was once again in a very awkward position with the shooting sticks so I dropped them and at the emphatic instruction of Justin was ready to send as many 180 grain Nosler Accubond rounds into that Elk as necessary to quickly put him down. I fired one more shot free-hand and hit the Elk once again broadside through both lungs. The Elk dropped after about twenty yards. With that last shot my hunt was over, but the hard work had just begun.
I picked up my spent cartridges and carefully re-loaded the magazine. I did this because I wanted to be ready for the off chance that the Bull got up and took off. Justin and I made our way as quickly as possible down the very steep slope about 300 yards or so to the Elk. The surprising revelation was how long it took to cover 300 yards in this steep and brushy terrain. Ordinarily I think you could blast through 300 yards in a couple minutes, I think it took us fifteen at least to make it down to where the Bull had fallen.
Justin and I each took a moment to thank the Bull and admire him. I appreciated that Justin did this on his own and I really have a problem with big celebrations at such a somber time. Once we were done admiring the Bull we quickly got to work, it was getting dark and we still had miles to cover and knew it would be partially in the dark in rough terrain.
Justin immediately got to work in gutting the animal. It was a bit strange for me to watch someone else do this on an animal I shot, ordinarily I am the one elbows deep in a body cavity. I tossed this up to Justin wanting to get it done as soon as possible and get back out of this drainage on our way to pick up Regan who would undoubtedly be waiting alone in the dark. We pulled the guts out and pushed them as far as we could away from the Elk in the event any scavengers made their way to the kill site over night. We were going to have to come back in the morning and pack out this Elk. What was most fascinating to me was when we cut the trachea and pulled the remnants of the lungs from he body cavity. The 180 grain Accubond bullet absolutely destroyed both lungs of this animal, there was very little left in tact. I know that this is something not pleasant to elaborate on but it was absolutely fascinating to see how quickly a well placed bullet would kill an animal of this size.
One of the final things we did was pull the heart from the Bull. I have read several articles that described how to cook heart. I must be honest, I had never tried eating heart but I figured if there were ever an occasion to eat heart this was it. I grabbed an old ziplock bag from Justin’s pack and placed the heart in it for transport in my backpack. The heart was huge and was almost the size of my head.
We pushed the gut pile down the hill side and immediately headed straight up the mountain. I thought I was doing good to hang with Justin at altitude and on the steep slopes but he grabbed a whole other gear I had not seen. This is without question the most exhausted I had been in my time with him. We climbed what I later estimated to be about 400 feet straight up the side of the mountain. I could feel my heartbeat in my ears and towards the final push was marking trees to make my quick rest and gasp for air. I have been this tired before at altitude and knew that if I just kept going I would find relief at the top and cruise on down the backside like nothing ever happened. I would say this went on for about 30 minutes before I passed the original high saddle I had taken my first shot at the Bull and missed.
Once again from the top I got cell reception and decided to walk and call my family to let them know about my successful hunt. My wife and children all seemed very happy which was a special thing for me to share. I called my brother in East Texas and let him know about the prize I had just left on the side of a mountain overnight.
I regained all of my energy and before I knew it Justin and I were flying down the mountain towards the Polaris and on our way to pick up Regan.
Back at our rendezvous point with the other hunters I played coy and asked everyone how their hunt went. After everyone told their stories of the day I quickly mentioned I had a Bull down. It was fun to watch the reactions and then we all celebrated with what Regan descried as “Colorado Kool-Aid” also known as Coors Light. We made our way back to camp and just like every other night, had an awesome Beef Stew thanks to Regan, the newly appointed Camp Chef.
The next morning I slept in a bit and around 6:30AM made my way into Steamboat to get breakfast at Freshies while everyone was out hunting. After an awesome breakfast and coffee (minus the coffee grounds) I made my way back to camp for the trek up the mountain to pack out my Bull. The plan was to drive the Polaris as far as we could and then hike up with backpacks to pack out the quartered Elk. After a 400 yard hike up the mountain side we came to the Elk, just has I left him. The guy pile had not been disturbed and everything looked perfect. John, Justin and James were all onsite ready to help. Justin had even convinced the fly fishing professional in his outfitting group to come on out and help. John immediately dove in and started disassembling the Bull Elk in the packable pieces. The hind quarters came off first and placed into a white cotton game bag. I was somewhat uncomfortable just standing around with nothing to do so I grabbed Justin’s Mystery Ranch pack (the Cabinet) and packed out both hind quarters, a backstrap and the head and cape. It took me three trips to get all of this but at least I stayed busy and productive. All said and done we had about 160 pounds of boned out meat waiting to be processed and packaged. Steve was kind enough to take the Elk meat into town and drop it off at the meat processor. For the head, I asked that he take it to the local taxidermist and boil the skull for a European mount.
My hunting buddies continued their hunts and everyone at some point had a shot on an Elk. Up near the Party Rock Regan put his 300 win mag on a nice six by six Bull and made a high shoulder shot. He saw it go down and stated making his way to it. When he arrived at the spot he saw it go down there was no animal and only a trace amount of blood with very little evidence to indicate what direction the Bull hurried off to. The next day I offered my assistance to help in the recovery of Regan’s Bull. To me it was not only an opportunity to help Regan but it was also a chance to cover some ground and see the beautiful country we had been hunting. We covered just about every foot of the Party Rock mountain in multiple directions and saw no blood and no sign of Regan’s Bull. The only blood and hair we managed to find indicated he may have headed East into the thickest, steepest and nastiest tree fallen slope available. Regan and I parted ways, him covering the South side and me the North. To me this was another adventure and an opportunity to be alone with my thoughts. I hoped I would come across a sign or even better, spot Regan’s fallen Bull. Before heading into the steep drainage area I took a compass bearing of 150 degrees to coincide with the pickup location Justin had pre-arranged for us. I did this because I knew once I dropped into the drainage any change of seeing where I was ultimately headed would be obstructed by trees, brush and the general landscape obstructions. There was no sign of Regan’s Bull but I sure did come a cross a ton of Bear crap and lots of areas that looked and smelled like Elk bedding spots. After an hour or so I popped up exactly where I anticipated and saw Justin waiting in the Polaris.
