© 2014-2021 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page for for permission to republish article excerpts.
Learning from Hunting Stories Page A
Elk Hunt 2013 The hunt could not have been any better, although I say that each year. A giant rising full moon crept like a huge lantern through the forest, edged slowly up through the spruce trees and danced on skag tops. Like a glowing omen it released itself into the deep blue night sky. I lay in my sleeping bag looking in awe out the open tent door. I could not light the lantern and interrupt my emotions. I kept trying to preserve the scene in a photograph, but the falling temperature continued to frost my lens. Thoughts of past family hunts flickered in my memory until shuteye at 10:30 PM. I reviewed opening morning hunting options as I lay in my down sleeping bag during the enchanting night vigil. The frosting grass would reduce my footfall noise, but I would have to be careful not to step on raised vole mounds which would be topped with crunchy crystals from the vole breathing. The falling temperature would be more severe in the valley by morning, so the walk and ride in hunters would be up later and slower to get going. I might have the first two hours to myself if the outfitter camp was not full of hard-core competitors. Opening morning greeted me at 6 AM with a moon-bright, spectacular, silent, eerie, “Hunters Moonscape”. I shivered in my stand, watching the frost feathers crystalized on grass strands in the predawn moonlight. The meadow landscape was alive with billions of twinkling diamonds! This portended a perfect day! I had reveled in the both the evening light of the gods and the dawn light of the angels! And the landscape was all mine to enjoy. At dawn two bulls materialized in the distant treeline and slowly grazed from 700 yards to my stand – the smaller, more tender bull was selected to fill our freezer. The half hour of a slowly setting full moon and the cold blues of a frigid dawn provided a spectacular and exhilarating wait. It just does not get any better than this! My conclusion that day-hunters would be late was confirmed when the heavily clothed fellows arrived at about 9AM. Things got even better the next day. Our family hunting philosophy is to be silent and patient by reading books while subconsciously remaining aware of what the forest sounds are telling us. The next day at 1:30 PM it was warm. I sat out in the open sunlight in my propped up backpack “lounge chair” intently reading an old spy thriller. Then bugling began. A danged, bored hunter stalking home for lunch in a nearby camp practiced his poor, silly midday bugling and disturbed my beloved wilderness peacefulness! Ten minutes later I looked up to my right and froze. Seventy yards away stood 18 “naked” (in the open without tree cover) elk sunning themselves, including the wacko 6X6 “big guy” exhausted bugler! (See my book on full moon man/animal restlessness and noonday elk movement discussions). The elk evidently never saw me until I tried to sneak to my camera and gun. The excitement of elk hunting is that you just NEVER know WHEN the “ghosts” will UNEXPEDTEDLY appear! Heap Bad Water; There is often a water problem in the the Colorado high country such as the Flat Tops. Yes, there are lots of lakes, ponds and streams. However, up on the “flats” water does not flow well and in late summers of dry years the shallow ponds may vanish. Much of the available water is undrinkable, or can be consumed by taking risks for digestion hazards because of contained organic material. The parasite Giardia is always a threat in any water. Lastly, good water may not be where hikers or hunters want to camp. This is especially so during late hunt seasons when water may be frozen during the late fall months. Bring adequate containers to haul water. Jerry cans are good if you have horses and panniers. I suggest plastic gallon water or milk jugs are ideal. They can be drained at the end of the back pack or hunting trip and burned. Then the last remaining plastic “button” can be carried out of the wilderness. I recommend duct taping together four or six empty jugs, placing the cube a pillowcase, and lashing the light-weight cube to the back of your backpack. This arrangement keeps the individual jugs from rattling and squirming out of the lashings. Note: don’t carry loose plastic jugs on horses, unless you want a spook induced joy ride. Don’t resort to drinking minor water sources. I recall a hunter complaining how utterly foul tasting the water was he resorted to obtained from small depressions. Contemplating his description, it dawned on me that he was drinking from elk wallows. I later pondered whether that testosterone-laden urine water created a nightmare for his wife when he returned home. (Does she still believe she looks sexy and ravenous doing the dishes in hair curlers?) Abandoned Family Disaster 2019: August I encountered a volunteer Forest Service crew clearing timber brought down by winter avalances. (They have to wait for summer heat to melt the snow before they can untangle the timber.) I thanked them for their laborious effort, and said in return I would volunteer to remove a large tent abandoned the previous year by hunters. That was my mistake! That K- Mart tent was a time capsule of family misery. There were two large, thick inflatable plastic mattresses (providing no insulation), a crib mattress, and an assortment of blankets. The water supply was a couple of cases of pint bottles. There was a Sterno stove, hardly a tent heater. The tent was filled with nine-month ripe vomit and soiled diapers. Children and baby rattles bespoke a mother’s misery. Was she left behind without escape transportation when her husband wandered farther into the forest to a spike camp? Well, at least he paid somewhat for the torture; his very small, useless-quality K-Mart hunting pocket knife was under one mattress. I slit the mattresses, rolled every thing up in the blue tarps rain flies and slide the heavy bundle up some pine poles into my suburban. The garbage bags I carry were filled with the plastic