Elk Hunting Part 1

As a follow up to the early elk visit, I must tell you about the most successful hunting season ever. To be honest, we have had several years, most recently two years ago, when the harvest included up to seven animals…not the case this year, but what does success mean, anyhow? On one occasion the northwest Colorado deer population was so big that the DOW issued permission to shoot two deer for each license. That year Erik and I got 4 deer and two elk. We may have gotten an antelope or two as well, but it was so long ago that I don’t remember. Most years our tally is one or two elk, one or two deer and about once every five years or so one of us will draw and fill an antelope tag. You’d think that they would give, or sell, lots of antelope tags, as the animals are such a nuisance to ranchers and farmers. With the population of antelope in very nearby Wyoming greater than the human population, they seem to be everywhere. Oh well, I have to trust the DOW and am always happy when I do get to antelope hunt. My freezer depends on the larger elk, and deer always make good sausage.

My Hunting Style

On opening day, I went for my usual hike in the forest behind my house. Erik and I usually hunt together, leaving the house at the same time and going in different directions based on wind. My favorite hunting time is early morning, even though I have rarely gotten my animal before midday.  Since we sometimes work from home, we return to our home offices between the morning and evening hunts. We are almost always less than an hour from our home, as the area where we have permission is limited to about 500 acres of private land.  The beauty of this kind of hunting is that we always know who else is on the land and often exactly where they will be, at least at the start of their day. We do not have to deal with lots of hunters, with anyone we don’t know, just our friends, with whom we communicate and coordinate to avoid interfering with each other’s plans. Sometimes we also have more general licenses that would allow us to hunt the nearby public lands, but as “meat hunters”, we are not after trophies, just out to have a good time and fill the freezer. That said, we do watch the nice bucks that we see all summer between our house and town. While we occasionally see elk, we don’t see large bulls out in the open and we avoid tromping around in our hunting grounds during the weeks prior to our season…don’t want to run them off if they are there!

Opening day finally arrives, six days following the early visit of a dozen elk to within feet of our windows (see last WOMA edition). The weather is still end –of-summer-mild and the ground soft, not yet covered with crunchy leaves or snow. This day is a terrific day to be out for a hike, whether or not I get an elk or deer! As a goal-oriented person in everything I do, I have always just wanted to, “get my animal.” Whether age, experience, confidence or just the oxygen deprivation at high altitude, this year my attitude seems to have changed, perhaps finally matured? I actually was enjoying just being in the woods, alone but knowing my husband and our neighbors were where they would most likely hear my shot and find me to help pull my elk out if and when necessary. I am a minimalist hunter, dressing in camo pants with lots of pockets, orange coat and hat and carrying only my binoculars, rifle and extra clip of ammo, a few ounces of water and a small amount of food (often a peanut butter sandwich and a piece of chocolate). I pack a knife and field dressing gloves in one pocket, windicator in another and cell phone for emergencies, even though much of my area does not have reception. I do not carry a camera, compass (I know the area), elk call, or any other fancy equipment. I can move quietly through the woods until the ground freezes, sometimes rapidly if necessary, often very slowly.

Stay tuned to hear about the events of the week!

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