The remainder of my week was filled mostly with fly fishing and exploration. When I got tired of fly fishing I would cut wood, drive the back roads or organize and clean around the camp.
The final day of our hunt arrived. James had several opportunities during the week but was waiting for just the right Bull before committing. His Bull came on the last day and coincidentally he was hunting the same drainage I shot my Bull. James also chose a 300WSM for the trip. He set up on the shooting sticks and was preparing himself for a 200+/- yard shot going uphill on a Bull. He later mentioned to me he to fought nerves and made a couple purposeful breathes before settling the cross hairs behind the shoulders and gently nudging the trigger. His shot was off and made contact with the Bull. The Bull went down and he prepared himself for a recovery. James and John made their way up the kill site only to find a missing Bull and a trail of blood.
As this was all going down Justin stopped by camp and told me James had a Bull down and needed help with the recovery. That was all the excuse I needed to hop in Justin’s Polaris and start making my way up the steep two-track road to the exact same spot we had parked to pack out my Elk just two days earlier.
I carefully and slowly made my way up the two-track with the Polaris. I was a bit worried that Johnnie might still be hunting despite the fact they were actively looking for a Bull. I stopped and glassed and kept slowly making my way up the drainage. Justin was a bit careful with his Polaris so the whole time I was as careful as possible but knew he probably would not have liked me taking his Polaris up such steep and dicey terrain. On my final glassing I could see Big John waving me to stop the Polaris and head on up by foot.
When I got to the top I saw Johnnie, James and Big John all looking very intensely for any sign of the Elk. There was quite a bit of blood where James had shot the bull and it definitely went up the drainage. Unfortunately after about 100 yards there was no sign at all of blood or disturbed vegetation, it was not looking promising for a recovery. In the end, James made the call to stop searching for the Bull. Big John told us stories of how hard Elk are to kill if you hit the “dead zone”. John described this area as in front of the vitals where a bullet or arrow could pass through and really just be a flesh would to the massive animal. I felt bad for James and I know he probably still thinks about that shot.
On the final day I went on the last hunt of our week with Johnnie. I had not hunted with Johnnie all week so thought it was fitting to go on the last hunt with him and our guide Big John. We headed up into a drainage I had not hunted before. It was equally beautiful and for me was an all new learning experience to quietly walk behind and listen to Big John teach us. It was without doubt a different type of hunt compared to my time with Justin and I enjoyed every bit of it. Big John showed us Elk tracks, trees that had been climbed by Black Bear and even an arrow stuck thirty feet high in a tree by some bowhunter that either had a horrible miss or a good sense of humor. We started by hiding out in some dark timber along a pinch point overlooking a stock pond the rancher had made for the cattle. He built an Earthen damn on the downslope side of the hill to retain a considerable amount of water. It sure looked like a great ambush spot and I thought for sure Johnnie would get a shot off on a Bull. After an hour or so we moved out and up the drainage a bit further into darker and more densely packed timber. After getting settled in to my “hide” about twenty yards from Johnnie and Big John I witnessed one of the coolest things I have ever experienced on a hunt. Big John bugled which to my novice ears sounded pretty awesome. About five seconds after Big John completed his bugle he was answered by one of the most haunting and guttural noises I have ever heard in the wild. It was a Bull Elk that to my estimation could not have been more than a couple hundred hards away. The sound that came from that animal sounded like a prehistoric noise I would expect to hear in the movie Jurassic Park. I could not tell exactly how far away he was but I could pinpoint on a straight line exactly where that Bull Elk was in respect to my position. Later Big John told us the Bull was too lazy to get up and bugled back while laying down. I can tell you without doubt that if I ever heard that noise while alone in the woods it would creep the hell out of me. It was without question t. rex quality.
Darkness quickly descended and we waited until the last legal light before making our mile or two walk back to the Polaris, and ultimately to camp for the last time. I soaked in every last bit of our walk back and I think Johnnie did as well. We had pleasant and intellectual conversation with Big John. We discussed Lion hunting, bugling for Elk and constellations visible in the beautiful sky above us. I was hanging around town for a couple more days while waiting for my meat and skull and Big John was nice enough to share some of his favorite hikes for me to enjoy on Thursday. Big John has a kind soul and I look forward to visiting with him again some day. We made our way back to camp for the final time and Johnnie and I grabbed the remainder of our gear and headed into Steamboat to meet up with James and Regan.
I am sure all the hunters that did not bring an Elk home were a bit sad just like I would have been, however, I can tell you with almost certainty that every hunter had a fantastic adventure. We all saw countless Elk, all had opportunities to kill a Bull and maybe most importantly we all had a great time with each other. It was a good group of guys and I would hunt with any of them anytime and I sure hope we can plan some sort of annual hunt together. It might not be an Elk hunt but I would love to get together again. Heck, maybe Regan will cook some more of his fried chicken!
This was my first Elk Hunt, not my first adventure and definitely not my last. These mountains are home to me.