bottles, charcoal grill, bean cans and camp trash; the Suburban was filled to the roof. The window-open ride home was an odor nightmare, as was the mentally reconstructed torture of a young mother who will never again enter the outdoors. I helped my displeased garbage man lift the camp corpse bundle and gave him a twenty dollar bill to ease his consternation. I learned a lot for my $20! Smart Students: I chatted with a very happy, tickled pink outfitter. He had three University of Colorado students as clients. They came with their own food. If you know Boulder, Colorado University students or have been to one of their tailgate parties, you can imagine it was not peanut butter and jelly. They had planned for gastronomic excellence, bringing spices, pre-dinner snacks of fancy cheeses, pate’ and baked cakes. Moreover, they had called ahead so they had brought plenty of food for the outfitter crew. They joyously prepared the meals in challenges for cooking excellence. They almost immediately got a bull without trying very hard (they were in good shape and attitude acclimated). The best reward was that their conviviality got them a ten year elk hunting experience education from the crew during the next two days of conversations, interactions, and helping around base camp. You do not have to pay for all education, but you have to earn it. I know those students will go far in life no matter what they do. And any friends they refer to the outfitter will receive special treatment. It is called “social networking.” Elk Camp Safety Checks Then and Now: An awful lot has changed during my fifty years of elk hunting, but there is still the need to have some emergency support if you hunt the roadless backcountry. I recall an early 1970’s outfitter had an employee who would make camp check every day. He silently semi- appeared mid-morning, courteously walking within the tree lines like a fleeting shadow. He lingered a minute or two to observe before moving across open areas so he would not disturb game or hunters. He never approached anybody on a stand. We learned he was Sam, who daily made trips to each one of the outfitters scattered wilderness drop and contract camps. Then he would enjoy the down-mountain trek to report at the outfitter’s base camp. All told, he must have daily traveled twelve to fifteen miles in his circuit. This religiously happened in all kinds of weather. It is mid-February as I write this memory exposed by a Tennessee hunter’s e-mail inquiry about my website, book, and tips on remotely using a CPAP sleep apnea machine at 10,000-foot altitude. I was somewhat apprehensive about him being a novice to late October Colorado backcountry hunting. Two years before I encountered Tennessee hunters who came with inadequate equipment, including a mesh- toped summer tent of poor wind-resistance design. I really felt sorry they probably never did hunt, since they were blown out and fled in the middle of the first night. (I had seen first night panic escapes before.) I was relieved hearing that the experienced hunters would be well prepared, evidently would be overseen by an outfitter, and would enjoy heated wall tents (with floors, I hope). They also would benefit with timed evening satellite phone check-ins with the outfitter, had GPS maps, and cell phones (that hopefully will work there). What a stark comparison to Sam’s laborious safety checks of fifty years distant! I sit with my sunset glass of Madeira and wistfully wonder. Did the Forest Service allow wilderness- wandering Sam to be buried where he faithfully toiled? Did government regulations permit him to wear his red safety bandanna and notes-carrying collar into doggy eternity?
© 2016 -2021 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page for for permission to republish article excerpts.
Learning from Hunting Stories Page A
Elk Hunt 2013 The hunt could not have been any better, although I say that each year. A giant rising full moon crept like a huge lantern through the forest, edged slowly up through the spruce trees and danced on skag tops. Like a glowing omen it released itself into the deep blue night sky. I lay in my sleeping bag looking in awe out the open tent door. I could not light the lantern and interrupt my emotions. I kept trying to preserve the scene in a photograph, but the falling temperature continued to frost my lens. Thoughts of past family hunts flickered in my memory until shuteye at 10:30 PM. I reviewed opening morning hunting options as I lay in my down sleeping bag during the enchanting night vigil. The frosting grass would reduce my footfall noise, but I would have to be careful not to step on raised vole mounds which would be topped with crunchy crystals from the vole breathing. The falling temperature would be more severe in the valley by morning, so the walk and ride in hunters would be up later and slower to get going. I might have the first two hours to myself if the outfitter camp was not full of hard- core competitors. Opening morning greeted me at 6 AM with a moon- bright, spectacular, silent, eerie, “Hunters Moonscape”. I shivered in my stand, watching the frost feathers crystalized on grass strands in the predawn moonlight. The meadow landscape was alive with billions of twinkling diamonds! This portended a perfect day! I had reveled in the both the evening light of the gods and the dawn light of the angels! And the landscape was all mine to enjoy. At dawn two bulls materialized in the distant treeline and slowly grazed from 700 yards to my stand – the smaller, more tender bull was selected to fill our freezer. The half hour of a slowly setting full moon and the cold blues of a frigid dawn provided a spectacular and exhilarating wait. It just does not get any better than this! My conclusion that day-hunters would be late was confirmed when the heavily clothed fellows arrived at about 9AM. Things got even better the next day. Our family hunting philosophy is to be silent and patient by reading books while subconsciously remaining aware of what the forest sounds are telling us. The next day at 1:30 PM it was warm. I sat out in the open sunlight in my propped up backpack “lounge chair” intently reading an old spy thriller. Then bugling began. A danged, bored hunter stalking home for lunch in a nearby camp practiced his poor, silly midday bugling and disturbed my beloved wilderness peacefulness! Ten minutes later I looked up to my right and froze. Seventy yards away stood 18 “naked” (in the open without tree cover) elk sunning themselves, including the wacko 6X6 “big guy” exhausted bugler! (See my book on full moon man/animal restlessness and noonday elk movement discussions). The elk evidently never saw me until I tried to sneak to my camera and gun. The excitement of elk hunting is that you just NEVER know WHEN the “ghosts” will UNEXPEDTEDLY appear! Heap Bad Water; There is often a water problem in the the Colorado high country such as the Flat Tops. Yes, there are lots of lakes, ponds and streams. However, up on the “flats” water does not flow well and in late summers of dry years the shallow ponds may vanish. Much of the available water is undrinkable, or can be consumed by taking risks for digestion hazards because of contained organic material. The parasite Giardia is always a threat in any water. Lastly, good water may not be where hikers or hunters want to camp. This is especially so during late hunt seasons when water may be frozen during the late fall months. Bring adequate containers to haul water. Jerry cans are good if you have horses and panniers. I suggest plastic gallon water or milk jugs are ideal. They can be drained at the end of the back pack or hunting trip and burned. Then the last remaining plastic “button” can be carried out of the wilderness. I recommend duct taping together four or six empty jugs, placing the cube a pillowcase, and lashing the light-weight cube to the back of your backpack. This arrangement keeps the individual jugs from rattling and squirming out of the lashings. Note: don’t carry loose plastic jugs on horses, unless you want a spook induced joy ride. Don’t resort to drinking minor water sources. I recall a hunter complaining how utterly foul tasting the water was he resorted to obtained from small depressions. Contemplating his description, it dawned on me that he was drinking from elk wallows. I later pondered whether that testosterone-laden urine water created a nightmare for his wife when he returned home. (Does she still believe she looks sexy and ravenous doing the dishes in hair curlers?) Abandoned Family Disaster 2019: August I encountered a volunteer Forest Service crew clearing timber brought down by winter avalances. (They have to wait for summer heat to melt the snow before they can untangle the timber.) I thanked them for their laborious effort, and said in return I would volunteer to remove a large tent abandoned the previous year by hunters. That was my mistake! That K- Mart tent was a time capsule of family misery. There were two large, thick inflatable plastic mattresses (providing no insulation), a crib mattress, and an assortment of blankets. The water supply was a couple of cases of pint bottles. There was a Sterno stove, hardly a tent heater. The tent was filled with nine-month ripe vomit and soiled diapers. Children and baby rattles bespoke a mother’s misery. Was she left behind without escape transportation when her husband wandered farther into the forest to a spike camp? Well, at least he paid somewhat for the torture; his very small, useless-quality K-Mart hunting pocket knife was under one mattress. I slit the mattresses, rolled every thing up in the blue tarps rain flies and slide the heavy bundle up some pine poles into my suburban. The garbage bags I carry were filled with the plastic bottles, charcoal grill, bean cans and camp trash; the Suburban was filled to the roof. The window-open ride home was an odor nightmare, as was the mentally reconstructed torture of a young mother who will never again enter the outdoors. I helped my displeased garbage man lift the camp corpse bundle and gave him a twenty dollar bill to ease his consternation. I learned a lot for my $20! Smart Students: I chatted with a very happy, tickled pink outfitter. He had three University of Colorado students as clients. They came with their own food. If you know Boulder, Colorado University students or have been to one of their tailgate parties, you can imagine it was not peanut butter and jelly. They had planned for gastronomic excellence, bringing spices, pre-dinner snacks of fancy cheeses, pate’ and baked cakes. Moreover, they had called ahead so they had brought plenty of food for the outfitter crew. They joyously prepared the meals in challenges for cooking excellence. They almost immediately got a bull without trying very hard (they were in good shape and attitude acclimated). The best reward was that their conviviality got them a ten year elk hunting experience education from the crew during the next two days of conversations, interactions, and helping around base camp. You do not have to pay for all education, but you have to earn it. I know those students will go far in life no matter what they do. And any friends they refer to the outfitter will receive special treatment. It is called “social networking.” Elk Camp Safety Checks Then and Now: An awful lot has changed during my fifty years of elk hunting, but there is still the need to have some emergency support if you hunt the roadless backcountry. I recall an early 1970’s outfitter had an employee who would make camp check every day. He silently semi- appeared mid-morning, courteously walking within the tree lines like a fleeting shadow. He lingered a minute or two to observe before moving across open areas so he would not disturb game or hunters. He never approached anybody on a stand. We learned he was Sam, who daily made trips to each one of the outfitters scattered wilderness drop and contract camps. Then he would enjoy the down-mountain trek to report at the outfitter’s base camp. All told, he must have daily traveled twelve to
© 2016 -2021 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page for for permission to republish article excerpts.